Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Longest Time by Billy Joel

 I don’t really like a capella music.

Well that’s kind of over-generalized statement let me fill that one out. I’m not talking about the classical music idea of singing without instrumental accompaniments, I’m talking about the vocal performance groups that have exploded around high school campuses all across America.

I respect the craft of a capella group. Transforming a pop song with the vocals and instrumentals into a all vocal performances takes a lot of hard work. The results are often range from silly and funny. . .

To musical astounding:

Don’t tell these boys couldn’t sing.

At the end of the day though, I’ve never heard an a capella version of song that I’d rather listen to than the original. Artists and composers conceive songs often with specific musical instruments in mind. You don’t write melody the same way if you know that it will be played guitar as opposed to violin or sung. By taking a song out of it’s intended musical context you are taking a chance that doesn’t always musically work.

What about songs that are conceived as a cappela sings from the start? That’s a different story. There in lies the validity of this musical style of music. From barbershop quartets to the singing on street corners, a capella music has had a profound influence on popular music in America. One of the best examples of this is “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel. Skip to 3:45 for the start of the song.

But Kingsley, there’s an electric bass in this song!! Yeah, well, maybe Billy Joel couldn’t find an astounding Melvin Franklin-like singer (bass singer of The Temptations level singer, which is really hard to find). It’s a line anyways that could be sung so I give it a pass.

“The Longest Time” simply would work in any other musical context. An electric guitar would kill this song and God knows it doesn’t need any 1980s synthesized sounds. The soul of this song and the expression is rooted not only in the lyrics, melody and harmony but the ensemble of the a cappella group itself.

I’m not saying that all a cappella music needs to be is nostalgic. I’m just saying that the sonic landscape for a song is just as critical to the expression as the song as anything other musical elements. Yes, you are fantastic at imitating drum sounds, I almost can’t decipher the different, that is an amazing musical feat. However, in the idea musical situation to get the best musical product, woudn’t you rather use a drum set?

A capella groups, take a look at what you are doing musically. You can do so much more than trying to imitate guitar lines. Compose your own music, it’s hard but give it a try. If you are going to cover pop songs chose them not for the novelty but because your voices bring something different and expressive to the song. Make a version that stands on its own and at the end of the day as something you would rather listen to than the original.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Feed The Birds (Tuppence A Bag) from Mary Poppins

When I was a kid about in second or third grade I used to listen to audio-cassettes as I would go to bed and my favorite one to listen to was the soundtrack to Mary Poppins. Like many other things I encountered as a child I fixated on the music but the difference between Mary Poppins and other things I got into when I was a child, I’m still obsessed with Mary Poppins.

The pinnacle of Walt Disney’s creative ambitions, Mary Poppins still holds up today as one of the most finely crafted musical and films for that matter ever created. Dick Van Dyke’s often-criticized cockeyed accent can’t take away form his irresistible charm and virtuosic performance as Bart.

Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber’s heartwarming performance as Jane and Michael Banks reminds us how good children actors can be.

And of course there’s Mary Poppins herself played by the “practically perfect in every way” Julie Andrews.

Mary Poppins came out one year before The Sound Of Music in 1964. Nominated for consecutive Academy Awards for both of these films, Andrews won for Mary Poppins (as well as Golden Globes for both of these roles). Let’s pause for a second, isn’t it just a little mind-blowing that Julie Andrews stared in two of the greatest films of all time in consecutive years?

Andrew’s Mary Poppins is dark and a little creepy with just as much charm as Maria from Sound Of Music. Manipulative, crazy and enigmatic Mary Poppins is one of the most enduring characters in film.

While the soul of The Sound of Music is “Edelweiss” (which I discussed in this earlier post), the soul of Mary Poppins is “Feed the Birds (Tuppence A Bag).” Representing the antitheses of Mr. Bank’s capitalistic motivation, the story of the old lady who feeds birds is one of giving and warmth. This is exactly what Jane and Michael so eagerly want from their father, which is why the children so badly want to feed the birds.

