How Can We Be Lovers by Michael Bolton

One of my favorite music memories of 1990 that I am pretty sure i’ve never talked about with anybody until today is hearing the song How Can We Be Lovers blaring all over the radio dial. Anybody who was alive during this era can probably vouch for the fact that it wasn’t cool in some circles to admit liking Michael Bolton’s music. Even to this day, i’m not sure I could really call myself a fan. However, I think I know good music when I hear it. Regardless of what you might think of his body of work or the perception that Michael Bolton was nothing more than a sleepy adult contemporary artist, you can’t deny that How Can We Be Lovers is an awesome song.

When I prepare to write these blogs, most of the time I will watch the video a few times just to re-jog my memory of anything I might have forgotten. As I proceeded with this process this time around, a few thoughts came into my head. Firstly, it is my duty to remind my readers that yes, that is Nicolette Sheridan of Desperate Housewives who is the girl in this video. I didn’t dig too deep for the information, but I do believe they dated at one time. Another fact came via the Wikipedia article. I don’t think I knew that songwriting queen Diane Warren was a co-writer of this masterpiece. If you are not familiar with her name, then you are definitely familiar with her work. As I write this blog, I am realizing that I may have dedicate a blog just to her. She has written/co-written some of the best songs in pop music history. But I digress. One other thought that came to mind is that I think Michael Bolton would have been better suited to veer in a more rock n roll type of style than some of the later work that I am aware of. He has a great rock voice, but he doesn’t come across as somebody i’d like to hear singing ballads. While he has a fanbase that would disagree with my opinion, I think there are many who would agree with me. Ultimately, in life, you gotta do what feels right for you. I suppose Michael Bolton felt like that was the direction that suited him the best.

As for the video, I can remember seeing this one all over MTV in 1990. It is a fairly simple video. The storyline between Michael Bolton and Nicollete Sheridan is compelling. I love the black and white filtering on the storyline parts, the band portions take you back to a time when big hair and guitars were still king. The outfits that are worn are very eye catching and really enhance what is otherwise a simple concept. The guitar solo and chorus performances really capture the anthemic feel of what is a very well crafted pop song.

As for this song, when I hear it, it fills me with memories of hearing a chorus of girls singing along to it on the bus ride home from the Art Museum in Philadelphia when I was in 5th grade. I can remember secretly loving this song during it’s run to number 3 on the Billboard charts. I can even remember secretly liking this song even when me and my best friend from high school teased my brother about listening to Michael Bolton on his headphones. Regardless of what you might think of Michael Bolton’s music, you can’t deny that this is a great song. When I log on YouTube and watch these videos, I always look for the viewer count. As of today, this one has over 10 million views. That is an excellent feat for a song that is almost 30 years old. I don’t think that is an accident. This is a really great song!

 

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Baby I Love Your Way/Free Bird Medley by Will To Power

The era I grew up in might have been the undisputed peak of Adult Contemporary music. For as many edgy, groundbreaking artists that emerged during the 80s and 90’s, there were also a few guilty pleasure Adult Contemporary artists out there to help balance the pop music universe. Although I have always been pretty open about my music tastes (i have always been pretty upfront about my love for ABBA after all), even I had my limits. Every era has a few artists or a genre that just doesn’t define cool. At all. This isn’t news to anybody who is reading this blog. However, there were some artists that were even too cool for me. Atlantic Starr, Michael Bolton, Kenny G, and Will To Power. You could probably start an Adult Contemporary Hall of Fame based on those names alone. If I saw these artists on VH1 or MTV, I changed the channel quickly just to maintain my coolness. At most, I might listen to these artists on an Adult Contemporary station if I had trouble sleeping at night. That’s it.

With all of the above being said, a funny thing starts to happen to you as the years go by. You grow up. You graduate from high school and college. You go out in the real world and live your life. Through all of those experiences away from peer pressure and other factors that influence your personality, you grow as an individual. Being cool is no longer the most important thing. I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve become extremely open-minded over the past 20 years. It could be due to the growing up factors I stated. It could be that the internet gives you so much more access to media. It could be the Xennial Generation factor where I am somewhere between the old days and the modern era in society. All I know is that many of the artists I was so embarrassed to admit to being a fan of for so long started to grow on me.

