Today’s Top 40: October 14, 2022…Blink-182, July Talk, Fontaines D.C. and Paramore.

Editor’s Note:

I am changing the format of Today’s Top 40 a tiny bit today. In the past, I have examined the top 40 charts of six different radio stations and music streaming services and have gotten my song material that way. However, I have grown tired of how stagnant these charts have been since the mid-summer. There is only so much that I can write about Harry Styles or Bad Bunny or Sam Smith and Kim Petras. So, instead of doing the same old-same old, I am simply going to talk about some artists who have released new songs recently and/or talk about artists who are making news for whatever reason. So, with that in mind, here is what’s happening in the world of music right now!

News: Blink 182 Reunites!

Blink-182 as they look today. L-R: Travis Barker, Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLong.

As the 1990s transitioned into the 2000s, Blink-182 positioned themselves as one of the biggest bands on the planet. They had a steady string of chart-topping Pop Punk hits including “All The Small Things”, “What’s My Age Again?”, “Adam’s Song” and many more. The boys in Blink-182…Tom DeLong, Mark Hoppus and drummer extraordinaire, Travis Barker, had album sales of over 50 million worldwide. As Pop Punk bands went, Blink-182 were among the best of the best….and then, they broke up, with Tom DeLong leaving the band. Several reunions and break-ups later, the band announced that, not only were they reuniting but, they had a new album in the works and were preparing for a world tour to support it. The new single they are releasing is called “Edgings”. *(It is supposed to be going live on Friday, the 14th, which is today as I write this. If it is available for me to link to by the time I publish this post then you will be able to listen to the song here. If not then, the link will remain unconnected).

So, if you are fans of bands that play Pop Punk (such as Green Day, for example) then the word of Blink-182’s reunion will come as welcome news. You can check their website here for concert tour dates in your area.

New Music

After This by July Talk.

July Talk have been making music in Canada for almost a full decade now. They play a brand of Alternative/Indie-style rock that has seen their presence on the national music scene grow and grow. All three of July Talk’s studio albums have won the Juno Award for Best Alternative Album upon their release. They have performed at the Juno awards show on several occasions as well and have opened for numerous bands such as Tegan and Sara, Weezer and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay of July Talk.

July Talk is composed of singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay, guitarist Ian Docherty, bassist Josh Warburton and drummer Danny Miles. July Talk are a very interesting band because both Dreimanis and Fay bring much Arts experience with them to the band…Dreimanis is a professional cinematographer and ran his own production company prior to forming July Talk with Leah Fay. He produces all of the band’s music videos. Leah Fay is a professionally trained dancer and runs a dance collective called WIVES. On stage, Dreimanis and Fay have excellent theatrical chemistry. He sings with a voice akin to Tom Waits. Fay sings and dances in a manner that resembles Kate Bush. Together, they have become known for their live shows. They had a hit with a song called “Push + Pull” *(which you can watch here if you wish to see the magic of their live shows). Their latest single is called “After This” which you can watch at the link above. July Talk are a band to watch as this year goes by. They are one of the rising stars of the Canadian music scene.

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

Jackie Down the Line by Fontaines D.C.

Along with Idles, Fontaine D.C. were the other new band that I discovered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I first discovered the band, Idles on YouTube when I stumbled across their appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. Watching that video caused YouTube’s algorithms to set in motion and before I knew it I was being shown videos of Idles at Seattle radio station KEXP-FM. Finding KEXP-FM caused me to find their list of the Top 500 Songs of All Time which, in turn, inspired me to create my own list that you can begin to access here, if so inclined. Well, along with discovering KEXP-FM, my interest in Idles Band caused YouTube to introduce me to videos of other bands that they assumed I might like. The best of those new-to-me bands was Fontaines D.C.

Fontaines D.C. lead singer Grian Chatten when the band performed live on my beloved KEXP-FM.

The first video of theirs that I watched was called “Heroes Death”. It was performed as part of the Concerts From Home series that many singers and bands engaged in during the lockdown phase of the pandemic. If this is your first introduction to Fontaines D.C. then I suggest that you watch “Heroes Death” here before going on. I have posted this song before and someone who saw it likened it to early Joy Division, for those who might be motivated by that comparison. I also really liked the sound of their next release which was called “I Don’t Belong” *(which you can watch here).

