Posted in Listening to Music, Living Life, Watching Movies

Why Do We Mourn Celebrity Deaths?

This week we all had the unfortunate task of saying goodbye to two celebrated and beloved icons, David Bowie and Alan Rickman. With Bowie’s eccentric style and music and Rickman’s dry humor and villainess ways, they were two extremely different performers, but loved so much that the world is mourning their loss with heavy hearts. 
Celebrity deaths happen often, as it’s a natural part of life. And while the majority of us don’t know any of these celebrities personally, we still shed tears over the loss. Why is that? Why do we mourn the death of these celebrities like they’re a close friend or family member?

The answer is simple – when we’re a fan of a public figure, they become a part of our lives. Not a physical part like friends and family, but an accessory. They become something that means something special to us, and when that something is gone, it’s almost as if a part of us is gone, too. We mourn out of nostalgia rather than personal grief.

When someone like Alan Rickman dies, we’re sad because Rickman played characters that we treasure. Suddenly our Severus Snape really IS gone, and it makes us sad. We know from the people that were close to him that he really was one of the most loving, generous, loyal, and nice people around, which is great, but it’s not something that we know first-hand. Yet here we are, reading tributes to him on the internet, and crying.

I can think of a handful of celebrity deaths that made me cry – Heath Ledger, Robin Williams, River Phoenix, Cory Monteith, James Horner, Christopher Lee, Michael Jackson…people I never knew and never would know, yet people who had an impact on me at some point of my life. And because of that, I felt that loss.


Of course it’s a different kind of mourning we go through than when someone we personally know dies. When friends and family pass, the mourning seeps into your whole body, it becomes something physical that you can’t really shake. Sometimes it’s hard to cry because the sadness is too much…because it’s too real. And it’s something that stays with you for the rest of your life.

It’s not like that when a celebrity dies. Not to say that crying over a celebrity is something superficial or fake, because it’s not. But there’s that distance we can put between the death that makes it seem, well, not so bad. Yes, we were all sad when Robin Williams died. Many of us cried. We thought of those moments when he became a part of your life, like when you saw “Aladdin” for the first time, or when “Good Will Hunting” was your favorite movie for a few years. But that sadness wasn’t the same sadness his family and friends felt when he was suddenly gone from their lives.


I know lots of people who think it’s silly to mourn a celebrity’s death. “It’s not like you actually knew them”, they’ll say. And that’s fine if they want to think that way. But don’t let that stop you from mourning. And don’t let it stop you from celebrating what that celebrity brought to your life. Because when it comes down to it, that’s what we’re doing. Today, although we’re sad, we’re celebrating the joy that Alan Rickman brought us when he played the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham. We’re celebrating the life of David Bowie by listening to his music.

And that’s the silver lining in all of this: film, music, print…all the things that celebrities did are here forever. Sure, we can miss these people because they won’t be making more movies or performing music or writing books, but we’ll always have access to the stuff that made us love them. So in a way they’ll always be a part of us whether they’re alive or not.


And that’s a comforting thought.

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, Reading Books, Traveling to Places, Watching Movies

So…What Happened to 2015?

Well, I made it through the entire year of 2015 without blogging once. Don’t worry, I’m not touting this as a good thing. In fact, I’m downright ashamed about it. Blogging was my thing, the one way I held on to my love of writing that spawned over 20 years ago…and I just let it disappear.

 

I could sit here and blame a list of things for my lack of writing: no ideas, no time, etc., but it wouldn’t justify anything. I had ideas. I had time. I just got lazy. It became easier to just post on the many pointless social networks I belong to. In fact, basically all I did in 2015 was post to social networks that I don’t even like because I kept changing my mind about which one I wanted to use and didn’t want to use and it was enough to drive me crazy.

In fact, it DID drive me crazy. Crazy to the point where I decided that in 2016 I need to get back into long-form blogging and ENOUGH WITH THE SHIT OF SOCIAL MEDIA.

But I’m not here to discuss all the things that are wrong with social media in 2016. I’m here to tell you that I’m back and that this year will be much different than last year. It HAS to be.

So before I officially make my blogging return, here’s a quick run-down of the things that happened in 2015 just so you know that it wasn’t ALL social media.

• I realized that I liked other genres of books more than young adult. That’s right! 2015 was the year where I sort of broke up with YA and embraced historical mysteries and middle grade. Of course middle grade isn’t exactly new to me, but some of the best books I read last year were from the middle grade genre. And I absolutely tore through the Maisie Dobbs and the Beatrix Potter mystery series’, thus giving the British Cozy Mystery genre a new fan.

• I saw some movies in 2015! Even some in the theater! See, I’m not getting old just yet. A couple of stand-outs were Pixar’s Inside Out (which made me cry like a 15-year-old me watching Little Women), Cinderella (which was just PERFECT), and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which is so freaking fabulous I may need to write a separate post about it).

• It’s no surprise that I listened to a ton of music this year, mostly film scores. Unlike YA books, film music will ALWAYS be my thing and I’ll never outgrow it. Highlights: Patrick Doyle’s Cinderella, Junkie XL’s Mad Max: Fury Road, Debbie Wiseman’s Wolf Hall, and DUH John Williams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

• Speaking of music, I finally got to see One Direction LIVE AND IN CONCERT in July. I went by myself, like all cool 36-year-old moms do, and had a freaking blast. Seriously, it was tons of fun. And hot as hell since it was like 95 degrees, but still tons of fun. After seeing New Kids on the Block in 1990, ‘NSYNC in 1999, I’ve finally come full circle. No more boy bands in my future.

• Oh, let’s not forget TV! Of course these days I usually only watch whatever my daughter watches (which isn’t bad at all), but last January brought the return of two of my favorite shows, Sherlock (Series 3) and Downton Abbey (Series 5). And then in May my other favorite show, Glee, finally came to an end after 6 seasons. Again, talking about that show and its ending will require a separate blog post.

• In terms of traveling, the only place we went this year was California to visit the in-laws. Despite the fact that my father-in-law’s health was fading during our summer visit, we managed to have some fun at Disneyland and my first trip to Universal Studios. We had to return to CA in October for my FIL’s funeral, which was sad, and doesn’t even count as a trip since it was literally for two days. This year, however, is a biggie when it comes to travel. In March we head to Japan for two weeks with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law in what will definitely be the most interesting and fascinating trip I’ve ever taken. You can bet there will be post about that!!

2015 was definitely an interesting year, with both the good and the bad. But it’s time to move on…time to remember the good, get past the bad, and welcome the new.

HERE’S TO BLOGGING IN 2016!!

Posted in Listening to Music

10 Things I Learn Every Time the Christmas Music Season Comes Along

1. Out of the many many many different renditions of “White Christmas” I have, Bing Crosby’s is still the best.

2. I’m still not sick of “All I Want For Christmas Is You”.

3. “O Holy Night” is best when sung simply and without any crazy vocal runs.

4. I should never try to sing along to any version of “Ave Maria”.

5. How many versions of “Ave Maria” are there? Seriously, it sounds different every time I hear it.

6. The Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas, Darling” is not cheesy at all.

7. I’m very picky about what words are changed in “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.

8. I like “Do You Hear What I Hear” more with each passing year.

9. I could probably do without another rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.

10. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” is just awful. Really.

Posted in Listening to Music

Christmas Just Isn’t Christmas Without Christmas Music

With just one more day remaining until Christmas, I’m sure you have heard a Christmas song or 500 since you finished eating that Thanksgiving turkey.  In fact, you probably started hearing holiday music once everyone put their Jack-o-Lanterns away almost two months ago.  Each year it seems that the holiday season gets pushed up earlier and earlier.  Before we know it we’ll be getting ready for Christmas on the 4th of July.

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But that’s not the point of this post.  Today we’re talking about CHRISTMAS MUSIC, people, and all the wonderful things about it.  More specifically, the best albums you all should be listening to during the season.

So get ready for…13 AWESOME HOLIDAY ALBUMS YA’LL NEED!

(in no particular order because I can’t commit)

13.  The Carpenters:  Christmas Portrait / An Old Fashioned Christmas (1978/1984)

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70s easy-listening superstars The Carpenters released two Christmas albums during their short reign, and you can buy them today as one big SUPER-ALBUM (or super-download, whatever).  When I was younger my parents listened to a LOT of The Carpenters, which, of course, made me think they were lame once I hit that age where everything your parents like is lame.  But once I grew up and realized that The Carpenters are, you know, kind of BOMB, it’s easy to appreciate the awesomeness of their super relaxing and comfy-cozy Christmas albums.  And their biggest original holiday hit, “Merry Christmas, Darling”, is freaking gorgeous.  CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT THE CARPENTERS.

12.  Michael Buble:  Christmas (2011)

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For some reason it took this super suave Canadian, like, EIGHT YEARS to make a whole Christmas album (he released a Christmas EP back in 2007, but it only had six songs on it, which totally doesn’t count).  But apparently it was worth the wait because his 2011 album Christmas is everything a Christmas album needs to be.  It has all the songs you love, sung by that voice you love, PLUS an swoon-worthy (YES I SAID SWOON-WORTHY) version of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, second only to the original.  CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT MICHAEL BUBLE.

11.  She & Him:  A Very She & Him Christmas (2011)

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Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are about as close to a Very Hipster Christmas you can get right now, at least until Mumford & Sons or The Lumineers release a Christmas album.  But until that day comes, you have the pleasure of enjoying one of the most sweet and chill holiday albums out there.  Seriously, this album just makes me want to sit in a really cozy (but still modern) coffee shop with my iPhone and some coffee and a cute hat on my head and have quirky conversations with people on Twitter.  It’s coziness without all the old-timeyness, if that makes sense.  CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT SHE & HIM.

10.   A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector (1963)

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Let’s forget for a moment that Phil Spector is a creepster and remember all of the amazing musical acts he produced back in the 60s.  Now let’s appreciate that musicality on one Christmas album, A Christmas Gift to You.  The album mainly consists of The Ronettes and Darlene Love, and some of the most memorable versions of famous holiday songs were created for this album, like “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).  The album was originally a total FLOP, mainly because it was released on November 22, 1963 – the same day JFK was assassinated.  But 50 years later it continues to be enjoyed and cherished and just completely awesome.  CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT PHIL SPECTOR.*

*Well, not really anymore, because, you know, he’s a murderer.  But still.  Good music.

9.  Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite (1892)

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Truth:  I actually listen to this album all year round.  But more so during the month of December because, you know, it’s about Christmas and all that.  And seriously, who doesn’t love The Nutcracker music?  It’s some of the most recognizable classical music out there, so much so that my husband, who wouldn’t know a piece of classical music if it hit him in the face, even recognizes it.  Initially the ballet itself wasn’t popular, and Tchaikovsky himself didn’t even like it that much, though I think he changed his mind afterwards.  He must have got the feels during the Pas de Deux the same way I do.  Today The Nutcracker is another part of many people’s traditions, and will remain so for a very long time.  CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT THE NUTCRACKER.

8.  Glee:  The Christmas Album, Volume 1 (2010)

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During Glee’s second season they released a Christmas album, which at the time was like the world’s best Christmas present to me.  And say all you want about Glee, but that first holiday album they released (they’ve released two more since) was actually very awesome.  It includes a holiday single they had released during their first season, Wham’s “Last Christmas”, which is my favorite modern Christmas song, and other classics that have yet to be overdone.  Their version of “Welcome Christmas” from How the Grinch Stole Christmas makes me cry.  They even do The Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas, Darling” which, if you’ve been reading this, you know makes me happy.  And even though they do the ever-popular “O Holy Night”, a song that really good singers love to sing to show off their skills, Lea Michele’s rendition is one of the best I’ve heard.  Which is saying a lot.  CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT GLEE.*

*But just their first Christmas album.

7.  The Hotel Café Presents…Winter Songs (2008)

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The Hotel Café opened in 2000 and became the stomping ground for many now-famous female singer-songwriters like Sara Bareilles, Priscilla Ahn, Ingrid Michaelson, and Meiko.  And THANK GOODNESS ladies like those and others came together and put out an ensemble holiday album because it is probably my favorite modern ensemble holiday album of all time.  Some songs are original, some are not, ALL ARE AWESOME.  And seriously, you can’t beat Fiona Apple singing “Frosty the Snowman” because it’s just so odd and perfect in every way.  This is the perfect album to change things up this holiday without getting too crazy and left-field.  CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT THE HOTEL CAFÉ.

6.  Straight No Chaser:  Christmas Cheers (2009)

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There’s just something about an all-male a cappella group that is so soothing to the ears, am I right?  I mean, people using their voice not only to sing words, but to create music is pretty amazing.  And when they sing Christmas songs?  WIN WIN!  This particular album comes after their first holiday album in 2008, and I like it better because it’s a bit more fun than the traditional songs of the first one.  With songs like “Who Spiked the Egg Nog” and their hilarious version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, this album will make you want to go to a bunch of holiday parties and be social.  And perhaps join an a cappella group.  CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT STRAIGHT NO CHASER.

5.  Kelly Clarkson:  Wrapped in Red (2013)

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This is the newest album that appears on this list, and because of that it’s the most unfamiliar to me, as I’ve hadn’t had much time to listen to it.  But it’s Kelly Clarkson, and you just can’t go wrong with this girl.  And like Michael Buble, why did it take her ten years to release a holiday album???  It only took Mariah five years.  Hell, it took The Biebs only two years.  Whatever, I’m just glad she did.  Because it’s pretty great.  She’s got some fun original songs like “Underneath the Tree”, which is reminiscent to when the 15-year-old me heard Mariah’s “AIWFCIY” (I’ve turned her song into an acronym now) for the first time (re: FUN), and even though I still don’t consider “My Favorite Things” to be a Christmas song , her version is fun because she just belts the crap out of it, as she should.  CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT KELLY CLARKSON.*

*And it’s about time, too.

4.  Enya:  And Winter Came… (2008)

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And now for something completely different!  One thing I love about the holiday season is incorporating Celtic and Pagan music into the mix of things, and Enya’s New Age holiday album is perfect for doing just that.  Because sometimes you need a break from all the white Christmases and holy nights, am I right?  Enya wrote and composed ten of the twelve tracks on this album – the only two she didn’t are an Irish version on “Silent Night” (“Oiche Chiuin”) and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.  While listening to her calming music it’s easy to picture snow-covered rolling hills and other wintery images that will make you long for a walk in the snowy forest or want to have a hot toddy.  Or anything Irish.  CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT ENYA.

3.  A Leroy Anderson Christmas (1940s-50s)

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For those days when you want to listen to Christmas music but just want some nice, background music with no singing, Leroy Anderson is your way to go.  Leroy Anderson was a composer who wrote many, many, many songs back in the day, his most famous being “Sleigh Ride”, a song which pretty much anyone who’s made a Christmas album has recorded.  This album is the perfect companion for when you’re working or reading or just relaxing while getting ready for the holidays.  CHRISTMAS ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT LEROY ANDERSON.

2.  Bing Crosby:  White Christmas (1945)

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Okay, so it would be a bit sacrilegious if I didn’t include this album on this list.  And it definitely belongs here – it’s one of those albums you can listen to over and over and not get sick of because every song is just plain awesome.  Not only does it include the one song for which Bing will forever be immortalized, but it also has three of my favorite holiday songs: “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”, “Silver Bells”, and “Mele Kalikimaka” (which is double awesome thanks to his collaboration with The Andrews Sisters”.  However, if you’re looking for the song “Sisters”, which was featured in the film White Christmas, you will not find it here.  Because it’s not a Christmas song.  So there.  CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT BING.

1.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (soundtrack, 1964)

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It’s hard to believe that next year will mark the 50th anniversary of this TV special, because this thing just does not get old.  Ever.  I’ll be 90 years old and they’ll still be showing it on TV and I’ll still watch it (probably on my Google goggles, or whatever technology will be around in 60 years).  And one of the things that keeps this thing going is the music!  Sure, there are the couple famous songs like the title song and “Holly Jolly Christmas”, and there’s even the somewhat depressing “There’s Always Tomorrow” (seriously, I used to leave the room when I was younger when that song came on because it made me sad), but then there’s the awesome “Jingle Jingle Jingle”, “We’re a Couple of Misfits” (“I WANT TO BE…A DENTIST!”), and “Silver and Gold”.  And of course, who can forget “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year” from the Island of Misfit Toys…a song that is also kind of sad because, you know, no one wants a choo-choo with square wheels on your caboose…but also a song that is hopeful and joyous and beautiful?  Seriously, people.  CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT RUDOLPH.

So there you have it…my Christmas music picks for 2013.  What are some of your favorite Christmas albums?  Christmas songs?  Traditions involving music?  Anything?  I’d love hear it!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  Happy listening!

Posted in Listening to Music, Watching Movies

The Awesome 13 – Disney Songs

I’ve been on a Disney kick lately.  Not sure why…but Disney music has been getting a lot of action on my Pandora app as of late.  I’ve always loved Disney music – it’s sort of inevitable when I was practically raised on Disney movies – and I’m lucky that I have a daughter who shares the same enthusiasm, even if she’s not as familiar with much of the music as I am.

So I decided to see if I could narrow down the extensive Disney music library into a list of 13 songs, aka 13 AWESOME DISNEY SONGS as determined by yours truly.  And here is the result.*

*These songs are from animated movies only.  Disney live action is a whole other topic to be visited at another time, and would probably only consist of songs from Newsies anyway.

13.  “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” – Mulan

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For some reason it seems that people aren’t as aware of this movie as they should be.  Granted it came out towards the end of Disney’s golden 90s decade of awesomeness, but it’s still a great movie with beautiful animated and good songs.  Like this song in particular.  Sung by the war hero Shang (well, technically it’s sung by Donnie Osmond, which just adds to its awesomeness), Mulan’s sort-of crush who still thinks she’s a boy, it’s a fun song with a fun montage of boys becoming soldiers.  And every good Disney song deserves a good Disney montage.

12.  “Belle” – Beauty and the Beast

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This movie already has one of the best prologues of all the Disney movies (gaah…all the stained glass windows!), so why not let it have the best opening song of all the movies!  Beautifully sung by Paige O’Hara, who is also one of the few during the 90s who was able to do both the speaking and singing parts, it gives us a great introduction to who I think is the best Disney heroine EVER.  I mean, come on…she sings about BOOKS.  Not much can compete with that.

11.  “Poor, Unfortunate Souls” – The Little Mermaid

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Ah, yes.  The One That Started It All.  For many of us in my generation (late 70s to early 80s), this was indeed the movie that got us hooked on Disney animation.  This movie is filled with what are probably my favorite Disney songs (and many of my favorite Disney EVERYTHINGS), but it’s Ursula’s song/lament/proposal for Ariel that always stands out.  Every Disney villain deserves a good song, but this one still gives me the chills because “it’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man”.  Damn, Ursula.

10.  “Some Day My Prince Will Come” – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

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What I consider to be Disney’s first hit song, it’s hard to believe that this song is over 75 years old.  And yet it still speaks to millions of girls (and boys, I’m sure) all over the world.  I’m sure there are some women out there who hate this song, who think that women should want more than just some man to save them, but come on, peeps.  That’s not what this song is about.  Snow White is just a young girl wishing for a better life, and that life just happens to include a great guy to share it with.  After 75 years it’s still a beautiful song of hope that also happens to be pretty awesome, too.

9.  “All in the Golden Afternoon” – Alice in Wonderland

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Poor Alice.  It always seems that just because she’s not a princess, she always gets forgotten.  It’s true that the songs in the movie aren’t that memorable.  To most people, that is.  But I’ve personally always loved the song sung by all the flowers after Alice has been shrunk down to the size of a caterpillar.  Yeah, so the flowers aren’t exactly the nicest plants in the world.  A lot of them are actually kind of, well, evil.  But no matter.  I just think the song is fun and a great way to learn about bread-and-butterflies.

8.  “Sing, Sweet Nightingale” – Cinderella

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Ilene Woods, the voice of Cinderella, had a beautiful voice.  It wasn’t the high soprano of Adriana Caselotti’s Snow White – in fact, it seem almost the opposite.  It was lower and richer in tone, but still sounded completely relatable, like Cinderella was a real person.  She sings more than one song in the movie, but her voice sounds best while singing this short melody while cleaning the floor.  There aren’t many words in the song, but she had the kind of voice that didn’t need words to sound great.  Her sound was enough.

7.  “Be Prepared” – The Lion King

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The Lion King’s soundtrack was definitely Disney’s biggest endeavor and most popular, thanks to Elton John and all his skillz.  His two songs “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Circle of Life” were huge pop radio hits, but my favorite once again goes to the villain.  Scar, the evil Uncle of Simba and voiced by Jeremy Irons, sings a song that’s so haunting and terrifying that it still kind of scares the crap out of me.  It’s filled with evil lyrics and evil chanting, and with allusions of Hitler weaving themselves throughout, you end up with one hell of a song.

6.  “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” – Hercules

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Hercules is another one of those Disney movies that gets forgotten because it’s not about a princess.  It’s strong point is its comedy and stylized animation, but it does have one song that I think is brilliant, and it’s the only song that the character Megara (“my friends call me Meg – that is, they would if I had any friends”, another one of my faves) gets to sing.  Meg tries to deny that she has any kinds of feelings for Hercules, but duh, she totally does.  But she tries to sing her way out of it, and the outcome is a song so freaking catchy and groovy that you’ll find yourself hitting repeat on your car stereo more than once.  Or maybe that’s just me.

5.  “Reflection” – Mulan

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Behind every Disney heroine solo lies a cry for help and a secret wish, and “Reflection” is a perfect example of that.  Mulan pretty much sings what every girl – animated or not – feels at least once in her life.  Who am I?  Why am I pretending to be someone I’m not?  Will I ever be able to see my reflection?  Oh wait, that’s what vampires sing about (haha, sorry).  But seriously, this is a beautiful song about confusion and hope that’s beautifully sung by Lea Salonga, but that should come as no surprise because, duh, Lea Salonga.  She’s kind of the unofficial singing voice of everything in my head.

