Category Archives: Music Rant/ love song

Nobody Beats CD’s

On my way to Washington D.C. this past weekend, Q104.3 (at this point in the trip just background noise) stopped playing classic rock and turned into gargles of static that no turning of any knob would fix. My parents and I hadn’t noticed until we heard fuzzy chunks of some unrecognizable Police song that tickled our ears with enough familiarity to make us crave music once again. In movies or like that Toyota Highlander commercial, parents are always singing an obnoxious song off of an even more obnoxious album. Luckily an old Bob Marley was in the armrest, left over from a previous excursion Upstate, mixed in with Silvio Rodriguez and Salsa/Calypso mixtapes.

My father initially objected, but tired and reluctant to argue from the demanding drive, he succumbed to the idea. “No woman, no cry,” starts Bob, consoling the masses at a live concert, goosebumps on my skin, raising from the dead some memories I hadn’t touched in a while.  I could feel in our shared silent indulgence, that we all sat and remembered what this song meant to us individually.

Ricardo, my older brother by exactly a day and a year, and I bought that album in the basement of what used to be Nobody Beats the Wiz on Steinway street in Astoria. It was our mother’s birthday present. Big chain music stores don’t really exist like that anymore. I remember F.Y.E. was a block south and if they didn’t have what you wanted there you could hop on the R train and pick it up on 82nd street in Jackson Heights. I used to love Virgin Mega Store at Union Square during the summer. I’d walk in and hope to find something good on sale to spend my money on instead of buying bottled water; the store was always cool. I miss it in Times Square too, before it became Forever 21. I took those escalators up and down a million times over and checked out all their Vinyl, all their eclectic aisles. I could have lived there when they started letting us scan CD barcodes for 30-second previews of every song. I was madly in love with music.

When the song ends we all come back and smile. The silence between the songs is filled up by silent humminh of “no woman, no cry.” When the next track starts it hopes to have the same effect, but we just sing along this time, enjoying a CD for the first time since we bought an iPod.

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When Music Heals The Heart

Music has always been an essential part of every day life for almost all of society. Let’s be realistic, without music, our lives would most likely be a tragedy. At least that would be my case. I grew up in a country and in a culture were music is essential in our lives. I recall  growing up and always having music present. I would do my chores and my homework while listening to music. I would eat, take a shower, get ready, read books, engaged in conversation with friends and family, and music was always heard in the background. It’s great!

Whenever I get asked what is my favorite song or type of music, i usually reply “I like all kinds of music”. I know- this answer is so common among thousands of people. But in my case, i really do like all kinds of music. Anything from Hip Hop, R&B, Latin music, including Salsa and Merengue, and so on. I particularly like music with a message; music that speaks to my heart or music that i can relate to.  Songs like “Take a Bow” by Rihanna or “Dear Mr. President” by Pink are among my favorite songs becuase I can relate to them.

On the other hand, we have music with no sense or message behind it whatsoever. Songs like “Satisfaction” by Benny Benassi or “Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar are good example of what can be classified as “meaningless” songs, but hey, we got to admit, they are really great songs we can dance to.

Music has the power to heal hearts. If we think about it, whenever we are going through a situation in our lives, there will always be a song that will relate to that situation; a song that will somehow help us feel good and feel better; it will make us smile. This goes without saying that if we are facing a difficult situation, music will help us get through it. By singing those songs that relate to us, our hearts and our minds are expressing their feelings instead of letting them build up inside. At the end of the day, we feel much better. That is the power of music, which is why I say, music heals the heart.

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Stuck in the ’80s and Not Trying to Get Out

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I was born into the wrong generation. I’d choose a corny ’80s horror flick over the best CGI or special effects any given day, I don’t think anything could make less sense than paying hundreds of dollars to look like a hippie, and, most unfortunate to me, I could count the number of new mainstream music acts that even slightly arouse my interest on one hand.

I’m not the type to write off all things mainstream at all, I’m always happy to see a good musician gain a huge following when they deserve the attention. Problem is though, that’s just not the case now. People will swarm to buy $400+ tickets to see a washed up pop-star fumble around on stage or be carried and tossed around to the tune of synthesizers and computer-made vocals, but Social Distortion (get ready for some bias, they are my favorite), a well-known and consistently awesome punk band that’s been around forever, still plays small bars and venues, usually for no more than $30.

“Artists” like Ke$ha (it pained me to type that) are praised for their individuality and quirky fashion sense. Meanwhile, if she had come out about twenty years ago when sequined leather shorts and torn up band shirts could be your Sunday best, she wouldn’t automatically join the ranks of ’80s rock goddesses like Siouxsie Sioux, Joan Jett, and Lydia Lunch. She would just be another chick with a crappy voice trying to get attention.

