Tag Archives: music

Music On Your Sleeve

I think one of the hardest things to do is to show someone the contents of your iTunes library.  Music is so personal and intimate that it’s really like showing a stranger the contents of your heart.  I get nervous anytime someone wants to see my phone to see what music I have on it because I don’t want someone to judge me or be like “ew, you listen to that person?”  I’m tired of people making assumptions about me because of the music I listen to.

I’ve been having a problem with my iTunes syncing with my phone recently, so I scheduled a genius bar appointment for tomorrow and I’m a bit nervous.  I mean, I’ve done it before, and the people at the Apple Store are generally friendly.  I just don’t like people scrolling through my iTunes.  Which is really odd because I tweet, write, and blog about my music taste all the time.  Like, I don’t mind trending #PhillipsSongOfTheDay and creating Spotify playlists for random people around the world to listen to, but I can’t deal with a Apple genius accessing my iTunes to help me.  In all probability they’re too busy to actually judge my music preference.  Even if they did, the chances I’ll ever run into them again or them remembering me are so slim.

But I think this emphasizes this change the Internet has put on my generation: we’re more aware and self-conscious about our interactions in person, but when we’re online we pull out all the stops.  It’s a blessing and a curse, really.  For me, I’ve been able to open up about my musical taste and share my knowledge online because I don’t get to see my reader’s reactions.  I sort of did when I had the comments activated, but some people were rather ruthless.  Just because I didn’t know the person, they felt no shame in writing rather horrible things about me for what I objectively wrote about. It’s odd that the Internet can do such a thing as opening us up as a society and connecting us, but yet making us anonymous enough to tear each other down.  It’s like the Internet is a big window blind, and while sunlight my peak through and permeate the room, we’re shielded from ever truly experiencing the physical nature of a person.

I guess what I need to do the next time someone wants to make fun of me for liking the music I do is to remember the fact I have a musical preference.  I know who I am and I know what I like.  And I will never apologize for who I am.

Ingrid Michaelson Chases Her First #PhillipsSongOfTheDay

Summer is finally upon us, which means it’s time to get those summer playlists together.  The song that has made it on most of my playlists so far this summer? “Girls Chase Boys” by Ingrid Michaelson.  There is something about this song that makes me sit back and just enjoy this beautiful weather.

I like to think Ingrid Michaelson is the most successful indie artist in America.  This is because she is a musician who writes, produces, and releases her own music without the support of a major label AND people actually know who she is and her music has been played on the radio!  She actually started her own record label, Cabin 24 Records, and have released six albums, the last two, Human Again and Lights Out, reaching number five on the Billboard 200, an impressive feat from an artist doing it all on her own.  Well, I’m sure she has an impressive team that work with her, but it’s impressive that they have accomplished all this, considering the fact that the music industry is dominated by three major corporations: Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group (it was dominated by four major labels (you may have heard of the Big Four), but EMI was bought and absorbed by the other three back in 2012…which was a major topic of debate and discussion amongst industry critics…and business students…just saying).

Listen to “Girls Chase Boys” by Ingrid Michaelson:

The chorus of this song is quite catching and memorable, which makes this a good song to dance/sway to in the summer air.  It’s a song to play while relaxing on the beach or when having a cookout with your people (side note: I chose the word “people” to mean “family and friends,” but I was too lazy to write out “family and friends,” which I realize is now pointless as I just wrote “family and friends” out three times…).  To me, this song is about how we all want things we can’t have.  She sings about how “girls chase boys chase girls,” which I take “chase” to indicate the fact these boys and girls are pursuing their desired partners, but can’t catch them; they can’t have what they want.  Michaelson then sings “Let’s not make it harder than it has to be,” meaning that we are currently making our lives infinitely harder by chasing our crushes and not getting them.  The verses go into even more depth in this, where Michaelson looks at her life situation and acknowledges that it is not satisfactory or living up to its potential.  For example, in the first verse she sings, “I’m a little let down but I’m not dead/ There’s a little bit more that has to be said.”  Here Michaelson is singing that even though she’s a bit hurt she’s not completely gone (she’s got more feelings left), and there is still more life to live. I find this type of song relatable; as a college student trying to figure out his way in the world, there are a lot of moments when I just feel like I”m not living my life’s potential and craving things I can’t have.

I also wanted to mention that this song holds one of my favorite lyrics ever:

“I got two hands, one beating heart
And I’ll be alright”

Whenever I hear this line, I just take a deep breath and remind myself that even though things may not be going the way I want them to, I’ll be able to figure my life out.  I’ve got two hands to pick myself up by my bootstraps and I have a whole lot of love in my heart.  I’ll be alright.

