Category Archives: StoryTime

Maybe Next Time He’ll Think Before HE CHEATS!!!!

So midterms are almost over.  Spring Break is next week.  I’m making it through this semester (barely).  I’m just incredibly tired and don’t want to do anything but watch tv and sleep (holla).  In this honor, “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay because it embodies the feelings all college kids have towards studying and college this point in the year.

“Before He Cheats”  was released from Underwood’s debut album, Some Hearts following her win of American Idol, and has subsequently won her a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance (it also won Best Country Song and was nominated for Song of the Year, but Underwood did not receive those honors as she was not one of the writers).  I personally believe this song is the reason Carrie Underwood is Carrie Underwood; it catapulted her into one of the most successful country acts today.  I remember it “spilling over” (borrowing T. Swift’s term) into pop radio, and it being one of the most played songs of the summer.  This is probably because it showcases Underwood’s amazingly aggressive vocals (she does an incredible job with her scream/growling/grunting words like “right now”), but also because the lyrics are unbelievable catchy.

In particular, I find the second verse just clever from a songwriting perspective:

“Right now, she’s probably up singing some
white-trash version of Shania karaoke.
Right now, she’s probably saying, ‘I’m drunk’
and he’s a-thinking that he’s gonna get lucky,
Right now, he’s probably dabbing on
$3 worth of that bathroom Polo”

Just the phrase “$3 worth of that bathroom Polo” is such an incredible descriptor/visual.  We just get an image of the jerk this guy is, him primping himself for his date with the other woman (and overindulging in wearing too much cologne).

Listen/watch the music video for “Before He Cheats” (don’t you just want to beat up a car with Carrie Underwood?):

No, but the real reason “Before He Cheats” is today’s #PhillipsSongOfTheDay is the fact that I’ve just been listening to it on repeat for the past hour and it just encompasses how I feel.  Have I been cheated on?  No.  And I’m not really pissed off at the world.  Again, I’m just coming to the end of midterms and it is almost Spring Break…so I’m done with school.  I just want to sleep…

I KNEW IT!!!!!

In my last post I argued that “Glory and Gore” should be Lorde’s new single from Pure Heroine and I have two important updates.

First, the song, when I wrote about it, was number 40 on iTunes, now it’s number 23!:

"Glory and Gore" at number 23, as of 2/27/14

“Glory and Gore” at number 23, as of 2/27/14

 

Second, “Glory and Gore” is actually going to be the next single from Pure Heroine!!!  Not to gloat, but I KNEW IT!!!

"Glory and Gore" will impact radio March 11th (keep your ears peeled).

“Glory and Gore” will impact radio March 11th (keep your ears peeled).

 

Perhaps when I was writing about this, Republic and Lava Records knew/was keeping track of the success of “Glory and Gore,” just as I was.  

When I was driving home from school today, I was actually planning on writing a post entitled “The Real Reason for the Failure of the Music Industry,” in which I would shame Republic and Lava Records for not taking “Glory and Gore”‘s recent success and growing it.  In all fairness, I read in multiple sources that Lorde’s next single was intended to be “No Better,” a left over track that is on the extended version of Pure Heroine.  

Listen to “No Better” here (could be her next single for the summer…it’s totally a summer song):

While I adore “No Better” and certainly believe it will be a #PhillipsSongOfTheDay in the near future and should be a single eventually, I was going to write that it doesn’t make sense to undercut the success of “Glory and Gore,” success which was garnered from the fans and the promotional use (see my post Lorde’s New Single for more details).  Like, there would be no ROMI (Return On Marketing Investment…learned about that today in class…) by choosing a different single that had less promotion than “Glory and Gore.”

What I’m suggesting may seem like common sense, and rather foolish that a record company would pull such a stunt of releasing a song as a single when a different song had more attention.  BUT IT HAS HAPPENED.  Let’s not forget Taylor Swift’s album Speak Now and her song “Sparks Fly.”  This song happened to be a huge fan favorite.  Swift played this song at one or two of her shows (apparently she wrote it for Fearless and played it at the live show to test it with an audience, but decided to scrap it for a different song), and a very rough live version could be downloaded online or listened to on youtube, such as:

