#OnRepeat: Meryl Streep’s version of ABBA’s “Slipping Through My Fingers”

This week, I’ve had Meryl Streep’s version of ABBA’s “Slipping Through My Fingers” #OnRepeat. ABBA, for me, has always been one of those groups that is a mix of guilty pleasure and a source of musical inspiration; and this song is no exception.

ABBA is a Pop group from Stockholm, Sweden that formed in the early 1970s, who were one of the most successful Pop bands in history, being inducted into the Rock and  Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. There was  resurgence in popularity of their music when their music was adapted to the 1999 internationally successful musical, Mama Mia!, and the release of the theatrical version of the musical by the same name.

The song, “Slipping Through My Fingers” is sung from the point of view of a parent who is watching their child grow up, reflecting on the child’s growth and wishing time would slow down. Meryl Streep ( who can apparently sing like a 80s Pop star) brings so much depth and grace to the performance of this song,simultaneuosly capturing the melancholic, vulnerable feeling conveyed in the lyrics. The lyrics are poignant and bittersweet, the lullaby-like melody innocent and simple like a child. Adding the performance powerhouse that is Meryl to this mix of emotion and music makes me have a lump in my throat every time I hear this version.

Take a listen below:

Are there any other ABBA songs that you like? Leave a comment below!

Continue Reading

#OnRepeat: Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”

This week, I’ve had Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”  #OnRepeat. I’ve written about Elton John before, but this song has always been a favorite standard of mine. I recently came across it in the movie, Sing, where a gorilla named Johnny plays the piano and sings this song on stage.

For those who haven’t read my previous post about Elton John, he is a singer, pianist, and composer from London, England who has sold millions of albums internationally an whose music is still relevant to this day. For more about Elton John and my post about his song, “Without Question,” click on this link:

http://www.singingtillimblueintheface.com

“I’m Still Standing” was written by Elton John for his 1983 album, Too Low For Zero. The lyrics are written from the point of view of a person who is “still standing” even though their lover treated them poorly. The lyrics can somewhat dark, but you almost wouldn’t notice the message because of the upbeat tempo and arrangement of the song. “I’m Still Standing” is an iconic Elton John song–catchy with a great melody and witty lyric writing. Try listening to this song a couple of times without it getting stuck in you head.

Listen below:

Are there any other Elton John songs you like? Leave a comment below!

Continue Reading

#OnRepeat: Nirvana’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”

This week, I’ve had Nirvana’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” #OnRepeat. I was actually reminded of this song while watching the Marvel superhero show, The Defenders, on Netflix this past week during one of the last episodes.

The band, Nirvana, is a Grunge-Alternative Rock band from Aberdeen, Washington that was formed by guitarist, Kurt Cobain, and bassist, Krist Novoselic, in the late 1980s. Although the band had a short run (disbanding after Cobain’s death in 1994), they sold over 20 million records and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. Some of their most well-known songs are “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “In Bloom,” and “Love Buzz.”

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night (In The Pines)” is a traditional Folk song that was made popular by the Folk and Blues musician, Leadbelly, during the 1940s. The meaning behind the lyrics has been disputed for some time (and varies depending on the version and musician performing it), but the overall themes have to do with love, death, and loneliness. Kurt Cobain earned a lot of recognition for his acoustic interpretation of this song during Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance in 1993. Cobain’s raspy, higher-pitched rock-style voice captures the desperation, grit, and bleak loneliness that is painted in the lyrics of the song. Nirvana’s darker take on “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” introduced the song to a new generation of fans that still listen to and discuss the musical implications of this version more than a decade later.

Take a listen below:

 

Below is Leadbelly’s version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” for reference:

 

What do you think of Nirvana’s version? Is it a proper continuation of this song’s legacy?

 

Continue Reading

Memoirs of a Frustrated Singer – “Stick in the Mud”

She stared at the microphone directly in front of her mouth, letting her eyes focus on the overlapping wires that made up the mesh mouthpiece. Maybe if she thought about something else, something simpler, she wouldn’t think about how nervous she was.

Oscar, the director of the ensemble, had stopped the musicians and was going over the chart with the horn players. Good, she thought. I get a couple minutes to look over the words.

It wasn’t that she didn’t know the words or the melody, or even what section of the song came next. She had listened to the song more times than she could count; so much so that she could sing along with the horn and bass lines when they played. She had always been exceptionally good at picking up songs quickly. It wasn’t even a question of whether or not she knew the song.

