#OnRepeat: “Remember Me” from the Disney/Pixar original film, Coco

This week, I’ve had the Disney/Pixar film Coco theme song “Remember Me” #OnRepeat. I went to see the movie over the holiday weekend and I can’t get the song out of my head. I also can’t stop a lump from forming in my throat whenever I hear it.

The movie, Coco, tells the tale of a boy who longs to become a musician but is forbidden by his family to play music. He is transported to the land of the dead when he steals his musical idol’s guitar and must gain his ancestors’ blessing in order to return to the land of the living. There are major themes of family, love, acceptance and remembering or honoring someone’s memory—all are portrayed in meaningful and subtle ways throughout the film, this song being a strong example of all of them combined.

There are several different versions of the song “Remember Me,” but the most memorable (and tear-jerking) versions for me being the bare, acoustic guitar versions sung by the character of Hector (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) in both English and Spanish. The lyrics are from the point of view of a loved one who has to be separated from another person, so they ask them to remember how much they love each other even though they’re apart. Bernal’s gravely, yet deep voice perfectly conveys the charm yet simultaneous insecurities and deep love that the character Hector has for his loved ones. The acoustic guitar merely adds the vulnerability that is found when expressing your love for another. So in other words, this is a beautiful song that will most definitely make you stop in your tracks (and potentially ugly cry hard). I know I did.

I wish I could find a clip of the scene where Miguel is singing this song to his great grandma, Coco, but here are the Spanish and English recordings of the song for now.

Listen below:

What do you think? Which version is your favorite? Leave a comment below!

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Memoirs of a Frustrated Singer-“Heels”

She put her bags down on the chair. You would think they would at least have a room to store your personal stuff and not just instrument bags. Whatever. She thought, shaking her head. She looked inside her bag at the heels she had brought and then at the black flats she was wearing on her feet. Technically she could pull off wearing the flats for the night. They did match with her outfit and no one was going to be looking at her feet when the music started playing.

Other band members started filtering in, setting up their instruments and music. The other singers slowly made their way to the microphones standing next to hers. “Ooo, girl I love that top,” Jesse said, putting his flute on the music stand and setting up his sheet music. “Where’s the rest of it though?”

“What do you mean?” she said, looking down at her shirt. It wasn’t a low cut shirt and the material wasn’t see-through.

“I mean, don’t you need to go change your shoes or something?” Jesse’s eyebrow went up as he looked down at her black flats, disapprovingly.

“No. I’m fine like this.”

“Yeah okay.” He walked over to greet Tammy, who was walking towards them in a short dress and high heels. He kissed her on the cheek.

“That’s a cute dress,” she smiled at Tammy. She looked down at Tammy’s ankle, wrapped in beige bandages. “What happened to your foot??”

“Oh, I was jogging with my friends earlier and I fell and sprained my ankle,” Tammy rolled her eyes, trying to wave away the question.

“Do you really think you should be wearing three-inch heels? The gig is 3 hours long.”

“Yeah, I know, but if I didn’t wear the heels, it wouldn’t really be that good of a performance.”

Tammy walked away leaving her confused. Heels add to a performance? What aspect? Was she talking about helping her posture? Because it doesn’t. Maybe the audience experience? More than half would be on their feet dancing, not even really paying attention to what the singers looked like.

“Latin singers just need to wear heels. It completes the performance. ” Jesse said, looking down at her shoes.

“You’re not wearing heels.”

“It’s different. I’m a male performer.”

This is ridiculous, she thought. “Yeah, I’m not changing my shoes just to make you or anyone else think that the performance is more ‘authentic’.” She wouldn’t kill her feet or back just for appearances. She was there to sing. The music would speak for itself.

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#OnRepeat: “Without Question” -Elton John (from the movie, The Road to El Dorado)

 

 

This week, I’ve had Elton John’s “Without Question” from the movie, The Road to El Dorado, #OnRepeat. I watched this movie the other night and I couldn’t get enough of this song, especially because of Elton’s voice.

