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valentine’s day – and the most influential or interesting love songs of the previous two decades

15 Feb

Since it’s right after Valentine’s Day, I decided to pick some of the most influential and/or interesting songs on love from the last 20 years (2011 not included, of course).

I generally percieve the 1990s and 2000s as a very important moment in popular culture. Not only because it was the time of my high school/university years but mainly because it perfectly mixed influences of the music made by previous generations with new possibilities and music techniques. Grunge emerged from the influence of the 1960s rock. So did R&B which is rooted in funk, soul and, most importantly, blues. Rap continued to develop since the 1980s and so did punk rock. The 1990s however were direct descendants of the 1980 electronica and new wave. And since our age is defintely the computer age, we witnessed creation of new electro music genres and blending them with other musical influences. We witnessed the birth (or continuous development, as some may say) of industrial rock and industrial metal, nu metal, electro in a variety of genres – from early 90s trip-hop to contemporary electroclash.

Also, I think many things have changed in terms of defining ourselves as human, naming our needs and our emotions. Not only feminism became more important than ever but also many countries started their fight for LGBT rights. Racial and class divisions were and are discussed in all the parts of our world, especially since there is still a large group of fundamentalists in each and every of the religions that has ever existed – not that I am anti-religious, not at all. But,
frankly, I hate every fundamentalism.

Sex is also discussed in a different manner. And popular culture has been very important in the process of expressing our sexuality, our love, our desires. I think some of the songs of the last two decades reflect that process. Let’s take a look at some of them.

1990

Sinéad O’Connor Nothing Compares 2 U
Written in 1986 by Prince, O’Connor re-recorded this song in 1990 and quickly it became not only one of the greatest hits of this year but also O’Connors trade mark which made her rise to fame. A falling apart relationship of the past reaches its climax in the lyrics full of regret and passion at the same time which is only strenthened by a great voice of O’Connor. Her vocals tremble with passion and are torn apart with pain. Mesmerizing.
To view video click here.

 


Madonna
Justify My Love

Written by Lenny Kravitz and Ingrid Chavez. Highly controversial song with even more controversial video that’s  been censored and/or banned almost everywhere in the world. It marks the point in which Madonna slowly shifts from corny pop songs of the 1980s into much more ambitious projects which may have been pop but remained top quality and the best example to follow for the future generations. Also, it marks a slow shift from corny and puritan Reagan/Thatcher-era love imagery to a vision of a somewhat complicated sexuality. After all, can we imagine love and sex today without general questions about ourselves and human nature? Can we think of it not reffering to pain, hurting someone/ourselves, rediscovering our sexual identities, whether we’re straight, gay, or avoid labels at all costs? In 1990s it wasn’t that obvious. Luckily, we’ve got Madonna and we know that she turned her attention to wherever she spotted a taboo-topic.
To view video click here.

 

1991

Pearl Jam Oceans
Hard to say whether Eddie Vedder sings about his love to another person or about his love to surfing. Whatever it is, it is emotional and it marks the rise of grunge which dominated popular music for the most of 1990s.
To view video click here.

 

1992

En Vougue My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)
In fact a very difficult song – not every vocalist will be able to repeat it, trust me. Marks a trend for the years to come of forming girlsbands which do not necessarily need to know how to play an instrument but have to be sexy and, ok En Vogue, I gotta give you that, need to sing damn well to get to the top. It’s years before Destiny’s Child or Spice Girls (this one isn’t maybe the best example cause they vocally suck, LOL).
P.S. Check the choreography! What the fuck are these guys doing??? X-DD I just looollleeed! Nobody dances like this in vids anymore.
To view video click here.

 

Red Hot Chili Peppers Under the Bridge
Kiedis sings about his love to L.A. A true classic. And a classic video displayin less of L.A., more of Kiedis’ hairless chest opposed to long, shiny, commercial-like hair on his head. He actually moves his whole body in a way so you can take a closer look at both X-D
To view video click here.

 

 

Metallica Nothing Else Matters
An anthem. And a very insightful and sincere confession of James Hetfield (“I never opened myself this way”). Is he confessing to his bandmates or his girlfriend? Noone knows, but, what the heck, nothing else matters.
To view video click here.

 

1993

Nirvana Heart Shaped Box
Grunge at its height, less than a year before Kurt Cobain’s death. This song’s got it all. A strong riff, powerful chorus, amazing lyrics. It’s debatable whether it is about love although many sourses claim that the song was written for Courtney Love. Everything about love-hate relationships is written exactly here. And, though from the grunge era musically it is Alice in Chains and Soundgarden that I value most, I have to admit Cobain had a mesmerizing voice and great ability to write lyrics. As Wiki says: “Charles Cross wrote in his biography of Cobain Heavier Than Heaven that with the lyric “I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black”, Cobain “sang in what has to be the most convoluted route any songwriter undertook in pop history to say ‘I love you'”.”
Well, I won’t argue with Cross.
To view video click here.

