We Are The World by USA for Africa

We Are The World is a great pop song that deserves to be dusted off and played every once in awhile.

As a person who created a blog in order to reminisce about popular music I grew up with, I could probably pick just about any song i’ve talked about and claim that it takes me back to the 80’s or 90’s for one reason or another. The reality is, most of the songs I grew up with never really left my conscious. It’s a little difficult for me to say that all of these songs take me back because they’ve always been apart of my life. However, for some strange reason, We Are The World is the one song I can think of that truly manages to take me back to 1985 every time I hear it. I don’t know if it’s because my kindergarten teacher, Mrs Jones, played the 45 during class every afternoon for weeks or if this song has been buried into the archives of time so much that you can’t help but to allow the song to take you back to that moment in time. Could the idealistic tone of the song somehow be tricking my mind into thinking that the era this song was created in was a much more innocent and simple time? I think all of these points play a role in why this song carries so much nostalgia for me. I was very young, it was a simpler time, and the idealistic tone of the song is irresistible to this day. Especially when you put so much talent behind it.

Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, produced by Quincy Jones, that lineup in itself is already setting you up for something really great. I probably don’t need to insert Wikipedia links into their names in order for you to know how great these guys were. All three were at the top of their game during this era. After the success of the UK famine relief anthem Do They Know It’s Christmas, an idea was concocted for US musicians to come up with an anthem featuring some of their best artists. Based on the Wikipedia article, one thing lead to another and somehow We Are The World was born within a few weeks. You would think that with the short amount of time they had to put this song together as well as the diverse group of talent and egos they recruited that something like this wouldn’t turn out that well. Even today, when I hear Bruce Springsteen and Cyndi Lauper sing their parts on this song, all I can think is “wow, how did they manage to take such a pop driven Michael Jackson sounding song and make it work for everybody involved?” The three men behind this song were at the top of their game during the mid 80’s for a reason. They certainly showed that on this amazing track.

There is something magical about the charity anthems We Are The World and Do They Know It’s Christmas. It’s actually pretty hard to pick which one I like most. The sentiment in both songs is so idealistic and heartfelt i’d be afraid of offending somebody by choosing. For as much as I like my music to stay grounded in reality, I think it is good to have a dose of idealism put out in the universe once in awhile. Sadly, this is something that is missing from the world these days. It’s great that everybody wants to keep it real, but sometimes that sense of hopefulness during rough times is good for the soul too. This is the type of attitude John Lennon tried to bring to some of his music and I feel like that same sentiment is echoed in these two songs. Sure, there was immense talent behind these songs. They bring back so many great memories for so many reasons. However, I believe that sense of idealism, in small doses, can be good too. It only fails when you have remakes like We Are The World 25 For Haiti. A very nice sentiment, but not really a heartfelt original take on that particular tragedy.


Make It Happen by Mariah Carey

Make it Happen has always been one of my favorite Mariah Carey songs due to its inspirational message

Thanks to a few coincidences, coming up with my first blog of 2018 wasn’t too difficult. Coming into this year, much like a lot of people, I have a few goals for myself. I am in the middle of writing a book which I would love to pick up on and finish. I am running two blogs which I hope will thrive in the new year as well. I also have many personal goals such as changing my diet, habits, and all of the other “typical” stuff that most of us are striving for in our lives. Logging onto social media has been very comforting to me as we left 2017 behind. As it turns out, many people also felt like 2017 was the year from hell. I have a lot of good memories from the year, but it certainly wasn’t easy. I also feel a real sense of optimism going into the year. It’s reassuring to know that a lot of people out there think more like me than I realize. When the going gets tough, I tend to get down a bit, deal with the emotions I have to deal with, and then eventually dust myself off and face the world again with some optimism. I have been seeing a lot of those sentiments on Twitter recently and that is very comforting.

So where does Mariah Carey fit into all of this? Knowing that she was going to perform on New Years Rockin’ Eve this year, I decided to download some of her albums onto my phone. I spent the holidays moving into a new house that doesn’t have internet yet so I knew I had to download some music so I wouldn’t run up my cellphone bill. I’ve always been a huge fan of hers. She is one of the first “career” artists that I was a fan of from the very beginning so anything I listen to, especially from the 90’s, has a lot of sentimental value to it. Her MTV Unplugged album was the first one I ever bought with my own money. The fact that she was coming back for another New Years Eve performance was important to me. Much like her, I didn’t like how all of that went down last year. As a fan, I know what happened wasn’t a reflection of her. It’s hard to believe anybody would think that was a reflection of Mariah considering her resume.

Through all of these things going on in the world and in my mind, at some point while moving from the apartment to the house, I realized that her song Make It Happen would be a perfect song to open up the new year with. Those who know me pretty well know that the past few years have been filled with a lot of changes and soul searching. A big reason I started blogging was to give me a platform to address some of these topics. I also know I am a good writer so that certainly helps! Nonetheless, when you are pushing yourself to accomplish such personal goals, your support system of friends and family can only push you so far. YOU have to take the wheel and aim yourself in the direction you want to go in. As somebody who has been working hard to become a successful blogger/writer on their own accord, keeping up that kind of motivation can be hard to do sometimes. Listening to a song like this can be very helpful and inspiring. Make it Happen has always been one of my favorite Mariah Carey songs. I love the pop/gospel feel and the autobiographical touch makes the message even more powerful. I will never quite know or understand some of the struggles Mariah endured in order to become so successful, but I can certainly relate to the idea of needing to keep myself motivated in order to accomplish my goals. I love this song for the fact that it serves as a reminder to keep your head up and not give up on your dreams.

