Tag Archives: music

“Tell Him” – #PhillipsSongOfTheDay

I have absolutely no idea what compelled me to listen to this song today, but I decided to turn on “Tell Him” by Lauryn Hill and keep it on repeat, thus making it #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

The guitar melody that floats in the background of this song is what really makes this song.  Sure, Lauryn Hill’s vocals are soulful and capture the listener’s attention, but I think the guitar adds a soothing wholeness to the song.  This song, for me, is a healing song, one you should listen to after some personal turmoil such as heartbreak.  Take a listen, pay attention to that acoustic guitar goodness (starts around 0:19):

I first read through the lyrics of “Tell Him” before I actually listened to the song, and I expected it to be a rather depressing song.  Lyrics “Tell him I need him/ Tell him I love him,” would suggest the narrator is missing her significant other; I’m assuming she broke up with him and realized that she wants him back.  However, when I actually listened to Ms. Hill’s performance, I was delightfully surprised by the mellow, soulful vibe of the song.  I think of music and its emotions in terms of the weather, and this song is like the sun setting during the warm dusk after a beautiful summer day, unlike the dark, cold winter’s day I envisioned the song to be; there is a warmer glow in this song than I anticipated.

That’s the majesty of music.  I think music is the best medium of telling a story because it provides three dimensions: the written lyrics, the vocal performance of the lyrics which transcend how the words should be taken (e.g. it’s easier to pick up on sarcasm when it is spoken/sung rather than it being written), and the music provides context to those lyrics and vocal performance.  For instance, for “Tell Him,” I read the lyrics to be dark and cold.  But then you add Lauryn Hill’s vocal delivery, and you get a more laid back, not so aggressive story.  Then you take into the drum beat and the soaring guitar melody and you get that golden sunset previous mentioned.  This just emphasizes that you shouldn’t go reading too much into a song until you sit back, relax, and listen.

 

Tennis Court

The song stuck in my head and on repeat today? “Tennis Court” by Lorde, from Pure Heroine.  As such, this song is, for it’s second time, #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

This song, like many of Lorde’s other songs, stood out to me upon first listen, but I’m still not entirely sure what it’s about.  I did find this interview with Lorde with VH1 describing the song:

 

Based on this video and further reflection of the lyrics, I personally take the song as being about growing up and trying to find your path in life.  For Lorde, she’s gained a lot of fame and attention for her music, so she has to factor that into her life plan.  For me, I’m not entirely sure what the heck I’m doing next week, let alone in life.  I know what I want to do, but who knows if that will work out.  I think this songs has resonated with me so much because of lyrics like:

“Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk
Making smart with their words again, well I’m bored
Because I’m doing this for the thrill of it, killin’ it
Never not chasing a million things I want
And I am only as young as the minute is full of it
Getting pumped up on the little bright things I bought
But I know they’ll never own me”

“Baby be the class clown
I’ll be the beauty queen in tears
It’s a new art form showing people how little we care
We’re so happy, even when we’re smilin’ out of fear
Let’s go down to the tennis court, and talk it up like yeah (yeah)”

“I fall apart with all my heart”

“Tennis Court” also has been stuck in my head because, yet again, Joel Little has done a phenomenal job producing the song.  Strong points include the modified “yeah” throughout out the song (e.g. the “yeah” after the lyric “let’s go down to the tennis court and talk it up like yeah”), the swirling synths and beats during the chorus, and Lorde’s overall vocal delivery.  My one criticism of the song would weird/random synth that goes off around 0:05, and continues throughout the song, take a listen:

The best way I can describe the sound is that it’s kind of like that sound the scanner makes at the checkout counter at the grocery store (right?!).  Like I said, I first thought it was random and weird, it stood out like a sour thumb.  But, now, I think it adds to the beat and rhythm of the song, especially after the second chorus around the bridge (2:07-2:33).  I personally would not have thought to have added that to the production of the song, but it’s not horrible.

Random fact, my iTunes is playing the song "Paper Aeroplane" by KT Tunstall after "Tennis Court," it makes a kind of delightful transition…the accordion of "Paper Aeroplane" contrasts nicely from the synths of "Tennis Court"

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….).

 

Tomorrow Things May Change…

I think I’ve said before that I tend to listen to music that reflects my mood, but lately I’ve been in a really weird mood that I feel is only embodied in the song “Tomorrow” by Avril Lavigne (thereby making it #PhillipsSongOfTheDay, Lavigne’s first).