Really rough quality, probably because it was recorded from a cellphone or cheap camera.  Regardless, us Swifties found this and loved it.  After much demand, Swift obliged her fans and put the studio version on Speak Now (insert tears of joy…our hard work paid off).  Once Speak Now was released, “Sparks Fly” rocketed to #1 on the iTunes Top Singles.  And what song did Big Machine Records release as her next single? “Back to December.”  I mean, it wasn’t a bad decision, given the fact the song was released as a promotional single weeks before as part of the “Count Down to Speak Now” campaign and had some exposure.  But still, I personally felt that anticipation grew for the release of “Sparks Fly,” and such anticipation could have be used to impact radio.  And I think Big Machine did know of this anticipation and knew it was radio friendly, given the fact that they released it practically a year later as a single. While “Sparks Fly” did manage to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs, it only went to #17 on the Billboard Hot 100.  I fear if it was released in the first week of November 2010 like “Back to December” was, it could have broken through the top 10 (it would have also made for a better pop radio version than “Back to December”); the fact that they waited so long to release as a single I think hurt it’s chart and commercial performance.  And let’s not forget “Back to December” only went to #3 on the Hot Country Songs and #18 on the Hot 100…so, there…

But, back to Lorde and “Glory and Gore:”  Republic and Lava Records are off the hook…for now…

 

P.S. I admire Big Machine Records for the fact that their business model puts music before business; they work with their artists and see their artists as partners, not employees (cough, cough….why they are one of the most successful independent labels…cough, cough….).

 

What College Has Done to Me.

Before I was in college I never checked my email.  What was the point?  Like, no one ever emailed me, unless I emailed them.  However, three years into business school later, I check my email like every five minutes.  Seriously.  It’s quite hilarious actually when I don’t check my email, because then I get like twenty-five unread emails, angry group members who are like “why didn’t you respond in time?,” and I find out classes were cancelled after I drove the twenty miles there.

I’m not complaining.  Seriously.  I actually think this has made me more responsible in my duties and more conscious of other people’s time.  But I just think it’s kind of funny how dependent I’ve become to email since starting college.  I’ve even figured out how to route out my email to different inboxes so an email from one particular class or group project will go into one folder, while emails from work will go to another, and so on.  This is me being #efficient and #prepared.

I decided to go to business school because business was the one thing I did not learn about in high school, and I felt I could do anything with a business degree.  Three years later, I have moments where I’ll be driving somewhere or I’ll be talking  to someone and I’ll say/think something business-like and kind of be like “where’d that come from?”  The other day, my parents and I were out shopping and we kept driving past nail salons, and I out of the blue thought “There must be a high demand for nail salons, at least I hope they’re aware of the market they’re in….I wonder if they’ve set up Google Adwords and verified their locations to help them stand out against their competitors.”  Then I stopped, took a moment to realize that I was thinking about what I discussed in my eMarketing class the day before and realize that I know stuff.

When I think about college and my experience thus far, my first inclination is to say I’ve learned nothing; I feel like the same old idiot I was three years ago.  But then I realize I’m really not.  I’ve grown, I’ve matured, I’ve become more confident (I recently just sang a presentation in one of my classes because I thought it would be funny (which it was)…something I would never have done three years ago).  I also check my email a lot more.  But I’ve learned a lot about business and how I would run my own company…I’m not as much of an idiot as I think I am…apparently…

 

 

Vivere Una Vita Bella

You know what’s weird?  If you go to Google Translate and type in “vivere una bella vita,” it translates from Italian as “live a good life,” but “vivere una vita bella” translates from Italian as “live a beautiful life.”  Like, literally one word was moved and it changes the definition.

I’ve only had two years of Italian in high school, so I barely know any Italian, but I like to pretend I know a lot (I’m not crazy, I’m just an Italian-American who is very proud of his ancestry and family roots).  So today I was listening to Coldplay’s song “Viva La Vida” and I was like “hey, that’s Italian or something” (of course it’s not, but it sounds like it should be).  I did a Google Translate to see what language it is and what it means (I was assuming it had something to do with life).  According to Google, it is apparently Spanish for “live life.”  So then I decided to translate it to Italian, ’cause you know I’m Italian.  I then decided to change the Italian to say “Live a beautiful life” instead of “live life,” because, whatever.  Anyway, when I was playing around with this I remembered the adjectives in Italian go after the subject they are describing, instead of in English where our adjectives go before our subjects (I think…it’s been like four or five-ish years since I’ve taken an Italian class).  Whilst I was playing with my adjective, I noticed the translation changed from “beautiful” to “good.”  And I have absolutely no idea why.  If you know, let us know in the comments below (again, play nice children)!

