Tuesday, 20 August 2019

NEW MUSIC EAR'S THOUGHTS ON: KANYE WEST

THESE THOUGHTS ARE MY OWN RANDOM MUSINGS ABOUT MUSIC.  THEY ARE NOT INTENDED TO OFFEND, MUSIC IS TO BE ENJOYED AND ALSO DEBATED.  WE ALL HAVE OUR FAVOURITES AND IDOLS AND EACH GENERATION HAS DIFFERENT OPINIONS.  THESE ARE MINE.  SOME YOU MAY FIND INTOLERABLE, SOME YOU MAY FIND AGREEABLE.


KANYE WEST

I heard Kanye West's name thrown around in music magazines and on music programmes many years ago and had no idea who he was.  I had heard he was some kind of producer but mostly I thought he was just a hanger-on in music circles and certain stars knew of him.  Next thing I know he is with Kim Kardashian and that awful Kardashian family (more people who got famous for pretty much nothing).

Next thing I hear he has been a prat at the VMA Awards being pretty rude to Taylor Swift.  Apparently all this time he had been making "records" though I had never heard of anything he has ever done or of anything noteworthy from this person.  I know I am not big in Hip Hop circles, apparently he is a "rapper", who knew?

Then as a big fan of Prince I hear West giving a half baked insult "tribute" to the great man saying he was "the best the world has ever seen, present company excluded".  So basically he was saying that Prince was the SECOND greatest artist of all time behind HIM!.  I realised this man was a bit of a joke in music circles as everyone seemed to be making fun of him for stupid things he has said or done.

When I looked at his Wikipedia I was shocked, 21 Grammys won from 69 nominations???.  I had never heard of him! I have since heard some of his music, all relatively dull fare, run-of-the-mill Hip Hop that Grandmaster Flash would laugh at.  None of his music is extraordinary, quite average.  The man believes in his own hype, his Wikipedia states " West is among the most critically acclaimed artists of the twenty-first century, receiving praise from music critics, fans, fellow musicians, artists, and wider cultural figures for his work".  Did he write this himself? None of the artists I like have ever mentioned this person, nobody I know thinks he is great.  All I know he is husband of a person who gained fame from a sex video and a massive bottom.

I did see some fashion show he had on MTV I think to show his new clothes line, really that was hilarious.  The man sure has balls to actually think he is that popular.  All I can say is kudos to his promotion team because the hype does not reflect the man.  I don't know who is buying his records but I suggest that maybe they should aim higher.  I have heard ten times better rappers and Hip Hop music than the dross this man is, for some reason being praised for.

Sometimes hype buys you fame, notoriety buys you fame, sadly in this case, talent did not buy him fame.  His views nobody cares about but himself.   I saw him on Ellen DeGeneres' chat show once, and that was enough, what a self centred, arrogant prat who loved the sound of his own voice.  Sadly nothing of note came out.



NEW MUSIC EAR'S THOUGHTS ON: PINK

THESE THOUGHTS ARE MY OWN RANDOM MUSINGS ABOUT MUSIC.  THEY ARE NOT INTENDED TO OFFEND, MUSIC IS TO BE ENJOYED AND ALSO DEBATED.  WE ALL HAVE OUR FAVOURITES AND IDOLS AND EACH GENERATION HAS DIFFERENT OPINIONS.  THESE ARE MINE.  SOME YOU MAY FIND INTOLERABLE, SOME YOU MAY FIND AGREEABLE.

PINK


I first heard about Pink like many people with the song, "Get The Party Started" and since then have been a massive fan.  The cool thing is my wife is also a fan so Pink's music is one we can both enjoy listening to together.  Even now I look back on all the albums I am still surprised at the difference in the debut album, "Can't Take Me Home" compared to the later more Rock orientated material.

The first album was (no offence to Pink) pretty average fare, typical R n' B and Britney Spears-like Pop music.  Since the "Missundaztood" album with the aforementioned "Get The Part Started", "Just Like A Pill" and "Don't Let Me Get Me" Pink has in my opinion, soared as an artist.

I recently read that Pink consciously changed her music style because she was being pencilled in with all the other bubblegum Pop artists around and wanted to be taken seriously as a songwriter and artist.

She used to come across as this tough cookie, no shit tomboy character but since having her children we have seen a more vunerable side.  I have always found her interesting, she is knowledgeable about the world at large, intelligent on serious matters and will always give an opinion, whether it is provocative or not.  Her lyrics are always thought provoking with positive messages, twisted romanticism and personal battles.  As a lyricist she is up there with the best.