I used to be the kind of person that had to know literally what a song would mean; my dad and I would often go on car rides, listen to music, and analyze what a song was precisely saying (my dad is freakishly good at doing this).  Recently, though, I’ve decided that I can’t digest exactly what a song is supposed to say, but I know what the song means to me.  For example, I’m kind of obsessed with Lorde’s music right now; I loved the song “Team” from the first time I heard it, but I remember telling my dad on one of our car rides “I love this song, but I have no idea what it means.”  I then thought about why I loved the song – I felt it displays a strong sense of camaraderie and sense of belonging to people who are different and stand out (people like me).  I don’t know if that’s what Lorde intended, but that’s what I got from it (and that’s all that matters to me at this point).

Anyway, I digress whenever I talk about Lorde.  For me, “Tomorrow” tells the story of the feeling just before getting over someone/something and moving on; you’re in the process of accepting your situation:

“I don’t know how I’ll feel,
tomorrow, tomorrow,
I don’t know what to say,
tomorrow, tomorrow
Is a different day”

Clearly here Lavigne is espousing that she doesn’t know how she’ll get over this person or feeling, but she knows things will change in the future (as the future is a “different day”).  It’s kind of an unusual song in that it’s not about breaking up with someone and it’s not about having moved on about some; it’s like you’ve been wounded, but the scab just formed and you’re not healed just yet.  It’s a transitional song.

I’ve just been getting lost in this song because of it’s beauty and the fact I honestly relate to it.  What stands out to me is when she says she wants to “believe” in this person, but feels that she can’t; there’s a breach in her trust of this person:

“And I wanna believe you,
When you tell me that it’ll be ok,
Yeah, I try to believe you,
But I don’t”

I don’t really know why I’ve been feeling exactly like this, but I think I’m in a transitional moment in my life where I want to believe in everyone and everything, and trust that everyone is my friend, but I’ve had a lot of friendships/relationships that did not pan out.  This is not a “oh, poor Phillip moment,” this is me stating how music really brings out different emotions in me and makes me reflect on my life; that’s the magic of music.  For example, if you asked me before listening to “Tomorrow” if I was happy with my life, I would probably have said yes.  It’s not exactly perfect at the moment, but it could honestly be a whole lot worse.  But upon listening to “Tomorrow,” I’ve realized that there is a big thing missing from my life, which is why I know I’m not at the top of mountain of life…if that makes sense at all…

Furthermore, I find “Tomorrow” to be such a beautifully composed and performed song.  In particular, I think the acoustic guitar is so warm and, want for a better word, fulfilling.  It just adds the right tone, a sort of rawness.  Also, I think the “hey yeah yeah”‘s during the bridge are just perfect.

Another reason why I’m in awe of this song is the fact that it was never a single, but it’s as though it was.  I kind of feel like Avril Lavigne’s album Let Go is my generation’s album.  I just remember growing up and everyone having a copy of that album and singing along to it.  Whenever you mention this song or play it, people tend to know it.  It’s odd, usually that only happens with singles.  Like you know all Beyoncé’s or Rihanna’s hits (songs that were singles), but can you name a song  of theirs that wasn’t a single but still a well known song?  I can’t.  It just goes to show how much success Lavigne had with Let Go, and it marks her as a great musician (at that time).

So, yeah, “Tomorrow” by Avril Lavigne is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay, and here’s to hoping tomorrow things may change!

I’m Not Beyoncé

When I was a junior in high school, we had a  project where we had to make some sort of satire (just like the movie Mean Girls, which is coming to its tenth anniversary…jeez, I’m getting old).  There were many forms of satire we could attempt, but I ended up choosing to “mock” a popular song.  Basically I had to take the melody and rhythm of some popular song and make fun of something.

Obviously I chose to utilize Beyoncé’s “Halo.”  Like, how hard would that be.

As it turned out, incredibly hard.  As a male with a deep voice, singing any kind of Beyoncé, let alone “Halo,” is not an easy accomplishment.  The funny part is that I did not realize this until the night before the project was due.  I had decided to record the song to see how I sounded before I would “perform” my hit in front of the class.  When I listened back to my recording I was all:

YIKES!!!!

I’m not a terrible singer or musician, I’m just not Beyoncé (sad face…sort of), and I was trying to be…make of that what you will….

Needless to say, every time I hear “Halo” I’m reminded of that disaster and I always cringe.  Which is why I can only listen to Beyoncé’s music in small dosages…any prolonged listening session reminds me of the night I decided to become Beyoncé.

Tonight, however, I decided to listen to “Halo” on repeat.  Apparently I’m a masochist.

