Michael Jackson

Paradise – Con Brio

 

Release Year: 2016

Rating: 8.5/10

I learned about this funky band when I went to Lollapalooza this year and caught their set. I’ve been singing their praises ever since. Based out of California, Con Brio, which means “with spirit” in Spanish, is a funk/R&B/soul band that are all about loving life and having a good time. They channel this feeling into their funky debut album Paradise. From start to finish the album keeps you going and leaves you with a big smile on your face. After hearing the record, you’ll be convinced Con Brio is the next great band in music.

The album is a funky jam from start to finish. Each song is filled with brassy horns, groovy bass, and hot guitar licks. “Paradise” kicks things off on a slow note. The guitar riff rips into the track inviting listeners on this musical journey. The horns come in one by one to beef up the sound completing the bluesy vibe. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any hotter, Ziek McCarter’s passionate vocals hit you. After one verse you’re ready to fly with him to what he calls paradise. From there, everything is a party. “Liftoff” is the epitome of funky. As soon as the opening note plays, it gets you grooving. It’s so upbeat and energetic, you’re ready to party like it’s a Friday night. And you can’t help but smile as McCarter here sings “Because nothing here can hold our spirits down.”

Even though most of the songs are funky, “You Think This is a Game?” is a bit different. It still has that funky groove and bluesy mood, but McCarter has a spoken word style. The way he raps over the music makes it seem like he’s at a slam poetry contest. It’s a bit jarring, especially when all the music clashes at the end, but it’s an interesting sonic experiment. Aside from getting down and grooving to the beat, Con Brio’s music is uplifting. Many of their songs spout positive messages about loving yourself and loving each other, something that’s easy to forget during these times.

Free & Brave” offers a comment on society and the Black Lives Matter movement. The opening verse references the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Martin Luther King, making you think it’s going to be a negative outlook on the world. Instead, Con Brio uses the song to say people have to keep going despite these tragic events. The message of the entire song is though the world gets shitty, we’re still free and in control of our destiny. We still have to believe that things will get better. The band gets harder and heavier on “Hard Times.” This fusion of rock and funk has a message of sticking together and reaching out to one another to get through hard times. It’s a great reminder that we still need each other even when everything looks bleak. It’s a reminder that we don’t have to go through this alone.

Another song with an optimistic message and my personal favorite is “Money.” Not only is it upbeat, funky, and made for dancing, it’s about not letting money rule you. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in work and focusing on making money to live. With this song McCarter reminds us it’s not all about work; we need play time too. He also sings “When you’re stretched out, all stressed out/Knowin somethin ain’t right, and you’re left out/Can’t let that 9-5, put a seatbelt on my mind.” It’s a great message to those who aren’t satisfied with working any old job and want to follow their dreams for the career they really want. Money is necessary, but we don’t have to let it take us over as Con Brio reminds us.

When they’re not grooving or spouting good life messages, Con Brio are romancing listeners with their sexy slow jams. “My Love” is a soulful gem made for romantic nights. Though it’s a little too slow for my tastes, it’s a good song and doesn’t hold back on the funky music. The same goes for the mid-tempo “No Limits,” which is slinky and slick. Both songs do a great job showing off McCarter’s vocals. There’s no doubt he’ll bring up comparisons to Michael Jackson, but his voice is still powerful enough to give you chills. And when he busts out the falsetto, it’s enough to make you swoon. He has one of those voices where when he’s feeling a song, he goes all the way making you screaming “Sing it, baby!” “Honey” is another soft, mid-tempo jam where McCarter spreads the love. The acoustic guitar and McCarter’s gentles vocals make the song relaxing and soothing. Some lyrics like “You can be such a busy bee, but save a little honey for me/I can be such a busy bee, but I’ll save my honey for thee/We can both be the busy bee and save a lil honey while we,” are kind of cheesy, but they’re forgivable. It’s still a sweet, sentimental track.

