Video

FJ – Vien vien la

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This time next week I’ll be on Reunion Island which, for those of you who don’t know, is in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and is half way between the more famous, Mauritius, and the much (MUCH) larger Madagascar.

As part of my research, I was looking into the language and the music of the island. Reunion is a French department, and therefore has strong French influence, and both the language and music is therefore a blend of indigenous and French flavours.

After punching “Afro-Malagasy Music” into the YouTube search window, and sifting through nearly a page of videos of a Zebra that sounds suspiciously like Chris Rock, I clicked on the following video.

Now, being that it’s from a small island nation in a remote and obscure part of the world, and given that I don’t speak French, I couldn’t find much information about it available online, but a few things struck me about this song and its video. First, is how simply joyful it is. The tune is repetitive, yet sweet and therefore pleasing to the ear, and the video shows young adults in what can only be described as paradise, doing things that are innocent and joyful. There’s no posing, no posturing, no inflated attitude, no flaunting of apparent wealth, no sex, no cutting edge fashion, so fancy editing, no special effects, no aggression, no highly emotional tripe – none of the bullshit we’ve all become so accustomed to from music and music videos churned out by western media – especially those of the US.

So, if it has none of the ingredients of what the mighty Western Pop-culture is built upon – why don’t I hate it?

The locations are beautiful, the girls are pretty, the clothes are snug fitting and skimpy, the people are happy, the life seems simple, they are all doing things that I, or you, or your grandmother, or your 4 year old nephew, would feel equally at home doing or being a part of. And through it all, you simply want to be there, dancing (not cavorting!) with them. There’s a sense that you’re welcome to join the party, instead of peering in on it through the keyhole of the locked door which has a sign on it reading: “Only cool kids allowed!”

I for one, think this is a truly refreshing departure from the “Hollywood” style of music videos and music of today, which are designed to evoke more of a pressing urge to battle someone or something, or make you feel like you’d just walked in on someone who is about to be having sex.

Whatever happened to “nice”. When did “nice” become not good enough? Why can’t people keep making music that you will want to listen to all day, instead of producing works that make you feel completely emotionally and morally exhausted after three and a half minutes?

Yes, this song is “nice”. It’s never going to top the charts, and if it wasn’t for people like me who appreciate such niceties, it would probably see very little of the light of day. Yet, I still like it! I like that it represents “normal” life, and that it seems to be a celebration of it.

Of course, I have no frikkin’ idea what the lyrics mean, but I’m using my gut instinct to assume that he’s not singling about ‘bitches and ho’s, and making mo’ money, riding round town in the caddy that he just jacked’

As someone who is very open-minded about artistic expression, and life in general, the point I’m trying to make is that I feel that western media has painted itself into a corner of existence where everything has to be taken to the extreme, and that too much of what at times, in the right doses, might be impressive, is in the end simply overkill. (And the further west you go, the worse it gets.)

Yes, this video might be regarded by people (such as the “Beliebers“, as a typical example) as “lame”, or “uncool”, or whatever term they might choose to use to express their unfounded, irrational sense of pop-cultured disapproval. But consider that if it was instead someone like Kanye West who was wearing a rainbow coloured guitar strap in a music video, it would erupt in a Twitter war of monumental proportions, about his sexuality!

…and that – no matter how you look at it, or how cool you think you are – is just fucking ridiculous.

Let me know what your thoughts are.

 

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Video

Ella Henderson – Mirror Man

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If I told you that one second is all you need to realise that this is the sexiest song you’re likely to listen to all day, and that it would have you frantically reaching for the stereo remote to turn up the volume, you’d probably think I’m exaggerating. And I am! Because it’ll actually take much less time than that. I kid you not. This song wastes NO time getting you into the groove, and keeping you there.

Mirror Man is Ella Henderson‘s second release from her debut album, Chapter One.

She first gained significant exposure during the 2012 season (Series 9) of the UK’s television talent show, The X-Factor, from which she was controversially eliminated by public vote.

But her twelve and a half minutes of fame were evidently enough to get her noticed by people who actually understand musical talent, and she soon signed with Simon Cowell‘s record label, Syco Music, and produced her first studio album, which was released in 10 October 2014.

