Category Archives: Music Rant/ love song

Too Many Labels Can Cause Clutter

Genres, in today’s music world, there are over a hundred different ways to categorize music. How some music listeners may label one form of music, others would label those forms differently.

Why can’t there just be basic universal genres such as rock, alternative, metal, hip-hop, R&B and Jazz for some. But no, there’s death metal, hardcore, gothic, alternative metal and the list goes on.

Some may wonder, why waste the time to debate the music classifications when all that needs to be done is to change the genre to your liking on computer. However, this is a nuisance in itself. We find ourselves driven at times, compelled by unique and catchy sounds of beats and heart felt lyrics to purchase songs on the spot, such as in the itunes app.

But after the well deserved download, so that inspiring music can be replayed to its maximum enjoyment, often we discover the annoyance. If you’re not looking for the song in the purchase list, you’re attempting to run a vigorous and irritating search through you 30,000 song filled 120GB MP3 device.

When the song is finally discovered, it is realized the melody you had become love stricken with was well hidden somewhere in the punk genre that’s just been added to  your device without you even knowing about it. What nerve to have your own personal MP3 device, that you have taken great pride and care to order, be modified just to correspond with the genre as labeled by someone else. I mean how rude.

What defines the certain music to be labeled with such complexity? Who gave those people the right to dictate how we perceive the intricate sounds and moving words in a given song. Personally felt, why can’t the decision of labels be left to the individuals. Many music artists throughout the years formulated their unique sounds and words with the intent to separate themselves from the society and the masses. Therefore, why put a label on yourself and your music, why can’t it be the individual listener’s brand just as it belongs to the artist.

Perhaps there a bunch of policies and rules to go along with some secret chamber of music listeners who sit around and justify how music is labeled and why. If there is such a chamber, I would question how this confusion is resolved? What is looked at in songs to determine whether a song is rock, metal, alternative, gothic, etc?

Whatever the case maybe, too many genres makes for a big headache and unnecessary time scanning for a song, when you could be reaching ecstasy with the uplifting ear orgasms of a fine song.

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So You’re In A Band Too?

Not my definition of being in a band...

The first couple of times it sounded charming. “I am in a band,” “I play guitar,” “I am a musician.” But then I grew older, reality hit me, and today hearing these lines makes me amused, at the most. “Oh, really? Is there anything else to know about you?”

I cannot deny that I may be a bitter ex. girlfriend of a musician or two, but the story that follows is based on purely true events.

“I am in a band.” Oh yes, I’m sure these words still works to pick up girls with, or to be straight – I know it from experience. It is not too long ago when I was a naive teenager, and whoever mentioned “in a band” could probably catch my heart at that instant moment. But I have lived and learned and today I know, that a musician does not always equal a good date.

I love music, I mean, who doesn’t? But I do believe that music is to be enjoyed on a non-personal level, as a listener or spectator. Musicians can be charming, yes, and who has not dreamed about walking to a show saying “”I am with the band.” But just think about it, really. How many of those sitting down next to you at a coffee shop, taking of their sunglasses and proudly announcing “I am a musician,” does much more than play guitar in their friends basement, or write songs they never finish? Yes, exactly – not many. And the rare ones who really does live for their music, well, they live for their music. You got it – the music, not you or anything else. As my friend, himself a struggling musician, once told me: “Never date a musician.” I laughed, ignored it, and got charmed. But that was once, or twice. Now, I need more than a cheesy love song.

Today, when approached by that unfamiliar young man, I am the one taking of my sunglasses, smiling and asking: “So, are you a musician too?” Suddenly, not many wants to brag about their musical talents, but looks a little lost, thinks for a while, and says: “Well, I am an artist!”

Here we go again…

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Turn Those Volumes Down!

Even great music can become noise.

Do you ever have those times when you feel like wringing someone’s neck out of pure annoyance? Well, believe it or not, despite my usually calm temperament, I’ve had those feelings plenty.

Whenever I’m on the 7 train going back home, I’m usually exhausted– tired from a long, stressful day at school. Sometimes, because of headaches, I don’t like listening to my ipod, not even when I could drown out the sounds of the train with my favorite bands and musicians (ie. Bright Eyes, City and Colour, Death Cab for Cutie, Laura Marling, Aloe Blacc, and Local Natives).