If you need an album to kick up your feet and unwind to, then this is it. Every one of Con Brio’s songs are filled with positive messages about loving life, yourself, and not letting the small stuff get you down. The entire album is full of optimistic messages, which we all need every now and then. The music is fun, upbeat, and will keep you dancing. Something about their music is so infectious even if you’re not the biggest fan of funk and soul. With their passionate playing and Ziek McCarter’s seductive, soaring vocals the band stand out as one of a kind. Put on Paradise when you need a pick me up or just want to dance. Let the music wash over you and let Con Brio’s songs take you to your own version of paradise.

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!

Dangerous – Michael Jackson

Release Year: 1991

Rating: 8.5/10

There’s no question whether or not Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bad are amazing albums. The former is still the best selling album of all time. Many people have come close to beating the record, but no one has done it yet. Even though his follow up, Dangerous, was another top seller, it doesn’t seem to get as much attention as the previous two. There could be several reasons for this: plastic surgery, drugs, and allegations the media chose to focus on. The album represents an era of change for the singer. He experimented with a new sound and took on themes that went beyond gushy love songs.

At the time, this album was unlike any Jackson had done before. One of the biggest changes is the prominence of New Jack Swing sound on just about all of the songs. This can be heard on tracks “Can’t Let Her Get Away,” “Jam,” and “She Drives Me Wild.” Elements of pop still exist, but there’s also a heavy influence of funk, rap, and R&B. Jackson further expanded his rap influences by having Heavy D and Wrex N Effect do a verse on a few songs. This sound, while can be dated at times, gives the music a more aggressive, harder hitting vibe than before. It even changed his vocals a bit which were in a lower register and sounded harsher than on past releases. With this album, Jackson also takes on more mature themes.

Jackson’s music has always had messages about changing the world through peace and love, but here he tackles heavier issues like societal ills and racism. “Why You Wanna Trip On Me?” is two-fold; it’s aimed at critics who are obsessed with the singer’s personal life, but also wonders why they aren’t focusing on bigger problems at hand like the homeless or disease. “Jam” also finds Jackson lamenting the world’s problems and how being good to one another seems to be disappearing. But the song where these themes ring out the most is the ballad “Heal the World.” The somber track has a simple message: make the world a better place for our children. He even drives the point home with samples of kids playing and singing the hook at the end. It’s a thoughtful song and one of Jackson’s greatest ballads that still rings true today.

Jackson addresses racial issues on the infectious and popular “Black or White.” The single finds the pop icon delving into rock again with Slash doing the opening riff even though he’s credited with playing on the entire song. Either way, the guitar on this track is killer. As soon as you hear it, it makes you want to bust out your best air guitar moves. Jackson sings sweetly about equality and how the color of your skin doesn’t matter. It’s not until the hard hitting bridge that his anger comes out. The song does a 180 and gets aggressive with Jackson yelling “I ain’t ‘fraid of no sheets.” Then there’s the rap by one of his producers, which is kind of cheesy and dated, but forgivable since the rest of the song is so good. It’s an amazing song that addresses racial issues without beating listeners over the head with its message.

Just like his other releases, this album is made up of successful and classic Jackson hits. “In the Closet” finds the singer being more sexual as he talks about lovers keeping their relationship secret. The music has a cool, slinky groove and he sings in a hushed manner amping up the sexual nature of the song. It’s still weird to think of him as a sexual person, but the song proves irresistible especially when he sings “She wants to get it/aw, she wants to get it.” “Remember the Time” is a slick, exotic sounding track where Jackson sounds playful as he reflects on a relationship. It’s more in line with his pop nature, but still has the New Jack Swing influence all over it. Just like most of his songs, it’s catchy, great to dance to, and fun. A standout single from the album.