4.  “Once Upon a Dream” – Sleeping Beauty

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I’ve already admitted that Sleeping Beauty is my favorite Disney animated movie of all time in this post, and one of the contributing factors to that is the music.  The smartest thing Disney did with this movie was take the original ballet music that Tchaikovsky wrote and turn it into their film score.  And when they added lyrics to one of its main theme, you get Aurora’s own song of hope, that her dreams are all she has to go by.  Which, if you think about it, sounds an awful lot like what Cinderella was singing about in this next song…

3.  “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” – Cinderella

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As I said, dreams and wishes and hope are big amongst all the Disney girls.  And it’s no surprise that Cinderella probably had it worse of all of them.  At least the other girls had, you know, actual people that loved them.  Cinderella?  Not so much.  So the fact that she can be so positive while singing about her dreams is not only the sign of a great person, but a great song as well.  Even if you live with evil people who make you clean the curtains and do the laundry four times a day, it’ll be okay as long as you hold on to your dreams.  And hey, look where Cinderella ended up.  It worked for her, it may work for you, too.

2.  “A Whole New World” – Aladdin

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I just freaking love this song, I really do.  Seriously, I love every single thing about it.  I love Lea Salonga’s and Brad Kane’s voices.  I love the melody.  I love the lyrics.  I love the magic carpet ride they take us all on.  I just…honesty, I don’t know if words can really describe my feelings for this song.  It also brings back wonderful memories of being 13 years old in the midst of my Disney phase and thinking that Aladdin was the greatest movie ever.  But really, this song is a great example of Disney songwriting at its best.  Also, MAGIC CARPET.

1.  “Part of Your World” – The Little Mermaid

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Okay, here we are.  Numero uno.  And no surprise, really.  This song proved just how important songs are to Disney films, and how one song can be the best part of a whole movie.  And back in 1989, this song was the most important thing Disney could have done to restart their dominance in film animation.  But all business aside, this song is absolutely perfect.  And it’s still the only Disney song that can bring tears to my eyes.  How many times have I seen this movie?  How many times have I heard this song?  No matter.  When Ariel bravely sings that she’s sick of swimming and ready to stand, I don’t even bother trying to stop the tears.  You don’t have to be a mermaid to want to be part of a human world.  You just have to be a person who wants to be a part of something to understand how Ariel feels, and I think that’s something that we’ve all felt.  Oh, and Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel?  Ah, man.  It’s just…the feels.  The feels.

Runners-Up Who Didn’t Make It Into the Top 13 But Still Undeniably Awesome:

  • “Just Around the Riverbend” – Pocahontas
  • “Just Can’t Wait to be King” – The Lion King
  • “Kiss the Girl” – The Little Mermaid
  • “When Will My Life Begin” – Tangled
  • “Something There” – Beauty and the Beast
  • “You’ll Be in My Heart” – Tarzan
  • “So This is Love” – Cinderella
  • “My Own Home” – The Jungle Book
  • “You Can Fly, You Can Fly, You Can Fly” – Peter Pan

I should just stop before I end up listing every single Disney song ever written.

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, Living Life, Reading Books

Where Have I Been???

Instead of making up excuses as to why I haven’t written a blog post in OVER A MONTH, let’s just jump right into the middle of September and talk about things that I’ve actually accomplished over the past five weeks!

And yes, I get that in doing that is also kind of giving excuses as to why I haven’t blogged in so long.  But hey, it’s not like I’ve just been sitting on my ass looking at Adventure Time Tumblr GIFS.*

marcelinelol_zps89f93ecfOkay, so maybe I have.  A little.  Maybe a lot.

Writing!

So just because I haven’t blogged in a millennia doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing.  No, siree.  I’ve actually dug up a couple of good ol’ stories I’ve started in the past and have never been able to finish.  And guess what?  I still haven’t finished them.  But that’s okay!  I managed to completely change the plot of both of them and delete a bunch of stuff and write a bunch more that I probably will end of deleting as well.  But all that takes time, yo.

tumblr_ls7095kkiU1qhqibno1_500I’ve also been pretty committed to my other blog, which I have to do every day or else I get behind and then the whole thing is screwed up.  But it’s so much fun to write, and embarrassing and scary and hilarious to read these old journal entries from twenty years ago, especially when all of it is still so vivid in my mind.  So go read it!

Reading!

Oh my goodness, I’ve read books!  And despite the two week period where I barely read a thing (writing, people!), I’ve done a very decent amount of reading since the beginning of September.  Eight books in two and a half weeks, actually.  Feel free to be impressed.  And what’s even better?  Most of those are probably some of the best books I’ve read so far this year.  Seriously, I’ve been on a good streak when it comes to young adult fiction these days.

Le Highlights:

Shadow and Bone / Siege and Storm (Books 1&2 from the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo)

grisha-leigh-bardugo-shadow-and-bone-siege-and-sto1

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

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Unravel Me (Book 2 in the Shatter Me series by Tarereh Mafi)

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All of these books got 5 stars on my Goodreads page, a rating I usually only reserve for JK Rowling books and Betsy-Tacy books.  And the occasional young adult contemporary that managed to knock me onto my ass.*

I’m referring, of course, to Gayle Forman’s Just One Day which is so incredibly divine that I want to have it for dessert every night.

Watching!

I told myself this year that when my daughter was spending four weeks at Camp Grandma, I would find a new TV show to get into and WATCH ALL THE EPISODES.  Last year it was Supernatural, and it was well worth the time.

My-baby-s-supernatural-15201351-1152-864DUUUUUH.

To be honest, I didn’t think it was going to happen this year.  My husband and I found ourselves obsessively watching every episode of The Amazing Race on Hulu (seriously, there are 20 seasons streaming on it right now), which does not qualify as a new show in my world.

Finding a new show didn’t happen until the weekend my husband flew to CA to pick up our daughter and I had the place – and the TV – to myself.  I decided to watch the first episode of Teen Wolf – a show I had been mildly against since its inception – and…WHOOPS I ACCIDENTLY WATCHED THE ENTIRE FIRST SEASON IN ONE NIGHT.

teen-wolfWhoopsies?

So yeah, I ended up kind of liking it.  Loving it.  Oh,hell.  LURVING IT.  It’s easily comparable to The Vampire Diaries, but you know what?  I like it better.  Even if you try to shove Damon and Stefan in my face, with all their prettiness and sexiness and whatnot, THEY ARE NOT STILES STILINKSI.

Dylan-OBrien-teen-wolfMarry me.

Seriously.  I watch Teen Wolf for Stiles.  And maybe a little bit for Derek’s chest.  Okay, and for Jackson’s freckled nose.  Fine…and Alison’s clothes.  Whatever.  I just really enjoy the show.

I’m also a teeny bit pissed I didn’t stick around for the Teen Wolf panel at Comic Con this year.

Because Stiles.

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Listening!

Okay, so near the end of August I somehow developed this weird, kind of obsessive “thing” for One Direction.  I know, I KNOW…sounds totally weird.  But seriously, I COULD NOT stop listening to their music, it was so addictive.  And Harry Styles?  HOLY MARY I thought he was the end-all be-all of my world.  Gorgeous, funny, and a sexy, gravely voice to boot!  Never mind the fact that he’s, erm, 15 years younger than me.  I dare – nay, CHALLENGE you to find a woman my age who wouldn’t admit that, yeah, okay, she MIGHT want to do things to him.

Harry-styles-2013-one-direction-34365165-1193-1600Um.

I even went and saw the ID movie in 3D.  By myself.  AND IT WAS FUN.  So what.

Luckily (for me and my poor husband who had to endure this two week obsession of mine) the obsession has faded a bit.  I’m listening to all things on my iPod now instead of just the 31 One Direction songs that currently reside there.  I’m not checking Harry Styles’ twitter feed every hour to see if he’s said something quirky.  And I’m not watching ID videos on You Tube with my daughter every night.  Things are back to normal.

one-direction-introIt’s alllll good.

I’m still kinda excited for their new album coming out in November, though.  Suck it.

Parenting!

In between all this nonsense, I am still first and foremost a parent.  Yes, really!  I spent the last part of August getting said child ready for Kindergarten, which has proved to be both stressful and weird and fun and stuff.  I don’t remember bringing home this much paperwork when I was  five years old – seriously, all I brought home from kindergarten when I was a kid was sticky glue fingers – but I guess that’s just what’s up with kindergarten these days.  Paperwork and pseudo homework.

But it’s all good.  My daughter gets out of the house for a full day, which makes everyone happy.  And that’s another thing I don’t get.  These moms who cry and get all depressed because their kid is leaving the house for a few hours.  Like, really?  How can this be a sad thing?  Don’t they remember how annoying summer is when your kid complains about how bored they are and both of you get annoyed with each other because it’s just you and her and she wants to go play somewhere and you want to stay home and read in silence but you can’t because you have this thing in your face begging you to take her to the park even though it’s 100 degrees outside with 99% humidity??

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Sorry.  I love my daughter, I really do.  But she needs time away from us, just like we need time away from her.  I shed no tears when she has to leave for school.  Because school is awesome.

STAY IN SCHOOL, KIDS.  Your parents want you there.

So that’s about all that’s been going on in my world.  A lot, but not a whole lot.  I promise to try keep up again with this blog and give you all the odds and thens from the pop culture world via MY BRAIN.

So get ready, world.

Posted in Learning Things, Listening to Music

The Awesome 13 – Putumayo World Music

The only way to truly branch out when to listening to music is to listen to music from other parts of the world.  Many of us are so sheltered when it comes to music, whether it’s listening to only one radio station or one genre or, in this case, only one language.  How can one truly appreciate music when that person is only listening to 10% of the music out there?

That’s where Putumayo World Music comes into play.  Putumayo is basically a record label that puts out hundreds of different compilation albums based on different regions of the world.  It started in 1993 and continues to introduce us to amazing artists to this day, both for adults (Putumayo World) and for kids (Putumayo Kids).

Putumayo_Logo

I first discovered Putumayo about four years ago when I checked out one of their Putumayo Kids CDs called Hawaiian Playground.  The cover is what caught my eye at first, and I thought the songs would be fun for my then 6-month-old daughter to hear in the car.

Well, the album was awesome, and I was hooked.  I decided I was going to start collecting as many Putumayo albums as I could (project!!), and thanks to the wonderful libraries to which I belonged, I found many.

To date, Putumayo has churned out 213 albums.  213!  That’s many, many hours of music.  I’m nowhere near that, but I’m getting there.  All the albums are pretty awesome, but here are 13 of my personal faves that I highly recommend you go listen to if given the opportunity.

IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER:

Acoustic France (2008)

l94316-1Highlights:

  • “Sombre Con” by Rose
  • “Quotidien” by Sandrine Kiberlain
  • “Clash Dans Le Tempo” by Constance Amiot

Africa (1999)

putumayo africa frontHighlights:

  • “Doly” by 4 Etoiles
  • “Anoma” by OOM
  • “Wassiye” by Habib Koite & Bamada

Brazilian Beat (2012)

brazilian-beat-putumayoHighlights:

  • “Samba Na Mao, Eu Tenho” by Tamy
  • “A Coisa Mais Linda Do Mundo” by Monica Da Silva
  • “Feriado Pessoal” by Bruna Caram

Celtic Dreamland (2007)

p-16411Highlights:

  •  “Cagaran Gaolach” by Mary Jane Lamond
  • “A Phluirin Mhillis” Susan McKeown
  • “Ye Banks and Braes” by The Cast

Celtic Tides (1998)

19d4c060ada0e61de4abf110.LHighlights:

  • “Caledonia” by Dougie MacLean
  • “An Gabhar Ban” by Clannad
  • “The Maid on the Shore” by Solas

Gypsy Groove (2007)

1000x500px-LL-786b38bf_PutumayoPresentsGypsyGrooveHighlights:

  • “Zsa Manca” by Deladap
  • “Yor Uzga” by Karen Gafurdjanov
  • “Amari Szi, Amari” by Luminescent Orchestril

Hawaiian Playground (2008)

90753-Hawaiian-Playground-tHighlights:

  • “Right On” by The Moonlighters
  • “Po La’iIa’i” by Raiatea
  • “Holoholo Ka’a” by Willie K

Italia (2009)

1069824Highlights:

  • “Il Mare Mi Salva” by Rossomalpelo
  • “Gina” by Lu Colombo
  • “L’Americano” by Marco Calliari

Jazz Around the World (2009)

Jazz-Around-WorldHighlights:

  • “La Mer” by Chantal Chamberland
  • “Young and Naive” by Heather Rigdon
  • “Te Reo o Papatuanuku” by Kataraina Pipi

Music from the Wine Lands (2006)

Wine-LandsHighlights:

  • “Tita” by Pauline Croze
  • “Puerto Claridad” by Amparanoia
  • “Liebe” by 2raumwohnung

Quebec (2008)

91401_quebecHighlights:

  • “Cette Ville” by Mathieu Mathieu
  • “Un Homme” by Annie Villenueve
  • “Brulots” by Chloe Sainte-Marie

Salsa Around the World (2007)

Salsa-Around-WorldHighlights:

  • “Flores y Tambores” by Orquesta de la Luz
  • “Havana Mambo” by Malanina
  • “Haris Catsimichas” by Forest Flower

Turkish Groove (2006)

Turkish-GrooveHighlights:

  • “Kimizi Biber” by Bendeniz
  • “Sinanay” by Gulseren
  • “Dudu” by Tarkan

Besides the awesome music these albums contain, I can’t help but swoon over the album covers.  The artwork is done by Nicola Heindl, and if I could have actual prints based on all these albums, I would totally cover my walls with them.  Or maybe a Page-a-Day Calendar that has one album cover a day.  Maybe I could make that myself!  Anyway, LOVE THEM.

VA-Putumayo-Presents-48CD

Of course because I’m a collector, half the fun in all this is the actual search for all these albums.  I’ve purchased some, but only because I hadn’t been able to find them at libraries.  I currently have five albums on request from the Hennepin County library, meaning they’re being sent to my local library two minutes from my house so I can pick them up there instead of driving all over the place to find them.  Don’t get me wrong, I love going to new libraries and discovering new Putumayo CDs, but sometimes this way is just easier.

Of course all the libraries aren’t going to have all 213 albums, which means there are some that I may never find.  Some albums on my wish list that I have yet to find are as follows:

  • Islands (1997)
  • Romantica (1998)
  • Women of Spirit (1998)
  • Italian Musical Odyssey (1999)

I’ve never seen those albums at any library or any store, but time will tell.  I may get lucky.

Romantica

Up until last year, Putumayo albums were only available for purchase at music stores like Barnes and Noble and at Whole Foods.  But thankfully you can now buy them on iTunes (for a lot cheaper, too).  The only downside is that you can only download the albums from 2012 and later.  Anything older than that you can only get the actual CD.  But Amazon carries a bunch, and finding a used CD for cheap isn’t too difficult.

But the search aside, it all comes back to discovering new music and opening your eyes to all the different cultures in this world.  There’s more to music than just what you hear on the radio or see on MTV (well, USED to see when they actually played videos) or purchase on iTunes.  There’s a whole world out there just waiting for you to hear it.

So open your ears.  You won’t regret it.

Posted in Listening to Music, Teenage Obsession

Teenage Obsession: Swing Music

I’ve gone through many different music phases, but one that stands out in particular would have to be my slightly hipster Swing Music phase about 20 years ago (and yes, it’s weird that when I say “20 years ago” I’m referring to the 1990s, which seems like just yesterday).  And I say “hipster” because at the time no one my age (14) was listening to swing.  At a time when kids were listening to Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I was listening to Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.

Benny_GoodmanThe Eddie Vedder of his day, I’m sure.

So, what was with the sudden interest in swing music?  Well, I blame that entirely on the movie Swing Kids, which came out in theaters in March of 1993.  I went and saw the movie mainly because of Christian Bale (and a little bit because of Robert Sean Leonard), not really knowing what the hell swing music was, and came out thinking that swing music was the greatest genre of all time.

The movie takes place in 1939 Nazi Germany and centers around three teenage boys forced to join the Hitler Youth (HJ), as all boys were doing at that time.  But they loved swing music and dubbed themselves “Swing Kids by day, HJ’s by night”.  It featured music from Benny Goodman and Django Reinhardt, among other, and included several scenes of them swing dancing at nightclubs (which was, of course, VERBOTEN among Nazis, as many swing and jazz musicians were “Jews” and “negros”).

swing-kids-21Don’t think Hitler was fond of The Jitterbug.

And like those Swing Kids, I was hooked.

I thought the music was awesome.  The dancing was even awesomer (yep, it’s a word).  And it wasn’t just because it was Christian Bale and Robert Sean Leonard.  I felt this music.  It became a part of me.  It made me happy.  And it made me discover new things about music that I had ever thought about before.  And yes, it probably turned me into a bit of a 14-year-old hipster, especially when swing music suddenly took off a few years later.  I’ll get to that in a bit.

In 1993, swing music was still unknown to a lot of people, even after the movie came out, probably due to the fact that not very many people saw it.  And because iTunes didn’t exist 20 years ago, I couldn’t just go and download swing songs I wanted.  All I had was the Swing Kids soundtrack (which to this day is still awesome), along with the extremely random AM radio station 1400 which sometimes played really old jazz music at different times of the day.  There was also a TV show on some cable channel that was called “The Big Bands” that was on at 10:00 on Saturday nights that I would watch (and yes, I would make sure I was home) which showed 30 minutes of old big band performances.

igoodma001p1Fun for the whole family.

Okay, so I was a little different from most 14-year-olds.  But whatever.

You could, however, see a small 1940s influence on other things at the time.  Dresses I liked to call “Swing Kids Dresses) began appearing in Seventeen magazine, knee-length, short-sleeved dresses that usually had some kind of floral pattern that looked similar to the dresses the girls were wearing in 1940s swing clubs.  My friend and I even got ones to wear to our 8th grade graduation at the time (even though she had way more cool “swing kids shoes” than I did).  And then there was the short-lived but oh-so-good TV show Homefront, which took place during WWII and featured big band music and gorgeous clothes and Kyle Chandler.  So it seemed my love for swing and all things 40s was also affecting other people, even if it hadn’t reached the people of my small Midwestern high school.

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Fast forward five years.  By this time I’ve sort of gotten over the swing obsession, even though it was still something I loved.  I just wasn’t actively seeking it like I used to.  But then people began to take notice of Ska music (which, I’m sorry, I HATE, but it does have ties to swing music), and from there grew an appreciation for big band and swing.

And then came the Gap commercial.

In 1998 The Gap released a commercial to promote their new khakis which featured a bunch of people swing dancing to “Jump, Jive ‘n’ Wail” while wearing khaki pants.  And OH MY GOD swing music just exploded.  Suddenly everyone thought this music was amazing and fun and awesome and the people who used to listen to Pearl Jam and Nirvana were now buying CDs of new bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers and The Brian Setzer Orchestra (formally of Stray Cats) and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies.  My college (and I’m sure many others) were suddenly having Swing Music Dance Nights.  Suddenly swing music was the cool thing to listen to, and of course the hipster in me was all, “Um, whatever, I listened to swing music before khakis made it cool.”

Gap-Swing

But I was more happy than jaded, because I had that much more access to music that I still really loved.  And of course it was only a matter of time before people stopped listening to swing music and started listening to Ricky Martin and ‘NSYNC, and swing just became another forgotten genre to many but still special to some.  Swing music was a big part of my teenage years, even if it came in spurts.  And it’s still fun to listen to today, whether you’re stuck in traffic and need something fun and relaxing, or having a dance party at home with your four-year-old.

And who knows…another khaki and swing invasion may once again be on the horizon.  And then Glee will do swing music and everyone will hate it.

It all goes full circle, doesn’t it?

Swing-dancing

If you’re interested in becoming obsessed with swing music, here are some good songs to start with:

“Sing, Sing, Sing” – Benny Goodman

“One O’Clock Jump” – Count Basie

“In the Mood” – Glenn Miller

“Bugle Call Rag” – Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman (they both did it)

“Jumpin’ at the Woodside” – Count Basie

Happy listening!!

Posted in Listening to Music

Cover Love

When was the last time you really paid attention to an album cover?  In this digital day and age, album cover artwork gets sort of lost in the shuffle of streaming and digital music, and a lot of times we’re not even aware of the album cover looks like when we’re downloading random individual songs here and there.  But back in the day (like the days of actual physical albums and CDs you could hold in your hand), it was the album cover that caught your eye first.

If you Google “Best Album Covers of All-Time” you’ll get lists of mostly classic rock albums from the 60s and 70s that have sort of become canon.  You’re not going to see that list here.  I have my own set of album covers that I absolutely love and wish I could put on my wall.  In fact, if I ever find the vinyl versions of any of these at a thrift store or library sale (seriously the best places to find them), I may buy them just so I can frame them.  Because they’re awesome.  And pretty.

Under the Iron Sea – Keane (2006)

Keane_Iron_Sea

Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1956)

Elvispresleydebutalbum

Blue Light, Red Light – Harry Connick, Jr (1991)

HCjr_Blue_Light,_Red_Light

Life in Cartoon Motion – Mika (2007)

MikaCartoonMotion

Sweetheart of the Sun – The Bangles (2011)

Bangles_Sweetheart-CD

The Midsummer Station – Owl City (2012)

owl-city-the-midsummer-station-adam-young-album-cover

Language. Sex. Violence. Other? – Stereophonics (2005)

Language__Sex__Violence__Other__(album_cover)

Take Me Home – One Direction (2012)

One-Direction-Take-Me-Home-Album-Cover

Italia – Nicola Benedetti – 2011

300x300px-LL-ea6cb98a_512_nicola_benedetti_italia

Shadow of the Moon – Blackmore’s Night (1997)

Blackmores_Night_Shadow_Of_The_Moon-[Front]-[www[1]_FreeCovers_net]

Theatre Is Evil – Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra (2012)

amanda-palmer-theatre-is-evil-1349362263

Waves and the Both of Us – Charlotte Sometimes (2008)

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Taller Children – Elizabeth & the Catapult (2009)

taller_children_cover__smaller

My December – Kelly Clarkson (2007)

amy-december-album

Lenka – Lenka (2008)

lenka

Elephant – The White Stripes (2003)

elephant

So obviously there are a lot of albums not included in this list – besides ones that I could think of I also left off Christmas albums and soundtracks.  Christmas albums deserve a whole post of their own (at a different time of year), and soundtracks are basically movie posters, which is also different topic.  What are some album covers you’ve always loved or have caught your attention recently?