Pink has a unique sense of fashion, she is a trendsetter, she breaks down taboo boundaries just like one of her idols, Madonna used to do.  She is forthright on all subjects and a keen supporter of animal welfare, LGBT rights and involved in a variety of charity organisations.

Her concerts are a sight to behold, energetic, and she can REALLY sing live, unlike some of today's artists.  I consider Pink and Taylor Swift as the two top major female players in the music industry taking over from Lady Gaga and Beyonce, both without the publicity stories and hype that surround the previous two.  Pink and Taylor are genuine artists, songwriters and can both smash it live, they aren't pretentious and say what they think.

Pink's albums of late have been sets of hit after hit, an amazing and clever transformation from "Can't Take Me Home", she really took stock and built up a tremendous back catalogue and legacy.  She can make you want to battle, love, be angry at the world or cry with her, her voice can transcend genres.



 

Thursday, 15 August 2019

NEW MUSIC EAR'S THOUGHTS ON: RUSH

THESE THOUGHTS ARE MY OWN RANDOM MUSINGS ABOUT MUSIC.  THEY ARE NOT INTENDED TO OFFEND, MUSIC IS TO BE ENJOYED AND ALSO DEBATED.  WE ALL HAVE OUR FAVOURITES AND IDOLS AND EACH GENERATION HAS DIFFERENT OPINIONS.  THESE ARE MINE.  SOME YOU MAY FIND INTOLERABLE, SOME YOU MAY FIND AGREEABLE.

RUSH


Rush were one of those bands I got into late, mainly because I just thought they were one of those bands my brother used to play that I would never understand like Pink Floyd (still don't get it!) and to a certain extent Led Zeppelin.  These reminded me of a kind of "university" music that only posh kids and "higher education" could really understand, to me the likes of overlong instrumental hippie stuff was boring as hell.  It pretty much opened my ears to a different kind of Rock music.  Sneaking into my brother's room playing gems on his much better stereo than mine when he was out, playing loud stuff like Thin Lizzy and the ultimate Rock introduction compilation, "Axe Attack"! I was hearing Rainbow, Iron Maiden, U.F.O and other giants.

When I heard "Closer To The Heart" and "Tom Sawyer" I thought this new Electronic styled Rock was amazing.  I started to appreciate the musicianship of Rock players and Rush were so dfferent to anything I had ever heard.  The music they made kind of filled the room and whizzed round your head in a wall of sound.  I never thought I would like this kind of music, being into the New Romantic, Synth Pop and mostly Pop styled genres of the 80s.  This was kind of a guilty pleasure.

Rush and Thin Lizzy were the basis of my more Rock orientated favourites.  Rush had the Electronics wizardry and Thin Lizzy had the glorious guitar combos.  I have listened to more and more Rush over the years, the futuristic concept-style album "2112" is most fans' and my favourite set.  Love older tracks like "The Trees", "Bastille Day", "Working Man", "Freewill" and "The Spirit Of Radio".

Geddy Lee's vocals are like Marmite, high pitched at times. I suppose like Axl Rose, you either love that style or you don't.  It took a lot of getting used to, but with Rush's sci-fi sound it works perfectly.  I have heard a lot of Rock since and there is nothing out there that sounds like the band, they are very unique and difficult to imitate I guess.  That's another thing that makes them special and a one-off.

Playing the band's music in headphones is a great experience, you hear every little pure sound and realise there is a lot going on than you thought.  It's like a live experience and sometimes like watching a movie as the song's mostly have a lyric like a story so you are imagining the imagery while listening.

It just shows that if you don't give something a listen you may miss out on something great, its worth the risk to find some great music.  That's why I look up new bands and singers, there is some awesome stuff out there that may be out of your comfort zone but you may get to love.  I listened to The Beatles albums, every one, from one of my friend's dad's collection.  Just to see what the fuss was about, it didn't work for me, I still did not get it, I found the songs simple and more boyband-ish than classic songwriting, but that's just me.  With Rush I found a new sound just by sneakily exploring my brother's record collection, I recommend it!



NEW MUSIC EAR'S THOUGHTS ON: MADONNA

THESE THOUGHTS ARE MY OWN RANDOM MUSINGS ABOUT MUSIC.  THEY ARE NOT INTENDED TO OFFEND, MUSIC IS TO BE ENJOYED AND ALSO DEBATED.  WE ALL HAVE OUR FAVOURITES AND IDOLS AND EACH GENERATION HAS DIFFERENT OPINIONS.  THESE ARE MINE.  SOME YOU MAY FIND INTOLERABLE, SOME YOU MAY FIND AGREEABLE.