Give In To Me” and “Who is It” are the most underrated singles to come from the record. The former finds the singer hooking up with Slash for a rock ballad. Jackson’s vocals come off as more aggressive and fiery, while the sad droning guitar riff sways listeners. It’s often been compared to “Dirty Diana” with its rock feel and subject matter. The two do have seductive vibes with the blazing guitar riffs, but the singer seems more somber on this track. He also takes the rock sound further offering up some diversity on the primarily New Jack Swing album. With the latter song, there’s something cool and sleek about it.

Who Is It” opens with eerie singing denoting something epic followed by a thudding, booming bass that hits you right in the gut. Jackson’s singing sounds more emotional as his start/stop style makes it seem like he was in the middle of crying. Though it’s been compared to “Billie Jean” for its woman-done-him-wrong subject, it’s a stellar song that explores the singer’s darker side.

It wouldn’t be a Michael Jackson album without ballads and there are a good handful here. The best out of the bunch is the beautiful and heartfelt “Will You Be There?” With the soft music and the choir humming at the beginning, it sounds like a religious hymn as Jackson sings about finding someone or something to lean on and make him stronger. The bridge seems tied to the singer’s personal life as he sings “Everyone’s Taking Control Of Me/Seems That The World’s/Got A Role For Me/I’m So Confused/Will You Show To Me.” At the end, the choir makes a return completing the religious feel as Jackson adlibs sounding like he’s going to church. It’s one of those songs with the ability to make you cry if played at the right moment.

While the other ballads are good, they don’t compare to this one. “Keep the Faith” is actually the most dated and weakest song the album. The music makes it sound like a dated gospel track. The music is so obviously 90s ensuring the song hasn’t aged well. And if you’re not a fan of gospel music the song won’t be all that appealing. The message is thoughtful, but it’s the most forgettable track on the record. “Gone too Soon” is a heartbreaking track dedicated to Jackson’s friend Ryan White, who was ostracized at a young age due to his AIDS diagnosis. He later died at the age of 18. It’s a simple, bare bones song with Jackson’s soft singing and light music. But the song is only harder to listen to now since it can be easily applied to the singer’s death. Usher actually sang the tune at Jackson’s memorial and broke out in tears. Even though it’s beautiful, it can be hard to hear.

The album closes with “Dangerous” another underrated track from Jackson’s catalog. Similar to other songs, it represents a new sound for the singer. It begins with mechanical noises before the punchy upbeat music comes on. The entire track is slick especially with Jackson singing in a lower register to complete the seductive mood going on. The vibe is perfect since it feels like the music actually has an air of danger to it. It’s one of his most proactive songs and a stand out from an already stellar album.

Dangerous represents a new era for Michael Jackson. He not only experimented with different sounds to fit with the trend of the time, he tackled heavier themes such as racism. The New Jack Swing sound is dated at times but otherwise shows Jackson was ahead of the curve. This album is another hit in Jackson’s catalog, yet doesn’t receive as much praise as his other work. The record isn’t flawless and some of the songs run together, but it’s still has songs that are now considered classics. It shows a different side of the singer, one that was more aggressive and harsh. No matter how you see it, the album is another stand out hit for Jackson.

Discovering new bands, making friends, and lots of rain: My first ever Lollapalooza

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Photo by Ashley P.

I consider myself a music fanatic. I need to hear music every day and I’m invested in the music world daily thanks to my writing. So, some may consider it a little weird I’ve never been to Lollapalooza despite living in Chicago all my life. Several things have kept me away from the iconic event, but it comes down to money. It’s also intimidating. I never considered myself a festival version. I have enough trouble with people at concerts. The thought of attending something with thousands of people in attendance was scary. Not to mention I’m also claustrophobic. But when I was asked to cover Friday by New City, I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone and see what I’ve been missing out on all these years.

