Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Music Singles and Videos of 2008

Happy New Year's Eve!!! Here are all the songs that I think were great in 2008 and some comments and videos to go along with them. The songs are "best in" category form not an actual number listing because all the videos are great and I can't choose which ones are better than others. Also some artists had more than one song that was great this years, so they have multiple songs.

So here it is:

Best Acoustic songs:
1) Jason Mraz- I’m Yours (Love this song- Simple yet deep)
2) Beyonce- If I were a boy (This song was strangely similar to Ciara's Like A Boy Song. Oh well, it shows Beyonce's singing talent)

Best R n B Songs (Female)
1) Jazmine Sullivan- Bust your windows/Need You Bad (Liked the string section and the dark Cabaret kind of sound on Bust Your Windows)

2) Brandy- Right Here (Departed) (The Brandy I was missing is kind of back)
3) Estelle - f Kanye West "American Boy/ Pretty Please (Love Me) (Estelle is from England and I love John Legend for choosing her, she makes me smile!!)

4) Erykah Badu -Honey (One of my favorites and she is hilarious in the video, incl. making fun of her ex Andre 3000)

5) Ashanti -The Way That I Love You (Ashanti showing that she is a stong singer. If only she could keep it up)
6) Keyshia Cole –I Remember/ Heaven Sent (Keyshia Cole's sweet Balads. I love her!)
7) Solange Knowles- Sandcastle Disco/ I Decided (Solange's throwback to 60's style definitely made her standout from her sister and I love her songs, esp. Sandcastle Disco)

8) Mariah Carey -Touch My Body (Lyrics and video are funny!!)
9) Janet Jackson- Feedback (Once again Janet Jackson howing how hot she is.)
10) Alicia Keys- Teenage Love Affair (Alicia's 60s-70s throwback. It is such an adorable song! And my cousin's cousin, Tristan from the new 90210 is in it!)
11) Beyonce'- Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) (Ms. Sasha Fierce proving how she can be fierce with a simple black and white dancing video)
12) Jordin Sparks f Chris Brown - No Air (Love this song, it's cute)
13) Rihanna- Disturbia/ Umbrella/ Take A Bow/ Special note: should have released single Breakin Dishes (There's just something about Rihanna that all her songs are so catchy even though she can't sing that well. The song Disturbia is the best and the video is wonderfully disturbing even with the fake, choreographed twitching from dancers)
14) Mary J. Blige - Just Fine (Mary J. Blige is happy!? That's weird, but she makes the song work with throwbacks to MJ himself!)
15) Chrisette Michelle- Be OK/Love is You (This girl in the hip-hop version of Billie Holiday. I love her! Should have released "Good Girl" Listen:


16) Amy Winehouse- Tears Dry on Their Own (She may be a cokehead, but she can sing!!!)
17) Janelle Monae- Many Moons (No explanation, just watch:


Best R n B songs (Male)
1) Ryan Leslie- Diamond Girl/ Addicted ft. Cassie (He is so cute and I love his songs!!)

2) Ne-Yo- Closer/Miss Independent (Ne-yo can never go wrong in my ears!)
3) Raheem Devaughn- Customer (Corny lyrics, but he's such a great singer that I don't care)
4) Robin Thicke - Magic (White guy with soul! LOL)
5) John Legend - Green Light (John Legend does right everytime. Love him!! And I knew he was going to be famous before he became famous. First song I heard was "She Don't Have to Know" on a hip-hop CD)
6) J. Holiday- Bed/ Suffocate (Perfect baby making music!)
7) Gnarls Barkley- Who’s Gonna Save My Soul Now/Going On (From Crazy to Run to Smile, Gnarls Barkley videos and songs outdo the rest and I love Cee-lo!)