The members of Fontaines D.C. are all Irish. Much of the inspiration for their song lyrics stems from Irish folklore and poetry. In fact, before becoming a music group, the five members of the band…singer Grian Chatten, ***(and yes, it is Grian with a “G” and not Brian with a “B”), guitarists Carlos O’ Connor and Conor Curley, bassist Conor Deegan III and drummer Tom Coll…all bonded over poetry and actually released two volumes of poetry (one based upon The Beat Poets like Kerouac and Ginsberg and the second book based upon Irish poets such as Ogden Nash). Much of their music is noted for its lyricism.

Fontaines D.C. became the name of the band because of a character from The Godfather movie known as Johnny Fontane. The D.C. part of their name stands for Dublin City. Their current album is called Skinty Fia which refers to the legend of the giant Irish Elk that used to roam Ireland before being hunted into extinction. The song, “Jackie Down the Line” was the first release from that album. In the song, Fontaines D.C. introduces us to an aspect of Irish history that describes Dublin as a monarchist city. Knowing how divided the Irish were with regards to their relationship with England and the Queen, “Jackie Down the Line” refers to those Irish monarchist fans and how they react to how Irish culture is viewed from other parts of the world. To be a “Jackie” or “Jackeen” is a derogatory term for someone of Irish descent who is also a lover of England and is prone to wave the Union Jack flag instead of Ireland’s own flag.. The video in the link above was shot in one take by one camera and is noteworthy for the Artsy-ness of its look.

***The lyrics video for this song can be found here.

This is Why by Paramore.

Hailey Williams and the boys from Paramore.

Paramore are another band with an interesting backstory. They were formed in 2004 and their lineup consisted of singer Hayley Williams, guitarists Josh Farro and Taylor York, bassist Jeremy Davis and drummer Zac Farro. When they released their debut album in 2005, it reached the Top Ten in many countries and, just like that, Paramore became a band dubbed as being the next big thing. In particular, singer Hayley Williams was made the face of the band and became an overnight sensation because of her chiseled facial features and strong singing voice. Over the course of their career, Paramore has won a Grammy Award and has achieved sales into the millions, including having their albums go a total of five times platinum.

But, as you can imagine, it isn’t easy being a female in the glare of the public spotlight. Hayley Williams has had her share of attention because of her looks but, she has courted more than her share of negative press because of something that many people would not feel was a dark mark and that is the fact that she characterizes herself as a Christian. How this came into play was when Paramore released their second album and, from it, one of their biggest hits called “Misery Business”….*(an acoustic version of which you can listen to here). There was a strong backlash to “Misery Business” from feminists who accused Williams of being accepting of misogyny. It got so bad that Paramore announced that they were dropping “Misery Business” from their setlists permanently. This brings us to their new album and single called, “This Is Why”.

“This Is Why” is a song that sounds like a 1970s funk song. It was written as a plaintive cry against the craziness of our world as we navigate through the pandemic, as climate change threatens our existence and as social media becomes more hostile and intrusive. The song basically says that if Williams never wants to leave her house again then, for all the afore-mentioned reasons, this is why. As the band heads back out on tour, music critics are applauding Williams for striking an assertive pose with this song. To back this up, the band is now unapologetically playing Misery Business again during their live shows. One thing is for sure, Hayley Williams can surely sing.

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

The links to the official websites for July Talk, Fontaines D.C. and Paramore can be found here, here and here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post can be reblogged, copied or shared without the express written permission of the author. ©2022

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 : 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.

Today’s Top 40: September 15, 2022.

These are the stories behind the top hits of today.

Welcome to this week’s edition of Today’s Top 40. As the summer song season winds down, the Top Ten lists have all taken on the appearance of a logjam. Harry Styles, Lizzo, Bad Bunny, Beyonce and some of the other usual summer suspects continue occupying the major chart positions. I imagine that as the Christmas holiday shopping season draws ever closer that we will have some new material from some big names in the industry which should shake up the listings a bit. But for now, things are fairly static. So, for this edition of Today’s Top 40, I am shining the spotlight on some songs that have just entered the Top Ten at #10 or else, they are knocking at the door at positions #11 or #12. As always, I draw my material from the following weekly charts: BBC Radio 1, CHUM-FM and Indie88-FM (Toronto), Spotify, Billboard Magazine and finally, KEXP-FM (Seattle). So, enough with the chat, let’s take a look at the young upstart songs who are trying to dethrone the defending summer champs. Here is Today’s Top 40.