My googling efforts

My googling efforts

One day I will go to Italy and recite the very little Italian I know: “Fa mi uno sconto?” (“can you give me a discount”), “la creme solar (“sunscreen”…I don’t know why I would randomly say that to someone in Italycan you just imagine, me walking up to a random stranger at a piazza and being like “sunscreen!”), and “ho mal di gola” (“I have a sore throat”).

So, yeah…this is just a random fact/thing I learned today on my Friday and thought I’d share…a #PhillipsSongOfTheDay might be coming up soon, so look out for that!  And remember, “Vivere una vita bella!” (live a beautiful life!)

 

The Snow Can’t Stop

She opened the back door, stuck the yard stick into the snow, and examined it.  “We’re at eleven inches” my mom said.

If you’ve been following this blog since it’s beginning (hi mom!), you probably have picked up two things: I hate the snow/cold and I live in a magical place where it currently has freezing temperatures and has been snowing like crazy.  Today was weird because the weather reports weren’t too clear what was going to happen.  In fact, my school insisted on staying open, then closed half way through the day realizing the weather was definitely not going to flake out.

While I was working on my homework, I would casually glance out the window and just think the snow was so minimal.  I’ve lived through blizzards and Northeasters where the snow is coming down; this snow just looked like a simple dusting.  So when my mom said it had snowed eleven inches I didn’t think anything of it, for some reason the number meant nothing to me.

Then I actually went outside to shovel.  Well, now is when I was shocked how much it snowed.  The snow was up to my knees.  My freakin’ knees.  It was me and my small shovel versus a sea monster of snow. Gulp.

I’m going to regret saying this, and if you ever mention it I will deny this, but I kind of like shoveling snow (cue gasps).  It’s just a great opportunity to plug the headphones in and jam to music while getting a good workout.  I typically create playlists of songs to jam to while shoveling (check out my post “You’re Snow Shoveling Playlist“), but today I listened to one song: “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus.

I was inspired to listen to this song by the simple fact that it had snowed eleven inches in like an hour and wasn’t stopping.  As I was shoveling, the snow would tumble down upon itself or fly back into my face.  Everywhere I turned, snow was there and not letting up; my efforts were fruitless.  I felt that the snow was literally singing “We Can’t Stop” to me:

“We can’t stop

And we won’t stop

We run things, things don’t run we

Don’t take nothing from nobody

Yeah, yeah”

Mocking me, taunting me, that’s what this snow and winter has been doing to me.  It’s like mother nature knows how much I hate winter that she has decided to make each winter the most painful and annoying.  Well, just a heads up to the snow, in a couple of months it will be summer and you will be melted while I’ll be the one outside celebrating.  So, there.

Why is that Harry Potter Book There?

The other day, my friend and I had a discussion about why Harry Potter is considered a children’s book and not an adult book, given the rather lengthy nature of the prose, the darker themes (Rowling said once in an interview that her mother’s death was “splashed” across all the pages), and the violence (particularly in Deathly Hallows) in the books.  Ultimately we concluded that the magical environment of the Harry Potter books sort of align with fairy tales and could, rather lamely, be considered “childish.”  We did, however, argue with this conclusion given that other fantasy/science fiction books, like The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, were classified as either young adult or adult even though they held magical/fantasy elements.  So what kind of book are the Harry Potter books?

Today I walked into the children’s room at the library where I work and the children’s librarian, as usual, said “So, how are we tonight?”  The children’s librarian is fairly new to our library, but we both happen to work Monday nights (I shelve in children’s where she works) and we have started having rather deep, in-depth conversations.  It’s not uncommon for these conversations to be about Harry Potter, both of us being huge fans and both having been sorted in Hufflepuff in Pottermore, so I said to her “I have an argument I need you to settle.”

The librarian who was half way looking through an older book trying to decide if she should get rid of it looked up startled, “Oh?”

“My friend and I have been having a debate on whether Harry Potter is a children’s book, and, since you’re the children’s librarian, I want to know why,” I boldly stated.

She marked her place in the book, set it aside, and sighed, “Well, part of it comes down to the fact that she intended the books to be written for kids.  A lot of it comes down to the intent of the author and publisher, like Scholastic doesn’t publish adult books.”

“So, for example, The Hunger Games books are young adult books because Suzanne Collins wrote it for young adults, and even though the violence level should make it an adult book?” I asked.

