Lists

Playlist: Best Songs of 2018 So Far…

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Each year I always look forward to what music has in store. Whether it’s discovering a new band or listening to old favorites, there’s always something to look forward to. 2018 isn’t over yet, but there have already been some great songs I’ve kept on repeat. So before we look forward to music coming out this fall, let’s look back at the stellar songs released so far. Here are my picks for the best songs of 2018 so far.

Marmozets – “Lost in Translation”

Marmozets are one of the best rock bands you’re not listening to. They released their second album, Knowing What You Know Now, earlier this year and it’s on my list of top albums of 2018. It was hard to choose just one song, but “Lost In Translation” shows off their energy, hard driving sound, and their growth as a band. It’s pummeling beat and bouncy riff pumps you up and the underlying groove gets you moving. Everything crashes during the hook hitting right in the chest, but you’re too busy headbanging to notice. There’s a great swagger and cockiness to the song that instantly pulls you in. It also shows why Becca Macintyre is a stellar vocalist. She doesn’t just yell and scream. She plays around with her voice manipulating its range depending on the song’s tone. It’s only one of many great songs from an amazing album. I highly recommend it.

Pale Waves – “The Tide”

I like Pale Waves, but even I don’t understand their rabid fanbase. After listening to their debut EP and seeing them live, I really don’t understand what’s got fans so crazy. They’re not really doing anything new; they sound like 1975, who sound like bands from the 80s like INXS. But when I hear the opening riff of this song, I instantly start dancing. It’s so bouncy and upbeat and the hook of “I’ll be the sea honey/always, always/and you’ll be the tide” will be stuck in your head for days. It’s fun to listen to and makes you feel good even though the lyrics are a bit gloomy. It may not be the best song I’ve heard this year, but it’s one I can’t stop singing.

Night Riots – “Colour Morning”

The first new track from Night Riots since Love Gloom falls very much in tune what they dubbed their “gloom pop” sound. There’s a melancholy air to the song mixed with a hint of pop and alt-rock. From the soft plucks of the opening guitar to Travis Hawley proclaiming “Goddamn what a beautiful world” it sounds pretty and mellow even though it’s seemingly about lost love. It has a dreamy, atmospheric mood similar to “Breaking Free,” another stellar song of theirs. It’s not the upbeat, catchy vibe found on their EP that caught my attention, but the atmospheric music and Hawley’s sensual vocals make it one of their prettier compositions.

Dead Sara – “Unamerican”

If you think rock is dead then you obviously haven’t heard this song. Taken from their new EP, Temporary Things Taking Up Space, this is classic Dead Sara all the way. It’s got a searing riff, a dirty tone, Emily Armstrong’s gritty vocals, and an I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. Armstrong even squeezes a nice “Fuck you, Donald Trump” in there, though she claims it’s nothing political. It’s a hard-hitting, raw song that pumps you and makes you want to rage. Surprisingly, the rest of EP finds them moving towards an alt-rock direction, but this song shows they haven’t abandoned their hard rock roots.

Turnstile – “Generator”

Turnstile’s second album Time & Space is another hard one to choose just one great song from. The album is a blistering 25 minutes of raging hardcore that comes at you fast and hard. All of the tracks are thrilling, but the shifting sounds and moods of “Generator” stand out. Opening with a chugging metal riff, singer Brendan Yates comes out the gate swinging screaming at the top of his lungs “I’m hanging on to what I got left/picking up the pieces in the dark.” Everything is really aggressive up until the bridge where things slow down and soft singing replaces Yates’ screams. The dizzy guitar riff and pulsing beats create a trippy vibe before returning to destructive sound. This is only a sample of what Turnstile does. I highly recommend this album if you want to hear more.

Jack White – “Hypermisophoniac”

When Jack White announced his third solo album, I wasn’t very interested especially after hearing “Connected By Love.” But after giving Boarding House Reach a chance, I found it to be pretty great. It has the classic White sound we’re used to, but he fuses it with so many weird, wonderful elements like on this track. It starts with this hypnotic electronic looping. White keeps adding layers as he shows off his guitar skills and attacks the piano like he wants to hurt it. It’s a fusion of jazz, funk, rock, and blues stamped white White’s swagger that makes it an album highlight.

