I love the 90s

Playlist: Michael Jackson Goes Heavy Metal

Related image

Though the world lost Michael Jackson nearly a decade ago, his music is still widely celebrated all over the world. Jackson’s music had a wide impact all across music, including the most unlikely genre, metal. For a pop star, Jackson has a lot of heavy metal fans to his name, which makes sense considering how often he incorporated rock into his music. But most metal covers do nothing more than add in some loud guitars and screaming vocals. Fortunately, there are a good amount of covers that make the song into something else entirely. To celebrate what would’ve been Jackson’s 60th birthday, let’s take a look at these kick ass Michael Jackson metal covers that’ll get your fists pumping in the air.

“Beat It” – John 5

John 5 is a madman on the guitar, whose laid down intricate riffs for Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. Considering his riffs are ferocious, you know his Michael Jackson cover is going to be good. The guitarist included his version of “Beat It” on his 2012 album God Told Me To as a tribute to the late pop star. The instrumental track features John 5 playing everything from the main riff to the core melody on guitar. He even replicates some of Jackson’s vocal flourishes on the guitar. He keeps the badass nature of the song intact while showing off his impressive guitar skills.

“Give In to Me” – Soto

Soto released their version of Jackson’s 1991 hit in 2016. The song was already rock infused with Slash on guitar, but Soto takes the song in a darker direction. The intro sounds more somber than the original; you get an overwhelming sense of sadness hearing it. Jeff Soto’s vocal delivery is powerful and haunting, whereas Jackson’s is more anguished and angry. Even the music more intense; the crunching guitars and pounding drums give the song a heavier, morose vibe. It’s a great metal interpretation of the track, especially since it’s not a one to cover.

“Dirty Diana” – Evanescence

Featuring Steve Stevens on guitar, this song already had roots in rock, which is why it’s a popular choice for rock and metal acts. Yet, none of the covers are as chilling or beautiful as this version. The song begins with gentle keys that gives off this haunting tone. You don’t realize what they’re performing until Amy Lee starts singing. She builds up momentum with thing steadily getting gritty until the explosive chorus when the dirty guitars and pummeling drums kick in. But the highlight of the cover is Lee’s performance. She sings with so much power and ferocity it’s like she’s stabbing every line with a knife. Listening to her sing, it’s enough to give you chills.

“Smooth Criminal” – Leo Moracchioli

Alien Ant Farm blew people’s minds when they showed how well Michael Jackson translated to rock music. Their version is still considered one of the best Jackson covers, but this rendition by Youtuber Leo Moracchioli blows it out of the water. This one-man band cranks everything up and gives us a brutal version of this Bad single. The guttural vocals, crunching guitars, pounding drums turns this pop song into a gritty metal anthem. He even puts his own stamp on it with his own searing guitar solo making it stand out from other covers. Whereas the Alien Ant Farm cover makes you jump around, this version makes you want to mosh. Moracchioli is an absolute powerhouse, who regularly puts a metal spin on pop songs. If you want to hear more, check out his version of “Bad.”

“Speed Demon” – Xerath

This song kicks ass, plain and simple. It’s another Jackson single most people don’t cover. Most Jackson covers are already rock based, so it’s easy to down tune the guitars, throw in a solo, and add some screaming vocals. But Xerath turns this song into an aggressive, in your face anthem. They transform the main melody into a searing riff, yet it still has this undeniable groove to it. As soon as that opening riff kicks in, you can’t help but headbang. The screaming vocals are extreme; it sounds like Richard Thomson is ripping his throat to shreds. You never thought a Michael Jackson song could be this intense. A cover like this makes you realize how versatile Jackson’s music was.

“Thriller” – Koritni

No matter what you think about Michael Jackson it’s hard to dislike “Thriller.” It’s a favorite among metal bands to cover, but most renditions are boring doing nothing more than adding beefed-up guitars and screaming vocals. While Australian rock band Koritni’s version isn’t the greatest; their version “Thriller” is at least exciting. There’s something exhilarating about hearing the iconic opening on an electric guitar. The vocals are a bit exaggerated and hammy, but they give the song a rousing makeover. It’s sure to please metal and Jackson fans alike.

“They Don’t Care About Us” – Saliva

Rock band Saliva covered Jackson’s 1995 single for their tenth album, Loves, Lies, & Therapy. The music is the best part here. The song was already intense, but the added guitars and the fiery solo adds a new heaviness to the track. As for the vocals, they aren’t as powerful as Jackson’s. When Jackson sang it he was tired, angry, and fed up with the way people and the media treated him due to the allegations lobbied against him. Bobby Amaru sounds fine, but there’s no fire in his voice. This version doesn’t have the same feeling coming from Saliva, but in terms of music and performance, they at least do a good job.

