And The Twelve Points Go To…

So, one of my secret/not-so-secret obsessions (secret in the fact that no one in America knows what it is or cares about it, but not so secret in the fact that if you ask me about I can go on and on until the cows come home) is the Eurovision Song Contest, or simply, Eurovision. It’s cross between reality competition and musical train wreck, treasured by few and despised by most, unless their country is in the final.

Today, for the first time ever, I watched it live on YouTube from Lisbon, in the hopes that Israel would pull off its first win in twenty years. I turned it on about midway through the performances, but it was the voting that made me literally shake. The jury voting came in, and Israel, despite being labeled as a contender this year with a genuinely catchy and unique song, was in a distant third behind Austria and Sweden. I was feeling pretty meh, but then the popular vote came in, and unlike the American election, it actually mattered in crowning the winner. I held my breath as one by one, the front-running countries got their votes. Once Austria, Sweden, and Germany were knocked out, I was feeling hopeful for Israel. It wasn’t until the final 4 countries’ popular votes were coming in that I realized that statistically, it was highly unlikely that Israel would come anything but first. And then, it happened…the winner of the fan vote was announced to be Israelpropelling its representative, Netta Barzilai and her song “Toy” to the top, and subsequently, the winner of the whole shebang. She tried not to try as she went up to the stage to accept her trophy, make a short speech, and perform a reprise. Oh, and this also means that Israel (most likely Jerusalem) will host the contest next spring.

What does this mean? Well, not a whole lot, but it does mean that music won out over politics this year, and of course, that my prediction (and hope) came first. The second placer, Cyprus, kind of grew on me, and I wouldn’t have minded if Eleni Foureira bagged Cyprus their first win.

Now that the competition is over, here are the rest of my top five favorites: Czech Republic had a sick sax beat with a hook and a fun music video, and coming in sixth was very respectable. I was also partial to Spain, which is perfect for a Viennese waltz, and, unpopular opinion: Moldova. The Latin-esque rhythm really got me going. Songs that I tolerated but wouldn’t write home about (if one wrote home about a song competition across the Atlantic) included DenmarkFinlandFranceNorway, and Sweden. These would probably actually round out my top ten.

Of course, with 40+ countries, not all songs make it, and about half of them fall by the wayside. Last year, Macedonia (The Former Yugoslav Republic of) submitted “Dance Alone,” and as soon as I heard it, I replayed it about a hundred times and then downloaded it onto my iTunes. I was sure it would at least make it out of the semi-finals. I was shell-shocked that “Dance Alone” ended at the semi-finals. This year, my “Dance Alone” Award went to…Belarus. Their song, “Forever,” would have probably been in my top five had it made the final.

In any event, congratulations Netta, and Israel. Next year in Jerusalem!


Fantasy Concert Song Sequence

If I were a better singer, I would definitely want to give concerts. Not to be famous, maybe at a small pub or something. I’d like to mix genres, from easy listening to disco, from Israeli to remixed pop, from R&B to classics.

Every so often, I come across a sequence of songs on my iPod that blend into one another so seamless despite crossing genres that it almost feels like the same people could be singing. I usually forget those combos, but tonight I decided to change that, so behold, my first ever Fantasy Concert Song Sequence post. Doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but these songs sure do.

The first song, is “House on the Lake,” from the Black Cadillac album by Rosanne Cash. It has a nice little gentle flow to it, not quite soporific, but soothing – a light, easy listening/country/folk number. After it faded out, the next song to come on was from the 90s R&B girl power song “Don’t Let Go” by En Vogue. It’s a similar tempo, but a with a little more punch to it, and would most likely wake the audience back up, especially with the rapid genre change. As I was getting into the shower, that song ended and the next one began. It was from the same era and genre, but it fit nicely just the same, “Words” by Anthony David & India.Arie. These are not my three favorite songs in the world, but they loop together quite nicely, so take a listen.

Hopefully this will be the start of an interesting new series of posts.


On Having A Song Stuck In Your Head All Weekend

My weekend was ruined.

All because of one song.