The verses are mysterious in their harmony, while the instrumentation paints a dark and uncertain picture of a foggy London street. A lilting waltz begins when Mary quotes the old lady before the verse comes to a rest.

I don’t know what it is about the way that Julie Andrews sings “feed the birds,” but it’s truly magical. Her singing warms your soul like a hot chocolate on a snowy day.  Maybe it’s the fact that what she is saying is a plea for all of us to just slow down our hectic lives and care for someone else.

Whatever it is, every time that first chorus starts I get chills. There is something so intimate, so immediate about this song. While "Feed The Birds" masterful musical arrangements and performance with subtle and nuanced meaning in the words, none of this gets in the way of the simple joy of knowing and loving this song as a child. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

She’s Always A Woman by Billy Joel

Guys, I hear you. Woman can be difficult.

Sometimes they can be manipulative, indecisive, late, brash, impulsive, careless, fickle and sometimes simply woman don’t make any sense.

Now, I don’t buy the woman are from Venus stuff. Yes, there are some basic truths like “when woman ask for advice they are looking for understanding while men want solutions when they ask for help."  While this is sometimes true it isn't always the case. When Diana asks me how to fix the remote control, she’s not looking for sympathy, she just wants me to get up and get a new set of batteries.

Many of these examples of sexual differences are  good things to keep in mind when relating to people as I’ve observed that many of these “gender differences” cross gender lines are seem to be “personality difference.”

“Well Kingsley, in my group of male friends we never talk our feelings like my girlfriend always wants to.” That may be true, but that could be more indicative of your group of “guy friends” than your girl representing the female population.

That being said, what’s my advice for trying to make sense of woman?  Change your definition of what it means to be a woman. Let me explain with a song.

“She’s Always A Woman” appears to be a sarcastic, jaded view of a woman who is making a man miserable. The language is harsh, “ruin your faith” and unforgiving “she laugh when you’re bleeding.” But when you listen deeper into the song and consider the waves of motion in the piano and the gently lilting melody, you realize that Joel is saying something deeper.

Joel creates a beautiful portrait of a woman. After listing negative aspects of his love he concludes “but she’s always a woman to me.” The lyrics define what woman is by what a woman isn’t. Despite all of these “un-womanly” things that this woman does, Joel argues “she’s always a woman to me.”

If you let some of the things that Joel describes like the fickleness and the indecisiveness nature of a girl that you like define her, then she will drive you insane. When we define people by their faults that is all we see in them, all that we expect and that is all we get.

However, if you define a woman by the best part of herself you will be surprised at how the annoying things actually bother you.  She may be manipulative, indecisive, late, brash, impulsive, careless and make no sense but those things will dissipate if you remember that beyond all of that there is always a woman.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Won't Back Down by Tom Petty

"Admire this man . . . Uncompromising men are easy to admire. He has courage, so does a dog, But it is exactly the ability to compromise that makes a man noble."

-The Leper from Braveheart

Compromise is part of our daily lives. Whether it's deciding where to go to dinner or letting the other car at a four way stop go first, without compromise our lives would be full of tension and unhappiness. As much as learning to compromise is essential in life knowing when not to back down is just as important.

Yes, on some levels an uncompromising men are easy to admire, but it's not the ability to compromise that defines us, it's knowing when to compromise and when to hold fast that truly makes men noble.

"I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty is a declaration of strength, belief and resilience. Originally released in 1989, this song has become an anthem with a wide appeal. While the subject of this song is ambiguous the lyrics speaks to the conviction we all wish we had inside of us.

Well I know what's right, I got just one life,
In a world that keeps on pushin' me around,
But I'll stand my ground, and I won't back down.

Petty himself doesn't exactly seem like the toughest and most intimidating presence. He doesn't have the greatest vocal ability but that's also part of the reason this song has such broad appeal. You may not love his voice but you can definitely relate to it.

