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2010: Year In Review

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Top 10 Songs of 2010

10. Mike Posner - "Cooler Than Me"

One of my most-played songs of 2010. The best song Justin Timberlake never recorded. While no one can really replace JT, while he's off acting and actively not recording a follow up to "Future Sex/Love Sounds", I'll take Mike Posner and this killer song.



9. Lifehouse - "All In"

This is exactly the kind of song I would have listened to over and over again in 2002. And trust me, that is a compliment. A gorgeously shot video in the vein of older Incubus and Our Lady Peace videos from the early 2000's. Lifehouse is one of those bands you really don't think of that often, but they continue to release amazing songs that become hits while staying fully under the radar ("You And Me", "Broken", "Spin", and the #1 song of 2001 as named by Billboard's year end chart, "Hanging By A Moment"). I'd say they don't make 'em like this anymore, but t…

Less Than Zero: The Soundtrack

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"Less Than Zero" by Bret Easton Ellis is my favorite book of all time for a variety of reasons.

The debauchery, the hedonism draped in a fog of drugs and fast cars, cocaine on the sleeve of an $800 suit.

Nights at Spago, Valium, Quaaludes, Betamax, Christmas in Palm Springs. Crimson and clover, over and over.

"'Just charge it,' Trent says wearily."

The realization that we could Disappear Here and no one would know the difference.

"The flash blinds me for a second and I take a swallow from the champagne bottle."

The fact that Bret Easton Ellis wrote this masterpiece at 21 years old and it would become my favorite book at 18. The fact that the disenfranchisement of the mid-to-late 1980's never went away, it just disguised itself behind cell phones and the fact that the way we can not disappear from being contacted makes us even more alone.

When it was made into a movie in 1987 starring my favorite actor of the 1980's, Andrew McCarthy, as Clay…

Top 10 Christmas Songs

10. Elton John - "Step Into Christmas" (1973)

One of the most unashamedly upbeat Christmas songs I have ever heard, and I love it.



9. Elmo & Patsy - "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" (1979)

This song NEVER gets old. I couldn't find the original version on YouTube - copyright claims and all - but here is a "remix" version.



8. John Lennon & Yoko Ono - "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" (1971)

Originally an anti-Vietnam protest song, this song has become a standard (and incredible) Christmas song. Little known fact: the chorus is the Harlem Boys Choir.



7. Lou Monte - "Dominic The Donkey" (1960)

My favorite Christmas song as a child...what can I say, I was an odd child.



6. U2 - "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" (1987)

Gorgeously sad and the black & white music video only adds to the atmospheric quality of this all too short song. Honorable mention goes to the aching and slow version by Death Cab For Cutie.



5. Wham - "Last…

Bon Jovi

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Most Underrated Hair Bands of All Time

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Leather, spandex, acid washed jeans, and the scent of Aqua Net will always bring us back to our favorite decade, the hedonistic 1980's. And to the average person, this will evoke the canon of hair bands: Poison, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, and Bon Jovi.

But if you're me, or any person who sewed patches on your jean jacket, copied your favorite songs off the radio on to a mix tape, or owned your favorite album on vinyl, you will remember that there were dozens of hair bands. Yes, some of them were bad and came towards the end of the decade and into the late 90's, churned out by record labels to make a quick buck. However, the most underrated hair bands of all time maybe weren't as commercially successful or didn't quite fit into the hair band mold but got thrown in there anyway.

So here's my list of the most underrated Hair Bands and why, as well as my favorite song by them.

Cinderella


Like many bands that I loved, Cinderella started out more hair band (just look at E…

Random Thoughts

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Everyone says that the best era of KISS was sometime in the mid 1970's, when they released songs like "Rock N Roll All Nite", "Shout It Out Loud", "Detroit Rock City", etc. I would argue that the best - and the most underrated - albums and songs by KISS are from the hair-metal era.

OK, so maybe there isn't ONE cohesive album that inspires musicians like Slash and Tommy Lee to pick up their respective instruments like "Destroyer" or "Love Gun".

But COME ON, "Thrills In The Night", "UH All Night", "Heaven's On Fire", "Let's Put The X In Sex", "I Just Wanna" - these are much better songs than "Shout It Out Loud"!

And then there's my personal favorite hair metal era-KISS song "God Gave Rock N Roll To You II". The lyrics of that song should be burned into the consciousness of anyone who ever threw on a leather jacket and believed.

And as a side note, who c…

17

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17 is an age for many things - the first kiss for late bloomers, the thrill of getting a driver's license and the almost certain subsequent first accidents, applying for college and the fear of rejection.

It's also one of those perennial ages, where everything is life and death and life itself throbs with the unfulfilled desire of being caught between freedom and captivity. There is nothing more emotional than being a teenager, of being stuck between what your parents want of you, what your friends expect of you, and what you yearn of you.

And listening to a mix CD labeled "Meghan's Birthday Mix - May 9th, 2003" brings me back into the thick of it.

I was in the heady, passionate thrall of my love of late-night heavy metal radio shows, leather and electric guitars, concert t-shirts from the 80s bought off Ebay for exorbitant sums, and wearing glittery royal blue eyeshadow.

