Pop

Playlist: Awesome MadTv Performances You Forgot About

Anyone remember MadTv? Back in the 90s and 2000s, if Saturday Night Live wasn’t your style, chances are you turned to this show for laughs. It gave us iconic and hilarious characters like Miss Swan and Stuart. After In Living Color, it’s still one of my favorite sketch shows of the 90s, even though I probably shouldn’t have been watching. It also gave us some killer performances. Since the last few seasons of the show and the shoddy revival weren’t that great, it’s easy to forget the big names MadTv pulled in. Featuring new acts and legends helped the show stand out from its competition. So, let’s take a look back at some awesome MadTv performances you probably don’t remember.

The Cure – “Maybe Someday” (2000)

How MadTv managed to get The Cure to perform on the show is a mystery. Robert Smith can get picky about where he plays and a lewd comedy show featuring a grown man in his underwear doesn’t seem like one he’d be a part of. However they did it, the show got The freaking Cure to play “Maybe Sunday” in 2000. It’s a solid performance with Smith and the band sounding amazing as usual. Sadly, it’s a condensed version of the song with Smith not singing the first verse and going straight into the breakdown after the hook, but he’s Robert Smith. He can do that if he wants. I actually remember seeing this right as I was getting into the band. Smith and his wiry black hair captivated me just as much then as he does now. This is still one of my favorite MadTv moments.

The Strokes – “Is This It?/NYC Cops” (2002)

MadTv album Bobby Lee introduces The Strokes as his favorite band and they kick off their two-song set with “Is This It?” As always, frontman Julian Casablancas looks disinterested being on stage. Things get more lively for “NYC Cops” as fans get out of their seats and rush the stage. The scene never gets chaotic; everyone just wiggles and dances in the background while Casablancas looks distraught. The weird part comes at the end when we see Frank Caliente and Mo Collins as George and Babara Bush complaining about MadTv being over and trying to find something else to watch. The scene would be more enjoyable if they actually let The Strokes finish performing.

Queens of the Stone Age – “No One Knows” (2003)

This was around the time QOTSA hit the mainstream, despite releasing two albums prior to Songs of the Deaf. Both this and “Go With the Flow” are a blast to watch. Josh Homme and co go at it hard like they’re playing one of their own shows. The crowd kind of just sits there and politely nods, which is strange. With our current image of Homme being clad in leather, covered in tattoos, and looking slightly haggard, it’s funny to see a young, fresh-faced Homme. Though I can’t get over his creeper mustache. Luckily, he doesn’t revisit that too often.

Sum 41 – “Still Waiting” (2002)

Sum 41 absolutely kills it with this performance. Not only do they sound great, they’re energetic and go it hard bringing some aggression to the MadTv stage. It’s short, sweet, and straight to the point. No weird sketches or tricks here. It’s just the band doing what they do best. But you can’t help noticing the crowd just sitting there nodding their heads to the music. With the hard driving nature of the song, you’d expect people jumping around or least dancing in their seats. It’s kind of weird.

Creed – “Higher”(2000)

Okay, so this performance isn’t that awesome; it’s just funny to look back on. Believe it or not, there was a time when Creed wasn’t a stain on music. Even though the show made funny Creed parodies, even they couldn’t deny how successful the band was. Listening to the performance now, it makes you wonder how people sat there and took Scott Stapp’s vocals seriously. It sounds like he’s doing a bad Eddie Vedder impression throughout the entire song. And seeing him give “sexy” faces to the camera makes you cringe. Still, it’s better than the time Stapp forgot all the words to his songs, so that’s a plus.

Green Day – “Blood, Sex, and Booze” (2001)

After a weird joke from Will Sasso, Green Day takes the stage to perform “Blood, Sex, and Booze,” something they rarely play live. They play with the same passion, fire, and fervor they do in their massive stadium gigs. It’s a pretty cut and dry performance for the band that’s still a blast to watch. While I didn’t like the band at the time this aired, I remember rushing home after school around the peak of American Idiot to catch a rerun featuring this performance. They also played “Warning,” which is a solid performance, it’s not as fun as the previous one.