So imagine what thoughts are running through my head when I hear music blasting out of headphones. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love good music, I respect other people’s preferences in music, but in public spaces, when everyone is tired and getting home from school or work, the blaring sounds of music traveling BEYOND the listener’s headphone is just plain rude and inexcusable.

It might just be that the person doesn’t quite realize that his or her music is on so high, so sometimes, when I try to be more forgiving and rational, I do tap them on the shoulder and I ask them politely, “Would you mind lowering your music?” They usually comply, so just like that, the volume is lowered, and I can enjoy a more restful ride on the train.

But most times, I don’t say anything. You might ask me why I do this– why I choose to walk away so that my mood doesn’t become more foul– when I could just tap them on the shoulder and get it over with. My reason is simple. It’s common courtesy to check if your music is blasting out of your headphones, because I’m certain that you (and your beat up ears) can tell when the volume is way up there or higher than usual.

We have more than enough noise pollution in the world. Need we add more?

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Rising from the underground but staying true to the people that sent you there.

A few weeks ago, on a brisk Monday evening, young adults–anywhere from the ages of 16 to 25– gathered up in the small clothing store Prohibit NYC. It got so crowded to the point where I had to stand on a chair, which would end up being abnormally convenient. After about an hour and a half of waiting, in walks Dom Kennedy, the underground rapper who will very soon be joining the company of famous rappers such as J.Cole, Big Krit, Kanye West, and more.  After giving his motivation speech and a little background on himself, he came around and personally met every person in the audience, keeping a smile on his face the entire time. It was a beautiful thing.

Everyone attempting to meet Kennedy. Which they did.

There is something about an underground artist that I love. Don’t get me wrong, mainstream artists cannot help their amount of fame, and I have love for them too. But, when you are able to go see an underground artist, one you feel is on the brink of stardom, you feel a certain rush. And many underground artists, especially underground rappers I’ve found, will talk to you no matter the occasion, even giving you a motivation speech on how you can reach your potential.

The ability for an artist not to forget the people that allowed them to reach stardom is inspiring.

Aspiring rappers meeting Dom Kennedy, center.

Two friends that were with me at the Dom Kennedy event, who happen to want to be rappers, got to not only shake his hand and take a picture with him, but actually talk to him and his producer on how to make it in this industry.

So, for all the underground artists that are getting that “big break,” don’t forget the little people who always knew you. Because when you recognize we were there, it’s a beautiful thing.

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Making Classics

Can you see yourself at 50 willingly listening to a Soulja Boy song? I hope not.

They don’t make ’em like they used to – music, that is.  I grew up sitting in the backseat of my mother’s Buick singing along to The O’Jays, The Delfonics, and Earth, Wind, and Fire – all which currently reside on my ipod.

I’ve always wondered if there was an exact formula to determine how much time must go by in order for something to be considered an ‘oldie’. I wondered what those oldies might be. Will I want to listen to 50 Cent or Spice Girls twenty years down the line? (The answer is only “In Da Club” and yes, any Spice Girls song.)

However, I can’t help but grimace when I hear the music that my 14 year old sister listens to – Justin Bieber, Big Time Rush, or…well, I can’t even think of a third act, which proves how forgettable they all are. Today’s musicians are more caught up with catchy beats and superficial lyrics. Everyone was in an uproar over Rebecca Black’s simple minded lyrics, but this trend has been going on for years.

The quality of songwriting has decreased tremendously and music lovers are the ones who suffer. Music artists should strive to be memorable and create songs that are not only catchy, but meaningful as well.

All hope is not lost, though. Artists like Aloe Blacc and Miguel seem to still know the value of selecting crafted songs.

We’re all entitled to listen to a song with uninspired lyrics for the sole purpose of enjoying the rhythm, but for musicians, this should never be the norm.  Anyone can be a one hit wonder, but isn’t it worth more to be remembered 50 years later?

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O Canada Can Sing Too

Unless one is listening to music with half an ear, it has become quite apparent that the tunes migrating from Canada are bordering on greatness.

The country that developed ice hockey in the 19th century has now developed a nonpareil artist in three major genres of music.

Son of Dennis Graham, one of Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Jerry Lee Lewis’s drummers, is Toronto’s Drake who has carved his name into rap’s glitterati via a blackberry Smart-phone. His august record So Far Gone preluded his unforgettable, debut album Thank Me Later, which went platinum a little over a month after releasing. The adeptness he possesses to be able to both rap and sing well makes him an intercontinental, sui generis musician, and his success has helped lay the foundations for other ambitious, undiscovered artists from the second largest country in the world.

