New blog, same procrastination. I registered for a Blogging 101 assignment starting back on Sept 15 in hopes of kickstarting the site and instead haven’t posted one yet. So while reviewing some of the posts of those who are doing their homework, I found the following and decided that while I may not achieve 30 in 30, I will accept the challenge and get all topics covered:
So without further ado… Here’s Number 1:
Put your iPod on shuffle and list the first 10 songs, then how you feel about them.
- Ghostface Killah – Sun
I think my first exposure to the Wu-Tang Clan (Ghostface’s origin) was back in 1994 via Method Man’s appearance on Biggie’s Life After Death, as well as reading about them in various magazines. After a couple listens, I thought I’d give these guys a shot. Checking out a group back then was kind of a big deal for the following reasons:
- I lived in Neenah, WI, which wasn’t exactly a hotbed of urban music, so my hip hop window consisted of “Yo MTV Raps” and “The Source” magazine and as mentioned above, whoever happened to guest on another artists track.
- I was living in a world without internet, so downloading, YouTube, and easy access to anything wasn’t an option.
- I was making spare change as a student, so each gamble on a cassette was a pricey risk.
However once I listened to “Enter the 36 Chambers”, I was tempted to break the eject button, so I couldn’t listen to anything else. Over the years, I’ve had numerous “favorite” Clan members, but Ghostface and Rza have seem to age the best. They both blend so many facets into their music that it’s often a cerebral journey when they perform… Their blend of slang, storytelling, intellect, and subject matter is without equal and they always layer it over choice tracks.
- Mike Jackson – I Can’t Stop Loving You
It’s M.J. Dave Chappelle summed it up best in a skit when asked if MJ was guilty of the charges against him. He simply replies “No, he made Thriller.” – LOL! All jokes aside, say what you want about the man and his lifestyle, but put him on stage or behind a microphone and the man was nothing short of genius. I was one of the millions that wore out their “Thriller” tape back in the 80’s and even rocked a pleather Thriller jacket, just to show my appreciation. As I got older and the tabloid fodder started to overshadow the music, I admit it got a bit more difficult to claim fan status (and more importantly – teenage peer pressures turned me into a bit of a closet fan). Once the fear of teenage ridicule passed, I happened upon a listen to “Off The Wall” and the passion was re-ignited. It was possibly better than “Thriller” in that it was less gimmicky, as I’ve come to know MJ’s later songs/videos. He was young and wide-eyed and it came out in each song. There are other gems in earlier years and certainly plenty of hits after Thriller, but this was his high point in my opinion and is always what I reference when I justify why I’m still a fan.
- Weezer – Possibilities
It’s hard to deny that Weezer hasn’t slipped some over the years, but their ability to create rockin’ pop songs that get stuck in your head is what grants them a free parking pass in any music collection of mine. I have a tendency to go on binges of fave groups and Weezer almost always finds their way into those rotations, mainly due to their ability to tap into emotions and help you realize you’re not the only one feeling that way. While Pinkerton and the Blue Album will never go out of style, there are songs on each album that I can sing along with as a result of heavy rotation upon initial listen.
- The Streets – Dry Your Eyes
I loved hearing how hip hop was interpreted from across the pond. Rap always seemed like a genre that was strictly American and any foreigners always seemed to sound like everyone else I’ve heard before. When I heard Mike Skinner’s unabashed British accent rap about everything from his broken TV to his broken heart and lay it all over wonderfully crafted tracks, I was hooked. If you’re curious, check out “Original Pirate Material” and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
- George Jones – Nothing’s Ever Hurt Me (Half As Bad As Losing You)
I’m sure I heard some George as a kid at my Grandma’s house and she never hid the fact that he was her favorite artist. So when he started getting sick and eventually passed, I got curious and gave a listen, if nothing more than to pay some respect to Grandma. The funny thing is that I ended up really digging him and he’s stayed on my ipod/phone ever since. My brother started to get me to open up to some country music (Blueheels – a local country/rock hybrid, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash) in our 20’s and after I learned about the sub-genre of “Renegade Country” that these types fit in, I started broadening my listening scope. Most of my interest again boils down to their storytelling and subject matter, but it’s also something about the ‘twang of old country that takes me to a place of my youth and a feeling of unexplainable comfort.
- N.E.R.D. – You Know What
By now I think everyone knows who Pharrell Williams is (“Happy” and the guy w/ the Smokey the Bear hat), but he started out as a producer (w/ partner Chad Hugo) as a team calling themselves “The Neptunes”. They made the music for a number of my favorite artists (NORE, Old Dirty Bastard, Snoop Dogg, etc) and had a really unique sound, along the same lines as Timbaland. So when I read that they were going to be putting out their own music as N.E.R.D., I had to check it out and wasn’t disappointed. Same inventive sound, but with Pharrell’s unmistakable falsetto voice that carries well over spoken raps and when singing.
- Beck – Broken Drum
I’m sure many have heard Beck’s song “Loser”, but he’s so much more. He’s one of the most diverse artists I’ve heard and every new album is a surprise upon release. While I prefer his crazy electrical/hip-hop that he started out with, I’ve certainly come to appreciate his mellow side and love how he tends to blend the two with amazing ease. I think what sets him apart from many is the fact that he’s kind of a one man band and that’s what keeps me interested. While he tours and performs w/ a band, he writes and produces most of his own music and when you hear it, you tend to either hate it or love it. I’m sure many will complain about the bulk of his lyrics seeming to be nothing much more than silly non-sequiturs, but the playful way he uses words paints a vivid picture to go along with the sonic landscapes he creates to make for aural playgrounds that can be enjoyed at any time you have a pair of headphones.
- Mariah Carey – Heat
Like MJ before, I think you’re either a fan of Mariah or not. There’s not much in between. I think what intrigues me most about her was her redefinition to more of an urban, R & B songstress from her earlier pop days. While she “dabbled” a bit from time to time with a remix (see “Honey” with ODB), she kind of went all in and I bit hook, line and sinker, starting with the “Emancipation of Mimi” album. When you see so many artists get stuck in what got them popular and fade because of their lack of change, there’s something to be said about any artist that can take a chance and risk their career to grow and evolve with the times.
- Hank Williams – A Tramp On The Street
Much of what was said about George Jones applies here; however if it weren’t for opening up to Hank, Mr. Jones wouldn’t be on this list. While my kids and some friends wonder what can possibly be good about the scratchy recordings and undeniable twang that you get with Hank, there’s something about him that remains timeless. The ups and downs of relationships and the general trials and tribulations of many Americans are captured in his unique sing-songy voice and lyrics that define easy-listening.
- John Mayer – Queen of California
Like so many others on this list, John Mayer is a bit of a musical chameleon. He started off with a blues background and modified it to work on top 40 radio. Then when he really broke out, he decided to go his own way and develop his sound vs. repeating what got him famous. My older son recently asked what he sounded like and I had a hard time comparing him to anyone. He’s John Mayer and you have to take a song from each of his albums to decide for yourself. I’m sure some prefer certain “versions” of him/his music, but as you’ve come to find, I love the way that each album has exposed a different side of him and his growth as a musician and person.
I hope you’ll take the time to check out some of the artists and share your thoughts on them or suggest someone I should check out, based on them.