It all started Friday night, when I went to the dance. I danced to this one song, “Shut Up and Dance,” by Walk the Moon (which is not Walk Off the Earth), and fortunately, Emily was there to tell me the song’s title and artist. That reminded me of another song which I had heard several times, that sounded sort of similar, but not exactly the same.

And of course, I couldn’t remember a single lyric.

I knew the general tune, and that it went “boom boom boom” something, and I knew that if I heard it just once, I’d be like, oh, of course, that song. Friday came and went, but by yesterday afternoon, after dance class, I was humming the song in my head again. I just couldn’t get it out. And the worst part was that I didn’t even know what I was singing.

And it was tearing me to pieces.

I kept thinking of every single other similar sounding song: “Drive By,” (Train); “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” (Train); “Maps” (Maroon 5); “Animals” (Maroon 5); “Counting Stars” (One Republic); “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Fall Out Boy); “Glad You Came” (The Wanted)…and that was when I realized that three-quarters of the songs released by male artists in the last five years all sound exactly the same.

Anyway, I was up until 3 AM last night, going to extreme measures. I was using up my bandwidth to listen to every song by every group from the last five years that sounded even remotely similar to the one I was looking for. I scoured Wikipedia, Google, and SoundsJustLike.com for anything to trigger a memory. Today, I even made a Pandora channel for “50 Ways” in hopes that that song would come up (strangely, I got a lot of Adele, not that I’m complaining). It was literally pounding at my frontal lobe; no grading, no homework, just find that damn song so you can get some sleep tonight. It wasn’t until I downloaded Spotify and played two full playlists of contemporary 127 BPM or higher jive songs that I finally found it. Then I realized that it’s Sunday night and I’ve barely made a dent in grading.

And that’s how to ruin a perfectly good weekend by looking for a song.

I guess after all that, I should let you know what the song was…but I won’t!




…Just kidding, it was “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars. Have a listen.


Classic Song Sunday is now Classic Song Saturday: “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”

I realized that I couldn’t let October escape me without posting one of my favorite classic songs, the Goffin/King masterpiece “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”

It was made famous by The Shirelles, who, in 1961, used it to become the first girl group to reach #1 on the Billboard Charts in the USA. Here is their beautiful performance of said song, in a rare clip from the 1960s. Check out the hairstyles and the big smiles!

This song is a classic because the lyrics are genderless, timeless, and unforgettable. It can be sped up or slowed down, like Carole King did on her legendary album Tapestry. Plain and simple, very few songs can beat it.

Check out Leslie Grace‘s bachata remix:

And this slightly up-tempo version by Linda Ronstadt:

And, as a bonus, a music video I appeared in as a backup dancer, with my ballroom friends Jameson and Emily. What do you think? See if you can find me, I’m the first guy on Olivia’s right when she enters, dancing with Emily (short-ish girl with long brown hair).



Classic Song Sunday: He’s A Rebel

It’s the last Sunday in October, so I figure I’d end it on a bang with the spunky “He’s A Rebel” for Classic Song Sunday. 

The twinkly piano notes at the beginning belie the hard notes and the gritty message the song relates. The roughness of the songs content directly echoes the roughness of the song’s history. It was written by Gene Pitney and produced by Phil Spector (you already know it’s bound to be a lulu right there). Originally recorded by The Blossoms, it was credited to The Crystals because…Phil Spector…something about the Crystals being on an East Coast tour at the time, while the Blossoms were in LA and ready to go. You can only imagine how shocked the Crystals were when hearing about their newest hit, which they didn’t even know existed. The song was added to the Crystals’ repertoire, but Barbara Alston couldn’t hit the notes, which led to a rearrangement of talent within the group and Alston’s relegation to background singer. And in a documentary, Darlene Love (singer of the no-no-no’s) gives a creepy history as to why those no’s are in there: it was because she was so frustrated with Spector and didn’t know what he wanted from her, and other pieces of drama. Have a listen.

Here’s a remake by British group Alisha’s Attic for the 1997 movie Bean. Not the most inspired, but has a little bit more of an ambient 80s-90s sound, not terrible but nothing like the original.

