Jack White

Playlist: Best Songs of 2018 So Far…

Image result for turnstile band

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: Room Service

Hotels can be strange places. While they can represent a lavish lifestyle and living in the lap of luxury, they’re also mysterious, unsettling, and creepy. Why else do you think so many horror movies take place in them? Musicians spend most of their time in and out of hotel rooms around the world, so there are plenty of songs about hotels out there. While some of them view the hotel as a place of comfort or even a wild night, others see it as something mysterious and unnerving. Here are some of the more notable songs about hotels and what happens behind closed doors.

“Hotel Yorba” – The White Stripes

This early White Stripes song features the name of a real hotel in the band’s hometown of Detroit. They actually recorded the single version of this song in room 206 of the hotel. When they wanted to film the video inside the hotel, they weren’t allowed to and used various exterior shots instead. Upon initial release, the song was a hit in England before it was embraced stateside. Now, it’s considered a fan favorite, though for some reason I always disliked this song. Something about the bluegrass and the jaunty melody of the “1, 2, 3, 4” hook was annoying to me.

“Room 13” – Black Flag

Here we see a man on the brink of losing control. He’s at the point of snapping and is not sure whether or not he can make it in the world. At the same time, he wants to live and keeps begging for someone to “keep me alive/I don’t know if I can do it.” The song is brash, in your face, and outright brutal, much like Black Flag themselves. Not only is the song aggressive it leaves you wondering, what the hell is room 13? It’s never mentioned and leaves your mind to wander. Is it part of an insane asylum or prison? We’re never sure. All we know for sure is this guy is about to lose it.

“Hotel” – Cassidy ft. R. Kelly

Anybody actually remember the rapper, Cassidy? Probably not, but in 2003 he had one of the hottest hip hop songs. With R. Kelly by his side, Cassidy talks about using lush hotels to hold lavish parties and convince hotties to creep up to his hotel room. It’s similar to Chingy’s “Holidae In” and Cassidy knows this as he makes references to both that song and the iconic “Rapper’s Delight.” Honestly, it sounds like your typical rap song, but what made this one a hit was the unforgettable hook. Even if you didn’t really like the song you couldn’t help but sing the R. Kelly laced hook. You gotta admit, the man knows how to make earworm hooks.

“Room 21” – Hinder

I always saw Hinder as a sleazy band and they prove it with this song.  Sounding like a Motley Crue song, the band talks about being seduced by an irresistible woman and having a wild night in room 21. When the guy comes to the next morning, the mysterious woman is gone. He’s been used, but it was so good he doesn’t care. It’s the classic tale of excess, sex, and partying. It’s clearly meant to be a fun night to remember instead of a cautionary tale like the other songs on this list.

“Heartbreak Hotel (This Place Hotel)” – Michael Jackson

One of Jackson’s best and underrated songs, it’s about a strange hotel designed to break up couples. In it, the protagonist talks about taking his lover to what he thought would be a romantic night out and instead ends in heartache. The hotel implants two women in his room implying he’s cheating on his lover. He can’t convince her otherwise and he’s left alone. The upbeat music, Jackson’s wails, and the catchy hook distracts you from how weird this song is. A hotel made to break up couples? Just shows you never know what’s happening behind closed doors. To make the song even stranger the song title was later changed to “This Place Hotel” to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley song.

“Room 309” – Creeper

If you’ve been following Creeper, then you’d know about the major story running across two EPs and their debut album. In a nutshell, the story follows the Callous Heart cult, the stranger, and paranormal investigator James Scythe trying to piece it all together. Room 309 is where James stays at The Dolphin Hotel in Southampton, UK. The story is so massive, it’s best to you check it all out here. As for the song itself, it’s one of the heaviest on the album and packs a major punch, showing off Creeper’s heavier side.

