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2008: Year In Review

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Every critic from MTV to Rolling Stone has produced some sort of best of list for the year, so here's mine!

Best Songs of 2008


10. Bret Michaels - "Driven"

I love Bret's new solo album "Rock My World" and I would have bought it except half the songs are the same as one of his previous solo albums (which I have) called "Songs of Life". That's a great album too though. Anyway, this song is a return to a sexy style of rock 'n roll that's definitely missing amongst the Coldplays and Nickelbacks of the world.



9. Heidi Montag - "Fashion"

This song is absolutely ridiculous but somehow amazing. And that's all I can really say without embarrassing myself.



8. Seether - "Rise Above This"


Maybe an odd choice from me, but this song reminded me of an old favorite, "Memory" by Sugarcult, as well as long forgotten about bands like Orgy (who never got the recognition they deserved) and Chevelle (ok maybe no one remembers C…

Songs/albums I know I shouldn't like but I just can't help it......

Here's a list of a few ultimate guilty pleasures of mine...the list could go on and on but here are some notables....

Rick Astley - "Never Gonna Give You Up" (1987)
#1 Billboard Hot 100 hit

This song is just so addicting, I can't help but listen to it...over and over again. Apparently, 12 1/2 million people who have viewed the video on YouTube agree with me.

Of particular note is the mashup of this song's vocals with the music of Mika's "Happy Ending"...gives the song and particularly its lyrics a haunting, visceral quality. (Listen to that version here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDI-PCDL2G4)


REM - "Everybody Hurts" (1992)
#29 Billboard Hot 100

"When the day is long...and the night, the night is yours alone....." Man, this song just makes me want to cry sometimes...unless you just embrace it. I once used this song in a documentary in a post-modern ironic sort of way...and by ironic I mean it was half-serious. As I always say, never…

I can't live, if living is without you: A history of "Without You"

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"Without You" is probably one of the most covered songs of all time, right up there with "Always On My Mind". Artists as varied as Mariah Carey to Clay Aiken have covered this song, and I am sure there is some post-modern pop-punk cover floating around somewhere out there.

So who sang it best?

Badfinger (1970)

The original singers/songwriters of this song, better known for their song "No Matter What". Their version is a bit clipped and has an unexpected intensity. The most unique version of any I've heard. Unfortunately for this group, Harry Nillson discovered the song on their album and covered it the following year...it became a huge #1 hit and most people remember the Nillson version. Even more sadly, the two main songwriters of the group later committed suicide due to financial struggles and other problems. Gives their version a new poignancy that is heartbreaking.



Harry Nillson (1971)

Nillson's is perhaps the most emotional version of this song…

Favorites

Today I decided to make a get-to-the-point list of my favorite songs and albums, just for fun.

Favorite Songs

Bon Jovi (slow): "Always"
fast: "Bad Medicine"

Aerosmith (slow): "Crazy"
(fast): "Love In An Elevator"

Skid Row (slow): "I Remember You"
(fast): "Monkey Business"

Guns 'N Roses (slow): "November Rain"
(fast): "Paradise City"

Carrie Underwood: "Some Hearts"
Taylor Swift: "Should've Said No"

Garth Brooks (slow): "More Than A Memory"
(fast): "Friends In Low Places"

Melissa Etheridge: "Like The Way I Do"
Will Smith: "Wild Wild West"
Matchbox 20: "Back 2 Good"

Bruce Springsteen (slow): "The River"
(fast): "Cover Me"

Favorite Albums

Bruce Springsteen - The River
Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell
Carrie Underwood - Some Hearts
Melissa Etheridge - self titled
Bon Jovi - New Jersey, These Days, Lost Highway
Skid Row - self titled
Britney Spea…

Melissa Etheridge - self titled

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While driving home last night and listening to Sirius station #15 Classic Rewind, "Similar Features" by Melissa Etheridge came on the channel. I had absolutely forgotten how much I loved this song and really the entire album. It's from her debut self titled album, released in 1988. Interestingly, I just read that the album as it is sold now was re-recorded in 4 days, as her record label rejected the original cuts of the songs as being too polished.

Absolutely every song on this album is amazing and could have been released as a single. I'm (shockingly) not going to focus on Billboard chart positions or RIAA certifications in this post (although the album went multi-platinum [how vague!] if you're wondering).