“Scream” – Annisokay

In 2016, post-hardcore band Annisokay released an EP of Michael Jackson covers titled Annie Are You Okay? And it’s actually pretty good. Their versions of “Beat It” and “Thriller” are intense, but it’s their cover of “Scream” that stands out. Not only is it a song that’s rarely covered, they take the song’s main riff and turns it on its head. The grinding guitars and pummeling drums give it an abrasive sound while the growling vocals add a new ferocity. With how in your face it is, it pulls you into the song. The vocals are kind of weak, but Christoph Wieczorek and Kiarely Castillo don’t sound terrible. Their vocals just don’t demand the same prowess and command as Michael and Janet. They did leave in Michael’s scream from the original, which is a nice touch.

“Beat It” – Raintime

Imagine if Dream Theater covered Michael Jackson. That’s what this cover is like. Raintime released this cover on their second album, Flies & Lies in 2007. This version sets itself apart from the countless others with its prog-metal influence. While the iconic guitar riff and the spiraling solo are still there, they make sure to incorporate dancing keys throughout. They even put in a keyboard solo before the main solo. Whereas the John 5 version translates the entire song, melody and all, on guitar, this version turns it into a full-blown metal affair. It’s loud, filled with dirty crunchy riffs, and snarling vocals to give it a new flavor.

There are lots of metal Micheal Jackson covers out there, so which ones did I miss? What are you favorite Jackson covers? Let me know in the comments!

Advertisements

Playlist: Songs Recorded in a Different Language

Image result for madonna veras

Back when releasing singles meant more than just posting a link, it was common for artists to record their songs in different languages. Most of them were region exclusive, making it a treasure trove for collectors. Plus, it was a nice treat for international fans. The practice isn’t as common today, but once in a while, contemporary artists will flex their language skills. Here are just a handful of artists who recorded songs in another language.

“Todo Mi Amore Ers Tu”/“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” – Michael Jackson

This duet between Michael Jackson and Siedah Garret was the debut single from 1987’s Bad and was the first in a string of five number one singles for the singer. A special edition 12” single featured a Spanish re-recording of the track dubbed “Todo Mi Amore Ers Tu.” The song sounds just as sappy as the English version, but with more cringe inducing pronunciations. While the hook sounds just as pretty as the original, Jackson and Garret sound a bit awkward on the rest of the song. Then again, it’s the first time Jackson recorded a song in Spanish. They also recorded a French version, which sounds much better. The song seems better suited for French than Spanish, but at least these versions aren’t terrible.

“Gone” – Nsync

Nsync fans may remember the Spanish version of “This I Promise You,” but this version of “Gone” flew under the radar. And it sounds just as good, if not better, than the original. While their vocal delivery is a bit stilted, you can tell they’re not comfortable with the language, their harmonies are on point. They actually sound great singing in Spanish. Justin still gives a powerful vocal delivery filled with all the hurt and anguish of the original. The Spanish version of “This I Promise You” is solid, but this version of “Gone” is far better. It’s a shame it wasn’t as popular as the former song. Though it makes you wonder how other Nsync songs would sound in Spanish. How about a Spanish version of “It’s Gonna Be Me?”

“Mickey” – Toni Basil

“Mickey” is one of those baffling one hit wonders. Why was this annoying song ever a hit? And why can’t you stop singing it? It’s one of those songs you hate but will get stuck in your head all day as soon as someone mentions it. For the alternate 12” single, Basil recorded the song in Spanish. And yes, it’s just as annoying. Admittedly, it’s not as aggravating as the English version, but something about it still gets under your skin. Maybe it’s the in-your-face pep rally vibe. Or how Basil keeps repeating Mickey throughout the song. Or because it’s just an awful song no matter what language it’s in.

“Nunca Te Haré Llorar”/“I’ll Never Break Your Heart” – Backstreet Boys

Boy bands recording their big hits in Spanish was a strange phenomenon. But when you think about it, it makes sense. They have fans all over the world, so why not do something special for their non-English followers? BSB added to the trend with a Spanish version of “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.” They actually don’t sound bad; their vocals still sound sweet and smooth. And it’s good to know the song is still sappy and cheesy in another language. They also recorded a Spanish version of “Anywhere for You,” but it’s not as good. Hearing Nick Carter trying so hard to enunciate is painful.

