July 2011

Dean Martin – “That’s Amore” – (1953)

I hear this song every time I eat at The Olive Garden. So I thought, when I go to Italy, this is the type of thing they’ll be playing while I eat. Wrong! I ate at a decently sized restaurant in Venice and what were they playing? Mariah Carey and Enigma. Needless to say, I was disappointed. But seriously, if someone opened an Olive Garden in Rome they’d be rich. The food in that part of Italy doesn’t have a lot of flavor. It’s actually kind of bland. I didn’t make it to Sicily, but I suspect things improve as you head south. Song-wise, they don’t come much better than this. Take it away, Dino!

N*E*R*D feat. Nelly Furtado – “Hot-N-Fun” – (2010)

While visiting Cinque Terre, we stayed in nearby La Spezia (just south of Riomaggiore). Each morning while waiting for each other to get ready so we could walk across the street to the train station from our hotel, we’d flip on the TV. There was one channel we could kind of understand and that was DeeJay TV (the station we saw Lady Gaga on in Venice). I remember seeing the video for this song and absolutely falling in love with the song. Still, a year later, I listen to the song at least weekly. Almost every time I hear it I think back to La Spezia and wish so hard that I was still there.

Jack Johnson – “You and Your Heart” – (2010)

I didn’t really know what to expect from the radio stations in Italy. I didn’t get a feel for it in Venice (I saw a Lady Gaga music video on TV, “Alejandro,” I think). We visited Cinque Terre, the national park that consists of 5 picturesque towns on the Italian Riviera (I highly recommend it). Anyway, our first full day there, we got off the train and walked through the tunnel into Riomaggiore (the southernmost of the 5 towns). When we walked out of tunnel we were in the upper part of the town and this song was blaring from a large patio area that overlooks the lower part of town. There was an unattended tent from a local radio station (whose name and call letters I forget) and it was playing this song. I found it kind of odd that this is what they were listening to, but it is on the coast and Jack Johnson is definitely coastal music.

Fiorello & the Guy Barker International Quintet feat. Jude Law & Matt Damon – “Tu Vuo’ Fa L’Americano” – (1999)

This song was originally written in 1956 by, guess who, Renato Carosone. This is my favorite version of it. It featured Jude Law and Matt Damon singing from the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley (which is an awesome movie). This song was – in a way – very popular during 2010. Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP used it in their hugely popular “We No Speak Americano.” When I think “Italian songs,” I immediately think of “Tu Vuo’ Fa L’Americano.”

Renato Carosone – “Mambo Italiano” – (1954)

Guess what country we’ve moved to this week. Italy! I heard a Frenchwoman say that “the Italians are just like the French – but happy.” And it’s true. There’s just something about being in Italy that makes you happy. I was walking around Venice singing this song – except for whatever reason I was substituting “Janet Napolitano” for “Mambo Italiano.” At the time I had no idea who she was and looked it up later (she’s the Secretary of Homeland Security in the U.S.). It was kind of the theme for Italy while I was there. The album cover to the right is a picture from La Dolce Vita – a film that romanticizes Italy like nothing else. I ate at a gelato shop in Rome called La Dolce Vita (which means: “The Sweet Life”). Also, when I walked past the Trevi Fountain, I wanted to go running through it. Renato Carosone was kind of the king of Italian music throughout the 50s and later. This is probably his best.

Edward Maya feat. Vika Jigulina – “Stereo Love” – (2009)

Well there’s a reason this song has over 126 million views on YouTube. It is the longest charting song in the European Hot 100’s history (46 weeks), with 17 of those at #1. The song first appeared in 2009 and rocked the spring and summer of 2010. It didn’t peak in the United States until 2011. Edward Maya is Romanian, and the rumor you hear whispered in Europe is that Romania has the best dance clubs. With guys like Maya out there, I believe it. This song was absolutely huge. The video was shot in Greece, which isn’t in Spain, but the Mediterranean coast is pretty amazing regardless of where you’re viewing it. I can think of few better “summer songs” than this. It’s awesome.

K’naan – “Wavin’ Flag” – (2009)

K’naan is a Somali-born Canadian rapper. How many Somalian singers do you know? Anyway, “Wavin’ Flag” was one of the official songs for the 2010 World Cup. Actually, I believe that “Waka Waka” was the official official song. This was Coca-Cola’s official promotional song. Anyway, it reeks of soccer, football, futbol or whatever you wanna call it. It also is very international sounding – and just about every country had their own remix of the song. So what does this have to do with Spain? I was in Spain the day before they won the 2010 World Cup. It was about to get crazy. I was rooting for Holland.

