The Single Almost Ruined It

It happens once in a while that a relatively “unknown” (to the mainstream audience, doesn’t mean they don’t have a large following necessarily) band gains traction with a radio single. It used to happen a lot more often when people actually listened to the radio. You know, back in the ’00s, ’90s, and before, when people actually listened to radio.

There have been a lot of bands I’ve loved from the very first single. Or music video (back when television music stations actually played music videos). But, there have been some I’ve found out I liked in spite of that radio single. Because sometimes record companies choose the one song on the album that appeals to the masses, but doesn’t necessarily sound like any of the rest of the album.

Take the Plain White T’s for example. This is the song that introduced them to the mainstream audience:

It was ok, but it doesn’t really sound like the rest of their stuff. It’s more “radio-friendly,” I guess you could say. For the record, this is one of my favorites of theirs:

That was from the album before “Hey There Delilah,” but a lot of the other songs from that same album sound like that, too. It seems the taste of fame from that song got to them a bit, because they released a couple other songs in that same vein. But for the most part they went back to making music that sounds like their own music. Unfortunately, many other bands tend to start homogenizing their music when their popularity starts slipping (*cough* Maroon 5 *cough*). Many newer bands just start out that way in hopes of becoming famous. But I don’t want to hear the same thing from every band out there.

Musicians, keep your individuality and style. The reality show, mass produced music may make you fans for a minute, but giving them something unique will bring you dedicated fans who will support you way past your fifteen minutes of fame.

Have you ever been turned off by a song you heard on the radio, only to find out the band or artist had better music? Do you think all the songs on the radio are starting to blend together? Or have I just been listening to rock/punk music way too long to appreciate the differences in today’s pop?

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That’s Where It Started

I love when I’m listening to music and a particular song strikes me as, “Hey! That’s the first song I ever heard from this band.”

Sometimes I will just start wondering, “What was the first song from this band?” It will bug me until I finally hear the song and have that epiphany.

Of course, most of the time I can’t be bothered to actually look it up. I end up wondering for days until I actually hear the song.

I can’t be the only one who does this, right? Or am I just crazy?

Do you ever find yourself recognizing songs as the first you heard from a band? What about looking it up to see what it was?

I Know Who I Want to Take Me Home

Or at least the song I want to listen to on the way. It’s no secret that I am a major Foo Fighters and They Might Be Giants fan, or that I have a soft spot for old boy bands. But if you were to ask me my favorite song, I will always, hands-down answer “Closing Time” by Semisonic.

I can’t really explain why I love this song so much. For some reason, I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it as an eight-year-old.The video probably helped. It’s one that has always stuck in my head. The split screen style and way they both kept moving back and forth between the two places on the two sides of the screen, just barely missing each other, has always been so cool to me. Also, VH1 is how I found a lot of my favorite music in the 90s.

No matter what kind of music I’ve been into over the years, I’ve always loved this song. So much that it’s one I’ve fantasized about covering onstage some day. If the opportunity ever arose, that is.

What is your favorite song of all time? What song would you love to have the opportunity to perform?

I Hate This Song, but I Can’t…Change…Stations

There are many songs I can’t stand. I am especially swift at changing channels when a One Direction song comes on (though that doesn’t actually seem to occur that often anyway). But there is one song I despise and yet am compelled to listen to every time I hear it.

That, my friends, is “Lightning Crashes” by Live. A song, like many, that annoys me immensely. Yet, unlike the others, I know every. Single. WORD! And cannot help myself from singing along.

I’m not sure if it’s just that this song was everywhere in the 90s (though my mom didn’t really remember it), or if it’s managed to ingrain itself in my head for another reason. It really is frustrating every time it comes on the radio. The good part is I don’t listen to the radio that much. Pandora’s 90s alt station plays it quite often, though. One of these days I’m going to have to force myself to give it a thumbs down.

Do you have a song you can’t stand, but end up listening to often anyway? What is your least favorite song right now?

Whose Song Is It Anyway?

August is going to be music month here. I feel like I’ve been neglecting the subject lately. Also, I just got a new microphone and had a week home alone to test it out. Here’s my first experiment:

This is just a quick recording of the song “Iko Iko” which has been covered by everyone from The Grateful Dead to Cyndi Lauper to Aaron Carter. I used the lyrics from The Dixie Cups’ version (because they all seem to have slightly different wording) which has been coming up on our house radio a lot lately. I also found something interesting when looking for the lyrics.

In 1953, James “Sugar Boy” Crawford released a song called “Jock-a-mo” with his band, Sugar Boy and the Cane Cutters. It failed to make the charts. About ten years later, The Dixie Cups were in the recording studio and started an impromptu version of “Iko Iko” while drumming on chairs, an ashtray, and a Coke bottle. They had learned it from hearing their grandmother sing it, but didn’t know of its origin.

In 1965, The Dixie Cups’ version became a hit and James Crawford sued. The suit was eventually settled with Crawford making no claim of ownership or authorship, but receiving 25% of public performances. It didn’t end there, though. In 1990, the band’s former manager, Joe Jones, filed a copyright registration alleging he and his family had written the song. The band sued him after he licensed the song outside of North America. In 2002, the jury unanimously affirmed The Dixie Cups were the sole writers of “Iko Iko”.

