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2011: Year In Review

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For the first time this year, I am going to take into account my iTunes total plays for the year as well as my opinion. Why not right? Moving into the 21st century, or something.

10. Bruno Mars - "It Will Rain"

Achingly gorgeous. The kind of song I never expected out of Bruno Mars, whose catalog of songs I entirely do not care for. The song sounds like it is being sung through fog in hot rain. I find something stylistically brave in it, in the sense the song doesn't sound like any of his previous work or anything else on the radio.



9. Sebastian Bach - "As Long As I Got The Music"

An anthem for anyone who ever heard the music & believed. Sebastian released a contender for Album of the Year in my opinion back in September and this is one of the best songs on it. There were other songs I loved equally on the album but this one got the edge because of its lyrical content.


8. Lights Over Paris featuring Game - "I'm Not A Gangsta"

Every year, I have to…

Songs I've Been Playing Obsessively

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Benjamin Francis Leftwich - "Atlas Hands" (2011)

This gorgeous, all-too-short song reminds me of every song I ever listened to in college - slow, slightly distorted, achingly gorgeous. The perfect soundtrack for a cigarette & sadness that can't be extinguished.



Ryan Star - "Start A Fire" (2010)

Why Ryan Star is not the star (haha) he deserves to be is a mystery I can't figure out. His song "Breathe" was a mild hit and I believe it was featured as the Free Song Of The Week on iTunes. His debut album 11:59 is lush and full. It is a complete debut in a way that I haven't beared witness to in a long time - the lyrics are unbelievable, the instrumentation is fresh, and there is something tough and simultaneously vulnerable about his voice.



New Found Glory - "Summer Fling, Don't Mean A Thing" (2011)

Another song featured as the Free Song Of The Week on iTunes and thank God it was. This song has quickly risen its way into the Top 25 Most…

The Top 10 Best Reality Show Performances Of All Time

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10. Carly Smithson & Michael Johns, "The Letter" (American Idol, 2008)

It is a complete and total shame that Carly and Michael didn't finish higher in American Idol's Season 7 - but it was a season filled with talent in a way that hasn't really been mirrored since and, of course, someone had to go home each week. They reunited on the live finale show for this cover of the Box Tops' 1967 hit and sang the hell out of it - and made it FUN, something that is rarely genuine and all too often manufactured on the reality show stage. Their voices blend perfectly and make me wish that they recorded a CD of duets.



9. David Cook - "Billie Jean"(American Idol, 2008)

Haunting and subversive - the performance that launched the beginning of a new era of guys-and-guitars on American Idol. But you'd be hard-pressed to find any performance that followed this one that could even come close to matching its quiet ferocity. The sense that you are watching a true…

Ode To The Mix CD

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Top Ten Guns 'N Roses Songs of All Time

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The most dangerous band in the world.

Their impact, their immediacy has refused to be stifled even though it has been 24 years since their epic debut album was released. Sure, Axl's gone crazy, but didn't we all know he was always a little off-the-wall? Band members have come and gone but truthfully, it will always be Slash, Axl, Izzy, Duff, and Steven that cemented their legacy in rock 'n roll history from the first police-siren wail of "Welcome to the Jungle".

The band only released three full-length, proper albums - the GNR Lies EP has an important place in the GNR pantheon but at only 8 songs, can't be classified as a full length LP, and The Spaghetti Incident is an album of all cover songs, and god knows how to classify Chinese Democracy (which, in all fairness, has its moments).

So in honor of one of my "Top 5 Favorite Bands of All Time (TM)", here's my list of the best GNR songs of all time.

10. You Ain't The First (1991)

This song, unlik…

American Idol Season 10 - Top 2: May 24, 2011

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Top 2 - May 24, 2011

So here it is, the culmination of 100,000 auditions, the devastating cuts of some astoundingly talented people, 400 proclamations of "IN IT TO WIN IT" by Randy Jackson, and almost a billion text messaging votes by people who have AT&T. The Scotty & Lauren finale.

Contestants picked their favorite performance of the season to sing first, the contestants' idols picked their second songs, and the third song was their potential first single.