Oscar lifted his hands and began counting off, interrupting her thoughts. The other singers around her started dancing automatically, but she didn’t. She came in with the first verse, focusing on the words, their pronunciation, how her breath control affected the sound of each word. . . She knew she was thinking about it way too much, but she only understood Spanish. It wasn’t her first language. She didn’t want to sound like an idiot.

Oscar waved his hands in the air to signal the band to stop playing. He rolled his eyes and slouched his shoulders, clearly annoyed. “Singers. You need to come in strong on the coros!”

One of the other singers, Jesse, spoke up, looking directly at her. “You know, we would know for sure where to come in if everyone was dancing. Everyone would be in sync together.”

The other singers nodded in agreement.

“Tiffany, you need to be moving, girl. This is salsa! You can’t just stand there like a stick in the mud!” Jesse exclaimed, making his shoulders shimmy and attempting to spin her around.

“You’re too stiff. You’d sound much better if you started moving,” one of the other singers giggled as she watched Jesse do an awkward dance move.

She looked at them all in disbelief. “I’m not moving right now because I’m focusing on the words and making sure I get this right. I’ll worry about dancing when we actually have a performance.”

“You’re gonna look stiff up there on stage. It’s not enjoyable to watch a stick sing Latin music,” Stan, the other male singer said off-handedly as he played on his phone.

The other singers started murmuring in agreement, calling her names under their breath, insinuating that she didn’t know how to dance or sing. I’ve never felt so incompetent, she thought to herself. Just because she didn’t practice or perform music the way that they did, didn’t mean she was any less of a vocalist. She had more singing experience then all of them combined. They should’ve been asking for her advice and opinions; not throwing theirs at her.

Oscar made the band stop playing again. He was making an announcement to everyone, but the singers were too busy laughing and talking to hear what he was saying. They weren’t even trying to be respectful in any way–no attempts at whispering or making eye contact with the director while he was talking. He was changing the end section of the song at the last minute, which would effect everyone in the band.

She shook her head. It was embarrassing how disrespectful the singers were acting. No concern for pitch, song form or harmony, not to mention their fellow musicians. She could only imagine what the actual performance would be like.

The band started to play again, and this time they started several measures before the end of the song. Just as she’d predicted, all of the singers didn’t come in when they were supposed to, which made her voice stick out more when she did.

Oscar stopped the band and looked directly at the singers. “Come on guys. We just went over this.”

“No you didn’t,” Jesse chimed in, accusingly.

Should she say something? Despite the voice in her head telling her not to, she spoke up. “Um, maybe if you weren’t so busy talking and playing on your phones, you would’ve heard him talk about the change to the end of the song.”

Jesse’s face turned from a smile to a frown. He knew she was right. “Well maybe you should go–” His voice trailed off.

She looked questioningly at Jesse, bracing herself for an insult.

“Whatever.” He turned and began talking under his breath to Stan and the other singers. They all started laughing.

She looked down at her watch. And then people wondered why she was so quiet. Just thirty more minutes, just thirty more minutes, she thought to herself.

Continue Reading

#OnRepeat: Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son”

This week, I’ve had Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” #OnRepeat. Since I’m a huge fan of music from the 1960s and 1970s , this singer and song were bound to end up one of these posts eventually.

Cat Stevens (born Steven Demetre Georgiou, now Yusuf Islam) is a singer, songwriter, and guitar player from the Marylebone area of London, England. Several of his albums have topped the international billboard charts for weeks at a time and he was inducted into the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. His music is a blend of Folk, Country, Pop, Rock, and later in his career, Islamic music influences. Some of his most well-known songs are “Moonshadow,” “Peace Train,” “The First Cut is the Deepest,” and “Wild World.”

“Father and Son” was written and recorded by Cat Stevens for his 1970 album, Tea for the Tillerman. The song tells about a conversation between a father and a son, the misunderstandings that arise between older and younger generations, and the need to come to terms with personal life decisions. Stevens uses the lower part of his register for the words spoken by the father and the higher part of his register to represent the son speaking. Stevens’ lyric writing is simple, but poignant, and though there is not much use of vibrato in his voice, Stevens’ portrayal of the message brings out a bittersweet depth and desperation in this song that causes you to pause and listen. And maybe even potentially cry when no one is looking.

Take a listen below:

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

Continue Reading

#OnRepeat: The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”

This week, I’ve had The Beach Boy’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” #OnRepeat. This song has been a favorite of mine for awhile, but I’ve been playing it a lot lately because of the weather and the upbeat nature of the song.