“My Cherie Amour” – Stevie Wonder

“My Cherie Amour” is one of those timeless love songs. It’s sweet, easy going, and has a simple, yet unforgettable hook. When it was released in 1969 it charted at number 4 on the Billboard Pop and R&B singles chart. Now, it’s one of Wonder’s most iconic songs. It was so popular, Wonder re-recorded it in Spanish and Italian. Wonder handles both versions well having a pretty good grasp on each language. Both versions still sound as sweet and beautiful as the original. Considering the title, you’d think he’d do a French version. It’s never too late for him to try.

“Veras”/“You’ll See” – Madonna

Madonna has always flirted with Spanish culture ever since her days of visiting “La Isla Bonita.” So it’s no surprise that she recorded her 1995 single “You’ll See” in Spanish. Translated by Argentine singer/songwriter Paz Martinez her voice sounds beautiful, yet haunting. This version of the song still has the chilling, heartbreaking tone as the original. The Spanish lyrics paired with the swirl of Latin guitars complete the bittersweet mood. It’s kind of romantic, but there’s still something sad about it. Madonna later recorded “What It Feels Like For a Girl” in Spanish along with a collaboration with Ricky Martin entitled “Be Careful with My Heart,” which sounds like a strange duet, but actually works quite well.

“Can’t Change Me” – Chris Cornell

The debut single from Chris Cornell’s solo album, Euphoria Morning, received a French version for Japanese, European, and deluxe versions of the record. While his French is a little spotty, his voice still has the same power, emotion, and drive found in the original. He sounds beautiful in this version and his voice will still give you chills. Though it is a bit weird that part of the bridge is in English. The song was translated by Alexis Lemoine, so maybe it was a style choice. It takes you out of the song for a bit, but overall it’s a fantastic reminder of why Cornell was one of rock’s best singers.

“Do Do Do De Da Da Da” – The Police

For a special 7” edition of this single, The Police recorded this song in both Spanish and Japanese. While the Spanish version isn’t bad, the Japanese recording stands out. Japanese can be a difficult language to learn, so a lot of artists opt for an easier language if they want to re-record their songs. Yet, Sting does a pretty decent job here. Sure, he sounds and a bit unnatural, like he’s a first year Japanese student, but he doesn’t sound terrible. Still, it’s better than his new album with Shaggy.

“Helden”/“Heroes” – David Bowie

David Bowie’s groundbreaking single “Heroes” was recorded in English, French, and German. Every version is fantastic, yet each one has a different feel to it. The original is filled with a sense of melancholy while the French version is beautiful and kind of romantic. The German version is bursting with emotion and finds Bowie practically shouting at the top of his lungs by the song’s end. Each version is exciting and has a timeless quality to it. It really shows off Bowie’s talent and how great his crossover appeal was.

“Mi Refljo”/“My Reflection”– Christina Aguilera

In 2000, Christina Aguilera released her second album and her first Spanish album dubbed Mi Reflejo. The record featured cuts from her debut album, like “I Turn To You” and “Genie in a Bottle” recorded in Spanish. But this single from the Mulan soundtrack is one of the best from the album. Whether it’s in Spanish or English, the song is still beautiful and heartbreaking. The way she hits her notes on this version still gives you chills. Even if you can’t understand Spanish, the power of her voice and the emotion she puts behind every word is enough to make you cry. But if you’re looking for another Spanish Aguilera song that won’t choke you up, “Ven Conmigo (Solamente Tú)” is a good choice.

“Boom Clap” – Charli XCX

For the Japanese edition of her second album, Sucker, Charli XCX re-recorded “Break the Rules” and her hit single “Boom Clap” in Japanese. Surprisingly, both songs translate very well and the former actually sounds like it could be by a J-pop girl group. Of course, her Japanese skills aren’t the strongest, but she does a fine job. The songs keep their upbeat vibe and the hook on “Boom Clap” is still so infectious, you’ll find yourself singing the Japanese version in no time, even if you don’t know what she’s saying. Since recording singles in another language isn’t as popular as it used to be, it’s cool to see an artist like Charli XCX do something like this for her fans, especially those in Japan.

“Llámame”/“Call Me” – Blondie

This iconic track received a Spanish recording for a special 12” single meant for release in Mexico and some South American countries. It was later released in the US and the UK and was featured on the 1993 compilation Blonde and Beyond. For the most part, this version is spot on, even Debbie Harry sounds decent singing in Spanish. But things get clunky around the hook which finds her repeating “call me” in English. It’s like the translators decided “Llámame” didn’t sound as catchy and stuck with the original.