1. Scotty McCreery - "Gone"A

This was definitely my favorite Scotty performance of the season; it's the kind of song that sticks in your head long after you hear it. I have never heard the original version by Montgomery Gentry so I have a feeling Scotty's voice will be the one I always associate with this song. I enjoyed "Gone" more the first time around but still a worthy performance tonight. A perfect song choice for Scotty to remind the viewers that he has been solid, if not fasc…

American Idol Season 10 - Top 3: May 18, 2011

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Top 3 - May 18, 2011

1. Scotty McCreery - "Amazed" B

Scotty's version of one of my favorite country songs was good to be sure, but nothing amazing or spectacular. I was happy to see he dialed it back on the cheesy faces and eyebrow lifting; he actually looked very sincere and it was a lot easier to watch. I have a feeling if Simon was still here, he would have many critiques for Scotty that would involve the words "karaoke", "lounge singer", "cruise ship performer", "theme park singer", the list goes on. This did come off a bit karaoke to me, but the kind of karaoke you would be happy to hear after a night of people assaulting your ear drums with off-key versions of "Like A Virgin".

2. Lauren Alaina - "Wild One" B

Lauren struggled with breath issues and didn't complete a lot of her phrases, letting them sort of dissolve abruptly into nothingness. It was a cute and appropriate song choice that seemed to fit wit…

American Idol Season 10 - Top 4: May 11, 2011

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American Idol - Top 4 - Inspirational Songs / Leiber & Stoller Songbook - May 11, 2011

If this wasn't one of the most convoluted theme nights in American Idol history, I am not sure what is.

1. James Durbin - "Don't Stop Believin'" A-/B+

I absolutely loved the blue starry staging of this. This performance proved that James could have a great future starring in Rock Of Ages on Broadway - and trust me, that is a complete compliment coming from me! I loved that he actually wore a Journey shirt on stage. Heavy metal jewelry! Fire! Starry eyes! This had it all.

2. Haley Reinhart - "Earth Song" B-

Probably my least favorite performance of hers in a long long time. I felt the song was a difficult one to translate to the Idol stage. I do commend Haley for sticking to her guns and standing by her song choice - after all it wasn't songs that inspired Randy Jackson, it was supposed to be about songs that have inspired the contestants to become singers. Howev…

American Idol Season 10 - Top 5: May 4, 2011

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Top 5 - Now & Then - May 4, 2011
1. James Durbin - "Closer To The Edge" (by 30 Seconds to Mars) B-

I found that James's studio version of this song was far superior to the live performance he gave on Idol. I did not at all like the song live, as James's cadence at the end of each line seemed to veer into a shouty territory that did not flatter his voice. I could not stand the backup singers shouting "NO NO NO" at random intervals in the song also. I so badly wanted to like this performance more than I actually did. Check out the Studio version though - it's pretty good! I do have to give James credit for picking a current song that may foreshadow the direction he will eventually take in his career.

2. Jacob Lusk - "No Air" (by Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown) D+

Jacob is now blaming this awful performance on Jimmy Iovine. While Jimmy is to blame for a myraid of things on Idol this season, I do not know how this disaster could be his fault. Due…

American Idol Season 10 - Top 6: April 27, 2011

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American Idol - Top 6 - Carole King Night - April 27, 2011

Not a trainwreck performance in sight from our Top 6 Idol contestants of the post-Simon Cowell era.

1. Jacob Lusk - "Oh No Not My Baby" B+

This performance had a fun groove to it that I surprised myself by enjoying. One thing I did not enjoy was Jacob's bizarro suit and bow-tie combination. But oh wait, this show is supposedly about the singing, right? So anyway. It was nice to see a song where Jacob smiled and appeared to be enjoying himself, as opposed to the dramatic histrionics of oh, every other performance by Jacob. I am shocked to be writing these words but I think I will ACTUALLY download this performance by Jacob. There were a few notes here and there that didn't come off as good as they should have, but overall, it worked.

2. Lauren Alaina - "Where You Lead"B+

I am not sure there was much about this performance that was shockingly different from last week's plucky performance of "B…

American Idol Season 10 - Top 7: April 20, 2011

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Top 7 - Songs From The 21st Century - April 20, 2011

1. Scotty McCreery - "Swingin'" (by LeAnn Rimes, 2010) B+

I loved that the arrangement was slightly Motown, slightly different than what I expected it. I also loved that there was someone playing an 80's style keytar (although I am not sure what this contributed musically to this performance). Scotty's delivery was way cheesy and as always, over the top. Yet I do think he has discovered how to successfully tell a story with the way he sings. His lyrics are always clear to understand. I wish he had chosen a song with perhaps more lyrical message or one that would have surprised us a bit. Scotty is still waiting for his "Idol Moment".

2. James Durbin - "Uprising" (by Muse, 2009) B+

I absolutely hate Muse and I hate this song. Had James chosen any other song, I am sure my grade for him would have been higher. That said, I loved how James clearly had an artistic vision for his performance. Even th…