Staying strong in life is easier said than done, but it does pay off in the long run if you continue to believe in yourself

As I prepared to write this blog, much like I always do, I watched the video just in case I could find something to say about it. In this case, much my surprise, I see some pretty cool stuff going on here. 26 years ago, most of us probably watched this video and said “Cool, another hit song from Mariah Carey that also happens to have a video that was thrown together for MTV”. Ok perhaps I might have been one of the only ones to say that, but in hindsight, especially after all of the education i’ve had on broadcast/film production, I can say that this is actually a very nicely put together music video. From the shoot location to the gospel choir and the lighting, they really got this one right. They really captured the idea of making a pop/gospel song look edgy while still getting its message across effectively. It was the 90’s so making sure that there was some kind of edge to the production was probably important to them. I think that is where the lighting comes into play on this one. The use shaky (possibly handheld) cameras give the video a very intimate feel. You almost feel as if you are there shooting the video yourself at certain points. For these reasons alone, i’m glad I decided to write this blog. This song and video deserves some praise as it is a bit underrated among her amazing catalogue.

Mariah Carey is generally very highly respected, but I have to admit that the mention of this song has gotten a few smirks from some people i’ve known over the years. That’s a shame because this song has a lot to offer. Especially considering the world we live in today. It’s good to go back and reflect on such an inspirational song. Perhaps it is the gospel arrangement that makes this a guilty pleasure for some? Maybe it is the uplifting inspirational message? Regardless of how this song is perceived by some, it is an absolute favorite of mine. As I push forward into 2018 with optimism, this is one of those songs that will be playing in the back of my mind. Not only when things are going well, but also on those days when I feel uninspired, too tired to work, or having writers block. The past few years have thrown my life into an interesting period of soul searching and entrepreneurship, but it has also given me some small victories along the way. One of the best things I did last year was start this blog. I can’t say i’ve made any money off of it, but it has opened my mind to something I have ignored for much of my adult life: my writing ability. Between all of the encouragement i’ve gotten from people I know and don’t know, it has really helped me to push my ideas further and challenge myself like i never have before. Now, I just gotta do the rest and keep pushing myself!

Happy New Year by ABBA

Auld Lang Syne stands out as more or less the official song of the New Years holiday. We are more or less programmed to hear this song in our heads at the strike of midnight even if it’s not actually playing. It is thee theme of New Years Day. Much like Christmas, it is a song we hear at or around the time of the holiday and then very quickly gets stored away in the way back of our minds until the next holiday rolls around. Some of us do have a New Years themed song by one of our favorite artists. Most of these songs aren’t even very famous. That either tells you how hard it is to write about the transition from one year to another or just how disinterested people are in writing about the topic. Although U2’s New Years Day is arguably the most famous rock/pop song about the topic, I personally think that ABBA’s 1980 track Happy New Year does the best job of capturing the spirit of the day/moment after Auld Lang Syne.

One of the first things many people learn about me is my love for the 70’s Swedish pop sensation ABBA. In my opinion, they are arguably the best band of all time. I might be a little biased as this is probably the first “real” music I was ever exposed to as a child. There is something about their music, even when the message is melancholy that somehow manages to lift my spirits. Their music has carried over into every phase of my life pretty seamlessly. As I transitioned from a kid who could only hear their great music when the 8 track was being played in the car to a teenager who made their own decisions on what music they played, I made sure to scrape together any ABBA records I could find. Sadly, there was a time when finding their music was extremely difficult. I’m not sure of why that was, but thanks to this challenge I had to settle for finding anything I could get my hands on at flea markets in my local area. Thankfully, as time went by, I was able to pick up all of their albums on vinyl and listen to some deep cuts I never would have heard on that “Magic of ABBA” 8-track that was always advertised during Little House on the Prairie reruns during the 80’s.

As a lot of fans know, the ABBA sound really matured into something special as the relationships between the two couples began to fall apart. Up until 1980, this maturity wasn’t reflected more than it was on their album Super Trouper. Without going into an album review, something I can do another day, I will skip ahead a few tracks and jump into Happy New Year. I have to admit, although I found it to be a beautiful song, I couldn’t understand why they dated the song the second they recorded it by talking about what life will be like “at the end of 89”. Seems like this line was thrown in there for no other reason other than to help move the song along lyrically. However, as I grew up and continued to hear this song throughout my adult life, I began to realize that the overall message and beauty of this track overshadowed any technicalities I may have found within the lyrics. I don’t know if they were actually aiming to create a song that captures the spirit of New Years, but I feel like they did just that. They managed to do it better than just about anybody I know of. The lyrics during the verses obviously help set up the chorus nicely, but it is the chorus itself that truly separates it from being just another great ABBA track to becoming something a little more festive and meaningful. The song itself might have been more of a metaphor that is meant to represent the end of a relationship as a the “party” is over, but also gives way to the optimism of looking ahead into the future.

As our world moves on from tumultuous 2017 and into 2018, I can’t help, but to think of this song more than ever. Our world needs all of the idealism and optimism it can get right now. Our world is really lacking it. The idea of a fresh start has always been appealing to me. Sometimes you need that when things just aren’t working out. I think our world needs that right now. Forget about the craziness of this past year and tackle the new one with an open heart and mind. I think we all could use that mindset right about now.

Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band Aid

For me, the holiday season has been filled with many personal great memories. However, much like a lot of people, this time of year can also be pretty terrible sometimes too. Unfortunately, even I have had some holiday seasons that have been a little less memorable than others. I don’t say this because I think this holiday season isn’t very good. This is actually a pretty great holiday season this year. I have an amazing marriage, some good friends and family behind me, and it actually seems like a lot of the stresses I came into this season with are now all gone. With that said, something is strange about holidays this year. I don’t know if it’s due to the pessimism I see in the world, my wife and I’s decision not to decorate our apartment due to us moving into our home later this month, or if it is something a little more personal that i haven’t been able to put my finger on.

I started off this holiday season by listening to Sirius XM’s Holiday Traditions channel pretty constantly for a few weeks. Then I got out of the holiday spirit for a little bit due to  all of the moving preparations and other stuff going on in my life. Then my wife and I took a random road trip to Pennsylvania in order to see Christmas Village. It is safe to say that the holiday spirit was more than injected back into my head and heart by the time we got home. Then, life got in the way some more and before I knew it that trip became nothing more than a distant memory. After reading this far, you might start to wonder if I was really actually feeling very happy. Believe it or not, I am. It’s not because I am faking or saying it for the sake of writing a positively themed blog. I guess i’ve come to learn that you need to have a short memory in life. You can’t allow all of the challenges that get thrown at you get you down too much. You have to fight in order to maintain the life you deserve. It’s taken me a very long time to learn this, but I think I am finally starting to get it through my head.

So what does all of this have to do with the song Do They Know It’s Christmas? In my case, it has a lot to do with it. For many years, this tune has stood out as the best modern Christmas song. Hands down. Believe me, there are some very good ones out there. Some i’m sure you’ve heard of, some you may not have i.e. Blondie’s rocking’ version of We Three Kings being a great example of a great, but not well known Christmas song. Sure, we all know the story of how and why this song was recorded. If you don’t, you can click on the link to learn more. The song was written for a great cause. The message could certainly be interpreted as a bit idealistic, but when you’re talking about Christmas, there is no better time to share an idealistic message.

There is something really infectious about the arrangement of this song. I think one reason this song has managed to maintain such a lifespan on Christmas radio stations is because of how incredibly idealistic and uplifting it is. Every Christmas, no matter what is going on in my life or how I feel about my life, this song always makes everything better. A lot of night after work, especially since I tend to have such a long commute, I will play some random songs that pop into my head in order to keep my energy up throughout the long drive. One night a few days ago, I decided to play this song despite the fact that I haven’t been in much of a Christmas mood over the past few weeks. The fact that this song, even during a year where I have so much going on that is throwing off the holiday season, managed to get me back into that spirit is a testament to what an amazing song it is. It’s easy to turn on the radio, hear a few holiday standards, and capture Christmas in some way. It’s a completely different thing when one song has the power to re-caputre that feeling and then some. There is something very powerful about this song that makes it the Christmas radio staple it now is.

Although a line like  “thank god it’s them instead of you” comes across a little condescending, the message and arrangement really do a great job of reminding us of what is really important in life. To be thankful for what we have. Not everybody in the world has the luxury of celebrating the season the way we do. Although I may be celebrating a rather unusual holiday season this year, it is for a great cause as my wife and i will be moving into our first house. That in itself is certainly worth celebrating this season. Although we don’t have any decorations up and most likely won’t be exchanging too many gifts, we do have each other and an amazing gift of a brand new house on the way. I am thankful for songs like this one. It really helps to keep things in perspective during the holiday season. A beautiful song that is without a doubt my favorite Christmas song of all time.

When I thought about what I might write about during the holidays, I couldn’t really figure out what it was that I wanted to do. I have to admit, I thought about it for months. I almost committed myself to writing about 25 songs in 25 days. Sadly, reality came in and I figured out that I wasn’t up for the task and didn’t have the time. However, if I were to write about one Christmas song, this was clearly the one I was going to write about. Whether I am having a good holiday season, a bad one, or just a holiday where I am waiting for the ultimate gift coming a few days after Christmas, this song always manages to keep me in the spirit of the season. To be honest, it is one of the only Christmas songs I ever think about the other 10-11 months of the year. From my perspective, that is also a great endorsement for this song.

Maneater by Hall and Oates

It’s safe to say that Hall and Oates song Maneater is a great example of “things aren’t exactly the way they appear”. Although most people (including myself) take this song at face value, it actually has a deeper meaning. This is not a song that tells the story of a ruthless woman you don’t want to hook up with. Believe it or not, this song is supposed to be more of a reflection of the greed riches associated with 1980’s New York City. Probably more or less a commentary on the greed that was all around us during this era. This of course, is according to Hall and Oates. However, I am willing to bet that very few people ever see the deeper meaning in this song. It’s not very obvious. Even being a audiophile/music nerd I am, I often completely forget about the song’s true meaning.

It should be noted that mid December marks 35 years since this song went to number one. Again, being the nerd I am, despite the fact that I was so young when this song came out, I always tend to think about it around this time of the year. I think this is mostly due to the fact that I find it odd that such a big hit managed to come out so late in the year. It’s not often that you see a song become so popular so late in any year. Usually by December, the year has pretty much defined itself and most people are thinking ahead to the new year. Oddly enough, this song managed to become one of the biggest songs of 1982 despite all of the odds against it.