Tom Petty is an everyman stating his beliefs through a musical landscape completely lacking musical pretension. In some ways it’s easier to be inspired by rock stars than world leaders, because not only does a song like “I Won’t Back Down,” speak to us in a musical language we understand but it’s a message that we can make our own by singing along.

Our beliefs don’t shape our lives but rather it’s what we do about our beliefs that define our future. Every week, I espouse my beliefs about the human condition (sometimes the doggy condition) in a small way to stand up and fight for the world that I want to raise my children in.

As much as this is about sharing my thoughts with others, this blog is also about defining for myself what is that is important to myself, what I truly believe and what I cannot compromise about. This is often difficult but it’s important that we all take some time in our lives to do this, because as Alexander Hamilton put it, "Those Who Stand For Nothing, Fall For Anything."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Boxer by The Gaslight Anthem

A week ago Rolling Stone on it’s “Hear It Now” page posted American Slang, The Gaslight Anthem’s new album that came out earlier this week. Streaming this album through their website I’ve been moving my wife’s laptop around the house so that I can constantly listen to this album but now I finally have the CD.

I discovered The Gaslight Anthem through Rolling Stone when they made a list about the top 40 things to get excited about music and The Gaslight Anthem a band that I never heard of made the list.

I wrote about their amazing title track from their last album “The ‘59 Sound” in this previous post as I was stunned not only by the musical prowess but the depth of emotion writing a song about the hopes and dreams we have about the transition into death.

Almost every tracks stands out including the personal and powerful title track, a glorious anthem:

However the first glance we got of this album and one of amazing examples of this band's artistry is “Boxer.”

In less than three minutes, “The Gaslight Anthem” tells the story of a man reflecting on a friend he used to have who was a boxer. Somehow, in this short song we get the feeling that we’ve watched a three hour biopic.

The verses begins talking about the surface bravado of the boxer, “got your pride and your pose, tucked just like a tommy gun” and the transition into a deeper emotion as Brain Fallon, the lead singer, tells about how the boxer has a love that he denies he misses.

The chorus is a flurry of figurative language, beautifully arranged talking about salvation and healing in the act of writing and listening to music, “he found bandages inside the pen and the stitches on the radio.” The lyrics that immediately follow are subtle and profound speaking to regret and responsibility.

There was something heavy holding you down
And there were whispers that were driving you crazy
And now you hunt the heart of this town.

There’s a confidence in the craft from the mid-tempo groove to the contrast textures between and the verses and chorus. The story is sad but there’s a sheen of nostalgia, “remember when I knew boxer.” It’s almost like he’s thinking not only about the boxer but a simpler time in his own life. The song is about a boxer but it means so much more and it’s within this depth that there is not only artistry but also beauty.

“The Boxer” may not be the greatest song ever, but right now it certainly feels that way.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Buffy’s really is a "sheep-dog"

Okay, right now I’m feeling stupidly proud of Buffy.

Buffy is a Shetland Sheepdog. Herders continue to use dogs like her to help them herd sheep. There small size makes it easier for them to cross rough terrain and their coat holds up in cold weather. I believe it when I hear that Shelties can go 10-15 miles a day because we have yet to go on a walk or a hike and have Buffy tire out.

Some dogs have more aptitude to herd than others. Logically if you breed two dogs together that are good herders their puppies combined training at a young age and being around other herding dogs help them become good working dogs.

Conversely, dogs that are bred to be pets often lack the “herding instinct” whether it’s because of genetic reasons or what they are exposed to as a young puppy. So, when we signed Buffy up to take a herding instinct test, we weren’t really sure what to expect.

We signed with Magic’s Legacy a facility run by Shannon Wolfe in Southern Wisconsin. At this place Shannon runs demonstrations, helps trains dogs to herd and tests dogs to see if they have any herding instinct. Along with about 15 other dogs we registered for an afternoon of herding instinct tests.

Shannon started the afternoon by giving a demonstration of one of her dogs herding sheep. Using voice and whistle commands she was able to instruct her dog to bring sheep towards her, make her dog rotate the sheep clockwise AND counterclockwise and put the sheep into a pen.