“That would be part of it, but you have to remember that the characters in The Hunger Games are teens, and in Harry Potter they’re kids who face kid problems.  Like, the Harry Potter characters are still in school, they think like kids, and face similar emotions.  It’s not like it’s written as a flashback or told from an adult perspective, the stories are told from the kids’ perspective.” She paused for a moment, shuffled her books, then continued, “Also, adult books tend to have people versus people, young adult books tend to have teen versus society, and children’s books tend to have kids versus some cause.  So, The Hunger Games  have Katniss taking on the Capitol and the revolution, and Harry is facing the usual growing pains while taking on Voldemort.”

“Okay, ” I said, trying to catch her off guard, “but don’t forget the books are incredibly long, arguably longer than most adult books.  Even her writing style, word choice, and descriptions are more adult style.  A lot of people think the books progress to be very dark and violent.  Like, why is Game of Thrones considered adult when it takes place in a fantasy world and holds violence like Harry Potter” (if I had long hair, this is where I would flip my hair…also, I haven’t read/seen Game of Thrones, this is just what I heard about it).

“They don’t get long until Goblet of Fire, so the first few are manageable for a kid.  And the themes of Harry Potter are darker, but they’re not like Game of Thrones that holds more violence and, from what I hear, a lot sex.  And people often underestimate what kids can handle in terms of violence in books, I think it goes back to the idea of kids thinking themselves invincible.”

She then paused, reached back for her book, and said “Huh, that’s some good food for thought.”

 

Your Snow Shoveling Playlist

With today’s blizzard-like snow here in the arctic, here’s my snow shoveling playlist.  It helps plow through the snow and stay positive that spring is almost here (hopefully):

  1. Closer” – Tegan & Sara
  2. Where Is My Mind?” – Pixies
  3. 10538 Overture” – Electric Light Orchestra
  4. Just Dance” – Lady Gaga
  5. Bad Romance [the Skrillex Remix]” – Lady Gaga
  6. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together  – Taylor Swift
  7. The Monster [feat. Rihanna]” – Eminem
  8. Viva la Vida” – Coldplay
  9. Bass Down Low” – Dev
  10. My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” – Fall Out Boy

 

Just Don’t Over Think It

I want to change my bio on Twitter (follow: @phillipjspencer), but I just don’t have the balls to do it.  Currently it reads, “Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve – J. K. Rowling,” a quote from a Harry Potter book, and one that I hold dearly because it gives me hope that I may possibly achieve something someday.  But then I was thinking how a quote, while important, does not stand out or grab a potential follower’s attention (which may be the reason I only have fifty-seven followers).  I once read a bio of a Twitter page of a friend of a friend that read “I’m an eighty-year-old woman in a twenty-something-year-old body” and I just thought it was hilarious.  Why can’t I do that?

While in this process of trying to create a new, fantastic bio, I finally thought up “All you have to do is sit back and be amazed.”  I was impressed and inclined to make the big change, but then I started to think about how it may actually be received by audience members.  While I thought it was intriguing and witty, it could potentially come across as conceited or arrogant. I intended it with humor, in an almost sarcastic way.  In a way, the bio was meant as an indicator that my subsequent tweets would be both hilarious and serious (which they are, in my opinion).

However, I did have the fortune of taking a positive psychology class last semester and found that people who are more optimistic in life (and in their writing) tend to be more well liked and more successful.  Since taking that class, I’ve realized how cynical and negative I tend to be – like complaining to acquaintances about school instead of championing a common interest.  So remembering this got me thinking, is my new bio snarky/sarcastic?  Would that win over potential followers?  In a reading for a class I’m taking this semester, I learned that it’s better to be gracious and humble so that people will respect you more and relate to you better.  Again, am I doing this in my new bio?

The answer would honestly be “no,” because while the new bio would represent my wonderful humorous side, it also does hold that deeper, darker passive aggressive side that would deter people, I fear.  So it would appear that the hunt is once again on to create a fantastic new bio.  In the mean time, I could always test out this new bio and see if my fears are actually right.  If they are, then a change is always just a click away.

“White Lies” by Stacy Clark – #PhillipsSongOfTheDay

I have this professor who prides himself on being a musician as well as being a business professor.  Overall he’s a pretty cool guy and great teacher (this is the second class I’m taking with him).  He usually gives us these class activities to do at the beginning of class to use during our discussion, and he will play a random Pandora station to create a “mood.”  Today, a Lady Gaga song came on, and he shook his head and made a crack about “music today.”  Basically, in his opinion (and other kids in the class, who I’m pretty sure where just sucking up to him), music today is a bunch of crap.
I don’t like when people are negative or cut down music without giving it a chance.  I had a friend in high school who literally would hate any music/song that was played on the radio because it was “mainstream.”  He was the kind of guy that would only listen to obscure jazz or blues songs.  I recommended him to listen to Adele’s album 19 because it features that jazzy-blusy sounds he enjoyed.  Just as I did so, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” blew up on the radio, and he refused to listen to her songs.  Like, I don’t get that at all.  I think the level of musicality or whether a song is “good” or not should not be established by who listens to it.  You just need to sit back, relax, and just listen.