A great example of how an “uncool” song grew into being a very cool one for me is Will To Power’s Baby, I Love Your Way/Free Bird Medley. As an adult who is pretty educated in the history of popular music from the past several decades, I find it offensive that I didn’t see the genius behind this song when it came out. I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, I was only 9-10 years old  when it hit the charts. I actually knew nothing about the origin of this song. It just had the sound of a throwaway, sleepy Adult Contemporary song that didn’t rock, didn’t have a good beat, and wasn’t cool. Even band members Bob Rosenberg and Suzi Carr looked the part of Adult Contemporary all-stars. The fact that this song reached number one on the Billboard chart just told me that yet another lame song that was inferior to all of the great music of the time was somehow topping the charts. However, my adult perspective says that the people who made this one number one may have actually been right.

What I didn’t realize until much later in life is that this song is a medley of two very famous songs of the seventies. Peter Frampton’s 1975 hit Baby, I Love Your Way and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s amazing 1973 hit Free Bird were somehow merged into one late 80’s pop song. I’m not sure who came up with the idea or why they chose these two songs, but this is one of those very strange occasions where a cover of two classics were put together to form something completely different from the original songs. Perhaps this song’s popularity stems from not only all of those people who identified with the classic songs merged together for this piece, but also the coming of age and adaptation to the 80’s sound from that coming of age crowd. It could also be as simple as this being a very good song!

I’m not sure when it happened, but there was a day when I heard this song and it clicked that Baby I Love Your Way and Free Bird were in fact the two very famous aforementioned  hits of the seventies. With that in mind, some additional over analysis had to happen. First of all , Suzi Carr nails the Baby I Love Your Way parts to this song. In my opinion, her vocals on this song completely outshines Peter Frampton here. She sings this song with a lot more soul than Peter Frampton did on his original track. However, although it might be unfair to make comparisons, I can’t say that Bob Rosenberg’s vocals for Free Bird add any soul or depth to the song. As far as this song goes, I think it manages to work out ok as the contrast from soulful to understated seems to make for an interesting listening experience. Perhaps that is what they were going for when they recorded the song. No matter how you look at it, somehow Will To Power made these two songs come together compliment each other like Yin and Yang.

One question I have about this band is the status of Bob Rosenberg and Suzi Carr’s relationship? This question isn’t necessarily being asked because I am prying for information or curious about their lives. It stems from the fact that this song gives me a similar feeling as Boy Meets Girl’s Waiting For A Star To Fall. You hear a male and female voice over such a romantic sounding Adult Contemporary song and you figure they dated at one time. However, Unlike the Wikipedia article for Boy Meets Girl, I couldn’t find any information about Will To Power outside of their professional career. Even the video gives you the impression that there might have been a relationship of some kind between them. However, this was the era of powerful male/female love ballads. Perhaps these two were just playing the role of 80’s power ballad duo on this track. Whatever the case might have been or their reasons for creating this track, the one thing I can say is that they created a late 80’s masterpiece with this track.

 

Never Surrender by Corey Hart

I’m willing to bet that when most people look back on Corey Hart’s career, they most likely only remember his quintessential 80’s smash Sunglasses At Night. They may even think of his as a one hit wonder. Although I do agree that Corey Hart belongs on the “Where are they now?” list, I don’t think it’s fair to say he is a one hit wonder. As a matter of fact, according to Wikipedia, Never Surrender was Corey Hart’s highest charting single on the Billboard chart. That even surprises me. I am a huge billboard chart nerd, I think I already know all of these facts, and I think this is a much better song than Sunglasses At Night. Sometimes, an artists best song isn’t always the most successful so I never guessed that it did so well.

This song is very inspiring to me. When I have a bad day or get down about life, I always like to blast this song and reflect back on the music video. I think this is one of the best “storyline” videos of the 80’s. I don’t know Corey Hart’s story that well, but somehow I feel like there is some truth to the story within the video. It basically starts with Corey Hart looking out at the pouring rain, debating whether it is the right time for him to leave home. They do a good job of showing the conflict between staying at home with family or going out there, even in a nasty rainstorm, and leaving in order to fulfill your dreams. There is no time like the present. Even if the weather sucks! They do a great job of telling the story of the ups and downs of trying to find yourself and making it in the world. hitch-hiking on the back of a truck, getting fired from a job, even passing on the temptations of the women he passes on the street. Through it all, he remains focused on what his true goal is. It’s very cool to see the struggles, the temptations, the rock bottom, and then, just as the montage of family memories and sax solo ends, and he “see’s light” there he is, all cleaned up, on stage, and living his dream.