After demonstrating what her dogs could do, she tested our dogs to see if they had any aptitude or interest in herding sheep.  Shannon would take one dog at a time around the pen with three sheep and see if anything would click with the dog.

When the dogs didn’t seem interested, Shannon would call “sheep party” and the dog's owner would come in and chase the sheep like it’s the most exciting thing ever and this often get the dog interested. I was looking forward to watching Diana herd sheep but to our surprise and delight, Buffy didn’t need any encouragement.

Buffy did a fantastic job. She ran wide around the sheep, (which is idea so that the dog can watch the whole herd). She worked quietly in general which showed that they felt secure and confident and not only chased the sheep but really herded them. There is a part towards the end of the video when Buffy looses one of sheep, crosses wide over to the left and pulls that sheep back into the group. That was impressive. Bear in mind, this was the first time Buffy had ever been around sheep.

Shannon Wolfe runs a fantastic program. She is very knowledgeable, knows how to work with a wide variety of the dog from little ones like Buffy to bigger dogs like Rottweilers. This was one of greatest experiences I had with Buffy well worth the registration fee and the drive up there. I would highly recommend sharing this experience with your dog.

What surprised me the most was how emotional this experience was for me (I was starting to tear-up a little bit).  I was proud of her that she was being successful but more overjoyed at how much fun she was having.

That'll do Buffy.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Basket Case by Green Day

Grammy winner, concept album, protest music, Broadway show.

These are all phrases that describe Green Day of 2010. Is there anything in the Green Day of 1994 that would give us anyone clue of the greatness and the level of cultural relevance that Green Day would achieve 15 years later? I don't know but I always knew there was something special about Green Day even in middle school.

In 1994, there was the explosion of Grunge Music. This genre of music took Punk music added a layer of distortion, teen angst and cynicism to create a sub-culture that was both plaid, baggy and lacked the use of shampoo on a regular basis. Among the Grunge groups there were other bands that were grouped into this genre like that really were something different and one of those groups was Green Day.

Instead of creating a darker distortion of punk music, Green Day continued the tradition of punk from groups like the Ramones creating simple songs that were short, fun and featured pop influenced melodies. This is why many people beyond the alternative crowd found "Basket Case" appealing and why it has endured as one of there most popular song.

There is something special about the opening of this song. 22 year old Billy Joel Armstrong accompanied by his guitar inquiring to the world "Do you have the time to listen to me whine?" The statement is aggressive and brave. He's putting himself out there hiding behind nothing, simply speaking his mind and expressing from the heart.

What Armstrong is expressing isn’t exactly something that you would think is be an anthem but it is. This song is about embracing the things about ourselves that other people see as flaws. Yes, I’m melodramatic and neurotic, and it’s so bad “sometimes I give myself the creeps.”  While the lyrics wonder about what it means to crazy the music embracing the question “Am I just paranoid?” like a victorious call.

This song builds like symphony adding layers of instruments with an unforgiving driving pulse that never lets go of our attention. The sounds can be replicated on stage and knowing this creates a connection with the audeince. It’s not just art in a studio, it’s something that is alive and like great folk music that makes it mean something more.

People who others called crazy are responsible for all the greatest accomplishments in history. We all dream big and hope to try something that people haven’t done before. “Basket Case” is the reaction we need to remember and reminding ourselves that we may be cracking up, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Right Now by Van Halen

[conversation between me (K) and the person I was sitting next to at a recent wedding reception (J)]

J – So do you think the introduction of the bridal party will be edgy or classy? K – Well, let’s check out the music and see.
J – Wait a second, what song is this?
K- RIGHT NOW BY VAN HALEN!!!! They are definitely going edgy . . .
 J – Woah, since when was Van Halen edgy?
K – um . . . ever since David Lee Roth left the group and Hagar joined.