“Twilight Hotel” – Quiet Riot

This quintessential 80s rock band takes us to the titular hotel where “anything goes” and your wildest fantasies will be fulfilled. Frontman Kevin DuBrow sings about a “secret rendezvous” in this place that seems too good to be true. Even though it holds unbridled pleasures, there’s still an air of apprehension about the place. Appearing on their third album, QIII, the song is a typical rock ballad filled with big hooks and shredding guitars. Surprisingly, it’s not as sappy or cheesy as other ballads of the era.

“Room 409” – Bullet For My Valentine

Sometimes you don’t want to know what’s waiting for you in a room as this Bullet song explains. Frontman Matt Tuck sings about a guy walking into Room 409 and finding his girlfriend with another man. Rather than walking out the door, he goes in upset and ready to unleash his violent rage. It’s clear things aren’t going to end well with Tuck singing “[You] said his name and I came in your direction /Now I can choose what to do with both of you.” This territory isn’t new for Bullet. They have lots of songs about getting revenge on a cheating lover, but this one is probably their best.

“Chelsea Hotel #2” – Leonard Cohen

There are plenty of songs about the infamous Chelsea Hotel, but this one is about a once in a lifetime meeting. In 1968, Leonard Cohen was staying at the New York hotel working on his music. At 3 AM he ran into a woman in the elevator and proceeded to strike up a conversation. Turns out, the woman was none other than Janis Joplin. They apparently spent the night together, but their affair would be forgotten in the morning. Cohen penned this song about their meeting in 1971 not too long after her death. It’s a bittersweet account of a night spent together that’s all too fleeting.

“Hotel California” – The Eagles

The mother of all hotel songs. You can’t have a hotel playlist without this Eagles classic.

Playlist: Rock Duets

Sometimes a duet is the best thing in the world. Other times, it’s a disaster. But it always leaves memorable stories. There’s something about two huge musicians getting together to create music that’s thrilling and exciting. Pop music is full of countless duets, but they don’t seem as popular for rock music. They certainly exist; they’re just not as abundant as they are in pop music. So let’s look at some of the most notable and popular duets in rock music. For the purpose of this playlist, a duet is a song where both artists have an equal amount of time on the track.

“Close My Eyes Forever” – Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne

This is probably the most famous rock duet. The song, which apparently came about as an accident according to Sharon Osbourne, was the third single for Lita Ford’s self-titled debut album. With sappy lyrics and a blazing guitar solo, it’s no different from the many power ballads of the era. Ozzy’s haunting vocals do add an eerie touch to the song, but it’s still pretty cheesy. Though I love Osbourne, I never liked this song. It’s too slow for my tastes and is just corny. Then again, I’d be hard press to find one power ballad from the 80s I actually like. Still, this single stands out as one of the most notable duets in rock music.

“Love Interruption” – Jack White and Ruby Amanfu

The music world went a little nuts when Jack White announced a solo album only a year after the White Stripes ended. The debut single “Love Interruption” wasn’t what people expected. There were no roaring riffs and White screaming over screeching guitars. Instead, the song is mellow, subdued, and a bit cynical. Though White could’ve easily carried the song himself, the addition of Amanfu’s smoky vocals adds an understated sensuality to the song. Something about her voice adds a raspy, soulful nature that would’ve been missing otherwise. I actually think it’s one of the strongest tracks from Blunderbuss and serves as a reminder love isn’t always pretty.

“Dancing in the Street” – Mick Jagger and David Bowie

Two of music’s iconic artists, what could go wrong? To be fair, the cover itself isn’t that bad. There’s nothing particularly special about it, but it’s fun at least. Yet, the music video will go down in infamy. It’s unbelievably bad. Jagger exaggerates everything from his facial expressions to his seizure inducing dance moves. Bowie remains cool though it looked like he left the house in some wild pajamas. And don’t forget the scene where Jagger chugs down a soda while Bowie sings. It’s probably one of the worst videos of the 80s. Hell, even Family Guy said it was the gayest music video in history. Thinking about it, there are moments where the two singers get a little too close for comfort.