Unlike some of the videos i’ve talked about it, there is nothing particularly special about the editing, effects, or the way the video is shot. The video simply does an excellent job of telling the story of the song. The song itself is an 80’s masterpiece. It doesn’t need a great video in order to showcase what a fantastic song this is. It’s a very good lesson in perseverance. I myself have had many challenges thrown at me in life. The sentiments that are expressed in the video and song are very relatable to me as i too have worked very hard to find myself in this crazy world. The one thing that has remained constant is that I haven’t given up.

In My Dreams by REO Speedwagon

As I come off an amazing vacation with my wife and celebration of my first wedding anniversary, I can’t help but to reflect on the journey to finding love. For one thing, it was not the journey I expected to take. I do consider myself a nice, noble guy who does the best they can do right by the people they love. Perhaps that was my downfall for many years, but that is the path I chose. When I grew up during the 80’s, songs like In My Dreams were commonplace. They made you feel love. They made you want to aspire for the type of feelings that were being conveyed. From the first time I heard this song, I knew this is how I wanted to feel about the love of my life. It was worth the wait, but I can confirm that it doesn’t come quite as easily as a song like this would make you think.

Although the video does a good job of promoting the song and showing a behind the scenes look at REO Speedwagon, it’s not what I would consider a creative piece that I can dissect and critique. The strength of this video is the song. The video is just there to promote it. I suppose REO Speedwagon weren’t completely sure of how to translate such a beautiful song into a video. I’m almost kind of glad they didn’t. This is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. After spending so many days with my wife, but not getting tired of being with her, I can look back and say “wow, I really relate to this song”. For years, I listened to this song, hit repeat a billion times, and dreamed of finding the same kind of love that is being conveyed here. After several strange dates, failed relationships, and awful experiences in love, you begin to feel that finding a love like that isn’t reality. After four years of this relationship, including one year of marriage, I am glad I can say i was wrong.

I write a lot of blogs about the music I grew up with, but I am not so old fashioned that I can’t see that there is still plenty of good music out there. I am a big fan of the Selena Gomez’s of the world almost as much as REO Speedwagon and so many other greats I grew up with. However, one thing that is truly missing from the world today is music that really makes you feel something. Songs that make you feel love, songs that make you feel heartbreak. Perhaps it is getting expressed in a different way these days, but somehow I feel like a lot of the music I am hearing is a lot colder. Not necessarily bad, it just doesn’t get into your soul the way music used to. Perhaps it is a reflection of our society. Finding true love like this is so much harder than it was. I’m not sure if people even pursue it as much as they used to. It is a different world today. Divorces are about as common as a handshake. People change and move on to other experiences. There is so much more emphasis on being happy and moving on. That is a sentiment I can get behind, but I can confirm that true love can still be found in this crazy world. I am living proof of that. I am thankful that songs like this can still be dug up so I can feel the same things I felt when this song came out. The only difference is, I can wake up every morning and know that I have this feeling for real everyday. It makes the long and strange journey of dating seem so worthwhile.

 

Look What You Made Me Do by Taylor Swift

When I punched out at work a few weeks ago and embarked on my Midwest baseball vacation, I wasn’t sure of what I might want to write about when I came back. I knew I was going to turn off my brain for a while and enjoy some random fun, hot dogs, and a few baseball games. I knew the MTV VMA’s were coming up, but I feel like I have completely fallen outside of that demographic. I don’t think i’ve even watched it since 2002. However, I did catch the news that Taylor Swift would unveil her new music video during the show. Although I don’t place much importance on what MTV is doing these days, I do have a high level of interest in new music. Taylor Swift is one of my favorite artists of the modern era and I do anticipate whatever she might do next.

As my wife and I returned to our hotel room after a fun night out in Chicago, it soon occurred to me that the VMA’s were taking place. Rather than tune into the show and waste my time watching a bunch of zany nonsense for an hour or two, I opted to go right to YouTube in hopes of finding the video already posted for my viewing pleasure. As it turns out, I was in luck as the video was in fact posted and already receiving the ridiculous amount of attention that only Taylor Swift  can generate.