Ja Rule featuring Ashanti – “Always on Time” (2002)

Remember when Ja Rule and Ashanti ruled the airwaves? These two had a number of hit singles on their own, but they seemed to work best when singing with each other. Regardless of how you feel about Ja Rule and his antics now, you can’t deny he was one of the most popular rappers ten years ago. And while Ja Rule’s gravely vocals can be laughable, the two actually sound really good here. As someone who loved singing this song on weekend drives, this throwback is a blast to watch.

Alien Ant Farm – “Smooth Criminal” (2001)

This performance not only features Alien Ant Farm playing their one smash hit, it also has Aries Spears (remember him?!) doing his best Michael Jackson impression. Donned in a suit, fedora, and white makeup making him look like really creepy, Spears teases MJ’s then comeback, pulls off a couple of kicks, and gets carried off by two young boys. Afterward, the band launches into the song while the crowd dances and waves their arms from the comfort of their seats. Seriously, did the show have a no standing rule or something? The energetic performance and Spears’ impression makes this a memorable MadTv moment. Too bad AAF couldn’t manage to score another hit.

Marilyn Manson – “Personal Jesus” (2004)

MadTv really tried to make this performance “edgy” and “cool” with the twisted camera angles and dark lighting. Unfortunately, things are so dark you can barely see Manson and the rest of the band. Compared to his other TV appearances this one is quite tame and he seems a little bored. John 5 and Tim Skold exude more energy than Manson. Being the newly minted Manson fan I was, I ate up every minute of this performance. It’s still better than his recent concert appearances.

Blondie – “Call Me” (1999)

Since the show has been off the air for almost 10 years, (we won’t count the “revival”) it’s easy to forget how many iconic musicians have played the show. Bon Jovi, Wu-Tang, and Ice-T have all made appearances, but Blondie’s is one of the best. While the performance is great even though it’s cut short, it’s the skit with Miss Swan that stands out. Miss Swan fronts the band singing her own incomprehensible version of the song prompting Debbie Harry to come out and ask what the hell she’s doing. Miss Swan then insists she wrote the song on tuba but allows Harry to sing only if she plays nice. It’s a weird bit you’d never imagine the singer being a part, but it happened. But hey, this was when Miss Swan was at hear peak. Who wouldn’t want to be in one of her sketches?

No Doubt – “Bathwater” (2000)

For anyone to remember No Doubt during their peak, this is how they picture Gwen Stefani. The weird, alt girl with her own style and sound. Stefani is slinky and cool as she sings, while the rest of the band ham it up for the camera, especially a topless Adrian Young. It’s a fun, energetic performance that reminds you how awesome both No Doubt and Stefani were. While I don’t mind her current work, it’s just not the same.

Tenacious D – “Tribute” (2002)

You’re never sure what kind of performance you’re going to get from Tenacious D, but you know it’s gonna be weird and it’s gonna rock. The duo didn’t disappoint with this MadTv appearance. Featuring Dave Grohl on drums, Jack Black recounts a tale of singing the greatest song in the world for a beast. The thing is, they can’t remember it. Black gives his usual hammy rockstar performance that’s fun to watch. The best part comes when he gently sets down his guitar, rips off his shirt to show off his flame painted gut, and “breathes fire” out of his mouth. Clearly, they’re a perfect fit for the show. Too bad they didn’t have them on more often.

There are so many performances I wanted to include, but couldn’t find like Outkast and Wu-Tang Clan. So which MadTv performance is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

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H2O – Hall and Oates

Release Year: 1982

Rating: 7.5/10

Hall and Oates are a musical act I’ve grown to love over the years. I’ve always liked their hit singles, but I’ve grown to respect their contributions to music. And lately, I’ve been in a Hall and Oates mood. In the past two weeks, I watched all their videos online, saw countless interviews, and watched their Behind the Music special. I’ve covered Big Bam Boom, probably their biggest album, already so I wanted to look at another one of their successful records. This time, let’s look at the duo’s eleventh album H2O.