Knees Deep: The Beths (KEXP-FM).

New Zealand’s The Beths after bungee jumping.

The Beths are a band from New Zealand. They remind me a bit of Canada’s own Barenaked Ladies *(profiled this week here). They are a wholesome, talented quartet whose songs are all cleverly written and are built upon a foundation of humour. They have a new album coming out tomorrow called Expert in a Dying Field. Their previous album was called, Future Me Hates Me so you can get a taste for their sense of humour there. In any case, The Beths play a form of Indie-Pop and are a pleasure to watch. This song, “Knees Deep” has a very cute video in which the members of the band gather for a band rehearsal session, only to have each member drop out to go bungee jumping off of a bridge. The song and video chronicle the change in their behaviour upon returning to the rehearsal after having made the jump. Overall, the message of the song is about embracing life and enjoying the moments of fun and adventure that come your way. Simple stuff sung in a very entertaining and enjoyable way. The Beths are alright!

***The link to the lyrics version of this song can be found here. ***Ooops! No lyrics video yet for this song apparently. Sorry.

Numb: Marshmello and Khalid (CHUM-FM and Spotify).

Marshmallow and Khalid.

“Numb” is a song that was made specifically to be one of the “songs of the summer”. It is a song about having fun with your friends and not having any responsibilities of note to occupy your time. The video for this song is shot mainly around a swimming pool so there are lots of beautiful bodies to look at as you listen. There are no weighty messages contained within the lyrics. It is all good times with good people and the making of good memories that you can take with you into the cooler winter months to come. Pure Pop created as only Marshmello and Khalid can. If you like breezy Pop songs with a catchy chorus then, “Numb” is a song you will probably like.

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

You Proof: Morgan Wallen (Billboard Magazine).

Business in the front, party in the back: Morgan Wallen.

Morgan Wallen is one of Country music’s rising young stars. The song, “You Proof” is a play on alcohol. As experienced drinkers all know, the higher the “proof number”, the more potent the alcohol content. So, if we take that same thing and apply it to romantic relationships, can there be any more powerful love than one that is “You Proof”? I should think not. This song covers the usual ground that many Country songs do. It is about a guy and a girl and a broken heart caused by a relationship gone wrong that just might be ok in the end because the guy is just such a rascal that he is irresistible no matter what he has done to cause the trouble he is in. This song is semi-autobiographical for Wallen because he has had his share of public relation missteps only to see his record sales soar each time. Wallen lost a chance to appear as the music guest on Saturday Night LIve due to his refusal to adhere to COVID protocols during the pandemic. He is a good ol’ boy from the south who uses the “n-word” to refer to people of colour. Finally, he has been arrested for public intoxication in, of all places, Kid Rock’s restaurant (raise your hand if you knew that Kid Rock has a chain of restaurants). And yet, the more trouble Morgan Wallen seeks out, the more warmly wrapped he becomes in the embrace of his fans. Go figure, “Merica!

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

Crazy What Love Can Do: David Guetta, Becky Hill and Ella Henderson (BBC Radio 1).

Becky Hill, David Guetta and Ella Henderson

One of the big trends in the past few years in music is for Electronic Dance Music DJs to produce music that is sung/fronted by relatively unknown young stars. This trend continues with the song “Crazy What Love Can Do”. David Guetta is a DJ with a long track record of success; especially in Europe where he is from. In this song, he has produced a slick summer hit with the help of two young female singers from the UK named Becky Hill and Ella Henderson. Both girls are solo artists and have never performed together prior to this song. Both girls are beautiful, have big hair, tanned skin and, most importantly, strong singing voices. The inspiration for the song was the famous female empowerment movie, Thelma and Louise…hence the need for two females to sing this song. Just like the movie, “Crazy What Love Can Do” is all about sisterhood in a modern world. The video for the song follows the storyline for Thelma and Louise pretty faithfully. Both Hill and Henderson sound great together which makes this song pleasing to listen to.

