Stu On Songs

Long winded & unnecessary explanations of why I do or do not like songs

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19 Plays
Aaliyah
Age Ain't Nothing but a Number

Aaliyah’s “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” is about as classic ’90s R&B as it gets. The song was written and produced by her mentor, R. Kelly, who just happens to be one of my favorite artists of all time. The two were introduced by Barry Hankerson, an entertainment lawyer, Aaliyah’s uncle, R. Kelly’s manager, and husband to Gladys Knight in the ’70s. I’ve talked before about how, sometimes, listening to R. Kelly-produced Aaliyah tracks from this era can get a little uncomfortable knowing what we know about their relationship, but that can’t stop the music from being some of the best in class.

The album sounds extraordinarily mature for someone who was just 14-15 years old at the time of recording. Obviously, this has much to do with the entire album being written and produced by Mr. Bump n’ Grind himself. The title track, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number,” is absolutely one of the best songs the man ever wrote.

Slow jams hold a special place in everyone’s heart, including my own. Aaliyah’s vocals are silky smooth over Kelly’s early signature slow jam style. The thing that I always liked about Aaliyah’s vocal stylings is that she never tried to be something she wasn’t. The songs were not full of complex melismas and various vocal runs; she kept it simple and to the point. If you think about it, shouldn’t that always be the goal of a sexy song?

There is a reoccurring interpolation of Bobby Caldwell’s oft-sampled 1978 classic “What You Won’t Do For Love.” It’s very fitting for the song’s subject matter. Also, it’s such a good song on its own that I welcome pretty much any track that chooses to sample it.

Filed under Aaliyah Age Ain't Nothing but a Number R. Kelly R&B Slow Jams Slow Jam Quiet Storm Barry Hankerson Bump n' Grind Bobby Caldwell What You Won't Do For Love Interpolation Good Music

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Playlist Challenge

You can tell a lot about someone by the type of music they listen to. Hit shuffle on your iPod, phone, iTunes, media player etc.. and write down the first 20 songs. Then pass this on to some people. Only one rule : no skipping.

I was tagged by @blesseddare. Thank you!

1. The Postal Service - We Will Become Silhouettes (Featuring Jenny Lewis on background vocals!)
2. Ozma - Natalie Portman (The first Ozma song I ever heard. Still great.)
3. Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty - Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around
4. Norah Jones - I’ve Got to See You Again
5. Betty Wright - I’ll Love You Forever Heart and Soul (Tonight’s the night like Betty Wright and I’m chillin’)
6. Passion Pit - American Blood
7. Heavy D & the Boyz - Something Goin’ On
8. The Presidents of the United States of America - Basketball Dream
9. Jay-Z - Imaginary Player
10. Marva Whitney - What Do I Have to Do to Prove my Love to You
11. Ahmad Jamal - The World is a Ghetto
12. Aerosmith - Love in an Elevator (I regularly ask myself why I own Aerosmith’s Big Ones album. Today is one of those days)
13. Mac Davis - Watching Scotty Grow (Remember that episode of The Simpsons “Saturdays of Thunder" where Homer helps Bart build a soapbox derby racer? That’s how I know this one)
14. Danger Radio - Used and Abused (I once wrote a piece for a show during grad school that ripped off the chord progression from a Danger Radio song. It wasn’t this one)
15. The Raspberries - Let’s Pretend
16. Keith Jarrett - Nomads
17. Jodeci - Come & Talk to Me
18. Tyler Brunsman and Joe Moses - Guys Like Potter (Darren Criss, now of Glee fame, wrote all the music for this show. He’s very good and Glee doesn’t do him justice at all)
19. Zapp - Coming Home
20. Mandrill - House of Wood

All y’all should totally do this. I always have a fun time with this sort of thing.

Filed under Playlist Challenge The Postal Service Ozma Stevie Nicks Tom Petty Norah Jones Betty Wright Passion Pit Heavy D & the Boyz The Presidents of the United States of America Jay-Z Marva Whitney Ahmad Jamal Aerosmith Mac Davis Danger Radio The Raspberries Keith Jarrett Jodeci Tyler Brunsman Joe Moses Zapp Mandrill blesseddare

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419 Plays
Blink-182
Going Away to College

This week was the 15 year anniversary of the release of Blink-182’s album, Enema of the State. The album, along with Green Day’s Dookie, was probably the most influential rock record of its time and served as the basic starting point for countless high school punk bands that followed. I’m fairly certain that anyone who went to middle or high school during this era personally knew at least one local band that was pretty much trying to sound like Enema of the State-era Blink-182.

The band had been kicking around for about seven years prior to the release of the record releasing a couple albums which were also popular underground hits for the people who listened to this kind of music. However, Enema of the State was the point when the pop music-loving audience jumped on board and suddenly songs like “What’s My Age Again?" and "All the Small Things" were on a regular rotation on rock radio and MTV. They were suddenly just as popular as the likes of ‘N Sync and Britney Spears. The late ’90s and early ’00s where a crazy time.

"Going Away to College" is typical of the kind of sound the band had been known for their whole career up to this point. The intro, which returns several times, is the most interesting part of the tune. The guitar part plays the same riff in the upper register, changing just one note to switch between a B and Bsus2 chord, but then by adding an E in the bass, it suddenly sounds like it’s going between Emaj7 and E6, which is pretty cool for such a simple pop punk song. The rest of the song is standard pop punk with vocal harmonies in thirds, palm muted guitar, and a few instances of stop time.

It’s well done, if not a little predictable. But hey, no one’s listening to pop punk to be surprised unless they’re 14 years old. I still look back fondly on those days when I watch old concert footage or music videos of the band. It was just silly, fun, energetic music very much of its time that will surely leave a larger mark on popular music as a whole than their later “mature” releases.

Filed under Blink-182 Going Away to College Enema of the State Pop Punk Pop Rock Punk Mark Hoppus Tom DeLonge Travis Barker Green Day Dookie High School Punk Bands What's My Age Again? All the Small Things Good Music

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105 Plays
The Cure
Why Can't I Be You?

The Cure were known as being one of the most somber and serious bands of its time. While they did produce a number of goth rock classics, they also could put out something that went completely against that stereotype and was more danceable and fun than anything you could imagine coming from someone who looks like Robert Smith. “Why Can’t I Be You” from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, their first top 40 hit album, is a perfect example of what they were capable of.

From the very first second you hear that guitar riff kick in at the beginning of the tune, you know it’s something special. The drums are simple and driving which makes it feel like a dance track. The synth lines emulate what would normally be played by trumpets and if they were, this might sound almost like a classic funk song. I can picture choreographed horn moves in a similar manner to the dance moves that you see in the video.

While the backing track itself screams visceral energy and fun, it wouldn’t be The Cure without Robert Smith’s iconic vocal track over the top of it. The way he chews certain words, the way the pitch rises and drops and morphs into a kind of growl at a moment’s notice, you just know that no one could possibly execute something like this except The Cure.

The video features Smith in a bear costume doing choreographed dance moves to the music. It’s easily one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen in a music video while still remaining true to something you would have come to expect from The Cure. Simply elegant.

Filed under The Cure Why Can't I Be You? Why Can't I Be You Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me Rock Goth Rock Pop Dance New Wave Jangle Pop Robert Smith Porl Thompson Lol Tolhurst Simon Gallup Boris Williams Synth Good Music