“State of Shock” – Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger shows up again for a better collaboration with Michael Jackson. Recorded for The Jackson’s album Victory, the song is a raucous and kind of spastic team up with the rocker. The song was originally meant to be a duet with Freddie Mercury for the Thriller album, but scheduling conflicts kept the two from working together. Jagger was called instead and it ended up being his biggest hit away from The Rolling Stones. It’s one of those unexpected hits from Jackson’s catalog, but it’s one of the finest examples of pop and rock colliding. Later on, Jackson said he Jagger sang off key, while Jagger called Jackson “lightweight.” Anyone else think the Freddie Mercury version would’ve been epic?

“Good Times” – INXS and Jimmy Barnes

When two talented vocalists come together, they often try to outshine each other. That’s not the case here. For their contribution to The Lost Boys soundtrack, INXS teamed up with singer/songwriter Jimmy Barnes on this cover of The Easybeats song. Michael Hutchences’ smoldering vocals pair exceptionally well with Barnes’ bluesy, rock-tinged voice. They actually work together to give listeners a thrilling experience. The two sharing vocal duties along with the high energy music supporting them, it’s everything you want a good rock rolling song to be. It has a similar good time vibe as Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Listening to Barnes’ vocals, you have to admit it’s reminiscent of rockers, like Robert Plant.

“Hunger Strike” – Temple of the Dog

Temple of the Dog started as a way for Chris Cornell and members of Pearl Jam to deal with the death of Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood. Their debut album did exceptionally well with this song being their biggest hit single. The track features Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder on vocal duties. When two of grunge’s most notable and talented vocalists get together for a song, you know it’s going to be good. And that’s exactly what you get with this powerful, emotionally driven tune. Both artists get time to share their unique vocal styles, Vedder being gruff and raspy and Cornell’s higher range. It results in a song that’s beautiful and haunting.

“Stand by Your Man” – Wendy O. Williams and Lemmy Kilmister

Ever wonder what it would sound like if two punks ripped apart the Tammy Wynette classic “Stand By your Man?” That’s what Wendy O. Williams and Lemmy Kilmister for a single in 1982. The song is almost unrecognizable with gritty, blazing guitars making a ruckus while the two scream out the lyrics over the noise. Oddly enough, it works. It’s one of those weird covers you would never expect two rock legends to even consider. They breathe new sinister life into the country classic that makes you want to head bang. O. Williams and Kilmister teamed up again for “Jailbait,” which appeared on the Plasmatics album Kommander of Kaos. Listening to these two, it’s clear they were truly one of a kind.

“I Ain’t No Nice Guy” – Motorhead and Ozzy Osbourne

When two of hard rock’s most iconic and legendary figures team up, you expect something epic beyond belief. That’s not the result of this duet featuring Lemmy Kilmister and the Prince of Darkness. Rather than getting together for a kickass track that would melt your face off, the two sing a ballad instead. It’s a slow, somber song made for radio airplay. It actually became a huge hit for Motorhead’s tenth album March or Die. It’s a decent song and features a slow burning solo from guitar hero Slash, but it won’t hit that sweet spot for most metalheads. It’s just so unexpected for the rockers. What’s even more surprising is seeing Ozzy with a five o’clock shadow in the video. Yikes.

“A Tout Le Monde” – Megadeth and Christina Scabbia

This song originally appeared on Megadeth’s sixth album Youthanasia and quickly became a staple for the band. At the time of its release, it garnered controversy for its music video. MTV banned it claiming it promoted suicide, which Dave Mustaine was quick to dismiss. The band re-recorded the song in 2007 for the album United Abominations with Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil. Aside from some slight alterations, like a faster pace, there;s not much difference aside from Scabbia singing an entire verse showing off her vocal chops. The song keeps its sentimentality intact along with its hard hitting sound and slightly aggressive mood. Many may prefer the original, but this re-recording is a great blend of old school and new school.