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

First Thing Smokin’: Loony (Indie88-FM).

Kira Huszar aka Loony.

If you have never heard of Loony before then, allow me to introduce you to Toronto-based singer Kira Huszar. I am not sure where the moniker “Loony” comes from but, in my opinion, it is somewhat unfortunate because it gives an impression that takes away from the actual person Huszar is. When I first listened to this song, I immediately thought it drew inspiration from John Mayer at his Bluesy-est moments. Huszar has a sultry voice and the orchestration behind her is gorgeous. “First Thing Smokin’” is a song that possesses a wonderful sound quality and is well worth playing; especially if you have a quality sound system or headphones available.

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

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post may be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Today’s Top 40: The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert.

Today’s Top 40: Sept. 6, 2022.

Taylor Hawkins and Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters. Best buds, too.

I have always believed that music has the power to heal, to inspire and to bring people together. The truth behind this belief was on full display for all to see this past weekend when musicians and fans gathered at Wembley Stadium in London to honour the memory of Taylor Hawkins, the late drummer for The Foo Fighters. Ostensibly, this tribute stood in place of the traditional Celebration of Life that most families would hold for their lost loved one with the exception that it was being broadcast to the world and was being organized by arguably the biggest name in music today, Mr. Dave Grohl. Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins were bandmates and best friends. No one outside of his family would have known Taylor Hawkins’ wishes for being remembered better than Grohl. Therefore, it was no surprise that Grohl managed to organize a celebration that captured both, the humanity and the humility of his friend, along with doing so in an amazing rock n’ roll show for the ages. The music was outstanding but the emotion and tender moments are what made this event one of the most positive and uplifting concerts that I have ever seen! What Dave Grohl managed to pull off with this spectacular tribute to his friend was something that so many of us…even those who didn’t personally know Taylor Hawkins…so desperately needed. We all owe Dave Grohl and the Hawkins Family a debt of gratitude. Here is why.

Ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people from all parts of the world have had to live differently than we once had. Collectively, we have suffered tremendous losses in terms of people taken from us, families torn asunder and so on. One of the things that became common as loved ones died was that we, as grieving family members, were not allowed to gather together to mourn. If I had a nickel for every death announcement I read that stated that a service would be held at a later date, I’d be pretty rich by now. Grief postponed is grief unexpressed. Eventually, for the sake of our own emotional and mental health, we need to grieve properly. To do so is to cleanse our souls.

So, while the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert was about paying homage to the life of Mr. Hawkins, what really made the moment special was that it provided an avenue for all of us to participate in as emotionally cathartic an experience I have seen in a long while. But even more than that, this concert was organized so well that we, as an audience, were allowed to grieve other losses all the while honouring the past history of Rock n’ Roll, saluting the present and passing the torch, as it were, to the future…all in one show. The concert was a masterclass in organizational skill. It was also a showcase for how much of a community the music world truly is. Respect. Fellowship. Passion. Musicianship. These are all words that easily come to mind after having watched much of this show.

For a brief bit of context, I have written about the charismatic Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl before in previous posts. *(You can read the main history of his life, as well as Taylor Hawkins here). Dave Grohl has arguably been the biggest name in Rock music in the past decade and change. He has become loved and respected for his skill as a singer, guitarist and drummer. He is also much loved for the charming nature of his personality. He is a storyteller and a very supportive and generous presence in the lives of countless musicians from all genres and eras of music. However, for being so nice a guy, Dave Grohl seems cursed with the most tragic luck imaginable. It almost seems cruel. The short strokes of this tragic arc include being the drummer for the biggest band in the world at one point (Nirvana) and having your friend and lead singer die by suicide. Then, regrouping and getting a second chance at the spotlight by being the lead singer of the biggest rock band since Nirvana (The Foo Fighters) only to have your friend and drummer, Taylor Hawkins die unexpectedly. When Death came into Dave Grohl’s life the first time, he channeled his sadness into a new musical venture which became The Foo Fighters. When Death came into his life a second time, Dave Grohl responded by organizing the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert. In his most recent book called, Storyteller, Dave Grohl talked a lot about how lost and unsure of himself he felt after the death of Kurt Cobain. Initially, Grohl thought that he would never play again. But music was ingrained in his soul so as time went by, his feelings about not playing began to change. It suddenly felt as if not playing was a betrayal of what he and his friends had accomplished in Nirvana. So, Dave Grohl decided to write music again and to play around with recording his work. But, what gave him the strength and the courage to believe that his new music had worth and, just as importantly, that he had what it took to actually front his own band (which he had never done before) were his friends. One of his most important friends was drummer Taylor Hawkins.

