#11 – Europe – “The Final Countdown” – (1986)

Oh, that wonderful keyboard! I guess this was glam metals attempt to incorporate synth pop into their sound. This is such an incredibly recognizable song – especially that keyboard riff. It’s one of those tracks that appears on uplifting and sports/triumph lists. Frankly, when I hear this song I can only think of one thing and that is Gob Bluth’s magic acts from the TV series Arrested Development. Will Arnett dances around stage with a knife in his mouth while this song plays before he performs a big “illusion.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

Lily Allen – “LDN” – (2006)

“Sun is in the sky oh why, oh why would I wanna be anywhere else?” That’s the question Lily poses throughout the song and she’s right. London is amazing and I wish I was still there. I was really hoping to just be walking down the street in London and have Lily Allen walk by… because she’s awesome (and gorgeous). “LDN” might not be her best song but it’s still pretty good and it’s all about the town – but not in a good way. It paints this pretty picture with a chipper beat but every happy lyrics takes a turn and people that at first appear to be just hanging out are actually drug dealers. Which is something I experienced. Maybe I’m just glorifying the city in my mind because I enjoyed myself so thoroughly, but then I remember walking to my hotel in Canning Town and there are people just chilling on the street corners and then we heard a siren in the distance and everyone that was just standing around all went running down an alley so the cop driving by wouldn’t see them. Nice. I’d still go back in an instant.

Professor Green feat. Ed Drewett – “I Need You Tonight” – (2010)

Generally speaking, I really don’t like rappers taking pop songs from the past and just rapping over them. It’s not original. Write your own music. That said, I love this song. That has a lot to do with INXS being able to write incredibly catchy hooks and some to do with the really cool accented rapping from Professor Green. I found this song on the U.K. singles chart before I left for Europe and I found myself listening to it on the train to London. It’s quite British – I don’t think the song has ever been played on American radio but it was a top 5 in the U.K.

 

 

Yann Tiersen – “L’Autre Valse d’Amelie” – (2001)

So we’re taking a break from the 80’s for a while. Over the next 6-8 weeks we’ll be covering (and possibly introducing) songs that correspond with my travels that took place one short year ago. I took a grand European tour last summer that started June 9th. This thing starts a few days later but we’ll cover the same ground. So, for every country I went to we’ll be covering songs that either I listened to/discovered while I was there or songs that exemplify the region – which is what this song does. Amelie is one of my favorite films and this is one of the more popular original pieces composed by French musician Yann Tiersen for the film. I spent the first weekend and the following week in Le Mans then Nantes, France. Paris came the following week and this is the type of music I expected to hear on every street corner. Needless to say it didn’t happen. I found that Paris is much more magical in the movies.