“Walk This Way” – Run DMC and Aerosmith

These days the world of rock and rap often combine for both awesome and questionable results. But back in the 80s, the two were seen as exclusive genres that should never cross paths. Run DMC and Aerosmith broke that barrier with this duet. When it was released in 1986 it blew everyone’s collective minds. Not only did Run DMC cover this classic rock track, they even got Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to join them. The song is still amazing to this day and remains one of the best mash-ups ever. It, of course, would go on to inspire other rock/rap collabs, such as Jay-z and Linkin Park (remember when that was a thing?)

“The One You Love to Hate” – Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson

Two heavy metal giants, both who are considered the best vocalists in the genre, team up for this roaring track. Recorded for Halford’s debut album Ressurection, the song features Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson on vocals. You’d expect to be beyond amazing and the most bad ass thing you’ve ever heard. In reality, it’s okay. It feels more like a Dickinson track since his voice overpowers everything and Halford is stuck on back up duty. It’s a pretty standard metal song with soaring vocals, blazing guitars and a lot of aggression. It’s not bad; just not very remarkable.

“Don’t Fear the Reaper” – HIM and Sanna-June Hyde

On HIM’s debut album, the band provided a haunting rendition of the Blue Oyster Cult classic. This version brings out all the darkness and grim view that’s implied in the lyrics. And frontman Ville Valo’s baritone vocals provide are a perfect match. Adding some brightness to the track is Finnish actor Sanna-June Hyde. She provided guest vocals for this track and “For You” early in her career. She’s not necessarily the best singer but her voice surprisingly well with Valo’s. There’s also something eerie about their voices. Still one of the best covers of this song.

“Under Pressure” – Queen and David Bowie

The thought of Queen and David Bowie doing a song together sounds like a dream. This amazing collaboration resulted in one of the best songs of the 80s. It’s an undeniable classic; pairing Bowie’s mellow vocals with Freddie Mercury’s dramatic bravado leads to a beautiful sonic experience. And try not to get chills during the bridge when Mercury pleads “Why can’t we give love/give love/give love?” The song became a huge hit for both artists and remains their most notable. Of course, the riff would be stolen by Vanilla Ice in the 90s, who claimed it wasn’t the same song.

Which is your favorite rock duet? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Best Grammy Award Performances

It’s almost time for the Grammys again, which means lots of snubs, disappointments, questionable moments, and Adele. That’s why everyone is going to watch, right? The award ceremony has been panned for the past couple of years for being bland and boring, but along with its low moments are tons of high moments. It’s still known for some of the most iconic and memorable performances in music. So before we start predicting when exactly Kanye is going to crash the stage, lets look back on some of the best performances from the Grammys.

“Stan” – Eminem & Elton John (2001)

Though Eminem made a joke about the Grammys in his song “The Real Slim Shady,” he’s been no stranger to them since his massive album The Marshall Mathers LP. This is the time when the rapper was most controversial garnering the anger of groups like GLAAD, who claimed he was homophobic. To shut up his critics once and for all, Eminem delivered a powerful performance of “Stan” with Elton John singing the chorus. At the song’s end, the two embraced and held hands in a victory pose. It’s not only one of the best Grammy moments of all time, but one of the best Eminem moments ever.

“American Idiot” – Green Day (2005)

Eyeliner, creepers, red ties, and lots of pyro. American Idiot era Green Day was on the rise thanks to their massive concept album. Not only was it a big winner at the 2005 Grammys, they also delivered a performance of the title track that was unforgettable. Instead of being cut and dry, the band brought their snotty attitude, slaying guitars, and their love of fire with them. As usual the band sounded great and wowed the crowd with fire shooting up at all the right moments. The band made sure to light a fire under the asses of the stiff academy. This is just one of a number of amazing performances from the year of American Idiot.