Best Hip Hop
1) Lil Mama f Chris Brown- Shawty Get Loose (Catchy as hell!!)
2) Ludacris f Chris Brown & Sean Garrett- I Know What The Girls Like/ f T-Pain One More Drink (He always has the funniest videos!!)
3) T.I. -Whatever You Like/f Rihanna - Live Your Life (T.I. is one of the best!!)
4) Nelly f Fergie - Party People (Party anthem!!!)
5) Flo Rida f Timbaland- Elevator (With Timbaland on your track, it's a hit!!)
6) Busta Rhymes- Don't Touch Me Now (Another party anthem)
7) Kardinall Official f Akon- Dangerous (Catchy chorus from Akon)
8) Kanye West - Love Lockdown/Heartless/ Homecoming/ Flashing Lights (Kanye has changed his style from rapping to singing, but for some strange reason it still works, esp. with cool videos)
10) Snoop Dogg- Sensual Seduction (Another rapper trying to sing, and yet still working)
11) Common- The People/ Universal Mind Control (one of my favs of all time)

12) N.E.R.D.- Spaz (Great hip-hop artists and producers!!)

13) Shwayze- Corona and Lime/Buzzing (Cool and laidback group)
14) Jay-Z- Roc Boys (Hip-hop legend himself)
15) Q-tip- Getting up (From Tribe Called Quest to now, Q-tip has been one of my favs. His nasally voice is so lovable)

16) Lupe Fiasco- Superstar (One of my new favs. Seeing a pattern yet)
17) The Roots f. Chrisette Michelle and Wale- Rising Up (This is what true hip-hop is!)

Best Gospel
1) Mary Mary- Get Up (Keeps me going)
2) Deitrich Haddon f. Reuben Studdard and Mary Mary-Love Him Like I Do (Catchy and true for me!)
3) Marvin Sapp- Never Would Have Made It (Inspirational and again so true for me)

Best Rock Songs
1) All American Rejects- Gives You Hell (Perfect revenge song!!)
2) 3 Doors Down- It's Not My Time (Cool song and video!!)
2) Buckcherry- Sorry (Sweet, weird esp. from Buckcherry!!)
3) AC/DC- Rock and Roll Train (Return of the legendary rockers!!)

4) Coldplay- Viva La Vida/Lovers in Japan (Love Coldplay!!)
5) Daughtry- Feels Like Tonight (Definitely freed himself from the American Idol stigma.)
6) Lifehouse- Broken (Lifehouse is amazing!!)
7) O.A.R.- Shattered (Love and Memories and this one are my favorites from O.A.R or as I call them the "rowing boat" band)
8) Weezer- Pork and Beans (Weezer are my awesome nerdy rock band)
9) Paramore- Crushcrushcrush/ Decode (Not my favs, but they have some good songs)
10) Bruce Springsteen- Girls in their Summer Clothes (Rock legend!!!)
11) Ludo- Love Me Dead (Funny and the lyrics are creative.)

12) Fall Out Boy- I Don’t Care (Fall Out Boy is great!!!)
13) Seether- Rise Above This (Songs are deep!!)

14) Snow Patrol-Take Back the City (They need to release more songs, they rock!!)

Best Pop Songs
1) Adele- Chasing Pavements (Love this song, but I'm mad that this is her only single so far!!)
2) Jonas Brothers- Lovebug/ When You Look Me In the Eyes/Burning Up (Can't help it, their songs are catchy and Joe Jonas is so cute!!!)

3) Miley Cyrus- Start All Over/ 7 Things (Don't really like Miley, but these two songs were her best.)
4) Demi Lovato- Get Back/La La land (She proves to be more than just a typical Disney star and she can sing)

5) Christina Aguilera- Keeps Getting Better (Well, she's right, she does!!)
6) David Archuleta- Crush (He's adorable, Enough said!!)
7) Duffy- Warwick Avenue/Mercy (She's cute and her songs are catchy.)
8) Gavin Degraw- In Love With A Girl (Mr. Degraw rocks!!)
9) Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown- No Air (Love this song so much, I put it in two categories! Ha Ha)
10) Leona Lewis - Better In Time/Bleeding Love (Loved Bleeding love, got tired of it and now I love Better in time. She can sing!!!)
11) Mariah Carey- Touch My Body (Put this one twice, too. LOL)
12) Maroon 5- f. Rihanna If I Never See Your Face Again/Won't Go Home Without You (Maroon 5 is still working it, esp. with Rihanna!)

13) Matt Nathanson- Come On Get Higher (Sweet love song and catchy!)
14) Natasha Bedingfield- Pocketful Of Sunshine (Love her!!!)
15) OneRepublic - Stop And Stare/ Say - (Great songs!!)
16) Pink- So What/ Sober (It's Pink, what more can I say, she's awesome!!)