Alanis Morissette and Taylor Hawkins during The Jagged Little Pill days.

Taylor Hawkins came into the public eye for the first time as drummer for one of the most influential new voices of the 1990s, Alanis Morissette. *(You can see him working as her drummer during this appearance on the David Lettermen Show. Alanis rips it up here. As you watch this energetic performance, you can clearly notice the energy and charisma of a young Taylor Hawkins as he plays). When word leaked out that Dave Grohl of Nirvana was making music again and looking to form his own band, Taylor Hawkins got in touch. The mere act of contacting Dave Grohl took a lot of courage because many in the music world considered Grohl to have been a drumming prodigy. Now, Hawkins was asking to sit behind the drum kit of one of the world’s greatest drummers. Luckily, Dave Grohl was looking to begin a band that was a departure from who he was in Nirvana. In The Foo Fighters, Grohl would be the main songwriter, the lead singer and the face of the band. So, he was relieved, in a way, to pass the drumsticks over to Hawkins. As it turned out, Taylor Hawkins not only had the musical chops to occupy Dave’s seat behind the drum kit but he had a personality that fans fell in love with immediately. In Taylor Hawkins, Dave Grohl had a new wingman and the two became best friends in real life.

Taylor Hawkins passed away in South America earlier this year while on tour with The Foo Fighters. The cause of his death was ruled a drug overdose. The one thing that was made clear was that the overdose was not a suicide. After what happened to Kurt Cobain, a second suicide of a best friend would have been unbearable. As it was, even an accidental death hurt more than words could say. So, when the band finally released an official statement some days after the death, their words sounded very similar to what I read in the many deaths that happened during the pandemic…they said that they were grieving, the loss was devastating and that they would have a proper ceremony for him at a later date. As it turned out, that later date was this past weekend.

It has long been said that when tragedy strikes, you really find out who your friends are. In the case of Dave Grohl, he found out that he had a lot of friends. When the Foo Fighters were actively performing, they often took time to cover the songs of artists they respected and admired. I have heard them cover Rush songs, as well as those of David Bowie, Queen, The Beatles, Black Sabbath and many more. So, not surprisingly, when Dave Grohl decided that the best way to honour his friend was with a tribute concert, he went one step further, he decided to honour the whole of the music community that Taylor Hawkins and he so admired and respected. One of the first people to step forward and volunteer to help were Geddy Lee and Alex Liefson of Rush. They were grieving their own recent loss with the death of legendary drummer, Neil Peart. So, not only did they get to help Dave Grohl honour his friend’s memory by performing for the first time in public since Peart’s death, Dave Grohl, in turn, honoured their loss by sitting in behind Peart’s drum kit while Rush played their short set. That’s what mutual respect looks like. *(You can watch that performance here).

Son of Eddie…Wolfgang Van Halen ripped through “Hot For Teacher” at The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert.

It was a Whos-Who of music heavyweights that answered Grohl’s call. Paul McCartney showed up and played. So did Liam Gallagher from Oasis. Nile Rodgers and Omar Hakim from the band, Chic, helped honour David Bowie with a short set of Bowie tunes. Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders played, as did Brian May, from Queen. Even AC/DC reunited for this show. The musical influences from Grohl and Hawkins’ past were on full display, as were performances by artists and bands who are popular today such as Justin Hawkins from The Darkness, Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age (doing his best David Bowie impression during the Chic set) and Blink-182’s Travis Barker, an excellent drummer in his own right, sitting in for awhile, as did Lars Ulrich of Mettalica..

Shane Hawkins and Violet Grohl…son and daughter of Taylor Hawkins and Dave Grohl, respectively, gave outstanding performances during The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert.