Happily Ever After: He is We’s First #PhillipsSongOfTheDay

For a while now, I’ve been taken with the song “Happily Ever After” by the band He Is We because it just seems so warm and colorful.  To that end, “Happily Ever After” by He Is We is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

He Is We is a band that was started by Trevor Kelly and Rachel Taylor, who met while working at a record store in Tacoma, Washington.   They promoted their music via social media sites, until they signed with Universal Motown, and released their debut album My Forever in 2010, which “Happily Ever After” is featured.  The duo ended up splitting…I’m not entirely sure why…apparently Taylor got sick, so they found a replacement, and then when she was ready to return, Kelly decided he wanted to form his own band with the replacement…Taylor now is a solo artist…

“Happily Ever After” is one of the few songs that gives me flutters in my stomach from the first second of listening to it.  I’m not really sure how to explain the feeling other than it’s a kind of swooping/soaring feeling.  It’s something to do with the piano, the drum beat, and Rachel Taylor’s vocals that make me get those butterflies.  Take a listen:

“Happily Ever After” by He Is We:

My favorite part of this song is the fact that it instills hope into the listener.  To me, this song is about not giving up on your beliefs, dreams, or goals.  I especially like the lyric at the end of the song “we all have a story to tell,” mostly because I see myself as a storyteller and I believe that life is but a story; we all experience and live things, and we have the option of sharing those experiences in different story forms.  You should never think the events in your life are insignificant because we all have stories to tell; we are all important.

Taylor Swift’s “Lucky” #PhillipsSongOfTheDay

I have this weird thing where I will wake up with a song playing in my head.  For the past week or so, it’s been “The Lucky One” by Taylor Swift.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I went back to listen to it, and I’m again blown away by Swift’s incredible songwriting, making it #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

Taylor Swift is one of the greatest songwriters there is.  Since the release of her self-titled debut album in 2006, Swift has been knocking my socks off with her ability to created incredible melodies, hooks, and stories.  When I first heard her song “Teardrops On My Guitar,” I remember putting it on repeat and just being kind of in awe.  I’ve always had a passion for stories and music, but I never really realized that songwriting was putting them together.  My musical training only dealt with classical music (I’ve been playing the violin and cello since I was five), and my definition of music was pretty much going to orchestra and playing music from the 1600s (or whenever Bach and Mozart were alive).  I didn’t live a sheltered life; my parents were exposing me to all types of music since my birth (I still remember being like two and my mom playing a  Pat Benatar record for me), but I never fully realized that pop/rock/country music was in fact…music.  I know, it sounds incredibly stupid.  But, Taylor Swift is one of the few artists who writes all her music, and every song she writes is it’s own story.  She’s not here to make a political statement or preach to people on how to live their lives (like some other artists); she’s here to speak her truths through music.  Which I think is beautiful.

“The Lucky One” is truly an example of Taylor Swift’s superior songwriting and story-telling ability.  The story starts out describing a character moving out to L.A. in search of fame, and it actually working out.  Fast forward a little bit, and the character isn’t so happy with their new found fame, especially with having to deal with the press and with “feel[ing] used.”  We finally learn at the end that the character escapes fame, and “disappears.”  It has been speculated that this song is about Joni Mitchell, a music goddess and one of Swift’s inspirations.

The intriguing thing about these lyrics is the fact that Swift has this pre-chorus that she modifies throughout the song to magnify the character’s changing attitude.  For example, in the beginning, the character is excited about their success, and Swift sings “Another name goes up in lights, like diamonds in the sky,” (i.e. it’s a beautiful, incredible thing).  Then, in the second verse, the character isn’t so happy, and Swift modifies this lyric to be “Another name goes up in lights, you wonder if you’ll make it out alive.”  Finally, during the bridge, Swift relates to this character and sings, “Because now my name is up in lights, but I think you got it right.”  It’s just cool that she’s keeping the lyrical content consistent but changing ever so slightly.