Now sometimes an artist’s true talent can get a bit lost in the many layers of a song recorded for popular appeal, what with its combination of audio treatments, and the convergence of numerous carefully constructed sounds working together simultaneously. And let’s not forget the wonders of recording technology such as the infamous Auto-Tune – it can be easy to forget that most, if not all of these ingredients are underpinned by the abilities of the artist themselves. In case there can be any doubt of this girl’s immense talent, put pay to that ridiculous thought by watching this video of her first appearance on The X-Factor, when she was only 16 years old:

“Mirror Man”
Single by Ella Henderson
from the album Chapter One
Released 8 March 2015
Format Digital download
Recorded 2014
Genre
Length 3:42
Label Syco
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Al Shux

Video

John Legend – You & I (Nobody in the World)

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John Legend has more talent in his little finger than most of the rest of the Billboard Top 100 put together!

Now that I’ve got that statement out of the way, all I’m going to add, before I provide you with proof of the fact, is that it seems to me that fewer and fewer ballads are being made and popularised at the moment. True love songs – you know, the ones that used to make you run onto the dance floor dragging your crush by the wrist for a slow dance!

Here’s to hoping we’ll all soon be back on the dance floor, or living room floor, slow dancing with someone special.

John claims he wrote this song as a love letter to his wife. Both the lyrics and the video remind us of some important values.

Released April 29, 2014
Format Digital download
Recorded 2013
Genre R&B
Length 4:12 (album version)
3:14 (radio edit)
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s)

Video

Echosmith – Cool Kids

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Good songs seem to strike you right between the ears when you least expect it. This one hit me this week while I was in the soap isle at my local supermarket. It may or may not have had much radio play up until this point. I don’t know, I haven’t listened to the radio for more than a decade – too little variety and too much verbal diarrhoea from Ritalin-deprived opinion-monkeys.

I digress.

Given the phenomenally shit quality of the speakers installed in all supermarkets the world over (Seriously people, why bother? If you’re going to play music in an attempt to make me spend more money in your shop then why not at least make it audible?), I could not make out who the artist was, and initially thought it might be a Taylor Swift track, but when I got home and did a search I found out that it was of course Echosmith! …who I’ve never heard of.

Turns out they are a family band. As in, they are related – familiarly. Three brothers and a sister. Which, when you say it like that, makes it sound like they are black, but they aren’t.

They’ve been banding together since February 2009, and they’re pretty good. Their style is a clean-cut, soft-rock with, I suspect, a slightly jazzy, and not-so-slightly 80’s influence. Which for all of us who lived through the 80’s, is a slice of pure heaven.

Cool Kids” is the single they are best known for and is one of those simple songs that you one day suddenly find yourself singing to yourself as you walk to the car in the morning on the way to work. And then, when you think about it a bit harder, you start to wonder why the hell you hadn’t just written it yourself, and become rich and famous, instead of working in a call-centre.

Truth is, sweet and simple as it may be, it’s soaked in the quartet’s finely-honed musical talent, and isn’t the product of mere aimless guitar strumming. Clearly the force is strong in these ones.

On a personal note, in a world where the music we hear seems mostly to have all been churned through the industry’s commercial-popularity sausage machine, it’s really refreshing to occasionally find actual bands, containing actual people, using actual instruments, playing actual music, that they actually wrote! I say: Bring back bands!

If you do a search for Echosmith on YouTube you’ll find loads of other songs and music videos about the band, as well as numerous interviews and vlogs made by mostly 18 year old, Sydney (the band’s lead singer and front-girl) and her brother, 22 year old Jamie Sierota, who happily describe their love of life and of sharing that enthusiasm through their music, as well as personally answering many questions sent in by fans.

In addition to being rising stars, this group seems to have their heads screwed on right, and so here’s to hoping that their talent will carry them to great success, and that we get to continue enjoying the fruits of their hard word for many years to come!

I’ve posted two different video versions of the track.

Single by Echosmith
from the album Talking Dreams
Released May 31, 2013
Format
Recorded 2013
Genre
Length 3:57 (album version)
3:35 (radio edit)
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s)
  • Echosmith
  • Jeffery David
  • Jesiah Dzwonek
Producer(s)

Video

J. Cole – Lost Ones

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I’ve already written about my admiration for J. Cole and his faithfulness to the hip-hop genre. Albeit, often resulting in some material which could be viewed as explicit – especially by non-hip-hoppers. But which I think should be seen by all, as the expression of important, yet often ignored real-world issues, through the music of a rapper which is not afraid talk about mature content, looking at it from the perspective of the young people who so often are the ones involved with handling these issues.