Friday’s big headliner was Radiohead, but since I already had plans for that night, I had to miss them. It’s fine since I’m not a big fan of them anyway. I showed up at Grant Park early and waited for the gates to open. I couldn’t help but get excited seeing the looming “Lollapalooza 25 Years” sign in the distance. After waiting for the gates to open, we had to wait in the security line, which wasn’t so bad. Once I was cleared, I wandered around the festival grounds a little lost. I saw the different shops and stalls, none of them particularly interesting, but I was most excited to see beautiful Buckingham Fountain up close. It’s something I’ve seen in the car, but never up close. I probably looked like a tourist taking pictures of the landmark, but I didn’t care. I actually enjoyed walking around in the morning. There were a good number of people, but nothing compared to what it would be only a few hours later.

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Photo by Ashley P.

Since I wasn’t seeing Radiohead, I had no idea who to check out first. I didn’t most of the artists who were playing during the day. After doing some research I picked out a few bands, the first being Con Brio. I got turned around a few times looking for the Lakeshore stage, but I managed to find it. I got a good spot close to the stage and waited. While waiting I actually met some nice people and we started chatting. I loved meeting new people with similar interests because music brings people together. But when it comes to concerts, you only connect with the person you came with. Very few people strike up conversations with others anymore and it’s a shame. I glad I finally got to experience it, even if it was only for an hour.

It was time for Con Brio and let me say this: they are fucking amazing. They’re a soul/R&B/pop band from California and they probably had the most energetic set of the day. As soon as they opened with “Paradise” there was non-stop dancing. I loved that everyone on stage, from the guitarist to the saxophone player, was dancing their asses off. They all had a great stage presence pumping up the crowd, and actually being excited about playing, but you couldn’t take your eyes off frontman Ziek McCarter. Everyone in the band is insanely talented, but he carries most of the show. He’s Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, James Brown, and Jackie Wilson rolled up in one. He not only has serious vocal chops, he has the sickest dance moves. He shuffled across stage, shimmied and gyrated uncontrollably, and had perfect spins. He couldn’t stand still for a minute. It was hard not to smile seeing him move like that.

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Photo by Ashley P.

Their set was nothing but a huge party. As they kept playing, more and more people pushed closer to the stage to catch a glimpse of McCarter. There were a few slow jams, but for the most part, it was non-stop dancing. What I loved most about their songs like “Money” and “Liftoff” is they were full of positive messages, something the world desperately needs right now. It’s clear Con Brio wants to make people happy with their upbeat, vibrant music. It didn’t take long for people to start singing along even though they didn’t know the words two minutes before. They even did a cover of “It’s a Man’s Man World,” but switched it at the end to become “This is a woman’s world.” That made me love McCarter even more. At the end of their set, McCarter bid farewell by pulling off three flawless backflips getting huge praise from the crowd. As everyone left the stage, it became clear we witnessed something great. Everyone who decided to get hammered early clearly missed out. It was so good me and the guy next to me high-fived three times.

After Con Brio and saying goodbye to my new friend, I planned to hit up the BMI stage, but a soulful voice caught my ear. I sauntered to the Bud Light stage to hear Lewis Del Mar, another act I knew nothing about. Though I didn’t like them as much as Con Brio, I did like Danny Miller’s vocals. They were powerful and passionate. Every word hit like he was making a call to arms for a cause. Lewis Del Mar is a folk-pop duo and I recommend checking them out. They won’t get you pumped up or excited like Con Brio, but they have a unique sound that’s worth a listen. I stayed for two songs and left for the BMI stage to catch some of Horse Thief‘s set. They weren’t bad, but a little too soft and dull for my tastes. I dipped out earlier to walk around and see some of the random stands.

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Photo by Ashley Perez

There were stalls from Pepsi, Samsung, and Toyota, but none were that interesting. Samsung had a VR experience booth, but I wasn’t sure if you had to pay for it or not. And I didn’t feel like standing in the lengthy line. I did manage to score some from popcorn from Garrett’s, which was amazing. I would’ve paid for it, but free is always the right price. Thanks to the caramel and cheese blend I was ready to head back to the Lakeshore stage to catch some of Saint Motel’s set.