“Héroe”/“Hero” – Mariah Carey

No matter what you think about Mariah Carey, she has a killer voice. Her powerful vocals and those impossible high notes she hits are enough to give you chills. She brings that same talent to the Spanish version of “Hero.” This version was recorded for the international release of her album, Music Box, and was translated by Jorge Luis Piloto. The song is gorgeous and Carey sounds confident while singing in Spanish. This version even charted on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs. She’d later record “Open Arms” and “My All” in Spanish, but after a mistranslation snafu with the latter song, it seems like we won’t be hearing sing in another language for a while.

There are a lot more artists who recorded in another language so which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

10 Bizarre Musical Projects You Didn’t Know About

Sometimes when you’ve been doing the same thing for a long time, you want to try something different. Our favorite artists and bands go through the same things. You often hear about artists wanting to break free from their established sound and do something new and out of the box. Sometimes it can produce successful projects that show another side of an artist you thought you knew. And other times it’s a spectacular failure. So let’s look at ten weird musical projects you may not have known about. Not all of them are failures, but they’ll make you see these artists in a different light.

10. Damon Albarn Writes an Opera

Considering how many projects Damon Albarn has created, him writing an opera doesn’t sound that shocking. In 2011, he teamed up with theatre director Rufus Norris for the production Dr Dee: An English Opera. The opera is based on the life of John Dee, who was a medical and scientific advisor to Elizabeth I. Originally, the production was meant to be a collaboration between Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, and graphic novelist Alan Moore. It played at the Palace Theatre in Manchester in July 2011 and was received relatively well. The soundtrack to the opera was later released in 2012 and honestly, it doesn’t sound too different from his other material. While the release features traditional operatic tracks, other songs sound like they’re from his solo album. They’re spacey, kind of weird, yet beautiful. Maybe he’ll work on a Gorillaz opera next. Actually, that would be pretty awesome.

9. Beastie Boys Go Country

Unlike the other entries on this list, this album was made completely in jest. In 1999, the Beastie Boys recorded a full country album dubbed Mike D’s Greatest Country Hits. They never intended it for a wide release. Rather it was a weird gift for their family and friends. In the liner notes to The Sounds of Science, Adam Yauch explained the origin of the album as Mike D losing his memory due to being hit in the head and believing he was a country singer. “The psychologists told us that if we didn’t play along with Mike’s fantasy, he could be in grave danger. Finally, he came back to his senses. This song (“Railroad Blues”) is one of the many that we made during that tragic period of time.” It has a classic good ‘ol country vibe ala Conway Twitty, heavy twangs and all. Even though the songs are clearly jokes (“Sloppy Drunk”, “Don’t Let the Air Out My Tire”) a lot of country songs are strange, so in a way, they fit right in. You can listen to the entire LP on Youtube. And whatever happened to Country Mike? According to Mike D, he’s homeless.

8. Aretha Franklin Gets Disco Fever

Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul who can do no wrong…expect she did by going Disco with La Diva. In the 70s many artists went disco for a spell from Paul McCartney to KISS. So it’s not exactly weird for Franklin to jump on the bandwagon. But since it was around the time Disco died out, it wasn’t her finest output and ended being a commercial flop. Selling under 75,000 units, it’s still her lowest selling album in her entire Atlantic Records career. Yet, the album isn’t terrible. It’s filled with sappy and generic disco songs prevalent during the era. It seems this record was released at the wrong time. Perhaps if it came out during disco’s peak it would’ve been better received. But seeing as disco was dying out, the album seems like a sad attempt to cash in on a dying trend.

7. Serj Tankian Gets Jazzy with Jazz Is Christ

 

Whenever you think of Serj Tankian the first thing that comes to mind is the heavy, intense music of System of a Down. And while he’s experimented a bit with his solo releases, jazz is the last thing you’d expect to hear from him. But that’s exactly where he went. In 2013 he released the album Jazz-iZ Christ with a group of the same name. Featuring pianist Tigran Hamasyan, flautist Valeri Tolstov, and trumpet player Tom Duprey, the largely instrumental album finds the rocker mixing jazz with elements of rock, electronic, and world music. It’s definitely a weird experience, but it doesn’t sound that bad. It does have the mellow flow of Jazz, but thanks to the blend of other genres it keeps you on your toes. It was a pretty successful release and shows the wide range Tankian has as a musician. Though I’m sure people would prefer a new SOAD record at this point.