Okay, I’m not going to get into the great “David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar” debate. There are songs by Van Halen with both of these lead singers that I like a lot. The thing is that my favorite song by Van Halen with Hagar “Right Now" . . . 

is a little bit more edgy than my favorite David Lee Roth Van Halen hit “Jump.”

“Jump” along with many other earlier Van Halen works that deserve their own examinations as they are currently on my blog to do list, however right now we are going to take a look at Hagar’s most memorable contribution to the group.

Released in 1992, “Right Now” is both a commentary on modern life and a celebration of the life. The verse with a darker, more minor harmonies questions the way that we approach our lives. The first verse questions to us “why put it off another day?” urging us to embrace life to the fullest immediately while the second verse comments on the way that commercialism motivates us “the more things you get the more you want.” At the end of the end of each verse Hagar implores us to “turn this thing around,” to change the way we are viewing life and live life for the moment, right now.

The chorus opens up to an anthem, with a major tonality and a call and response form.  As the band and the crowd sings “right now,” the response calls “it’s your tomorrow . . . it’s everything . . . catch that magic moment.”  This beautifully designed chorus quickly involves the audience and provides exactly what this song is talking about. Van Halen is encouraging us to stay in the moment and embrace life and through music "Right Now" let’s us do just that.

When you’re rocking out to the chorus of this song don’t think about the verses or what’s coming up, just rock out in the moment. It’s the best way to enjoy this song that let’s you do exactly what Hagar preaches.

While Van Halen is known for Eddie’s simply ridiculous guitar playing, the keyboard work immediately takes center stage in this song. The piano line demonstrates that the piano is truly a percussion instrument (musical instruments are classified by how sound is produced and the piano strings are struck by a hammer like a drum). Not only is harmony produced but a rocking and vicious groove that provides a sense of urgency in the verse and celebratory euphoria in the chorus.

I’m someone who spends a lot of time reflecting on the past (duh . . . have you READ this blog?) and I often take the whole “always be prepared” a little far.” The thing that I sometimes forget and is that we think about the past and the future as a means to have a better present. If we do not all this planning but don’t let ourselves enjoy the moments in our lives than we’re kind of missing the point.

“Turn that thing around. What are you waiting for?”

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Dog Park With Buffy

When writing this blog, I've put into practice the whole "if you can't say something nice, say nothing at all" saying. Which is why certain subjects are absent from this blog like: Jersey Boys, Glee, "I Gotta Feeling," Christian Rock, the menu at The Cheesecake Factory (seriously, ads in a menu?!?) and Indiana.

That's the reason why I haven't written about my experiences with Buffy at the dog park. Diana and I regularly take Buffy to our local dog park and 90% of the time we have great experiences. As much as I'd like to focus on those memory, a couple bad experiences take over my thoughts.

Most dog owners understand when that their dog is dog-aggressive, don't get along well with other dogs or are not well trained. And most of these people wisely chose to not take their dog to dog parks. Then there's the people who are completely clueless of their dogs issues and bring their dogs to the dog park anyways. Would you bring a kid to a playground with other kids if you knew he had a tendency to get in fights? 

Of course not, but that doesn't seem to stop some amazingly ill-informed and ignorant people from bringing dogs to dog parks that could hurt other dogs.

I'm not exaggerating. I know two dogs that have been scarred from fights with aggressive dogs at dog parks. Though it's not highly publicized sometimes these situations result in death (like this case in Oregon). Yes, these cases are rare but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be careful. The chances of getting run over by a car when crossing the street isn't very likely but we always look both ways.

The bad experiences that I've had with Buffy in the dog park have to do with one messed up idea: "the dog is just being a dog."

-The time when Diana was mobbed by two dogs because according to their owners "she is holding a purse."
-The owner of the dog who had one of Buffy's throw toys refused to help us get it back.
-The aggressive dog who just went for Buffy, growled and tried to bite her while her owner who was within arms reach of her dog did absolutely nothing as Diana with Buffy in her arms tried to get away.