Saint Motel is another band I looked up before the festival and their bouncy, upbeat sound convinced me to check them out. And it seems like I wasn’t wrong. I mean the frontman’s keyboard was shaped like a tiger. What more do you want? When I got to the stage, it was already packed with tons of people. I stood on the sidelines to catch the action instead of pushing to the front. All their songs were energetic, light, and just fun. The crowd was obviously having a good time as they freaked out for every song they played. Though they weren’t my favorite act of the day, I still enjoyed the happy-go-lucky nature of their set. Plus, they did a slick cover of Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady,” which was weird, but delightful.

I left Saint Motel’s set early to get a good spot for The Struts. I knew very little about this band, but when I heard songs like “Put Your Money on Me” and “Kiss This” I knew they were going to have a killer performance. And I was right. They had a ton of energy, sounded great, and Luke Spiller is my new favorite frontman. A combination of Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger, he knew how to work the crowd. He easily won everyone over with his insane vocal range, wild moves, and sexy demeanor. Think of a stereotypical 70’s era rockstar and you’ve got Spiller. It was hard not to be infected with his charisma, which is why everyone got down on the floor when he commanded them too. It was thrilling to jump in unison with thousands of other people. There were also great call and response sections where he would scream out “B-b-b-b-b-baby!” and wait for the crowd to sing it back. Plus, he pulled off some sweet costume changes.

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Photo by Ashley P.

What makes songs like “Could Have Been Me” and “Dirty Sexy Money” so infectious is it brings fun back in rock music. The Struts aren’t trying to be introspective or serious; they’re just having a good time. It’s very party-esque, carefree music that just makes you feel good. Their set was a blast and I am now a Struts fan. I was originally torn between seeing them and Modern Baseball. While the latter band sounds good, I think The Struts were far more fun.

Right as their set ended, the sky opened and it rain. Sweet, glorious rain! My entire body was shouting at me to go home. Before I left, I decided to wander around parts of the festival I hadn’t been yet. Leaving the Samsung stage I heard the start of MØ‘s set. I don’t really have a reaction to it since I don’t care for her music. I stopped by the BMI stage once more and caught a bit of Muddy Magnolias. From what I could hear, they sounded pretty good. But this area of the festival seemed largely ignored. I could barely see them on stage since there was no lighting. The sound was also pretty bad. I didn’t stay very long, but someone said they liked my style and gave me a flower! It was a random, yet cool moment.

I missed whoever was on the Pepsi and decided to walk around the Lolla Time Warp. It was lame. It was an empty section of the park with pictures of notable headliners and some old gig posters. It would’ve been cool to have something interactive, like actual videos or anything aside from pictures. Anything else would’ve been better to commemorate 25 years than this. None of the other shops or booths were interesting and the FYE pop-up was over priced.

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I headed to Perry’s stage just to see what was going on. What a mistake. It was filled with people everywhere. I could barely move even though I was all the way in the back nowhere near the crowd or the stage. I stood there for a few minutes watching Audien – a pretty standard DJ. But what was freaky were people running to the stage right before the drop. I left before I got trampled.

Tired and achy, I made my way towards the festival gates. I stopped by Buckingham fountain for one more picture and slowly lurched on. There were far more people at this time; they were preparing for the headliners after all. I reached the exit and said bye to Lolla. My first Lolla was a success. I conquered a strange fear; the festival no longer seemed so intimidating. I only wish the booths were more interesting. Riot Fest had some cool exhibits and booths that you didn’t have to pay for. Lolla felt like they only had food and beer, which I wasn’t interested in. I still had a great time, though. There’s something exhilarating about walking around the grounds hearing music drifting through the air. I was happy to be going home; I wanted to take a shower. But part of me wanted to stick around and see what other low key were playing. I wanted to meet more people, maybe make some new friends. But there’s always next year.