I have to admit, there are a lot of other Hall and Oates songs i’d rather write about. This is a very good song with an amazing bass line. However, I can’t say it has ever been one of the standout tracks from this band in my opinion. It’s a good thing that my opinion isn’t the gold standard because 58 million views on a song that came out 35 years ago says a lot. That doesn’t happen very often. I think that says a lot about the overall perception of this song. It probably still stands out in a lot of people’s minds because it doesn’t necessarily sound like an 80’s song. This song could probably come out today and manage to blend in nicely with some of the other stuff you here on the radio. It’s a timeless track. Although I may like some of their other stuff better, i’m not sure they did anything else that was quite as timeless as this song.

What isn’t timeless is the video. A rather mediocre early 80’s/early MTV video that doesn’t do much to give you any clue as to what the deeper meaning of the song is. It pretty much gives you exactly what the song is communicating up front. Some “maneating” woman one of them knew inspired a dark song they decided to write and record. Except for the fact that it isn’t. The great thing about music is that many songs are pretty much open to whatever interpretation you want to give them. Despite all of the random, useless knowledge I have in my head, I can’t say i’ve ever related this song back to it’s true meaning when listening to it. If they wanted this to be a more universal track, then they succeeded. Perhaps inspiration didn’t necessarily mean there was something deeper to be discovered in the first place. That might just be a reflection of my own personality. I am constantly looking for the deeper meaning in everything. I have to admit, I don’t like to have anything pulled over on me. In this case, I don’t think they are trying to do that to the listener. They just took an idea from one thing and turned it into another in order to make it more commercial. That would be the best explanation for all of this.

Hall and Oates were one of my first favorite bands that I can remember. I started hearing them right around the peak of their career. Hearing songs like Maneater are one of my first memories. There aren’t too many other things that take me back to the 80’s more than this band. Although Maneater isn’t one of my favorites from this band, they certainly deserve a ton of credit for producing a song that is clearly still very well liked and remembered by many. It isn’t often that I look up a song that is this old and has so many views on Youtube. That in itself gets my respect. It’s not even a bad song. Not all. Hall and Oates were always great at creating really interesting bass lines. They did that very affectively here. It’s a good message that most of us can relate to (on the surface atleast!). The dark tone captures the time of year it was released. Of all the songs I know, when I think December, even moreso than Christmas to an extent, this is the one song I think of more than just about any other. That in and of itself is justifies the place this song seems to hold in the history of popular music.

Re-Arranged by Limp Bizkit

I don’t think I knew what the milk was all about until I wrote this blog!

Limp Bizkit will probably go down as one of the more polarizing and controversial acts I will ever write about. Between the riots at Woodstock ’99 and the general consensus that the band is not talented or a bunch of sellout wusses, Limp Bizkit appears to have left an interesting mark on the pop music world. I can say that I was a pretty big fan of the rap/rock Nu Metal scene when it first started in the late 90’s. I loved the hard, thrashing style of bands like Limp Bizkit, Godsmack, and System of a Down, just to name a few. It was a much needed kick in the ass that rock needed at the time. With the Grunge/Alternative movement coming to a very slow end, rock needed something to pick itself up and inject some edge back into it. The aforementioned bands as well as others did a great job of putting that intense, edgy energy back into rock music. Sadly, much like all other phases, stuff happened that wound up causing the downfall of what was otherwise a great moment in 90’s/early 2000’s pop music.

After hearing a string of awesome songs such as their cover of George Michael’s Faith as well as a great set of songs from their second album Significant Other, I found that Limp Bizkit were becoming one of my favorite modern bands. Loved the energy and the unique infusion of rock and rap. However, to this day, the most memorable song they ever recorded turned out to be one of their more toned down songs. Re-Arranged was a great response to the guilt that was placed on them for what happened at Woodstock ’99. They did an amazing job of forming a trilogy between their first single Nookie and the third single N 2 Gether Now. However, Re-Arranged is where the band truly shined. The video puts the band in jail and on trial for the riots at Woodstock ’99. Not only is the tone and filtering of the video perfectly dark, the song also fits in perfectly. You even get a cameo from Matt Pinfield who plays the role of a passionate and fiery judge at their trial. Limp Bizkit was always pretty good at making videos, but this one was definitely their best.

To this day, selling rap or heavy metal to the average music listener is tough to do. If you put these two genres together, that probably makes it a much more difficult sell than hearing them separately. However, I think this is one of those songs that is worth revisiting. The video is compelling and the song is great. Even if you don’t like rap, metal, or both of them together, this one still holds up as one of the better songs of the late 90’s era. I can take or leave a lot of music from this genre at this point in my life, but I can’t help but to crank this one up when I hear it. It helps that the song is tied into an interesting story about a historical event in pop music history. Even if you think Fred Durst and company are wusses or sell outs, this is one of those songs that took some courage to put out there and sell out on.

The Secret Of Life by Faith Hill

Wait, you mean to tell me there really is a secret to life? Is it really as simple as my friend explained it to me recently?

When I started planning to write my next blog for this site, this song was one of the last ones I had in mind. Don’t get the wrong idea, this is a great song. Actually, now that I am watching the video for the first time in years, I am also seeing plenty of good things I could say about that too. Putting that aside, the reason why writing about this song became such a good idea is because I think I may have actually figured out what the secret of life really is. Unfortunately, this revelation didn’t come while I was sitting at home drinking a beer or out on a beach drinking a margarita. The answer actually came from somebody I consider a good friend and probably one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.

