Today’s Top 40: October 5, 2022.

The songs featured below were all found on the Top 40 charts of the following music-oriented organizations: BBC Radio 1, CHUM-FM and Indie88-FM (from Toronto), Spotify, Billboard Magazine and KEXP-FM (from Seattle). All songs featured were found in the Top 5 of their respective charts for this past week. ***Because there are some repeat songs in this list that have appeared in previous posts, I am going to go into slightly greater depth for the songs that are new to this series this week. However, I will link to the past articles so you can enjoy those stories again or read them anew if you missed them the first time around. Here we go!

Late Night Talking by Harry Styles (CHUM-FM).

Harry Styles.

***This song was profiled in a previous post that you can read here.

Bad Habit by Steve Lacey (Billboard Magazine).

Steve Lacey.

***This song was profiled in a previous post that you can read here.

Unholy by Sam Smith and Kim Petras (BBC Radio 1 and Spotify)

Kim Petras and Sam Smith.

The song “Unholy” by Sam Smith and Kim Petras is a song that first gained momentum via the social media app TikTok. Both Smith and Petras have a strong social media presence and are followed by millions of viewers because of their music but equally for their position as role models for the LGBTQ2s+ community. Petras is from German and is a transsexual singer whose transformation from male to female was made completely in the public eye. Petras allowed each stage of her transition to be made public so that people could see that feeling trapped in the “wrong” body isn’t something that happens in isolation. Petras hoped to inspire others who were feeling lost in their bodies to summon the courage to be their true selves. Sam Smith is a singer from the UK who has won multiple Grammy awards for songs such as “Stay With Me”. He is very much known as a crooner. However, on social media, he has long been a very high profile Gay entertainment figure. In recent times, Smith has gone further and declared himself to actually be non-binary. So, the fact that one of Europe’s leading transsexual entertainers has teamed up to sing with one of the UK’s leading non-binary entertainers is news, in and of itself.

The song “Unholy” is a dark, pulsating song about living secret lives and the impact on those who are aware of such secrets and those who aren’t. The song is specifically about a man who has been frequenting a strip joint made famous by the show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. In the song, the man who attends these strip shows does so in secret. However, his daughter happens to see him there and thus, possesses a secret that she doesn’t wish to know because of the implications it has on the stability of her family life as she presently knows it. The daughter acts as the narrator of the song. While the song describes the dramatic scene that it does, Petras and Smith are also singing about their own lives and the cost associated with being forced to live their true lives in secret. As we know, they have bucked that trend themselves so this song is meant for the many others who live lives of emotional anguish, unable to be who they see themselves as being. For me “Unholy” falls into that category where sometimes a song is more than just a song. For Smith and Petras, “Unholy” is akin to leaving a light on at the porch. For those struggling in silence, “Unholy” means seeing that porch light and knowing that they have found their way home.

***The link to the lyrics version of this song can be found here.

Belize by Danger Mouse, Black Thoughts ft. MF DOOM (KEXP-FM).

Black Thought and Danger Mouse.

When it comes to Hip Hop, the pickings are either a feast or famine proposition for me. I am not a fan at all of the profanity-laced, overtly sexualized music that passes for much of what is considered Rap music these days. When it comes to Hip Hop, I tend to be more likely to go old school and listen to the sample-rich, jazz-influenced Hip Hop of performers such as DJ Shadow and his magnificent “Midnight in a Perfect World” *(which you can read about here). “Belize” by Danger Mouse, Black Thoughts and MF DOOM mines similar terrain. It is a beautiful sounding song that I could listen to for the background music samples alone. This is the type of song that I like to listen to in the dark, where each snippet of music can shine like the star that it is in this firmament. Good Hip Hop for me is also music in which the linguistic dexterity of the performers is allowed to be showcased in such a way that their skill as rappers is not overshadowed by the shock-content and vulgarity of the lyrics. MF DOOM puts on a masterclass of controlled rapping all throughout “Belize”. I know that for some of you, Hip Hop is not your cup of tea. Much of what I hear today doesn’t do much for me, either but “Belize” is different. It stands out from noise because it is a throwback song that honours the roots of Hip Hop and of Black musical culture. When I listen to music such as this, I hear poetry. I hear history.

***I am not sure if a lyrics version exists for this song but, if it does, you can find it here.

News Update: Lizzo Plays a Crystal Flute.

Lizzo playing James Madison’s crystal flute at The Library of Congress.

I am a big fan of Lizzo. She is someone with a razor-sharp mind. Lizzo knows her history and often uses her platform as a singer to make historical connections for her audiences. *(You can read about how she does this in a previous post that you can find here). Anyway, you may have heard about something Lizzo did recently in a live concert that has garnered a lot of attention from those on both sides of the political spectrum. A while ago, Lizzo was permitted to examine historically significant musical artifacts that were being stored in the Library of Congress. Being a lover of history and being someone who is passionate about cultural connections and the significance of stories on shaping identities, Lizzo was intrigued by a crystal flute that had once belonged to former US President James Madison. Lizzo was aware that Madison was connected to the odious practice of slavery. She also knew that, as a woman of colour, not only touching his flute but actually breathing into it and bringing it to life, musically speaking, would make a statement on so many levels. So, Lizzo was given permission to play Madison’s flute live, in concert. And so she did. Being the multi-instrumentalist that she is, Lizzo was able to make lovely sounds come out of the historic crystal flute. The symbolism of what she was doing was not lost on those who champion human rights. From those people, Lizzo was lauded as being a hero to the cause of civil rights in America. To those on the political right, touching a former president’s delicate crystal flute amounted to sacrilege.