But one of the most emotional and important themes of the day was family and that of tradition. In that regard, Dave Grohl took great pains to place the next generation of musicians firmly in the spotlight. He did this several ways. First of all, Grohl got to honour the passing of legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen by having his son, Wolfgang Van Halen, shred his guitar during a performance of his father’s hit, “Hot For Teacher”. Grohl played drums for that song. *(You can watch that performance here). Secondly, one of the nicest things Dave Grohl had been involved with during the past few years was an internet duel with an eleven year old girl named Nandi Bushell. Nandi had used the Internet (YouTube, in particular) to challenge Grohl to a drum-off. She had tremendous talent so Dave Grohl accepted her offer and the two engaged in a good-natured “rivalry”, back and forth via the Internet which culminated in Bushell being invited to perform live in concert with The Foo Fighters. Taylor Hawkins generously gave up his seat so that Bushell could play with the band. She ended up killing it! So, naturally, in Dave Grohl’s moment of need, Nandi Bushell reached out again and offered to help. Her offer was accepted and she played with the band again…this time at Wembley. *(You can watch that performance here). Dave Grohl’s own daughter, Violet sang two beautiful songs…a cover of “Grace” by Jeff Buckley and “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse….Buckley and Winehouse being two other singers who left the world far too soon. But, by far, the most emotional moment of all was when Dave Grohl invited Taylor Hawkins’ son, 16 year old Shane, to join The Foo Fighters on the closing song, “My Hero”. Not only did Shane Hawkins put on a terrific display of drumming skill, he pounded those drums like he was exorcising demons! It was as emotional a performance by any musician as I have seen. It was grace under tremendous pressure. And, all the while the song went on, Dave Grohl and the other members of the Foo Fighters took turns walking over to check on Taylor’s son, making eye contact with him, making sure that he was ok. He was more than ok. He was phenomenal! *(That performance can be seen here).

Dave Grohl cries as he attempts to sing, “Times Like These” during The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert.

The final important thing that Dave Grohl was able to pack into this tremendous concert was a lesson in humanity. Far too often in life, men are told to hold our emotions deep down inside. We are told that any outward show of emotion is actually a sign of weakness. Personally, I think that this mindset is one of the main causes of much that is wrong in our world. I believe that Dave Grohl would agree. During his solo acoustic performance of the song “Times Like These”, Grohl made no attempt to hide his tears. They flowed freely and frequently. Even rock stars are human after all. *(That performance is here).

When all was said and done, over fifty songs were played over the course of six hours in the first of two concerts. The second concert is scheduled to take place in California in another week or so. I can’t imagine it being any more perfect than the Wembley Stadium gig. But, I have also learned never to underestimate Dave Grohl. He seems connected to all that is right about live music. Grohl understands that music has the power to unite us all; the young and the old, the rich and the poor, regardless of gender or sexual orientation or economic status or religious affiliation or nationality. Music is a universal language that we all understand. It is a powerful force for good. It is certainly helping to heal a lot of hearts. Believe me, the world certainly needed that. Brilliantly done, Dave.

Rest In Peace.

The link to the official website for The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert can be found here.

***As always, all original content found within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post can be reblogged, copied or shared in any form without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Today’s Top 40: September 1, 2022.

The stories behind the hits of today.

Editor’s note:

This edition of Today’s Top 40 is filled with absolute bangers. In my opinion, each artist/band presented below is worthy of their own full post based upon the varied and interesting things they are all up to. I wanted to publicly say that I am thoroughly enjoying creating the Today’s Top 40 posts series because it is allowing me…a card-carrying Boomer…to stay in touch with the world of modern music today. There are so many talented performers out there and so many innovative ways that they are connecting with their fans. I am excited for this edition to begin so, without further delay, let me remind you that I used the following official music websites/charts to select the artists I am featuring this week: BBC Radio 1, Billboard Magazine, CHUM-FM and Indie88-FM (from Toronto), Spotify and KEXP-FM (from Seattle). For this week’s post, all artists chosen find themselves somewhere in chart positions in the 20s on their respective music charts. Enough said. Here we go!!!!!

There Better Be A Mirrorball by The Arctic Monkeys (Indie88-FM).

The Arctic Monkeys.