The album opens with one of their best singles “Maneater.” That slick opening beat, hot sax riff, and lyrics about a woman whose dangerous yet tempting, makes this one of their coolest songs. It’s dangerous yet sensual as the music slowly builds up and Hall begins singing about this “maneater.” It’s pop meshed with soul for that “Motown groove” making it so irresistible. Though the song sounds like it’s about a vicious woman, the duo said it was inspired by the greed and lust of New York in the 80’s. Years later, it’s still one of their best songs and a great example of what makes the duo so talented.

The next track “Crime Pays” is kind of weird, but fun to listen to. It’s pretty much their disco song. It has a funky groove, glistening keys, and an upbeat dance vibe that’s meant to get you moving. The music is the most notable thing about the song. It’s not as memorable or as interesting as the other tracks, but it still puts you in a good mood. It’s a quirky moment from the duo before they go back to laying out the catchy, ear worm jams. While “Guessing Games” and “Delayed Reaction” aren’t bad, they’re kind of typical for the band. Both are pretty straightforward pop songs, with the latter having a catchier, if not, simpler hook. The former is kind of dull. These songs don’t cause much of a reaction; maybe just a subtle nod of the head at times.

Daryl Hall constantly talks about growing up in Philadelphia and being influenced by soul and R&B music. These influences come out best on this album, especially on tracks like “Art of Heartbreak.” Though the song is about being a heartbreaker, the song sounds sleek and sexy with the opening dirty blues riff and Hall’s crooning vocals. For an extra air of cool, the hot sax makes a return for a sensuous groove. It’s an underrated Hall and Oates gem that lets them get in touch with the soul sound that launched their career. The R&B sound returns on the lukewarm “Open All Night.” It’s not a terrible song, but compared to the other tracks it doesn’t stand out. It’s a slow song about finding out a lover’s infidelity. It’s not bad, just a bit generic.

The album also includes hits “One on One” and “Family Man.” The former takes a bit to grow on you, but once it does, it never lets go. The soothing opening keys and Hall’s falsetto makes it sound like a lounge song from the 70s. And if you’re not used to Hall hitting those high notes, it comes off a little weird, but soon enough you’ll be singing “Whoooa, one on one/I wanna play that game tonight/One on one I know” with him. It’s a slow jam about getting some face time with your lover. To make sure you get in the mood, the sax comes in during the bridge adding a suave vibe to the song. It’s a Hall and Oates classic that never seems to get much attention.

Family Man” is actually a Mike Oldfield cover about a man being proposition by a prostitute. He resists by screaming “Leave me alone/I’m a family man!” The song has a rock vibe with beefy guitars with some weird muted music making it sound like they’re in the middle of a jungle for a moment of the song. What makes the Hall and Oates version stand out is how Hall’s vocals get more intense near the end, showing how this “family man” is about to lose it. And it has a hook that lodges itself in your head. I woke up one day with the hook repeating in my head. No joke.

Though the album is mostly solid, there are some real stinkers. And unfortunately, they’re both written by John Oates. “Italian Girls” is a throwaway track filled with Italian stereotypes while Oates sings “Where are the Italian girls?” It’s so upbeat and generic it almost plays like a comedy song from the 80s. Instead, it’s stuck on the tail end of the album bringing down the second half. The following track “At Tension” doesn’t sound cheesy, but it’s so unfitting. Oates’ back on vocals singing about war and the military. It’s out of place because most of the songs are about relationships. It’s also drawn out, slow, and boring making it a song you can’t wait to be over. Luckily, the end of the album is saved by the catchy slow jam, “Go Solo,” which finds Hall rightfully back on vocal duty.