 

Radiohead Creep
Less about love. More about the lack of it. An anthem of all the freaks, geeks and nerds. All those who were and are misfits. And a generation anthem as well. Used in Fincher’s Social Network last year and, earlier, covered by KoRn during their Mtv unplugged session – and there was a good reason for it.
“I want a perfect body. | I want a perfect soul. | I want you to notice | When I’m not around. | You’re so fuckin’ special. | I wish I was special (…)”. Hell yeah, welcome to modern times in which you have plenty of identity possibilities, well, far more than your grandma had, and, at the same time, none of them really suits you.
To view video click here.

 

1994

Blur Girls & Boys
Marks the point at which britpop is gathering more attention. Also, marks slow changes in our society that are still pretty new for some: “Love in the nineties | Is paranoid. | On sunny beaches | take your chances – looking for | Girls who are boys | Who like boys to be girls | Who do boys like they’re girls | Who do girls like they’re boys” – and a sweet conclusion – “Always should be someone you really love”.
To view video click here.

 

Tool Prison Sex
Less about love. More about the dark side of being a human. After all, it’s Tool. And, since it’s Tool, you can be sure it’s about pain, desire, having power over one another and excercising it on one another. Amazing song.
To view video click here.

 

1995

Alanis Morissette You Oughta Know
A feminist and a little hysterical scream in the post-grunge genre which, at the time, was considered rebellious. Today noone would consider these angry lyrics rebellious. Today it’s rather common that we express the feelings like: “It was a slap in the face how quickly I was replaced | Are you thinking of me when you fuck her?” At leasts in the songwriting, LOL.
To view video click here.

 

Portishead Glory Box
The video features Beth Gibbons dressed as a man. And, with her amazing and touching voice she sings: “give me a reason to be a woman”. Tiredness and helplessness. As in most alternative songs love is a more of a haunting experience rather than a sweet, pink-colored commercial for selling mascara.
To view video click here.

 

1996

Tori Amos Professional Widow
Widely rumored to be about Courtney Love who, maybe because of her artistic pseydonym, is definitely the muse of most rock and alternative songs of the 1990s.
Whether it is about Love or it’s just about any difficult man/woman relationship, it’s there. And, as it always is with Tori Amos, it’s breath taking and hard to classify.
To view video click here.

 

Bush Swallowed
Partly on love, partly on drugs. Definitely about obession. A rather forgotten British post-grunge band whose frontman is known more as Gwen Stefani’s husband. A pretty sensual video which more or less shows the tastes and trends of the 1990s.
To view video click here.

 

1997

Björk Jóga
An amazing song with the ever powerful vocal of Björk. Dedicated to a friend. Soulmate love and a very Shakesperian/turn of rennaissance/baroque theme of universe being in perfect harmony.
To view video click here.

 

 

1998

Massive Attack Inertia Creeps
A cryptic sensual message that doesn’t include love and sex only. Intense Middle Eastern/Indian motifs and a trance rhythm. Also marks the rise of trip-hop and development of future electro genres. Extremely powerful lyrics that start with: “Recollect me, darling | Erase me to your lips | Two undernourished egos | Four rotating hips” and a disturbing video.
To view video click here.

 

Placebo Pure Morning
The rise of softer still alternative rock. And an another cryptic message that makes me guess the relationship is or was somewhere in between being sex friends and lovers. Of course, it’s rock, so some guilt and regret spices up the whole. Amazing video and a sexually disturbing image of the androgynous Brian Molko.
To view video click here.

 

 

Smashing Pumpkins Ava Adore
Marks the slow death of the grunge-era bands. Smashing Pumpkins are, also, slowly going down. But Billy Corgan still remains disturbing being stylized as Nosferatu, from the 1922 German expressionist horror classic Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, and singing: “It is you that I adore | You will always be my whore”. Of course in terms of style it’s a little rip off off Marilyn Manson. But, heck, it’s Corgan. I will always forgive him.
To view video click here.

 

Foo Fighters Walking After You
A Foo Fighter love song which embarrasses Dave Grohl until today. The song’s cute. His acting in the vid is a bit hysterical. Still, many of those who were raised on grunge as teenagers consider it a damn sexy video (even though Grohl looks funny in a suit.)
To view video click here.