What I like the most about this song as that it’s so…unexpected. It just veers off into weird directions, and the phrasing shifts, the harmonies go in and out of each other, and it highlights the individual singers as well as the collective.


Classic Song Sunday: Vonda-rama

It’s Classic Song Sunday again, and this entry is dedicated to some of Vonda Shepard’s legendary covers.

Most of you probably don’t know who Vonda Shepard is, so I’m here to tell you. She is a genre-crossing singer who bears a slight resemblance to Carly Simon. Her big break came on Ally McBeal, where she was a recurring guest and sang the theme song.

“Tell Him”

Originally by the Exciters (more on them and their legendary awful music video here), Vonda’s cover appeared on a CD featuring the music of Ally McBeal. The soundtrack also featured some other kick-ass Vonda covers, including “It’s In His Kiss,” “I Only Want to Be With You” and “Hooked On A Feeling”, which comes in at a close second. But this version of “Tell Him” is just so much fun.

Linda Ronstadt also made a cover, and the music video features women having a pajama party who are too old to be doing that.

“To Sir With Love”

This hit originally came from England’s tour-de-force Lulu, but Vonda Shepard and Al Green remade it into an uptempo, almost rockabilly duet that, again, can only put a smile on your face.

So, there you have it, two great covers of two classic songs.

What the heck, I’ll throw in a bonus song, a song which should be a classic: “I Know Him By Heart.”



Classic Song Sunday: “You Can’t Hurry Love”

Another Sunday, another Classic Song. This week, it’s “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

Almost every version of this song is a true winner. In fact, along with “Respect” (which is, ironically, a song that no singer has been able to replicate), it was one of my favorite songs growing up and one of the first songs I actually knew all the words to.

It was written by the Motown team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. The original was performed by the Supremes, and is just the right mix of careful tiptoe phrasing and peppy power plea. I have no idea what the last sentence just meant, but hear it for yourself and you might figure out what I mean.

About 15 years later, a boy version came along courtesy of Phil Collins. It’s not the same as the previous version, but has that slight leather-jacket 1980s feel to it, especially in the wall of sound. It’s not as 80s as the remake of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” but that’s a song for another post. I slightly prefer the Supremes’ version to this one, but it has its charms, and transposes it into a key with which I can identify.

Then, for the movie Runaway Bride, “You Can’t Hurry Love,” was remade by the Dixie Chicks in a bit of a country-love remix. I will not tell you my Runaway Bride story, because even though it’s funny in hindsight, it’s still embarrassing, and even more embarrassing because my parents tell it to people all the time. Still, I love the movie, it’s one of my favorites, and having visited the filming locations in Berlin, Maryland puts it in a special place in my heart, along with this really fun and contemporary version of the song. It has some beautiful harmonies in it.

Stay tuned for more Classic Song Sundays, hopefully to become a regular feature!


Classic Song Sunday: “Be My Baby”

Boom. Ba Boom. TSS.

Boom. Ba Boom. TSS.

Anyone who knows pop music can instantly identify this song just by the opening percussion. Whether you’re a fan of the Ronettes from way back, or have seen Dirty Dancing, you’ve heard “Be My Baby.” 

Written by Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich, and Jeff Barry in 1963 and released by the Ronettes in 1964, “Be My Baby” has been called “one of the best tracks of all time” by everyone from Brian Wilson to Time magazine. The tough, punchy percussion, combined with Ronnie’s sultry vocals, awesome lyrics and a catchy chorus, make this song a timeless hit. The only thing that could have made it better was the song’s backup vocalists; for some reason, Estelle Bennett and Nedra Talley, the actual Ronettes, were left out, and apparently Cher and Darlene Love are among the voices on the track going “be my, be my baby.”

Hear the actual Ronettes sing it here:

There are a few covers out there, but the only one that I think is notable is Leslie Grace‘s Spanish-infused bachata remix.

And as a bonus, here’s Ronnie performing it in 2015.

72 years old.

And still utterly fabulous.

Be my baby, Ronnie Spector.