Anyway, because my professor made this crack about Lady Gaga and the rest of today’s terrible music, I decided to name a Lady Gaga song #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.  I was going to pick “Just Dance” because I was listening it as I was shoveling snow in this lovely weather we’re having (by the way, I pretty much hate the cold, snow, and will probably blog about that…I’ve written songs about my hatred of winter here in the arctic).  However, I started to listen to Stacy Clark’s song “White Lies” while writing this post, and well, that kind of got stuck in my head/started playing on repeat, and it reminded how much I’m blown away but that song.

There’s something about this song that should not work, like you hear it and think “that’s not a radio single,” which I guess it’s not considering I don’t think it got radio traction (at least, I haven’t heard it on the radio), but the song really works.  I’m not saying that for it to be good it needs to be on the radio, I’m not a hypocrite, it’s just the song has a weird rhythm/beat to it…a weird rhythm/beat I enjoy.  The lyric that stands out for me is “Do you think I’m a fool? Shame on you and shame on me twice, for trusting, trusting you.”

If you haven’t heard this song, you need to.  It’s great.

Cut Your Teeth

I’m ten years old.  My violin teacher has just approved me to start playing a more advanced book of songs.  I am over the freakin’ moon.  I can’t quite contain myself as I say to her, “I’ve actually taught myself some songs from that book.”

She gives me a skeptical, slightly mortified look and says “Have you?  Which song?”  I open the book to the second song and start playing it.  I get really into it, playing it exactly the way it should, in my opinion, be played, and finish beaming.  “So, we can skip that one, right?” I ask, thinking I know the answer.

“Well, actually, you learned that all wrong,” my teacher says as my heart sinks, “I mean, you made up all these rhythms that are wrong, you made up fingerings, you hit none of the notes right.”  I’m now looking at my feet, feeling embarrassed and rather stupid.

***

“So, it goes G, C, E minor, D,” says my friend Dat, the kid that can play pretty much any instrument you want him to (except banjo, although I suspect it’s because I always tell him to learn it), “You only need to learn those four chords, keep to the beat, and we’ll be fine.”

It was May, and my band and I, all sixteen years old, were rehearsing for my brother’s graduation party, which was taking place the following month.  Our “band” basically consisted of Dat playing guitar, our friend Nicole singing, and me playing cello.  But, when you’re going to play for a celebratory event, like a graduation party, there are not a whole lot of “happy” or upbeat songs you can play with just voice, cello, and guitar.  We needed to add drums (which Dat could play) because most of those “happy” songs all required the use of drums.  Either I was going to learn to play drums, or I was going to have to learn to play guitar (I don’t think it ever occurred to us that Nicole could learn to play guitar, something she did a year later).  I chose the latter, knowing I could never get the hang of the drums in time.

“It’s really not that bad, Phil,” Dat continued exasperatedly, pointing to the many charts and diagrams he drew to teach me the chords, “you can handle this.  After this, you never have to play the guitar ever again.”

“I know,” I said with an edge in my voice.  When people tell me that I don’t have to do something, I tend to do it anyway just to prove them wrong.  So I started practicing those four chords so much that I actually broke a couple guitar strings that week.

But I didn’t stop there; I looked up other chords, and found sheet music for my favorite songs and figured how to play those chords.  Over time, I eventually figured out many different chord progressions, strumming patterns, and how to create different sounds.  I never took any formal guitar lessons, unlike my previous eleven years of being trained classically to play violin and cello.  But once I started playing guitar without any professional guidance, I was not going to stop.

I remember at the beginning of my guitar-playing career thinking “I’m probably doing this all wrong.”  Whenever I practice any of my instruments, I always think back to being ten and feeling the way I did when my teacher berated me for daring not to follow her methods (she actually was not as mean as she sounds).  But I like the fact that I may be holding my guitar the wrong way, that I may not have the right fingers on the right frets, and that my rhythms or strumming patterns could be totally made up.  I like that freedom.  Without any formal guidance, there are no limits to what I can do with my music, which I think has made me more passionate about playing music.  What it comes down to for me is that the music sounds good, and if it does, who cares how you got there.