Several years ago, I met this friend while interviewing for a job at a rather large corporation. In my entire career, especially by the end of the interview, I had never felt the way I did when I walked out of the building. For some reason, I felt a real connection to this guy. At that point, I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but I knew I wanted to work for him. As luck would have it, he must have been feeling the same way. Him and his boss wound up hiring me for the job. As time passed, things changed. He wound up moving on to another department and I actually wound up succeeding him as a manager in the department we worked in. Due to this new dynamic, my friend, who was initially my hiring manager and boss, started to become my mentor and friend. From the break up of my first marriage through all of the life and career transitions i’ve made, this guy has somehow managed to be there in order to impart his amazing wisdom on me. I almost feel like I took it for granted. I would consider myself to be a more passive aggressive type of personality so I tend to look within and be resourceful about the decisions I make before reaching out to others for advice. Somehow, every step of the way, this guy has been there.

Just the other day, I was having what I would consider to be one of the worst days of my life. By this point, we are no longer working at that large corporation, but still cross paths at a freelancing job at another company. Due to a random sequence of events, I just happened to be asked to work on a major project on a cold, snowy saturday night. Already feeling pretty miserable, it was probably one of the last things I wanted to do at this point. Thanks to the logic and nudging of my wife, I wound up going in despite the fact that I was giving up my saturday night in order to do so. When I got there, my former boss/friend was right there working through the project like the go getter that he is. When we caught up a bit and I started going over what I had been going through, He was right there to give me the great perspective and wisdom that he always gives me. But  this time something bigger came out of our conversation. Something I wasn’t expecting to learn.

While speaking to him about picking myself up off the couch and moving forward despite how I was feeling, he started talking about something that I don’t think I will ever forget. Somehow, the whole idea of “the secret of life” became a topic of conversation. I have to admit, there have been many times in my life when somebody has said a phrase like this and it instantly made me think of a song. Music is such a huge part of my life that this is bound to happen. Sometimes I resist the urge to say something or joke about it, but in this case, I felt like it had some meaning to it. His philosophy on the secret of life is to just keep living. You get up, you brush your teeth, you have a cup of coffee, you go to work, you sit on the couch, etc. The secret of life is to just keep living your life. I have been hearing this song off and on for almost 20 years. It has always fascinated me. All of these random stories and lyrics are thrown into this song that seem pretty meaningless to me. “The secret of life is a good cup of coffee, The secret of life is to keep your eye on the ball” etc. What does any of this have to do with what the secret of life is? Actually, if you go by my friend’s logic, it has everything to do with it. If you listen to this song, take his viewpoint, and then put it all together, frankly, I almost feel like you get your answer.

I’ve always loved this song. The Secret Of Life was never a huge hit. Frankly, I don’t think it is remembered much outside of Faith Hill and fans of the 90’s country sound. The fact that it attempts to tackle such a deep topic is a little frustrating since it is so hard to define. Perhaps it was a little too deep for mainstream radio. However, as far as i’m concerned, while me nor my friend may have truly figured out the actual meaning of life, I do think his wisdom makes a lot of sense. At the end of the day, all we really can do is keep on going. No matter how bad things seem, doing nothing at all is not necessarily the answer. But if we keep moving and keep going, we are still living. The secret of life is to just live it to the best of your ability. That’s all there is too it. Sure, this is a great little country/pop tune from a really great country music era, but in my opinion, this song has always meant a little more than that. I just couldn’t quite put my finger on what exactly that is.

I highly recommend taking a good look at this video. The cinematography and filtering used makes it look like this video was shot in 2009 as opposed to 1999. The use of the moving pictures (it’s almost as if they predicted the iPad, haha!) do a very good job telling the story of the song. In general, a very unique video that does a great job of talking about a topic that is very difficult to define. Although, I have to admit, I am feeling a little bit different about this topic after this weekend. Not only did this conversation give me some insight into the secret of life, it also served as yet another reminded that everything in life happens for a reason. Whether you are having the greatest day or the worst day, it all happens in order to teach you something. The secret is to understand that it all ties together in order to create what winds up being your life. Whether you are on an amazing beach vacation or just simply waking up to go into work for another mundane day, the key is to just living it and experiencing it all.

Popular by Nada Surf

Nada Surf’s Popular is a gem of a song and video that has been long forgotten by most people.

A week or two ago I heard Nada Surf’s Popular on the radio for the first time in quite awhile. Much like a lot of material I write, the music video is the first thing that came to mind. Although this song was never a monster hit and the band itself was more or less a one hit wonder in the eyes of many, the impact of this song and video still holds up to me 21 years later. It was one of many “perfect” alternative songs that came out during what is arguably rock’s last really great era. To be honest, I don’t really know much about this band. Whenever I google them, I do come across some people who are very passionate about them and swear by their great catalogue of work. I haven’t heard much else from them outside of this song so I can’t really vouch for that. I’ll leave that to their fans. What I can say is that this is a brilliant song that deserves a little more recognition than it has gotten.

Blogging about this song comes at an interesting time. The song came out during the summer before my senior year of high school. Not only was that the peak era of my interest in alternative rock, it was also a message I found I could really relate to. Not so much due to the lessons that you learn about dating, but more so due to nepotism and patronizing of the “golden kids” that often goes on in high school. If you play your cards right and manage to elevate yourself to another level, your ego gets boosted in spades. This is something I personally saw far too much during my time in school. It’s a big reason why I stopped participating in activities by my sophomore year. In hindsight, I regret that decision as I should have probably kept pushing myself. That might be another blog for another time. In this case, although the song is probably trying to teach these lessons on some level, I don’t think that is the ultimate message of Popular. I think it is more of a commentary on the choices kids make when they date at that age and the pitfalls of putting popularity ahead of other important things.

The classroom lecture scenes in this video are what truly makes this a great, unique song.