House of Balloons Featured in Drake's Blog

The Weeknd, also from the capital of Ontario, roared to the flower of imminent, rhythm and blues lions, a short time ago. The singer, who is still months away from being legally allowed to drink, supplied a resounding recording, House of Balloons, this past March. It is the majority of people’s first peek into his uncanny vision for music, and it has left all staring at its splendor. In spite of the fact that the record has a mere nine tracks, as one listens to it, nothing but brilliance echoes.

Both artists have achieved the few and far between feat of producing an album that has a track or two that one skips each time one listens to the record; Drake has a remarkable two to his credit, So Far Gone and Thank Me Later, and The Weeknd has one, House of Balloons.

As Drake continues to exercise control over rap and The Weeknd adjusts to having mastery over rhythm and blues, fellow Canadian Justin Bieber, for all one knows, commands the genre of pop. The Twitter sensation has two platinum albums and is going to have another, in all probability. I have yet to listen to more than a single minute of his music, yet it would have been foolhardy for me not to acknowledge the boy’s ascendancy.

As the trio continues to home in on impressive music, the borderline that once separated great musicians from Canada to outshine those from the United States has all but dematerialized.

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Grand Scale Voice: Female British Soul Artist rising off the charts

Adele, leading Female British Artist

British accents are one of my favorite; in fact my dream year is to backpack through Europe visiting all of the amazing cities like London and Spain. Recently, I have developed an appreciation for great music that derives from the fierce melodies and ballads sung by many talented British female singers. For example, my top three artists would be Adele, Leona Lewis and last but not least Jessie J. These ladies are simply outstanding, bona fide starlets. Immediately, after listening to a few tracks from their debut albums, I was impressed. They have successfully built a fan base in the United States by radiating a soulful, confidence outlook on life and through their passion for music which is truly inspiring.

What I like most about their songs in particular would be the range of versatility presented in their albums. I can select a song that’s upbeat, lively and easy to dance to. Or choose a soft, low ballad that’s filled with a nice harmony that is great to sing along to. With the large variety of up and coming young artist today, it’s actually wonderful to find a set or style of music that you enjoy. Personally, I love the song, “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele, it has quickly become the most played song on my IPod this year.

Universally, it’s pretty phenomenal that Adele and so many other female singers in London represent the rising, fantastic talent that will be setting the course and introducing folks to new, equally fun music material. These artists have cultivated a massive following of fans over a short period of time, and I am happy to say that I’m a part of that category. You may be a casual listener of the usual suspects in the music industry such as Kanye, Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga or Brittany Spears. There is nothing wrong with that, my only worth-while suggestion would be to try something different by stepping into some new rooms that will introduce you to some diverse, unique music talents.     


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Death of Autotune….Please?!

Autotune has slowly become the bane of my musical experience. The original purpose of the audio processor was to correct pitches in vocal and instrumental works. But, music, and art in general,  for me, is finding beauty in the imperfections. The musicians may not be perfectly in tune, but that gave them a human quality, knowing that those were their real voices and the amount of emotion they put into their songs.

Auto-tune Program

I will admit when I first heard auto-tuned, I found it appealing. Actually, I did not even know it was auto-tuned. Remember, Cher’s 1998 song, “Believe?” That song was one of my favorites from the ’90s. The auto-tune craze, however, did not catch on until T-Pain released his first single, I’m Sprung, in 2005.

Immediately when I heard T-pain’s nasally, electronic voice, I thought of the Zapp Band, a soul and funk band from the ’80s who were known for their use of the talk box vocal distortion device. If you are not familiar with who they are, listen to “Computer Love,”I Want To Be Your Man” or Tupac and Dr. Dre’s “California Love”.

However, what separated singers like Roger Troutman (the Zapp Band), Cher, and even T-pain, from some “singers” of today is that they did not use vocal effects as a crutch. They can sing without it; for example, listen to T-pain without the auto-tune. Auto-tune is only used as a tool, for a vocal effect that sounds interesting.

Several of today’s most popular musicians do not have great voices and use auto-tune often to disguise them, or to hide their voices in order to jump on the bandwagon. Do I need to remind you of the Rebecca Black catastrophe? In addition to that, there are rappers who use it to pretend to be singers when they should obviously stick to rapping. Yes, I am looking at you, Drake!

