Tag Archives: popular culture

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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rock fashion? Wtf?

26 May

Ok, guys, I find it kinda creepy, let’s be honest. The pictures are well made and in some cases (but only some) the models look really similar to the original people. Still… weird…

I love the Marilyn Manson pic, though 😀

A big “thank you” to the Fashion Movement blog, where I found it 🙂

back to school

21 May

Yes. I was born in the early 1980’s and, yes, you’re right, I was raised during the grunge era with a little addition of early industrial/quazi-industrial/you name it. Of course, when the journey through the world of music starts, finally you realize that you’re 15, totally addicted to internet and new media, however, still being able to appreciate some of the classic rock acts (awright, awright, my dad is a huuuuge Frank Zappa fan, so, naturally, I was born, raised and nurtured on Frank Zappa). Still, when this year two popular bands from the 1990’s released new albums after yeeeeaaars of silence, I had a feeling like I was back to school. Ah, c’mon guys, you know the feeling – being 30, working as a corporate clone, feeling free and young back again while listening to bands we used to listen 15 years ago. Whoah! Wind in your hair! X-D

What’s most important here – the albums that I am thinking of really surprised me. And – yes – in a positive meaning of this ancient word 😉

First of all. Hole. Courtney Love is pretty special in the world of American rock. Sure, controversial. Sure, accused of most horrible things including killing her legendary husband. But, putting gossips aside, she IS a woman with one of the strongest, most influential personalities in rock music. And, a woman with a very strong, husky voice that’s absolutely born for rock. She’s made some mistakes, one of which was the release of her solo album (although I cannot say I hate it totally; it’s not bad, it’s just… weak… very mediocre, very much below her abilities, and, therefore, a major disappointment). She’s made a difficult turn from harsh, almost punk-like rock to a more pop-version of soft rock. And even though many bands did this in the end of 1990’s (most notably, Smashing Pumpkins) it is pretty natural for hard rock fans to loathe such transformations. I still support my earlier statement that Pretty on the Inside is the best album by Hole – very raw, very garage-like, full of ultra-feminist, punk, frustrated lyrics, not mentioning heavily drugged guitar riffs. Who remembers Good Sister/Bad Sister or Teenage Whore, knows what I’m talking about. Live Through This was much more commercial but still good – Credit in the Straight World (strong punk influence) being my favorite song of this album. From Celebrity Skin I got more and more disappointed. But, on the other hand, it was inevitable – Hole had to evolve from a garage band to a commercial soft-rock success. And a new era started – an era of songs which are not specifically unique or raw but simply amusing and easy to listen to. Not being a huge fan of music that is “easy”, I do not value Celebrity Skin so much. But I got used to the fact that Courtney Love became a commercial product. And, no, I don’t mean to be rude – after all, all of us, rock fans, do love Madonna 😀

So, back to my point, I got used to the changes in the music world. I don’t despise a band that turned out to be more commercial then they used to be. I don’t call them sell outs, I still listen to early as well as late recordings of Korn/System of a Down/etc. and even though I prefer the early ones, I am able to appreciate a commercial-success, sell-out (damn! I said it!) album.

Consequently, I did not have high expectations when it comes to the newest album by Hole. I didn’t expect Love to raise her band from the grave and to go back to her raw, punk/garage/pre-Seattle roots. What I had in mind, though, was a feeling that she cannot cope with the music business anymore and that Nobody’s Daughter would be more like her solo record which disappointed me greatly. And… no… in the case of the newest album I wasn’t disappointed. Of course it’s soft-rock, of course it’s commercial, of course it doesn’t satisfy my needs for something stronger, darker and, most of all, more complicated. But this is one of the albums that you’ll be glad to have in your iPod while being on a 3-week hiking in the middle of nowhere. It’s catchy, it’s relaxing, it’s actually… pretty summer-like (omg, I said it), it’s positive and energetic. All the eleven songs – and I mean it.

A few words about the songs:
Two songs which are opening the album – Nobody’s Daughter and Skinny Little Bitch – absolutely written to become hit singles. And, actually Skinny Little Bitch is the first single to promote the album. Btw, you may find such a comparison funny but, in my opinion, Skinny Little Bitch is perfect as a background song for NASCAR X-D

Someone Else’s Bed – going back to the core of American rock music
For Once in Your Life – rock ballad, piano, string section and a bit corny, pathetic rhythm that would turn into Sheryl Crow only if it wasn’t for the (so typical of her) rock whining of the strongest female rock voice that, and I still do believe that, belongs to Courtney Love. Somehow reminds me of Silverchair (LMAO, do you remember that band? After years, with some exceptions when it comes to their songs, I find them utterly funny X-D)
Letter to God – reminds me of Lou Reed or early Nick Cave, one of the best songs of the whole album – in terms of music as well as lyrics, you can interpret it as a sort of Love’s personal confession.
Loser Dust – Courtney still remembers her punk roots although they’re much filtered through what she’s been doing for the last 10 years.
How Dirty Girls Get Clean – a very surprising song, by the way. Much more rough than the whole album, much more rough than whole Celebrity Skin, a little step further and it could fit Live Through This. It actually proves that Love feels better with emotional and personal lyrics. How Dirty Girls Get Clean together with Letter to God are definitely the best songs of the album.
Pacific Coast Highway – the worst song of the album, the new version of Malibu (the title is not the only resemblance, unfortunately). Love should quit it with these summer-beach-surfing fixation of hers :-/ Just quit it, Courtney, quit it, quit it! Arghghgh! (I read somewhere that it’s chosen as the second single… damn!)