I have to admit that I went into the viewing of this video with a little bit of a closed mind. I had given her single a few listens leading up to the video reveal, but was surprisingly unimpressed. Even as I write this today, I still can’t believe that I don’t really like this song. The structure and melody of this song is not only a huge departure from anything I’d ever expect her to do, it’s just not a good song in my opinion. Even after almost two weeks of hearing it, Look What You Made Me Do doesn’t stick in my head. There are no parts of this song that make me want to think about it or hear it. If this song had been recorded by most other artists, I don’t think anybody would be talking about it. However, she is Taylor Swift and she has deservedly developed enough of a reputation to warrant the kind of attention she gets. Even if she has chosen to go in such a radically different direction this time around.

So if this song is so bad, then why is everybody talking about it? Why does the video have 200 million views as of this blog? Why is it at the top of streaming music charts, billboard charts, etc? What is it about this song that got me write a whole blog about it? I think this is one of those situations where my inability to find the time to write a blog about it last week helped to give me a more fair opinion of this song. Although I don’t like it, I do think this song has a lot to say. Especially if you are interested in the saga that is Taylor Swift’s career.

According to popular opinion, it seems like a lot of people dismiss this as a “Kanye West diss song”. Although that part of her story is referenced here, I actually think Look What You Made Me Do is Taylor Swift’s way of saying “you made me this way”. The cryptic tone of  the music itself is almost difficult to define. It’s dark and strange. There is really no melody here at all. It almost sounds like somebody gave an angry amateur musician full access to a major label recording studio and this is what they came up with.

I think the key to understanding this song comes from the video. The song itself is so strange, especially for Taylor Swift, you really don’t pay attention to what she is trying to say. You just listen with your jaw on the floor. The fact that all of the different “old Taylors” can be seen throughout sends a clear signal that she doesn’t feel like she is the same person we all knew over the past decade. I almost get the impression that she is angry about the way she might have handled some situations in the past. Especially based on the dialogue between all of the different “Taylors” at the end. I get the impression that she blames all of the people who have impacted her life negatively for this transformation. Whether she is grateful for the “new Taylor” image that is being revealed here is debatable. If my perspective of this song has any truth to it, then I almost feel like a song like Shake it Off loses a lot of its meaning. A song that goes out of its way to blame society for her transformation is not shaking it off, it’s letting all of the jerks win. That might be a laughable statement considering how successful this song is, but if you really think about it, that’s really what all of this is saying.

Putting all of the politics and digging into meanings aside, the video truly saves the day here. Thanks to the fact that she is Taylor Swift, this video doesn’t fall short on production value. This is a very entertaining video that is well-edited and actually tells the story of the song better than the song itself. Although I don’t necessarily agree with the message of this song, I do commend her for having such a good sense of humor about her image and the way she is perceived. I thought all of this had been discussed in past songs, but I guess she feels like there is still more to explore on this topic.

I have always been open to change from artists I like. I almost feel like I can’t justify doing this blog without having an open mind. With that said, I also feel like I have to be honest about my opinion too. Taylor Swift might be a great artist, but unfortunately I think Look What You Made Me Do is a flop without the amazingly produced video. This might be one of the most forgettable songs I have heard in recent memory. I am very loyal to the artists I love, but I find it difficult to support a song that just seems way beneath her ability. There was nothing wrong with the “old Taylor”. The problem seems to be that years and years of jealousy from others and strange relationships have created this “new Taylor”. The truth is, without actually knowing what might really be going on in her life, I feel that Taylor Swift made herself the way she is. I almost feel like she was better off “Shaking it off” and moving on to a project that is a little less defensive and dark. Her 1989 album said pretty much everything I think she could say about her reputation and how people perceive her. Sometimes the best thing to do is say your peace and move on. With all of that talent, why bother continuing to give attention to those who don’t deserve it. She is better off just moving on. Taylor Swift is a better artist than this.

No Tengo Dinero by Los Umbrellos

For a very short time during the late 90’s, I remember hearing an awesome song that came and went way too quickly. As a music fan, it had a lot of elements of what I consider to be a great song. It also contained a lot of elements of a song that could be considered guilty pleasure. I can remember cranking the radio up to 11 in my less than stellar, beat up 83 Mustang convertible and letting the cheesiness of this song ooze into my ears. Pleasant female harmonies, a catchy beat, and a goofy lazy rap verse all wrapped into one irresistible track. Who wouldn’t love this song? Who wouldn’t want to hear more of what this unusual mix of talent could offer? Apparently everybody including me. For as much as I loved this song, after it stopped being spun on the radio, I completely forgot about it.