Franz Ferdinand – “Lazy Boy”

Most Franz Ferdinand songs are cheeky, fun, and have a hook you can’t stop singing. “Lazy Boy” from their latest album, Always Ascending, has all of these, which makes it one of the best from the LP. The music is infused with their new disco dance direction, yet still has killer riffs that they’re known for. The lyrics are straightforward and simple, but the playful way Alex Kapranos sings “I’m a lazy boy/yes a lazy boy/lazy in the morning boy” gets stuck in your head for days. It may not be their greatest song; it’s just a lot of fun to sing and dance to and manages to stand out on an album full of dance influenced jams.

The Struts – “Body Talks”

The Struts are all about having a good time and getting back to the basics of rock n roll: partying, money, and hot women. Their songs always sound like a party and it’s no different with their latest. It has everything you want in a Struts song: high energy, big hooks, and a tongue-in-cheek attitude. There’s also a hint of sexy that makes the song so tantalizing. Frontman Luke Spiller sounds seductive and playful as he sings “Oooh your body talks/your body talks.” It’s another let-the-good-times-roll anthem from The Struts that shows the fun, carefree nature of the band. If this is a taste of the new album, then I can’t wait to hear the rest.

Panic! At the Disco – “Roaring 20s”

Even though I love PATD’s debut album, I never got into their later stuff. I started checking out their recent stuff out of curiosity and was surprised how much I enjoyed Pray for the Wicked. The entire record has this celebratory, party vibe to it that’s perfectly captured on “Roaring 20s.” With its slinky rhythm and an infectious hook Urie is known for, it sounds like nothing but a good time. The lyrics suggest something darker at play, but you can’t help but dance to over the top music. Plus, it takes you back to Urie’s baroque pop days, which pleases longtime fans like me. It’s just fun to listen to, while the entire album makes you feel good. If you need a pick me up, then you should check out Pray for the Wicked.

Hit Bargain – “Tourist II”

Hit Bargain’s Potential Maximizer wasn’t on my radar when it came out in May, but when it was recommended to me I was hooked. A playful, yet poignant hardcore record, it’s one of the most thrilling and exciting releases of the year. All the songs grab you by the throat and start pummeling you, but my favorite is “Tourist II.” Singer Nora Singh sounds cocky and playful as she sings and the bouncy opening riff sucks you in. The intense, hard driving music and Singh’s piercing screams sound like chaos incarnate. The song is bursting with energy and attitude, which is all over their debut album. Be sure to check them out if you want a riveting and exciting good time.

The Cure – “Drowning Man (Bright Birds Mix 2018)”

When The Cure announced a reissue of their 1990 remix album Mixed Up along with a disc of new mixes titled Torn Down, I wasn’t expecting much. I’m not a fan of the original album and didn’t have a lot of faith in the new mixes. Surprisingly, I was impressed with the 2018 remixes with this one standing out. Robert Smith messes with the song enough to put a different spin on it without changing it completely. He managed to make this song sound more bleak and depressing and if you’re familiar with the original you didn’t think it could get any darker. The sweeping music and layered vocals that wail like a spirit makes it more somber. He amps up the melancholy and Gothic tone making a chilling and unforgettable experience.

Con Brio – “Heart Shaped Box”

Nirvana songs aren’t sexy, but Con Brio turned this grunge classic into a slow jam. Instead, they turn the song on its head with a healthy dose of funk and soul. Singer Ziek McCarter sounds sensual as he sings, which is weird for a Nirvana song. It’s almost like Michael Jackson decided to cover this Nirvana classic. You wouldn’t expect the soulful rendition to be any good, yet it’s one of the most unique and top-notch covers I’ve heard. And I’m really picky when it comes to Nirvana cover. It may not be for all fans, but at least Con Brio did something unique with the song and managed to really make it their own.