The Arctic Monkeys have been one of the most interesting bands out of the UK for well over a decade now. They have always played a form of Alternative/Rock with a roguish charm, intelligent lyrics and lots of confidence and style. They burst out of the gates with a huge hit in the UK called “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor”. In order to appreciate the magnitude of difference from how The Arctic Monkeys began their career and where they are now with their latest hit, I think it is instructive for you to take a moment and listen to their debut single here. They were a fast and furious bunch. They took the UK by storm and were always very popular there over the course of their first three or four albums. But then, The Arctic Monkeys reached a creative crossroads. Like all successful artists they started questioning their musical direction. Specifically, they started asking themselves if they wanted to continue along the musical path that had brought them so much success and would, in all likelihood continue to do so or should they follow their creative muse and head out in another direction, damn the impact on their careers.

So, a few years ago, The Arctic Monkeys left England and moved to America. Like The Beatles, David Bowie and, even U2 before them, there is something about leaving home and immersing yourself in the great myth that is America that changes you. The Arctic Monkeys began this transformation by releasing an album under the direction of a man named Josh Homme. Josh Homme is the lead singer of a loud and heavy sounding band called Queens of the Stone Age. Under Homme’s direction, The Arctic Monkeys released an album that contained fuzzy guitars and a slower, more deliberate sound. From that album came the song, “Do I Want To Know?” which was the song that caused The Arctic Monkeys to finally gain some notice in America. They played all of the late night talk shows and made a sincere effort to become more media savvy and friendly and, as a result they became a bigger draw in the US. But then, the metamorphosis continued in the form of a new album that was completely different from anything the band had done before. Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino was a concept album about colonizing the moon. Lead singer Alex Turner adopted the persona of a Vegas lounge lizard. The music was Jazzy and Bluesy; nothing like the straight-ahead rock of their entire musical catalogue up until that point. The album had a polarizing effect on their fanbase in much the same way that Radiohead’s album, Kid A did a couple of decades ago for them. *(You can read about Kid A here).

This brings us to today’s latest single, “There Better Be A Mirrorball”. Fans of The Arctic Monkeys waited with bated breath to see if their favourite band would return to their classic sound or continue on meandering down their newly chosen path. “There Better Be A Mirrorball” is a slow, ballad-like song that, on the surface, plays like a break-up lament. However, it is not a break-up lament for a girlfriend who no longer loves the singer. Instead, it is more of a lament for having to let go of something that no longer seems to be working on an emotional level. That something is the band’s old sound. As you know, a mirrorball is constructed in such a way that it reflects light in a multitude of directions all at once. In this song, the mirrorball is meant to reflect the band’s emotions being sent into a thousand different directions as they move forward as they feel they must, hopeful that love and companionship will continue to be theirs. As with all things, time will tell as to whether or not this is the right move for the band in the longer term. But, there is a legacy of great bands making bold mid-career changes in direction (The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Radiohead, etc.) so, I will trust that the boys in the band know what they are doing and wish them the best in their musical journey.

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

Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry (KEXP-FM).

If you followed popular music at all thirty years ago then you may be aware that the song “Buffalo Stance” was a big hit for Neneh Cherry way back then. So, what in the world is the same song doing back on the charts three decades later? Well, here is the story.

In a world where Cardi B., Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion…strong, talented successful female rappers sit atop the musical mountain…Neneh Cherry is actually someone who is viewed by many as being one of the originators of the entire female rap genre. So, as the 30th anniversary of her one big hit approached, Cherry was asked to revisit her music catalogue and re-release new versions of her hits. The result is a new album called Versions. The idea behind Versions is to teach some history to today’s music fans and introduce them to a true musical innovator in the form of Cherry. Neneh Cherry is supported in this project by musical heavyweights such as Sia and Robyn *(Both artists were profiled in earlier posts that you can read here and here).

Neneh Cherry.