One day last summer I was coming home from an errand I was running when I flipped the radio dial to 90’s on 9 on Sirius XM. Suddenly, I was blasted back to an era when I was working at a minor league baseball stadium and going to college. For as much as I remember about music, this is one of those songs I am guilty of storing away in a box located way up in the attic of my mind and throwing away the key. Much like the 90’s, the moment I heard this song as an adult brought back the same type of excitement it did back then.

The first thing I did when I came home was go to Youtube. Even after hearing the song and seeing the name of the artist right in front of me on my radio, I STILL had a tough time locating it. However, after a few failed attempts I got to my lost treasure. Frankly I didn’t even know they made a video for this song. It was more of a “radio” song to me. The video itself has a very late 90’s feel to me. It seems like the low zoom up shots were popular in music videos back then. The colors and filtering also have a very mid-late 90’s feel to it. One thing I can’t figure out is why there are dancing slot machines in this video? Why are there huge playing cards in the background as well? Much like the song, I don’t know what in the world is going on here. What I do know is, despite the fact that I may have completely forgotten about this song, it is a very good one. Any song that can produce the level of excitement I have always felt when this song comes on the radio deserves to be remembered. Yes, nostalgia does play a part in that, but mostly, for all the weirdness we hear, it is also the element that makes it so cool. Much like the song, this group came and went pretty fast as the Wikipedia article is rather small Los Umbrellas. A fitting tribute to a group that fit in the “One Hit Wonder” category rather nicely.

 

Wipeout by the Fat Boys & The Beach Boys

When most people think about the Beach Boys, they think about fun, sun, and surfing. They think about all of those amazing hits the churned out during their heyday in the 60’s. They think about the amazing harmonies, Pet Sounds, and Good Vibrations. Unless you are of a certain age, you probably don’t remember that they collaborated with a rap group on a song that you could either dismiss as a forgettable throwaway song, or you could actually view it as groundbreaking.

For as much as I can go on and on about the Beach Boys, I really can’t say I know all that much about the Fat Boys. According to Wikipedia, their self titled debut album is considered a classic in some hip hop circles The Fat Boys. I can’t really vouch for that as I have never listened to this album, but what I can say is that what the Fat Boys did on this song was groundbreaking. A year before this song came out, RUN DMC collaborated with Aerosmith on a rather awesome updated version of their 1977 hit Walk This Way. However, Wipeout was not a Beach Boys song. Originally, it was a very famous 60’s instrumental piece written by a band called the Surfaris. It’s a song that even a millennial would probably recognize as it has been used in countless movies, tv shows, and probably commercials too. As far as I know, what the Fat Boys and Beach Boys were doing was one of the first examples of sampling and combining singing with rap.

As I recall, this is a song that all of the kids I knew went nuts for. I can vividly remember friends and classmates talking about this song and video a lot. For a brief time, you almost couldn’t go a day without hearing a reference to it somewhere. I can even recall our school holding some type of talent contest where each class got up on stage and did a performance. My memory is a bit hazy as this was quite a long time ago now. What I do remember? The older kids (I believe the 7th and 8th graders) had kept their idea a secret until the big day came. Their selection? Their very own performance of this song. It was the peak moment for a song that was wildly popular for about 15 minutes, but disappeared soon enough. Although this song contained some influential elements to it, sadly, in many minds, it was probably nothing more than a fun novelty.

One of the reasons I write this blog is to talk about topics I can’t find an audience for anywhere else. I don’t really talk to friends or classmates I knew from the 80’s anymore. I certainly can’t say I know any hardcore Fat Boys fans. Crossing paths with anybody who remembers this one is far fetched. Thanks to the power of WordPress and Social Media, I can put this story out there and hope that somebody connects with it. Whether you felt it was a novelty song or groundbreaking, one thing you can’t deny is that they got something right on this track. It is a catchy tune that put a new twist on an old song. The video is also fun and quirky in a way that can only be described as “very 80’s”. If you can’t take this song seriously, then atleast take it as a good piece of nostalgia. It is well worth revisiting.