Elton John is a singer, pianist, and composer from London, England who is one of the best-selling music artists in the world, having sold millions of albums internationally, dozens of awards (including five Grammy Awards), and several songs on the Top 40 hit list. He is a strong advocate for LGTBQ social movements and rights, and continues to raise money to help fight and raise awareness for HIV and AIDS. Elton’s music blends Pop, Rock, R&B, Gospel, Glam and Soft Rock musical influences. Some of his most well-known songs are “Candle in the Wind,” “Something About the Way You Look Tonight,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight (yes, the song from the movie, The Lion King),” and “Your Song.” This brief introduction to Elton John really doesn’t do him any justice, so please go check out more of his music (he has TONS of songs…TONS).

“Without Question” is a song written by Tim Rice and Elton John for the movie, The Road to El Dorado. The lyrics, although slightly vague, give the impression of a person who has been going through life doing whatever they want, almost carelessly, until they came across another who they fell in love with; their views and life completely gets flipped on its head. This is my interpretation of the lyrics, but other people could interpret it differently. That’s the great thing about art, and really, Elton John’s music: it’s still a beautiful song to listen to even though you don’t quite understand the message that the lyrics are trying to convey. Elton’s voice is bright and powerful; his belt voice isn’t over-bearing and his lower part of his range is as evenly balanced and piercing as his upper register. The guitar is a great addition to this arrangement as well. The version below from the movie only has the first verse of the song, but you can get a really good idea of what it sounds like.

Take a listen below:

What do you think? Do you have a favorite Elton John song? Let us know in the comments below!

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#OnRepeat: Selena’s “I Could Fall in Love”

This week, I’ve had Selena’s “I Could Fall in Love.” I grew up listening to Selena, dancing and singing along to all of her songs as a little girl, but recently revisited this song because of the resurgence online of Solange Knowles’ cover of this iconic song featured during her 2013 tour.

Selena Quintanilla was a Mexican-American singer, songwriter, actress, and fashion designer. Her fashion choices, music, and performance style earned her the title the “Queen of Tejano Music,” and even earned her a Grammy in 1994. Some of her most memorable songs are “Dreaming of You,” “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,”and “Como La Flor.”

“I Could Fall in Love” is one of Selena’s songs that would have made her a cross-over star, had her life not been ended abruptly. Her high vocal range and bright tone made her a success in the Tejano/ Cumbia style of music she was known for performing, but also translated well into the R&B and Pop music she was starting to create. The song talks about a person being so infatuated with another that they feel as though they could fall in love with the person; though they feel it may be best for the other person to walk away before their love becomes too intense. Although Solange’s version is intimate and vulnerable at times, it lacks the impact that the original version has. Selena’s powerful voice and performance style perfectly captures the agony and desperation the lyrics describe. Both versions can be viewed below for reference.

Take a listen:

 

 

Is there a certain version of a song performed by a singer that you like? Leave a comment below!

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#OnRepeat: Celia Cruz y La Sonora Matancera’s “Cao Cao, Mani Picao”

This week, I’ve had Celia Cruz y La Sonora Matancera’s song ” Cao Cao, Mani Picao” #OnRepeat. Even though I’ve been listening to Celia’s music since before I can remember, I first heard this song specifically while watching the show, Celia, a Spanish-language mini-series based on the life of Cuban singer, Celia Cruz.

I’ve written about Celia Cruz before, but for those who still aren’t familiar with her, she is a singer from Cuba who was known for her powerful, wide-ranged voice. She became famous when she replaced the lead singer of Cuba’s conjunto, La Sonora Matancera. Her rhythmic, highly improvisational performance style led her to win several Grammys and record dozens of albums, becoming known internationally as the “Queen of Salsa.” Some of her most well-known songs are “La Negra Tiene Tumbao,””Bembe Colora,” “Quimbara,” and ” La Vida Es Un Carnaval.”