I have to imagine that Nada Surf knew what they were doing when it came to the song/video tie in. It’s more or less a literal translation of the song to the video. The way they used the narrated verses was brilliant. The way they tied everything together in order to create their own unique story while staying true to the message of the song makes this one of the standout music videos of the entire MTV era. Even today I still find myself highly entertained by this video. It hasn’t gotten old and is still pretty relevant. The politics of high school popularity and relationships will probably never become irrelevant. Much like back in the 90’s, i’m sure kids could learn a thing or two from a song like this. I don’t know if I necessarily needed to learn anything from this as I saw it going on a lot in my high school, but that doesn’t degrade what it is. As a song, you will be hard pressed to hear anything quite like this on alternative radio again. Alternative artists have a great history of coming up with very artistic, unique statements. This is why I love alternative rock.

Nada Surf is a band who has never won anything or done anything relevant outside of this song. They are a good band that has remained an alt/indie favorite among their hardcore audience. They’re a band that I’ve heard a few songs from here and there over the years, but have more or less disappeared. I think this is a band that deserves another listen. That goes for myself! Even if I don’t find much in their catalogue that hooks me, I atleast think these guys deserve another listen. A band that is capable of creating such a perfect song has to have something else there that is worth listening to. Sometimes, the passing of time, media, radio, and other issues factor into why we don’t hear from very good artists after one or two songs. Sometimes it’s a pretty legitimate reason, other times you scratch your head and wonder what happened. That is the case with Nada Surf. Popular will always be a song I remember fondly. It will always be a stellar alternative track with an impactful message. However, when I hear bands like this, I can only wonder if there is something else there that is worth listening to.

Michael Jackson: Thriller 35th Anniversary

This week is one of those times when I am thankful for the constant inflow of news and information that comes pouring onto my phone 24/7. Otherwise, I would have overlooked the 35th anniversary of arguably the greatest album ever recorded. A lot of things have been said about Michael Jackson over the years, but when it comes down to it, you can’t deny the greatness of this album. Personally, I went through many years of debating what the greatest album of all time really is. I know I have my personal favorites that many people probably either haven’t heard of or would never place on the pedestal I put them on (i.e. Aimee Mann‘s fantastic 2005 album The Forgotten Arm is a great example of an all time favorite of mine that most people have probably never heard of). I also tried comparing Thriller to some of the other best-selling albums of all time, but honestly, I think the numbers don’t lie in this particular case. Whether you are more of a rock fan, pop fan, country fan, etc, you can’t deny how great of an album Thriller really is.

As I listened to this album during my commute to work, I wondered what would be the best way I could pay tribute to this album. Rather than go on and on about its greatness, I decided to do a track by track analysis of each song. Thriller is not only a great album, but it contains just the right amount of songs. Each one makes a unique statement that deserves to be recognized in that sense.

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ is a great example of what the opening track of an album should sound like. It doesn’t have to necessarily be an uptempo song that jumps out at you, but it has to set the tone in some way. Usually, an upbeat number like this one will do the job. For me, the best part of the song is the  “mama-say mama-sa mama-coo-sa” chant that can be heard for much of the second part of the song. If you read the link for this song, you will learn that this was actually taken by an artist i’ve never even heard of. I figured it had to come from somewhere, but didn’t really know the origin until now. All I get out of this song is that somebody is trying to start something and he apparently hates vegetables. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic song that is actually kind of hard to define. It’s a dance song, but not necesarily in the same style as many of his other songs. That is one of the things that made the recording of this album so great. So many songs on this album have a very unique flavor to them yet they all come together to form a cohesive masterpiece.

Baby Be Mine

Baby Be Mine is an interesting track. Although it is probably the least talked about song on the album, personally, it has always been one of my favorites. That could either be due to the fact that it hasn’t be played out quite as much as all of the others or it could very well be an underrated song. This song contains a nice dancey groove to it that probably would have fit in very nicely on his Off The Wall album, but somehow seems to fit in nicely here as well. For many artists, this song would be a hit. For Michael Jackson, it is more or less a “throwaway” album track among many other great songs.

The Girl Is Mine

The Girl Is Mine is another song that gets lost in the mix of many great tracks on this album. Paul McCartney’s time collaborating with Michael Jackson was cut way too short due to their falling out over the ownership of The Beatles catalogue. Although their previous collaboration Say Say Say was a fun, Michael Jackson sounding track with a great video to go with it, The Girl Is Mine tops it by a longshot. This is probably one of the most fun ballads you will ever come across. The thing that makes it great is that while it is a fun song, it takes itself just seriously enough that it doesn’t come across as a joke. I always liked to view what was going on here as a “fun argument” between the two of them. Although they had a falling out after this, it was probably a good way for Paul McCartney to bounce back after the sudden death of John Lennon. It’s a shame they weren’t able to continue working together as I think they could have come up with some more great stuff together. Instead, we are left with this great track fitting in nicely around all of these other upbeat tracks on this masterpiece.


Thriller is an interesting song for me. While I full recognize and appreciate its signifiance, it doesn’t necessarily stand out as one of my favorites on this album. The thought that was put into the video is remarkable. I can still remember seeing the making of Thriller special that showed all of the work that went into making this video. It came at just the right time as this was the time period when the music video business was really taking off thanks to MTV. Not only did this video help his career, it also helped MTV too. Surprisingly, even though I was very young when this song came out, I can’t ever remember being too freaked out by Vincent Price’s narration or the creaking of the door and other sound effects that went into it. I don’t think Michael Jackson failed to spook anybody here, but for some reason it didn’t affect me in that way. More than anything, I think this song would make for a great Broadway musical number. Especially the chorus. Perhaps that is something he had in mind when creating such an elaborate video.