Gorillaz – “Humility”

Yacht rock is usually reserved for the lite radio station your parents love and Christopher Cross. But when Gorillaz put their own spin on it, it’s a summer jam. The first offering from The Now Now gives us a different, breezy vibe than what we heard on Humanz. The music is mellow and smooth with a hint of jazz flair thanks to guest collaborator George Benson. Damon Albarn’s soothing vocals complete the relaxing mood. It’s so easy going it sounds like it was made for summer. Imagining listening to this chilling on the beach or out on the road. It makes you feel good, which is what we all need right now.

Which songs have you been jamming to this year? Let me know in the comments!

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Playlist: Songs Recorded in a Different Language

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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

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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!

Rank the Videos: HIM 2005 – 2013

With only a month away from seeing the band live for the final time, it’s time to wrap up the series and take a look at HIM’s final videos. Continuing with Dark Light and moving towards the Tears on Tape era, the videos aren’t as awkward or cheesy as their early ones. Unfortunately, their videos steadily become predictable. Most of these clips look similar to their other ones or is just yet another performance clip with the only difference being the setting. While not terrible, they aren’t as memorable as their other clips. That being said, here are HIM’s videos 2005 – 2013 from best to worst. Check out the first parts here and here.

“Killing Loneliness” Version 1 (2005)

For one of HIM’s biggest singles, the band filmed two videos: one for the European the release, the other for the US. The European version, directed by Noble Jones, finds the band fulfilling various sexual desires. Starting with a dreary, grey setting, we follow a woman walking to a seedy club emblazoned with the Heartagram symbol. Once inside, she gets her coin, also featuring the symbol, and enters a nudie booth. After paying the fee, the band is revealed to be inside the booth performing. The rest of the clip follows different people as they watch HIM perform and begin to enjoy themselves a bit too much. One woman even comes prepared in her lingerie and doesn’t hesitate to start rubbing herself. Ville Valo takes full advantage of his sex symbol status as he chooses one lucky lady and sings in her ear. It’s a slightly naughty clip that goes beyond the average performance video. Though there isn’t any nudity, the sexual situations are somehow still too steamy for American shores.

“Heartkiller” (2010)

This video by James Copeland actually has some clever image trickery at play. Taxidermy figures of tigers, owls, ravens, and boars are carefully layered over each member of the band and one fierce looking lady. Sometimes the image overlying doesn’t exactly work, but when it does, it leaves some head-turning visuals. The most notable moment is opening where flashes of a skull synch up perfectly with Ville. Upon release, I wasn’t impressed with the video and only remembered a shirtless Ville bathed in red light. Revisiting it, I find it to be one of their most creative videos. The imagery is awesome and really sticks with you once the video is over.

“Into the Night” (2013)

What is now HIM’s final video shows them playing the song while mysterious robed figures gather bricks and lay them out in a pattern. The people range from old to young carrying bricks to the middle of a sandy area. At one point Ville has his own brick and tosses it to one of the figures. By the end, we see the result: a Heartagram, what a surprise. The video is nothing amazing, but the robed figures add a sense of mystery, at least the first time you see it. And if you’ve ever spent time in class scribbling out Heartagrams, it brings on a pleasing sense of nostalgia. It’s weird thinking this is HIM’s last video (as of now). It wasn’t meant to be a goodbye and it doesn’t feel like one. There’s no sense of finality to it, which is actually kind of nice. Watching it now, I don’t feel any sadness even though the band is ending. Rather, it makes me remember how much joy they’ve brought me with their music, unlike something like Blink-182’s “Not Now,” which I still associate with frustration due to their break up.

“Killing Loneliness” Version 2 (2006)

Sadly, the US version of this video is quite lame and predictable. Directed by Nathan Cox, the majority of the clip features the band performing in the middle of a club. Other shots include Ville walking through the crowd and a cameo by Kat Von D, seemingly looking for the singer. When the two finally meet, she brands him with a new tattoo of Edgar Allen Poe’s eyes. Not really sure what this random exchange has to do with the rest of the video, but it’s in there. It’s another straightforward performance clip and ends up being dull compared to the previous version.