Seriously, I would prefer someone singing in their natural voice over singing with auto-tune, even if they did not have the most stunning voice. Using technology is not wrong, but if there is no artistry to back it up, what is the point?

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Why Lip-sync? Just Sing!

With clever studio tricks such as auto-tune and lip-syncing, a singer is able to mimic the proper noted and perfectly pitched track as he or she is performing on stage. These tricks many artists and studios consider as “ingenious,” deceives audiences as they question their favorite artist’s singing potential.

It is understandable for artists (mainly pop artists) to allow their entire CD to go through the auto-tuning process, especially when trying to succeed in this competitive field. However, when artists think they can trick their fans when singing live by lip-syncing to their auto-tuned track, this is when it becomes inexcusable.

Britney Spears lip-syncing to her fans at the Prudential Center

I was deeply disappointed when I attended a Britney Spears concert in March 2009 to find out that I had paid $137 to hear her “Circus” album blasting through the speakers. If I wanted to see her lip-sync her entire auto-tuned album, I would have watched her performance on television, I didn’t need to pay $137 to see her in person.

The same goes for other artists such as Ashlee Simpson and Lindsay Lohan (before drugs and jail) who lip-synced to their tracks while singing live, causing controversy among fans and the media.

Why is it so hard for artists to actually get up on stage and sing without their soundtrack playing in the background? If this is so essential to their performance then they clearly can’t sing and shouldn’t be on stage at all.

Angels and Airwaves lead singer Tom Delonge singing a single from their album "Love" at the Bamboozle Festival.

Last year I attended The Bamboozle Festival where I watched over 20 bands and artists actually sing their songs. Sure, they weren’t exactly in tune half the time and they failed to perfect their pitch at moments, but who cares? Their singing was raw and real, it wasn’t some robotic sounding track.

It was at Bamboozle when I sung, at times screamed, along with the energetic crowd when I realized this is what real, live music is. It doesn’t have to be 100 percent perfect or flawless, it just needs to sound authentic and genuine.

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Turn the volume down, please!

The crowded 6 train on any given day.

Cramming into a subway car full of tired commuters during the bleak rush hours to and from school or work, the last thing I want is to be disturbed. Unless engaged in conversation, I like my quiet down time during the ride, whether by curling up with a book or the New York Times app or dozing to my current favorite playlist. Either way, I like to drown out the noise and try to relax. That’s next to impossible when the rider beside me thinks I’m just itching to hear whatever he or she’s listening to these days. I don’t know about you but as far as I know, the subway isn’t about blasting your musical tastes.

It’s downright frustrating when I’m forced to hear scratchy rock or hip-hop second hand from somebody else’s too loud mp3 player.  How difficult is it to keep the volume low? Just high enough so that only one person can hear it–the one who’s wearing the headphones?

Do you like Florence and the Machine? Yes? No? Maybe so? Ah, well, I'll keep the volume to a minimum anyway.

I have a personal rule for this: If you can still hear the whir of the train and the announcements fairly clearly, you’re not unreasonably loud. Double check the decibel level by removing the headphones for a moment to make sure you can only hear it from close contact. It’s not an exact science but it’s simple enough.

I’m not the only one complaining; there’s even an online forum on the topic with other advice. Its users’ odd solution: earplugs. Their most sensible one: better quality IEM headphones. Not a bad investment. Think about it, you hear your music with better sound quality, and I don’t hear it at all.

Trying to catch a nap on the way home at a quarter to 11 pm is a little difficult when some guy a few feet away is blaring Spanish music from somewhere on his person. I don't even see the device but I assume it's coming from a phone tucked safely in his pocket. (I couldn't inconspicuously take a photo of him without giving away my cover of playing a very serious game on my phone.)

But, again, therein lies the rub. There are those who forgo the headphones entirely. Ah, the kind and selfless individuals who are generous enough to play the music straight off of their android phones at an unruly volume that I’ve never seen a good Samaritan argue against.

Why, when the spaghetti debacle a few weeks ago seemed to stir up so much debate about subway etiquette, does this go ignored?

True, the subway is a public place. But unless you’re performing live, I really don’t mind if you keep your music to yourself. It’s not your private bedroom, so turn the volume down, please!

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