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, Reading Books, Watching Movies

The Awesome That Happened in 2012

Another year has flown by, and it’s time to take a look back at 2012 and all the awesome stuff that went down.  Books, movies, TV, music…and all the other stuff that gets us by on a daily basis.   I can probably count the number of movies I saw on one hand, but it was a record year for me in terms of number of books read – 97 – even though I came up short in my goal of 100 (I can thank a bout of the flu at the end of the year for that).  I lost touch with a couple of TV shows, but learned to love new ones.  And I came to realize that pop music is still alive and stronger than it has been in over ten years and something to be embraced, not shunned.

one-direction-5Don’t deny it.

So here we go.  My list of the Awesome That Happened in 2012

BOOKS

In between re-reading all the Harry Potter and Betsy-Tacy books this year, I read a good mix of young adult and children’s books (but mostly young adult).  Turns out some of the best paranormal books these days aren’t about vampires or werewolves, but angels, as both my picks for best paranormal books are about angels (yet still completely different from each other in their own awesome ways).  And as someone who is usually underwhelmed by a lot of contemporary young adult, I did come across two that blew me away.

Dystopia still manages to catch my attention despite the fact that a lot of them are starting to sound the same.  My two faves this year broke out of that dystopia box, though, and made things fresh again.  And although young adult fantasy is sometimes hard for me to get into, when I do get into it I usually love it, which is what happened with my fantasy picks.  One made my heart pound, the other completely broke my heart in two.

And finally I started dipping a little bit into historical young adult books, which isn’t a super popular genre but one I believe we’ll be seeing more and more of.  My picks both happened to take place during World War II, and as a result made me even more hungry to learn about the past.

Best YA Contemporary

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Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Runner Up:  Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Best YA Paranormal / Supernatural

9780061996160

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Runner Up:  Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Best YA Dystopia

10507293

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Runner Up:  Divergent by Veronica Roth

Best YA Fantasy

12680907

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Runner Up: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Best YA Historial

collectionitembook_image_ZiZNtMVh1mdl_251x381-preserve

The FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper

Runner Up:  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

TELEVISION

As the mother of a four-year-old girl, I’m usually stuck watching such shows as Phineas and Ferb, The Backyardigans, and Dora the Explorer (and when I’m lucky, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic).  But every now and then I get to watch one of “my shows”.  Of course this year was different than any other year before since it’s the first time we’re relying solely on streaming television through Netflix and Hulu.  Of course a lot of the shows I used to watch like Castle, The Vampire Diaries, and The Office are still available through those services, but the urge to watch them just isn’t there anymore.

My love/hate relationship with Glee contines.

However, thanks to Netflix and a 45-minute-long panel at Comic-Con, I dove into a show that’s been on since 2005 and watched all seven seasons in the course of just a few months, thus cementing  it as one of the best shows of the year.  It’s a show that will scare you to pieces one minute, have you laughing on the floor the next minute, and then crying your eyes out soon after.  And it’s managed to do that for seven seasons.  The only other show that’s been able to do that for that long is Gilmore Girls.  And a certain sci-fi show.

This sci-fi show premiered waaay back in 1963 and then sort of unofficially ended in the mid-90s.  Then the show had a sort of “reboot” in 2005, starting with Series 1 and still going strong today with the premiere of Series 7 this fall (in Britain a “season” is called a “series”).  This summer I watched all the series with all its “regenerating” characters, and I quickly realized that no sci-fi show since Firefly gives me The Feels the way this one does.

And what can I say about animated shows that hasn’t already been said?  Some of the best shows on TV are animated, yet they get a reputation for being “kids shows”, therefore not getting the respect they deserve.  This year’s best animated show is more than a companion show to Avatar: The Last Airbender.  It’s a beautifully animated and brilliantly written story that conjures up more emotion than any primetime drama you’ll ever watch.  And when I want to laugh, I know all I have to do is watch the show that makes me laugh more than any other show that’s on TV today, and it’s probably the most realistic comedy show since Friends and The Office.

Best Drama Series

Sam-Castiel-Dean-supernatural-16744455-1280-800

Supernatural

Runner Up:  Downton Abbey

Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Series

images

Doctor Who

Runner Up:  Once Upon a Time

Best Animated Series

the-legend-of-korra-600x454

The Legend of Korra

Runner Up:  My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

Best Comedy Series

the-new-girl-500990cbecc2e

The New Girl

Runner Up:  Anything I can find on YouTube starring Catherine Tate

MOVIES

Like I said before, it was a pretty pathetic year for movies in terms of actually seeing them, but luckily I do have a few to write about.  One is pretty obvious, since I’ve been waiting for it to come out since 2004, and one was one of Pixar’s best since The Incredibles.  As excited as I was for The Hunger Games, it didn’t come close to the book, although I did find it entertaining to watch.  And even though I loved The Avengers, I chose another masked man as my top action pick for 2012 solely due to the emotional punch it threw at me.  And since most of the movies I watched this year were picked out by my daughter, I decided I should pick my “unofficial favorite” just for the hell of it.  Because at least this one is Disney, and at least the main character is pretty awesome.

Best Sci-fi/Fantasy

00-hobbit-gandalf

The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey

Best Animated

brave-hd-movie

Brave

Best Action

the-Dark-Knight-Rises-Wallpaper-batman-24171592-1600-1200

The Dark Knight Rises

Best Movie that My Daughter Made Me Watch

Tinkerbell-and-The-Great-Fairy-Rescue-01

Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue

MUSIC

2012 was a fun year for music just because of how much we’re being exposed to so many different kinds at a higher rate than we ever were before.  The three main songs of the year:  “We Are Young” (fun.), “Somebody That I Used to Know” (Gotye), and “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jepsen) were all huge hits yet all sounded completely different.  Adele continued to ride the high she got from The Grammys, yet we’re all patiently waiting for a follow-up album while still listening to her 21 album.  And another boy band hit the scene in a big way, proving that catchy pop music will never die.

Best Song(s)

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“Love You Like a Love Song” – Selena Gomez and the Scene

“Some Nights” – fun.

“Without You – David Guetta ft. Usher

“Domino” – Jessie J.

“I Won’t Give Up” – Jason Mraz

“Starships” – Nikki Minaj

Best Album(s)

Stronger-album-cover-kelly-clarkson-25141790-1500-1500

Stronger – Kelly Clarkson

Red – Taylor Swift

Some Nights – fun.

Up All Night – One Direction

Unorthodox Jukebox – Bruno Mars

In terms of all things entertainment, 2012 was a pretty good year.  But I expect 2013 to be even better.  I’m going to see more movies (Star Trek!), branch out into different genres of books (romance?), and see if I can find a new TV show to love and obsess over (Sherlock…).  I hope 2012 gave you as much joy as it did me – and I hope 2013 is your best yet.

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Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, Reading Books, Watching Movies

Remember, Remember, Another November

Oy.  November.  I can’t remember the last time a month kicked my ass so much.  For some reason this month felt exhausting, and I’m actually glad it’s coming to an end.  That and the fact that my husband can finally SHAVE OFF THAT DAMN MUSTACHE/BEARD/NIGHTMARE he’s been growing out this month for “Movember”.  I’m seriously counting down the hours to when I can see his silly face again.

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In between dentist appointments and flu shots and getting together with friends, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to sit down and blog.  Things have been busy at work, hence the whole not being able to blog at work thing going on.  And don’t worry, being busy is a good thing.  The other girl in my department was transferred, so it’s just me doing these returns, and it’s keeping me busy for a full eight hours.  So, yes, I can’t blog as much during the day, but at least my days are zipping by fast.  And by the time I get home, I can’t think of anything to blog about.  But since the month is over, let me sum up what I’ve been able to get accomplished.

Ever since I got back into reading YA fiction again at the beginning of the month, I have been reading pretty much non-stop, which is another excuse for my lack of blogging.  I’ve been SCORING at the library when it comes to books I’ve been looking for (except for Kiera Cass’s The Selection, which I’m convinced I’ll never find), and it’s been so much fun.  Here’s a list of the books I’ve read this month alone:

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince :  This was the last HP book I read before getting back into YA (see my previous post), and I forget how much I loooooove this book.  Honestly, I think it might have edged up in front of Goblet of Fire, which has been my favorite one for ten years.  But I also think that whenever I read Prisoner of Azkaban, so who knows.  Oh hell, they’re all my favorite.

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A Brief History of Montmaray / The FitzOsbornes in Exile / The FitzOsbornes at War: It’s been a long time since I’ve read a complete series of books where I absolutely loved all of them, and loved the final book the best.  But that’s how I felt about the Montmaray Journals trilogy by Michelle Cooper.  Seriously, people…if you want to read good YA literature that’s NOT a paranormal romance or post-apocalyptic thriller, read these books.  Amazing.

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Cinder: This retelling of Cinderella was also fun to read, and I enjoyed the Firefly-inspired world the story was set in.  It didn’t pack the emotional punch that other YA books I’ve read have, but it was still a great story, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

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Bitterblue: The book that came before this one, Graceling, was one of my favorite books of 2011 (or 2010…can’t really remember), and I had Extremely high hopes for this one.  And luckily the author Kristin Cashore didn’t disappoint.  I still think I like Graceling better, but I thoroughly enjoyed all 563 pages in a matter of one weekend.  It also made me realize how much I love fantasy books that sound like they could be actual history, sort of similar to Shannon Hale’s Bayern series.  Highly recommend.

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Under the Never Sky: The more dystopian YA books I read, the less and less they affect me.  I don’t know if it’s because The Hunger Games set such a high standard that no one else can come close to (except for Lauren DeStefano’s Wither and Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, which were both AMAZING), but I find myself feeling almost disappointed when I’m reading dystopia these days  because they’re all starting to sound the same.  But you know what?  I really liked Under the Never Sky.  It didn’t kick me in the gut like The Hunger Games did, but I was intrigued by the world that Veronica Rossi had created.  Now onto the search for the sequel…

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Team Human: I’d heard lots of good things about this book when it first came out, and I was excited to find it at the library.  It didn’t realize that it was a humorous book that sort of made fun of the whole vampire phenomenon, so I wasn’t very emotionally invested in it.  However, it was light and fun and took me just a day to read, so if you need a break from the heavy stuff, it’s a good recommendation.

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I’m currently reading Veronica Roth’s Insurgent, which is the sequel to last year’s Goodreads’ book of the year Divergent, which I loved.  I’m only a quarter of the way through right now, but things are good.  Can’t wait to delve back into it tonight.

Speaking of The Hunger Games, I FINALLY saw the movie a couple of weeks ago.  I liked it – I thought Jennifer Lawrence was the perfect Katniss and Liam Hemsworth was the perfect Gale, though I’m still having issues with the whole Josh Hutcherson as Peeta thing.  Peeta is sort of sacred to me, and I felt something was missing.  But they covered pretty much everything in the movie that was in the book, and it was entertaining, even though it wasn’t the emotional rollercoaster ride that the book gave me.

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Because of all the reading going on, I’ve been lacking on any TV or movie watching.  I’m still on season seven of Supernatural, and I’ve fallen behind on The New Girl, Castle, and Once Upon a Time.  I’ve been watching a lot of my daughter’s shows, though I’ve managed to get her to watch only shows that I enjoy as well.  Thanks to Netflix we can now watch The Moomins for the first time EVER, which is awesomeballs, and I recently checked out season one of The Smurfs from the library, which I could watch all freaking day.

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I’ve also been watching season two of Downton Abbey in preparation for season three, which premieres on January 6 here in the states.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, Downton Abbey is like the world’s best soap opera but with better writing, better acting, better accents, and better clothes.  Of course I just happened to stumble upon a total SPOILER that will happen in season three involving my favorite character, but whatever.  I got over Joss Whedon killing Wash, Tara, and Fred, and I’ll get over this.

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The only show I’ve only been actively keeping up with is Glee (and I use the term “actively” loosely because I keep having to play catch-up), but I’m finding it difficult to get super excited for it the way I used to.  But I’m having issues with this season of Glee, all which will be addressed in a later blog.  It’s just too much to talk about here in this already-too-long blog post.  But you’ve been warned.

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As for music, the Christmas music season finally began on November 23, when I added 765 Christmas songs to my iPod.  It seems like a lot of songs, but when I play my iPod on random at work, I’m lucky if I hear five Christmas songs during the course of eight hours.  I haven’t bought any music in a long time, even falling behind on my Glee songs from iTunes, but I noticed yesterday that the two-disc soundtrack to The Hobbit is now up for pre-order with a release date of December 11.  And you know I’m not going to wait until Christmas to buy that one for myself.

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So November is over, and December is just a few hours away.  Stayed tuned for an End-of-the-Year blog post spectacular (re: year in review) and a final 2012 wrap-up of Hot Tea, Hot Books.  For now…take a breather.  November is over!

Posted in Catching TV, Learning Things, Listening to Music, Watching Movies

My Streaming Life

If you were to tell me ten years ago that in 2012 I wouldn’t have TV, radio, a CD player, or a membership to Blockbuster, I would have thought you were nutso.  How would I watch all my favorite shows?  How would I listen to music?  How would I get my news?  How would I rent movies?

HOW WOULD I BE ABLE TO SURVIVE?

Well, thanks to that wonderful thing we call technology and the interwebs, I can do all that without having to have all the junk.  Now, I know some of this is old news to some of you.  You might be thinking, “Well, duh…I haven’t listened to a CD since I got my iPod eight years ago.”  Or, “What’s Blockbuster?”  And yet some of you might be thinking, “Wait, you don’t have television?  How do you watch TV?”*

*Which of course I’m reminded of the scene in Back to the Future when Marty is having dinner at Lorainne’s house and they ask him if he has a television set and he’s all, “Well, yeah, we have two of them” and the mom is all, “Don’t be silly, nobody has two television sets.”  Haha.  But I digress.

I was inspired to write this blog from a friend and fellow blogger who also wrote about not owning a TV and how she gets by in life.  And thought it may seem like the end of the world, it’s actually quite easy.  Let me explain.

When we moved from California to Minnesota, we were pretty wiped out in terms of money.  We carefully went over what we needed and didn’t need and decided – quite bravely, I might add – that we would forego getting television.  Oh, we have a TV set, just no channels.  We figured that by just continuing our Netflix subscription, we would save over $100 a month.  And friends, let me tell you…it has been pretty awesome.  Netflix has loads of TV shows that we watch, plus loads that we’ve always wanted to watch but never got the chance.

Edwardian awesomeness streaming on Netflix

And here’s what’s even more awesome:  no commercials (take that, politicians!), and most shows in HD on our TV.  And they stay on Netflix for a really long time.  It’s like buying the entire series of a show without having to spend all the money on the DVDs.  The downside, of course, is not being able to see new episodes.  You have to wait a while before new episodes get on Netflix.  But like I said, if there’s that show you’ve wanted to watch but missed when it originally aired, and now you have to catch up on seven seasons (like me and Supernatural), Netflix is the answer.

Finally get to watch you, boys

But what about that show that you just have to see that you can’t wait a year to see on Netflix?  Well, that’s where Hulu Plus comes in.  We just recently decided to suscribe to Hulu (which is $8.99/mo just like Netflix) because they’ve finally partnered up with Apple TV (which we have), which means we can watch Hulu on our TV.  Of course you’re not going to find every show you want on Hulu, but I’ve been lucky with a couple of my shows.  I still can’t watch the show live (but who can these days?), but I can watch shows like Glee, Supernatural, Castle, The New Girl, and Once Upon a Time the day AFTER they’ve aired.  Which, if you have a DVR, is when most people are able to get to their shows anyway.  So it works out.  I still feel like I’m connected to the real world by seeing new episodes of my shows.

Keeping up with the fairy tale

Of course there’s going to be the one show that’s not on Hulu but you have to see.  For me that’s Doctor Who, and the way I solve that problem is iTunes.  Yes, I’m going to have to spend a little money.  But it’s Doctor Who, and I love it, so I’ll pay to buy the season in advance.  It goes into my iTunes, which I can watch on my TV, and new episodes are downloaded the day after they air (technically they download at midnight, so you can stay up and watch them and feel like it’s still the same day).  But I’ll only put money into the shows that I really, really, really want.  Other than that, Netflix and Hulu are pretty damn amazing.

Must…watch…the…Doctor…

I also turn to Netflix and Hulu (well, more so Netflix) for movies.  Netflix has hundreds and hundreds of steaming movies, and I can always find one to match my mood.  We still watch our DVDs and Blu-Rays, of course, because Netlflix doesn’t have any Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc, or any Disney animated movies (which are all we watch when it comes to movies), but everything else is pretty much watched on Netlflix.  Even some that we own on DVD we’ll watch on Netflix because it’s easier (sometimes I get lazy and don’t want to put a DVD in the DVD player), and the picture is better (Netflix=HD, DVD=not HD).

Every day is Thor’s Day on Netflix 

And if for some reason we want to watch a new movie, we don’t have to rent it from Redbox or any other place that rents movies.  We can just rent it from iTunes (for usually around $5 in HD) and watch it until it disappears a few days later.  We don’t usually do this, though, because of our hook-up with someone who rents blu-rays from Netflix (my dad) who lends us the movies when he’s done.  So again, we’re still connected.

But what about music?  We all know that iPods revolutionized the whole music industry ten years ago, sending CDs into oblivion.  I haven’t listened to a CD since I got my new car four years ago that came with an iPod adapter.  I listen to my iPod in the car, at work…pretty much everywhere.  But sometimes I need something new.  I can listen to the radio in my car, but what about when I’m not in a car?  I don’t have a radio at home.  But I do have an iPad, and I can stream music through that.

This should be on everything

We’ve all heard of Pandora Internet Radio, and that’s all well and good, letting us make our own playlists based around one artist (I once caught my husband listening to my Lady Gaga Radio playlist and still make fun of him for it).  But I recently discovered Songza, which is all about the playlist.  They actually create playlists for you based on your mood.  For example, when I got ready for work this morning I went to my Songza app and the first thing it did was say, “It’s Wednesday morning.  What are you in the mood for?”  and then listed playlists called “Waking Up”, “Working Out”, “Reading the Paper”, “Singing in the Shower”, and “Feeling Confident”.  I picked “Waking Up” because, well, that’s what I had just done.  Then after I selected that, it went even further by asking me what genre I wanted: Bright & Happy Pop, Timeless Pick Me Ups, Indie Pop & Rock, Hip Hop & R&B, and Country.  I picked Bright & Happy Pop, and then it listed three different playlists to choose from.  Since it was 4:45 in the morning I didn’t want anything too bright and happy, so the playlist “Soft Pop” was perfect for getting ready.

I find that I like Songza better than Pandora because not only are there no commercials, but I have an unlimited time limit.  With Pandora you can only listen to so many hours per month.  Of course since I’m usually listening to my iPod I’ll never come close to reaching those hours, but Songza is just more fun to play with than Pandora.  So that takes care of my music listening.

This post has become a lot more long-winded than originally planned, but I guess I had a lot of information to share.  Basically what I’m saying is that if you have the right tools (internet, tablet/smartphone) it is very possible to get what you want and stay connected to the world without breaking the bank.  It’s just coming to terms with cutting the cord that’s the hard part.

But it’s 2012.  You can do it.

Posted in Listening to Music

This Is My Jam

Have you ever noticed that people will ask you, “So, what movies have you seen lately?” or “Have you been watching Breaking Bad?” but then rarely ask, “So, what new music are you listening to?”  Because music is so universal and so everlasting, we don’t really think that we’re keeping up with it the way we keep up with movies and television.  And because people listen to so many different types of music, it’s a hard question to ask without getting a totally obscure answer.

But I’ve discovered that there is a way letting the world know what you’re listening to.  The website This Is My Jam lets people pick a song a day to share with the w0rld (or at least with their friends on Facebook), also introducing new music to people at the same time.  I kept noticing “This Is My Jam” notifications pop up on my Facebook from people like Wil Wheaton (yeah, we’re  best friends…didn’t you know???), so I finally decided to sign up.

Since it’s Thursday, I’m going to fill you in on four jams that I’ve been listening to this week (one for every day of the work week).  I don’t listen to the radio – currently I’m listening to all the albums on my iPod in alphabetical order (I know, it’s a little OCD), and at this moment I’m listening to the soundtrack to Mary Poppins (which means I’m a little over halfway through).  The only way I’m exposed to different music is when I’m watching music videos on my Vevo app in the mornings when I’m getting ready for work.  But here are some of the jams I’ve come across this week that have been on my mind.

“Love on Top” by Beyonce

I know this song came out last year from Beyonce’s 4 album, but I hadn’t really listened to it until yesterday when I saw it on Vevo.  I’ve always liked Beyonce, but this song instantly blew me away.  The first thing I thought of when it started was “Oh my God, Janet Jackson” – meaning the song is a total throwback to ’80s pop and R&B, like early Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston.  And OH MY GOD this song is so much fun.  And, incidently, from the only Beyonce album that I don’t own.  Which means I totally have to get this album.  And the video…well, let’s just say that it proves that Beyonce is one of the talented performers today.  Sorry, Taylor.

“Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

For some reason I have this song on my iPod – it must have been a free song of the week on iTunes – but I honestly don’t think I had ever heard it until yesterday when it came on my iPod (alphabetically).  And you know what?  I LOVE IT.  I can’t even describe what style of music it is, because it takes a little bit of rock and folk and mixes it up with oldies and country.  The music and the lyrics draw you in, makes you listen, and then makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.  Make sure you listen to the speaking part – it’s hilarious and aw shucks romantic all at the same time.  Awesome.