Actually, no.  I’m tired of running from my fears or my mistakes.  I’m tired of being embarrassed of things that may or may not have happened.  I know life is too short to worry about things, but until now I never lived with that PHILosophy (see what I did there…my name is Phillip…philosophy…PHILosophy….hehehe).  I’ve just decided in the last five seconds that I’m not ever going to hide myself again or avoid being myself in the company of others.  A group of idiots may have had a problem with that when I was in high school, but you know what, I don’t care anymore.  It’s like what Hagrid says in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

“There’s some who’d always hold it up against yeh … there’s some who’d even pretend they just had big bones rather than stand up an’ say — I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed.” (HP4)

So, I may not be Beyoncé.  Who cares? I’m Phillip.  And I think he’s pretty awesome.

P.S. I decided to name "Halo" by Beyoncé as #PhillipsSongOfTheDay because of the above story, but also because I think Ryan Tedder did a #fab job with the production…the drum beat and piano really make the song, in addition to Beyoncé's vocal performance.

Rihanna’s Russian Roulette

It’s creepy.  It’s dark, perhaps even sinister. But “Russian Roulette” by Rihanna is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

This song is incredible and awful at the same time.  I say that because while the songwriting and performance is phenomenal, the overall theme of the song is just too dark for my taste.  I first want to commend songwriters Shaffer Smith and Charles Harmon for their ability of telling such an in-depth story.  While it is simply a story of a person (or persons) playing a game of russian roulette, it captures the terrified emotion of the narrator, and it brings in the ideas of the meaning of life  and how one’s actions have consequences.  For example, the character in this song starts to realize while they are playing this game that they may actually die, the ultimate loss:

“I’m wondering, will I ever see another sunrise?

So many won’t get the chance to say good-bye

But its too late to think of the value of my life.”

The fact that this song has so many layers that are so intricately woven in themselves is just incredible, and I really admire that as a songwriter.  I personally find when I write songs that my songs need to convey the specific emotion or feeling while, if possible, telling a story, which “Russian Roulette” does.  I find poorly written songs tend to be so broad that it’s impossible to connect with or understand what the song is conveying.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, if a song is too detailed or has too much in it, it may deter listeners as it may be overly complicated or suggest a behavior that is not desirable.  “Russian Roulette” may possibly do this.

At the very last second of this song, a gun shot is fired off, suggesting that the character pulled the gun and died (sad face).  That, to me, is an example of how this song is inspiring and disgusting.  The gun shot furthers the story and causes the listener to paint their own mental image, but at the same time it’s not really a delicious image to envision.  This may be how Smith and Harmon put too much info into the song; like, we get it, Rihanna’s character is freaked out…does she really need to die?

I also want to commend Rihanna’s vocal ability of evoking such dark emotion.  Specifically, at the parts where she sings:

“And you can see my heart beating

You can see it through my chest.

Said I’m terrified but I’m not leaving

I know that I must pass this test

So, just pull the trigger”

It’s at moments like these where Rihanna’s vibrato is prominent and sheds the almost perplexed fear of the narrator.  I honestly think the song would not work if Rihanna’s vocal performance was not as strong as it is here.

Check out this lyric video of “Russian Roulette,” listen for Rihanna’s incredible vibrato/vocal delivery:

A+ for Ed Sheeran

I was busy writing other posts, doing homework, watching tv, and listening to music (I’m a very talented multitasker) when I decided I wanted to stop and just commend Ed Sheeran for his song “Lego House,” which should have been #PhillipsSongOfTheDay but never has.  So it’s official today: “Lego House” by Ed Sheeran is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

I was first introduced to Sheeran’s music when his Grammy nominated song “The A Team” was available on iTunes as the Free Song of the Week, and I was taken with his vocal ability (he really can hit those high notes, I saw him perform live and, man, he got really up there) and the rawness of his music.  I didn’t really become a full fledged fan until I heard “Lego House,” which is just a phenomenal song, and saw him perform live.

The reason “Lego House” has deserved to be #PhillipsSongOfTheDay is because it is a wholesome sounding song.  From the soft guitar melody to Sheeran’s warm vocals, the song is like a tonic on a sad, rainy day.

“I’m out of touch, I’m out of love

I’ll pick you up when you’re getting down

And out of all these things I’ve done

I think I love you better now

I’m out of sight, I’m out of mind

I’ll do it all for you in time

And out of all these things I’ve done

I think I love you better now”

The thing that really makes this such a phenomenal song is the background vocals, which I assume are done by Sheeran.  Hats off to the person(s) who engineered/created the background vocals specifically during the chorus, particularly in the lines “I’ll pick you up when you’re getting down” and “I’ll do it all for you in time.” During these lines, Sheeran’s background vocals harmonize the last word of each line (“down” and “time,” respectively) and holds it out longer than the lead vocal.  I’m not entirely sure how to explain it, but if you listen for it during the chorus, you’ll pick up on it.  But, whoever thought of the idea to have Sheeran hold out those words, kind of like a faint sigh, is just a genius. Pure genius.