There's a big difference between thrash and trash

I’m not saying everything was better in the ’80s, obviously I wasn’t there and all I have are old records and other people’s memories. But hell, at least the crazy style and brave choices of musicians were great equalizers and allowed the best artists to shine through.

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Now back when I was young and dumb but thought of myself as the sharpest tool in the shed, I had a deep seated hatred of reggaeton. It was the new music genre of my people and although many will argue that originated elsewhere, it was undoubtedly popularized by Puerto Ricans. Yet, I hated it. The lyrics were dumb, every song used the same beat and it was only about one thing: sex. Oh how I would berate those who danced to it, those poor morons with terrible taste in music. These teenagers, these children, these peers of mine, how could they possibly enjoy that rubbish? And the dancing! How could my friends possibly enjoy having girls grinding on them…wait.

Well fortunately I grew up and saw the error of my ways. There is really good reason for why the music became so popular and why you can still hear it played in Latino-centric dance clubs and on Spanish radio stations. It’s the raw sexuality it exudes that gives it the appeal and raw sexuality is what many of us Latinos excel at for whatever reason (I blame the Spaniards). When I came to finally accept my fate as a papi chulo, as a Don Juan (you see the Spaniard connection?), as a vessel for the steamy Latin passion my culture and stereotypes in the media say that I possess, I found myself falling in love with reggaeton. No, it isn’t intellectually stimulating like say classical music nor does it require the technical skill of heavy metal and it certainly isn’t about real life issues like old school rap. It isn’t even as sentimental as more traditional Latino music but it does excel at one thing that no other genre can even come close to. Reggaeton makes both genders go into heat like horny dogs. It’s a primal return to our roots. Through reggaeton, you can become closer to our animal brethren. You can make like a bonobo [CAUTION: THIS LINK IS VERY EDUCATIONAL] and bump your sexy bits. The only real reason I hated it was because I thought the hypersexualization was immature and uncivilized.

Well, whether or not reggaeton appeals to you really depends on how conservative you are. As for me, I learned that being civilized is overrated.

Dame lo que quiero.

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And You Call Yourself a Singer?

What I’ve noticed lately, is that every day there are more people popping up and calling themselves “singers” when they’re really entertainers. Some of them aren’t even talented, but become famous because they put on a good show.

Ke$ha rocking the uncombed hair look

Ke$ha is a perfect example of this. Her lyrics are funny, she makes noises and growls in her songs, and her hair normally has an uncombed look to it. Although this all makes her great to watch, her actual voice is high-pitched and irritating. She can’t compare to someone with real talent, like Madonna, and yet she’s famous because we all want to see what she does next.

The same goes for Lady Gaga, who rose to fame by making a spectacle of herself. Her ridiculous outfits and crazy persona overshadow her music. She uses blood and makeup and hairpieces in her performances.

Eric Rachmany, lead singer of Rebelution

Now, I like a good show as much as the next person, but I’d much rather go to a concert and hear REAL music, a concert where the focus is the talent, rather than the costumes and props. I recently saw Rebelution perform at Irving Plaza and I thought to myself, this is what music is all about. The concert focused solely on the band’s talent.

The lead singer was passionate and sang in tune the entire time. You could tell he was feeling the song and he prolonged stares with audience members to make sure they were feeling the same as he was. That’s what I call a real musician. I’d like to think one day entertainers will stop calling themselves musicians and leave the singing to people who are actually talented.

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Hip Hop and Ya Dont Stop…or Do You?

Please and Thank You

Imagine it is the early 90’s, Gameboy colors and Macintosh computers were all the rage, girls were shamelessly wearing mom jeans and keds and boys had colorful windbreakers and were bumping music through stereos they’d carry around on the street. Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills 90210 were some of the popular shows of the time and Hip Hop music was breaking through onto mainstream music.

Dj Kool Herc

Hip Hop first originated through DJ Kool Herc, a native New Yorker who collaborated music and soulful lyrics together and inspired many rappers to do the same.  Artists such as Jay Z, Nas, The Notorious BIG, 2pac, Mobb Deep, Run DMC, Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, A Tribe Called Quest and countless others started breaking onto the airwaves and set impeccably high standards for the definition of hip hop.

As years have passed, I (along with I’m sure everyone else in the world) have come to realize that this beautiful and once respected genre of music has sadly taken some crazy out-of-control turn into what I can’t even begin to claim is hip hop anymore. Newest artists on the rise include Waka Flocka Flame,  Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj (Team Lil Kim forever) and others have turned Hip Hop into some kind of joke. An example of this can be seen in a new song by YG (I know…who?) called “Toot it and Boot it.” These are the disgraces that are being played on the radio and that oddly enough the younger generation seems to enjoy.

Oh really?