17) Sara Bareilles- Love Song (Catchy and appeals to a songwriter like me)
18) Secondhand Serenade- Fall For You (An ending relatioship hurts a lot and this song makes it likable!!)
19) Pussycat Dolls- When I Grow Up (Can't help it, club banger, and it is "groupies" not "boobies")
20) The Ting Tings -Shutup and Let me go (Catchy!!!)
21) Metro Station- Shake It (Dance song for all teengagers and surprisingly I found out Miley' brother is in this group. Weird!!!)
22) Vampire Weekend-Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (Love their songs and they're different from a lot of other groups!!)
23) We the Kings- Check Yes Juliet (Catchy!!!)
24) Honeyhoney- Toy Gun (New group that I fell for!)

25) B-52s- Funplex (It's fun to listen to them!!)
26) Morningwood- Sugarbaby (Them, too.)

27) Katy Perry- Hot N Gold (Didn't like "I Kissed a Girl" all that much, though it was too much of a novelty song, but this song proved me wrong about Katy.)
28) Yael Naim- New Soul (Precious!!!)
29) The Killers- Human (The Killers can never go wrong!!)
30) Counting Crows- You Can’t Count on Me (Counting Crows are one of my favs, too.)
31) Lenka- The show (The song is so cute and uplifting! I can't get it out of my ear)

Best Neo-soul Songs
1) Lyfe Jennings- Will I Ever Fall in Love (Soulful brother!)

2) Anthony David ft. India Arie- Words (Beautiful song about real love.)
3) Ledisi- In the Morning (Heartfelt ballad, I loved the song, esp. the way she sings it)
4) Anthony Hamilton- Cool (Love him, he has soul and the video is cute, even with David Banner talking about scratching the dandruff out a girl's hair or picking her nose! Yuck!)
5)Little Jackie- The World Revolves Around Me (Everyone has had this thought and she expresses it, great song!!)

6) Algebra Blesset- Run and Hide (Little known huge ball of talent. Check her out)

7) Kutiman and Karolina- Music is Ruling My World (Even Isrealis have soul, too!)

8)Raphael Saadiq- Love That Girl (From Toni, Tony, Tone to Lucy Pealr, Raphael is one of my favorite singers and this song takes me back to the early classic R n B songs!)
9) Musiq f Mary J. Blige- If U Leave/ Radio (He definitely represents his name!)
10) Rashaan Patterson- Feels Good (This song makes me think of a nice summer day or being in love, and it does make me feel good!)

So that's all the videos that I remembered and loved this years! Enjoy this list and New Years! Can't wait for the new music in 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Beyonce VS Sasha Fierce" by Katrina Ali

Another feature of my blog will be guest writers!!!

So, here is an article by one my friends, the wonderful Katrina Ali:

To survive in today's music world, singing a good song and making a great video isn't quite enough. An artist has to continually reinvent himself/herself in order to stay fresh and appeal to the masses. How to do this is where the real trouble begins. Many artists might create music in a genre not common to their core audience (ie- Jessica Simpson going country). Some might attempt to change their usual vocal style (ie- Kanye West trying to sing). Others might just take the easy way out and have Lil Wayne featured in their song (seriously, that guy is everywhere). Another way that artists try to reinvent themselves is through the use of alter egos.

Many people have tried the alter ego thing, some more successful than others. Prince, The Beatles, David Bowie, and of course Eminem (who actually has 3 different personalities credited to himself). The most recent case of MPD however belongs to Beyonce. On her new CD, I Am… Sasha Fierce, she gives her fans a double dose of music. One, a more soft spoken, R&B vibe. And the other, a more aggressive, stage presence. But when more than one personality arises, the age old questions comes with it- who is better?

I have to say, I have always been a Beyonce fan. She makes great music, God knows, she can dance, and she sings beautifully. I have always liked her slower, more pop oriented songs, my favorites being Listen and Irreplaceable. So you can imagine my surprise when I admit that I prefer the Sasha Fierce side of the album.