No, you are wrong, these aren't actions of dogs just being dogs (well except for the throw toy incident, which was more about the dog not being trained). These are unacceptable behavior. Dogs are like kids, they need to be taught how to be dogs. The same way I teach my student show to share and be polite you have to to teach your dog how act around other dogs.

Not training your dog with clear expectations isn't "letting your dog be a dog," it's allowing your dog be an menace, a wild animal and a possible danger to other humans and dogs. If its your prerogative to have an untrained dog, fine, that's your business, but bringing that kind of a dog to a dog park is a display of insidious thoughtlessness.

This has all resulted in Diana and I being cautious at the dog park. We're not there to socialize with other owners (which we do if we feel comfortable with the other dogs that Buffy is playing with). We stay within a certain range of Buffy just in case something happens and call her to us often so that she remembers that we are there and doesn't go absolutely crazy. Am I scared that some crazy dog is going to come by and try to get into a fight with Buffy? Yes  At this point is that enough for me to swear off dog parks (which is something that many reasonable and responsible dogs owners do)? Not yet.

I’m not going to let a couple bad apples ruin it for the rest of us. We have had some amazing experiences at the dog park getting to know great people and giving Buffy fantastic experiences socializing and playing with other dogs.

Watching dogs play together is nothing short of witnessing pure unbridled joy. It’s great for Buffy, rejuvenating for Diana and one of the places where we have some of our best times as a family.

I understand why people are nervous about dog parks, but I say don’t give up. Don’t let the minority of irresponsible dog owners take over. There are too many great owners, great dogs and amazing experiences to be had.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt

“Finding someone that you love isn’t the hard part, it’s finding someone that loves you that is the challenge.”

This is one of the many pieces of advice that my father has passed down to me. This one could not be truer. Everyone has crushes that are not reciprocal and we all have experiences or know of situations where one person loves their partner more then they love them.

While there are many reasons that people use to explain why relationships break up most of these are symptomatic of an inequality of how two people feel about each other. This is put more lightly as “he’s just not into you” or more devastatingly as Bonnie Raitt mourns “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

Bonnie Raitt is a lot of things.  She’s one of the best slide guitarist you will ever hear and simply one of the best guitarist you will ever hear.

With a voice full or soul and blues, Raitt is an amazing musicians with impressive range. My entry point to Bonnie Raitt wasn’t through her amazing guitar playing or even her singing, it was through George Michael covering “I Can’t Make You Love Me” on his MTV Unplugged Concert.

Okay first off, George Michael’s performance here is beautifully heartbreaking, nuanced and subtle. The purity and clarity of his tone combined with the ease of his voice moving through his range softly proves his vocal artistry and prowess.

Then I found Bonnie Ratit’s version, my God. . .

Whoever came up with the idea of having Raitt put down the guitar and sing a pop ballad is genius. Raitt is a blues singers but rarely are the blues framed in such a main-street kind of way. While her performance doesn’t initially sound like one of a blues singers, the soul of blues shines right through every note she sings.

This song is heartbreaking. Here’s a person who has accepted that her partner does not love him but just wants to forget that for one night. She’s not mad, rather she's disappointed at the tragedy of the situation, “I’ll feel the power but you won’t.” What makes this song transcend into a higher level is the line “I’ll give up this fight.” It’s not only a surrender of the heart but of the spirit.  This line is also a statement of strength accepting that there are things that we can’t control in life.

True love is something that people come to, not persuaded to.  If someone doesn’t love you, as hard as it is to accept let them go. Is this your fault, is it something that you’ve done? No. Love embraces who you are flaws and all and if someone doesn’t “love” you because of something that you did, then they never really loved you in the first place.

We often focus too much on our own feelings when we get to know people.  Instead think about how the other persons feel about you and when you find someone who truly loves you as much as you love them hang onto that person and don't give up the fight.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Jealous Guy by John Lennon

It's a good thing that my wife Diana isn't the jealous type.