“Notorious” by The Saturdays

This video popped up on Vevo during the playlist entitled “Take That”…and yes, that would be the British boy band Take That from the mid-90s.  Whatever.  Anyway, this song came on and I immediately felt like dancing.  I didn’t even know who The Saturdays were, but after a little research I discovered that they are the Spice Girls minus 15 years.  I don’t know if any of their other songs are this addicting, but I wanted to listen to this all over again the second it ended.  It surprised me – excluding the Spice Girls, I usually don’t like girl pop groups (I totally blame The Pussycat Dolls).  But all five of these ladies have a great sound, and it’s just a really fun song to blare while you’re driving in the car.

“In Your Arms” by Kina Grannis

I actually discovered this song way back in January when I saw the video on VH-1.  Let me just say that if you watch any video today, watch this one.  It was made using ONLY jelly beans – 288,000 of them – and I’m rather obsessed with it.  But since I finally found her CD at the library, I’ve been listening to this song a lot again, and I’ve come to really appreciate the sweetness and simpleness of it minus all the jelly beans.  She’s got a great voice – the kind that relaxes and comforts you a la Colbie Caillat – and this song does nothing but make me smile.

Those are my jams.  What are yours this week?

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music

Back When MTV Was “Music Television”

Once a person hits a certain age, they start to partake in what I like to call “The Nostalgic Lament”.  The lament usually starts off with the words “Back in my day…” and then what follows is a long and drawn out story about how things were better back when music was vinyl and clothes were polyester.

The older I get – and the more time I spend around “the young crowd” (which was more prevalent when I used to work in retail) – the more I hear myself falling into The Nostalgic Lament.  I’m not saying that I prefer cassette tapes to iPods or French-rolled jeans to boot-cut jeans, but there are certain things that were indeed better in the 1980s and 1990s.

Like MTV.

Kids these days may not realize it, but that channel where you watch those shows about teens being pregnant at 16 and privileged girls shopping in Laguna Beach?  That channel used to play nothing but MUSIC VIDEOS.  Yeah, you know, like really short movies set to songs.  Or as Wikipedia puts it:

 “Modern music videos are primarily made and used as a marketing device intended to promote the sale of music recordings. Although the origins of music videos date back much further, they came into prominence in the 1980s, when MTV based their format around the medium.”

Oh, wait…did you catch that?  They mentioned MTV!!!  PROOF that music videos were once the main format of MTV.  Besides the occasional game show (“Remote Control” anyone?), one reality show (“The Real World” started in 1991…back when it was really real), and a show about how to dress (Cindy Crawford’s painfully hosted “House of Style”), all MTV did was play music videos.  And in MTV’s heyday, the video was inconic.  The video was more important than the actual song.  To this day, when people think of certain songs (like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”), they think of the video first.

I started watching MTV (and then VH-1 when I didn’t like the video MTV was playing, even though back then VH-1 was geared toward the older crowd) when I was about nine years old.  To some that may seem young, but “back in my day” in the summers it was just me and my older brother, and watching music videos was just what we did.  I mainly watched to see videos from people like New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, and The Jets (yep, those were my faves back in 1988).  You want to know how weird I was?  I would turn on the radio (my dad had a pretty sweet sound system back then [re: ginormous]) that was programmed to my local pop music stations KDWB and WLOL, and then have MTV / VH-1 on mute so if I saw a video I wanted to see, I could put the radio on mute and watch the video.

Yes, I started multi-tasking when I was nine years old.  I was a very advanced child.

But you see, back then we weren’t able to just turn on the computer and go on iTunes and find the song we want to hear at that particular moment.  If I wanted to hear the new Debbie Gibson song before her “Electric Youth” album came out, I had to sit and wait for it to miraculously come on, either via radio or TV.  You had to be determined to get the things you wanted back then – there was no instant gratification that we now all demand.

Yes, I am part of the Electric Youth.

As I got older – I’m talking around 11 and 12 years old – I began branching out when it came to music taste, so I would actually sit and watch pretty much every music video that came on.  I didn’t watch TV shows back then.  My TV shows were music videos.  When I think of my childhood in terms of music, I think of some of my favorite videos.  Videos like George Michael’s “Freedom” (the supermodels!), Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” (the animation!), Madonna’s “Borderline” (the beret!), Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted” (the sexy dancing!) and A-ha’s “Take on Me” (the EVERYTHING!!!).  Pretty much everything I learned about music I learned from watching the video first.

Take me on…

As time went by and MTV began to start playing more shows as opposed to music videos, my viewership went down.  I began to get involved in other shows on TV and I began to lose interest in music television.  Not because I didn’t like the actual videos, but because they were getting more and more difficult to catch on TV.  Every time I turned on MTV, there was some other weird show on instead of music videos.  Pretty soon it seemed that they only time I was able to watch a lot of videos at one time was at my annual New Years’ Eve party where my friends and I would have on MTV’s Top 100 Videos of the Year countdown.

Apart from that, it had seemed like MTV and I had broken up.

We briefly got back together in the late 1990s when MTV brought back the video countdown with “Total Request Live” (aka TRL).  Of course this was during much-needed revival of pop music, and also during the whole Backstreet Boys/’N Sync/Britney/Christina obsession that the world was going through at the moment.  Suddenly music videos were hot again, and I watched Carson Daly count down those videos every afternoon during a portion of my college years.

I am so, so guilty.

But even that didn’t last long.  TV shows once again took over music television, and even VH-1 was jumping on the reality TV show wagon.  So I did what any girl would have done in my situation.

I stopped watching music videos altogether.

Seriously, I went years without seeing a single music video.  I didn’t even bother turning the channel to MTV because I knew it wasn’t worth it.  It was like the term “music videos” had fallen right out of the dictionary, never to be found again.  It didn’t even make sense for MTV to have their annual Music Video Awards anymore because, well, what would they award?  Worst impersonation of a music video television channel?

I grew resentful and angry at the MTV I used to know and love.

Luckily now we have something that we didn’t have “back in my day”.  The internet.  And that means instant access to sites like You Tube, and even the sites for MTV and VH-1 where you can actually chose what you want to see (like music videos!!).  And if you have expanded cable TV packages, you also get channels like MTV2 and VH-1 Classic (among others) that tend to play mostly videos.  So even if CEO’s MTV and VH-1 aren’t playing the videos, at least their Regional Managers are doing their part to bring the video back to us.

I’m dedicating this one to you, MTV.

And recently I’ve discovered an awesome new app for my iPad called Vevo, which is just like Pandora Radio with its playlists, but instead of just songs you get music videos.  For instance, I just told my brother (also a music video fan) that this morning I typed in Paula Abdul and got a totally awesome early ’90s dance song video playlist that included Adbul’s “Forever Your Girl”, Martika’s “More Than You Know”, and Jody Watley’s “Real Love” (and then I had to go to work).

The playlists also show you what videos are coming up, and you can actually skip ahead to certain ones if you so chose.  The app has thousands of artists to chose from, even people like Amanda Palmer (who my husband and I spent most of last Saturday night watching live perfomances of via Vevo), and it seems the videos are never-ending.

The golden era of MTV may be over, but if you look in the right places, you can still get your music video kicks – and now complete with INSTANT GRATIFICATION.  No more sitting around all way waiting for the “Hangin’ Tough” video to come on (that was a very long day).

So here’s to another 30 years of MTV – er, other music video outlets (ovmo?)!

Here’s to OMVO!

And just for fun…here are some other music videos that have stuck in my head over the years…

  • “November Rain” – Guns ‘n’ Roses (the church!)
  • “Jeremy” – Pearl Jam (the boy!)
  • “Smooth Criminal” – Michael Jackson (the lean!)
  • “Rush, Rush” – Paula Abdul (the Keanu!)
  • “Baby, One More Time” – Britney Spears (the dance!)
  • “Janie’s Got a Gun” – Aerosmith (the crime!)
  • “Enter Sandman” – Metallica (the head-banging!)
  • “Cradle of Love” – Billy Idol (the apartment!)
  • “Nothing Compares 2 U” – Sinead O’Connor (the face!)

…and so much more.

Posted in Listening to Music

From Beginning to End

Do you remember how before the birth of iTunes you would buy a CD from a store?  And do you remember how when you would listen to it you would skip some of the songs?  And now that we have iTunes, do you buy single songs rather than whole albums?  Because why buy the whole album when you’re going to skip a quarter of the songs?

Well, my friends, I’m here to say that while you’re not alone, there does exist in this world certain albums that can be listened to straight through.  From beginning to end.  No skipping.  I’m serious!  Just hear me out.

I have LOADS of albums on my iTunes.  Thousands.  But I can’t listen to the majority of them in their entirety because there’s always a couple that I have to skip – not really because I don’t like the song, but because the song doesn’t tend to click with me.  You know what songs I’m talking about.

But I was able to compile a list of albums that I can start from track number one and play the entire way through without having to press the forward button.  I’m sure these are particular to me, and I’m sure you have your own beginning to end albums.  If you do, I’d love to know what they are.  So PLEASE.  Comment.

There are some exceptions to the list: no soundtrack albums (that’s for another time), film scores (that’s already been discussed), or greatest hits albums (that’s cheating).  Everything else is fair game.

Here are mine in random order… (and no making fun, please.  I like what I like because I like it.)

Maroon 5 – “Songs About Jane” (2002)

I didn’t expect to like Maroon 5 when they first hit the scene with the song “This Love” back in 2004, but after downloading the album shortly after I found myself listening to it all the time.  And what surprised me was that I was listening to every song – all twelve tracks – on the album, loving each one because to me they all stood out.  Maroon 5 managed to create a different-sounding kind of music that no one could really define.  Is it pop?  Rock?  Who cares, it’s great.

Start with These:

  1. “Harder to Breathe” (Track #1)
  2. “This Love” (Track #2)
  3. “Sunday Morning” (Track #8)

But listen to them all because they’re all awesome.

Mandy Moore – “Coverage” (2003)

Before 2003, Mandy Moore was known as just another blonde pop singer, always lumped into the same pack as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Jessica Simpson.  But after four years of being overshadowed by her peers, Moore decided to branch off in a different direction and record the album “Coverage”, which is an album of covers of songs from the 1970s and 1980s.  And we’re talking obscure songs from those decades.  Even I had only heard of a few of them.  But it paid off, because Moore finally discovered her nitch, the thing that separates her from the rest.

Start With These:

  1. “The Whole of the Moon” (Track #2)
  2. “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” (Track #5)
  3. “Anticipation” (Track #10)

But listen to them all because they’re all awesome.

Bruno Mars – “Doo-Wops and Hooligans” (2010)

This was by far my favorite album of 2010/2011.  When I first heard Bruno Mars sing on Travie McCoy’s song “Billionaire”, I knew he was going to be something special.  And when his own album was finally released in late 2010 (after he released a four-song EP two months earlier that I listened to constantly), I was not disappointed.  Not only is every song on the album so much fun, but they all sound so much different than anything else that’s playing on the radio.  Not to mention that Bruno Mars has an amazing voice that almost brings back to life a young Michael Jackson.  Oh, AND he wrote every single song on the album.  Perfection.

Start With These:

  1. “Grenade” (Track #1)
  2. “Marry You” (Track #2)
  3. “Count on Me” (Track #3)

But listen to them all because they’re all awesome.

Sarah McLachlan – “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy” (1993)

The first song I ever heard by Sarah McLachlan way back in ninth grade was “Hold On” from her Fumbling Towards Ecstasy album, and I was immediately drawn to her voice.  I had to hear more.  So I went out and bought her CD and quickly fell in love with every single song on the album.  It’s one of those albums where every time another song starts you think, “Oh my God, I love this song.”  That’s how I feel about this album.  It’s beautiful in every way possible, from her voice to her words to her melody, and despite the uber-popularity of the album that followed (1997’s Surfacing), this one will always be The One.

Start With These:

  1. “Possession” (Track #1)
  2. “Good Enough” (Track #4)
  3. “Elsewhere” (Track #6)

But listen to them all because they’re all awesome.

Vanessa-Mae – “Storm” (1997)

I’m a fan of classical music, be it Beethoven or Mozart or Vivaldi, etc.  But sometimes you need a little fusion to kick it up a notch.  And that’s where Vanessa-Mae comes in.  She’s a classically trained violinist, but on her album Storm she incoporates pop, techno, and rock to classical songs and comes up with a fantastic sound that’s original and edgy but still beautifully classical.  I first heard snippets of the album back when Borders was still around and you could listen to albums at their headphone stations.  The second I heard the first track, I was hooked.

Start With These:

  1. “Storm” (Track #2)
  2. “Bach Street Prelude” (Track #4)
  3. “(I) Can, Can (You)”? (Track #6)

But listen to them all because they’re all awesome.

Britney Spears – “Femme Fatale” (2011)

As I’ve mentioned before, I think Britney Spears is awesome.  Yes, she’s hit some rough patches in the past.  But she’s had what I think is one of the best comebacks of anyone.  Since her official comeback, she’s released “Blackout”, “Circus”, and what I think is her best album to date, “Femme Fatale”.  She had decided to give up on the whole dance-ballad-dance-ballad sequence of songs and just release one awesome dance hit after another.  I can’t listen to any other Britney album straight through like this one.  Pure awesomeness.

Start With These:

  1. “‘Till the World Ends” (Track #1)
  2. “Hold It Against Me” (Track #2)
  3. “Criminal” (Track #12)

But listen to them all because they’re all awesome.

The Beatles – “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964)

Well, since The Beatles are at the top of my list of favorite bands, I’d better include one of their albums.  All of their albums are great, obviously, but A Hard Day’s Night is the one that I can listen to and absolutely love every song that comes on.  It’s ripe with hits, and each one stands on its own with Lennon and McCartney churning out some of their best stuff.  Oh, and it makes the movie of the same title SO much fun to watch.

Start With These:

  1. “A Hard Day’s Night” (Track #1)
  2. “If I Fell” (Track #3)
  3. “And I Love Her” (Track #5)

But listen to them all because…why?

BECAUSE THEY’RE ALL AWESOME.

Posted in Listening to Music

Does Pop Music Have an Expiration Date?

I love pop music.  I always have, ever since I started listening to music back when I was nine years old.  I started out by listening to people like Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, and New Kids on the Block, and then that sort of morphed into an expanding love for all types of music.  But pop music always stayed near and dear to my heart.  It’s fun, it’s catchy, and it makes me happy.

Never fails.

But what I’ve noticed as I get older is that while I still love pop music – and I’m talking about the current stuff you hear on the radio today – other people my age have sort of drifted away from Top 40 and ventured on to other, more adult-like types of music.  Which makes me wonder…does pop music have an expiration date?

For some reason society seems to think that Top 40 music belongs to the youth.  That’s kid stuff, right?  The stuff you hear on the radio?  Isn’t that for teenagers?  Even college students seem to have moved on to more “serious” types of music, what with their Black Keys and Foster the People and what-not (or back in my day, if you were in college, you liked the Dave Matthews Band).

It’s all a blur, really.

So why do we as a society stop listening to pop music?  Is it just because our tastes our maturing?  Is it the same reason why we stop watching cartoons and reading kids’ books?  Do we stop because we really don’t like it anymore, or we just figure that we should have more grown-up taste in music?

I had a brief conversation with a friend about what music she’s been listening to lately, and she told me that she really likes the new Fun album, which is more of a rock-pop, but still pretty poppy.  And then she quickly added that it just makes her happy and yes, it’s pop, but she still really likes it.  It was almost as if she was embarrassed to admit that she willingly listens to something that gets regular airplay on our local Top 40 radio station.

No need to feel ashamed.

Of course I find nothing wrong with that.  I own two Justin Beiber albums.  I think Lady Gaga is a genius.  I know the whole Katy Perry Teenage Dream album by heart.  Kelly Clarkson is my favorite singer.  I love to blare Ke$ha’s Animal album when I’m getting ready to go out.  Britney Spears is better than ever.  I’m 33 years old and I continue to love most pop music that’s being released today.  Am I one of the odd ones out?

I have a distinct childhood memory of riding in my mom’s car one day and her listening to the local oldies radio station.  She was singing along to some Beatles at the time (of course back then to me The Beatles were just The Beatles.  They weren’t The Beatles) and I remember asking her why she didn’t listen to any current music.  She told me that she just likes music from her era.  I then told her that I was going to always listen to whatever’s current; that I wasn’t going to be stuck listening to old music all the time.

What I was listening to at that time (and still am).

I think of that conversation and laugh, because I do listen to a lot of old music.  I love music from every era.  I could easily give you a list of my favorite songs from every decade.  Hell, I could easily give you a list of my favorite songs from every year, but that’s for another day.  But that doesn’t mean I completely shun what’s popular today.  Not only do I like what’s popular today, but I feel that it keeps me in touch with the world.  We’re such a social and connected society these days, and in order to stay connected, you have to know what’s going on.  And that includes what’s going on in the world of music.

Now, I understand if pop music just isn’t your taste and never has been.  My husband, for example, has never been a pop music fan (although he’s totally guilty for listening to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” more than once on his own), and couldn’t care less about who Carly Rae Jepsen is.  But what about the people who used to love it?  Do they really not like it anymore?  Have they lost touch with their childhood and finally decided to grow up?

Maybe.

Pop music is going through a transition stage right now, and sort of trying to figure out where it belongs.  Ever since pop music was created back in the 50s, it’s had its high points and low points.  The 50s were definitely a high point, while the 60s tended to see more rock emerge.  70s pop turned into disco and adult contemporary pop, while rock still dominated.  We saw pop rise again in the 80s with Madonna and Michael Jackson, but by the early to mid-90s pop music had been overtaken by rap and grunge.

Thanks to acts like the Spice Girls and Hanson, we saw pop back on top in the late 90s and suddenly people like Britney Spears and boy bands like Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync ruled the world.  But acts like that don’t last long, and once again pop music fizzled away, especially when iTunes started and consumers began to see that there was so much more music in this world besides what you hear on the radio.

R.I.P.N.S.Y.N.C.

And now, because we’re so exposed to so many different kinds of music, no one’s really sure what pop music is anymore.  Rhianna and One Direction are definitely pop, but so are Adele and Gotye.  Bruno Mars was up for Album of the Year (AND SHOULD HAVE WON), but a lot of “adults” probably aren’t going out and buying his albums.

So when did we start putting age caps on pop music?  And will pop music be forever doomed to live a short life?

Posted in Listening to Music, The Awesome 13, Watching Movies

The Awesome 13 – Film Scores

About a year ago I wrote a post about some of my favorite film scores and why I’m such a film score geek.  I talked about some great ones from such composers as John Williams and Howard Shore, but I didn’t have the guts to actually rate them and narrow them down to a #1 winner.

Well, I think it’s about time I do just that.

This was a difficult list to make.  Not the rating, but the leaving out of so many awesome scores that didn’t make the cut.  For example, John Williams has scored about fifty-thousand movies (give or take a few thousand), but I couldn’t have a list with just John Williams scores.  He appears on this list twice (Patrick Doyle, however, appears on the list three times).

So here it is…The Awesome 13…Film Scores.

13.  How to Train Your Dragon (2010) – John Powell

This is the most recent film score to appear on this list, and also the most surprising.  I didn’t know much about this movie when it came out two years ago, except for the fact that it was based on a children’s book of the same title.  It looked cute, but I just thought it was just another animated kid’s movie that I probably wouldn’t see.  But I began to hear some positive buzz about it.  And then amongst all that buzz, it got itself an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.  Well, this definitely got my attention, since that’s my favorite category at the Oscars.  So I went on Amazon and bought the soundtrack to see what was so great about it.  And you know what?  It’s awesome!  If you like powerful orchestral works that soar with a touch of Celtic, this is a great score to listen to.  Never slow, always beautiful and exciting.

Try These Three:   

  1. “See You Tomorrow”
  2. “Test Drive”
  3. “Romantic Flight”

12.  Sherlock Holmes (2009) – Hans Zimmer

The score for Guy Ritchie’s film Sherlock Holmes remains to be one of the most inventive and original musical scores I have ever heard.  Using a banjo, cimbalom, squeaky violins, a broken pub piano, this mish-mash of odd instruments matches perfectly with the quirkiness of the movie.  It’s such a fun score to listen to because you never know what’s going to come next, and you can’t help but feel a little mischievous as you listen, like you’re about to do something crazy and unpredictable, too.

Try These Three:

  1. “Discombobulate”
  2. “I Never Woke Up in Handcuffs Before”
  3. “Marital Sabotage”

11.  The Secret Garden (1993) – Zbigniew Preisner

Most people have heard of the classic children’s book, but not too many people I know have seen the 1993 movie starring virtually all unknown actors (except for Maggie Smith, though in 1993 I didn’t know who she was, either).  But I highly recommend seeing this movie if you love beautiful sets and atmosphere and storytelling, and especially if you love beautiful and melodic, yet haunting music.  Mostly using piano and violin, composer Zbigniew Preisner brings the moors of Yorkshire to life and makes you feel like you’re part of the magic.

Try These Three:

  1. “Awakening of Spring”
  2. “Taking Colin to the Garden”
  3. “Colin Loves Mary”

10.  Little Women (1994) – Thomas Newman

While Thomas Newman is more known for his work with Pixar (Finding Nemo, Wall-E), he first got my attention in 1994 when he scored Little Women starring Winona Ryder.  He has an interesting style, using what almost sounds like tubular bells in his work, paired with a more traditional orchestral sound.  It’s light and fluttery most of the time, and as with most good composers, makes you feel like you’re living in 1860s New England with the March sisters.  And it’s his music that creates much of the emotion captured in the movie.