Beat It

Much like Thriller, Beat it is famous for so many reasons. Although much shorter than Thriller, the music video upped the game quite a bit with its theatrics and choreographed dancing between the two rival gangs. It also managed to spawn a famous spoof by “Weird Al” Yankovic called Eat It that managed to help launch his career to a new level. That is the kind of impact Michael Jackson was having at this time. His impact was felt pretty much everywhere. The song is also notable for the amazing guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen who apparently did this free of charage according to Wikipedia. To me, this is just a great song. It probably ranks atleast a notch above Thriller in terms of my enjoyment level.

Billie Jean

Billie Jean not only contains a very interesting backstory, it is also another example of how Michael Jackson would casually just kind of take ideas from other artists and make them better. I don’t know if it’s necessarily right of him to do it in the causual manner that he did it, but he did manage to take a great song like Hall and Oates I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) and make it better. It’s almost as if the Hall and Oates version was the demo and Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean was the final copy. If you don’t know what I am talking about, click here to read about how MJ was influenced by Hall and Oates. Regardless of how the song was created, much like I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do), you can’t help but to crank this one up to 11. There is nothing I enjoyed more this week than cranking this song up to 11 in the middle of Washington D.C. on my way to work. There is something about this song that just says masterpiece. It is also notable as being one of, if not the first, video by an African American to be played regularly on MTV. An issue that occured despite the immense popularity of Michael Jackson and Thriller. Much like many of the other songs on this album, this one was a gamechanger and very influential.

Human Nature

How do you follow Thriller, Beat It, and Billie Jean on an album? By recording a song that was actually intended to be recorded by Toto. Oddly enough, Michael Jackson and Toto have more of a link to each other than I ever imagined. Some members of the band even played on this song. This was thanks to producer Quincy Jones accidentally hearing the demo. It just amazes me how all of these little facts keep popping up as I write this blog. Toto was always a very tight band so it’s no surprise that my favorite song from a musical standpoint would be this one. Toto songs like Georgy Porgy and Africa really showcase the type of musicianship this band was capable of. I feel like they brought that same level to Human Nature as well. Although this song may not have been quite as popular as the previous three tracks, Human Nature has to be atleast the second best song on the album with Billie Jean being the best (in my opinion). The sampled version recorded by SWV is also worth a listen. Obviously not as good as the original, but as somebody who isn’t always a huge fan of cover songs, this one gets a thumbs up from me as it put an interesting twist on something that must have been awfully difficult to cover or sample.

P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing)

As I’ve worked on this blog, I have learned a lot of little facts that I didn’t know before. Knowing that Michael Jackson always thought big, the summary of each song has become similar to a scavenger hunt. Since i’ve listened to this album several times while writing this blog, one thing I became curious about is if any well known singers/people were recruited to be the “pretty young things” we hear in the song. As it turns out, when glancing over the Wikipedia page for this song, I discovered that Janet and LaToya Jackson were in fact the “pretty young thing” backing vocalists on this track. Even I learn something new everyday! With that said, this is obviously a terrific track that once again gets a little overshadowed by the big three tracks in the middle of the album. No music video for this one, but it did crack the top ten. It has that early-mid 80’s funk/dance sound that I love. One other thing that makes this and several other songs on this album so great are all of the little changes that go on. You could chalk that up to being one of the main reasons this album was so successful and so well liked. The ability to incorporate so many appropriate changes within each song so that it never gets boring to the ear. That is exactly what happens in this song. There are so many smooth changes of tempo that makes it sound so effortless.

The Lady In My Life

Much like Baby Be Mine, The Lady In My Life is an under appreciated track on an album filled with stellar songs. As a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I can’t really pinpoint what influenced MJ to record this song, but I almost feel like it was very influential on the sound of R&B ballads in the future. From the opening note, you can hear that 90’s R&B style/sound. One thing i’ve learned from writing this blog is that Michael Jackson tended to “borrow” from other artists like a housewife would borrow eggs or milk from the next-door neighbor. This was no big deal to him. This might be a topic worth exploring as i’ve rarely ever heard anybody talk about this great track. Regardless of how this song came to fruition, It is probably one of the smoothest, most R&B flavored song he ever recorded. Oddly enough, English songwriter Rod Temperton wrote this song and Baby Be Mine. Two of the most R&B flavored and least known songs on the album. I know a lot of songs got released from this album, but I think it’s a shame this one didn’t. It actually shows a much different side of MJ than pretty much anything else he’s ever recorded.

When I started this blog, I didn’t think it would be possible to gain a greater appreciation for an album that has pretty much achieved every praise and accolade imaginable. However, learning about all of the little influences and other occurrences that lead to the creation of these songs just makes it so much more fun to listen to. This is probably one of the top reasons I do these blogs. Sure, I do it for myself. I hope to find common ground with other audiophiles and music lovers over the course of time. However, when I work on a project like this and learn all kind of new things that I get to share as well as talk about how the music affects me, that makes the time I put into it worthwhile.