When Single Ladies and If I Were A Boy (isn’t it supposed to be If I Was A Boy? Ugh… grammar, I’ll never understand it) came out, I thought they were both great songs. There was nothing too amazing about them. If I Were A Boy was nice and sing-songy. Single Ladies was a great club going female anthem. However, I found myself reverting back to Single Ladies much more. There was something about the beat that just grabbed me. Plus, I didn’t understand how a song that appears to have Super Mario Brothers sounds interjected in it could be pleasing to listen to. Am I the only one who noticed that? And it does help that the one-shot dance video is amazing.

When Diva and Halo premiered, I found myself again liking the more aggressive and hip-hop centered of the two. I think Beyonce is at her best when she sings songs like Diva. It shows what she is capable of. We all know she is an amazing singer, we have Listen to help us figure that out. But not many could pull off a song like Diva with as much rawness as Beyonce (or Sasha) does. Halo is a beautiful song, but anyone can sing it and it would be great. It does not do justice to Beyonce. Diva is powerful, and shows that women can have swagger too. The song is carried really only by the repetition of one line but that’s what makes the song work so well and gives it a harder feeling. Although, I really don’t understand how a diva is a female version of a hustler, Sasha Fierce has proved once again that she is a force to be reckoned with.

Beyonce might have reinvented herself in a too literal way, but I for one, hope Sasha Fierce will stick around.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Reese's Music Note # 1: Keeping an Open-mind When it Comes to Music

How's it going everyone, once again welcome to my music blog!!

This is what I am calling "Reese's Music Notes," which are thoughts that I have about music at the moment.

Today's discussion has to do with people out there who judge types of music without giving it a chance. 

I am the type of person who loves music in general. I like to call myself a "true music lover." If it sounds good, I'll listen to it because I have no preconceived ideas about the music.

However, there are people who do automatically have these ideas. My friends, Bani and Shao, and I had this discussion the other day.

I believe there are three types of people:

1) Younger generations who refuse to listen to older music
2)Older generations that refuse to listen to younger music
3) People who tend to listen to one genre of music in general 

First, let me say music is music. Obviously there is good music and there is bad music. But there is no such thing as bad types of music. Unless you're talking about Mongolian throat music. Now that's just creepy. 

So here is my judgment on those three types of people:

1) To my generation, older music is great. There is a reason it is called classics and oldies but goodies. The music is timeless. Without that music, we wouldn't have a lot of the music we have today (hint: many songs use samples from or are influenced by older artists). And sometimes I feel it is better than some of the trash music we have today. I find it completely ignorant when a young person does not want to listen to older music because it was made "40-50 years ago." So what! Stop being stupid! Your brain will not fry if you listen to it!

2) To the generations before us, you could stand to be a little bit more open-minded, too. The world keeps changing and so does music. You remember decades ago when Rock 'N' Roll came to be and your parents said it was not music. So, don't do it to us! No matter what you say, it will still be music. So, stop putting down styles of music, like Hip-hop. Just think about it, it is like poetry with music put to it. They did it during the Greek times and they're still doing it now!

3) Last but not least, one-genre wonders! The people who refuse to listen to other types of music for a number of reasons (for example, I'm from the ghetto, so I can't listen to Celine Dion). You can listen to whatever you want and music is universal; it doesn't matter who you are. It is important to be eclectic and well-rounded when it comes to music, especially if you're a musician. I listen to all types of music from Hip-hop to Pop to Japanese Reggae to Russian gypsies (Gogol Bordello rocks!) to Broadway showtunes to Swing to Classical music. I love a lot of things! 

So that's my commentary and basically outlines what my blog will be about. You will not just get mainstream music from this generation. There will be music from the past, the present and everywhere around us. So, open your ears and take a listen.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

“Now I Want a Cadillac” Review of Cadillac Records

If you are a lover of blues music, the new film Cadillac Records reminds you why you fell in love with the blues and if you don’t know much about the blues, you will learn to love it.

Cadillac Records is about the story of Leonard Chess co-founding Chess Records, and helping to introduce many blues artist to mainstream America, who set the foundations for the start of Rock ‘N’ Roll. The film stars Adrien Brody (one of my favorite actors) as Leonard Chess, Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters, Columbus Short as Little Walter, Eamonn Walker as Howlin’ Wolf, Cedric the Entertainer as Willie Dixon, Beyonce Knowles as Etta James and Mos Def (one of my favorite rappers) as Chuck Berry.