To put it in its proper pop-culture perspective, 2003 was the year Ruben and Clay battled it out…

Decade of Decadence

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I look out my window, sometimes it's hard to see
The things you want in life, they come and go so easily
~ Cinderella, "Heartbreak Station" (1990)

I wonder if the person I was at sixteen was my truest self. Back then, I lived and breathed rock 'n roll as if it was my only shot at freedom. And back then, it sort of was.

I used to drag the clock radio into my room late at night on Saturdays via an extension cord and listen to Eddie Trunk's show "Saturday Nights Rocks" on WNEW. Eddie played all types of metal, from NWOBHM to the stuff released yesterday. Through Eddie I got introduced to the Priest vs. Maiden debate. (For what it's worth, I would always pick Judas Priest in that fight. Rob Halford is second to none.) On Friday nights, I would turn to VH1 at what seemed like a really late time to me but was probably 10 pm. I'd watch Sebastian Bach's show "Forever Wild" which followed him shopping in the Village at Trash & …

Song of the moment - Deadmau5

Song of the moment: Deadmau5 f. Rob Swire ~ "Ghosts N Stuff"

The beat is what plays in your head after you wake up with a hangover at 6 a.m. and the light is sliding in through the blinds in your window. The lyrics say nothing and everything at the same time.

This one song epitomizes the entire decade of the 80's in just a few lines - the decadence, the hedonism, the cocaine residue on every $20 bill in your wallet. Using and abusing and not caring enough about anything.

I could hear it playing in the background of every blurry party in Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis. It's a song that's unaffected by artifice. It slinks along, searching for something in the dark of night and not being all that disappointed when it finds nothing.

Is the song an ode to lost nights of drug use? Sex with strangers in bar bathrooms? Or only having the energy to take from the world without being able to give anything back?

The robotic maybe-female voiceover intro seems out of place, at…

American Idol Season 9: Top 2 FINALE - May 25, 2010

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Top 2 -  Finale Week: May 25, 2010

Lee Dewyze - "The Boxer" B+

This performance lacked the original conviction he had when he performed it back on Inspirational Songs Week, back when I still had Tim Urban to stare at on a weekly basis. (If only...) The most beautiful moment of the season was the clip where Lee performed this song in front of his hometown crowd in Chicago, and his voice broke with tears on the line "I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains." It made me cry to see it. But this version of the song was similar, but not quite as good.

Lee Dewyze - "Everybody Hurts" B+

I was more than excited to hear the judge's song choice for Lee was R.E.M.'s classic "Everybody Hurts". A wonderful song that I was interested to hear how Lee would sing. While he did a good job, there was nothing too revolutionary about the performance, and I had hoped for a bit more emotion for Lee. The long note he sang on "don't thro…

American Idol Season 9 - Top 3: May 18, 2010

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Top 3 - Judges and Contestants Choices Week: May 18, 2010

Casey James - "OK It's Alright With Me" C+

For some reason, this didn't strike a chord with me. The song was unfamiliar and by the ever-so-annoying Eric Hutchinson. Whenever I think of him, I picture him bopping along more awkwardly than a 7th grader at his first middle school dance in the horrid video for "Rock 'N Roll" (which is probably the least rock 'n roll thing this side of Clay Aiken). Casey's voice is great and has a lovely tone, but this song did nothing for it. The backup singers sounded strange on the track, particularly to the end.

Crystal Bowersox - "Come To My Window" B+

In stark contrast to both of Casey's songs, Crystal took on a personal favorite song of mine, by one of my all time favorite singer-songwriters, Melissa Etheridge. And how did she do? In my opinion, she did pretty well. I don't get the same desperation and aching you hear in all of Melissa&#…

American Idol Season 9 - Top 4: May 11, 2010

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Top 4: Movie Week - May 11, 2010
Lee Dewyze - "Kiss From A Rose" B+
A somewhat bold choice from Lee. The song didn't quite fit his voice very well on the higher notes and it was a bit sleepier than his previous performances. However, still worth a listen as Lee has one of those voices that generally sounds good on most things and amazing on exceptional things.
Michael Lynche - "Will You Be There" A-
Well, Simon got a bit bogged down in the fact that the song was from Free Willy, the movie about a boy and his whale friend. But I was more than impressed with Big Mike's version of this song. I'm the last person to be a Big Mike fan, mind you, but I have to give credit where it's due. The gospel choir and Mike's glory note (towards the end) combined to make this a good if not especially moving performance.

Casey James - "Mrs. Robinson" A-
Casey added something a bit different to this song with the ukelele. Jason Castro -dare I say it - may …

American Idol Season 9 - Top 5: May 4, 2010

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Frank Sinatra Week - Top 5: May 4, 2010

Aaron Kelly - "Fly Me To The Moon" B+

Considering Aaron was a bit out of his element in this genre, he did a solid job with the song. It was a pretty, cute performance. He has come a long way in terms of confidence since the semifinals, where Aaron seemed a bit like a fish out of water trying to compete with people 10 years older than him (which he was!) He had really nice pronunciation with this song, when so many slur the words together to the point where you can't understand the lyrics.