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Photo by Ashley P.

Playlist: Give ’em the remix

Remixes can be tricky to handle. In the wrong hands it can sound nothing like the source material it’ll put off listeners. Other times it sounds too much like the original making it pointless. But when done just right, a remix can turn a great song into an even better one. Whether it speeds things up to make it a dance hit or slows things down to place it in a new genre, there are a lot of remixes out there way too many to gather in this list. So this month’s playlist takes a look at some of my favorite remixes.

“19-2000” (Soulchild Remix) – Gorillaz

This is a remix of the Gorillaz’ second single and it’s much better than the original. Known for its simple hook of “got the cool shoe shine,” the version from the band’s debut album was very slow featuring sleepy music, lush beats, and very light percussion. The song got most exciting during the aforementioned hook. It’s not bad, but it sounds like the band are on the verge of drifting off while singing. But this remix by Soulchild wakes up the song, turning it into something fun, bouncy, and energetic. You can even hear bits of “The Humpty Dance” in the mix. Everything about it outshines the original and turns it into something you can’t stop dancing to.

“Heartbreaker (Remix)” – Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker” was already a success reaching the top spot on several charts. But the song blew up more when she dropped the remix in 1999. Featuring DJ Clue, Da Brat, and Missy Elliot this remix turns the Carey pop hit into an R&B/hip hop infused jam. Using a sample from Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun (If Homies Can’t Have None)” the song is catchier than before with Carey singing even more breathless than she did in the original. It’s sleek and just the right amount of funky making it one hundred times cooler than original. The song was so successful Carey continued doing remixes for singles, like “Loverboy,” but it didn’t match the success of this one.

“Ignition (Remix)” – R. Kelly

I’ve never been a fan of R. Kelly, but even I have to admit this song is too damn catchy to hate. The song became so popular, charting at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, that it’s hard to remember what the original sounded like. Whereas the original was a slowjam meant to put someone in the mood, this one is all about partying. What really makes the song is irresistible hook. It’s one of those songs where you’ll know all the words after only hearing it three times. Apparently, the original version of the song was going to be on his then upcoming album Loveland, but the album was leaked causing R. Kelly to rewrite and remix most of the album and turn it into The Chocolate Factory. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

“The Way I Am (Remix)” – Eminem Feat. Marilyn Manson

In the late 90s/early 00s the two biggest controversial figures in music were Eminem and Marilyn Manson. Surprisingly, the two formed a friendship with Manson appearing at the rapper’s concerts and even making a cameo in the original “The Way I Am” video. This remix brings the world of rap and rock together. Eminem spits rhymes over the crunchy guitars and intense rock music taken straight from a Manson song. The music perfectly captures Manson’s creepy essence. To make things even better Manson sings the hook in his gravely voice. He also provides some eerie moans throughout the track. It’s a stellar remix that makes you wish the two continue working together. Maybe on the next album? We can only hope.

“Rock With You (Frankie Knuckles Favorite Club Mix)” – Michael Jackson

This mix takes this Michael Jackson hit and turns it into something you can actually dance to. Frankie Kunckles keeps the smooth R&B vibe of the original for the most part. He layers glistening pianos, some synth, and upbeat percussion on top of the track to get you grooving. There are even some further vocal arrangements from Jackson that aren’t found in the original. Clocking in at over seven minutes, it’s definitely something made with the club scene in mind, but the remix is so good you won’t find a problem jamming out to it in your house. The remix is actually quite popular and is often the basis of many Michael Jackson mash ups, which also prove to be great fun.

“Rope (Deadmau5 Mix)” – Foo Fighters

Deadmau5 flips this song on its head switching it from hard rock to an electronica dance hit. It’s not just a DJ adding some synths and bleeps over the Foo Fighters hit. He turns it into a completely different song only keeping Dave Grohl’s vocals in tact. It sounds like an unlikely pairing, but it works so well, breathing new life into this Foo Fighters song. With dripping bleeps, a pulsing beat, and wild music Deadmau5 makes the song his own. The two even joined forces to perform the track on the 54th Grammy Awards.