H2O is just one of the numerous hit albums for this duo. Though it’s not as upbeat and fun as Big Bam Boom, it’s a solid record. Most of the songs are memorable and have that classic Hall and Oates touch that makes their music so irresistible. What I appreciate about the record is how it shows off more of their soul and R&B influences, which isn’t always easy to hear on tracks like “Out of Touch.” And if you needed proof that Daryl Hall is a stellar vocalist look no further than this album. He has an impressive range and his soulful crooning is like no other. There’s some filler along with flat out bad songs, but the album is enjoyable. If you have a Hall and Oates that needs scratching, this album will be your satisfaction.

Love Stuff – Elle King

Release Year: 2015

Rating: 7/10

With so many websites, playlists, and music videos, sometimes it’s hard to find good new music. But every once in a while you get lucky while watching late night TV. I first heard of Elle King when watching an episode of the Tonight Show. I thought her voice was interesting and the song was kind of catchy, so I decided to check out her debut and though it’s not flawless, I was not disappointed.

King’s style should appeal to any Jack White fans. Her music is a mix of rock, pop, soul, blues, and country, which make for some gritty tunes. The opening track “Where the Devil Don’t Go” introduces listeners to King’s old school blues/country sound. The song seems right in line with traditional blues tunes since it deals with the topic of devils and sinners. She has a distinct voice that’s kind of rough and edgy, with a hint of a southern accent. The catchy “Ex’s & Oh’s” is a tongue in cheek track about all the men King has lured and how they can’t leave her alone. She sounds coy as she sings “One, two, three/they’re gonna run back to me/they always wanna come, but they never wanna leave.” It’s an upbeat song with a bit of a rock n roll edge, especially when the guitar solo comes in. It’s definitely a highlight of the LP.

Under the Influence” pulls back on the country vibe and amps up the pop and soul mood. What’s weird about is every time I hear it, it reminds me of something Adele would do. A lot of it has to do with the subdued, slow tempo of the song. It also has this slinky vibe that keeps the song from the dragging on. King isn’t shy about being rough around the edges, as she shows on “Last Damn Night.” Here, she talks about living life to the fullest and partying like there’s no tomorrow. It’s definitely southern rock in nature and just try not to think about Jack White when you hear the dirty licks and jangly pianos.

King dedicates the middle of the LP to her country roots. The tragic tale of “Kocaine Karolina” sounds like an old school country song with just her gritty vocals and a banjo while “Song of Sorrow” is more of an upbeat bluegrass jam complete with banjo and fiddle. “America’s Sweetheart” delves more into country pop with fast twanging guitars ready for a duel and a honky tonk feel. During the pre-chorus when she sings “kick out the jams/kick up the soul” you can picture people stomping their feet and clapping their hands like they’re in a hoedown. These songs aren’t bad, but they may not appeal to those who aren’t fans of country music.

One thing that makes King notable is how she flips the script on so called gender roles. She’s never afraid to talk about how she’s looking for anything but love. This is best found on “I Told You I Was Mean.” With a soulful opening complete with “hmmms” of a gospel, she remains blunt as she tells a lover how she doesn’t want them anymore. Rather than being the one hung up after a fling, she’s the one looking for a no strings attached relationship, while the guy is left wanting something more. She even addresses her demons on the somber “Ain’t Gonna Drown.” With the depressing mood mixed with background sounds of grunting and clanging, it actually sounds like on old hymn. It’s a haunting and chilling look at the singer’s vulnerable side.

Some of King’s subject matter isn’t all that original, like when she does decide to talk about love (“Make You Smile”) or begging a lover to stay one more night (“See You Again”), but at least she comes off as honest. Some of her songs are tongue in cheek and there are even some clever lyrics about how King isn’t your typical skinny, sweet girl who’s content with staying quiet. Her mix of blues, soul, country, and pop is ear catching and will be sure to attract even naysayers of country music. If you want the sound of Jack White without the elitism and ego issues, then check out Elle King. I know I can’t wait to hear more from her.