Here's the tracklisting:
1. Similar Features
2. Chrome Plated Heart
3. Like The Way I Do
4. Precious Pain
5. Don't You Need
6. The Late September Dogs
7. Occasionally
8. Watching You
9. Bring Me Some Water
10. I Want You

Now that all that technical stuff is out of…

2008: Single Reviews

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Fall Out Boy - "I Don't Care"

This song is incredibly catchy, although like every other new song - the chorus gets a little repetitive by the end of the songs. Typical - but great - Fall Out Boy lyrics add some punch. It's truly unfortunate that Fall Out Boy are such sub-par live performers, as their studio recordings are so good. It's hard to predict how this song will perform on the charts [the only stat I could find was that it has hit #35 on the Canadian Hot 100] - but does it even matter? Their rabid fans will eat it up immediately, and they're probably guaranteed a #1 album debut when the album is released Dec. 16. It was pushed back from the original Nov. 4/Election Day release due to an esoteric statement from Pete Wentz....I'm sure their fans are angry about it. "These friends, they don't love you/They just love the hotel suites now"...this song is either a commentary on a specific individual or the state of Hollywood starlets in g…

If I Was Your Vampire

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After watching the full length trailer for the "Max Payne" movie (which coincidentally is playing on TV as I write this) I was enthralled by the song playing in the background. On a side note, "Max Payne" looks like a bigger budget rip off of "The Crow" (which will forever be associated with Brandon Lee's tragic death on the set...but what a performance, what a legacy he left everyone with...one of the most haunting and visceral movies I have ever seen, it is amazing).

The song is a little known Marilyn Manson track called "If I Was Your Vampire" off a CD he released last year (that was released to little fanfare, as I hadn't heard anything about it, and it only sold 200,000 copies).

A link to watch a fan made video with the song in the background (the song's video is mysteriously not on YouTube): http://video.yahoo.com/watch/602387/2902908

Anyway, the song is gorgeous. It's dark and deep, and not exactly earthshattering material fr…

Guns' N Roses: Appetite For Destruction (Album Review)

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I read on "Ask Billboard" today that "Appetite for Destruction" by Guns 'N Roses has surpassed Boston's self-titled album as best selling debut album of all time. Previously the RIAA had certified Appetite at 15 million copies, and Boston's album at 17 million, but just recently on September 23rd, "Appetite" was certified at an astonishing 18 million copies sold...and that's just in the US.

That's incredible. And what's more incredible is that this album is still selling, without the band touring today or even still existing. (I do not count Axl's weird version of GNR as the band existing...does anyone?? It really should be called Axl Rose is a Wacko...but that doesn't sound too catchy does it?)

Here's the tracklisting:

"Appetite for Destruction" (released July 1987)
1. Welcome to the Jungle 4:34
2. It's So Easy 3:23
3. Nightrain 4:29
4. Out Ta Get Me 4:24
5. Mr. Brownstone 3:49
6. Paradise City 6:46
7. …

Women In Music

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Getting away from my commentary on the music industry, I decided I would review some of the newest songs by women being released to radio and discuss their likelihood of success.


Britney Spears - "Womanizer"

Arguably, this single is the most buzzed about of any released recently. Will Britney be able to finally make a comeback? This very well might be the song that allows her to do just that. It's repetitive but a little less so than "Gimme More" (the first single off her last album "Blackout"). It slinks along with a dance beat you'd expect to hear at an underground club. Britney's vocals are - as usual - computer-enhanced but she does seem to be singing with a bit more emotion than the Blackout album where her love songs were sung in the same manner as songs about sex in the back of a dingy club. (Or at least that was the image I got from them.) "Womanizer" is a bit more sassy, it's the sound of Britney standing up for herself. …

Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell (I - III)

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I have to say that there is no other artist out there today who has consistently produced as amazing album covers as Meat Loaf, particularly the Bat into Hell Trilogy. I have to also say it makes me feel a little bit like a Lord of the Rings geek that I love these album covers so much, but there is no denying that they are really magnificent.

The covers are epic, they are tortured. They depict a moment at the end of the world, through the ashes of what has come before. They depict moments that are all-or-nothing, now-or-never, kill-or-be-killed. Just looking at them inspires me as a writer.


The first Bat out of Hell was released in 1977 and has gone on to sell approximately 43 million copies, including 200,000 per year to this day. It is just a classic album that really spans the generations, in my opinion. Plus songs like "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" and "You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth" are still played constantly on classic rock stations. This albu…

Bad Albums or Cheap Consumers?