I have more female friends than most guys. I don't know why this is or how it turned out this way but ever since middle school I've always had friends who are girls.  It's not that I don't have any male friends but when I think of the ten closest friends I have in my life right now half of them are girls.

It's not unusual for me to talk to one of my female friends on the phone or go out to lunch with one of them without Diana. None of these things have ever been an issue with Diana. Part of this has to do with the fact that many of the these female are also friends with Diana and the fact that I've never given Diana any reasons not to trust me.

Now coming me, well . . . I'm Diana's only boyfriend. She did go to prom with a guy and even though they went as friends I still have the irrational urge to beat the guy up. The thing is though, Diana never flirts with other guys and doesn't really hang out with male friends without me besides so my jealousy has been kept in check. Now if I had married a girl with more of a history and a different kind of social life, it might have been a different story.

"Jealous Guy" by John Lennon from his 1971 album Imagine is one of Lennon's most personal and achingly beautiful songs. While the title track "Imagine" (which I discussed in this earlier post) was a contemplation on the nature of humanity "Jealous Guy" is a deeply personal apology.

The words of "Jealous Guy" are straight-forward written without the use of poetic devices like symbolism, imagery and metaphor that Lennon in other songs ingeniously utilizes. The words deliberately lack literary devices so that they sound less like song lyrics and more like a letter to a loved one.

Lennon carefully crafts each line with gentle rising and falling, "I was dreaming of the past." Then he builds tension with an ascending melody "I began to lose control." The chorus starts on a higher pitch and the the contour drops and rises back up with "make you cry." Then "I didn't want to hurt you" stumbles, descending in pitch mimicking the sound of crying. Then the last line "I'm just a jealous," is sang with a slight smile, a shurg and a twinkle in the eye.

Lennon’s insight and introspection reveals that jealousy is not so much something that comes from the outside but our own feelings.  Maybe if I was with a different girl I would feel more jealous but maybe I wouldn’t because at the end of the day it’s the feelings inside of me, the projections of my own insecurities that define my jealousy. 

However I can't deny the power of Diana's love to change me feel stronger, embrace my insecurities and be a better man.  In that way Diana has really helped me not be a jealous guy.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Blackhawks Goal Song aka Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis

Ever since I've moved to Chicago ten years ago, there's been ups and downs with the Bears, Cubs, Soxs and Bulls but one consistent I've heard is that the Blackhawks are one of the best sports franchise we got.  This year is no exception as the Blackhawks fight for for their first Stanley Cup since 1961.

I mean we are SO into the Blackhawks we went Old Testament and turned our water into blood.

Okay, maybe the plan to dye the water in the fountain at Daley Plaza red to honor the Blackhawks was a bad idea but the intention was good.  As disturbing as it is to see fountains of blood at least they didn't dye the water black (fountains of bile is far more disturbing in my book). 

Now I may not be able to analyze hockey games (I barely understand the concept of the game), talk about the history of the team or know what dye they used to color water but I do know music. So all of you who have asked me "What is the song that they play when the Blackhawks score?" and for all of you Blackhawks fans out there, this is for you.

After the buzzer rings after the Blackhawks score and sometimes at the end of games the rousing chorus begins "dadaDa dadaDa dada daDada." This celebratory and rocking sing along is "Chelsea Dagger" by The Fratellis.

The song is inspired by lead singer Jon Fratelli's wife Heather who's stage name as a burlesque dancer was "Chelsea." He combined this with a nod to Britney Spears (Spears . . . Spear . . . Dagger, get it?) to create the fictional Chelsea Dagger. The songs tell the story of meeting the enticing girl Chelsea Dagger that inspires devotion and gratitude, “it’s one for the Dagger, another for the one you believe!” The saucy words don’t make literal sense, but they paint a picture of fun, naughtiness and humor.

“Chelsea Dagger” isn’t a sport anthem like “We Will Rock You” that express intimidation.  Instead it is about sharing happiness.  The unbridled joy that this song creates after every goal embodies one of the most endearing things about living in Chicago.