“The Way You Make Me Feel/Man in the Mirror” – Michael Jackson (1988)

Michael Jackson didn’t grace award show stages that much during his life, but whenever he did it brought the fucking house down. This 1988 performance starts out pretty standard: Jackson blows away the crowd with his dancing and singing. But it’s not until we get to “Man in the Mirror” where the show really starts. As he continues to sing, he gets more into the song until he’s falling on his knees, near tears, demanding everyone to “make that change.” The best part are the last five minutes where he seems to go off the record and just feels the music and gets everyone to stand up. He’s possessed by the song as he spins and collapses while a choir backs him up. It’s one of those moments that’s so stunning you remain quiet during the whole thing.  It shows why there will never be another performer with the fire, passion, and moves like Jackson.

“Where It’s At” – Beck (1997)

There’s always one year where Beck sweeps the award shows and makes some people question “Who the hell is Beck?” During the 1997 Grammys, he performed his hit single “Where It’s At” from Odeley, which was up for several awards that night. The thing that makes the performance so great is Beck’s unbridled energy. He has all the moves and swagger of a rapper and even pulls some awkward, yet entertaining dance moves at the end. His monotone vocals matched with his wild movements makes Beck hypnotizing to watch on stage. It ends on a high note, literally with Beck pulling off some scratchy falsetto. After the performance he won a Grammy for Best Rock Male Vocal. And similar to last year’s ceremony, many were left wondering who the hell this guy was.

“Runaway” – Bruno Mars (2012)

I wouldn’t call myself a huge Bruno Mars fan, but his performance from the 2012 Grammys blew me away. Is it his upbeat energy? Yes. Is it his style? Yes. Is it him commanding people to get off their “rich asses?” Yes. He sounds great and pulls off some awesome dance moves, but what makes this performance so memorable is the set up. It looks like an old school soul performance complete with matching gold suits, Temptation style dance moves, and Bruno’s pompadour with some added James Brown for flavor. He’s such a charismatic performer that he makes any award shows, or Super Bowl, exciting.

“I Put a Spell on You” – Annie Lennox & Hozier (2015)

What started out as a performance from Hozier featuring Annie Lennox turned into the Eurythmics singer taking over the stage. She came out to join Hozier on “Take Me to Church,” but as soon as she started “I Put A Spell on You” everyone forgot he was on stage. Her soulful delivery is powerful and she commands the stage while singing and swinging her hips. All Hozier could do and stand back and nervously smile. The way she belted out those notes gave you chills. It was so amazing it’s all people could talk about the next day. Sorry, Hozier. Good try, though.

“I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston (1994)

At the 36th Grammys Whitney Houston blew everyone away this performance of her hit single “I Will Always Love You.” She starts out by performing the first verse acapella, which is enough to stir you. She really gets in her element when the music starts up and she continues singing in her elegant white gown. The best is when the drum pounds and she holds the note while she sings the chorus one more time. Watching it again over 20 years later, it still gives you goosebumps when she hits that note. It’s a reminder of what a wonderful performer Houston was and a sad reminder of what we’ve lost.

“One” – Metallica (1989)

Everyone knows the story of Metallica losing the Best Heavy Metal album to Jethro Tull in 1989. Though they didn’t win, and yeah they should’ve of, they delivered a blazing performance of “One” from their …And Justice for All album. Things start out kind of shaky with the vocals, once the band gets in the groove of things, they take over the stage and set fire to the Grammys. The performance is intense, brutal, and heavy as if reminding the committee why they should’ve won in the first place. Luckily, the academy realized they were wrong and gave the band best Metal Performance for the same song the following year. The band revisited the song at the 2014 ceremony with pianist Land Lang accompanying them.

“Feel Good Inc/Hung Up” – Madonna & Gorillaz (2006)

Madonna and Gorillaz seems like a collaboration that would never happen, but oddly enough it works. This performance features the animated band as 3D holograms singing, gyrating, and looking bored in general. When De La Soul comes out 2-D checks his phone while leaning on the mic. Then Madonna pops up on screen, also a hologram, and teases the band. After that she appears on stage in the purple leotard first seen in the “Hung Up” video. The entire performance is fun, innovative, creative, and unforgettable. Though Madonna’s rendition of “Living for Love” was also good, this one is more memorable and creative.