This song is also classic Swift because she manages to create unique, intriguing lyrics that subtly rhyme.  Read the first verse:

“New to town with a made up name in the angel city,
Chasing fortune and fame.
And the camera flashes, make it look like a dream.
You had it figured out since you were in school.
Everybody loves pretty, everybody loves cool.
So overnight you look like a sixties’ queen.”
Does it appear that Swift is rhyming her words?  Not really.  She is just telling the story the way it needs to be told, and it naturally rhymes; she doesn’t sacrifice the integrity of the story to get it to rhyme.  Some artists, though, painfully make their songs rhyme.  A song that’s a classic example with this flaw is Bruno Mars’ song “Grenade.”  Take the line from that song, “Oh, I would go through all this pain/ Take a bullet straight through my brain.”  Colloquially, we would never say “I take a bullet straight through my brain,” we would say “take a bullet to the head” or perhaps even “chest” or “heart.”  The brain is never really an organ or body part that is referenced in everyday language.  Yet, the writers of “Grenade” (which I think Mars is one of them) chose to make this sacrifice for the song, and it’s just…awkward.  Another example from that song is when Mars sings “I’d catch a grenade for you/Throw my hand on a blade for you.”  Again, who refers to knives or shape objects as blades?  It just seems too forced to me.  Meanwhile, in “The Lucky One,” Swift writes “Now it’s big black cars, and Riviera views/ And your lover in the foyer doesn’t even know you.”  Here is a clever rhyme of “view” and “you;” it’s not forced, it’s natural.  She’s painting a scene of staying a swanky hotel and feeling lonely; she’s using common language, instead of taking liberties and forcing words to work.
As for the music within the song, the guitar strumming and steady drum gives the song a nice thought-provoking, yet real, air to it.  I’m not too thrilled with Jeff Bhasker’s production.  Compared to her other songs, this production quality is “eh, okay.”  I mean, I don’t really understand the ten seconds in the beginning of dead air.  The song, while great, would have been better if Swift worked with her usual co-producer Nathan Chapman, or perhaps co-produced it with Bhasker.  Bhasker’s production just doesn’t really feel like Swift.  Take a listen, let me know what you think:
“The Lucky One,” by Taylor Swift
You don’t need to be a swiftie or a big T. Swift fan to like her music or appreciate good songwriting.  Honestly, just spend an hour with Taylor on any of her albums, and you might find yourself standing in line for one of her concerts.  She’s that good.

Pure Genius: Lana Del Rey’s Cover of “Once Upon a Dream”

Whoever decided to have Lana Del Rey cover “Once Upon a Dream” for the upcoming film Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie, is a genius.  Del Rey’s spooky performance is a perfect match to echo the darker themes of Maleficent.

Maleficent tells the story of the villainess, Maleficent, from the classic Disney film, Sleeping Beauty.  In the original story of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent places a curse on Princess Aurora because she was not invited to her christening or something, and says that Aurora will die on her sixteenth birthday.  In all honesty, I know the gist of the story, but I’ve never seen Sleeping Beauty.  Seriously.  I was doing some quick research to understand the plot so I could sound informed when I wrote this, but it got so complicated that I was like “gosh, it’s just easier to watch the dang movie,” then I realize I don’t have a copy of Sleepy Beauty handy, which means I would need to go to the library even though tomorrow is my day off (I work at a library), then I rounded the whole fiasco out by just thinking “eh, who’s got the time. ”

Anyway, I digress.  My understanding is that Maleficent is like Sleeping Beauty as it involves the same characters and setting, but it is more focused on the dark villainess, not the bright, cheery heroine.  The original version of “Once Upon a Dream” is rather optimistic and, well, darling.  Take a listen:

The original version of “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty:

Now, Lana Del Rey’s version, like Maleficent, takes a new spin on the old classic, making it darker and more suspicious.  When I first heard Del Rey’s version, I thought “Once Upon a Dream” was originally intended to be this brooding, haunting song; the production and performance in Del Rey’s version is so striking that it colors the song to have a different meaning.  It’s exquisite.  Take a listen to Lana Del Rey’s version:

“Once Upon a Dream” performed by Lana Del Rey:

Disney made the right choice in picking Lana Del Rey to cover “Once Upon a Dream” because it’s such an iconic song that needed to be transformed to fit this new, darker telling of Sleeping Beauty.  Lana Del Rey’s music has the subtle, nuanced way about it that makes it appear to be dark and somewhat depressing.  Even by the deep timbre that Del Rey sang “Once Upon a Dream” with gives me the chills.  I don’t think Disney could have found a better person to give a classic a dark twist, and do it so well.

 

P.S.
If you're on the struggle bus this week, here's a clip that you may relate to (I know I did):

 

Okay, I Was Right…Sort of…

So, do you guys remember the copious posts I wrote about Lorde and how her single should and would be “Glory & Gore” from Pure Heroine? (If not, you can read them here and here)  Well, okay, apparently it is…just not here in America….yet.