Try These Three:

  1. “Orchard House”
  2. “Spring”
  3. “Beth’s Secret”

9.  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) – Tan Dun / Yo-Yo Ma

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is probably the most international-sounding of all the scores on this list, as it mostly consists of traditional Chinese-style instruments, especially the drums.  Yo-Yo Ma contributes to the score with his beautiful cello solos, which flow so serenely that you forget this is considered to be an action movie.  There are moments of excitement when the Chinese pounding of the percussion puts you right in the middle of the action, but it doesn’t take away from the beauty of the score and the artistry of the whole movie.

Try These Three:

  1. “The Eternal Vow”
  2. “Night Fight”
  3. “Farewell”

8.  Much Ado About Nothing (1993) – Patrick Doyle

Excluding John Williams, Patrick Doyle is one of my favorite composers, although he remains to be unknown to most people.  The main reason why he’s so awesome is because he has a way of creating the most beautiful, memorable melodies of any other composer out there.  And Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing is no exception.  As one of Shakespeare’s comedies, it makes sense that this score is light and bubbly and fun.  The opening overture of the movie is soaring and majestic and gets you pumped for the rest of the movie.  And though it’s a light-hearted comedy, it has its dark moments.  But the score never loses its beauty and instead creates a melody that stays with you for a long time.

Try These Three:

  1. “Overture”
  2. “The Masked Ball”
  3. “It Must Be Requited”

7.  Henry V (1989) – Patrick Doyle

This was the first time I was introduced to Patrick Doyle, and I was blown away.  This is a lot different from the happy-fest you hear in his Much Ado score, and instead he focuses on dark, instense melodies while also capturing a powerful and almost patriotic feel moments during Henry V’s famous speech before the Battle of Agincourt.  It’s music that makes you feel like standing up and cheering although you know the bloodbath that will follow.  Don’t get me wrong – the movie is fantastic.  But this is one of those scores that can stand on its own and make you feel as if you’re part of the story without seeing a single scene from the movie.

Try These Three:

  1. “The Death of Falstaff”
  2. “The Day is Yours”
  3. “The Wooing of Katherine”

6.  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2004) – Patrick Doyle

While I love all of the scores for the Harry Potter movies, this one still stands out as my favorite, probably because it’s Patrick Doyle and contains some of the more memorable themes than the rest of them.  While he obviously kept in John Williams’s original theme from the first movie (as did all the composers from the other movies), he added in his own blend of magicalness by giving Harry, Hogwarts, Neville, and Winter their own themes.  They’re all beautiful and feel like full orchestra pieces, making them stand out amongst all other music you hear in any Harry Potter movie.

Try These Three:

  1. “Harry in Winter”
  2. “Potter Waltz”
  3. “Hogwarts’ Hymn”

5.  The Indiana Jones Trilogy (1980 / 1984 / 1989) – John Williams

This is the first of FOUR trilogies that appear on this list, and the reason why I didn’t pick individual movies from the trilogies to highlight is because I just can’t split them up.  Using a chorus of trumpets and trombones, “The Raiders March” is one of the most memorable themes of any movie, and the rest of the three soundtracks are just as fun, action-packed, and triumphant.  There’s not much more I can say about them other than they’re classic John Williams that you can listen to over and over again and never get sick of.

Try These Three:

  1. “Raiders March” (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
  2. “Nocturnal Activities” (Temple of Doom)
  3. “Keeping Up With the Joneses” (Last Crusade)

4.  The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy (2003 / 2006 / 2007) – Klaus Badelt / Hans Zimmer

The scores to these three movies are so much fun.  Just like the movies, the music doesn’t take itself seriously: it just makes you smile and have a good time.  There’s never a dull moment in the score; the action is constant until the very last note in the final film, At World’s End, which probably has the most variety of music of the three.  Badelt and Zimmer focused on using lots of horn for the main themes, plus furiously fast strings combined with the clashing of cymbals to accompany the background, which not a lot of people had heard before this.  But it’s what keeps people’s attention – always moving, always flowing, and always entertaining.

Try These Three:

  1. “He’s a Pirate” (Curse of the Black Pearl)
  2. “Dinner is Served”  (Dead Man’s Chest)
  3. “One Day” (At World’s End)

3.  Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – Javier Navarrete

I hate to use the words “hauntingly beautiful” again, but they definitely describe the score to Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy film perfectly.  The entire score was based on a lullaby – a creepy lullaby that will stay in your head for days – and from that lullaby came a magical and lyrical melody that makes you feel like something isn’t right, despite how pretty-sounding it may be.  But that’s what the whole movie is: a fairytale that takes place against the background of a violent war.  Something beautiful paired with something ugly.  It’s amazing how a single violin can manage to make you feel all of that in just a few simple notes.

Try These Three:

  1. “Long, Long Time Ago”
  2. “The Moribund Tree and the Toad”
  3. “A Princess”

2.  The Star Wars Trilogy (1977 / 1980 / 1983) – John Williams

Oh, geez.  Where do I begin?  Everyone knows Star Wars.  It was voted as AFI’s Number One Film Score of All-Time.  Why?  Is it because everyone is familiar with it?  Well, no.  It’s because IT’S AWESOMENESS AT ITS BEST.  John Williams pretty much changed film scores all together with the release of Star Wars in 1977.  Inspired by Richard Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra”, Williams created fanfare in his work for this movie, something that was lacking from a lot of the movies from the same decade.  And suddenly the blockbuster movie and score were born.  All three movie scores have the same themes and tones running through them, yet still contain memorable themes in each of them.  This is a score that will live on as long as Star Wars – which will, of course, be FOREVER.

Try These Three:

  1. “The Throne Room” (A New Hope)
  2. “The Imperial March” (The Empire Strikes Back)
  3. “Parade of the Ewoks” (Return of the Jedi)

1.  The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001 / 2002 / 2003) – Howard Shore

Well, this should be no surprise to anyone who knows how I feel about The Lord of the Rings.  Prior to seeing The Fellowship of the Ring, I had always loved film scores.  But this one sort of changed everything for me.  Suddenly I realized that a film score could be just as moving and wonderful and spectacular and thoughtful as the movie itself, and become a completely separate entity on its own.  Howard Shore created a masterpiece within these three movies that run together so seamlessly that one can sit and listen to all ten hours of score and feel like it’s just one piece.  And even though the three vary in tone, you can hear recurring themes in each movie – themes for the different races, different lands, etc – that seem to pop up at just the right time.  And the fact that books have been written about the score alone, as well as a live concert of Lord of the Rings makes you realize that this is definitely something special that may not happen again for a long time.

Try These Three:

  1. “The Breaking of the Fellowship” (The Fellowship of the Ring)
  2. “Evenstar” (The Two Towers)
  3. “Minas Tirith” (The Return of the King)

Oh, who am I kidding?  TRY ALL OF THEM.

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, The Awesome 13

The Awesome 13 – The Songs of Glee – Season Three

The third season of Glee was an interesting one.  After a Top-40-heavy season two, the creators of the show wanted to concentrate more on showtunes again as a way of bringing the show back to its roots.  Unfortunately that didn’t go over too well with viewers, so after the first half of the show they began to add in more Top-40 hits.  That being said, season three has probably the most variety of songs than any other season.  But is it a coincidence that the majority of my picks for the best songs from Season Three come from the second half?

Probably not.

Look, I love Broadway, and I love showtunes.  But none of the ones they did this past season – which included pretty much the entire West Side Story songbook – stood out to me.  I’m more of a pop music fan, especially pop music from decades past, and we got a handful of some great ones in season three.

13.  “What Makes You Beautiful” – Joe Hart, Rory Flanagan, Artie Abrams, Sam Evans and Mike Chang

The episode “Prom-A-Saurus” had a spattering of good songs, but it was the remake of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” that was the most fun.  Now I’m not a fan of One Direction – this is the only song of theirs that I know – but for some reason when a group of guys sing together and sound good, I can’t help but love it.  And what made this song so fun was that the Glee’s usual male stars – Finn, Blaine, and Kurt – weren’t in it, so we got to see the background players have a shot at the spotlight.  And ya’ll know I’m a little biased towards Sam.  I’ll like pretty much anything he does.

12.  “Summer Nights” – Sam Evans and Mercedes Jones (with whole cast)

Speaking of Sam Evans, I was thrilled when the writers decided to delve more into his storyline with Mercedes and giving them the perfect song to sing in one of my favorite episodes of the season, “Yes/No”.  Since the two of them had a summer fling, it only made sense for them to break out into “Summer Nights” from the movie Grease, and the filmmakers brilliantly staged it shot-for-shot with the original scene from the 1978 movie.  It’s so much fun to watch, and Sam and Mercedes fit those Danny and Sandy roles perfectly.  It’s too bad they couldn’t have remade the whole movie, too.

11.  “Red Solo Cup” – Sam Evans

Okay, I promise this is the last time I’ll being up Sam in this post.  I, like others, was really sad to find out that Sam wasn’t coming back for season three.  So you can imagine how happy I was when the creators decided that was a crappy idea and brought him back, starting with the episode “Hold on to Sixteen”, which aired right before Christmas.  The song he sings is ridiculous, but for season it fits his character – mainly because Chord Overstreet has a strong country voice that we rarely get to hear.  I’m not a country fan, but it was a nice change from him and an awesome welcome-back to the show that took way too long to happen.

10. “First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” – Rachel Berry, Tina Cohen-Chang, Santana Lopez and Mercedes Jones

Despite the fact that every American Idol hopeful tries to sing this song as Dionne Warwick, it rarely happens.  But the Glee girls definitely came close to it in “Yes/No” when they chose this song as their assignment for Mr. Schuster in his attempt to find the perfect love song for Emma.  The words to this song already make me weepy.  Every time I hear it.  So when I saw these girls sing those words with every drop of emotion they have their bodies like they truly meant it, I was blown away.  Anyone who gets through that song without at least a lip quiver is not human.

9.  “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” – Rachel Berry

If we’re talking about difficult songs to sing, no one should attempt this particular song unless your name is Celine Dion.  Or, in this case, Lea Michele.  In the episode “Nationals”, after Rachel completely screwed up her NYADA audition, she figures she has nowhere else to go but up.  So when she sees the NYADA admissions judge (played wonderfully by Whoopi Goldberg), she sings one of the hardest songs out there – not as if her life depended on it, but completely free, with nothing in her way.  She’s not singing for anyone during those four minutes but her herself.  And it pays off in the end.

8.  “Cough Syrup” – Blaine Anderson

Come on, you didn’t think I was going to make it through the list without a Blaine song, did you?  Of course not (this is his first of three songs on my list).  The episode “On My Way” was a tough episode to watch.  Not because it was bad, but because my heart ached the entire time.  We find out what’s been going on with bully-turned-tortured-closet-gay Dave Karofsky, only to see him attempt to kill himself.  It’s a difficult scene to watch, and when paired up with Blaine singing Young the Giant’s “Cough Syrup” it makes it even more haunting.  I hadn’t heard the song before this, but I quickly loved it – not just because of the painful lyrics, but because Darren Criss sounds freaking amazing on the vocals.  But that’s no surprise.

7.  “Survivor / I Will Survive” – The Troubletones

This is my first of three mash-ups on the list.  I love when Glee does mash-ups because they seem to find two seemingly different songs and making them sound like they were meant to go together.  In season three we’re introduced to the newly formed, all-girl group The Troubletones, headed by Santana and Mercedes.  And in the episode “Hold on to Sixteen” during their first competition together they perform a mash-up of Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” – two already amazing songs by themselves but made even better as one.  How do they do it???

6.  “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights” – Rachel Berry and Finn Hudson (with the Whole Cast)

Sometimes all it takes is one song to remind why I love the show so much.  Even when the plot tends to drift off into oblivion, I’m dragged back by one awesome performance.  And this season one of those performances was “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights” which New Directions performed at Nationals.  It’s such a fun song that makes you want to get up and dance, and you’re just reminded why Rachel and Finn are the stars of the show.  It also makes you wonder what’s going to happen in season four when they’re not around anymore…

5.  “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” – Blaine Anderson

The Glee kids performed a lot of Michael Jackson songs this season (there was a whole episode devoted to the King of Pop), but my favorite one of the bunch came from Blaine, of course, when he opened the episode with “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”.  We all know that the man can sing his butt off and sound better than everyone else on the show, but it’s during this performance where we get to see the man dance his butt off.  Seriously, that guy is far too talented for nature.

4.  “Hungry Like the Wolf” – Blaine and Cooper Anderson

Glee took a six-week hiatus this season between Christmas and February, so by the time it finally came back on the air, we were ready for something amazing.  That came in the form of the episode “Big Brother”, in which we get to meet Blaine’s older brother Cooper.  Glee has seen a lot of amazing guest stars in the past, but Matt Bomer as Cooper is one of my favorite.  He plays the vain, wanna-be actor so well that you actually believe that he’s that stupid.  But it’s when he and Blaine do their duet mash-up of Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Rio” that makes the episode really worth watching.  For one thing, it’s hilarious.  And both sound great.  I seriously think the two of them should record a Duran Duran tribute album.

3.  “Without You” – Rachel Berry

This really has more to do with the song itself than the actual performance on the show, though Lea Michele’s performance of David Guetta and Usher’s hit song made me actually like it better.  2011 saw a lot of great music released, but this song is one of my favorites of the year.  And I didn’t realize that until Rachel performs it for Finn in the episode “Yes/No”.  She usually shines while singing showtunes, but she sounds great here, and we really understand exactly how she feels about Finn no matter how self-centered and crazy she may be.  It’s one of the few dance songs that’s actually filled with heart and meaning, and I absolutely love it.

2.  “Rumour Has It / Someone Like You” – The Troubletones

Well, you can’t go wrong with Adele, and certainly not when Naya Rivera and Amber Riley are involved.  Santana, Mercedes, and the rest of The Troubletones perform this song in the episode “Mash-Off”, proving to be one of the best mash-ups the show has ever done.  The girls sound great, and the two Adele songs blend so seamlessly into each other that when I hear the individual songs now I think something is missing.  And because we so rarely get to see Santana show actual emotion, it’s a treat to witness her break down in front of everyone because of her love for Brittany.  Apparently only Adele has the power to do that to someone.

1.  “We Are Young” – The Whole Cast

Halfway through the season, a lot of us thought that Glee had lost its way.  The songs they had been performing hadn’t been that memorable save a few.  The plot was all over the place.  And we wondered whether we would ever get back that feeling we got when the group first opened their mouths to sing “Don’t Stop Believin’” way back in the pilot episode.  Well, I got that feeling  back at the end of the episode “Hold on to Sixteen” when the group performed a fairly unknown song at the time but soon became an anthem for a generation, Fun’s “We Are Young”.  Yes, the song was probably a little overplayed on the radio (but that’s why we don’t listen to the radio, people!).  But that doesn’t take away how great of a song it really is.  In the course of four minutes the show seems to suddenly come back together, like all the scattered pieces of a puzzle are now one complete picture.  It was the first step in the show getting back on track to a more cohesive second half, and the first step in winning back the hearts of us all.

Posted in Listening to Music, The Awesome 13, Watching Movies

The Awesome 13 – Musical Movies

I consider myself one of the lucky people who loves so many different types of movies.  You know those people who seem to only like one kind of movie?  I feel bad for them.  To be a true fan of movies, you have to have a wide range of tastes.  And one of my many tastes?

MUSICALS.

Ever since I was a kid and first saw Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis, I have loved the movie musical.  I love music, I love movies…it only makes sense, right?  Now, for some silly reason I thought this post would be easy to write.  Top 13 movie musicals?  SIMPLE.

Um, yeah.  Not so much.

Every time I thought I had my 13, I would think of another one.  And another one.  And another one.  So many more that I had to scratch my original list and start a new one.  Seriously, people.  This is stressful stuff.

But I think I have my list.  Unfortunately a lot of good musicals had to be left off – West Side Story, Singin’ in the Rain, Chicago, for example – but of course that doesn’t mean they’re not amazing.  They just haven’t had as much impact on me as these other 13.  If I was doing top 20?  Yeah, they’d definitely be in there.  I left out all Disney animated movies, since I already covered that in a previous Awesome 13 post.

So let’s get started, shall we?

13.  Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

It’s funny that this movie made this list, actually, because it’s not the songs that make me love the movie so much.  The songs, to be honest, are actually kind of forgettable to me (except for that one where the kid is trying to sell that magic hair cream…”May I have your attention, PLEASE??”  Love it.).  What I love so much about this movie is Tim Burton and Johnny Depp at their best.  The look of the film is 100% Tim Burton (complete with black and white stripes!!) and 100% Johnny Depp (complete with fake accent!!).  Oh, and did I mention that Severus Snape and Bellatrix Lestrange sing in it as well?  Okay, fine, they don’t.  But Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter do!

Yes, it’s rather gory in some parts – I mean, the guy chops people up and puts them in PIES – but it’s so much fun to watch that you don’t even realize you’re watching a gory, somewhat violent movie.  Because, you know, there’s singing in it.  Which makes it all okay.

12.  High School Musical 3 – Senior Year (2008)

Okay, first of all, shut up.  I know what you’re thinking.  And I don’t care.

Yes, I realize that this movie is cheesy and made for pre-pubescent girls who think Zac Efron is their future husband.  Whatever.  I enjoy this movie.

The first two movies in the trilogy are okay.  I mean, they’re fun and all, and I’ll still occasionally watch them as background noise, but the third one is a substantial improvement.  It had to be since it was the first one they were actually putting into theaters, unlike the first two which only aired on The Disney Channel.

And while the plot was predictable (come on, it’s Disney…it’s not like it’s a frickin’ David Fincher movie), the songs, dancing, and whole production was tons better than the first two.  And, um, Zac Efron looks way hotter in this one.  But that’s totally not a contributing factor, I swear.

11.  The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Who would have thought that Tim Burton would show up twice in a list about musicals?  But he does, at least in mine!

First off, the movie looks amazing in stop-motion animation.  Second of all, it’s a movie about Halloween and Christmas, two of the greatest holidays of ALL-TIME.  And, of course, it has Danny Elfman – OINGO BOINGO – singing as Jack Skellington, the greatest Pumpkin King of ALL-TIME.  The songs are memorable and surprisingly emotional (“Sally’s Song” actually gives me tears if I’m in the right emo mood), and the sequence where Jack discovers Christmas Town is probably the best Christmas scene of any movie next to the entire 26 minutes of How the Grinch Stole Christmas animated special.

This movie has gained quite the cult following over the past 19 years (WHAT?? 19 years???), and it’s no surprise that they’ve even made a cover album called Nightmare Revisited, which covered every single song – even the score – in the movie.  Amazeballs.

10.  Grease (1978)

If you look up any list of best movie musicals, Grease will most likely be on it.  Why?  Because it is a great movie with great songs, and it will always be a great movie with great songs.  Even though a movie made in the 70s to look like the 50s will still look like a movie from the 70s.

John Travolta is in his PRIME in this movie as Danny Zuko (seriously, way better than the depressing Saturday Night Fever), and Olivia Newton-John is perfectly casted as adorable Sandy.  The songs are super fun – Summer Lovin’ is still one of my favorite scenes in any musical, and Stockard Channing gets me EVERY TIME when she sings “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”.

Oh, and the ending?  Big ol’ celebration at the school carnival?  SO MUCH FUN.  I want to go to school with these people.  Even though they look like they’re in their 30s.

LOVE THIS MOVIE.

9.  Across the Universe (2007)

So this movie is a perfect example of the songs totally overshadowing the movie itself.  And the reason for that is simple:  the movie isn’t very good, and the songs are AMAZING.

Why are the songs amazing?  Well, it’s The Beatles.  And, well, that simply needs no further explanation.  It’s The Beatles.  And even though it’s not John, Paul, George, and Ringo singing, they’re still amazing.  That’s the beauty of The Beatles’ songs.  They’re awesome no matter who sings them.

And I absolutely love these renditions.  Jim Sturgess has a great, Northern England voice that sounds like it was made to sing Beatles songs.  He turned my favorite Beatles song, “All My Loving”, into even more of a favorite Beatles song, though he sounds the best during “I’ve Just Seen a Face”.  Even Evan Rachel Wood, who doesn’t have a particularly strong singing voice, songs sweet and innocent and great.

Like I said, the movie is somewhat pompous and overdone.  But the music definitely makes up for that, making it the only reason to sit down and watch it.

8.  Phantom of the Opera (2004)

To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to like this movie when it first came out.  I knew Joel Schumacher was directing it, and he’s the man responsible for bringing down the Batman franchise (though if if weren’t for him, we may not have gotten Christopher Nolan, so…yeah).  What the hell was he doing directing a very much loved Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway musical???

Well, I found myself rather surprised.  Surprised at how much I really liked the movie.  I had never seen the Broadway show on stage (I know, blasphemy), but I was familiar with the songs.  And the one thing I never liked about the songs before this was the fact that it sounded like old people singing were singing them.  I know that sounds weird, but I never felt like I could sing along to them.  But when Emmy Rossum plays Christine, I suddenly find myself loving the songs.  Because she really does have an amazing voice.

And Mr. Batman-Ruiner actually made the movie look rather beautiful.  The cemetery scene when Christine sings “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is pretty drool-worthy as far as set and costume design.

So if you’re totally against this movie but haven’t seen it, I suggest giving it a try.  Just don’t think of Batman’s nipples while you’re watching it.

7.  Mary Poppins (1964)

This list just wouldn’t be a list without at least one Julie Andrews movie (she appears on the list twice).  Mary Poppins is just one of those movies that people will love FOREVER.  It was made almost 50 years ago, but it truly feels timeless.  For one thing, it has Julie Andrews, who is kind of like a goddess in terms of musicals.  She made the character of Mary Poppins entirely hers, and no one will be able to come close to her perfection.  She is, of course, practically perfect in every way.

And those two adorable kids?  The dancing animated penguins?  The carousal?  Cleaning your messy room simply by snapping your fingers?  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?  (by the way, I totally just spelled that phonetically and the computer recognized it as a real – and correctly spelled – word).  Everything in this movie is absolutely delicious.

Except for “Feed the Birds”, which makes me cry like a little girl.