 

1999

Nine Inch Nails We’re in This Together
It’s Reznor, so it’s always about torment, pain and obsession. Off of The Fragile, one of the most amazing rock albums in the history. And a culminating point of industrial rock hitting the largest audiences in history ever. Of course, as it always is with NIN, a damn good video. And, btw, more or less a moment when each rock star cut their hair and one day all of them (Chris Cornell, James Hetfield, Reznor and many more) appeared with a completely new hairdo X-D
To view video click here.

 

Beck Sexx Laws
Off of Midnite Vultures – the album which is totally devoted to love and sex. With a little of Beck’s amazing wit and some funky tunes.
Those who happen to know this album and live nearby the Baltic probably will remember Mixed Bizness with the lyrics: “Do you wanna ride on the Baltic Sea | I’ll be your mistress C.O.D.” although I suppose Beck meant the Swedes not the post-communist block X-D
To view video click here.

 

2000

PJ Harvey This Is Love
She keeps on rocking in the good old style. And still having a great sense for catchy rock riffs and sharp lyrics.
To view video click here.

 

 

 

Peaches Lovertits
She’s a hardcore feminist, she’s crazy, her performances are awesome and she speaks of love and sex with an almost exhibitionist sincerity. And she’s amazing. It’s the year 2000! Electroclash is rising!
To view video click here.

 

 

2001

Depeche Mode Dream On
Depeche Mode’s big come back after David Gahan’s fight with drug addiction. And a further rise of electro which actually owes a lot to Depeche Mode.
To view video click here.

 

 

2002

White Stripes Fell in Love with a Girl
A catchy rock song of a great band that in a quick time proved to be extremely professional and true to the roots of American rock. Great rhythm and a great riff. Plus, of course, Jack White’s vocal which you cannot confuse with anything else in this world. And lyrics in which he treats love seriously and she’s a player.
To view video click here.

 

2003

Beyonce Knowles feat. Jay-Z Crazy in Love
A consequent rise of the mix of R&B, soul and a bit of funk. And an addition of rap/hip hop. From En Vogue until Beyonce it’s over 10 years. Today, noone can imagine the world without Beyonce, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Sean Paul, Busta Rhymes and many more. Well… it’s not so obvious. It’s enough to imagine the pre-1990s with Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince etc. Not that I do not value them (I value Prince the most) but it’s been a long time and much has changed. Also the fact that Beyonce and Jay-Z are now a married couple X-D
To view video click here.

2004

HIM Join Me in Death
The iconic anorectic kinda (but only kinda) dark and kinda (but only kinda) gothic king of Finnish rock. Lame lyrics and lame songs. And dozens of bands following this path. A slow birth of emo-crap.
To view video click here.

 

 

Maroon 5 This Love
The iconic anorectic kinda (but only kinda) nerdy and kinda (but only kinda) cute king of whinining pop rock bands for teenage pussies. And dozens of bands following this path. A slow birth of contemporary “alternative” pop rock bands which have nothing to do with the word “alternative” whatsoever.
To view video click here.

Yes, I want to doom the year of 2004 and erase it from the history X-D

2005

All-American Rejects Dirty Little Secret
A little pop rock shit with some teenage boys trying hard to look all sexy. Sadly, this is what defines many bands pop & rock bands today. But at least they play their instruments.
The love message is unclear but, heck, what do I know about contemporary disturbed teenagers?
To view video click here.

 

2006

Amy Winehouse Back to Black
She may be drugged, hideous and sick. I don’t care. Noone sings with her voice. Noone sings with such tension. Noone is as funky and soul-ish at the same time. And noone is so cruel as she is when she sings: “He left no time to regret | Kept his dick wet | With his same old safe bet | Me and my head high | And my tears dry | Get on without my guy”.
To view video click here.

 

2007

Regina Spektor Fidelity
One of those who follow the path once established by Tori Amos who is a pioneer in here. Ok, some may argue Carole King was first but that’s a different story, imho.
An amazing example of how alternative pop may mean something ambitious and, still, widely known.
To view video click here.

 

2008

The Raconteurs Old Enough
A little bit of folk rock and a little sour lyrics: “you never speak so I have to guess you’re not free”. Great song and a little hope that maybe whining teens is not everything that is left.
To view video click here.

 

 

2009

Lady Gaga Poker Face
She actually looks kinda pretty in this vid. Who would have guessed she’d become the Marilyn Manson of pop? Still, though I’m not a pop fan myself, I’m happy for her achievements. She’s still far more talented than most of the pop starlets and, at least, she has a strong voice she knows how to use instead of Britney’s hums, ohs and umhs which annoy me as hell. Plus, when it’s about love, Gaga is more into obsession, gambling with the feelings and love/hate relationships. And she tries to escape any label. As an electro fan, I definitely prefer this when it comes to pop than Spice Girls or Backstreet Boys :-]
To view video click here.