Remembering Aaliyah

As the month of August comes to an end, a number of things cross my mind. The fun times of summers past, the dog days of the baseball season, and since 2001, the untimely death of a mega talented rising star, Aaliyah. Celebrities are people just like the rest of us, but with most of them, no matter how big of a fan you are, you can only mourn so much. Most of us only know these people through their work. Sometimes, however, we do come across an extra special person that we make a real connection with. Her career might have been very short, but I felt that type of connection with Aaliyah.

As I recall, there was a lot of buzz around Aaliyah’s career around the time that she died. She had a few huge soundtrack hits with Are You That Somebody from the Dr Dolittle soundtrack and Try Again from the 2000 flick Romeo Must Die. Personally, these are two songs that really define that era. Although she had only released two albums up to this point, these songs were very impactful and helped to raise her profile to another level. These songs also helped to propel that career of multi talented rapper/producer Timbaland into another stratosphere as well. It was a mutually beneficial collaboration that continued until her untimely death.

Although hit songs can help pretty much anybody’s career, I would like to think that Aaliyah’s fans remember her for more than just her music. Aaliyah had a certain mystique and sweetness about her that was unique mesmerizing. For much of her career, she wore the signature look of her hair hanging over one eye. A look you can see whether it’s an uptempo song or “low-key” ballad. From what I can recall, she wore her hair like this due to shyness. She was only fifteen when her first album came out. Two MTV moments I can recall that really made the difference between Aaliyah being just a good singer and Aaliyah being somebody I considered myself a big fan of were her appearances on TRL and her Aaliyah MTV Diary special. TRL in particular really gave impacted my impression of her. There was nothing “superstar” or egotistic about her. Not only did I like her music, but she just came across as very cool and relatable. That is something that stuck with me through the rest of her career. I appreciate artists who are not afraid to just be themselves. Aaliyah was one of those people. This is why people loved her.

When I found out Aaliyah had died, I was genuinely sad. It wasn’t the usual “shocking celebrity death” type of thing where you hear about it and you are shocked or sorry about their passing. I never met Aaliyah, but I felt a connection with her. Perhaps it is because she was a fellow capricorn like myself? Maybe it was the cool, sweet personality I saw on TRL? It may very well have been the cool image I saw in all of the music videos in addition to the aforementioned points. Sometimes you just can’t really pinpoint what exactly makes one creative person stand out ahead of others in their respective art. I just know that hearing about the untimely death of somebody who was young, clearly very talented, and just starting to make their impact felt is a very sad occurrence. Especially when you feel such a connection to them.

Aaliyah’s 2001 self titled album contains several personal favorites. It’s an album that contains the signature Timbaland/Aaliyah sound with the lead single We Need A Resolution and my personal favorite More Than A Woman. The latter mentioned song is one that I can still crank up to 11 and hit the repeat button on several times. A song with an amazing beat an aura of confidence all over it. Speaking of confidence, as you watch these two videos you will also notice that the signature hair over the eye look is gone. Another sign of Aaliyah growing and figuring out who she is as a person and artist.

The untimely curtain call for Aaliyah was the aftermath of the video shoot for Rock The Boat. A video that was shot on the Bahamas just hours before her plane crashed. As the story goes, Aaliyah and her crew were ready to head home early rather than stay and wait for a separate flight to take them home. Not only was the plane carrying too much weight, but apparently the pilot was intoxicated as well. An unfortunate sequence of events and decisions that lead to the end of a life and a career that had so much potential. It all happened way too soon. We never really got to see what Aaliyah could really become.

If you visit one of her videos, you will see many of her fans say the same type of things I am saying here. She may not have been influential in the same way Buddy Holly, Elvis, 2Pac, or Michael Jackson were. She may not have the extensive catalogue to look back on. She may not even get discussed very much in the media period. However, one trip to any one of her music videos will tell you that she has not been forgotten. It is a death that still makes many of her fans sad. Some of them can’t even watch the Rock The Boat video because of the circumstances surrounding it. Personally, when Aaliyah died, I made it a point to make sure that I would give a mention to her every once in awhile when I talked to people about music I like. That is part of what my blog is all about. I try to cover a lot of different topics, but making sure artists like Aaliyah are remembered is important. It seems like time has a way of leaving a lot of very talented people and their work shoved to the wayside as new generations come and go. That’s the way pop culture works, but it doesn’t have to necessarily be that way. We need to take a look back sometimes and pay tribute to those who only made one or a few significant contributions. It’s important to keep those memories alive. In Aaliyah’s case, I can’t think of too many artists who have left us too soon who deserve to be remembered more than her.

Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams

Sometimes inspiration for a blog you think you should have already written comes in a strange way. A lot of nights when I drive home from work, I will hop on Apple Music and start thinking of random songs to play. I almost never know what I am going to be in the mood for next. As I was playing this game on my drive, Bryan Adams Summer of 69 popped into my head. Once I heard those opening notes, flashes of the music video started to dance around in my head. Even before he starts with the opening line of the song, a light bulb goes off in my mind. “How in the world have I not written a blog for this one yet?” I said to myself as I cruised down the highway with the music blaring. Not only is this a 5 star 10/10 song, it also has a very cool video to go along with it.

One of the best things about music videos of the 80’s is that several of them have a solid storyline of some sort. Summer of 69 is no different. It may even be one of the best of all time. The editing for this video gets off to a great start as no sooner the beat smashes down and a “younger” Bryan Adams jumps out of his trailer and runs off to practice with his band. This in itself gets you feeling excited about what you are watching. The video does a great job of painting a picture as the black and white images portray a flashback to the “Summer of 69” when he had a band and they “tried real hard” until everybody went in their own direction. The segue to the “modern” Bryan Adams into color is a cool affect and really captures the storytelling spirit of the video. The best (and most subtle) part of the video is the head banging therapist (or was he a journalist?) who emphatically, but subtly bangs his head as the big beat hits on the “best days of my life” lyric. To me, this is great editing and directing as I feel like they must have told him to do that.

The second verse takes us back to the Summer of 69 where fate and choices come into play. First of all, Bryan Adams makes a poor choice to fall asleep while doing his job at the drive-in. Luckily for him, a very pretty girl climbs up the ladder to wake him up. As the verse progresses, they apparently fall in love and have some sort of relationship. Much like the first verse, people grow and evolve. Sometimes you need to make a crucial choice that will alter the course of the future in one way or another. Much like the relationships within his band, Bryan and the girl needed to make a decision about them. It sounds like the girl was committed to waiting for him. However, Bryan Adams made the choice to keep chasing after his dream. This is something I think a lot of us can relate to. Ultimately, the color changes from black and white and he moves on without her.

For some reason, we go from a very linear song/video narrative to a middle verse that doesn’t follow the narrative of the song as much. The only thing it really seems to hone in on is flashing back to those carefree younger days when you could get yourself into a little bit of mischief and discover life without too many repercussions. Thankfully those cops didn’t find Bryan Adams there or that would have been more than a slap on the wrist. I suppose the director of this video needed to come up with something to bridge that gap here. If nothing else, you get a good dose of action and solid editing.

As the video closes out, you get to see that although he has some great memories of the past, ultimately, the handwork of pursuing a music career has paid off. This is despite the old band breaking up and the young love relationship dissipating into their memories. There are two other very small parts of this video that I love that you see at the end. First, how did he catch that guitar so cooly and smoothly? How many times did they have to try that? The other priceless moment is the reaction of the long lost girlfriend’s boyfriend/husband to her reaction to driving past Bryan Adams playing with the band. You can’t get much more uptight and jealous than that. If that was her best option, she might have been better off waiting for Bryan Adams to circle back to her!

Sure, this song would have been a huge hit without a stellar music video. However, much like the Moody Blues video for Your Wildest Dreams, this one really enhances the song and the message behind it. We all have memories that we cherish. We also have to make some tough choices while making those memories. People walk in and out of our lives for a reason. We don’t always know what that reason is until we look back. Some of us value things that our ex-friends or ex-significant others don’t. As both sides of a relationship figure this out, we either stand together and become stronger within our relationship or we drift apart and go in another direction. I think the video says a lot of these sentiments more so than the song. This is the type of great storytelling that I miss in music videos. The music of yesteryear was great, but this video is great example of why people “wanted their MTV” so badly.