Lost Ones is just another example of some empathetic lyrical story-telling through the use of superb hip-hop, about of a topic which affects millions of young people all over the world.

Music video by J Cole performing Lost Ones. (c) 2008 Roc Nation LLC

Video

Roaring Lion – Caroline

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I’m not saying it’s you that I saw with a mister,

But I know very well that you haven’t got a twin sister.

…only calypso music offers the likes of these sort of lyrics to compliment melodies that are equally charming.

My appreciation for music was probably most strongly influenced by my dad, who would use just about every opportunity to record music videos from the television. In the late eighties we had plenty of half-hour programmes dedicated pretty much solely to playing music videos.

While he didn’t record everything, after a few years we’d amassed a collection of some 20 plus 3-hour VCR cassettes consisting of purely music videos and occasionally a music documentary.

We loved music documentaries too, and one which he recorded and often watched was about calypso music, and featured a segment on an artist called Roaring Lion. When you hear the song, you’ll realise why that name is a bit comical: the melody and tone of the song couldn’t be any more gentle and endearing.

I couldn’t even begin to guess as how many times I heard this song being played at nearly full volume through my parent’s house, but it was a lot. And of course I’ll always associate it with my dad who discovered it and loved it so much.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I ever learned the name of the documentary I’m referring to, and I haven’t been able to find anything online about it, so I can’t give you any further details or snippets from it. Which is unfortunate, because it contained a lot of really good calypso music, which we, the beliebers, the radioheads, the generally musically uneducated masses, don’t get any exposure to unless we go out looking for it.

…do yourself a favour. Go look for it!

My dad passed away in August of 2011, and as a result, the music that so often surrounded him, stopped. Perhaps that is why I started this blog. To continue something which as important to my life as air or food.

I hope you’ll enjoy this little ditty as much as I do.

Roaring Lion
Roaring_Lion_1930s
Background information
Birth name Rafael de Leon
Born 22 February 1908
Aroquita, Trinidad and Tobago
Died 11 July 1999 (aged 91)
Mt. Lambert, Trinidad and Tobago
Genres Calypso
Years active 1930s–1999
Associated acts Attila The Hun

Video

J Cole – Wet Dreamz

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J. Cole has quickly won my respect as a young hip hop artist who really has his finger on the pulse of the genre. His original rhythms, mixed with superb lyrics, vivid story-telling, and a style that is both innovative, yet faithful to old-school hip-hop means this guy is of a hip-hop pedigree that’s pretty pure. …at least that’s how its seems.

As far as this track goes, if the cool, melodic lead-in hasn’t got you hooked after 5 seconds, when the beat drops at 22 seconds you’ll definitely be along for the rest of the track. …if not, then you’re simply probably not a hip-hopper.

This video does makes me feel rather conflicted though. It’s a mixture of child-like cuteness that is of such a calibre that you might find the words “Aaaaawww, noe-noe!” involuntarily popping out of your mouth. Tightly juxtaposed with this, is a heavy hip-hop beat and lyrical imagery involving teenage sex, that is so vivid it could be considered nothing short of pornography.

That being said, though, and I’m not defending under-age sex, I cannot help admire the cleverness of both the video and the lyrics. Hip-hop is, at its core, an art of musical story-telling, and the same subject matter put forward in the form of a cinematic movie for instance, would probably evoke an altogether different response and a high level of acceptance, or at least palatability from the audience. …probably even praise – for presenting what might be considered an unappetising, real-world scenario through creative artistic depiction.

As I write this, I’m thinking specifically of the films “Kids” (1995) and “Thirteen” (2003), both of which I thoroughly enjoyed for their shocking, yet deeply insightful, and artistic depiction of real-world teenage criminal, violent, sexual and drug-use behaviour among certain circles, and which are merely two of many such examples.

Explicit as it might be, this is nothing new, and J Cole’s Wet Dreamz has strong underpinnings of previous generations of hip-hop works from others such as LL Cool J, and 50 Cent. I could add a number of hip-hop artists who use or have used vivid references to sexual content in their lyrics, but only a small minority of them tend to do so in the context of depicting a thought-provoking real-word scenario, such as the case here – as opposed to merely mentioning sex for the sake of sex-appeal.

While I’m sure the bible-bashers, the bra-burners, and just about anybody with any strong opinion on morality will want to be first in line to denounce the value of this track, I’d like to remind everyone that it’s just a piece of art – a form of self expression. And that in that frame of context, I think it’s pretty powerful stuff.