Even the OG’s of hip hop have sold their soul and have began to demean their talents just to get played on the radio. (like hello… Snoop Dogg is featured on every track ever made) This leaves me to wonder… what is going on here? Why is it that great rappers like Jay Z and Dr. Dre feel the need to turn their talents and make them “pop”ish just to get fans to like them? You could blame it on the kids but I’m sure if rappers just stuck to their roots and produced the once amazing tracks there once were there wouldn’t be such controversy.

This also brings on the scary thought that maybe all the good hip hop has just simply died out. Maybe, every amazing track has already been made and after a while it could simply just get repetitive? I’m not one to be pessimistic, so I will say that there are definitely new artists who are trying to bring back the true meaning of hip hop. If you want to check them out you can click here but in the meantime I guess we all just have to hope for the best and listen to old school hip hop to remind ourselves it was once amazing.

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Oh Pandora, you dirty slut.

“He’s not free at that time.. he has an availability at 4 o’clock though..” I repeated robotically into the phone, for the second time, to the absent-minded client. Around me blow dryers were whirring loudly and my coworkers at the receptionist desk where I work were all yelling behind me. At least it felt like yelling to me with all these different noises to process, my mind was working double time on trying to decipher what the client on the phone was trying to explain to me. “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” I practically shouted on the phone. “I SAID I’ll take the four o’clock appointment,” the client repeated loudly and very slowly as if just because I hadn’t heard her the first time I had suddenly become not only deaf but stupid as well.

Yelling on the phone and asking clients to repeat themselves is a normal daily occurrence at my job at a hair salon, where we cater to around 300 demanding clients a day. The noise level can get pretty unbearable at times, with not only blow dryers going full speed all day but clients chattering and stylists gossiping. My ears’ one solace during the work day, is the radio, which we play to keep us in good spirits; Pandora to be exact, which we stream off of the internet.

On the lucky days that I get to choose which Pandora station we will be listening to, I am ecstatic. What’s better than being at work, but getting to hear music you like (aside from the Christmas season, when nothing but cringe-worthy Christmas music is played for 2 months straight)? Nothing, except possibly being at home and listening to music you like.

So, I’m booking the client’s appointment, and mid-keystroke I hear an unfamiliar voice booming from above, Charlie Brown’s teacher style. All I managed to catch was, “book your trip now!” along with some awfully catchy jingle. Wait, what?

I finally managed to get the client off the phone with a nice fake cheery “Have a great day!” before turning to my coworker, Kristy, in horror. “Did Pandora really just play a commercial on air?” She nodded in agreement and confirmed my worst nightmare: radio commercials.

Now I understand that Pandora needs to make money somehow, but I was really disappointed when I found out they were playing commercials on air. The main reason why we were using Pandora (besides the best feature being that they are free) is because unlike the radio they don’t play commercials on air.

My love affair with Pandora has been tainted ever since. Its commercial betrayal hit me hard, it was almost as if I’d come home and found Pandora in bed with the hot gardener. My brief love affair with Pandora was quick but heartbreaking. Aren’t the best romances always? Don’t worry, Pandora,I’ve learned my lesson.. you won’t ever fool me again.



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Music Converting On Screen

Movies aren’t all about horror, fiction, action, or romance anymore, these days documentaries are starting to become a new hit. Artists have taken over the movie theatres, not only with their songs but also by appearing on screen and giving us a glimpse of their musical journey.

I have cousins that are big fans of Justin Bieber, and although I don’t see what the big hype about him is, I was forced to take them to see his first movie, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. I rolled my eyes when I walked in and anticipated the dreadful 105 minutes that I had to go through. Surprisingly, I didn’t find it as horrifying sitting through it as I did for the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour movie.

I came out appreciating the artists for taking us into a part of their world. It provided a version of what it is like shadowing them through the camera lens as well as getting to know the artist’s unseen private life.

Some artists try to kill two birds with one stone by allowing the making of the documentary to help bring up revenues as well as letting their fans get the satisfying end of getting up close to them. I find it smart and a bit too easy.

I can’t say that I love these documentaries as a movie but I do appreciate the effort especially Michael Jackson’s This Is It. But documentaries like the Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience movie was just getting too much for my taste.


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The Artist and the Listener: An Unspoken Connection

I love music. I have loved music since I was a zygote. I listen to at least one song everyday and I’m not exaggerating! The choice of songs I listen to has in large part to do with the way I might be feeling for the day. One day I might listen to one song repeatedly another day I might listen to a mixture of artists. Take note that I wrote artist, not singer.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a singer as someone who sings which is defined as a person who produces “musical tones by means of the voice.” That same dictionary defines an artist as “one skilled or versed in learned arts.”

Don't you Just Love My Drawing!!! Especially The Mic!!!

I see an artist as someone who sits with their thoughts and then links them together like a chain that is made heavy not by metal, but by the emotions and time spent crafting it together. Each lyric acts as one link in the making of the chain. When the chain is complete the writer has gotten used to its weight and although it might still be somewhat heavy the person can carry it, and they carry it with pride.