MADONNA


Love her or hate her, Madonna sure has divided the music industry and its listeners for many years.  Although my Madonna music collection almost matches my Prince collection, the excitement of any forthcoming album since the release of "Music" in 2000 hasn't been as great as before said collection. My comments on her new album and any material from "American Life" onwards have met with such abuse in Facebook groups who obsess about the lady and would like an album of her opening an envelope in different places if it means defending her.

Like I said, I have been a Madonna fan since seeing her perfom "Holiday" on The Tube programme in the UK in 1984 at The Hacienda club.  She was fresh, captivating and you could tell this lady was going to be a star and the song was damn infectious.  I began collecting her music since then, with Prince I collected everything I could.  She became a pioneer, an original, she broke boundaries about females in music and sex taboo subjects in general.  She was loved by males and females alike and also in the gay communities promoting their rights.  A real star and legend of Pop music.

She tried acting and with various success, I loved "Desperately Seeking Susan", "Who's That Girl" and in "Evita" she was awesome.  "Dick Tracy" showed her in a different light too alongside Warren Beatty.  Starting her own record company Maverick also paved the way for the success of artists like Alanis Morissette.  Madonna was a force to be reckoned with and was a major power in music.

The hits flowed with such originality and various provocative videos, every album was greeted with critical acclaim and I couldn't wait for the next lot of material and a new look and sound.  From "Madonna" ("The First Album") to "Music" in 2000 every album was a classic.  Since then, in my opinion, the music has detoriated gradually with each album, the creativity and originality that she was known for seems to be lacking more and more.  Although "Hung Up" was a huge hit, it seemed to be the start of using samples and more vocoded vocals, even after she improved dramatically vocally for "Evita", why waste this new talent?

"American Life" was a big disappointment for me, with only a handful of tracks that could have matched "Ray Of Light" for class, "Love Profusion" and "Hollywood" included.  "Confessions On A Dancefloor" has a couple of quality songs such as "Sorry" and "Hard Candy" was almost Madonna back to her best, with a few great tracks.  "MDNA", "Rebel Heart" and the latest offering, "Madame X" had moments of brilliance but mostly disappointments.  Collaborators that are not known globally, average songs, copycats of other other artists, too many samples with no substance to please the younger generation.  This woman duetted with Prince, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake now its relative unknowns such as Maluma and Quavo(????), who are these people?

I still buy every album Madonna releases to complete my collection and hopefully find a couple of gems and classic tracks among the less quality output.  I realise not every song can be a "Like A Prayer", "Into The Groove", "Secret", "Ray Of Light" or "Erotica" but surely if she didn't care so much about selling records to the kids, and putting out quality to keep her regular fans happy for music's sake it would be better.  Prince didn't care about sales or pleasing the "new generation", he loved music and had respect for his loyal fans.  Experimenting is fine but ultimately us older fans get these stars where they are and should be respected not left behind.  Keeping up with the times is ok too but if the quality suffers, older fans lose interest and that is where the problem lies.





Tuesday, 13 August 2019

NEW MUSIC EAR'S THOUGHTS ON: FAMOUS BANDS, NEW VOCALISTS?

THESE THOUGHTS ARE MY OWN RANDOM MUSINGS ABOUT MUSIC.  THEY ARE NOT INTENDED TO OFFEND, MUSIC IS TO BE ENJOYED AND ALSO DEBATED.  WE ALL HAVE OUR FAVOURITES AND IDOLS AND EACH GENERATION HAS DIFFERENT OPINIONS.  THESE ARE MINE.  SOME YOU MAY FIND INTOLERABLE, SOME YOU MAY FIND AGREEABLE. 

FAMOUS BANDS, NEW VOCALISTS?


I was thinking about this debatable subject when I came upon Spandau Ballet supposedly ditching Ross William Wild because it was "not working as we hoped" after only a few gigs.  I also found in some Facebook groups about Queen that fans were actually wanting Adam Lambert and others to "replace" Freddie Mercury.

In my opinion if you change a vocalist with such a famous voice like Tony Hadley and Freddie Mercury for someone else you should also change your band name, not pretend that its the same band that had all the hits before, it isn't!

The vocalists more often than not make those songs hits, yes the band members may change every now and then such as the guitarists or drummers but the vocals make the songs.  The only exceptions I can think of to this rule are that Bon Jovi lost a lot i their sound when Richie Sambora left, it was noticeable.  The same can be said with Slash, the Guns N' Roses' long awaited album, "Chinese Democracy" still had Axl as vocalist but that "special" unique playing style of the man in the top hat was sorely missed.

