Pop music

Playlist: Michael Jackson Goes Heavy Metal

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

“Beat It” – John 5

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

“Give In to Me” – Soto

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

“Dirty Diana” – Evanescence

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

“Smooth Criminal” – Leo Moracchioli

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

“Speed Demon” – Xerath

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

“Thriller” – Koritni

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

“They Don’t Care About Us” – Saliva

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

“Scream” – Annisokay

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

“Beat It” – Raintime

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

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

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Man of the Woods – Justin Timberlake

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Release Year: 2018

Rating: 6/10

When I first saw Justin Timberlake’s rugged, I’m-an-outdoors-man promo for Man of the Woods, I was not happy. I didn’t want down to Earth Justin. I wanted Sexyback Justin. Luckily, the album isn’t stepped in folksy roots as the promos made it out to be. Unfortunately, the album isn’t that good. The main problem is there are no songs that stand out, grab your attention, and make you want to crank it up whenever you hear it. The closest we get is lead single “Filthy,” which is just weird and takes a while to grow on you before you start singing it.

Songs like “Man of the Woods,” “Midnight Summer Jam,” “Wave,” and “Higher Higher” are fine but pretty generic. Once the album ends you don’t remember them until you play the LP again. They have decent music and some pretty good hooks, but there’s nothing exciting about them. “Say Something” featuring Chris Stapleton is an unexpected highlight. It’s got just the right amount of a country vibe to please country fans and non-fans alike. Plus, Stapleton and Timberlake sound great together.

Most of the songs are inoffensive and not bad to listen to, but they’re just there. “Montana” may have a 70s inspired groove, but it sounds too similar to the rest of the songs on the record. “Morning Light” featuring Alicia Keys is nice but gets boring pretty quickly. The rest of the tracks like “Breeze Off the Pound,” “The Hard Stuff,” and “Livin’ Off the Land” are hard to discern from one another since they sound so similar. And seeing as they’re the closest thing to Timberlake’s newfound persona, they don’t really do much for the record.

Other songs are just cringy. “Sauce” features the unfortunate line of “I like your pink/you like my purple,” which is wrong on so many levels. It also features him doing a shoddy Prince imitation, which is hard to sit through. “Supplies” is even worse. Timberlake attempts a trap song filled with generic hip-hop music and an annoying hook. It’s so out of left field, it doesn’t fit on the album. And it’s hard to take “Flannel,” an ode to a fucking shirt, seriously. He actually sings the line “But if I’m bein’ selfish, that gave me a reason to be there/With my flannel on.” The preceding interlude featuring his wife Jessica Biel is even worse. She talks about wearing his shirt and how makes her feel like a woman. It will make you roll your eyes.

Man of the Woods is a definite miss for Timberlake. While there are a handful of decent songs, the album severely lacks the fun, must-listen-to dance hits he’s become known for. Most of the songs are generic or just plain dull. After hearing the album a few times, I couldn’t care about it anymore. It’s not the weird, earthly vibe we thought it would be. Even worse, it’s a boring, generic safe record for Timberlake.

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!

Worst Album of 2017

Beautiful Trauma – Pink

As an avid Pink fan, this choice kind of hurts. When she announced her return to music, I was so excited. I’ve always loved Pink for her aggressive, I don’t give a shit attitude and empowering songs. I looked forward to an album full of upbeat, fun songs mixed with a few ballads. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that with Beautiful Trauma.

This album bored me. So many of the songs are slow. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of ballads, but I don’t hate them. Slow songs give listeners a break from the fast numbers. Pink’s ballads are normally beautiful, sometimes even haunting. Tracks like “Try” and “Glitter in the Air” still give me chills, but when there’s a solid block of them I find myself getting bored. I need the fast songs to pick me back up. This is the big problem with this album. There were way too many slow songs and very few of them are notable. They just sound like any generic pop song currently on the radio.

While listening I kept waiting for the energetic, fun tunes to kick in. The closest I got was the title track. Not even the song with Eminem could save it. And that was a big disappointment. I love “Here Comes the Weekend,” but “Revenge” is just okay. Eminem’s verse isn’t even one of his best; it’s lazy and lame. The only thing I liked about the record was Pink’s voice. We get to hear how much her vocals have improved over the years and she sounds gorgeous. But there isn’t much beyond that.

For a Pink album, it’s surprisingly tame. Because of her don’t give a fuck nature, she usually has a good chunk of songs that represent this. Her songs are normally biting and clever with a somewhat cynical sense of humor. This vibe is almost completely missing here. We get a few times in tracks like “Revenge,” but otherwise the songs are pretty generic. While I can admire her showing a different side of herself, it just doesn’t feel like a Pink album to me. The album is forgettable, generic, and isn’t as fun as her past work. While her other albums are empowering, this one is just dull.

Playlist: Throwback Christmas Performances

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

“Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” – Nsync

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

“Oi to the World” – No Doubt

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

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

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

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

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

“Christmas In Hollis” – Run DMC

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

“Let It Snow” – Boyz 2 Men

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

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

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

“Santa Baby” – Eartha Kitt

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

“Merry Christmas, Baby” -Hanson

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

“This Gift” – 98 Degrees

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

“Christmas Time” – Christina Aguilera

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

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

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

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