Big Bam Boom – Hall & Oates

Hall_Oates_BigBamBoomRelease Year: 1984

Rating: 8.5/10

Though this duo has been making music since the mid-70’s they found their greatest success during the 1980’s. They have some of the biggest hits of the decade, which got them in the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Hall & Oates is one of those bands that can be really really good or really really cheesy. The thing is no matter which version you get, they’re both awesome. This album combines both sides of the band to make for their most fun and upbeat record. It’s also their most ambitious, since it found the duo stepping out of their comfort zone.

Things kick off with the wonderfully weird instrumental “Dance On Your Knees.” It’s actually an homage to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s song “White Lines.” It slowly builds up with each instrument coming in one at a time. When it all comes together it has this big, booming sound (hence the album title) and slowly evolves into the music for the next track “Out of Touch.” This remains one of their catchiest and most playful songs. It has a funky groove and an extensive use of synth, more-so than past efforts. It’s a fun song that makes you want to dance and sing.

Method of Modern Love” is another super fun track with an infectious chorus of “M-E-T-H-O-D-O-F-L-O-V-E.” The blaring horns and light tapping drums gives it this tropical/pseudo Latin vibe, something unexpected from these guys. It also has a slinky funk driven bass during the bridge that brings everything together. Though the lyrics are pretty standard for the duo, there’s one line that stands out: “Style is timeless and fashion’s only now.” It’s such a clever line that still resonates today and it’s so true. Think of the trends that have come and gone only to come back again (looking at you tattoo chokers). Anyway, it’s a great song that doesn’t get as much recognition as their other hit singles.

“Bank on Your Love” shakes things up a bit with its rock vibe thanks to the prominent guitars. Synth also makes a return making it sound like Bruce Springsteen song, at least in terms of music. Though it’s not as catchy or fun as the previous tracks, it’s still pretty solid. Things pick up again on “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid.” Out of all the tracks here, this one fits in the most with their earlier material. But what stands out the most are Hall’s vocals. He’s always been a decent singer, but here he sounds so soulful. It’s like he’s giving it his all and he sounds great. I’m not sure why he sounds better on this track than the others, but at least to me, he does.

One of the most exciting songs on the LP is “Going Through the Motions.” The way the track opens with a stuttering effect catches you off guard. It’s not something you expect from Hall & Oates. It manages to wake up the listener and keep them on their toes. From there the music tuns into a blend of synth electronica, R&B, and funk. There’s a lot going on musically, but it never sounds disjointed. It gets you moving and is really catchy like the previous songs found here. Though the song is a bit lengthy, especially when the stuttering effect makes a return, it’s still a stand out track. “All American Girl” is a weird, yet lovable song. It begins with light, bubbly synth that sounds like phone buttons being dialed. The music then returns to a blend of hip hop, synth, funk, and R&B. Again, it’s really exciting and has an irresistible beat, but things go a little sour when the two start rapping. That’s right, this track has a little rap from the duo and it is bad. They gave it their best, but it’s something you don’t want them to do again. Otherwise, it’s an upbeat track that’ll put you in a good mood.

The album has two songs sung by John Oates (the one with the mustache) and they’re not the best. “Cold, Dark and Yesterday” has good funk inspired music, but he doesn’t have the best vocals. For some reason this track reminds me of a sub-par Prince song. Hall’s backing vocals definitely saves this from being terrible. The closing song “Possession Obsession” is better than the previous one, but still one of the weakest tracks. It just doesn’t grab your attention like the other tracks and isn’t very memorable, which kind of describes Oates. Though there are two less than stellar songs, this still remains one of their better records.

Overall, the album gets 8.5/10. What makes this album so exciting and interesting is how the band strays away from their established sound and instead play with different elements of funk, R&B, and even hip hop to liven up their sound. As you would expect from one of their albums, there are some hook filled tracks on here along with some that border on cheesy, but are still really fun. This album shows why the duo was and still is one of the most beloved bands of the ’80s.