Putting that aside, much like everybody else, I have my list of artists and bands that I love. Although I am a pretty big fan of Michael Jackson, I can’t say he is my absolute favorite. What I can say is that it is hard to argue with the place this album holds in the history books. This one album was the absolute peak of a rather interesting persons life and career. It also represents the absolute pinnacle that any artist can shoot for. People often talk about who is going to make the next Thriller. You usually don’t hear people say “Who is going to make the next Eagles Greatest Hits” or “Who is going to make the next Zeppelin IV”. Both amazing albums that deserve their places in the record books. What most other albums are missing is that phenomenon factor. Thriller was a phenomenon. So much so that even I remember it pretty vividly despite being 3-5 years old during its lifespan on the charts. This album is one of my first memories of popular music. Its impact was everywhere in popular culture for years. There is a reason for that. Thriller was an album that everybody could agree on. You might define it as dance or R&B or even pop. I would say this is a well orchestrated piece of music filled with so many interesting changes within each song that its hard to not like it. It has some edge, but not too much edge. Everything about this album is just right. Sadly, for both this artist and every other one who has come and gone since, it is a masterpiece that is hard to duplicate. 35 years later, although i’ve heard some really good albums, I can’t say any of them compare to the type of magic that Thriller contains. Considering the direction the music industry is going in, i’m not sure if we will see/hear something like this ever again. That is what makes this album even more extraordinary to me.

The Corporate Sellout Era of Starship

A very young me thought this was an amazing band. I may have overrated them a little, but they are still a sentimental favorite.

If you grew up anytime between the late sixties through the late eighties, then you are most likely a fan of one of the incarnations of Jefferson Airplane. It is far less likely that you stuck with the different eras of the band and remained a fan through it all. I don’t have any exact metrics to back up this theory, but I can tell you through life experience and many years of studying the topic on the internet that this is probably a pretty safe bet. Personally, the band’s Starship lineup is a sentimental favorite of mine. I wasn’t around when the Jefferson Airplane lineup was out there making a cultural statement during the  Summer of Love, but that isn’t necessarily the reason I don’t like this lineup’s music as much. This incarnation of the band made some memorable music with tracks such as Somebody To Love and the amazing White Rabbit leading the way. However, despite the deep cultural statement of this band, I can’t help but to favor the cheesy, corporate rock of Starship.

Back in 1985, when I was about 6 years old, I started to really take in the music I was hearing on the radio and the images that went with it on MTV. I could probably sit here and go on and on about all of the songs and artists that affected me during this era. This is actually the number one reason I started this blog to begin with. However, Starship was one of the stand out acts of the 1985-1987 pop era for me. Perhaps I didn’t know any better since I was so young, but I don’t necessarily believe that has much to do with it. I believe one of the reasons most people claim to “hate” Starship is due to the fact that they  went from making such meaningful, generation defining music to producing a number of singles that could easily be used in a tv commercial. Regardless of what the reasoning was for why the band decided to re-invent itself, i’m glad it did.


For as much as I love the worlds most “hated” song, We Built This City, I have to admit that the song that really got my attention at that young age was actually Sara. For one thing, this was probably their least “pop” sounding single. I also think it measures up well against many other respected hits of the era. Whenever I think about the mid 80’s, Sara is always one of the first songs I think of. I don’t know if it is the nice black and white cinematography or if it is the fact that the message of the song and the story within the video compliment each other so well, but this song has always been a standout. I can remember this being one of those songs I always wanted to hear on the radio when it was at the peak of its chart dominance.

I wanted this album so badly back in 1987, but never got it. Streaming it today I can say I am glad I didn’t get it. It’s not very good overall!

For as much as I enjoyed those two fantastic tracks from the Knee Deep In The Hoopla era, the No Protection era is where my fandom went to a new level. For as amazing as Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now was, I have to admit that one of their cheesiest tracks of this era was my favorite. To this day, I can’t understand what it was about the single Beat Patrol that I loved so much. Was this supposed to be the sequel to We Built This City? Am I the only person who remembers this song? Was I the only person who sat by their radio waiting just to hear this song again? As much as I love the 80’s, not all of the music of this era has aged very well. Beat Patrol is a great example of this theory. Sure, I still love this song for sentimental reasons, but honestly, it’s not that great of a song. For whatever reason, this song made me want to own the No Protection album (which I sadly never got despite staring at it in those buy a a record for a penny advertisements I saw so often while growing up).

The last big hit most people do remember from this band was It’s Not Over Til It’s Over. Sadly, I couldn’t come up with the music video that goes with this one, but I also don’t remember it being too terribly interesting. You’re not missing much. What you do get is one last catchy corporate number that deserves, at the very least, to have its video posted on Youtube. It proved to be the final push from a band is still remembered as one of the biggest sellouts to this day. It’s actually pretty fitting that this was their last major statement as a band since their 1989 album Love Among Cannibals is hardly notable. I once owned a greatest hits album that featured one or two tracks from this album, but without Grace Slick in the mix it just doesn’t really do much for me. I didn’t even know they put this album out until years later. There are no hidden gems here. By 1989 Starship had run its course.

Sadly, the Mickey Thomas/Grace Slick brand of corporate rock came and went pretty fast.  When I look back, I always feel as if their impact was much greater than it really was. They released four songs that people remember with many throwaway tracks thrown in there. Much like a lot of things from the 80’s, the four hits that came from these two albums hit big. In a lot of ways, Starship were just as much of a reflection of the 80’s as they were of the 60’s. They just defined the eras in a different way. Jefferson Airplane was all about making a real cultural statement whereas Starship was simply about making some money and bowing out. Perhaps that in and of itself is just as much of a statement as staying true to yourself. Personally, they may not have ever made a truly great or memorable album and they may not have had a very prolific string of hits, but when I do think about the few impactful hits they did produce, they often take me back to those days when I thought they were one of the greatest bands out there.