Singer/songwriters Jewel, Sara Barilles, and The Script (Danny O’Donoghue, Mark Sheehan, and Glen Power) are several people who come to mind.

Jewel's Album 'Spirit' (1998). Taken From My Computer From My iTunes Library.

Sara Barilles' Album 'Kaleidoscope Heart' (2010).

Barilles, when it came to writing new songs for her album Kaleidoscope Heart, said on her website it felt “like pulling teeth to write them.”

While writing for their self-titled debut album Sheehan’s mother became terminally ill. This had a tremendous affect on the band’s writing: “That was pulling on my heart strings in a big way. Lyrically it was pouring out of me” said band member O’Donoghue whose father also passed away during the album’s creation. “But then amidst all this travesty and disaster, these songs have risen out of it. That was the time when it finally came home to me how important music was to me, cos in my darkest moments that’s what got me through.”

What O’Donoghue and Barilles said on their websites proves my point. Every word, lyric and chorus that the artist writes is an outward expression of an inner emotion. Time after time when pen hits paper or finger hits keyboard that person is acting as their own therapist.

Every time someone decides to listen to a music track they are giving themselves permission to feel something and they assume the risk that the emotion they feel may not always be positive.

The Script's Self- Titled Debut Album (2008) (THEY'RE IRISH ♥!!!)

I have an unspoken deal with the artists I listen to. Since they have put a lot of themselves in to their music they have earn some privilege to co-exist with my emotions. If I don’t want to share my emotions with them, be it happiness, sadness or anger, I simply change the track.

As You Can Tell (Hopefully) I Love Music & My iPod!!!

Every time I listen to a singer who didn’t write their own lyrics I am not connecting with them I am connecting with the songwriter.

Songs are called tracks for a reason. Songs are placed in order on an album because the artist wants to create a journey for their listeners. Tracks are laid down so that a train may ride on them. As a listener you are a passenger on that train and you can decide to take the entire journey are only make a couple of stops.

In today’s music industry anyone can be a singer, but not everyone is an artist.



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A Separation of Fashion and Music, Please?

It started off innocently enough.

First, there were baby tees — you know, the kinds with Beatles song lyrics imprinted on the front next to photographs of Abbey Road or of John Lennon’s somber stare. Then, the revolution started — t-shirt makers (and hoodie, sweatpant, and bag) makers across the world cashed in on making merchandise with popular bands as a selling tool. The Strokes, the Smiths…heck, I can get Lady Gaga’s (hopefully, sans the prosthetic horns) on an otherwise plain shirt from Zara for under $25 bucks.

Okay, so it's KIND OF cute.

Don’t get me wrong, I always thought fashion and music worked off one another for inspiration (anyone remember that scene from Clueless where Cher got dressed to David Bowie’s Fashion? No? Well, I do!) but when does music become fashion and fashion become music? When the two combine, it’s hard to make the distinction, yet there should be some sort of line…right?


Case in point: one of my dearest friends, who I shall call Jelly Bean for the sake of her identity, and I decided to go shopping. While on our quest to find a pair of espadrilles that didn’t look like grandma shoes, we somehow ended up in Hot Topic (purely for the laugh factor, I assure you). While browsing the dimly-lit and somewhat dingy store (if you’ve been to the one in Staten Island Mall, you know what I’m talking about), I heard an over-excited shriek that sounded far too inhuman to be emitting itself from an all-too-human body. I immediately flounced over to examine the cause for such alarm to myself, and then she held up a shirt that, frankly, I don’t have the words to describe accurately: black, save for the neon imprint of a face that looked like a cross between a kitty and an alien, with the words “KE$HA” in metallic blue scrawled over the cat/alien/person’s eyes. The shirt itself was shapeless and made of a thick fabric.

In all meanings of the word, it was hideous.

“So, do you like it? Isn’t it awesome?” Jelly Bean exclaimed, holding the shirt up proudly.

“Um, do you even like Ke$ha?” I refrained from stating the obvious — that I’d rather wear a plastic bag than get near that thing.

“No, but I like the shirt! What does it matter if I listen to her or not?” was J.B.’s ever-so sensible reply.

Let’s assume that the shirt was, indeed, not horrendous-looking. Was it right, though, that Jelly Bean wanted to buy a so-called “band shirt” (the cashier at Hot Topic’s words, not mine) of a band that she doesn’t even listen to? Doesn’t that destroy the whole point, then, to walk around like a walking billboard? Hypothetically, if you don’t make the distinction between “good” music and “bad” music, it still shouldn’t matter — band shirts are only meant to be worn by fans of the band, not by someone that randomly decided that they like the shirt. False advertising, people.

For the record, Jelly Bean didn’t buy the shirt. The $20.50 price tag for essentially a printed Hanes undershirt deterred her.

Thank God.


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