…and it’ll make you want to bob your head too.

Having defended it, I would like to add that having watched the video a few times now, my upbringing around dogs and my love for the canine species does make me wonder if the body language of the little doggie in the video isn’t perhaps that of a an animal which is mostly on the defensive from the bigger, boisterous puppy.

Even though I’m sure that “nobody was harmed during the making of this video”, animal activists, begin your hating….

2014 Forest Hills Drive
2014ForestHillsDrive
Studio album by J. Cole
Released December 9, 2014
Recorded 2014; Jungle City Studios (New York), Perfect Sound Studios (Los Angeles), MSR Studios (New York), Windmark Studios (Santa Monica)
Genre Hip hop
Length 64:39
Label Dreamville, Roc Nation, Columbia
Producer J. Cole (also exec.), Mark Pitts (exec.),!llmind, Phonix Beats, Vinylz, Willie B, Pop Wansel, Ron Gilmore, Jproof, Nick Paradise, Dre Charles, Cardiak, CritaCal

Video

Tracy Chapman’s Tribute to Ben E. King – Stand by Me

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One of the genuine positives of social media is that it occasionally throws something special in your path. Most of the time that’s not the case, but every now and then you get something worthwhile. This little gem popped up on my Facebook feed today through a friend’s post.

It’s a live rendition of Ben E. King‘s Stand by Me – a song, born out of 50’s song-writing style, and which became a historical and cultural classic that hasn’t dwindled in popularity since it’s initial release, being sampled and re-recorded by numerous artists, countless times.

In fact, this year, according to Wikipeadia, King’s original version was inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, just under five weeks before King’s death. He passed away earlier this week, on the 30th of April.

The song’s bluesy, gospel, somewhat sad, yet still inspirational tone, coupled with what is undeniable simplicity, is part of what makes it so captivating and memorable.

It’s a perfect fit – but even when I think about it for longer – I cannot imagine a better artist to have perform a tribute through this song, than Tracey Chapman, whose inherent style of song-writing, lyrics, and performance, faithfully follow an almost identically sombre, heart-achingly beautiful, and mesmerising appeal.

Here she performs Stand by Me on The Late Show with David Letterman:

An interesting “fact” that I once learned from an interview with Ben E. King, is that originally it was not his intention to record the vocals with such a melancholy tone, and that instead, he wrote the song hoping for a more “positive”, or “happy” feel to it – I guess a more uplifting gospel-style. But that for some reason his mood on the day of recording leant itself to the somewhat sad, lonely rendition that we all know and love.

(I haven’t been able to source any material to back this up, but if anyone should know more about this story, and be able to provide me with transcripts or footage that provide evidence to that claim, then I’d greatly appreciate it.)

Here is King’s original recording of Stand by Me:

Released 1961
Format 7″ single, 12″ single
Recorded October 27, 1960
Genre Soulrhythm and blues
Length 2:57
Label Atco
Writer(s) Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s) Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

Video

Milky Chance – Flashed Junk Mind

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I’ll admit it – I’ve never heard of Milky Chance before. (Have you?) Probably has to do with the fact that I haven’t listened to the radio in a decade. Which, granted, means I miss out on a few good songs, but it also spares me the inclination to become brainwashed by what the respective marketing department wants me to think is good music.

Then again, something tells me that this is not the kind of song you’re likely to be hearing a whole lot on most commercial radio stations. …which makes me like it even more.

If this song and video doesn’t make you want to quit your job, move to Spain, buy an old Vespa, grow your hair long, and spend even longer days cruising around aimlessly with a bunch of new friends, then …well, I’m not saying you should do it – but if it doesn’t make you at least wish you could – then you might have bigger problems than you realise.

Nice song.

Off the studio album Sadnecessary

Released Album / Single 1 October, 2013, 29 August 2014
Recorded 2012–13
Genre
Label Lichtdicht Records
Producer Milky Chance

Video

Selena Gomez – The Heart Wants What It Wants

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What can I say? I just like this track. Maybe it’s the emotional vulnerability of the lyrics, and her matching performance in the video, or maybe it’s just that I really like Selena Gomez. And despite what might be poor taste is boys, I still think the girl is not only easy on the eye, but not a bad singer and actually a pretty damn good actress too. I reckon the world is going to hear a lot more from her in the future.

For now though, the heart wants what it wants. …ain’t that the truth!

Released November 6, 2014
Recorded 2014
Genre Pop
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Rock Mafia