While Chicago features some of the best high culture in the world, the soul of Chicago is working class: Italian Beef sandwiches, baseball games and hanging with friends at a local bar. Being a Chicagoan is about taking the time to enjoy the simple things in life with good people.  Even though a band from Scotland created "Chelsea Dagger" it shares this same feeling.

The best way to understand what I'm talking about is to pump up “Chelsea Dagger” and dance and sing along to the last verse:

Chelsea, Chelsea, I believe when your dancing,
Slowly honestly.
The boys get lonely after you leave
It’s one for the Dagger and another for the one you believe!!

The words don't quite make sense but it feels so good to sing.  The hard swung rhythms feel like they just want to explode through your body in dance and the melody flows across the vocals chords like uncontrollable laughter.  

It’s like singing “Sweet Caroline,” at University of Wisconsin football games however, this is hockey so we need something a little bit faster and more aggressive.  Also this is Chicago so we need something that swings a little bit harder and the chorus born out of pub culture, drinking songs and soccer chants is perfect. 

Game 4 is tonight. There's really no shame in losing game three in overtime during the Stanley Cup finals, especially when you won the first two games. As you watch the game revel in how great life is, how awesome it is that the Blackhawks have made it this far and remember when they score sing it out for “the one you believe!”

Go Blackhawks!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Young Forever by Jay-Z featuring Mr. Hudson

As the night defines the day, death defines life. It’s the limitations, the finite nature of experience brings meaning to our world. While we wish that moments in our lives would never end, we know in the back of our minds that the knowledge, the understanding that things will not last forever is what makes us cherish the time that we have.

If a song never ended how carefully would you listen to it? If a football game never ended, how would you know who won? If we stayed forever young, what would be the point of life?

Jay-Z’s fifth single “Young Forever,” from his album, The Blueprint 3 question the idea of immortality.


This song features the English pop artist Mr. Hudson who has worked as a producer for artist like Kayne West while having a successful solo career of his own.

Many rap songs find their footing in popular culture based more on the hook as opposed to the rapping itself. Many of my favorite rap songs while having quality rapping initially only appealed to me because of the vocal chorus like my personal favorite rap song of all time (not necessarily one that I would argue is the best) “Ghetto Superstar” featuring the melody from the Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers hit “Islands In The Streams” (written by the Bee Gees!!)


It only took three seconds of the opening vocals by Mr. Hudson to catch my attention and convince me to get “Young Forever.” This choice was made easier by the fact that Jay-Z is one of the greatest rappers of all time who never fails to provide interesting and technically fascinating raps.

The opening vocals are a combination of youthful naivety and doubt. Mr. Hudson sings about wanting to have a great experience last longer stating that he would rather die young or live forever never growing old. In the next line he sings that he wants to be forever young but then asks himself “do you really want to live forever?”

Jay-Z provides his own perspective on life comforting us in the first verse that great memories will they never end because they never leave our memory and “all we have to do is hit rewind.” He encourages us to live in the moment and that being young is a state of mind. This is why at the end of it “when the director yells ‘cut’” Jay-Z says he’ll be fine.  Maybe it's in memories that we find comfort or in living in the moment as Jay-Z describes in the next verse “fear not when, fear not why, fear not much while we’re alive” when thinking about the nature of death.

The one assertion Jay-Z discusses that I question is that he will live forever as his names is passed down in storied.  I think about my grandfather who recently died and how many people a generation from now will remember him? A couple dozen, maybe more, maybe less. Does this make his life any less meaningful? I don’t think so but what I do know is that him being young forever or having immortality wouldn’t guarantee his life meaning either.

The idea of immortality and wanting to be forever young is a reflection of our own insecurities we have about the way that we spend our time in our lives.  Are we doing something meaningful with this blessing of life?  If your answer is no, you probably wish you could have some more time but if you feel like you do then you're living a life without regret, a life proud to have lived with no fear of death.

I'm not there yet, but one of these days I hope to be.