At the time I wrote those posts, I read that “Glory & Gore” would be impacting radio March 11th.  And I told everyone (including myself) to “keep your ears peeled,” because I was sure I would hear “Glory & Gore” burning up radio just as “Royals” and “Team” had.
The only problem was that “Team” blew up into an even bigger hit (i.e. it received even more radio airplay).  I mean, that’s not technically a problem…not complaining.  But I have yet to hear “Glory & Gore” on the radio, and I listen to the radio a lot (i.e. whenever I was driving to school, which was every day for the past four months).

Following the success of “Team,” it was speculated that “Tennis Court,” the first track of Pure Heroine, would become Lorde’s third single in the States.  In fact, it already was her second single in New Zealand (and I think the rest of the world) where it enjoyed being her second number one single, following “Royals.”  Just to clarify, “Tennis Court” was/is a single around the world, but not in America.  However, I read that Lava/Republic records decided to postpone releasing “Tennis Court” in America given the unexpected fan rush towards “Glory & Gore;” it was used during the Olympics and a commercial for the History Channel show Vikings (read more here).

However, I just read a Billboard article confirming “Tennis Court” to be Lorde’s American followup to “Team:”

Billboard Article

I’m not complaining, “Tennis Court” happened to be #PhillipsSongOfTheDay twice, not an easy feat.   You can read all about that here.  In fact, I think “Tennis Court” may fare better than “Glory & Gore” as “Tennis Court” has such a swirling, infectious chorus.  Also, “Glory & Gore” tends to be more on the nose for the fact that it’s condemning society and media’s obsession with, you guest it, glory and gore.  Which song do you think should be Lorde’s next U.S. single?  Take a listen to both songs below and let us know in the comments!

Listen to “Glory and Gore” by Lorde:

 

“Tennis Court” by Lorde:

Keep your ears peeled for “Tennis Court” on your local radio station!

#Rockstars: The Piano Guys

I was in my high school’s orchestra, and as part of our grade we had to form and play in chamber music groups.  Naturally people did classic duets, trios, or quartets.  Me?  I decided to do something outside the box and form a “band.”  I had my friend who was in the school’s chorus sing, my other friend play guitar, and I played cello as the base line.  We covered songs like “White Horse” by Taylor Swift and “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac.  I really got into arranging the music for our band because it really challenged me as a musician to figure out how to make songs work with our instrumentation.  It was around this time that I discovered the Piano Guys.  I fell in love with their cover/remix of “Love Story” by Taylor Swift and “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay (aka “Love Story Meets Viva La Vida”), which was a #PhillipsSongOfTheDay (read here).  Since that time, they have really grown and have some incredible work.

Here are the Piano Guys at their best:

Watch “Love Story Meets Viva La Vida”:

 

Watch the Piano Guys’ magical performance of “Let it Go” from Frozen:

 

“Rolling in the Deep” cover….absolutely gorgeous:

 


You can watch more beautiful, magical performances from the Piano Guys on their Youtube Channel or their website.  You can also follow them on twitter, @pianoguys.  They are a total inspiration.

#PhillipApproved

 

Well, Now… Dean Fields

Well, damn.  I just listened to Dean Fields’ song “Not Again” from his Any Minute Now – EP, and I can’t take it off repeat…you guys know what that means….#PhillipsSongOfTheDay.
So, one day I got an email notifying me that someone named Dean Fields (@deanfields) followed me on Twitter, and when I noticed he was a musician I followed him back; I have this weird mentality where I’m like “us musicians need to stick together.”  I immediately got notified that I could download five free songs by him, except I didn’t download them because I’m lazy and, well…to be honest…I didn’t think I’d like them .  I really don’t have a good enough excuse as to why I didn’t jump into his music once I found out about him (believe me, I sat here for ten minutes writing and rewriting a sentence trying to explain why I didn’t bother listening to his music only to conclude I was being stupid…but to be fair, I’ve been incredibly busy with school, so…).  Anyway, I’m working on a new playlist for the site and I decided to search for Mr. Fields on Spotify to see if he could add to the playlist, only to discover “Not Again.”  And, damn, what an incredibly beautiful song, especially the first thirteen seconds.

Listen to Any Minute Now, especially “Not Again:”

The mix of guitars (acoustic and electric, I believe) and the cello (I’m like 85% it’s a cello, it could be a violin/fiddle/viola deal) pulls at your heartstrings and gives you goosebumps.  In fact, when I started listening to “Not Again,” I literally sat back and said “well, damn.”