“Rolling in the Deep” – Adele (2012)

You knew she was going to pop up here sooner or later. The performance is simple; no fancy effects, tricks, or collaborations. Just Adele, her singers, and her band. Her voice is so powerful and beautiful, you can close your eyes and let it wash over you. Even if you don’t play her heartbreaking songs on repeat after seeing this performance you had to acknowledge that she’s one of the best modern singers. There are plenty of people who can’t wait to see what the singer will do at this year’s ceremony. Actually, it’s probably the only reason anyone will tune in.

“Glitter in the Air” – Pink (2010)

When Pink came out on stage to perform “Glitter in the Air” no one at home or in the crowd expected to see her twirling through the air. She comes out in a hooded shroud, looking beautiful and elegant. Just when you think she’s going to stand there and sing, she reveals a nude leotard and joins a group of aerial acrobats that lift her in the air. She strikes various poses and even pulls off an impressive spin and she’s still singing. She never misses a beat. By the end everyone was stunned and in awe. It’s a trick she’s pulled off a few more times for later Grammy performances, but no one will ever forget the first time she did it here.

“Seven Nation Army/Death Letter” – The White Stripes (2004)

The White Stripes managed to make a lot of noise at the 2004 ceremony. The performance starts out with the popular “Seven Nation Army,” but ends with a chaotic seizure educing rendition of “Death Letter.” It’s here where Jack White lets loose and plays with fire and fury. He stumbles around the stage, motion towards Meg White, and ends the song with a unchained solo. The performance is also great due to the weird introduction by Beck who references “Children of God” before introducing the duo. Well, it is Beck after all.

“La Copa de la Vida (Cup of Life)” – Ricky Martin (1999)

This performance will forever be burned in my memory. Why? Because my mom and I were glued to the screen, wondering who this hot new guy was and how fast could we get his album. Ricky Martin was at the forefront of the Latin explosion of the late 90s. He cemented his popularity at the time with this performance at the 41st Grammy Awards. After this performance aired, Martin was a household name and everyone wanted to live “la vida loca.” Sorry, I had to.

“Lady Marmalade” – Pink, Christina Aguilera, Mya, Lil’ Kim ft. Missy Elliot & Patti LaBelle (2002)

It was hard to escape this song in the early 2000s and though the group of ladies performed the song at various award shows throughout the year, this one is the best. All of the singers sound on point and Aguilera finally shed the gigantic poodle wig she was obsessed with. What made this performance so memorable from the others, is the original Lady Marmalade, Patti LaBelle, joined the group on stage. While she didn’t get to sing much she did enough to show she still had the chops and even though this cover was pretty good, nothing could outshine the original.

Which Grammy performance is your favorite? Is there one that I missed? Let me know in the comments.

 

Icky Thump – The White Stripes

Release Year: 2007

Rating: 9/10

It’s been eight years since the White Stripes released what would be their final album back in 2007. And they couldn’t ask for a better way to say goodbye. Going back to their garage rock blues infused sound they left behind for Get Behind me Satan, the band rips, roars, and tears through 13 tracks that provide more of the insane riffage fans clamored for. Surprisingly, it’s also their most fun album in their discography and this comes out on most of the tracks.

The album kicks off with the wonderfully weird “Icky Thump.” Jack White takes us into this weird take of a tryst in Mexico with a cry of “Iiiee! Icky thump, who’d thunk/sittin’ drunk on a wagon to Mexico!” The music is kind of all over the place with the odd squealing keys and scratchy guitar solos bouncing around the song. You’ll notice there actually isn’t a chorus; instead the keys and guitars take its place giving it the White Stripes signature. Another thing savvy fans will notice are the references to the band’s staples like red head women and candy canes. The whole thing is full of energy and lots of fun. Things get more mellow on “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Do What You’re Told)” where Jack criticizes someone for letting other walk over them in a relationship. Even though it has this bluesy, country twang to it, it kind of sounds like a church hymn with the swelling organ. Still it’s classic White Stripes all the way.