I digress slightly so back to my point.  If Spandau Ballet changed their name to Spandau or Second Ballet or Queen changed their name to Queen Two or something it would be ok.  This would show that they were not trying to be the same band because it will sound different.  When Fish left Marillion it wasn't the same sound when Steve Hogarth took over, although the music may still sound good, this was a different era and should be noted by a name change.  Gary Kemp said "this is a new chapter for the band" but it wasn't, it was Spandau Ballet singing the same songs that only Big Tone could sing immaculately, with someone else, it was a rehash.

Bands change singers regularly before they become famous, that's normal, such as Simon Le Bon replacing Stephen 'Tintin' Duffy in Duran Duran.  Adam Ant had to find a completely new band when Malcolm McLaren fiendishly stole the original Ants to form Bowwowwow but he kept the name and never looked back, even though the first album was decidedly dfferent from anything later.

Queen can never replace Freddie, or get someone else to sing the songs he made famous.  He was a legendary frontman, a big act to follow in any terms but trying with a new singer and keeping the same name, singing the same songs, to me disrespects the legacy he left.

Sometines it works, when AC/DC's Bon Scott died in 1980, they almost quit but Brian Johnson took over on vocals and the rest is history.  Bruce Dickinson replaced Paul Di'Anno after the first two albums for Iron Maiden and they had fabulous success.  When Bruce left in the 90s to be replaced by Blaze Bayley the songs lacked his power up front until he returned.

So, it sometimes works, mostly it doesn't if you are a top, top band with a succession of hits.  It is dangerous to still say, "this is still the same band" when the voice that pretty much sold the records is not there.  It's a crazy point but imagine Blondie without Debbie Harry, would they still be Blondie?, no chance!



Sunday, 11 August 2019

NEW MUSIC EAR'S THOUGHTS ON: RAP AND HIP-HOP

THESE THOUGHTS ARE MY OWN RANDOM MUSINGS ABOUT MUSIC.  THEY ARE NOT INTENDED TO OFFEND, MUSIC IS TO BE ENJOYED AND ALSO DEBATED.  WE ALL HAVE OUR FAVOURITES AND IDOLS AND EACH GENERATION HAS DIFFERENT OPINIONS.  THESE ARE MINE.  SOME YOU MAY FIND INTOLERABLE, SOME YOU MAY FIND AGREEABLE. 

RAP AND HIP-HOP


I always tell people that I am not a big fan of Rap and Hip-Hop music which is partly true.  The 90s and beyond Rap is intolerable.  I remember hearing "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five and "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang. These songs and tracks like "White Lines", "Step Off" and others by other top rappers such as Melle Mel made valid points, political and social and you could hear and understand every word.  They meant something.

Then Rap and Hip-Hop evolved into something strange, apart from LL Cool J who was still carryng on the 80s vibe, it became angry and evoked gangland imagery and aggressive actions instead of positive reactions.  The breakdancing songs and films promoted something positive as well.

Eminem is a case in point, I have no idea what that man says in his songs, its all mumbo jumbo to me.  He could be writing intense messages in his songs but who would know? Its all fast talking and electronic weirdness that nobody understands but himself and any loyal fan who bothered to look up the lyrics.  I find this ridiculous, when I was writing song I wanted listeners to hear the lyrics, understand them and find something for themselves within the songwriting.  

It gradually got worse, almost every video of Hip-Hop or Rap would feature the "artists" decked out in gold chains, making aggressive actions to the camera and surrounded by half naked girls.  Check out videos in the 90s and beyond, and you will see what I mean.  No wonder the scene got a bad reputation, it was being promoted as such.  Swearing became more prominent in the songs to an excessive extent which made no imprint on the listener only to provoke the censors.

I liked the positive messages and quirky styles by the likes of Flash and Melle Mel, it was listenable.  Now I cannot stand any of it, I worried when Prince intoduced a couple of rappers for his "Diamonds And Pearls" album but to be fair the rap was a minor inclusion, some was annoying, some melded well in songs.  I became ok with tiny bits of Rap but the main Hip-Hop artists' songs, no way.  It is a pity that some music styles don't always evolve into something great but actually demean the origins.





NEW MUSIC EAR'S THOUGHTS ON: ED SHEERAN

THESE THOUGHTS ARE MY OWN RANDOM MUSINGS ABOUT MUSIC.  THEY ARE NOT INTENDED TO OFFEND, MUSIC IS TO BE ENJOYED AND ALSO DEBATED.  WE ALL HAVE OUR FAVOURITES AND IDOLS AND EACH GENERATION HAS DIFFERENT OPINIONS.  THESE ARE MINE.  SOME YOU MAY FIND INTOLERABLE, SOME YOU MAY FIND AGREEABLE. 