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Is the music industry a case of the chicken or the egg? In other words - does the poor quality of music these days cause consumers to only purchase a song or two off the album from Itunes? Or is it the consumers who have contributed to the low sales of albums by only buying a few songs instead of a full album?

So which came first: bad albums or cheap consumers?

Interestingly, the cost of a CD seems to be at an all time low. (In my not so scientific opinion, based on purchasing CDs since 1995, at the ripe age of 9)...it's easy to find certain albums for $8 or $9. Yes, even new releases. I don't think I've paid more than $11 for a new release in the past few years...usually more like $9.99. It wasn't so long ago that I was willing to pay $15 or even - god forbid - $18 for an album by one of my favorite artists. Now I shop around on Amazon, WalMart, and Circuit City (by far the 3 cheapest places to buy a CD - FYE is a joke with ridiculous "sales", like $5 off …

Declining Album Sales?

Searching through Billboard's website today, I noticed a question and answer column where a reader had inquired about the album sales of a few notable female artists. The response was:

That said, here are the to-date U.S. sales, through Sept. 7, of the most recent albums released by the artists listed above, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Duffy, "Rockferry" (462,000)
Estelle, "Shine" (110,000)
M.I.A., "Kala" (302,000)
Leona Lewis, "Spirit" (1,064,000)
Natasha Bedingfield, "Pocketful of Sunshine" (411,000)


If this was 10 years ago, or maybe even 5, the album sales would look more like this:

Duffy - 1 million

Duffy has that British soul singer appeal that is unparalleled in recent years. Oddly a crop of similar soul singers has emerged lately (ie: Amy Winehouse, Adele) but Duffy is by far the most appealing in appearance and voice. Although her performance of "Mercy" on a recent late night show (either Letterman or Leno) was ab…

Matthew Good Band - "Beautiful Midnight"

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"Beautiful Midnight" by Matthew Good Band is quite literally the best album no one remembers. Even though this album was a hit in Canada and they won two Juno awards (Canada's equivalent of the Grammys), it never quite caught on in the US. I remember some of their videos off this album being played on the now-defunct TV channel MuchMusic (now Fuse), which was a Canadian channel.

The music ranges on this album from slow, ethereal, and haunting to pounding and visceral. It showcases the versatility of the musicians. It is unapologetically hard rock music, yet it stands above many of their peers at the time due to the lyrics.

The lyrics stand firm as commentary on society, although at face value they could also describe romantic relationships or friendships gone wrong. "The Future Is X-Rated" attacks the disposable nature of the world today with lyrics such as "And now they've got drive through/And a video store where there used to be real live actors."…

Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" & the male gaze

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Katy Perry's song "I Kissed A Girl" has spent an impressive seven weeks in a row at number one this summer. Of course, similar feats have been accomplished by decidedly catchy but unimpressive songs like "Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain (which spent 10 weeks at #1) and the infamous "Macarena" which spent a shocking 14 weeks at #1.

This song is incredibly catchy, that part is undeniable. It has just the right amount of computer-enhanced vocals to make it a hit, but just enough of Katy's voice to make her credible. I like the song well enough. Katy herself seems to be a mix of cute and tough, and she seemed likeable in her performance and hurried interview on The View recently. The small amount of controversy the song has generated probably has only added to its popularity (see Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus for example). But listening to it for the hundredth time today got me thinking:

Would this song be anywhere near as popular if it was a man si…

Diamond Rings obsolete in the Music Industry

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It is evident that long gone are the years of the Diamond album.

A Diamond album is one certified ten times platinum (10 million copies) by the RIAA. There are (by my count) 42 albums released in the 1990's that have achieved this status, as varied as Tom Petty & the Heartbreaker's Greatest Hits, the Titanic Soundtrack, and Kenny G's "Breathless". However, it is interesting to note that the two biggest sellers of the 1990's are both country albums: Garth Brooks' "Double Live" (21 million) and Shania Twain's "Come On Over" (20 million).

By contrast, in this decade, there are only 7 albums so far that have reached Diamond notification. One of these albums is the Beatles' incredibly popular "1" album, a 2002 compilation of all their #1 hits. In this sense, it is a compilation of previously released music that appeals to Beatles fans of all generations, not music that is a product of the changing trends of the new mi…