There are very few times when I hear a song and I realize that I’m not paying attention to the words the person is singing in the song because the song as a whole transcends the emotion and feeling.  I’m not suggesting that Dean Fields’ lyrics are pointless, but rather his soothing vocals and the music let you know exactly what he’s feeling.  Put it this way, he could be singing in a different language and we could understand him.  That is something that is incredibly hard to achieve, it takes an incredible musician to pull that off.  This may just be me because I’m the person who needs to analyze everything about the song and I need to have the lyrics memorized, but when an artist captivates me without making me think or want to analyze their song, then you know the song’s good.  On my first listen of “Not Again,” I made a connection to it, which made my day a little bit better.  That’s what it takes for a song to become a #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

 

Sheryl Crow Today

Today I’ve been listening to Sheryl Crow’s music.  On repeat.  There’s just something refreshing about her music, something Spring-like.  With the sun shining and and the warmish air, I needed the heart soothing sounds of Sheryl Crow.  But in particular, “The First Cut is the Deepest (Country Version)” is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

I’m like 93.24% sure Sheryl Crow covered “The First Cut is the Deepest,” but I honestly could care less.  Sheryl Crow’s version was the first that I heard, and the story line resonates with me (I prefer the country version because it gives it a clearer form of rawness and is more soothing to listen to, in my opinion).

The honest reason “The First Cut is the Deepest” is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay is because of the lyrics.  They are stunning and just really struck a chord with me, specifically:

“I would have given you all of my heart
But there’s someone who’s torn it apart
And he’s taken just all that I have
But if you want to try to love again
Baby, I’ll try to love again, but I know…

The first cut is the deepest
But when it comes to bein’ lucky, he’s cursed
When it comes to lovin’ me, he’s worst”

“Try to love again”

I think after you’ve had your heart broken in any circumstance, it’s hard to “love again.”  Maybe you’re holding out hope, thinking that things can work out…but deep down, you know they probably can’t.  We don’t want to give up, but you’ve got to.  You’ve got to “try to love again.”  And I learned in my psychology class last semester that love and relationships are really the only way we can be truly happy or have a better well being.

This is the baby playlist that I’ve been listening to today on repeat:

“Stay” – Playlist

Do you know how many songs there are entitled “Stay?”  A lot.  There’s that Rihanna song, the Lisa Loeb one, and the Grammy Award Winning one by Sugarland.  I decided to make another playlist, but with all songs titled “Stay.”

 

My favorite is Lisa Loeb‘s version (it also was a #PhillipsSongOfTheDay).  That song to me is rather refreshing; she’s admitting she was wrong, and is pleading with her loved one to come back.  There is a rawness in that song that conveys a relative deep level of hurt that I really connect with.  A close second  to Lisa Loeb’s “Stay,” is “Stay” by Sugarland.  The guitar in that song is phenomenal, and Jennifer Nettles is an incredible songwriter (she won many awards for writing that song, including the Grammy for Best Country Song), but I find Nettle’s vocals rather…um…harsh.  I mean, Jennifer Nettles is an incredible vocalist and has an intense passion for making music, but I feel like “Stay” by Sugarland is supposed to be a softer than the way she actually delivered it.

I bring up this playlist of all songs named “Stay” because I think it emphasizes exactly what not to do as a songwriter: give your song a common title.  If you search iTunes or Spotify for “Stay,” there are hundreds of songs, a lot of them are covers.  As a musician, you want to stand out (from a business perspective).  Why would you give a song a name that a hundred other songs are named?

One counterargument would be that, as a songwriter, you don’t write to the name of the song.  You tell the story the way it needs to be told, and the name just kind of stands out in the lyrics (at least that’s how I do it).  However, there is a way around this.  For example, on her latest album Red, Taylor Swift had a song that clearly should be named “Stay.”  Instead of falling into that trap, she named the song “Stay Stay Stay,” a very unique and original title.  Another thing the songwriter could do is give the song a title that does not come from the lyrics.  Lorde is a big fan of doing this; the phrase “400 Lux” does not appear once in the song “400 Lux,” and the phrase “buzzcut season” appears once in “Buzzcut Season,” like how “ribs” appears once in “Ribs.”  I’m not telling other songwriters how to write their songs, but my opinion is that you want to give your song its own identity that people want to listen to that song as opposed to any other song.  If I have a song “Stay,” then why would you listen to me over Rihanna?  We’re both clearly demanding our loved one to stay, regardless of the situation.