ED SHEERAN


For regular readers of my blog it may have been expressed previously my confusion about Ed Sheeran.  I don't get it, I don't understand it and I am confused at all the adulation this guy gets.  Sure he can play guitar and he sings ok but to sell so many records and critics to be claiming he is one of the best songwriters ever is alarming

I admit I secretly liked "The A-Team", his debut single but then again I liked Coldplay's "Yellow" until they started releasing every song that sounded the same and was as twee and dull as the last.  I also liked Oasis' "Live Forever" before all the rest sounded like the others.  With Mr Sheeran he has not been out of the charts since 2011, is clogging up all charts with releasing a song every five minutes and instantly they are appearing in half the top 10.  

For me, there are better singers with guitars around who simply haven't had a break.  I find Ed Sheeran average and is definitely NOT one of the best ever songwriters.  The kids of today may think that but they would also see One Direction as the best ever "band" despite not playing instruments.

Now he is appearing in films and TV such as Game Of Thrones and The Simpsons just because he is Ed Sheeran.  How has this happened?.  I blame the Internet and the talent shows for allowing average entertainers to be stars.  I know people must like his music somewhere, but surely there are better alternatives?.  I don't think he's a great singer and how sure are we that all his lyrics are his own.  The alleged incidents involving copying other artists' material is well documented and I won't comment too much on that as I don't know the facts.  

To me Ed will always be the famous busker on the street who got lucky and a lot of hype and airplay (which most brilliant new artists don't get) got him known.  Legendary songwriters like Paul Simon and Ray Davies of The Kinks must be wondering what the hell happened when compared to the likes of Ed Sheeran!



NEW MUSIC EAR'S THOUGHTS ON: BEYONCE

THESE THOUGHTS ARE MY OWN RANDOM MUSINGS ABOUT MUSIC.  THEY ARE NOT INTENDED TO OFFEND, MUSIC IS TO BE ENJOYED AND ALSO DEBATED.  WE ALL HAVE OUR FAVOURITES AND IDOLS AND EACH GENERATION HAS DIFFERENT OPINIONS.  THESE ARE MINE.  SOME YOU MAY FIND INTOLERABLE, SOME YOU MAY FIND AGREEABLE. 

BEYONCE


Beyonce seems to have it all, men lust after her, women idolise her, she is in a powerfully rich couple and she seemingly can do no wrong.  For me, I used to really like Beyonce, she was part of a great girl singing group, Destiny's Child and like every red blooded male I thought she was gorgeous.

I had all the Destiny's Child cds and thought the video to "Bootylicious" was awesome.  This girl was obviously destined (no pun intended) to branch out on her own.  No disrespect to the other girls but Beyonce stood out.

I used to like the girl group En Vogue and I thought Destiny's Child were the closest thing to them with the sassy lyrics and attitude and great vocal harmonies.  Great songs like "Say My Name", "Survivor", and of course the previously mentioned, "Bootylicious".

When Beyonce decided to release her solo album "Dangerously In Love" I was intrigued and I already loved the "Work It Out" song from the Austin Powers film, Goldmember.   This was what I expected Beyonce solo tracks to be like.  Then came "Crazy In Love", a brilliant video and song until..Jay-Z came in and ruined the song with his poor rapping.  I have nothing against the guy but he is pretty average at what he does and I am sure he has had a lot of input in Beyonce's last few releases, hence my reduced enthusiasm.  I think he has been a bad influence if I am honest.

I liked a few of her next singles, including "Naughty Girl", the brilliant "Beautiful Liar" with Shakira and even "Telephone" with Lady GaGa.  There seemed to be something missing until the "I Am... Sasha Fierce" album with some great tracks, the now famous "Single Ladies(Put A Ring On It)", "If I Were A Boy" and "Halo".  I have only really liked the song "Run The World(Girls)" since.

The whole Beyonce thing has become a bit stale in my eyes, the posing with her baby bump, really? It's all been done before many times.  The way she portrayed herself as some kind of royalty figure was a little sad.  I used to admire her but its all become a little boring, the releasing of every song on the "Lemonade" clogging up the charts seemed to be a desperate attempt to reclaim her fans' faith after a few strange incidents and stories were floating around at the time.

I still think she is gorgeous, that would be stupid not to think that but her music has become stale, when it could have been a lot more.  There are more inspirational female pop stars around at the moment and she is sadly behind them, becoming yet another run of the mill R n' B act like Rihanna and many, many more.

Beyonce and her personal life has become more important and prominent than her actual musical output which I find rather sad for someone obviously so talented.