The Beach Boys are a rock group from Hawthorne, California that formed in 1961. Their use of vocal harmony, different musical arrangement techniques, and surf and beach lyrics made them an influential and popular band during the 1960s and 70s. Their music is a blend of 1950s-style Rock’N’Roll, Pop, Jazz, and Psychedelic music, creating a unique sound that was surprisingly more complex than much of the rock music that was being created at the time. Some of the most well-known songs are “Good Vibrations,” “California Girls,” “I Get Around,” and “Don’t Worry Baby.”

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” was written and recorded in 1966 for the album, Pet Sounds, using Classical music influences and instruments that weren’t typically associated with American Pop music, like the accordion. The lyrics describe a young couple who want to be together, but can’t because of their age. Even though the words evoke feelings of lament and longing, the music is bright and upbeat; and the singers’ vocal harmonies and catchy melody make this song easy to get stuck in your head.

Take a listen below:

 

 

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

 

 

Continue Reading

#OnRepeat: Vaud and the Villains’ ” Eyes on the Prize”

This week, I’ve had Vaud and the Villains’ “Eyes on the Prize” #OnRepeat. I saw this band live in San Diego several weeks ago and I haven’t been able to stop listening to their music ever since.

Vaud and the Villains is a 20-piece, New Orleans-style big band based in Los Angeles, California. Their music and performance style is a mixture of Cabaret, and theater, blending New Orleans Jazz, Gospel, Blues, R&B, Country, and Rock music. The band is lead by actor, Andy Comeau, and his wife, Dawn Lewis, who are known by their stage names Vaud Overstreet and Peaches Mahoney. Their live shows are high energy, with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor, vintage-style outfits, and seductive dancing.

“Eyes on the Prize” is a folk song that became popular during the United States Civil Rights Movement in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, and is based on a traditional Gospel song. Vaud and the Villains bring a type of slinky-like, playfulness to this song that Bruce Springsteen could not, but at the same time, mirrors the grit and charisma Springsteen brought in his performance. This is truly one of the few bands that you have to see perform live–video and recording don’t do this band justice. Take a listen below.

Do you know any bands who are great live performers? Leave a comment below!

Continue Reading

Memoirs of a Frustrated Singer – “Skylark Doesn’t Sound Right”

Late night rehearsals were not her favorite. Especially when just getting through a previous four-hour rehearsal with musicians that didn’t practice, didn’t care, and didn’t want to be there. She was tired, both physically and emotionally, and she definitely needed sleep. It was nights like this that made her question whether she truly could be a singer.

“Hey, let’s run ‘Skylark,’ guys,” she said, adjusting her microphone stand.

Sam was noodling around on the drums while William was playing a pattern on the congas.

She held up the chart. “Can we run through Skylark one time? It’s super late.”

Sam looked over at William’s hands and decided to join in. The piano player heard the pattern that William and Sam were playing and he started playing a montuno on the piano.

She shot Todd, the piano player, a dirty look.

He smiled and played the montuno faster.

I don’t have the patience for this, she thought, rolling her eyes. She sat down and put her chin in her hands.

“Alright guys. Let’s run ‘Skylark’ before Tiffany loses it,” William called to the other band members as he slapped one of the conga heads.

She looked down at the ground and sighed. William loved to jam for hours and hours and was easily distracted, whether they had to get stuff done or not. The level of sarcasm in his voice was more than she liked, but she was grateful William had taken charge and got the band back on track. Who knows how long she would’ve been sitting there.

She had never felt she fit the leadership role very well, being more comfortable with the idea of being a part of and working as a team. That’s why she hated when stage crews placed the microphone out front, far from the rest of the band, isolating her. She loved set-ups where everyone was close together, even if it was uncomfortable, because then she felt part of the group. She could interact with everyone easily and react if something happened unexpectedly.

Todd began to play the intro to the song, interrupting her thoughts. She came in with the first verse, but as she kept singing, she noticed something sounded off with he chords that Todd was playing. She tried to ignore it as she continued on to the second verse, but his chord voicings felt like nails on a chalkboard. She winced. She knew her music theory was poor and that if she said something, Todd would ask for specific keys and fingerings. Something that she honestly couldn’t do. She looked at William and Sam, who both gave her uncertain looks.

Sam put up his hand. “Stop. Let’s run it from the top again.”