6. Garth Brooks Confuses the World with Chris Gaines

Garth Brooks is one of country’s biggest superstars, if not the biggest. Even if you don’t like country music chances are you know one of his songs. He had a slew of hits and multi-platinum albums during his peak in the 90s. But not everything he touched went gold – remember Chris Gaines? Back in 1999, Brooks introduced this “edgy” alter ego to the world and released his only album The Life of Chris Gaines. Featuring Brooks doing his best Savage Garden impression, the album spawned one hit “Lost In You.” As you can guess, the project was a flop yet it wasn’t terrible. It was just weird. Not only did the album receive mixed reviews, fans were confused as hell. Was it a joke? Was it really Garth Brooks? Has he gone crazy? They even made a Behind the Music episode for the persona. Just listen to Brooks explain Gaines’ origins and try not to be confused. Turns out, Brooks planned the persona for a movie he was meant to star in called The Lamb. It didn’t happen. After the fiasco he back to country music. He’s good at it, so he should stick with it.

5. Paul Banks Release a Weird, Hip Hop Infused Mixtape

Paul Banks is better known as the monotone, Ian Curtis-eqsue frontman for Interpol. Banks has picked up various side projects, including a solo career, but his strangest is the 2013 mixtape Everybody On My Dick Like They Supposed to Be. There’s so much weirdness packed into this release you’re not sure where to start. Banks handles production and the actual music, which sounds generic and low quality. As for vocals, rappers like Mike G, Talib Kweli, and High Prizm handle the actual rapping – a smart move on Banks’ part. Though, admittedly, having Banks rap on these tracks may have made the mixtape worthwhile. The release was meant to be a pre-release bonus for his second solo album Banks, but it was released a year later. It seems like Banks is genuinely interested in rap as he teamed up with RZA for the project Banks & Steelz, which surprisingly, was received pretty well.

4. Snoop Dogg Becomes Snoop Lion

People weren’t sure what to make of Snoop Dogg’s reincarnation in 2013. After a documentary dubbed Reincarnated, Snoop introduced his new persona Snoop Lion along with his new Rastafarian lifestyle. The album Reincarnated came out the same year and features Snoop doing his best Reggae impression while singing about smoking weed. Well, at least some things never change. To be fair, Snoop Lion isn’t terrible, but it’s still not great. The album was met with mixed reviews, yet oddly enough was nominated for a Grammy for Best Reggae Album. What a slap in the face for actual reggae artists. Seeing as Snoop released his latest album, Neva Left, under Snoop Dogg, it’s safe to say things are back to normal.

3. Tommy Lee Attempts Nu-Metal

Since hair metal died out in the 90s with the onslaught of grunge, Motley Crue wasn’t at their peak during the era. After some less than stellar albums, drummer Tommy Lee left the band in 1999 and formed Methods of Mayhem his attempt at a rap/rock band. The band released their self-titled album, which went gold and actually received decent reviews. Lead single “Get Naked” received moderate airplay on MTV, which is hard to believe since it’s terrible. Lee shouldn’t be allowed to rap because it’s a mess. And the band as a whole is just generic “hardcore” music and lame lyrics trying to cash in on the “nu-metal” trend at the time. Now, people realize just how bad the band was. Everyone except Tommy Lee. In 2009, he reformed the band with a new lineup and released the album A Public Disservice Announcement. Luckily, he doesn’t rap as much and sticks with something that’s supposed to be singing.

2. Pat Boone Goes Metal…Kind Of

Pat Boone makes the kind of music that gets finger snapping and toes tapping….if you’re over 65. Back in the day, Boone was a Renaissance man appearing in movies, TV shows, being a spokesman, a motivational speaker, and a singer. His music is safe and non-threatening, but in 1997 Boone made the bold decision to go metal in the lamest way possible. In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy features the singer covering metal hits like “You Got Another Thing Coming” and “Crazy Train” in a jazz/big band style, which makes the album even weirder. The covers aren’t necessarily terrible, just confusing as all hell. He sounds like a grandfather when singing “Enter Sandman” and “Holy Diver.” It’s like he wanted to make non-threatening metal for people who don’t actually like metal. If that wasn’t bad enough, the album art shows the then 63-year old wearing a vest and chain. Instead of looking metal he looks like a real-life version of that Ken doll that definitely wasn’t gay.