6.  Annie (1982)

Besides the fact that this movie is my childhood, it’s just one of those movies that every girl in the 80s wanted to be a part of.  Why is this movie so awesome?  Well, let’s see.

  • Singing and dancing orphan girls
  • Alcoholic Carol Burnett
  • Molly and Pepper
  • Dumb Dog
  • Come on, Annie.  Let’s go to the movies!
  • Ann Reinking
  • Punjab
  • The sun will come out (tears tears tears) tomorrow

There’s just so much about this movie that I love love love love love.  I heard that Will Smith is currently developing a remake, which of course gives me a stomach ache, but at least I know that this one will love on forever despite the remakes and copycats.

And seriously, who can copy Carol Burnett?  NO ONE, I say.

5.  The Wizard of Oz (1939)

For a lot of people, this is the first musical they ever saw.  And they probably didn’t even realize that they were watching a musical!  That’s because The Wizard of Oz pretty much covers every kind of genre out there (musical, drama, comedy, fantasy, sci-fi, horror – you know why) and is loved by mostly (I say “mostly” because, well, I’m sure there’s some who don’t like flying monkeys) everyone who sees it.

We all know what happened with Judy Garland and how towards the end of her life she, you know, went off the end, but watching her in her first starring role reminds us all of how much of a pure talent she really was.  That voice.  That face.  Those big eyes.  And even though there have been other makings of the World of Oz, nothing will ever be like that first one, the one that made us fall in love with a girl from Kansas who traveled to the magical world of Oz, only to find her way home again.

And I’d like to meet the person who doesn’t feel at least a tiny bit emotional when she says,” There’s no place like home” at the end of the movie.  Seriously, have you no heart?

4.  Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Without a doubt, The Wizard of Oz was the movie that made Judy Garland a star.  But Meet Me in St. Louis was the one that reminded everyone why.  She’s amazing in it.

I watched this movie to death when I was a kid.  This was back in the day when no one really owned any movies, and the only way you could watch them was to rent them at the video store or record them from the TV (on your giant VHS machines, of course).  Well, my dad had recorded this movie from the TV, and along with The Wizard of Oz, Unconquered, and Back to the Future, I watched this one the most.  At first I didn’t even make the connection that this was the girl who played Dorothy, because that’s how different she looked in MMISTL (plus I was only like seven years old, and I didn’t make connections like that at that age).

I love this movie, I really do.  It’s a great story about a family in St. Louis in 1903 leading up to the World’s Fair of 1904.  And even though it takes place over 100 years ago – and was made almost 70 years ago – it feels like it could all happen in today’s society.  Family relations.  Crushes on boys who live next door.  Dancing at parties.  Trick-or-treating (except I don’t think people throw flour at people’s faces anymore).  Riding on trollies.  Switching out mean girls’ dance cards so they get stuck with crappy guys to dance with.

Okay, well, most of it is still relative today.  And the music?  Some of the best songs from movies are in this one.  “The Boy Next Door”, “The Trolley Song”, and I bet you didn’t know that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was written for this movie!  Of course it’s sung during such a depressing scene that it’s hard for me to listen to today.  But still.  Great songs, great cast, and just a flat-out great movie.

3.  The Sound of Music (1965)

Unlike some of the above movies, The Sound of Music was not a part of my childhood.  My parents didn’t own it, and they never watched it on TV.  In fact, like West Side Story, I don’t think it was a movie my parents even liked.  So when I got older, sometime around 15 years old, it was on TV.  I knew the songs from it and had seen certain scenes, but I had never watched it all the way through until then.

And I fell in love.  For many reasons.

Number one:  Julie Andrews.  I didn’t think I would like a character more than Mary Poppins, but I sure as hell loved her as Maria, the nun-turned-von Trapp.  With her pixie haircut and her abundant energy and quick tongue, I had never seen a heroine in a musical like that before.  To this day when I hear “I Have Confidence” I instantly get in a positive mood.  Seriously, if you’re ever in a crappy mood and need a pick-me-up, put on that song.  Suddenly you’re smiling and feeling on top again.

And I love every single one of those Von Trapp kids.  From Gretl to Leisl (especially Leisl…what girl didn’t want to be her????), I thought they were all awesome in their own way.  Shy, bold, sweet, incorrigible…they all have their own identities, which is hard to come by in movies with large casts these days.

And the songs.  Oh, the songs.  They’re – for lack of a better word – wonderful.  It doesn’t matter that I’m 33 years old – I still get a kick out of singing “Do-Re-Mi” and “Lonely Goatherd”, and I cry whenever I hear Christopher Plummer sing about Edelweiss flowers.

And I hate Rolfe for totally dissing Leisl like that, especially after dancing around in the gazebo with her.  Worst villain in the movie, that one.

2.  Newsies (1992)

Not much more can be said about this movie that hasn’t already been said.  Put together a bunch of cute teenage boys who sing about selling newspapers and dance like it’s NOT 1899, and you’ve got the best movie musical of the decade.  Some highlights include:

1.  Christian Bale

2.  Christian Bale

3.  Christian Bale

4.  Christian Bale

Whatever.  Just watch it.

1.  Moulin Rouge (2001)

I’ve wanted to write about this movie in many of my blog posts over the past year, but I’ve never had the perfect opportunity to do so, unless I write a post about “Movies That Have Changed My Life”.  Because that’s what Moulin Rouge did.  Changed my life.

I have a personal attachment to this movie because it was the first movie I saw in the theater when I moved out to CA, and the first movie I went to see with my future husband.  It was one of those moments when timing was everything.

More specifically, though, Moulin Rouge changed the way I watched movies.  Upon first viewing, you can’t but think, “THIS MOVIE IS TOTALLY INSANE.”  And it is.  It’s controlled chaos.  Some people hate it, some people love it.  And man oh man, I LOVE IT.

The whole movie is gorgeous to look at.  The colors, the excitement, the sets, the costumes…it’s just amazing.  And the music?  You wouldn’t think that Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman would be able to pull it off, but they actually exceed expectations.  They’re perfect in the roles of Christian and Satine, you believe their story, and you root for them the entire time.

Baz Luhrmann picked excellent songs to tell his story, and my favorite scenes tend to star those songs.  I knew I would love this movie from the moment Ewan McGregor opened his mouth to sing one line from “The Sound of Music”, but it was when he sang Elton John’s “Your Song” that I fell hard.  I smile during the entire “Elephant Love Medley”, and I get all weepy when they sing the SHOULD-HAVE-BEEN-NOMINATED-FOR-AN-ACADEMY-AWARD song “Come What May”.

Oh, and the best five minutes of the entire movie – nay, the best five minutes of ANY movie – comes during the “El Tango de Roxanne”, with Ewan McGregor singing during one of the most intensely choreographed scenes I’ve ever seen.  I can’t even find words to explain it; you just gotta see it.

And yes, Satine dies at the end, but we know that from the beginning.  It’s sad, but the movie as a whole made us so happy that it doesn’t even bother us.  Why?

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

Remember that, folks.  It’s important stuff.

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, The Awesome 13

The Awesome 13 – The Songs of “Glee” – Season Two

A few weeks ago I posted my list of 13 awesome songs from the first season of Glee, which was pretty easy to do.  I’ve been dreading season two, though – not because there weren’t any good songs, but because there were so many.  In season one you pretty much had the same few people singing the songs so it was easy to pick out your favorites.  But in season two you suddenly have the addition of Blaine and the Dalton Academy Warblers, Sam Evans, plus solos from secondary characters like Kurt Hummel, Santana Lopez, and Brittany S. Pearce.  Suddenly the field is just that much wider.

But I think I’ve been able to narrow down the list of 100+ songs to 13…an awesome 13.

13.  “Raise Your Glass” – Dalton Academy Warblers

I pretty much loved every song Blaine and his Warblers sang during the season, which is why they show up more than once on this list.  From the episode “Original Song”, this particular performance takes place at Sectionals about halfway through the season, and it’s just one of those songs that makes you feel so happy.  Darren Criss, of course, nails it like he does every time he sings, and makes you feel like this song was written for everyone in that audience.

12.  “Don’t You Want Me” – Rachel Berry and Blaine Anderson

In the episode “Blame It On the Alcohol”, we get to see Rachel and Blaine sing together for the first time.  During a party at Rachel’s house, everyone gets drunk and we’re not surprised when the karaoke machine gets pulled out.  Rachel and Blaine sing an awesome rendition of Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me”, making me like this version more than the original, and – surprise – Darren Criss kills it.

11.  “What I Did For Love” – Rachel Berry

I like that Glee tries to keep a good balance between popular songs and showtunes, and in an episode filled with current pop songs (“Audition”), it ends with Rachel singing one of my favorite showtunes of all time from the musical A Chorus Line.  Lea Michele sounds best when she’s singing Broadway, and she’s able to channel her character’s pain and reasoning as she sings, which makes for a surprisingly emotional way to end the first episode of the season.

10.  “Le Jazz Hot” – Kurt Hummel

We knew from Kurt Hummel’s (Chris Colfer) performance of “Defying Gravity” from season one that he could sing, but we really didn’t see how well he could command a performance until the episode “Duets”.  In an almost protest of having to find a duet partner, Kurt decides to sing with the only person he sees best – himself.  He performs a song from Victor/Victoria dressed as half man, half woman, and sings both of those asses off.  How he hits that note at the very end is beyond me.

9.  “P.Y.T.” (“Pretty Young Thing”) – Artie Abrams

Although Glee has an entire episode devoted to Michael Jackson, one of the first MJ songs they performed was this one in the Valentine’s Day episode “Silly Love Songs”.  Kevin McHale does an awesome job of any R&B song he tackles, but this one was really amazing.  He seems to have channeled MJ in his performance – not just him, but Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr) as well as he shows us why he’s the best dancer in the entire world.  The entire performance from the two of them – singer and dancer – is awesome enough to give you chills.

8.  “Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again” – Rachel Berry and Kurt Hummel

Another song from the “Duets” episode, this one happens at the very end of the episode after Rachel and Kurt are given a second chance to do the duet assignment after Rachel and Finn purposely tried to lose and Kurt sang with himself).  Lea Michele once again brings out her inner Babs while Kurt just sounds like a frickin’ angel, and magic ensues.  Plus the two songs together sound like they were meant to be mashed up, reminding us all to just be happy.  And that’s how that performance makes you feel.

7.  “Never Going Back Again” – Artie Abrams

I was really excited for the Fleetwood Mac “Rumours” episode, and the Glee cast definitely did not disappoint.   The one performance that stood out for me, however, was when Artie sang “Never Going Back Again”, a song with one of the best guitar riffs I’ve heard.  Artie sings it to express his love/hate feelings for Brittany, and yet it’s a song we can all relate to because we’ve all been in a situation like that one time or another.  But the best part of that performance was the choral of guitars in the background playing so beautifully that the song sounds absolutely perfect.

6.  “Valerie” – Santana Lopez

Naya Rivera has one of my favorite singing voices on the show, and she showed everyone why in the episode “Special Education” during Regionals.  It was a competition in which the usual background performers came out to the front, giving them a rare opportunity to shine.  And in this case, Santana singing Amy Winehouse blew everyone away.  She sounds so good that you can’t help but wonder, “Why doesn’t she just sing every song?”  Yeah.  She’s that good.

5.  “Billionaire” – Sam Evans

I immediately liked the character Sam Evans from his very first performance from the season two opener “Audition”.  I wasn’t sure what to think of this guy with his guitar – typical cute, blond type – but the second he opened his trouty mouth to sing, I – along with millions of other people – fell immediately in love.  His voice is sweet and boy-bandish, but that doesn’t take away from his talent.  Give this guy more songs, please.

4.  “Somewhere Only We Know” – Dalton Academy Warblers

The original version of this song by Keane is one of my favorite songs of all time, so I was a little nervous when I heard they were going to perform it.  But I also knew I could pretty much trust anything Darren Criss does, and when he and his Warblers started singing, I knew they had done the song justice.  In fact – given it’s a cappella tone – the song actually sounded better.  It’s beautiful and haunting and, well, kind of depressing because it’s intended to be a song of farewell.  But I listen to it on repeat anyway.

3.  “Forget You” – Holly Holliday

Glee has had on some memorable guest stars, but none quite so awesome as Gwyneth Paltrow as substitute teacher extraordinaire Holly Holliday.  As an audience we’re so used to seeing Gwynnie in period dramas or serious movies, so when she suddenly breaks out with Cee-Lo’s “F*** You” (“Forget You”, edited for content), we’re all shocked.  Suddenly this new version of Gwynnie emerges in front of us, and we can’t stop laughing.  I wish she could always be this fun! (re: Goop).

2.  “Thriller/Heads Will Roll” – Glee Cast

Some mash-ups are good, and some are amazing.  And some mash-ups are just plain awesome like this one.  The mash-up between Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll” is one that makes total sense.  They sound great together, and the performance just heightens the whole thing.  With the cast dressed as zombies during halftime of a football game, the whole shebang just reminds you how much fun this show is.

1.  “Teenage Dream” – Dalton Academy Warblers

I think we can all agree that when we first heard Darren Criss sing, we knew he was going to be someone awesome.  Usually when a show introduces a new character, they’re received with generally good reception.  But I don’t think anyone expected people to love Blaine as much as they did when he appeared in the episode “Never Been Kissed”.  And who didn’t swoon along with Kurt while watching him perform with the Warblers?  Not only did most people like this version better than the original Katy Perry version (seriously, I can’t even listen to her version anymore), but this was the first Glee became the first Glee single to top the Billboard Digital Songs chart.  Because it’s awesome.

Posted in Listening to Music, Watching Movies

The Anticipation of “Les Miserables”

If you love movie trailers as much as I do, then you should know that there’s an app for that!  It’s Apple’s iTunes Trailers, and it has every current and upcoming movie trailer on it that you could possibly want to see.  I check it about once a week to see if there’s anything new that’s been added, just so I can keep up with the times.

This week’s Trailer of the Week:  Les Miserables.

Like many other middle school choir geeks, I had a crush on the little Broadway musical Les Miserables.  I was first introduced to it when I was in choir (altos represent) and we sang a Les Miserables medley.  I immediately fell in love with the songs, and after we watched a video of the stage musical, I immediately decided that Les Miserables was the best thing ever.

And like every other 13-year-old, semi-Emo and slightly misunderstood girl, I identified with the character Eponine.  She was, after all, the girl who loved a boy who loved another girl (damn that annoying, prissy Cosette!!), and she got to sing the best song in the whole show, “On My Own”.

le weep sigh

*side note:  One of the first clips I ever saw of Glee before the show came out was of Lea Michele singing “On My Own” into a hairbrush while looking in the mirror, and I thought, Holy s***, that was me when I was 13!!!

Of course had I known that in the book Eponine was described as “a pale, puny, meagre creature, with a hoarse voice like “a drunken galley slave’s” due to it being “roughened by brandy and by liquors.” She now wears dirty and tattered clothing that consists of a chemise and a skirt.  She also has missing teeth, mangled hair, bony shoulders, heavy brooding drooping eyes, and a premature-aging face with only a trace of beauty lingering.

Yowsas.

Anyway, I’ve seen many different versions of this musical. – The first big one was in celebration of the 10th Anniversary, which I had on video, and starred “The Dream Cast” of the show which, if you know musical theater, is amazing: Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean, Philip Quast as Inspector Javert, Michael Ball as Marius Pontmercy, Lea Salonga as Éponine, Judy Kuhn as Cosette, Ruthie Henshall as Fantine…the nerdy, drool-worthy list goes on.

I got to see the musical on stage about five years ago in Los Angeles, and even though I don’t remember anyone who starred in it, I remember getting all emotional during the songs.  I felt like an Emo adolescent all over again.

And the most recent version I’ve seen was the 25th Anniversary concert that aired on PBS in 2010.  I was so excited to see Lea Salonga back in it, this time as Fantine (only she’ll always be Eponine to me), and was a little surprised to see Nick Jonas (yep, a freaking JONAS BROTHER) as Marius.

It’s the truth.

He wasn’t amazing in the role – you could tell he doesn’t exactly have a voice that can reach the back row of the theater – but he did what he could with it, and you could tell he was really trying.  And I guess better him than his brother Joe…

You may be surprised that a film based on the musical has never been made.  There was a 1998 film starring Liam Neeson and Claire Danes that was based on the Victor Hugo book, but since there was no music, I had no interest in seeing it.  Apparently it’s hard to make and market a movie that contains 90% singing and 10% dialogue.

But after Phantom of the Opera and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Baker Street were made into successful musical films (well, I thought they were successful), it seemed that a musical adaptation of Les Miserables as a film was just around the corner – even though one had been stuck in DEVELOPMENT HELL since 1988.

The movie – finally to be released this December (Merry Christmas, fellow musical nerds) – stars a handful of awesomeness:

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean

Russell Crowe as Javert

Anne Hathaway as Fantine

Amanda Seyfried as Cosette

Eddie Redmayne as Marius

Samantha Barks as Eponine

Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thenardier

I know that Hugh Jackman can sing, I have no doubt that Russell Crowe can sing, and Helena Bonham Carter showed just how crazy talented she is when she starred in Sweeny Todd.  I have no idea who Eddie Redmayne is except for the fact that he starred in a bunch of British films and British TV movies and used to model for Burberry (in other words, he’s the most British person in the world).

British?  You betcha.

Samantha Barks played Eponine in the 25th Anniversary Conert – yep, she got to pretend she was in love with a Jonas Brother!  And while I will always be a little biased towards Lea Salonga, I thought Samantha Barks did a really good job – she looked the part (well, not the book’s description of the part, of course) and she had a great voice.  I’m really glad they cast her in the movie, too, because the part almost went to – wait for it – Taylor Swift.

And then we have the diary-writing Princess herself, Anne Hathaway, as Fantine.  Here’s how the book describes this character:

“Her splendid teeth had evidently been endowed by God with one function – that of laughing. Her thick blond tresses, inclined to wave, and easily escaping from their confinement, obligated her to fasten them continually. Her rosy lips babbled with enchantment. The corners of her mouth, turned up voluptuously, seemed to encourage audacity; but her long, shadowy eyelashes were cast discreetly down towards the lower part of her face as if to check its festive tendencies. Her whole toilette was indescribably harmonious and enchanting. Fantine was beautiful, without being too conscious of it. She possessed two types of beauty – style and rhythm. Style is the force of the ideal, rhythm is its movement.”

And here’s what she looks like in the movie:

Okay, granted this is towards the end of her life when her health has deteriorated and she’s about to die.  But the Fantines I’ve seen in the past have always looked rather normal in the time of their death.  This Fantine scares the crap out of me.

Anne Hathaway also has the challenge of singing the other uber-popular song from the musical, “I Dreamed a Dream”.  This is what she is singing during the trailer, the only audio you hear as you see various clips from the film.  I’ve heard Anne Hathaway sing before in the movie Emma Enchanted, and I know she can carry a tune.  But I’ve heard people like Judy Kuhn, Lea Salonga, Idina Menzel, and Lea Michele blow this song away.  The bar is quite high.

And for some reason I still picture Emmy Rossum in this role.  But I guess I’ll have to wait and see how Catwoman does.

Along with The Hobbit, this is the other movie for which I’m so excited this holiday season.  And based on the cast and the teaser trailer thus far, I think it’s going to be a good one.  And the soundtrack is going to be killer.

Let’s just hope they don’t turn Cats into a movie now.

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, The Awesome 13

The Awesome 13 – The Songs of “Glee” – Season One

The Awesome 13 – The Songs of Glee (Season One)

I really hate the term “Gleek”.  Yes, I am a big Glee fan.  Ever since I saw a commercial for the first episode back in the spring of 2009, I knew this was going to be a show that I liked.

But don’t call me a “Gleek”.  I hate the word.  Also isn’t that what you call it when you spit through your tongue?

Like many other fans of the show, I’m in it for the music.  Yes, the characters are fun and the stories are interesting (even the plots that suddenly disappear from the storyline), but I probably wouldn’t watch the show if it wasn’t for the music.

The kids on Glee have performed over 300 songs over three seasons, and to have to pick 13 of those that I like the best would be like the worst Sophie’s Choice ever.  Well, probably not the worst.  I think the choice Sophie had to make was probably the worst Sophie’s Choice ever.

Anyway, I’ve decided to break it down by season.  Still not the easiest thing to do, but at least this way gives some songs a little more of a chance.  This week we begin with Season One.

13.  “Maybe This Time” (April Rhodes and Rachel Berry)

Kristin Chenoweth is hilarious as the always drunk character April Rhodes, and we get a taste of what she’s like when she performs this song from the musical Cabaret in the episode titled “The Rhodes Less Taken”.  She sings the song concurrently with Lea Michele’s character Rachel Berry, and the song reveals a lot about the goals and regrets of each character.  It’s a powerful moment for both – we’re left to wonder what April could have been and what Rachel will be.

12.  “Hello” (Jessie St. James and Rachel Berry)

In the episode “Hell-O” we’re introduced to one of my favorite characters of season one, Jessie St. James (played by Jonathon Groff), the leader of rival school Carmel High’s Vocal Adrenaline glee club.  We know he shouldn’t be trusted, and we know he’s absolutely ridiculous.  But when he sits down at that piano and starts singing Lionel Richie’s classic love song, we fall in love with him just like Rachel does.

11.”Don’t Stand So Close to Me / Young Girl” (Will Schuster)

When glee club director Will Schuster did a mash-up of The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Young Girl” by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap in the episode “Ballad”, I was in awe. Not only does Matthew Morrison’s voice sound amazing, but the magical people behind the songs of Glee put two songs that shouldn’t go well together and made it work.  Oh, and the scene is hilarious.

10.  “Jessie’s Girl” (Finn Hudson)

Finn Hudson, played by Frankenteen Cory Monteith, is the unofficial boy leader of the glee club, and by 18th episode of the season, “Laryngitis”, we’ve seen him do lots of solos.  But with the addition of character Jessie St. James and new threat to Finn, I think everyone was just waiting for him to perform this song.  Normally I’m not the biggest fan of Cory Monteith’s voice, but I became a fan after this song.  This type of music – as opposed to pop/r&b – definitely suits him, and the performance finally started to flesh out his character.