As other musical biopics, like Ray and Walk the Line, all of the actors do their own singing and do it extremely convincingly. Although they do not sound exactly like the real artists, all of the actors give a new flavor to old classics and classic musicians.

However, unlike those biopics, this biopic does not focus on one musician while the others are on the sideline. Almost every character is given a story and the characters are fleshed out. They are portrayed as real people with real personalities, not just as their famous personas. The main character is more the record label, Chess Records, as a whole.

Yes, there are a few inaccuracies and important details missing in the film. For instance, Phil Chess, who co-founded the label with Leonard, is nowhere to be found and Willie Dixon’s part as a major songwriter for many of the artists is not concentrated on as much. It also doesn’t mention other important artists, like Bo Diddley. Moreover, there was no love affair between Etta James and Leonard Chess.

But that’s Hollywood; they takes create a story that is “based on a true story” and then embellish or cut a little so people will come and see it. People want romance and more drama in their films. Look on the bright side; it forces the audience to look up the true stories for themselves.

Putting that to the side, in the end, this film in itself is mesmerizing and all about the music and the emotional connection that you feel when you listen to it, which, I believe, was part of the reason for the embellishment of the James and Chess affair. It definitely has an influence from the Rolling Stones, who are portrayed in the film (named their band after the Muddy Waters’ song) to everyday people like you and me.

Beyonce, in her best acting role to date, gave a powerful performance as Etta James. At first, I was skeptical of her playing James, as I know others were too, but she was able to prove me wrong. Her renditions of James’ songs, “All I Could Do Was Cry,” “At Last” and especially “I’d Rather Go Blind,” which was at the end of the film and marked the end of Chess Records and an era, created a flow of tears.

Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters showed off his charisma and grittiness in the songs, like “I’m a Man” and although his womanizing flaw is apparent, there is a subtle sensitivity shown in Waters (Also need to mention, Gabrielle Union’s Geneva Wade is a strong woman who accepts her husband’s flaws because of love and to keep her family together. She shows that is it not always so easy to leave.).

Columbus Short’s portrayal of Little Walter is also one of his best roles. Little Walter is a complex character who can be arrogant, hot-tempered and a murderer in one scene and then sweet, caring and vulnerable in another.

Eamonn Walker’s Howlin’ Wolf is scary (makes you feel like Little Red Riding Hood) yet down to earth and practical. Mos Def as Chuck Berry provides the perfect comedic and charismatic performance in the film. Last but not least, Brody’s Chess holds the entire ensemble cast together as the mighty ringleader and father figure with his heart in the right place most of the time. All the strong performances made this film great.

This film was able to show the major impact all of these musicians have had and still have on music in the 20th and 21st century and how they paved the way in creating new styles of music to making it mainstream. It makes me wish I lived during that time, just to experience it. I still want that Cadillac.

Cadillac Records: 4 out of 5
Rated R (Cursing, Sex Scenes, etc., Not for young audiences, believe me!!!)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Everybody say “Yeah, yeah” for “Fela!” Theatre Review

Music is the driving force in the heart of those who dream for a better world in Bill T. Jones’ vivacious, unique and new Off-Broadway musical, “Fela!,” which ran from July 29 to September 21 at 37 Arts theatre in New York City. It tells the story of the famous Nigerian Afrobeat musician and political activist, Fela Kuti, set within his club, the Shrine. In this production, Fela struggles with leaving Nigeria or staying to fight the oppression of his people, while also being haunted by the spirit of his mother.

What made this production different than others musicals, like “South Pacific, is that “Fela!” centers around the music guiding the story of Kuti’s life instead of the story guiding the music. “Fela!” had smooth transitions between each song and never did the songs feel forced or awkward, such that you would want them to end.

Similar to the way in which “Mamma Mia!” and “Jersey Boys” were created, “Fela!” had a musical history to it. This allowed it to be much more intriguing and gave the chance for exploration outside of the performance itself.

Since music was such an important part of Kuti’s life and how he inspired others, it made sense that the show had more of an intimate concert or club atmosphere than that of other shows. The audience became a part of the club, The Shrine, while the rest of the world was lost outside for three hours.