Although as a young girl, I grew up listening to Celia’s albums that she recorded with Fania and her albums right before her death, the music that she made with La Sonora Matancera truly impresses me. The musical arrangement for the band was simple, yet the way in which they and Celia performed each song while recording was so musically tasteful. The same can be said of this song, “Cao Cao, Mani Picao.” Celia’s delivery of the melody is funky (in a good way), and in some of her guias, she sounds similar to a horn player during a solo. Her powerful, piercing voice cuts through the band and she weaves in and out of the melody with ease. I’m not sure of what kind of music Celia was listening to, both consciously and unconsciously at the time, but the melodic phrases that she chooses to use throughout the song are similar to what you would hear in Jazz and Blues standards. It may just be what my own ear has grown accustomed to recognizing, but these notes and phrases make Celia’s and La Sonora Matancera’s performance truly unique from other bands, both in Latin music and other genres.

Take a listen below:

Do you know any singers or groups that you can’t stop listening to? Leave a comment below!

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#OnRepeat: Jose Antonio Mendez’s “La Gloria Eres Tu”

This week, I’ve had Jose Antonio Mendez’s “La Gloria Eres Tu” #OnRepeat. One of the great (and potentially dangerous, time-consuming things) about YouTube is the videos that are listed on the side of the video you’re listening to or watching. I came across this song while listening to other music and I couldn’t stop playing it.

Jose Antonio Mendez was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist from Cuba who was considered one of the most recognizable singers of the Filín music genre; a type of music that was influenced by popular Cuban music and Jazz music, sounding similar to crooning (like Frank Sinatra or Sammy Davis Jr.). Some other well-known performers of Filín music were Elena Burke, Frank Dominguez and Omara Portuondo. One of Mendez’s most well-known songs (and my absolute favorite song he performs) is “Si Me Comprendieras.”

“La Gloria Eres Tu” is a beautiful song with a simple melody and guitar accompaniment. I’m a huge fan of simplicity in music–I think it is vastly underrated–and this song is no exception. Simply stated, the lyrics talk about someone being so in love that they consider that person to be their glory–they don’t need to go to heaven because they have found it already (please keep in mind that this is an over-simplified translation and that some meaning is lost when you translate from one language to another). The words are so simple, yet so profound, it almost makes you want to cry–it is a rare thing to find anyone who loves like what is talked about in the lyrics. Maybe that is why the lyrics are so beautiful. Mendez’s voice is rich and dark, adding inflection and licks reminiscent of both Nat King Cole and the vocal style of Tango and Bolero music.

Take a listen below:

Are there any musicians or groups that you can’t stop listening to? Leave a comment below!

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#OnRepeat: Gaby Moreno’s “Se Apagó (Love is Gone)”

This week, I’ve had Gaby Moreno’s song, “Se Apagó (Love is Gone)”#OnRepeat. I came across this song while scrolling through one of the social media websites, which is actually a great way to discover new and interesting music.

Gaby Moreno is a Latin Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter, and guitarist from Guatemala who became well-known throughout Latin America after recording with fellow singer Ricardo Arjona and performing with British actor, Hugh Laurie. Gaby sings in both Spanish and English, her music blending influences of Jazz, R&B, Soul, Blues, and Latin music. Some of her well-know songs are “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás,” “Song of You,”and “Y Tu Sombra.”

I was incredibly impressed with Gaby Moreno’s voice and musical vibe. Her music is simplistic and catchy and her voice is almost chameleon-like; she is able to adapt to each style of music that she performs in a different way, creating her own unique sound. “Se Apagó (Love is Gone)” is no different. Gaby sings both an English and a Spanish version of the song (hence the two different titles). Both versions hint at a theme of a relationship ending and the partners’ struggle with whether to hold on or let go. Gaby sings “Se Apagó,” displaying the bright powerful aspect of her voice, yet the English version, “Love is Gone,” is more reminiscent of Motown duet-style music; playful, yet soulful at the same time.