“More Human Than Human (Meet Bambi in the King’s Harem Mix)” – White Zombie

Rob Zombie never shies away from remixing his biggest hits, but this is the strongest remix to date. “More Human Than Human” was already a beast of a song, but this version makes it a hundred times creepier. The music is grittier, sounding like a record got scratched in the mix during the intense opening and Zombie’s vocals are distorted to sound more robotic and inhuman, which is a perfect fit for the song. The whining guitar riff of the original is still in tact, but the rest of the music is heavy, dirty electronic music that gets you groovin’. This does everything a good remix is supposed to do: keep elements of the original intact, but build on to make it better.

“No, No, No Pt.2” feat Wyclef Jean – Destiny’s Child

Before “Survivor” and “Say My Name” this was most people’s introduction to Destiny’s Child and Beyonce. When the song dropped in 1998, it received massive radio airplay and eventually reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100. But what about part one? The first version of the song, which was their debut single, is a slow R&B track that’s more sensual in nature. Think of it as a song to get busy to. Though it was moderately successful, it wasn’t until Wyclef Jean added an upbeat hip hop flavor and sped up the song that it became a hit. Listening to them both today, this version is still better than the original.

“Strangelove (Tim Simenon, Mark Saunders Remix)” – Depeche Mode

There are various remixes of this Depeche Mode single, but this one is among the best. This mix takes the mid-tempo song and turns it into a club hit. The music is more energetic and fast paced with additional synth and electronica elements added to the mix. There’s even a bit of a tribal vibe when the percussion kicks up. But one of the coolest things about the song is how there’s a nod to their song “People Are People.” It’s brief, but very satisfying for all Mode fans. It’s a great remix that plays around with the classic track, but still keeps everything that made it so good in the first place in tact.

“I”m Real” (Murder Remix) – Jennifer Lopez ft. Ja-Rule

Remember that time during the 2000s when Ja-Rule was popular and was featured in what felt like every song? Before he disappeared off the map, he joined forces with J.Lo for this slick remix of her pop single “I’m Real.” Whereas the original was a generic dance song with rapid beats and a forgettable chorus, this mix slows things down making way for a cool R&B/Hip Hop groove. Even though Ja-Rule’s singing is appalling, it doesn’t ruin the song. The track is from her remix album J to tha L-O! The Remixes and is actually the third best selling remix album of all time. The album also spawned successful singles “I’m Gonna Be All Right” and “Ain’t it Funny.”

“Happiness in Slavery (remix)” – Trent Reznor, Chris Vrenna, and P.K.

Trent Reznor is no stranger to remixes. Not only has he done them for other artists, but he leaves his music in the hands of others spawning several remix albums based off his studio releases. There are two different remixes of “Happiness in Slavery” on the Fixed EP, but this one is the best. It keeps very little from the original track aside from a bit of the guitar riff and Reznor screaming “Slavery!” in the background. Otherwise, the song is completely new and still just as terrifying. Though it’s more gritty and electronic centered than the aggressive original, this version still manages to be terrifying with the intense mechanical music and various screams heard in the background. There are very little lyrics, just a brutal continuation of this awesome NIN track.

“Tourniquet (Prosthetic Dance Mix)” – Marilyn Manson

This version of Marilyn Manson’s “Tourniquet” is very much in tune with the original even opening with the main scratchy riff from the original. This version keeps the same eerie vibe from the original, but amps it up with intense percussion and what sounds like gritty electronic music. Somehow it slows things down even more than the original making it a more drugged out experience. But what’s most notable about this remix is the new vocal take from Manson. He doesn’t unleash his scream on this version and lets his playful, growling vocals take over. It’s definitely the highlight of the forgettable Remix & Repent EP.

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