Many became easily mesmerized by colorful paintings on the walls, the swirling blend of thunderous horns, pulsating drums, funky guitars, and sultry singers and dancers. In the first act, the Sahr Ngaujah and his dancers asked the audience members to stand and join in the choreography (created by director, Bill Jones) of the hip movements. This part alone was amusing as I watched young and old, black and white, the rhythmically inclined and the uncoordinated try to follow dancing on stage.

“Fela!” often felt like a hip-hop performance as Kuti repeated “yeah, yeah” and asked for the audience to repeat it back to him. I almost waited for him to say “hey, ho” to everyone. The party atmosphere was parallel to the excitement found in the musical “Hairspray.”

Also, the interaction between the cast members enhanced the energy of “Fela!” Although the musical was rehearsed, the singers and dancers gave a sense of spontaneity and genuineness to the choreography and musical numbers, and individuality to each performer. The live 12-member band, Antibalas, was on stage with the other cast members, allowing them to interact with each other, unlike other productions in which the band or orchestra is no where to be seen.

Sahr Ngaujah, who played Fela Kuti, was definitely the main attraction of the musical. He exuded the same confidence, talent (plays saxophone and trumpet), integrity and mannerisms that Fela had in real life. Ngaujah was also able to express the complex man Fela was, such as how his confidence battled with his doubt and fear of staying in Nigeria and his integrity opposed his marriages to the Queens and smoking marijuana on stage.

However, I wished another character, the spirit of Fumilayo Kuti, played by Abena Koomso, had more of the spotlight. This choice to keep her in the shadows reduced the importance of her character being there, and the idea that she was a spirit in the beginning did not correlate with the later scene depicting the raid in which she died. The spotlight should have been put on her, especially with such a beautiful voice.

Yet, all of this was in the first act alone. Although the first act of “Fela!” is known for its fun, carnival aspect, the second act was definitely when the musical became more powerful in terms of political awareness and depth of his story. Moreover, this act included more of other multimedia aspects, such as clothing, film, projector, lights and movement of the stage.

In songs like “Water No Get Enemy,” “Zombie” and “Coffin for Head of State,” the show expressed how music can strengthen people in face of adversity and give them courage in face of their enemies. Some believe that music that is political cannot be also catchy and energetic, but with a song like “Zombie,” it was proven to be untrue. Kuti’s songs made his message more memorable for the average Nigerian, including the women in the marketplace who call the soldiers, “zombie.”

Not only were there changes in the significance of the songs, there were also changes in the wardrobe of the cast. In act one, the Queens wore what looked like African club outfits that were revealing and were more like the costumes women wear in the West Indian Day Parade. However, in act two, the Queens wore traditional African garb as a way to show the pride in their country.
The three major uses of multimedia in act two were captivating, too. In one scene, the screen only showed the torso of the Nigerian general as his overbearing voice speaks over Fela, who appears to be tortured by the invisible hand of the general.

The second was even more dramatic with the room filling with silence and the spotlight on each cast member. The screen displayed what happened to each person in the raid on Fela’s compound in 1977, which resulted in his mother’s death (she was thrown from a second story window). Each assault of rape, genital and bodily mutilation and maiming was horrifying to read.

The climatic scene in which Fela crosses over to be in contact with his mother, Fumilayo, is paranormal and ethereal vibe to it. Dressed in ballet-inspired white costumes, a tribal dance takes places to open the spiritual world. The use of flashing white lights (lighting by Robert Wierzel) alone made me feel as if I was being transported into this heavenly world. Additionally, the use of the stairs to show Kuti’s accession to meet his mother was effective.

The show far exceeded my expectations and was definitely on par with that of a Broadway musical. It opened my eyes to who Fela Kuti was and the legacy he left in Africa and the world.

At a time with so many political issues, protests and riots occuring, there are few today who have the same passion, potency and leadership that Fela once had. Fela Kuti’s musical and political influence among the people of Nigeria has often been compared to that of Bob Marley in Jamaica and James Brown in America with the Civil Rights Movement. This production revealed how political action and life itself can be enriched through the power of music and how it can give us the strength to persevere. 

Fela: 4.5 out of 5