1. Dee Dee Ramone Reinvents himself as Dee Dee King

Dee Dee Ramone will always be remembered for The Ramones, one of the most influential punk rock bands. But his stint as a rapper will forever haunt him. It sounds like a bad joke but the punk rocker took up rapping in 1989. What started as showing up to Ramones rehearsals in hip-hop gear turned into a weird side project. Under the name Dee Dee King, he released the LP Standing in the Spotlight. It’s almost too painful to listen to. Songs like “Funky Man” and “German Kid” sound like your dad rapping because it’s “hip” and “cool” with the kids. The songs are laughably bad talking about how he’s half German or singing about how the Mash Potato will make your “body move.” He even proclaims he’s a master at hip-hop. At the time Dee Dee said he felt a connection with the underdog spirit of the genre. Later, an older, wiser Dee Dee realized it probably wasn’t the best career move. After the album flopped he went back to the Ramones and all was right with the world.

Which of these bizarre projects is your favorite? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: I Will Survive

Image result for destiny's child survivor

2017 was a tough year for a lot of people and it seemed like the negativity and bad news was never going to end, but we made through to another year. We survived and that’s something to celebrate. During tough times it’s too easy to focus on everything that’s going wrong in your life. We often forget that the bad times aren’t going to last forever. And when we make it through those hard times, we’ve survived and are hopefully stronger for it. So this month’s playlist is all about survival. Hopefully, it’ll give you some solace if you’re going through something difficult.

“The Middle” – Jimmy Eat World

We’re all filled with some sort of self-doubt. Whether you messed up at work, a video idea isn’t coming together, or are stuck on a writing assignment it’s easy to write yourself off. You start to wonder if you’re even good enough at your job. During these moments, we need to take a cue from Jim Adkins and remember “Everything will be alright.” What is arguably Jimmy Eat World’s biggest hit reminds us that as long as we’re trying our best, we’re doing just fine. It’s one of those songs that reminds me whatever you’re going through isn’t going to last forever. It’s best to ride it out and try to keep your head up. And it doesn’t hurt that song is so irresistibly catch, it’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re singing along.

“Fighter” – Christina Aguilera

This is an anthem for anyone who’s had their heartbroken, been lied to, been cheated on, the list goes on. Aguilera uses her personal experiences from the start of her career and channels her anger into a message that says “I survived.” She proclaims she can’t be stopped and instead of letting her regrets and her past mistakes haunt her, she uses them to make her stronger and make her a fighter. We’ve all had those moments where it seems like nothing is going to get better. But once the storm passes and we make it out, we’re stronger and we learn from our experience ready for any future battles that may come our way.

“I’m Still Standing” – Elton John

Not only does this Elton John hit make you feel good, it’s a testament to one’s strength and will after a bad experience, in this case, a bad breakup. Life may get you down at times and you may even face great challenges you’re not sure how to overcome, but in the end, you’ll make it. You’ll still be standing and you’ll be stronger for it. This is another anthem for the heartbroken, the cheated, and the deceived reminding you to pick up the pieces and don’t let life get you down. Fun fact: Bruno Tonioli from Dancing With the Stars is the scantily clad man in the black speedo. Scandalous!

“Happy” – Pharrell

Okay, so this song was pretty annoying after it dropped in 2014 and became the anthem for any and every get-together. But you can’t deny it’s the ultimate feel-good anthem. Pharrell reminds us to keep smiling and be happy even when people are trying to bring on bad news. And it’s hard to focus on the negative with this infectious song. It’s hard to be grumpy with the uplifting hook and the upbeat hand claps. If you need a song to unwind and shake off the bad with some dancing, then this song is the one to play.

“The Fight Song” – Marilyn Manson

2017 tried the patience of people all over. A lot of them decided to stand up and fight rather than do nothing. Sometimes you need a song to pump you up and prepare you for battle. This Marilyn Manson song will do just that. A song criticizing American violence, the energy, the hard-hitting music, and Manson repeating “Fight! Fight!” gets your heart racing. It’s a mean, raging track that gets you in the fighting mood, no matter what you’re fighting for.

“I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor

This is the ultimate breakup anthem. Gaynor admits to crying after her lover leaves, but it doesn’t last long. She picks herself up, finds a new love, and tells her ex to hit the road when they come crawling back. Not only is it a timeless dance song, it’s a song about empowerment. Whether you’ve been through a nasty breakup or are just experiencing a low point in your life, the song pushes you to be strong, get better, and move on. It’s easy to curl up and be defeated when life gets you down. During times like this, we have to remember what Gaynor preaches: “I will survive.”