Jack White said the connecting theme for the album is positivity and being happy. It may not be in every song, like “Martyr for My Love,” but many of them follow this thought. The most fun and upbeat track is “Rag and Bone,” which finds the duo as junkers looking for anything people don’t want. The Blues tinged song is has a jumpy rhythm that gets you moving. Between the verses, Meg and Jack provide spoken parts convincing people to give them stuff. Jack sounds like a Southern door to door salesmen, while Meg just sounds creepy as she whispers “give it to me.” Another fun track is “Conquest,” a Corky Robbins cover, that takes the classic Mexican stand-off rhythm and recreates it with a gritty guitar. The Latin flavor is kept in with the brassy horns that blare during the hook. There’s even a great part where the guitar and horns play off each other during the bridge. Even Jack’s singing is great; he sounds determined as he wails “Connnnonnnnquest!” You can tell he enjoyed recording the track, especially since he’s been wanting to cover it for 10 years.

For the most part, the album acts a return to the band’s garage rock/punk roots. Their previous effort was all about experimentation while this one has that comforting sense of familiarity. “Bone Broke” will take fans back to band’s first few LPs with the searing raw riffs, crashing chaotic music, and unchained vocals. “Little Cream Soda” is another old school throwback since it’s a re-recording of an older Stripes song. Jack completely let’s himself go on this track as he scares out scream and squeals from his guitar. Playing with the loud/quiet dynamic, the music during the verses sneaks along, fit for a spy theme. The way he lets those notes fly will leave you in awe; it’s that crazy good. “Catch Hell Blues” is very similar to tracks like “Aluminum” and “Instinct Blues” where the music does the talking. There are lyrics, but it’s the guitar playing listeners will be captivated by. You have to hear it for yourself to understand why it’ll leave your jaw on the floor.

The only time the band gets experimental here is on “Prickly Thorn, Sweetly Worn,” which is patterned after an Irish hymn. It features a weezing bag pipe along with a light guitar. The bouncing nature of the song makes it seem like some Irish jigs should be going on at the same time. It’s pretty odd for the band, how many bands do you know of that use bag pipes, but the chant of “Li de li de li oh” makes it catchy. I remember in an interview Jack said it was about exploring their Irish roots, but it’s just another tall tale he attributes to the band.

I’m Slowly Turning Into You” has always been one of my favorite tracks from the album. It’s sneering, snotty, and full of frustration as Jack sings “But your face is getting older/so put your head on my shoulder.” The verse gets more scathing as he points out how everything his lover does is annoying. Then we get that raw, sexy riff right before the chorus that makes your spine twitch. And the swelling keys emphasize the angry mood of the song. But it’s not all bad as during the second half of the song, Jack realizes it’s not so bad after all. I’ve just always loved the mood and music of this track, especially because it’s pretty playful. The album ends with the country jam “Effect and Cause,” which foreshadows the direction of Jack’s solo material. The twanging guitars, the down home raw vibe of the song makes it sound like a classic country tune complete with a bluegrass banjo. It’s not how you expect the album to end, but it provides a look at what Jack would do later on.

The album is really great, not just because the band returns to their garage rock roots. A big part of it is because the songs are so much fun and many of them are upbeat. Jack wanted the record to be about positivity and he succeeded on a number of the tracks. At the time, we didn’t know it would be the band’s last, but it’s very fitting. It shows why so many people fell in love with The White Stripes and even returns to the Blues style that made them famous. Sure, it would be great to hear from the duo again some day, but at least we were left with one of their best albums.