Masterpiece YouTube: Hozier, “Take Me To Church”

September’s come and just about gone, and I realized I haven’t introduced you readers to a video clip in a while, so here’s one that’s been mesmerizing me recently.

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Masterpiece YouTube

Episode 21: “Take Me To Church,” Hozier, 2015.

I have to admit, I first heard this song when Sharon Irving sang it on America’s Got Talent, but that doesn’t make this experience any less special. She sounded amazing, in a different type of amazing than the original, but this is a pretty darn perfect song, and the music video has been seared into my brain, along with the lyrics.

I’m going to forgo the usual recap, because this is something that you have to see to believe. Suffice it to say, this black-and-white picture of power contains anger, love, despair, confusion, destruction, and heartbreak. It was filmed in Ireland, which is pretty obvious from the scenery.

Hearing this song and watching this video makes me think that life is precious, and true love is not yet dead.

This episode of Masterpiece YouTube has been brought to you by having 1100 subscribers, my 1100th being Thursday’s Child. Visit her site, it’s fun and quirky. And greetings to all the continents, save for South America: Canada, USA, Mexico, UK, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Netherlands, Russia, Sudan, South Africa, Hong Kong, UAE, and Australia.


Pacific Grooves

A little over a week ago, I posted a blog entry about a book I read (Pacific Performanceswith promises that I would update the entry with a review, since I didn’t have the time right then and there to write a full-blown review. You probably thought that I forgot, but I didn’t, and now it’s been updated.

But before you check it out, here’s some music to get you in the mood (or to possibly listen to as you scroll down and read it):

Some people don’t like to read and listen to music at the same time. I get that. Actually, I am one of those people; I tend to focus more intently during the silent moments at the beginning/end of a song, but I listen to music while reading most of the time anyway, if only to drown out the outside noise (which is actually worse for my concentration). But if you do like listening to music while reading, here are some fun choices to accompany your reading of my review:

First, here’s “Aloha ‘Oe (Farewell to Thee),” probably the most iconic Hawaiian song there is, and one of the most misunderstood. It has a fascinating history. Contrary to popular belief, it did not come from Looney Tunes or Lilo & Stitch. It was actually written in 1878 by Queen Lili’uokalani, the last queen of the Kingdom of Hawaii before it was annexed by the United States. Queen Lili’uokalani herself was a fascinating character. She was one of 15 children, and her life was marred with tragedies, including having no children of her own, outliving her appointed successor (her beloved niece, Ka’iulani, who passed away at age 23 after a short illness), and of course, losing her country and spending her twilight years under house arrest. However, she was also a talented musician and songwriter who composed dozens of songs in both English and Hawaiian, as well as running an entire country (take that, Queen Elizabeth). This particular song is based on a hug that the queen witnessed between Colonel James Harbottle Boyd and her sister Princess Likelike, after a horseback tour of Oahu. Unfortunately, I do not think that there are any recordings of the queen herself singing, but this version was performed by the Rose Ensemble.

Next, here’s a selection from contemporary Hawaiian music; as far as I know, Hawaii is the only state to have its own genre of music and even its own category at the Grammy Awards. The most well-known artists in this genre are probably Tia Carrere (the voice of Nani in Lilo & Stitch) and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (known for his Hawaiian rendition of “Over the Rainbow”) but one up-and-coming artist is Rylee Anuheakeʻalaokalokelani Jenkins, aka Anuhea. Her voice is incredible and she writes her own songs, my favorite of which is this one, “Higher Than The Clouds.”

And of course, what blog post on Hawaii and music would be complete without mention Bette Midler? The Divine Miss M was once just a Jewish girl from Honolulu but became famous with the movie Beaches and classic torch songs like “The Rose” and “Wind Beneath My Wings.” She recently came out with a new album, It’s the Girls!, which covers of songs from the 20th century made famous by women, including one of the best songs of all time, “Be My Baby,” by the Ronettes. Here she is on Ellen, still getting her groove on at age 69. You go, Miss M.


So sit back, relax, and take a mini tropical vacation with these music recommendations.