“Float On” – Modest Mouse

Not only does this song have an iconic guitar riff, it also has a great positive message. In the song, Isaac Brock lists off a series of bad incidents you’d normally sweat over, but everything works out in the end. This is a song about letting mistakes, bad news, and accidents wash off of you. No matter how tough things get, it’ll be better. Brock says even though things look bleak now, they won’t always be, which is hard to remember when you’re going through hard times. Life’s not always a shitshow and sometimes you have to let things go instead of worrying about them. As he says “sometimes life’s okay.”

“Still Breathing” – Green Day

The song that inspired this playlist, this is one of Green Day’s finest. Similar to other songs on the playlist, it’s a reminder to not let past dark times get you down. Rather than focusing on the bad, it’s a celebration of making it through the storm. You may have gone through dark times, but you made it in the end. So, let’s celebrate the fact you’re still here and hopefully, you’re better for it. The song itself is emotional and one of Billie Joe Armstrong’s most personal with references to his childhood and past addictions. But it’s also a song that many people can relate to, which is why it’s such a highlight at Green Day concerts.

“I Choose to Live” – Creeper

This beautiful, Queen-esque song is a counterpart to Creeper’s “Misery.” With the tagline “misery never goes out of style” the song addresses feelings of depression and giving up hope. “I Choose to Live” is a message to fight against those feelings. Don’t give up hope and know life isn’t always bleak. Frontman Will Gould stated he wrote the song as a message to the fans. Instead of ending their album, Eternity in Your Arms, with a message of hopelessness, they wanted to close on a positive note. It’s a message to keep fighting and try not to let your demons get the best of you.

“The Show Must Go On” – Queen

Life’s too short to focus on the negative. That’s essentially what this song is about. Though the track has an uplifting message of making the most out of life and continuing in the face of adversary, it has a sad backstory. The song was written while Freddie Mercury was struggling with AIDS. When it was time to record the song, Brian May didn’t think Mercury was strong enough to perform. Mercury proved him wrong and delivered a top notch, powerful performance; the kind we’re used to. Listening to the song, you can’t even tell Mercury was near the end of his life. It goes to show you need to make the most out of life even if things aren’t looking good.

“Survivor” – Destiny Child

This is like “I Will Survive” for the next generation. The girls of Destiny’s Child have no problem moving on after a bad breakup and similar to so many other songs on this list, the experience has made them stronger. They even take the high road saying they won’t resort to talking trash about their ex, even if it would feel good at the time. It’s another song about overcoming hard times and pushing away negativity from your life. It’s an empowering anthem for anyone.

Which song gets you through tough times? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Throwback Christmas Performances

Despite what department stores tried to tell you two months ago, the Christmas season is finally here! Break out the eggnog, prepare the wrapping paper, and put up the tree. It’s time to get excited about the holidays and everything that comes with it, maybe except the family arguments. To help you get in the mood, let’s take a look at some throwback Christmas performances. Just try not to succumb to nostalgia overload.

“Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” – Nsync

The baggy khakis. The frosted tips. Justin’s ramen noodle hair. It must be Nsync in the 90s! The boys perform “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” on the Kathie Lee Show to a crowd that politely claps along. It’s one of their earlier appearances since Lee holds a mini Q+A session to learn more about them. The boys revealing such titillating details like how old they are, what they fight about, and how they’re all “like brothers.” And if Justin’s hair wasn’t distracting enough, check out his gold “Nsync” chain. The whole thing is goofy, a little awkward, but a classic for Nsync fangirls. The boys also performed the song at the Disney parade, but it’s hard to get into the holiday spirit with little Christmas paraphernalia around. Also, apparently they had their own holiday special. Why am I just finding out about this now?

“Oi to the World” – No Doubt

If you’re not feeling Gwen Stefani’s latest holiday album, then check out this performance from 1997 instead. During their set at Live to Erase MS, the band pulls out this Vandals cover and it really makes you miss old school Stefani. She wiggles around without care, doing her weird dance in chunky shoes and flowing skirt. This song is perfect if you need a healthy dose of Ska this holiday season. Unfortunately, the video ends before the band finishes the song, but it still manages to get you fired up for the holidays. When watching this, you can’t help but think about how Stefani is now and how her younger self may not be a fan of the glamour pop star she is now.

“All I Want For Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey

It’s not Christmas unless you hear this song a million times before you put up the tree. But no matter how many times you hear it, you can’t deny how damn good it is. What makes this performance so enjoyable is this is Mariah at her peak. She sounds great, looks great, and looks like she’s having fun on stage. As you would expect, she struts out in a revealing Santa outfit before being carried off by her band of merry men. There’s not much to it, but it reminds you why Mariah is considered one of the greats, something that’s easy to forget in recent years. Let’s try to forget her New Year’s fiasco from last year.