Millennium – Backstreet Boys

Millennium_coverRelease Year: 1999

Rating: 7/10

I was recently reading a Buzzfeed list about how 1999 was the best year for music. Of course they mentioned Backstreet Boys’ second album, which I haven’t listened to in years. I decided to blow the dust off the disc (yes, I still have it) and try to figure out what I liked so much about it. This LP shows a maturity in the songs and the guys’ singing: they sound better than before and the tracks don’t sound as corny. But just like their previous effort, the amount of slow tracks brings down the pace and leaves you wondering when the last song will play.

This album sold 1,134,000 copies in its first week and it might have something to do with the amazing singles. Things start off with “Larger than Life.” This ode to BSB fans is a bit edgier than their previous songs with the blazing guitar solos and pulsing music. Of course the track is catchy as hell; who knew a thank you song could sound so good? Though it is thanking their fans for years of support, the first verse makes it sound like they’re a little frightened of them: “I may run and hide/when you’re screaming my name, alright/but let me tell you know there are prices to fame, alright.” I could be reading it wrong, but that’s how it comes off sometimes. Either way, it’s still a great song.

I Want It That Way” is not only the best track on this album, it’s probably the band’s best song period. Whenever it comes on the radio, it instantly makes your day better and you know you have to sing along. It has the best hook and is one of those songs where you drill the lyrics in your head until you can sing them backwards and forwards. The music is pretty simple, light and upbeat. It just makes you feel good when you listen to it. The boys get heavy on “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” which is also their best slow track. It’s here where we see how the guys have matured. Their voices sound better and the subject is deeper. Though it deals with the struggles of a long distance relationship, the music is so intense and a bit dark. Definitely unexpected for fans at the time. It remains one of their most memorable singles.

They keep the momentum strong with “It’s Gotta Be You.” This is one of their forgotten catchy hits. This is another track with heavier music to it, especially with the throbbing percussion and beat. The music here will get you moving before you know it. Something about their matching harmonies during the chorus is so satisfying; they just sound so good! During the bridge they start going “ooo ooo” and it sounds really cheesy, like they’re a mom trying to be cool at a kid’s party, but it’s forgivable. Brain shows off his vocal skill during the breakdown when he holds his note during “Yeah.” He sounds really great allowing the listener to hear his improved vocals. It’s a song you may have forgotten about, but remember how good it is when you hear it.

Don’t Want You Back” is another great song with a strong force behind it. It has this pounding rhythm that instantly catches your ear and makes you pay attention. As a kid, I always thought this was a response to Nsync’s “I Want You Back.” Now, I know that makes no sense. Also, there’s one part where Nick sings “another victim of your sexuality.” At the time it made me blush; Nick was being a bad boy! Fond memories aside, it’s still a great song that’s fun to sing. While the album starts off really strong, it falls flat during the second half due to the excessive amount of ballads. Most of them aren’t bad, but they are tiring.

I Need You Tonight” is Nick’s chance to shine as he does all the vocals. The sappy piano, the constant yearning, and the choir that joins Nick all make for a cheesy love ballad. To be fair it is better than the ones found on their debut, but it’s not that interesting. “Back to Your Heart” suffers the same issues, but since there’s some R&B influence found here, it manages to sound like a Boyz II Men song. “No One Else Comes Close” and “Don’t Wanna Lose You Now” again aren’t terrible and are both better than the Carter led one, but personally they’re a little too slow. After a while you want them all to end. Maybe if the record had a better balance of slow and fast songs it wouldn’t be so bad. As it is, it makes the latter half of the album boring, which is a shame because it started off so well.

Overall, the album gets 7/10. This is a great improvement from their first album. They sound better and the songs deal with more mature issues. The amount of amazing singles that have stood the test of time is a huge reason why this album was a big seller. While there are some tracks that are memorable and catchy, there are a lot of slow ones that drag the pace of the album, leaving you bored and wondering when it will end. The songs don’t sound as cheesy as before, but they really affect the entire record. Either way, the album still holds up pretty well and if anything will bring up fond memories for any BSB fan.