As I skimmed through the Wikipedia article, I couldn’t believe that this song only reached number 5 on the Billboard charts. Also, I remember Heaven and Run To You being big hits, but find it hard to believe this song was overshadowed by them for so long. Even as a kid I knew this song was great. I can even remember this being one of those older videos that got a lot of airplay on VH1 well into the 90’s. For me, this was one of the THEE defining videos of the MTV Generation. It’s not a bad song either!

Brave by Sara Bareilles

During August of 2013 I finally had the pleasure of seeing one of my favorite modern singer/songwriters, Sara Bareilles live at the West Virginia University Campus. It was a long and winding drive through the beautiful countryside of western Maryland into West Virginia, but it was definitely worth the drive. I figured it would be a great show considering the small campus auditorium atmosphere and due to Sara Bareilles just being purely great talent. However, this night remained memorable to me for reasons that went beyond just being a great show at a cool venue.

During this time period, Sara Bareilles had just released her fantastic new album The Blessed Unrest. Frankly, I could probably sit here and write a ton of good things about this album alone. It is probably her best work to date. I’m pretty sure I was already eager to see her live as I have been a huge fan since her first album, but the quality of songs on The Blessed Unrest added to that excitement.

As I sat there and watched this extremely talented woman churn through each song joyously, there was a moment, through all of the fun and hilarious between song banter that made me feel a strong connection. Between one of her songs, Sara Bareilles opened up a bit about the breakup of a longterm relationship that had inspired her album. As I seem to recall, this album signified a new chapter in her life. Moving away from the laid back west coast to the hustle and bustle of New York City and all of the challenges of walking away from something that was safe and secure to a whole new adventure filled with excitement and questions. Although this kind of thing happens all the time in life, there was something about hearing this from her on that night that really impacted me. I was just coming off a pretty rough period of my life as I had just gotten through a rough relationship with somebody who didn’t really value me. At the time, I was feeling pretty down and a bit wounded from the experience. Although I had been slowly, but surely building myself up for awhile, this was a night that really helped to lift my spirits thanks to her willingness to be open about her own life and what the new album meant to her.

Another moment that really stuck out was her performance of Brave. It wasn’t even so much the performance as it was the reaction by the audience. I don’t know if I have ever seen such a standing ovation for a song in my life. This is coming from somebody who has been to quite a few concerts. There was even a very young girl who was asking her to play this song well before it came up in the setlist. I can’t remember the circumstances in which they wound speaking, but I do remember it being a very cute moment.

When Brave came out earlier in the year, I knew it was very special from the first time I heard it. It has to be one of the most uplifting and inspiring songs I have ever heard. The song’s message of standing tall and not being afraid to show the world who you are is just incredible. It’s a message that has been said in song a number of times, but never in the way that Sara Bareilles says it. The language of the song itself is almost written in a way that you feel like a friend is in your corner encouraging you. Maybe she was inspired to say these things to herself as she embarked on her own new chapter in life? Perhaps the inspiration came from somewhere else? All I know is that this is an amazing,  inspiring song that sends the right kind of encouraging message that is somewhat lacking in popular music these days.

The video, directed by the cult-talented Rashida Jones, echoes the message of the song through the actions of of Sara Bareilles and the folks dancing in the video. A diverse cast of individuals who are dancing as if nobody else is watching. Showing their true colors and personality with integrity and fun. Although I tend to favor the music video classics of the 80’s and 90’s when discussing my all-time favorites, this one has to be thrown in there with them. It is a simple, fun video that also sends a great message about individuality and self confidence. As a fan, I think it says a lot of what you need to know about Sara Bareilles.

As I sit here and write this four years after seeing her live and being so inspired  by this song and her story, I can also note one other way in which Sara Bareilles has impacted my life. When my wife and I started talking about what song would be our “first dance” song, only one came to mind. No, it wasn’t Brave. It was another amazing track from The Blessed Unrest: I Choose You. I don’t know exactly what inspired her to write this song, but it is the most perfect first dance wedding song since Close To You by the Carpenters. By this point, it was remarkable to see what a difference a few years had made. Although I need to take a lot of the credit for doing things to build myself up again after a rough time in my life, I have to give some credit to somebody like Sara Bareilles who made a difference just by being herself. The ability to be open about her own story in front of alive audience as well as through her music is what helps people to connect to her. Although a song and a concert can’t necessarily help me to make decisions in my own life, it can be comforting and reassuring. For me, it was a small step towards venturing into what is turning out to be the happiest years of my entire life.