“Funky, Funky Christmas” – New Kids on the Block

I feel like I talk about this song every year, but I can’t get over how bad this performance is. It’s so bad, I absolutely love it!

“Christmas In Hollis” – Run DMC

If you grew up in the 90s, this performance should send you into nostalgia overload. You have Run DMC, 90s Nickelodeon, Kenan and Kel all in one video. It’s almost too much to handle! The group performs what is probably the best Christmas song ever. Even though the kids are clearly excited (because producers told them to be) they don’t understand the magnitude of seeing Run DMC, rap legends. Can you imagine being that young and seeing Run DMC? Thinking about it, the show had some killer performances: TLC, Nas, Dru Hill, and even the Spice Girls.

“Let It Snow” – Boyz 2 Men

In the 90s, Boyz 2 Men could do no wrong. Their soulful harmonies and impressive vocal range made all of their songs a hit including this now Christmas classic. It’s hard to tell, but judging from quick glimpses of what looks like Kel Mitchell, this appears to be another clip from All That. Though Brian McKnight, who provides backing vocals, is missing from this performance the guys have no trouble holding their own. And this is good ol’ days of the group when Michael McCary was still around. While this live performance is great, many may prefer their performance of the track on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I mean that episode was pretty good.

“Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant” – Siouxsie and the Banshees

The Banshees buck tradition and perform a French Christmas tune for this performance. While Siouxsie Sioux looks like she’s having a good time the others just aren’t having it. Robert Smith in particular uncomfortably holds his cymbals either waiting for his cue or desperately needing a bathroom break. Or the most likely scenario, high out of his mind. Since I’m a huge Cure fan, Smith is such a distraction. I’m always intrigued when the camera pans to him.Still, Sioux sounds beautiful while singing this tune and it’s a cool alternative Christmas track if you’re already sick of the old standbys.

“Santa Baby” – Eartha Kitt

While I grew up with the Madonna version, I have to give credit to the vixen who made it popular, Eartha Kitt. In this live performance, Kitt shows she’s not afraid to let out the claws as she states “I used to have a lot of fun with this song, then Madonna sang it.” Whereas Madonna’s version is overly cutesy, as if Betty Boop were performing it, Kitt’s version is sultry. You can practically hear her purring through the lyrics coming off as quite the seductress. She shifts gears near the end sounding and looking a bit frightening. She’s kind of scary, yet sexy. If I were Santa, I’d make sure to get her everything on her Christmas list.

“Merry Christmas, Baby” -Hanson

Hanson’s Snowed In is another 90’s holiday classic with this being one of the best songs from the LP. While Hanson and the choir deliver a great performance, the crowd is pretty stale. It’s awkward seeing the camera shift between Taylor Hanson bobbing along to the music and the crowd just sitting there, most of them not even swaying to the music. You can tell there are a few Hanson fans in the crowd trying their best not to scream and cry. But it seems like everyone else isn’t really sure if they should be enjoying it or not. And in case you didn’t know, the Hanson brothers just released a new holiday album. Gotta say I’m pretty excited to hear it.

“This Gift” – 98 Degrees

I wasn’t the biggest 98 Degrees fan, but I absolutely loved this song when it first came out. During this performance at Disney’s holiday parade, they’re practically drowned out by all the screaming from the crowd. There are tons of fangirls, but it’s funny to see some boys in the crowd enjoying the band. It’s standard boy band fare: oversized cargo pants, awful sweaters, and lots of hair gel. I know the part where Jeff kneels at the front of the stage and sings to one lucky fan is supposed to be sweet, but it comes off as creepy for some reason. And similar to Hanson, 98 Degrees also released a new Christmas album. Does this mean Nsync is next? We can only hope.

“Christmas Time” – Christina Aguilera

Switching things up X-Tina gives up a festive, dance-infused song to get you in the Christmas spirit. Recorded around the time of her peak, she sounds excellent here and never misses a beat while dancing. Am I the only one who forgot she used to dance? But the best part of the performance has to be when Lil’ Bow Wow comes out. Yes, Bow Wow is featured here. Talk about a throwback performance. Even though the song isn’t as well remembered as other holiday classics, it’s a fun, upbeat way to get excited about the holidays. And it’s probably the best track from My Kind of Christmas. Seriously, that album is pretty bad.

“This Christmas” – Nsync, Shawn Colvin, Tatyana Ali

And how about another Nsync performance because why not? Let’s take a moment to appreciate Justin raising the roof at the end.

What are some of your favorite holiday performances? Let me know in the comments!