While Lizzo stood on that stage, making beautiful music come out of an ancient instrument, she was connecting the dots for those who believe that the past matters and that there are stories that need to be told from the past so that we may all have a better tomorrow. She did this without raising her fists or her voice. She simply stood on a stage and played and smiled. There is power in simplicity. LIzzo wields her power well.

***The link to a video of Lizzo playing the crystal flute can be found here.

News Update #2: The L.A. version of the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert.

Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters checks in on 16 year old Shane Hawkins, son of former drummer, Taylor Hawkins, during a blistering rendition of “My Hero” in Los Angeles.

Three weeks after putting on a concert for the ages at Wembley Stadium in London, England, Dave Grohl managed to put together another stellar musical celebration of life for his dear and departed friend, Taylor Hawkins. This time, the concert was held in Los Angeles. The lineup included everyone from Alanis Morissette with “You Oughta Know”, to Heart with “Barracuda”, to Rush with “YYZ”, Wolfgang Van Halen ripping through his father’s hits, “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher”, Def Leppard blasting through “Photograph” and “Rock of Ages” with Miley Cyris by their side and, of course, plenty of Foo Fighters music all the way through. The highlight on this night was the same as it was at Wembley Stadium…when Taylor Hawkins’ son, Shane took his place behind the drum kit and pounded out “My Hero” along with the rest of the Foo Fighters, who repeated their caring and tenderhearted handling of Shane by constantly coming back to play alongside him as the song went on. I am not sure what Dave Grohl is going to do to top these two concerts but, whatever it is, I have faith it will be epic!

***You can watch the video of Shane Hawkins ripping it up on “My Hero” here.

Stonecatcher by Marcus Mumford ft. Phoebe Bridgers (Indie88-FM).

Phoebe Bridgers and Marcus Mumford.

Our final song of the day goes to Marcus Mumford. You may know him as the lead singer of the folk-rock juggernaut, Mumford and Sons. “Stonecatcher” comes from his debut solo album entitled, Self-Titled. The fact that he collaborated with my current favourite female singer Phoebe Bridgers made this a must-listen to song for me.

I have always liked Mumford and Sons from their very first album called Sigh No More. I have always found their music to be rousing, anthemic and very literate. My introduction to their work came when I discovered a video of the band performing a live version of their song, “The Cave” at the 2010 Reading Music Festival. *(You can watch that performance here). That performance was one of the most joyous videos I have ever witnessed. At that moment in their career, Mumford and Sons were just breaking as a major band. So, when they launch into the opening notes of “The Cave” and the audience instantly sings along, you can see the genuine expressions of joy on their faces. I dare anyone watching this to not leave the song smiling at the end. It is truly wonderful! Since then, Mumford and Sons have had a slew of hits such as “Little Lion Man”, “I Will Wait” and “Believe”. They have won Grammy Awards and many Brit Awards, too. One of the things I have always liked about Mumford and Sons is how literate they are. Their songs draw from Shakespeare, James Joyce as well as P.K. Chesterton. But before any of you come away with the impression that Mumford and Sons are a bookish, boring band because of the sources for many of their songs, let me tell you another thing about them. They very much believe in bringing music to everyone, not just those who can afford to pay hundreds of dollars for a seat at a stadium. In the true spirit of being troubadours, Mumford and Sons make it a point to include smaller, more out of the way locations whenever they are touring. An example is that they played a two day festival in Simcoe, Ontario a few years ago. The world is filled with Simcoe-esque festivals and Mumford and Sons attempt to play at as many of them as they can.

The song, “Stonecatcher” comes from a story in the Bible. If you know your Bible stories at all, you will know that Jesus was portrayed as being a man who preached peace and compassion and love for all people. He was viewed by the authorities as being a troublemaker so the story goes that one day they decided to set him up and expose him as a fraud in front of his followers. The authorities did this by bringing a woman accused of adultery into the town square. The punishment for adultery was stoning to death. Jesus was brought to the square and was asked to denounce this woman and her crime of adultery and then to cast the first stone at her. The authorities were banking on Jesus refusing to cast the stone, at which time they would declare him as being in favour of such immoral behaviour as adultery. However, when Jesus was handed the stone, he simply turned and faced the crowd that had gathered and challenged anyone without sin to cast that first stone. When no one stepped forward, the implications were clear. No one was without sin. Since no one, including Jesus, would cast a stone, the authorities were forced to release the woman. From that point onward, people who stand up for the oppressed and stop or limit pain and discomfort have become known as stonecatchers.

When Marcus Mumford decided to put together a solo album, it wasn’t because he was thinking of leaving Mumford and Sons. It was because he had things that he wanted to say that seemed too personal to issue under the banner of the band. One of the things he wanted to address was the fact that he had suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse as a child. Mumford claims that there was no one there to help him when the pain was his to bear. So, he decided to create an album to discuss the impact that abuse has had on him and those in his life. The song, “Stonecatcher” specifically addresses a promise that he is making to the world. Mumford promises that he will be a better person to others in need than others were to him as a child. He sings of wishing to be a stonecatcher for other abuse victims. That he is able to do this all the while harmonizing with the incomparable Phoebe Bridgers is an added bonus.

So, I will close by urging us all to be stonecatchers for those in our lives. Letting no one suffer on my watch is a promise and a pledge I make willingly and completely. If you feel so willing then, I urge you to do likewise in your world. This is how we make things better.

***The link to the lyrics version of this song can be found here.

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