“Tears on Tape” (2013)

HIM delivers a cryptic video for this single. Beginning with shots of the band members playing in front of a projector, we see Ville scribble out mysterious symbols. Soon, the symbols are replicated everywhere by different people. They serve as tattoos, graffiti, secret notes, an eerie flag, and even some sort of decoration for a horse. This scene is just confusing. Why paint a horse in the first place? The symbol widely spreads similar to the Heartagram, which has been adopted by people who don’t even know the band. It’s a decent video that shows how these weird symbols take on different meanings for people and even bring them together. The only laughable thing is Burton. What the hell is up with that shot of Burton sitting on the floor tapping the keyboard so unenthusiastically? Seeing him tap on his keyboard giving unsure looks at the camera breaks the serious mood the video is trying to set up.

“All Lips Go Blue” (2013)

Directed by Eugene Riecansky, this video collects a bunch of cool imagery and puts it all together with no clear concept. We see giant chess pieces that crumble, violent crashing waves, gnarled trees stolen from a Tim Burton set, and the tumbling of a giant house of cards. Meanwhile, the band is superimposed over these scenes watching the madness unfold, though they look kind of bored by the whole thing. The video is beautifully shot and the graphics are cool to look at, but the unclear focus and the dull look of the band don’t make it the most exciting clip.

“Kiss of Dawn” (2007)

For this clip, director Meiert Avis relies on some of the band’s old video tropes: shirtless Ville and questionable effects. We see HIM recording the track along with shots of Ville looking pensive while writing. The rest of the video finds the singer shirtless, wandering through a Gothic setting while a beautiful apparition passes by him. What this has to do with the story or the song? No clue and unlike Avis’ work on “Wings of a Butterfly” the Gothic scenes look cheesy. Not a terrible video, but like many other HIM clips, nothing notable – just an excuse to stare at Ville for four minutes.

“Scared to Death” (2010)

Directed by Eugene Riecansky, this one has a somewhat similar vibe as “Gone With the Sin:” Ville walking through eye-catching landscapes. This time he’s walking through the eerily empty city streets with his trusty guitar. He gives the camera the typical brooding looks throughout his journey. We then see the other members walking the streets as if trying to meet up for band rehearsal. Out of nowhere weird 3D triangles begin raining from the sky. In one of the cheesiest moments we see one close up and it shows a promo photo of the band as it passes. While the video may be interesting to watch at first, it’s not all that memorable, but hey, at least Ville looks handsome.

“Bleed Well” (2007)

Meiret Avis returns one last time to direct this performance clip. Taking the same grainy effect he used on “Wings of a Butterfly” the band performs the song with gusto and joy. That’s about it. It’s another boring performance clip from the band. At least it looks like they’re having fun; the video opens with Ville laughing and the smile he breaks into while singing is infectious. It’s the one thing about the video I actually remember. Other than that, it plays out like their other performance videos.

“Strange World” (2012)

A rather scruffy looking Ville and crew plow through this Ke cover in this video. Directed by Eugene Riecansky, the clip is nothing but HIM performing the track in the studio. Aside from the band pulling some questionable “rocking out” faces, nothing happens. It’s your typical “we had no ideas, so let’s just perform” video. The most distracting thing is Ville’s lip-synching. Something about it seems off as if he’s trying too hard or not hard enough. Maybe he knew the video would be a bore and decided it wasn’t worth putting in the effort.

And with that, we’ve covered all of HIM’s videos. Some are now iconic and ones that I will gladly watch on repeat. Others are tough to sit through with corny visuals and awkward performances. And rest are just predictable. Still, it was a blast revisiting all of HIM’s videos and seeing their evolution from a small Finnish rock band to global superstars. Doing this series brought back a lot of fond memories when I first got into the band and a lot of them were just fun to watch again. Though the band is breaking up, they at least left us with great music we can still rock out to.