Listen for the background vocals here (and, yes, that is the same guy who played Ron in Harry Potter):


Watching Sheeran perform live was a real honor and inspiration because he performed without a band.  It was just him and his guitar.  It wasn’t an acoustic session; Sheeran is his own band.  He uses a foot pedal to record/loop different sounds he makes on the guitar, so he would bang out a beat on his guitar, step on his foot pedal, make another sound on his guitar, step on his foot pedal, and so on.

Sheeran performing during Taylor Swift's Red Tour

Sheeran performing during Taylor Swift’s Red Tour

He even tried to get different sections of the audience to perform different harmonies (I believe I turned to my dad, who was with me at the time and said, “God, where’s my sheet music…am I on pitch?”). It was a blast because it was just a guy and his guitar.  #TheMusicainIWantToBe

 

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.

The Juxtaposition of Lana Del Rey

This is how I work: when it’s sunny and warm outside, I’m happy.  When it’s cold and snowing, I’m sad.  Pretty basic.  I don’t care about the research I’ve read at school, the weather affects my mood, because I hate Massachusetts Weather.

It’s currently the most depressing time of the year for me here in arctic: winter.  The past two months literally have had below freezing temperatures.  It’s just been so dark and cold, and so much snow.  Sad face.

Given the fact that I listen to music mostly based on my mood, and that I’ve been so deflated because of this weather, you’d think I’d listen to music from the ever so effervescent Lana Del Rey (sarcasm), especially her album Born to Die.  But the thing is, that’s really a summertime album for me.

I’m not kidding.  Last summer, one of the albums I had on repeat was Born to Die, and had her songs “Born to Die,” “Video Games,” and “Summertime Sadness” (both the standard and Cedric Gervais Remix (which just won a Grammy)) on repeat on my iPod, especially when I was out biking in the beautiful sunshine.  Today, while at work shelving books, I realized I hadn’t listen to the stunning Lana Del Rey’s music in months, so I decided to dedicate an hour to Born to Die.  It didn’t last; the album kept reminding me of summer and I thought “huh, this is a summer album.”

If you’ve heard the album or any of those songs, they’re not upbeat songs; they’re not songs that would provide you much motivation while exercising or songs that would cheer you up.  So why are these slow, somewhat melodramatic, and rather ethereal songs more compatible for my summer?

The somewhat magical thing about Lana Del Rey’s music is that while it’s depressing-sounding, it does not make the listener depressed.  In a weird way, her musical content is rather bold in that she sticks to themes and strong opinions of heartbreak that others stray from; I doubt anyone would tell their boyfriend, even in song form, that they were “born to die,” or that, rather poignantly, “I think I’ll miss you forever/ Like the stars miss the sun in the morning sky.”  From her lyrics and her music, Lana Del Rey’s listeners pick up her darker emotions and either relate to them or simply understand them.  Take her summer hit, “Summertime Sadness,” the lyrics, on the surface, would appear rather optimistic for Del Rey.  With such lines like “I just wanted you to know/That, baby, you’re the best” and “Oh, my God, I feel it in the air/ Telephone wires above are sizzling like a snare/ Honey, I’m on fire, I feel it everywhere/Nothing scares me anymore,” one would expect this love song to be about the height of romance with no depressing undertones.  But when you add swirling strings and ambient tones to Del Rey’s crooning, you get a rather depressing song about heartbreak.  While the song truly is about a breakup in that Del Rey is listing out all the positive/wonderful things about her relationship that she’ll miss like we miss the summer during winter, the production of the song could have been manipulated to create a more positive experience for listeners.  Take Colbie Caillat’s song “Realize” for example.  The song, like all of Caillat’s signature songs, sounds positive and happy like the sun-kissed home she’s from (she’s from California/Malibu/Hawaii type place).  Her vocal performance and the acoustic nature of the song leaves you smiling, wanting to lay out in the sun with your significant other.  But, upon closer examination of the lyrics, it’s rather a heartbreaking story about unrequited love, especially emphasized with lyrics like “If you just realize what I just realized/ Then we’d be perfect for each other/ And we’ll never find another,” and “It’s not the same/ No, it’s never the same/ If you don’t feel it too.” This is a case where the production/performance of the song changes the scope of the song to be more positive for the audience.  Lana Del Rey, however, does the opposite in that she purposely keeps her music in Born to Die on the negative side to emphasize her misfortunes.

I honestly don’t know why I associate Lana Del Rey’s music with the summer.  I do feel like some music is seasonal, and logic and my past experience would sort Lana Del Rey as a winter’s artist, songs not to be listened to during the upbeat summer.  But that’s not the case.  Perhaps it’s just me; perhaps LDR should be listened year round.  Let me know with poll below!