It seems crazy that such a simple, catchy song could create such legal controversy spanning over forty years. Perhaps that helped it stay popular in the long run. In addition to the covers, The Dixie Cups’ version itself has appeared on the soundtrack to many movies, TV shows, and even commercials.

All information is from this Wikipedia article. It’s a really interesting read, if you want more information on the various versions.

On Streaming, Ownership, and Why I Think Taylor Swift is Wrong

Not about the fact that the people who make music deserve to be paid for their creations. I fully agree with her in that aspect. But the part with which I disagree is her insistence that no one should ever provide music for free and it should solely be seen in terms of how much money you are getting.

By now, I’m sure everyone on the planet with Internet access and the ability read English has read Taylor Swift’s letter to Apple she posted over the weekend. My reading of it just happened to coincide with my listening to back episodes of the DIY Musician Podcast which had me in a mood to think a bit more about it. I was way back in the 2008 episodes, so I haven’t yet listened to the episode actually dealing with Apple Music. But the ones I was listening to in the airplane home after reading the letter were mentioning the use of streaming services like Pandora and (then brand-new) Spotify.

While listening to those episodes and thinking of Swift’s hissy-fit (because that’s really the most fitting name for posting something that could have been handled privately in a public forum in an attempt to make someone else look worse), it occurred to me that there might be artists out there thinking this streaming thing is going to end up being all there is. It certainly seems that way from Swift’s letter.

This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.

Streaming should never be seen as the sole source of an artist’s success. It should rank right above radio play, because that is essentially what it is. And it will not replace an individual’s personal music collection. Because that is the nature of music, and art in general. It should be made for the love of the craft, not because you need to pay down your debt. Yes, artists should be compensated, but that can’t be your entire reason for writing, performing, or anything else.

Those who become artists should want to do so because they can’t imagine doing anything else. They need to have a story to tell, something compelling to bring people in to the story, and a desire to do so whether or not they “make it big.” The goal can’t be to just rake in the money off digital streams while you churn out cookie-cutter earworms that appeal to five-year-olds (and annoy the rest of us). Streaming should be treated as a form of a preview, or a way to get your music out to people who might not learn of it otherwise. Because, no matter how many streaming services to which one is subscribed, no matter how the technology for listening to music changes, people are always going to want to own the music they love. They are always going to buy the music that resonates with them. Because creating a playlist on a streaming service says, “Yeah, these songs are alright,” but buying a song/album says, “I need this in my life.” And people are always going to have those songs they just need, if they are created with true artistic integrity and not just a greed to increase an artist’s net worth.

So, good job, Taylor, for whining about not being paid enough. We all know you’re the only one who’s going to end up seeing any of those royalties anyway, because that’s just how the royalty system works. Meanwhile, other hard-working artists will just make their living converting one casual streamer into a fan at a time.

Sonic Paradise

Hayley Kiyoko has appeared in a number of children’s programming, from guest spots on Nickelodeon’s Unfabulous and Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place to starring in Lemonade Mouth, as well as a number of movies, such as the upcoming Jem and the Holograms. She is also a prolific musician. Previously in the band The Stunners, Hayley released her solo debut, A Belle To Remember in 2013. She’s now featured in the new CBS drama CSI:Cyber, along with her brand new EP, This Side of Paradise, released in February 2015.

I downloaded the title track when it was the free track of the week on iTunes (which it might still be today, not sure when that resets) and was immediately hooked. After getting my iTunes money counted by the Coinstar machine, I downloaded the full This Side of Paradise EP. Like my previous music review, I’m going to break this down track-by-track with my initial observations.

This Side of Paradise

  1. Given It All

    Pure dance track – think the likes of Elie Goulding. Simple, sing-along-able lyrics over a great track. Love this as the opener. Sets the vibe for the rest of the album.

  2. Cliff’s Edge

    Good, driving beat. Flows well as the second track. This one has a bit more of a story element in the lyrics, though still kept simple.

  3. This Side of Paradise

    It’s not often I have a single song I can listen to for half an hour on repeat without going crazy, but due to a mix up with my music on my phone, I did as I drove home Sunday. And then I bought the rest of the album on Monday right after I turned on the computer. That should tell you how awesome this song is. Again, lyrics gain slightly more complexity from the last track.

  4. Girls Like Girls

    This one has a definite increase in the story complexity of the lyrics, I’m also really loving the track on this one. It feels like an updated 80s/90s throwback, but I can’t place it. Maybe it’s all those Beck videos I’ve been watching since Sunday’s “Teens React” episode.

  5. Feeding the Fire

    Along the same lines as the last track, definitely hearing an 80s influence in this one. Definitely a good note to wrap up this EP.

This album definitely has the (sadly) “old school” album flow, where you can tell the songs were intended to be listened to as a whole album. But, since no one seems to do that anymore, I will say that each track is great on its own as well. You just can’t hear the progression that way. It also has a very ethereal quality in terms of sound.