 

2010

Deftones Rocket Skates
As usual for Moreno the lyrics are cryptic. But, in my opinion, it does include a difficult love/hate relationship. Moreno’s voice is perfect as ever and the whole strength of emotions that tear him apart culminate with the words: “Guns, razors, knives | Fuck with me”. One of the best singles of 2010.
To view video click here.

 

 

Violent Soho Jesus Stole My Girlfriend
A nice rock tune with a little sarcastic lyrics by an Australian alternative rock band. She leaves cause Jesus means more to her than him.
To view video click here.

 

 

 

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silly

12 Feb

Be careful what you wish you for. Not only it may not come true but you, also, may appear silly.

Alice in Videoland, from Sweden, is a self-proclaimed best electropunk band in the world. Well. Guess what – it isn’t! Not to mention the fact that they’re not punk in any possible way whatsoever. LOL!

I had a hard time listening to their newest album A Million Thoughts and They’re All About You. I have to admit that if I went to a club in which this music would have been played, I’d have a pretty good night and I would dance until the dawn. But claiming it’s the best electroclash band in the world is a huge misunderstanding (and lack of any self-criticism).

Sure, there are some songs which are pretty ok but it’s a little disappointing that the best track of the album is Buffalo Stance, which is a cover of a cult single by Neneh Cherry. I’m also afraid that most of their songs incline more into the direction of a very mediocre disco rather than electroclash. In itself, it’s sad. The broadly understood electro has so many possibilities, you can really go into most psychedelic loops, you can rock hard (which is not worse than most though rock bands), you can create experimental things and you can play really catchy, however, ambitious disco songs.

Well, A Million Thoughts and They’re All About You doesn’t have ANY of it! From the musical point of view, both experimental artists and most disco ones are much better than this crap. From Peaches to Aphex Twin, from Bodyrox to Seefeel – everything is better than this! God, at some point I thought that even Britney Spears is better than this, at least she’s consequent in her genre and a big bunch of professional music engineers work their asses off to turn her whining into a dancefloor hit (and, in most cases, they do succeed, you gotta give her that).

What is even more embarrasing is that this album doesn’t differ at all from hundreds of really cheap and shallow records of local Eastern European disco bands. Remember the Romanian band O-Zone? One of the worst songs in the history? Or the Russian band of pretending to be lesbians, t.A.T.u.? Ok, Eastern European music engineering sucks completely. But apart from the fact that you can tell Alice in Videoland has large quantities of money that allows them to buy most expensive computers and hire most expensive experts, what is the difference between them and O-Zone or t.A.T.u.? Well, I’ll tell you: NONE!

Let’s think. Cheap rhythms – in both cases. A shallow, very overestimated vocal of really mediocre abilities – guess what, t.A.T.u. has it as well. Completely repetitive and boring melodies – surprise, surprise, you can find them anywhere.

Some of the songs are not that bad. I mean, if I hear In a Band in one of the clubs, I won’t run away or anything. But nothing, absolutely nothing can force me to listen to this record ever again. Once is absolutely enough!

I’m cruel but… fuck it. To make you compare what we’re talking about, I’m adding four (!!) songs/videos. Little Bird by Alice in Videoland. Sparks by t.A.T.u. which is not so much different in terms of quality – meaning, both of them completely suck; or worse, t.A.T.u. is not so bad compared to Little Bird. Then: the best song of the newest album by Alice in Videoland, Bender – and, actually, it’s the only song worth listening to. And, finally, Bodyrox feat. Luciana. An old hit. I know. But just as a reminder, how this shit should sound like.

This is crap no. 1:

Crap no. 2, which proves to be far better, imo, than crap no. 1:

This is how the whole album should be like, the best song of the album:

This is how this genre should sound in general. An absolute height in the wide disco/electro/dance genre, however, Alice in Videoland will never reach this level, let’s be honest:

p.s. I won’t even mention the quality of lyrics because this is where Alice in Videoland hits rock bottom and doesn’t have, absolutely doesn’t have one single song on the album that would defend them from my cruel comment. Just don’t google their lyrics. It’s for your own safety.

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girl panic! – fuck yeah! I panicked!