Todd played the intro to “Skylark” and she came in with the first verse again, but the same issue was still happening. There was no room, melodically, for her to sing. Todd’s chord voicings sat right on top of her voice. “Something’s not right,” she called out to Todd.

“What do you mean?” Todd stopped playing.

“The chords you’re playing don’t sound right,” she said, making a face.

“Well, what chords? Show me specifically what chords I’m playing wrong. If you can’t point them out, then–”

“I don’t know what exactly you’re playing, Todd, I just know it’s the wrong chords,” she said, feeling herself blush. She knew he would put her on the spot if she spoke up. Just because she couldn’t name every chord Todd was playing without looking, didn’t mean she was wrong. She knew she had a really good ear. Now, though, she felt stupid for saying anything.

Sam got up from behind the drum set and walked over to stand beside Todd. “Let me see what chords you’re playing.”

Todd played the first couple of chords.

“You do know this is in the key of A minor, right?” Sam said, frustrated. He pushed Todd over on the bench so he could sit down and start playing.

“Where on this chart does it say what key it’s in?” Todd said, losing his patience.

“Right there!” Sam pointed to an area on the chart. He started playing the chords of the song. “Tiffany, start from the top. I’ll play along.”

She started singing the first verse while Sam accompanied her. “That feels way more comfortable.”

“Yeah, dude, your voicings were wrong. You’re crowding her too much when you play like that. She’s supposed to sit on top. Not fight to be heard.” Sam got up to go back to the drums.

Todd started running through the chords, playing the voicings that Sam had shown him.

She shook her head. She knew she shouldn’t let it get to her, but being a singer who was severely lacking in music theory was crippling. Musicians already had notions of singers being divas and complainers. Add lack of technical musical knowledge and it would become downright embarrassing whenever any type of issues arose. Moments like the one she just had with Todd would happen more often if she didn’t start studying theory more.

Sam counted off on the drums. She raised her eyes from the floor and started to sing.

Continue Reading

#OnRepeat: Lana Del Rey’s “Once Upon a Dream from Disney’s Maleficent”

 

This week, I’ve had Lana Del Rey’s “Once Upon a Dream” #OnRepeat. I just recently came across this recording and can’t get enough of Lana’s haunting interpretation of this Disney classic.

Lana Del Rey (born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant)is a model, singer, and songwriter from New York state who got her start performing in underground night clubs in New York City. Her music blends Pop, Psychedelic Rock, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Country, and Electronic music. Some of her most well-known songs are “Video Games,” “Ride,” “Young and Beautiful,” and “I Can Fly.”

“Once Upon a Dream” is a song written in 1959 for the animated Disney movie, Sleeping Beauty, used during the scene in the film where Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip dance together for the first time. Lana Del Rey’s version of this song was released for the 2014 Disney film, Maleficent, a re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty story from a different perspective. Del Rey’s use of the lower part of her range, her full, raspy timbre, and the use of piano and radio effects definitely give this version of “Once Upon a Dream” a darker feel. The waltz-like feel is still apparent in this arrangement, adding to the song’s eccentric, yet lullaby-like quality.

Take a listen below:

Do you have any cover songs you can’t stop listening to? Leave a comment below!

Continue Reading

#OnRepeat: Marvin Gay & Tammi Terrell “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

This week, I’ve had Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” #OnRepeat. This has always been a favorite Marvin Gaye song and for some reason this week I haven’t been able to stop listening to it.

Marvin Gaye was a singer, songwriter, drummer, and record producer from Washington D.C. His playing and singing style helped shape the Motown sound of the 1960s and would eventually influence many future Neo Soul and R&B singers. Some of his most well-known songs are “Let’s Get It On,” “What’s Going On,” “You’re All I Need to Get By,” and “Inner City Blues.”

Tammi Terrell is a singer from Philadelphia who became famous for her string of duets with Marvin Gaye and for her brief work with James Brown. Along with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” her other hits were “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” and “You’re All I Need to Get By.” Had she not died at an early age from cancer, she would have no doubt been very successful on the Motown, and later, R&B scene.

The song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is essentially a love song; one person tells another how they’ll be there for the other no matter what because of their undying, unconditional love. The theme and words are straight forward (heavy and bittersweet, if you think about it), but the music itself is upbeat and catchy, causing you to sing the melody long after the song has ended. Gaye and Terrell’s voices blend nicely together and individually, they bring a soulful and sweet element to the song through phrasing and vocal riffs.

Take a listen below:

Do you have a singer  or group that you can’t stop listening to? Leave a comment below!

Continue Reading