Energpisy – “Joselito” – (1999)

“Joselito” is an instrumental flamenco song. Flamenco music originated in Spain in the 18th century and today has become famous for featuring amazing guitar work. And adding Flamenco + Spain = Flamenco dancers, which I expected to see everywhere (which was a dumb thing to expect). I did see one in Park Guell in Barcelona. This is the kind of music you hear in your mind walking around Spain – or the kind of music you hear on some kind of travel documentary while a camera man is walking around Spain.

Shakira feat. Dizzee Rascal – “Loca” – (2010)

“Waka Waka” may have been the song of the summer from a European perspective, but Shakira wasn’t ready to call it a year. I know “Loca” wasn’t technically released until September, a month after I returned, but the music video was shot in Barcelona. There are two versions of this, the English and Spanish version. The Spanish version features El Cata doing the rap, the English has Dizzee Rascal. This is both of the performers’ second song on this list and it has exhausted my knowledge of Dizzee Rascal’s discography. “Loca” is a good summer song and the video showcases the beach in Barcelona, which Discovery Channel ranked as the third best beach in the world. Maybe, but it’s way crowded.

João Donato – “A Rã” – (1971)

Yes, João Donato is Brazilian and Brazil isn’t even in Europe. This week I was in Spain – a day in Madrid and three days in Barcelona. I also realize that this song is an example of Bossa Nova, which is Brazilian music. However, while in Barcelona I visited the “Harlem Jazz Club” – which featured live Bossa Nova music, which is more or less Brazilian jazz. I’m still confused as to why they felt they needed to tack on “Harlem,” but whatever. So, for the sake of whatever, I felt I should feature some Bossa Nova for Barcelona.

Daft Punk – “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” – (2001)

Yeah, the video here is of Daft Hands – the viral version of someone who has written all of the song’s lyrics on their fingers and moves their hands like they’re doing karaoke. This was the song that got my hooked on electronica. Daft Punk is amazing, but for whatever reason (read: success), hardcore electronica fans tend to mock them. “It’s sooo lame that they’re successful and make money.” Whatever. Kanye West – America’s least most creative “musician” – sampled this song in his #1 hit “Stronger.” If you want to get someone hooked on techno – let them hear this. Or make them watch Daft Hands or Daft Bodies – it’s hard to hate the videos or the song. Oh, and as is apparently the case with all electro-house duos, Daft Punk is also from Paris.

Kraftwerk – “Trans-Europe Express” – (1977)

Kraftwerk is amazing. This song is from 1977 and it still kind of holds up. But if you’re on a train in Europe – this is the song you must be listening to. It’s the perfect train-riding song. That’s all there is to it. I talked a few weeks ago about their Tour de France Soundtracks and they’re great too, but this just seems required. Oh, and I’m pretty sure at least two of the people on that album cover could be Saturday Night Live’s Will Forte.

Justice – “Genesis” – (2007)

You’ve probably heard this song on TV – be it in a commercial or in a show. The first seconds of 30 or so seconds of buildup lead to a great drop at the 38 second mark. It’s one of the best songs in electronic music in the past 10 years. Justice is a French duo from Paris who were nominated for a Grammy for this album which is called “cross” when you speak it but the official title is “” – which is kind of a weird, Prince-y thing to do. Hey, I wonder if Genesis has a song called Justice…

Domino Dancing – “You Are My Sunshine” – (2009)

I really don’t know anything about Domino Dancing. Not where they’re from, who they are. Nada. I do know a few things: 1. I heard this song everywhere last summer (mostly at outdoor music festivals in France). 2. It is very misleading. Yes, I heard it everywhere, but not the full song. The first two minutes of this song consists of somebody singing “You are my sunshine” to a decent beat. This turns most people off to it. Then, at the two minute mark it goes insane. This was the part I heard in Europe – the part without lyrics. So I had no idea what it was. When I got back to North America I searched and searched. It took over four months but I finally found it and I’m so glad I did because it’s pretty awesome.

Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP – “We No Speak Americano” – (2010)

This week was spent in Belgium with a night in Amsterdam. I don’t know what sort of “Belgian music” I was supposed to have heard, but I didn’t really hear anything. For that sake, I didn’t really hear anything music-wise in Amsterdam either. But what I imagine music in Amsterdam to sound like is house music. Techno. This was one of the biggest songs of 2010 – in Europe especially. It was a #1 hit in both Belgium and the Netherlands – as well as most of the rest of Europe (and South Korea). This song is based on Renato Carosone’s 1956 song “Tu vuo fa l’americano,” which is pretty good in its own right, but it just doesn’t have that house feel that you’d normally expect from a song from the 1950s. Oh, and as it turns out, people in both the Netherlands and Belgium do speak Americano – and quite well.

Florence & the Machine feat. Dizzee Rascal – “You Got the Dirtee Love” – (2010)

Florence & the Machine pretty much rock as is. At the 2010 BRIT Awards, they performed their song “You Got the Love” live but it featured Dizzee Rascal’s song “Dirtee Cash” intertwined with theirs. This version of the song was only performed a few other times but it did sell over 250,000 copies and hit #2 on the U.K. charts. Florence Welch can really belt out lyrics – Dolores O’Riordan-style. The mash-up between these two is pretty good – Dizzee Rascal can spit a rap like few others. He had quite the summer as he will be featured on this European countdown-type thing once more in a few weeks.

Example – “Won’t Go Quietly” – (2010)

Example is a British rapper – but he doesn’t look like a rapper. He kind of reminds me of Screech. The song is a catchy, electronica-based pop song with decipherable lyrics – all with a European-bent. For whatever reason, this song probably wouldn’t have had much – if any – success in America (it didn’t – it probably wasn’t released in the U.S.) but I see no reason why not. When sung, the lyrics don’t have any sort of accent – something that seems to turn off American listeners. Everything about it says “this is going to get stuck in your head.” But whatever, I don’t get paid if it does well in America. And I like having some catchy songs to introduce to people that they haven’t heard.

Oasis – “Don’t Look Back in Anger” – (1995)

Well I figured since I was still on “London” that I had to include something from Oasis, as I count them as the quintessential “British band” of the last 20 years (sorry, Jamiroquai). As you’ll notice by the date of Monday’s post, I was in London on the 4th of July. I saw once instance of fireworks but that was it. It was tempting to buy an American flag and go running around town but I figured that by this point they’d probably be pretty happy to have gotten rid of the U.S. I had to pick an Oasis song because it was the one band that I kept listening to in the U.K., but since I’ve already covered “Wonderwall” on our 90s countdown, I went for another big single from What’s the Story (Morning Glory)? (although I almost went for “Lyla”). I find the song to be a mix of “Wonderwall” and “Stop Crying Your Heart Out,” the latter of which I’ve seen described as an “epic weepy” and this is kind of the same thing. The “So Sally can wait” portion of the chorus is quite the hook. Very good song.

La Roux – “Bulletproof” – (2009)

If you ignore that haircut you just might be able to enjoy this song. It’s sooo catchy but I hated it at first – because I saw the music video, which more or less horrified me (you’ll notice I did not include the music video below… mostly because Polydor won’t let me). But I grew to love it. It was a Top 10 in the U.S. and a #1 in the U.K. – and rightfully so. There is something decidedly English about this song. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s “electropop” and electropop isn’t something that U.S. really embraces anymore (not since the 80s anyway). Listening to it, even her voice has a very synthetic quality about it (probably because it was run through an auto-tuner) but the way she says “bulletproof” can really hook you in. Love it.

Shakira feat. Freshlyground – “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” – (2010)

“Waka Waka” was the theme for the 2010 World Cup, which was being held in South Africa while I was in Europe – so it was way more intense than had I been in North America, which I’m sure was just thrilled with it. The popularity of this song was also quite European – it charted Top 40 in the U.S. but was a #1 in almost every European country and it stayed there for a majority of the summer. Every time I hear this song I picture Lionel Messi sprinting down the field in his white and blue Argentina jersey or the yellows and greens of all the Brazilian flags waving in the stands. This song kind of defines last summer, from a European perspective anyway. It’s very catchy and every time you hear it just imagine everyone around you blowing a vuvuzela.

Coldplay– “Life in Technicolor” – (2008)

I had always preferred “Life in Technicolor II,” the vocal version from Prospekt’s March EP to this, the instrumental version. But that changed when I bought my ticket to ride the London Eye. It came with a ticket for the “4D Experience” – which was some video you sat through with 3D glasses and stuff. The video that they showed really stuck with me – especially because this Coldplay song was playing and it really gave a sense of amazement or power or something (the 4D video is below and “Life in Technicolor” is the second song within it). I miss London.