11 Feb

I thought the world would end, cause I was afraid I would like the new Duran Duran album. But I didn’t, so…

Now, let me explain you here. Not being a fan of Duran Duran I… yes, it’s going to be embarrasing… I… I have to admit I love some of their records. Such hits as Ordinary World or Hungry Like a Wolf are absolute classics. I may feel ashamed that I love these hits but, on the other hand, should I feel guilty? Most amazing and groundbreaking artists admitted that Duran Duran was important in their musical upbringing. Artists as different as Beck, Courtney Love, Jonathan Davis of Korn, Goldfrapp, Franz Ferdinand or Gwen Stefani. Yeah, you heard me. That means not only those who are active in the broadly understood genre of electronic music but also hardcore rockers.

I was wondering, if I’d like the newest Duran Duran album issued digitally at the end of December 2010 (which will be released physically in March 2011) – All You Need Is Now. Why I didn’t? There are a few answers to that and, of course, you don’t need to agree.

First of all, it’s a very diverse album in terms of quality (yes!) There are songs which are great and remind you of the greatest days of Duran Duran. Such as the eponymous track that opens the album. Such as Blame the Machines which clearly shows that Duran Duran didn’t only influence generations but that new achievements in electro also influenced Duran Duran. The highlights also include the somehow dramatic but still touching Before the Rain and – definitely – the disco track Safe (In the Heat of the Moment) which features Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters. This one is a perfect dancefloor track.

But there are also songs which lack something. Either they’re a bit boring or just don’t have any kind of a strong feature that would have made them outstanding. The corny supposed-to-be a kind of a ballad Leave a Light On is just boring and tiring. Runaway Runaway doesn’t differ in any way at all from hundreds of new wave songs whether they were created in the 1980s or today. The Man Who Stole a Leopard is just a very bad disco song which is extremely cheezy. Girl Panic! includes the most horrible synthesizer solo I’ve ever heard in my whole life and it is truly shocking that Duran Duran didn’t (somehow) realize that much has changed since the last 20 years and that creative possibilities of electronic music are much wider now but also (huh-huh!) chose Girl Panic! as the second single of the album. I mean… really, guys, whose idea was that???

The second thing is… right. The test of time. I’m not saying that Duran Duran shouldn’t stay true to its music and that it should record something completely new. I’m not even saying they should go in the direction of Warp Records (although I am a Warp fan, definitely). I just think that it’s a shame that such acknowledged and, after all, talented artists didn’t use the new possibilities, didn’t even try to add a fresh spice to their music, didn’t feel a need to experiment at all.

The third thing is… uhm, ok, that’s the last one. I don’t want it to become a list of mistakes. I’m not sure if it’s engineered correctly. Mark Ronson is considered one of the best living producers. He’s the one responsible for the rise to fame of many new artists such as Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen or Adele (whose newest album I also need to listen to). Maybe I was wrong but I expected that All You Need Is Now would have been a bit more funky. And it’s not. I’m sorry to say this but the music sounds just flat. And when, in cases of some though experimental electro-shit, it’s an advantage, here – I’m not so sure about it. The sound doesn’t have the depth it should have. One step further and it would’ve become a bunch of midi-generated melodies (sic!)

Luckily, Simon LeBon still has the voice of his youth. He’s over 50 now and this boyish, metallic voice still amazes me.

Btw, I just had the most silly thought. Maybe it’s the British accent but… in All You Need Is Now (not in the chorus, though) doesn’t LeBon sound like Liam Gallagher’s brother? o_O

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Београд-תל אביב

22 May

The newest album of Balkan Beat Box was recorded in Belgrade, Serbia and Tel Aviv, Israel – and this says enough about the music that you can expect. Blue Eyed Black Boy is a typical example of the band’s style – a mix of genres and different musical influences, from, most importantly, Balkan music (not only in the meaning of former Yugoslavian countries, but also a bit of Greece) and Middle Eastern music (Israeli and Arabian), through dub, reggae, even a little bit of hip-hop up until Latin American dances with the amazing Marcha De La Vida as a key example.

I don’t want to spoil the fun with saying too much about this release. You have to check out for yourselves. All I want to say is – the more you listen to it, the more you will love it, and if you listen to the whole album over and over again, you will find some amazing things during each listening. This record is like a rare, precious, although very powerful and strong object – there are always some new sounds to discover, sounds you didn’t hear when listening to it for the first time. The rythmic section and the brass section – are, as always, genius! And yes, you can say that it’s nothing that you haven’t heard from BBB but one thing is for sure – these guys know how to rock and, most of all, they’re extremely consequent with their musical choices, their genre (or, I should rather say: mixed-genres) of music and – what is most important – with the extremely high level of performing it.

Grab it, listen to it, love it! In fact, I am sure you will love it. And even if you’re not into this nerdy idea of listening to something and trying to solve the riddle hidden inside, you will enjoy it cause this album is just pure fun and amazing pleasure! As a teaser, my favorite song of the album: War Again.