9.  “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (Rachel Berry)

I’ve always been a fan of this song, so I wasn’t surprised how much I enjoyed the Glee version.  It appears in the episode “Bad Reputation”, which features songs that people love to hate.  Songs that are so bad they’re good.  Set against an impromptu ballet rehearsal, Rachel sings this song to the three guys in her life – Jessie, Finn, and Puck – and powers through it like a true ballad diva.

8.  “Don’t Rain On My Parade” (Rachel Berry)

When the glee club sectionals arrive and the New Directions perform for the first time in the episode “Sectionals”, we know it’s a big moment for the glee club.  So when disaster strikes and they realize they can’t perform their songs because the other schools stole their set list, we know they need something huge to get them through it.  That something huge is Rachel Berry singing her ass off while performing “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl, in what was probably one of the biggest moments of her life, and her biggest moment in season one.

7.  “My Life Would Suck Without You” (Whole Cast)

Even though I will always like the Kelly Clarkson version better, this is a pretty awesome moment of season one.  It comes at the end of the first half of the season after sectionals in the episode “Sectionals”, and to show Mr. Schuster how much they appreciate all his help, they dedicate this song to him.  Of course what’s even better about this performance is that we get to see Will finally realize how he feels about Emma Pillsbury after going through a horrible separation from his wife.  The combination of the students performing the song and Will’s realization is perfect, and leads up to the cliffhanger we were all waiting for.

6.  “To Sir, With Love” (Whole Cast)

The season finale of Glee’s first season “Journey to Regionals”, is still one of my favorite finales of any TV show I’ve seen.  Lots of amazing things happen during this episode, including Quinn Fabray going into labor during regionals.  But the part that caused me to well up and get all emotional was when the group sings “To Sir, With Love” to Mr. Schuster.  At this point the group thinks it’s the last time they can sing together, since the deal was that if they don’t come in first at regionals, glee club is finished.  This makes for a pretty emotional performance of an already emotional song.

5.  “Dream On” (Will Schuster and Bryan Ryan)

Glee has had its share of guest stars, but the appearance by Neil Patrick Harris is hands-down my favorite, as is this episode “Dream On” directed by Joss Whedon.  NPH stars as a glee club has-been who believes dreams are just another thing that will bring you down.  But Will tries to get him to believe again by telling him to audition for Les Miserables, so he does – and so does Will.  They end auditioning with the same song and performing it together, Aerosmith’s classic “Dream On”, and it’s one of my favorite moments in all three seasons of the show.  Matthew Morrison proves he can sing more than showtunes and adult contemporary, and NHP continues to show us how ridiculously talented he is.

4.  “The Safety Dance” (Artie Abrams)

In another song from the episode “Dream On”, we get to see what paraplegic character Artie dreams about, and that is to get up and dance.  This is the first time we get to see Artie get out of his wheelchair and perform, and we also get to see what actor Kevin McHale can really do.  The performance, which is Artie’s fantasy of a flash-mob at the local mall to “The Safety Dance”, is both awesome and heartbreaking, because we – and Artie – know that it will never happen, and is something that can only be dreamed of.

3.  “I Dreamed a Dream” (Rachel Berry and Shelby Corcoran)

There’s a reason why the episode “Dream On” is so awesome.  It was just filled with awesome songs.  My third one from that episode comes from Rachel and her newly-found mother, Shelby Corcoran, also the director of the Vocal Adrenaline glee club of which boyfriend Jessis is a member.  She hasn’t wanted to meet her mom, but when she hears a tape that Shelby makes for her, singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables (and one of the best songs ever written period), it’s one of the most touching moments of the season.  It turns into a fantasy duet in Rachel’s head, the two of them – looking very much like mother and daughter, I might add – singing the song and sounding they were born to sing it together.

2.  “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Jessie St. James and Vocal Adrenaline)

I’m usually underwhelmed by performances of other glee clubs on the show.  I love the members of New Directions, and I watch the show because I want to see them perform.  But that’s not the case during the season finale “Journey to Regionals” when Vocal Adrenaline comes out and knocks my favorite Queen song out of the auditorium.  This is mainly due to the power of Jonathon Groff’s voice – a close second to Freddie Mercury himself – and the simultaneous scene of Quinn going into labor.  For some reason that song fits as the perfect soundtrack for that moment, and for six minutes we can’t look away.

1.  “Don’t Stop Believin’” (Whole Cast)

I kind of have to put this song at number one since this is the one that started it all.  It’s not until the end of the first episode where we see New Directions really singing together for the first time, and it happens at a time when Will is about to give up on everything – quit teaching, quit glee club – until he sees the potential his glee club has, and he hears the words they have to say.  It’s one of those moments where you want to think it’s cheesy, but you can’t.  Not when you don’t want to stop believing, either.

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, Teenage Obsession

Teenage Obsession: The Mickey Mouse Club

Ever since I moved back to Minnesota, my parents have slowly been giving me things that have been hiding in storage at their house for the past 15 years that they want to get off their hands.  The most recent box my mom gave to me contained something I completely forgot I ever had.

The Binder.

Sometime around the middle of 1993, I realized that there was a void in my life.  My Newsies obsession had ebbed, as had my obsession with swing music and Stephen Dorff.  I needed something to fill that void besides afternoon reruns of Salute Your Shorts and Hey Dude.

And then came The Mickey Mouse Club.

Back in the day, The Disney Channel was a premium channel, which meant that you had to have a subscription for it just like HBO and Showtime.  I was lucky enough to have access to The Disney Channel, even though I didn’t watch it very often.  That is until I was flipping through the channels one day (this was back when you had to flip through to see what was on – you couldn’t just look at a menu – and chances are you had no idea what you were watching anyway because the name of the show didn’t pop up on the top of the screen) and I landed on The Disney Channel and saw a music video by a group called MMC.

Now, I was in the know enough to figure out that MMC stood for The Mickey Mouse Club and that this must be some kind of spin-off group the show created, the same way they had created the music group The Party (I had a friend who was a fan).  Normally I would have just moved on from the channel to something else, but something caught my eye.

CUTE BOYS.

Since I was 14 years old, cute boys were very important to me, and I tended to notice them everywhere.  Right away I noticed two of them, and although I didn’t know their names, I was determined to find out more about them.  And this is what I found out:

The Mickey Mouse Club had indeed formed a group called MMC, which was made up of seven of the members from the show.  They were getting ready to not only release their first studio album, but also getting for their national tour to various Target stores, aka FREE CONCERTS WITH CUTE BOYS AT TARGET.

An actual newspaper clipping from the event that I pasted into my journal.

I was so going.

So I told my friend Kate about it and she was totally on board because we were way in sync (hahaha….no pun intended….) when it came to cute boys.  MMC was performing at the Arden Hills Target Greatland on October 3 AND WE WERE GOING.  Because we were totally convinced that the boys from MMC were going to fall in love with us.

The boys I’m referring to were Tony Lucca, JC Chasez, and Matt Morris.  The Disney Channel showed enough behind the scenes clips from the making of their album and the upcoming season of The Mickey Mouse Club for us to know all about the show before we went to the concert, and to get us excited about being able to see these cute boys when the show started.

Well, the concert was awesome.  My mom drove us and I think we were all surprised by how many people were actually there.  Turned out other girls thought those boys were cute, too.  During the concert they threw out t-shirts and patches to the crowd, and my mom was cool enough to grab a patch that had fallen on the ground before some stupid chick was able to grab it.  Yay, mom!

After the concert we had a chance to get autographs, but they split the group up into two tables opposite from each other, which meant two long lines, which meant you had to pick which table you wanted to stand in line for.  And OF COURSE Tony and JC were on opposite tables.

Seriously had a Sophie’s Choice moment.

Kate and I decided, however, that JC had our heart, so we waited in JC’s line while my poor mom waited in the other line to get Tony’s autograph for us.  I’m sure she hated us that day, but I’m pretty sure I thanked her at least once.

The Autographs

From that moment on, Kate and I were DIE-HARD Mickey Mouse Club fans.  We loved the concept of a teen variety show where the members put on funny skits and performed covered songs and made music videos.  It was like the Glee of its time.  The show was on Monday-Thursday, and each day had its own theme.  For example:

Monday:  Guest Day – a lucky fan gets to meet a celebrity of their choice and spend the day with them.  I wonder what the girl who met Jonathan Brandis is doing now.

Tuesday:  Music Day – a singer or group visits the MMC set and performs two songs.  My least favorite day, because it took time away from the MMC members.

Wednesday:  Anything Can Happen Day – um, where anything can happen.

Thursday:  Party Day – the best day of the week.  The group always performed their best songs on this day.

This particular season of The Mickey Mouse Club also had the addition of its newest and youngest members, four boys and three girls.  Those people were Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Tate Lynch, TJ Fantini, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Nikki Deloach.  You may have heard of some of them.  I was personally not a fan of Christina and made fun of her and her hand movements while she sang all the time, and I hated Nikki Deloach because she was a THREAT to me (don’t ask).

Kate and I were fond of Britney because we thought she was a hilarious dancer.  Kate was partial to Justin because he was adorable, and I was partial to Ryan because we was hot, even as a 12 year old.  And just as I had done with Beverly Hills, 90210 and flip-flopped between Dylan and Brandon every week, I flip-flopped which MMC guys I liked.  JC/Tony/Ryan/Matt…they all had their turn.

When the season ended, The Disney Channel began playing reruns of older seasons, starting with 1991.  This was back when Tony and JC and others like Keri Russell and Marc Worden were first on, and we were full-on obsessed with this show.  I recorded every single episode (which I still have somewhere in my parents house), and since this was way before iTunes, we had no way to have the songs they performed (which were awesome), so we would use this huge boom box stereo thing of Kate’s, put a blank tape in it, press record, and hold the damn thing up to the TV while the performance was on.

You can imagine how time consuming this was.  But we recorded every single song from every single episode, and the best part is that because we were recording LIVE, you can hear us laughing during the songs, usually when Christina would sing or when Keri Russell would flip her ginormous hair.

For about two years, MMC was our life.  Kate and I even taped our own episode (written and directed by us) which, looking back, was a little horrifying.  We lip-synced to the MMC’s version of Ace of Base’s “The Sign” while wearing white t-shirts and black spandex shorts, and choreographed the whole, embarrassing thing.  You’d never know by watching that Kate went on to become a professional dancer (though it was totally obvious that I lacked any kind of dance ability).

And don’t forget about the MMC Quiz I made…containing only 254 questions.

You fail, you suck.

When the 1994 season began, the show took on a whole new look – a more mature look to attract an older teen demographic.  They began to perform all their songs live (before that it was always pre-taped), and the entire set of the show changed.

And the boys got cuter!

The same cast was on, minus the two adult hosts Fred and Terri from previous seasons and minus Keri Russell because apparently she wanted to do real TV (whatever, like that was going to work out), and they brought back an old member from The Party, Tiffani Hale.  They continued their “show within a show” called Emerald Cove, which starred various members of the show old enough to have love interests (which meant Ryan and Justin and the young’uns weren’t on it) which, unlike past “shows with a show” that The Mickey Mouse Club did (My Secret Bodyguard anyone?), I really liked this one.  Mainly because Tony was the main guy on the show, and he was the hottest guy on the planet according to me.

Keri actually remained on Emerald Cove even though she wasn’t on MMC anymore, and I’m pretty sure it’s because Tony was her real life boyfriend at the time, and it was their chance to spend time together.  Aw, how cute.

Hated her.

Kate and I always had these love/hate relationships with the girls on The Mickey Mouse Club.  Basically we hated any girl who was pretty because they posed a threat to us.  Keri, of course, was on our hit list, as well as Mylin Brooks and Ilana Miller, even though I totally wanted to be Ilana because she was short and had long hair like me.  We loved Britney because everything she did was hilarious, and it didn’t even matter that she and Justin were a thing.

Despite the show’s efforts to become trendier and edgier, the ratings were crap.  The thing that sucked for this show was its timing.  In 1994, no one over the age of 13 was listening to sugary pop music anymore.  Grunge ruled the airwaves, and teens no longer had an interest in cheesy variety shows.

So the show was dropped after the season ended in 1996.  And to be honest, I wasn’t TOTALLY heartbroken.  I was 17 now, and even I had started to move on.  And a few of the cast members were hitting 20 – they were definitely ready to move on.

Thank God this guy moved on…

But I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for the show and the people to show introduced me to.  I mean, seriously…look at where some of these people are today.  Ryan Gosling is uber hot and has been nominated for an Oscar (but not for Drive, which is totally jacked up).  Tony Lucca was a finalist on The Voice, which Christina Aguilera is a judge.  Keri Russell won a Golden Globe for her role on Felicity.  Matt Morris is now an awesome songwriter and has worked with a ton of singers, having recently just collaborated with Sarah McLachlan.  Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez were members of ‘N Sync, both went solo, and now Justin has a huge music career AND acting career.

Britney Spears needs no introduction.

Other members have gone off to do smaller things, all of which I’m now aware thanks to Twitter.  And the awesome thing is that they’re all still close and still support each other in their careers.  Even though Christina was a witch to Tony on The Voice, she was just jealous that he was getting all this support from his old MMC friends and her contestants weren’t.

Just think:  if it hadn’t been for this little show on The Disney Channel 20 years ago, we might not know who any of these people are.  I might not be listening to a Britney Spears song on my iPod right now.  I might not have ever seen Ryan Gosling’s abs.  I wouldn’t have gone to see Tony Lucca perform at random bars in LA ten years ago.  And I definitely wouldn’t have gone to that ‘N Sync concert back in college.

So thank you, Disney Channel, and thank you, MMC for giving us these awesome gifts.  That I can’t even watch because they’re all on tape and I don’t have a VCR (who does????).

Happy watching (if you can find them!)

Posted in Listening to Music

Hey, Whatever Happened To…(Music Edition)

Do you ever find yourself listening to the radio or to your iPod and that one song comes on that makes you think, “Oh my God, where is this singer now?”

Happens to me all the time.  Since I started listening to popular music in the late 80s and all throughout the 90s, there are loads of singers that have made an impact for about a day and then completely vanished.

Or so we think.

No, my friends…those people are still out there…sitting back…just waiting…waiting for their time to break out once again with that number one hit.  Or maybe break the top 100.  Or at the very least make an appearance on VH-1’s Where Are They Now?

But I think it’s up to me to investigate this first before VH-1 gets to them and makes people remember them before forgetting them all over again.

Martika

Then:  Back in the mid- 80s Latina singer Martika was That Cool Girl on Disney’s Kids Incorporated – a whole year before Stacey Ferguson took the prize as That Cool Blond Girl on the same show.  She always got the solos, and she could rock 80s dance moves and fashion like no other.

Then when Fergie came on the show and kicked Martika out, Martika fought back by scoring two hits from her first self-titled album, “More Than You Know” and “Toy Soldiers”.  The latter was a HUGE hit, despite the fact that the song was actually about drugs (which of course I didn’t learn until much later in life), and everyone thought Martika was going to be the Latina Madonna.

Now:  Like all other Latino singers in the year 2000, Martika tried to make a comeback by riding on the coattails of Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, and Christina Aguilera.  Unfortunately that didn’t pan out very well, so Martika decided to change her name to Vida Edit, created her own web-based TV show called J8ed (apparently she’s still pissed about Fergie stealing her thunder), changed her name back to Martika, and has recently recorded a new album of house and dance music.

But hey, if Fergie decides to go solo again, maybe the Black Eyed Peas will take in a new member.  There’s always hope for Martika.

Tommy Page

Then:  Contrary to popular belief among the ten people in the world who have heard of him, Tommy Page was NOT a member of New Kids on the Block.  He just happened to come out at around the same time in 1988 as New Kids as well as collaborating with them on two of his songs, one of those being his biggest hit, “I’ll Be Your Everything”.

He released two other albums in the United States, the third one he stated was influenced by Wilson Phillips, so it comes as no surprise that all his other albums were released in Asia.

Oh, and do you remember when he appeared on Full House and showed up to Stephanie’s birthday party and totally hit on DJ?  While he had a girlfriend named Melanie?  And then kissed Michelle on the cheek?

Tommy Page was a total Full House player.

Now:  I’m happy to report that since then Mr. Page has held a successful career as an executive at Warner Bros. Records, helped launch the careers of Michael Buble, Alanis Morissette, Josh Groban, and Green Day, and then last year joined Billboard Magazine as its associate publisher.

Rumor has it he’s still watches Full House reruns.  And he loves Canadians.

Lisa Loeb

Then:  Back in the early 90s, no one had heard of this girl who had just graduated from Brown University.  No one, that is, except for actor Ethan Hawke, who lived just across the street from her in New York City.  Turns out Ethan Hawke is a good friend to have because he got her song “Stay (I Missed You” in his 1994 movie Reality Bites, which almost made her a bigger star than him.

Lisa Loeb went on to have a few more hits from her 1995 album Tails and her 1997 album Firecracker, but nothing could ever reach the uber-success as her first hit.

Now:  Since then Lisa Loeb has concentrated more on music for kids, recording three albums full of music that pertains to kids and the parents who have to listen to it.  She also starred in her own reality cooking show Dweezil & Lisa with then-boyfriend Dweezil Zappa in which the two of them traveled the country and tried different foods.  Of course since Lisa is a vegetarian, I can’t imagine this was very fun for her.  Or Dweezil.

Most recently, after years of demand, she finally started her own line of eyeglasses called The Lisa Loeb Eyewear Collection, in which each frame is named after a different song of hers.

Hmmm.  I think I got to get me a pair of “Do You Sleep” glasses.  And no…I do not sleep…in glasses.  Ha.

Richard Marx

Then:  Besides rocking the best mullet in pop music history, Richard Marx also rocked out a few power ballads such as “Right Here Waiting”, “Endless Summer Nights”, and “Now and Forever”.  His songs became the soundtrack to many a wedding in the early 1990s, while his song “Hazard” continues to give me nightmares.

Richard Marx also became known as the guy who married Penny from Dirty Dancing, which confused many people because, well, it was PENNY and she was AWESOME.  They had three sons together, all born between 1990 and 1994.  Because Penny obviously likes successful men.

Now:  Mr. Marx (no relation to Karl…I don’t think…) is still keeping himself super busy in the music industry by writing songs for a ton of other singers, collaborating on albums, and providing background music while you shop at Macy’s.  He’s friends with Hugh Jackman, he’s still married to Penny, and 20 years after releasing the album Rush Street, which refers to a prominent street in Chicago, Richard Marx and his family still live in Illinois.

I wonder if his three sons are hot now.

Stacey Q

Then:  Stacey Q, aka Stacey Lynn Swain, is best known for her one-hit wonder “Two of Hearts”.  However, she was much more successful as a child, studying ballet at age five, becoming the youngest member of the Dance Theater of Orange County, performing in costume at Disneyland as the “Dutch Puppet”, and then becoming an elephant rider with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus all by the age of 18.

She then decided to get into music because of a guy (of course), and she ended up doing synth-pop for a number of years until “Two of Hearts” became a hit and reached number 3 on the Billboard chart.  That success led her to a small part of The Facts of Life as a singer named Cinnamon who starts dating a guy named George played by some unknown actor named George Clooney.  Apparently studio execs were planning on creating a spin-off series about Cinnamon and her boyfriend George, but it was cancelled by NBC in the end.

Seriously…we could have had a TV show starring Stacey Q and George Clooney.  Oh…what could have been.

Now:  Since then Stacey Lynn Swain has conformed to Buddhism and provided her speaking voice for random Japanese anime television shows.  Her hit song continues to be a popular choice for movie soundtracks, thus bringing in the royalty checks, and last year she appeared on RuPaul’s Drag U television show, yet no one knows why.

Is she really a man?

The world may never know.

Happy re-listening!

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music

The Grammys: A Retrospective

The Grammy Awards are a funny business, don’t you think?  Ever since I can remember, I’ve never been a fan.  I’m not saying I wasn’t a fan of music, but back in the day it seemed that the Grammy Awards never represented the music I was listening to.  Of course I was always the odd one out when it came to music – I never really listened to what was popular, and that’s pretty much what the Grammy Awards represent.

I used to think the Grammys was just one big spectacle of over-paid singers who use the opportunity to show off pyrotechnics and dance moves while they lip-sync to their own songs.  And that’s still a big part of the show.  But after watching the awards show last night, something was different.  I found myself actually enjoying it.

Some people may not think so, but this was a big year in music.  Granted I probably kept up with music more than I ever have before, which made me more aware of the music world, but a lot of great music came out this year.  Katy Perry released Teenage Dream, which churned out so many hits that she actually tied Michael Jackson’s Bad record of five number-one singles from the same album (she’s desperately trying to get “The One That Got Away” up there just so she can beat him).  And Adele is on her way to beating Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard soundtrack’s 20-week reign at the top of the charts (Adele’s 21 is currently at 19 weeks).

Amazeballs.

 So much great music came out this year that I was excited to see some recognition at the Grammys.  After going through all the nominations I realized that for the first time ever, I was totally in the know when it came to all the nominees.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I used to be all up on the Academy Awards when it came to who and what was nominated.  But now it’s almost as if I’ve switched parties.  I own practically all the music that was nominated last night – something I definitely can’t say about the Oscars.  I realized that these music people?  They’re my kind of people.

There were some typical moments you’d expect at a music awards show, but here are the parts I found myself enjoying, the parts that made me realize how much I love music and it’s effect on my life.

1.  Bruno Mars Lights Up the Stage

The Grammys opened on a somber note, a prayer by awesome host LL Cool J to honor the late Whitney Houston, who suddenly passed away the day before.  But what followed was an amazingly upbeat and kickass performance by one of my 2011 faves, Bruno Mars.  He sang his song “Runaway” from his album Doo-Wops And Hooligans.  He got everyone on their feet, literally telling them all to “get off your rich asses” and celebrate.  He then channeled James Brown with his suit and dance moves and proceeded to blow everyone away with his performance.  Great way to get the show going.