Who’s most noticeable among the musicians? The bassist! Goddamn, that’s some good work outta there. Check out for yourselves. Let’s hope Love keeps Shawn Dailey in the band.

When it comes to her singing, the older she gets, the more she reminds me of Marianne Faithfull. And no, not because both of them are Jewish X-D

Funny. The same thing happened to me when it comes to Stone Temple Pilots who also released a new album after 9 years of silence. No. 4 disappointed me a bit but I, somehow, managed to connect it to the tendency of turning from a rock god of the 90’s to a commercial sell out (yes, I said it again). Btw, I’m constantly surprised by how consequent reviewers are when they classify this album as an example of contemporary psychedelic rock. I don’t know what you think, guys, but “contemporary psychedelic rock” is more like Mars Volta to me than No. 4. Scott Weiland’s solo album was a major disappointment for me. Shangri-La Dee Da was much better but still… somehow… I didn’t “buy” it. And now… this. Still not what I would like to hear from Stone Temple Pilots, but it’s a good album.

And yes, I won’t say anything new here but Stone Temple Pilots is a very nice mix of genres and different influences. From blues, the 1960’s, the Doors, through David Bowie up to early Aerosmith. Ok, it’s not an ambitious project. It’s not an album that could be compared to Core or Purple, or even to Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, but… damn! It’s good. Actually each of the songs could promote the album. Most of them are fresh, even though deeply rooted in various musical styles, most of them are energetic, catchy and – Weiland’s voice. In the beginning I found it hard with getting used to it. I preferred the deep voice he had while recording the first two albums by STP. Also, until today, I am very much convinced that Weiland’s vocal style is as much dependant on Jim Morrison or David Bowie as it depends on singers of the 1950’s (yeah, I said it, even if you don’t believe your own eyes), e.g. Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett. Today, Weiland’s voice is more flat, more sharp, more edgy. And, though it was hard for me in the beginning, I think I… kinda like it. It adds some spice to the melodic songs that are soooo typical of STP.

Definitely worth listening! From A to Z. Between the Lines is like an overture to a symphony or an opera – it gives you the taste of the whole album compressed in less than 3 minutes 🙂 Melodic, rhythmic, relaxed, confident rock. And, frankly, even if you think it’s corny, this is what I always liked about STP. I like them the way they are – not pretending to be something bigger, not pretending to be tortured, martyred artists with god-knows-what concept behind everything they do. To me STP seem like a band of well trained professionals. People who are good musicians, perform their music well, make it amusing, make you relax. And, frankly, I admire that. There’s definitely too many musicians with a mission and cryptic messages sent out to the suffering world X-D STP know how to play their music well and are true to what they’re doing.

Favorite tracks of the album?
Hickory Dichotomy – blues influence and… I would even say that there is something country-like in it. Weiland is half-singing, half-talking, the guitar solo – pure American dream of Midwest 😉 Great!
Dare If You Dare – soft rock with some addition of the 1960’s or 1970’s. Too soft in a way (ok, I’m more into hard rock STP) but – frankly – after listening to the whole album, it’s one of the melodies that sticks to your mind for a long, long time. You just can’t help singing together with Weiland 😀
Bagman – if the Beatles were American and recorded their albums in 1990’s, this is how it would sound… On the other hand, there is some of Rolling Stones influence in it.
Samba Nova – absolutely surprising track! And I absolutely love it! And I support my thesis that Weiland was raised not only on Morrison, but also classical songs of the 1950’s 🙂

All in all – a very good album! Congratulations to STP!

As a final thought to this whole, loooong post. Two things:

1. I’m just hoping that in the course of prodigal sons/daughters coming back to their bands (Hole, Stone Temple Pilots, Jane’s Addiction, Faith No More although it’s hard to call Mike Patton a prodigal son cause this guy is a genius and I don’t remember a single album he’s released that would be below my expectations) someone will kick the butt of Chris Cornell cause since the breakup of Soundgarden this guy became a sort of a sinking ship – maybe except for a brief affair with the guys of Rage Against the Machine, but Audioslave was still much below the level of RATM, so… still… a sinking ship, sorry Chris.

2. The only question remains – why are most of the bands of my childhood switching from hard rock to easy-to-listen rock ballads? I thought you’d do it, when you become a grandpa. Aerosmith? Ringing any bells? On the other hand, most of these guys are way over 40. Shit… I’m getting old! X-D