August 2011

John Cougar – “Hand to Hold On To” – (1982)

This was the third track and the third single from American Fool and considering that it followed up both “Hurts so Good” as well as “Jack & Diane” it really never stood a chance. It flew under the radar in 1982 and still does. I’ve heard it on the radio, but not with the same frequency we get other Mellencamp hits. It’s still decent and very early-80s-Mellencamp.

Janet Jackson – “Black Cat” – (1989)

We’re going back to the 1980s for a few weeks starting with yet another song from Rhythm Nation. This song was a departure for Janet – it’s not your typical R&B song – actually, it’s not an R&B song at all. It’s rock. Which is weird. Janet has written three songs entirely by herself, and this was the first. If you think about it, R&B singers don’t venture into the rock arena all that often. Her brother, Michael, did it a few times… the best probably being “Black or White.”

Scouting for Girls – “This Ain’t a Love Song” – (2010)

And the final track this week from the Songs-That-Were-Big-In-The-U.K.-But-Never-Appeared-On-U.S.-Radio file is this. This was Scouting for Girls’ first #1 in the U.K. and I think I can safely say they’ve never been played on American radio. It’s a fine song… something that could’ve been written in the 90s (that is a huge compliment). It’s not quite Oasis as there is not enough infighting in the band. I wish there were more songs like this topping the charts – in the U.K., U.S. or anywhere. It’s a great change of pace from the never ending stream of hip-hop.

Lily Allen – “Alfie” – (2006)

This song is apparently about Lily’s brother, Alfie and his being lazy. The song is quite catchy with Lily’s soft voice and children’s song-type beat. I read somewhere that it reminded the reviewer of a fairground song and that’s about as perfect description as I’ve seen. There really isn’t much to say about this song other than it’s fun. I hope that’s not what I said about Monday’s song… but I think it is. I’ll have to come up with something more original for Friday. And yes, I realize that since I’ve started incorporating videos in the post, they can’t be played on this site. That’s what I get for trying to link to the “official” video because I thought it would be more stable than a user-uploaded video. But if you click through you can still listen to it and watch the video. Next week, when I go back to the 80s, it’ll be as it used to be, just the link.

Roll Deep feat. Jodie Connor – “Good Times” – (2010)

Grime is a type of music that I can best describe as garage band meets hip-hop. It’s like garage hip-hop. Roll Deep consists of a handful (okay, more than a handful) or members, none of whom are more famous on their own. Dizzee Rascal was in the group at its beginning and this song kind of sounds like he’s still there. This was a #1 single in the U.K. and made no waves in the U.S. It’s a fun song.

Chantal Chamberland – “La Mer” – (2009)

We’ll finish this week off with a little more French music. Chantal Chamberland is a talented jazz singer from Canada and “La Mer” is a classic French song written in 1943. If it sounds familiar (minus the lyrics), it’s because Bobby Darin used the music, quite successfully, in his song “Beyond the Sea.” The songs are not translated versions of each other – they’re two different songs, lyrically, with the same music. Chamberland’s version of “La Mer” is about as good as they come.

Beltuner – “Improbable” – (2008)

A few weeks ago I posted this song – but with no way for you to hear it. I’ve fixed that. Enjoy.

Beltuner – “No Comment (Original)” – (2008)

A few weeks ago, I posted the song “Improbable” by French group Beltuner. I had no link to the song for you to hear and have since remedied that issue. I’ll feature that song on Wednesday, but today is something new: “No Comment.” It’s your standard Parisian café music. ‘Standard’ sounds like a bad thing, but in this case it isn’t.

Bob Marley & The Wailers – “No Woman, No Cry” – (1974)

The live version of this song is pretty famous – as it’s the version included on the Legend compilation album. I prefer the studio version (as is almost always the case with every song). This is another fairly popular Marley song and one known by the walking human Bob Marley jukebox. Good song – especially when they break down at the “everything’s gonna be all right” part.

Bob Marley & The Wailers – “Redemption Song” – (1980)

One of the people I was on the trip with was a walking Bob Marley jukebox. She could sing any of his songs on command. This is an easy one to sing because when Bob did it (originally) it was acoustic and just him and a fairly quiet guitar. There was a full band version released in 2001 (and it’s pretty good – definitely more upbeat than this version).

Brandon Flowers – “Crossfire” – (2010)

Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of The Killers, released his debut solo album in 2010. The first time I heard this song was on DeeJay TV in La Spezia, Italy. And it took us a few minutes to figure out that he was, in fact, the lead singer of The Killers (the song, which is really good, sounds like something from The Killers, but a little more mellow). What took longer to figure out – actually I still haven’t figured it out – was why Charlize Theron was in the music video. Oh, well… eye candy.

Michael Bublé – “Home” – (2005)

One my way to Europe, when I arrived in Toronto to catch my connecting flight, the first song I heard playing in the airport concourse was a Michael Bublé song. It seemed expected nothing less. When I got to the airport in Toronto to catch the final flight of my journey, this was the song I listened to, waiting in some far away section of the airport for the little commuter jets. It was like 7 in the morning and there was hardly anyone there. It was weird being home. And I want to go back. We’ll be back in a week or so with some more hits from the 80s, 90s, or maybe some other decade. Maybe we’ll start another countdown. We’ll see what I feel like in a week or so…

Rush – “Tom Sawyer” – (1981)

From my favorite Canadian band – to my not-so-favorite. I don’t know what it is about Rush, but they just bore me. This is one of their most popular/most well known songs and it’s heavy on the synthesizer (but hey, it was the 80s). “Today’s Tom Sawyer – He gets high on you.” I don’t know what that means. I do like the opening lyrics, however: “A modern day warrior – mean, mean stride. Today’s Tom Sawyer – mean, mean pride.” Don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, but I kinda like it. True story: within one hour of driving across the border from Washington state to British Colombia one summer, this song came on a Canadian radio station. Which I kinda expected.

Barenaked Ladies – “It’s All Been Done” – (1998)

This is my favorite BNL song. And what does it have to do with being in Europe (besides the lyric “I met you before the fall of Rome”)? Nothing. On my return journey I stopped in Toronto and the Barenaked Ladies are my favorite Canadian band. And after 7 weeks, it had all been done. Well, not really – I’d still love to go back but I accomplished a lot and saw even more. The rumor is that Steven Page wrote this song because “Brian Wilson” was “too wordy” and he wanted to use something like “who ooh ooh” in the chorus – and it’s catchy as hell. The lyrics are really great regardless of how simple they are supposed to be. Way to go Steven Page! Now let him rejoin the band!

Lady Gaga – “Alejandro” – (2009)

I know, I know, “Two Lady Gaga songs in a row? Really?” Yeah, this is it, I promise. “Alejandro” was released as a single in late May of 2010. Where I live, songs make the radio about 3 months after they do everywhere else, so I never got to hear this before I left the continent. I remember seeing the video on DeeJay TV in Venice and thought it was catchy. So now, whenever I hear it, I think of sitting in a restaurant at about midnight in Venice. The owner was nice enough to still be open for a handful of Americans who were strolling around in the mind-boggling heat and humidity after 11:30 at night looking for dinner. It was the follow-up single to “Bad Romance” and it is better than that song. “Ale-Ale-Alejandro…”

Lady Gaga – “Bad Romance” – (2009)

This song had been out for quite some time by the time I was looking at heading home from Europe. Whenever I think of this song I think of one person I was with and she would sing the “Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah” part of this song (the catchy part). The song isn’t anything special. It’s definitely better than Lady Gaga’s first two big singles but they’ve gotten better since.