Casey James - "Blue Skies" B-

Casey looked like a lost lamb without his guitar, which I don't think bodes too well for his future career. As an artist, you have to be flexible and you may not always have access to whatever it is that keeps you in your comfort zone. Listening to the performance sounds better than watching it, where the awkwardness unfortunately shows through a bit. It's not the kind of performance I'd listen t…

American Idol Season 9 - Top 6: April 27, 2010

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Top 6 - Shania Twain Week: April 27, 2010
Lee Dewyze - "You're Still The One" A-
I had a feeling Lee would take on this song, and of course, I was right. He sounded amazing, as always, and put a lot of emotion into the song that made all the difference in the world.

Michael Lynche - "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing" B+
I have been extremely irritated with Big Mike lately (and his wife, but I digress). I think he's stayed around too long while superior performers have gone home. Do we even have to mention Katelyn Epperly, Alex Lambert, Lily Scott, and Janell Wheeler as examples? But Big Mike redeemed himself with this touching and beautiful performance. Finally a song worthy of Big Mike's theatrics, which he toned down tonight. He actually sounded like an R&B superstar on this song and I was totally impressed.

Casey James - "Don't" A
The best performance of the night. A song I could imagine hearing - and loving - on the radio. Casey stri…

American Idol Season 9 - Top 7: April 20, 20120

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Inspirational Songs - Top 7 - April 20, 2010

Casey James - "Don't Stop" (originally by Fleetwood Mac) B
A perfectly competent cover, but nothing spectacular. I think Casey just does what he does so effortlessly that we forget that he is a great contestant. He has a great tone to his voice and is always excellent on the guitar. I think here he suffered from picking the wrong song. I disagree with the judges in the sense that I do think this song can be viewed as inspirational. How amazing would it have been if he had stripped the song down and performed a haunting acoustic version that really let the words resonate?

Lee Dewyze - "The Boxer" (originally by Simon and Garfunkel) A-
Lee sang this song with lots of emotion, which I think made a difference in contrast to Casey's performance. I have to say I was not impressed with the song at all itself, and the la-la-las got a little old. (Anyone else find it odd that this was the only part of the performance they s…

American Idol Season 9 - Top 9 (Part II): April 13, 2010

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Top 9 (Redux) - Elvis Week - April 13, 2010

Crystal Bowersox - "Saved" B
The second half of this performance was better than the first. There was a fun groove to this performance and I liked the arrangement more towards the end after the breakdown....but in the end, I couldn't get too excited about it. Crystal put a lot of energy into the performance which made it more entertaining to watch. I won't be downloading it however.

Andrew Garcia - "Hound Dog" C
Andrew never found his spark on the Idol big stage, and this would be his last performance. Utterly forgettable although not a train wreck. I never found Andrew's voice to be particularly strong, and certainly not better than Alex Lambert, Janelle Wheeler, or Katelyn Epperly, all of whom were voted off in the semi-final round.

Tim Urban - "Can't Help Falling In Love" A-
Although Tim didn't take Adam Lambert's advice to sing the last part of the song in his "head voice" (whi…

American Idol Season 9 - Top 9: April, 5, 2010

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Beatles Week - Top 9 - April 5, 2010

Aaron Kelly - "The Long And Winding Road" B-

This was a sweet, but bland performance. Aaron struggled a little bit at certain parts of the song and Simon was correct in calling it old fashioned. But still, Aaron Kelly has mastered that aw-shucks charm that David Archuleta gave off so effortlessly. Aaron remains likeable and a more than competent singer.

Katie Stevens - "Let It Be" A-
One of Katie's best performances. She is slowly growing and improving on the Idol stage. Katie has been criticized online for being robotic and pageant-like. With this performance, I think she changed all that and revealed a softer, more heartfelt side of herself. I had pretty much written off Katie as a true contender for the American Idol crown, but this song coupled with "Wild Horses" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" might have changed my opinion.

Andrew Garcia - "Can't Buy Me Love" C

This performance started off b…

American Idol Season 9 - Top 10: March 30, 2010

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R&B/Soul Week - Top 10: March 30, 2010

Siobhan Magnus - "Through The Fire" (originally by Chaka Khan) B
I thought Sibohan did a lot better than the judges gave her credit for. She did pick a song that fit the R&B theme quite well, and adjusted her voice somewhat to fit the theme. Overall, she embraced the R&B theme much more than I thought she would. Maybe she suffered as she picked a song that sounded quite dated and threw in a scream that did not at all fit with the songs. The last scream was actually painful to listen to - ouch.

Casey James - "Hold On I'm Coming"(originally by Sam & Dave) B+
A fun, energetic performance. Casey's performances always have a fun, bluesy vibe. Casey may be the season's most talented musician, but you would never know it due to all the attention Crystal gets. I think Casey has a "moment" in him, the kind that will make all our jaws drop and grab our attention. He is the kind of singer that will hop…