Take a listen to “Se Apagó” below:

 

Here is “Love is Gone” so that you can hear the difference:

 

Is there an artist or group you can’t stop listening to? Leave a comment below!

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#OnRepeat: Carlos Varela’s “Una Palabra”

This week, I’ve had Carlos Varela’s “Una Palabra” #OnRepeat. I was actually watching the movie, Man on Fire, starring Denzel Washington, and the song, which played at the end of the movie, caught my attention.

Man on Fire is about a man who is hired to protect a little girl who lives with her family in Mexico during a time when kidnapping children of prominent families is prevalent in the major cities. The little girl becomes close to the body guard, but is taken and presumed dead. The majority of the film shows the man’s journey to find what happened to the child. This film already has a very shocking and somber premise, but this beautiful song and its words add so much poignancy to the end scene.

Carlos Varela is a singer-songwriter form Havana, Cuba who is relatively unknown outside of the island. Varela has been singing and writing music for nearly three decades. His lyrics are considered part of the Nueva Trova movement, a political musical movement associated with the Cuban Revolution that uses poetry to comment on everyday life and political issues in Cuba. Varela’s open critique of the Cuban government and beautifully written lyrics have garnered attention from celebrities and musicians in the United States and hundreds of people on the island. “Una Palabra” is one of his most well-known songs, however, some of his other recordings include “Todos se Roban” and “Memorias.”

“Una Palabra” is another example of what happens when you mix seemingly simplistic lyrics, a bare melody, and the right arrangement. Varela’s use 0f space in this song adds so much to the overall feeling and sound. I’ve always been a big believer of “less is more;”how can you manipulate silence so that it can be given the same weight as sound, a word or musical note? The lyrics are beautiful too–you get the theme of the song within the first 2 to 3 lines:

“Una palabra no dice nada

y al mismo tiempo lo esconde todo.”

Roughly translated to English:

“A word says nothing

and at the same time hides everything.”

Listen below:

“Una Palabra” Carlos Varela

The words are so beautiful and so simple that it leaves you wanting to hear more. Varela’s writing combined with his distinct voice has made him the subject of a HBO Latino documentary film titled, The Poet of Havana, airing this October. I look forward to seeing this documentary and hearing more of Carlos Varela’s music.

Are there any singers or groups that you can’t stop listening to? Leave a comment below!

 

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#OnRepeat: Ibrahim Ferrer’s “Silencio”

This week, I’ve had Ibrahim Ferrer’s version of “Silencio” #OnRepeat. This version also features Omara Portuondo, another one of my favorite vocalists who is a part of the group, Buena Vista Social Club.

In case I haven’t written about Ibrahim Ferrer before, Ferrer is singer from Cuba who was a part of several different groups, including Afro-Cuban All Stars and, most notably, The Buena Vista Social Club. The group became popular in the 1990s when a documentary film about a club in Cuba under the same name and an album featuring some of Cuba’s older musicians were released. Although Ferrer, along with other members have passed on, their incredible musical contributions live on through recordings such as “Silencio.” Another great song by Ibrahim Ferrer to check out is “Dos Gardenias,” if you haven’t already done so.

“Silencio” is a sad song about someone who doesn’t want the flowers in their garden to know their sorrows because their sorrows might cause their flowers to die. The meaning of the lyrics don’t have the same meaning in English because some words get lost in translation, so please take the above translation with a grain of salt. The song itself is beautifully performed by Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo; their voices perfectly reflect the sorrow and the beauty of the flowers that you hear in the lyrics. Ibrahim’s voice is so complex in its simplicity; it is very un-assuming.

Take a listen below:

 

Are there any songs where you think singers perfectly portray what is written in the lyrics? Leave a comment below!

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