2.  Dave Grohl Tells It Like It Is

When the Foo Fighters won for Best Rock Performance, frontman Dave Grohl let everyone know how he really feels about today’s music industry, basically telling off any artist who’s ever used autotune while creating music.  Why is this important?  Well, it’s important because there are some truly talented musicians out there who can sing their asses off, yet the ones who seem to get the success are the ones who are singing someone else’s song in a studio with no real talent required.  His words:

“To me this award means a lot because it shows that the human element of music is what’s most important,” he said, as members of the audience began to applaud. “Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that’s the most important thing for people to do.  It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about sounding correct. It’s not about what goes on in a computer. It’s about what goes on in here (points to heart) and what goes on in here (points to head.)”

3.   Bon Iver Wins Best New Artist (And Gives An Awesome Shout-Out)

Bon Iver, aka Justin Vernon is one those artists that only Hipsters know about, as they will be the first to tell you.  He’s very indie, recording his Grammy-nominated self-titled album deep in the Wisconsin woods, and relatively unknown to fans of Katy Perry and Rihanna.  But he managed to beat out newcomers like Nicki “I Exorcised Myself” Minaj and The Band “No Relation To Katy” Perry to win Best New Artist, and while people were trying to figure out who the hell this guy was, he gave a shout out to his hometown Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he attended college…wait for it…AT THE SAME TIME AS ME.  Awesomeness.

4.  Adele Sings the S*** Out of “Rolling in the Deep”

When the world first heard that Adele had throat surgery, many wondered if she would ever be able to sing again.  Then we wondered if she was going to be able to perform at The Grammys.  And then we wondered…well…what is she going to sound like after having throat surgery???  She sounds so amazing in the studio recording, how will she ever sound that way again??

Well….she pretty much killed it last night at the Grammys.

Adele doesn’t need people dressed up as animals doing flips behind her on stage.  She doesn’t need a dance crew.  She doesn’t need to roll around on the floor to get people’s attention.  All she needs to do is open her mouth and sing.  She is an absolutely amazing singer and deserved all six awards she received.  Fank you, Adele.  Fank you.

Coulda had it all.

5.  Jennifer Hudson Makes Me Cry Like a 13-year-old Girl

Since the passing of Whitney was so sudden, literally happening 24 hours before the Grammy Awards, the academy knew they had to do some sort of tribute despite not having any time to do it.  They kept it simple, having ex-American Idol, ex-Dreamgirl Jennifer Hudson sing Whitney’s biggest hit, “I Will Always Love You” (even though the song really belongs to Dolly Parton, who is probably in some bar somewhere going, “Hey, wait, um…that’s my hit!”).  J Hud could have easily belted out that song like the Dreamgirl she is, but whether it was nerves or emotion or respect, she kept it low-ley.  Which was probably the best and only way she could have done it.  She sounded great, and when her tears came at the end, well, I turned into mush circa 1992 all over again.

All in all – and even though Chris Brown won a Grammy and Bruno Mars didn’t – it was a good show.  It made me realize that although the music industry has changed over the past few years, it’s stronger than ever, and I’m so excited for what kind of music I’ll discover in 2012.  See you next year at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards!

Happy listening!

Posted in Listening to Music

…And I Keep Hittin’ Repeat-Peat-Peat-Peat-Peat-Peat

Yesterday I did a post about Groundhog Day books, aka, books you love to read over and over again.  And that got me thinking…what about music?  What about the songs that you love to listen to over and over again?  Whether driving in your car or sitting at home listening to your iPod, there are sure to be at least a few songs you’re guilty of overplaying.

Since I love so many different types of music, I don’t get sick of songs that easily.  If I find myself getting sick of a certain song, I make sure I stay away from it for a specific amount of time so I don’t end up hating it.  Because let’s be honest:  there’s nothing worse than a song that you hate (I’m talking to you, Smashmouth).  But then there are the songs that no matter how many freaking times you listen to them, you just can’t get enough.  They are few and far between, but they do exist.

“My Life Would Suck Without You” by Kelly Clarkson

I love this song.  I’ve always been a Kelly Clarkson fan, but from the moment I heard this song, I was hooked.  It was so ridiculously catchy, and Kelly Clarkson just has a way of belting out songs that make you want to belt them out with her (which I totally do).  I was thrilled when Glee performed this song on their show, but nothing compares to the Clarkson version.  Play, repeat, play, repeat-peat-peat.

“Overprotected” by Britney Spears

I will be the first to tell you that I am a huge Britney Spears fan.  I always have been ever since her MMC days.  When she exploded onto the scene with “Baby One More Time”, I knew she was going to have an awesome career (of course I didn’t predict the whole head-shaving thing, but who did?).  I love most of her songs (her slow songs are kind of boring, but that’s because she’s way more successful as a dancer), but for some reason the song from her third album Britney still sticks with me.  Not only was it her first way of saying “F*** you” to the music industry (she does it again later with “Piece of Me”), it’s just a really fun song to sing and dance to.  Catchy as all hell, and, in my opinion, Britney at one of her best.  Judge me if you want, but…play, repeat, play, repeat-peat-peat.

“(Everything I Do) I’d Do It For You” by Bryan Adams

This song came out over 20 years ago and I’m still not sick of it.  I first heard it when I saw the video for it on MTV from the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, loved it, loved it even more when I actually saw the movie, and then officially declared it to be my favorite song of all-time.  Of course that title has changed many times over the years, but every time I hear that song, I realize how awesome it is and how I couldn’t possibly ever get sick of it.  The words are timeless, the melody is gorgeous, and Bryan Adams sounds like he was just meant to sing that song.  So…play, repeat, play, repeat-peat-peat.

“Basket Case” by Green Day

This was Green Day’s first big hit way back in 1994, and probably the funnest song to sing along to in the entire world.  Seriously, put this song on in your car, hit the freeway, and just sing REALLY LOUD.  I guarantee your day will improve tremendously, and I dare you NOT to hit rewind when it ends.  GRASPING TO CONTROL…SO I BETTER HOLD ON!!!!  This is one I am proud to play, repeat, play, repeat-peat-peat.

“Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani feat. Eve

I love No Doubt, and I love Gwen Stefani.  Both write great, catchy songs, and I probably could have included a few of them on here.  But of all of them, I could probably listen to “Rich Girl” the most and still find something awesome about it every time.  Some of Stefani’s songs tend to repeat themselves over and over…for instance, “Hollaback Girl” is a great song that’s fun to sing along to, but the song doesn’t change much in its 3 minutes and 20 seconds run.  But “Rich Girl” has so many layers to it, mostly due to the collaboration with rapper Eve, that it sounds fresh to me every time.  I love it love it love it love it.  Original track ending…play, repeat, play, repeat-peat-peat.

“You and I Both” by Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz is an amazing songwriter, and an even more amazing singer.  And he proves both skills in his first big hit “You and I Both” from his first album Waiting for My Rocket to Come.  Lyrically it’s a sweet song without sounding totally cheesy, and when he sings he hits notes that not many male singers would feel comfortable attempting.  Plus his style of singing at that time was so different from anything else on the radio that when I listen to it today, it still feels new.  New enough to hit play, repeat, play, repeat-peat-peat.

“Love You Like a Love Song” by Selena Gomez

Well, I suppose I have to include this song on the list since it’s the song that inspired the post.  I don’t listen to the radio so I don’t know if it’s been overplayed yet, but every time I listen to it on my iPod, I love it.  It’s probably the catchiest song that’s come out in a long time, with its 80s-inspired beats and synthesizers, and Selena Gomez’s way of almost channeling a young Belinda Carlisle.  The lyrics aren’t groundbreaking, but it’s not the words you’re listening to.  It’s just the song itself, and that’s what makes you want to repeat-peat-peat-peat-peat-peat.

What are some of your repeat-peat-peat-peat-peat-peated songs that you love?

Happy listening!

Posted in Listening to Music

“Why Don’t You Ever Write About Music?”

This question was posed to me by my husband – who rarely reads my blog, by the way – when I was pondering to myself about what to write about.  And even though he doesn’t regularly read this awesome blog, he actually posed a valid question.  Why don’t I ever write about music?

Well, the answer is simple (at least to me).  It’s not because I have nothing to say about music, or that I don’t know anything about music.  I may be a little horn tooter right now, but I know a lot about music.  I have 20,000 songs on my iPod, consisting of all different types of music.  I’m pretty well-versed.  But here’s my problem:  I just don’t know how to write about music.

When I talk about movies or books or tv, it’s easy to describe scenes and actors and plots and stuff like that.  It’s all visual, so you can describe what you see, and you can include pictures to accompany.  But music is purely auditory.  You can hear it, which makes it difficult to describe to other people.  I can talk about certain lyrics I hear, but to try to explain why I love Kelly Clarkson’s vocals or John Mayer’s guitar seems impossible to me.  Why do I love the way Vanessa-Mae’s violin sounds?  Why does Dido’s voice haunt me?  I don’t know.  I feel like I can’t back up why I like something without just playing the song for someone and saying, “See what I mean?  Sounds great, yeah?”

I’ve written one blog about music before, and that was excruciating.  Seriously, to try describe why I like the score to Lord of the Rings was like trying to describe why I like the taste of Skittles.  Um, because I like it?  I don’t know, it just sounds really beautiful!  This is why trying to write about music hurts my brain.

The only way I can express how I feel about certain music is to play the iPod Shuffle game.  I know it’s a totally lame attempt at doing this, but come on.  It’s a fun game, and it not only reminds me of what music I have in my collection (which 20,000 songs, I tend to forget), but it also introduces music to other people.  And that’s what I love best about music.  I force people to listen to my iPod in my car, or force them to listen to my iPod at work, even if they don’t know what the hell they’re listening to.  If they hear a song they’ve never heard, or one they haven’t heard in a long time, and I see them jamming to it, I feel great.  I feel validated, like my taste in music is different from everyone else’s.  And that’s a pretty good feeling.

So here we go.  The iPod Shuffle game.

1.How Are You Feeling Today?  “The Stairs of Cirith Ungol” from The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Complete Recordings

2.Will I get Far In Life?  “I’ll Cover You” from Rent: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

3.What Is my Best Friend’s Theme Song?  “Natural Disaster” by Plain White T’s

4. What is/Was High School Like?  “Nights on Broadway” by The Bee Gees

5.What is The Best Thing About Me?  “The Man I Love” by Kate Bush

6.How Was Yesterday?  “I Me Mine” by The Beatles

7.What is my Love Life Like?  “Touch of Heaven” by Richard Marx

8.What will my Parents Say To me?  “I Go to Sleep” by The Pretenders

9.What Song Will They Play On My Funeral?  “Marilou Sous La Neige” from French Cafe

10.How Does The World See Me?  “Between the Lines” by Leigh Nash

11. What do My Friends Really Think Of Me?  “A Neverending Dream” by Cascada

12.What is the World Keeping Secret From Me?  “Old Shep” by Elvis Presley

13. How Do I make Myself Happy?  “Love Me or Leave Me” by Lena Horne

14.What Should I Do With My Life?  “Cupid” by Jack Johnson

15.Will I Have Children?  “When You Were Mine” by Prince

16. What is Good Advice?  “This” by Lisa Loeb

17.What does everyone Else Think Of My Current Life?  “Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure

18.What Type Of Men/Women Do I like?  “The World is New” by Save Ferris

19.Where Will I Live?  “2000 Miles” by Coldplay

20.What Will My Dying Words Be?  “Where You Lead, I Will Follow” by Carole King

Well, none of that actually made sense, but still…it was fun.  And yes, it was a lame cop-out in explaining why I like music, but to me it’s a little better than telling you that I love Lady Gaga’s songs because they’re pop music at its best, or that Colbie Caillat’s voice makes me feel totally relaxed, or that INXS had the best guitar riffs, or that I love to sing along to Britney Spears.  I can only tell you facts; I can’t explain to you why.  I guess that’s why music is so personal – only we know why we love songs the way we do.  It’s just how we feel.

Just don’t ask me why.

Happy listening!

Posted in Catching TV, Geeking Out, Listening to Music, Reading Books, Watching Movies, Writing Stuff Down

Giving Thanks

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment to acknowledge all that I’m thankful for in this world.  Of course I’m thankful for my family and friends and the health of my loved ones, but I’d like to give thanks to the little things in my life, the little things that make my life just a little bit better everyday.  So a big THANK YOU to:

1.  The Rolling Hills Starbucks for always getting my drink right.

2.  Glee, for giving me a reason to watch TV on Tuesday nights.

3.  Britney Spears, for coming back better than ever.

4.  M&Ms, for being evil and amazing at the same time.

5.  My car, for understanding me.

6.  Meg Cabot, Suzanne Collins, Lauren Oliver, Lauren DeStefano, Carrie Ryan, Shannon Hale, and Cassandra Clare, for writing books that I LOVE.

7.  J.K. Rowling, for being determined to get Harry Potter published even though hundreds of publishers turned you down.

8.  Suri’s Burn Book, for making me laugh out loud every single time I read it.

9.  Team Umi Zoomi, for making my daughter obsessed with counting and measuring things.

10.  Apple, for creating the iPod ten years ago and letting me love music even more.

11.  Peter Jackson, for creating three movies that changed my life.

12.  Sweden, for being awesome.

13.  Facebook, not for being a huge time-waster, but for keeping me connected to friends across the miles.

14.  Christian Bale, for existing.

15.  The iPhone app Flower Garden, for giving me the excuse to say, “I need to water my flowers.”

16.  Nathan Fillion, for being Captain Mal, and for putting your hand on my shoulder.

17.  Disney, for keeping fairy tales alive.

18.  My daughter, for being just as much of a smart-ass as me.

19.  Bacon, for your wonderful smell.

20.  Angry Birds, for making me ANGRY.

21.  Kelly Clarkson, for belting it out.  Every.  Single.  Time.

22.  IKEA, for furnishing my entire apartment.

23.  Twitter, for turning me into a young adult lit author stalker.

24.  Doctor Who, for Matt Smith and Karen Gillan.

25.  Comic-Con, for the chance to be around 100,00 people just like me for five days.

26.  The clouds, for making it rain every now and then.

27.  Krista Huot, for creating some of the most beautiful paintings I’ve ever seen.

28.  Target, for always having what I need…even when I don’t need it.

29.  The Walking Dead, for making me hope that a zombie apocalypse will NEVER happen, no matter how entertaining it is to watch on TV.

30.  Everyone who’s ever read this blog, because it’s nice to know someone is listening.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Posted in Listening to Music

Film Score Geek

That’s right, you heard it here first.  When it comes to film scores – aka “the music you hear in the background of movies” – I’m a total geek.  I have been ever since childhood, ever since I heard the opening theme for Star Wars…Star Wars, of course, being the one to which I compare every score.

John Williams is sort of considered the be the Master of Film Scores, at least in my book.  I mean, check out his resume:

1. Star Wars (all six movies)

2. Indiana Jones (all four movies)

3. Jaws

4. E.T.

5. Harry Potter (the first three)

6. Jurassic Park

7. Schindler’s List

8. Superman

Blah, blah, blah…the list goes on.  Basically, just think of every movie Steven Spielberg has made, and then you have most of what John Williams has done.

Of course John Williams isn’t the only guy out there writing scores for movies.  There are many others, most of which you won’t recognize by name, but once you hear the music you’ll probably say, “Oh, hey, I’ve seen that movie!”  And don’t feel bad…most of these guys don’t want to be super famous…they just want to be respected in the world of music.

I have my favorite film scores, of course, outside of the John Williams box.  Howard Shore, for example, did the score for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which in my opinion blew Star Wars right out of the galaxy.  And he’s Canadian.

Another composer that has done a considerable body of work is Hans Zimmer, the mastermind behind such classic scores as The Lion King, Gladiator, Inception, and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  I first discovered him when I became obsessed with the movie The Power of One, which took place in South Africa.  The score was compiled mostly of African drums and choirs and sounds amazing.  In fact, if it weren’t for this movie, Zimmer would have never composed the score for The Lion King, which everyone pretty much has ingrained into their heads.

One composer whom I feel is totally underrated (not saying that the others are overrated, but whatever) is Patrick Doyle.  He has the same sort of partnership with director Kenneth Branagh that Williams has with Spielberg.  He’s composed most of Branagh’s films, from Henry V to Much Ado About Nothing to Thor.  He also composed the score for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and while I love what John Williams created for the first three movies, Doyle made a masterpiece out of it with his melodic symphonies.

And I can’t write this blog without mentioning Danny Elfman – another composer with a director teammate (Tim Burton) – who has composed a ton of my favorite movies: the first two Batman movies, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Beetlejuice, Alice in Wonderland, and the AMAZING The Nightmare Before Christmas. Being a member of Oingo-Boingo, however, gives him a slight advantage to being awesome.

So those are my “Big Five” when it comes to film composers: Williams, Shore, Zimmer, Doyle, and Elfman.  There are a few others who are starting to get my attention like James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight), Alexandre Desplat (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1 & 2), and Javier Navarrete (his Pan’s Labyrinth is beautiful), able to make the movie they’re composing a work of art.

So I suggest the next time you watch a movie, pay attention to the music in the background.  You might be surprised by how good it is, and how important it is not only to the movie, but to the music world itself.

Happy listening!

Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, Reading Books, Watching Movies

There’s No “Guilt” in Guilty Pleasure

Everyone’s got a guilty pleasure.  Even if you think you don’t, I guarantee that you do, hidden somewhere in there amongst all the things you consider to be okay to like.  The official Wikipedia definition of a guilty pleasure is “something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. The “guilt” involved is sometimes simply fear of others discovering one’s lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes.”

So basically, people are afraid of what people will think of them if they found out they secretly have posters of Justin Beiber up on their wall.  And they’re NOT 12 years old.  It’s understandable why someone would feel guilty about that, right?

But why should we feel guilty?  What’s wrong with liking something that you enjoy?  Just because someone likes to watch Make It Or Break It – and they’re male – should not make them feel ashamed of themselves.  This is a free country.  People should be able to enjoy what they want without ridicule.

There are some people out there who will claim that they have guilty pleasures like Star Wars and pizza.  First of all, let’s get one thing straight.  Star Wars is NOT a guilty pleasure.  While there are people out there who aren’t into it or haven’t even seen them, Star Wars is so overwhelmingly popular that it can’t be a guilty pleasure.  People who are fans of it don’t try to hide it.  The same goes for pizza, or all junk food for that matter.  Have you ever met someone who was embarrassed for eating M&Ms?  Highly unlikely.

Bottom line:  Guilty pleasures are usually accepted as things that don’t follow the fold, things that aren’t super popular, but popular enough for people to feel embarrassed about it.  And that feeling of embarrassment needs to stop.  We live in a world of automatons who lack originality, only liking things because it’s widely accepted as cool.  People who are proud of their guilty pleasures, or people who don’t even use the word “guilty” are the interesting ones, because they’re not afraid to like something different.  And they’re not afraid to be themselves.

For example, I’m not afraid to admit that I still like Debbie Gibson, or that I love the movie Point Break.  Debbie Gibson remains the youngest female to write, record, and perform a No. 1 single to date, and, well…there’s Kee-ah-nu.

And Christian Bale is great as the Dark Knight, but have you seen him in Newsies?  That movie is AWESOME, and most people who’ve seen it are too afraid to admit it.  I mean, come on…the boy does THIS:

High kick!

My favorite movie of ALL-TIME is The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.  Am I embarrassed to tell people that?  HELL NO.  The movie was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, for pete’s sake.  And Return of the King won Best Picture!  So I’m obviously not “weird” because I like those movies. But I like a lot of movies that aren’t considered to be the norm when it comes to what people like, especially for my age.  Is it so wrong that I love Disney animated movies?  That Sleeping Beauty is still one of my favorite movies of all time?  That I have seen the movie Babes in Toyland no less than two billion times?

And speaking of Annette, I’m not afraid of telling anyone that in high school I was Obsessed – with a capital ‘O’ – with The Mickey Mouse Club, aka MMC for the cooler, hipper crowd.  While other kids my age were listening to Nirvana and Pearl Jam, my HS bestie and I were busy pretending we were MMC members, recording every episode and having MMC marathons and recording songs from off the TV onto a cassette tape (archaic, I know), and even filming our own episode.  I’m sure people thought we were insane – well, maybe we were a little – but did we care?

If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I’m a huge fan of young adult lit, especially of the paranormal, dystopian kind.  And lots of people are, even my age.  But I know a lot of other people of all ages who look down on my reading choices.  And to them I say, “Well, show me what you’re reading right now”, to which they usually come up empty.

Just because I like – yes, I really do – like the Twilight series does not mean that there’s something wrong with me.  Do I think Stephenie Meyer is the greatest author ever?  No.  But I do enjoy her stories, as I do most all vampire stories.  It’s entertainment, people.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be entertained.  So don’t roll your eyes at me when you see me reading some book about an angsty teen faerie.  I don’t make fun of the mainstream James Patterson book you’re reading, so don’t make fun of the supernatural love story that I’m reading.  Which is probably way better than your crappy book anyway.

So the next time you’re about the make fun of someone for liking something that’s considered “uncool”, take a look at yourself in the mirror and think about your guilty pleasures.  How many times have you put in your Hanson CD in your car and sung along to EVERY WORD, secretly wishing you could roll down your windows and let the whole world know?  Or how about that time you had a bad day at work and put in the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, not because you like whales, but because you think it’s the best damn Star Trek movie of the whole series?

Think about that.  The next time a co-worker of yours announces that she’s going to go home and watch Degrassi, don’t just roll your eyes and mutter, “Lame.”  Just remember that Hanson CD sitting in your car, and remember that every one of us is different.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Or something like that.

To Each Its Own.  Just remember that.