In case you don’t know Neneh Cherry’s background, here it is. She is a black singer from Sweden. As a teenager, she came to England and began a career in music and modeling. Cherry arrived just as Punk and New Wave music was starting to explode. She fell in with a hip crowd that included singer Poly Styrene and ended up touring with the highly influential female punk band, The Slits. In addition to being with The Slits, Neneh Cherry became part of an artistic collective that Malcolm McLaren dubbed, “Buffalo Girls”. Her experience being in the cool and hip “Buffalo Girls” movement led to the creation of a song called, “Buffalo Stance”, which became a Top Ten hit around the world in the 1990s. While that was going on, Neneh Cherry stepped back from the spotlight and became an ardent supporter of a new musical subgenre that was emerging called Trip Hop. Trip Hop was a jazzy, more ethereal form of Hip Hop. It was made most popular by groups such as Portishead and Massive Attack (of which guerrilla artist, Banksy is rumoured to be a member and which Cherry bankrolled their first album, Blue Lines). *(You can read about Portishead and Massive Attack here and here). In any case, very quietly (or so it seems), Neneh Cherry has lived a most interesting and impactful life. Therefore, it is not surprising that fellow female singers such as Robyn and Sia would lead the push to rehabilitate Cherry’s career and legacy in the eyes of a new generation. As a result of their efforts, we have the Robyn-assisted remix of Neneh Cherry’s hit, “Buffalo Stance” climbing the charts anew. To my ears, it still sounds as fresh and relevant as it ever did. Enjoy.

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

A Rock and a Hard Place by Bailey Zimmerman (Spotify and Billboard Magazine).

Billboard Magazines’ “Rookie of the Month”…Bailey Zimmerman.

Bailey Zimmerman is Country music’s hottest rising star. Two years ago, Zimmerman was being given his union card and was living his life as a pipefitter. As a young man, Zimmerman enjoyed the same sort of things that many young men do….girls and trucks. However, Zimmerman’s rise to the top of the charts is a very telling tale because of how he was “discovered”, as it were.

Like many young people today, Bailey Zimmerman had an interest in social media. In particular, he liked the app Tik Tok. For those who are unaware, Tik Tok encourages users to create short videos about whatever their little hearts desire. These videos often inspire viral, copy-cat style contests and, as a result, it is not uncommon for relatively unknown people to become “internet famous” based upon a Tik Tok video that they have produced and that has caught on. Most musicians today use Tik Tok as a way to market new material by releasing short teasers of upcoming songs. Anyway, for Zimmerman, he used Tik Tok to make videos about trucks that he and his family owned. Zimmerman hails from a blue collar family that has made great inroads in the trucking world. Because Zimmerman is a handsome lad, his truck videos began to gain some attention from female viewers. Because Zimmerman has a deep speaking voice, viewers began suggesting to him that he should try singing. So, Bailey Zimmerman learned to play the guitar and began posting snippets of himself singing original songs. Then, just like what happened to Justin Biber and Shawn Mendes, Bailey Zimmerman became “internet famous” as a singer. In no time at all, he was contacted by record labels and offered recording contracts. Everything happened so quickly for him that he didn’t even have an agent when all this went down. In two short years, Bailey Zimmerman has gone from a card carrying union pipefitter to playing on some of the biggest stages in America. It is all pretty heady stuff. The song “A Rock and a Hard Place” is a pretty good song that mines the usual Country subject matter of cheating hearts and broken dreams but, having said that, Zimmerman is quite photogenic and has a great singing voice. I imagine that this is just the first in a long line of hit songs to come. Enjoy.

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

Pink Venom by BlackPink (BBC Radio 1).

BTS: seven of the most well known young men in the world that you have never heard of.

One of the most viral music trends in the past few years has been K-pop. K-pop is short for Korean Pop music. While “Gangnam Style” by Psy was the introduction many North American listeners had to Korean music, it was not true K-pop. That trend really started a few years ago with the boy band BTS. This boy band seemingly came out of nowhere and then, all of a sudden, their music was everywhere and their popularity soared to stratospheric levels. While BTS was exploding on to the world music scene, South Korean record executives were busy assembling a female equivalent. That all-girl K-pop band consists of four girls and is known as BlackPink.

The K-pop phenomenon is really quite something. While western audiences are familiar with the concept of manufactured boy and girl bands (such as New Kids on the Block, N’Sync, Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls), the K-pop process is at another level entirely. In South Korea, the process to become involved in a K-pop group involves years of training and a selection process that involves the entire nation of South Korea. In the specific case of BlackPink, each girl in the group was selected, one at a time, over the course of a calendar year. As each girl was selected, her selection was announced on national TV and she became an instant celebrity at the tender age of 12 or 13. One by one, the group was assembled. Each chosen girl was sequestered in a dormitory in order for her to begin rigorous training in singing, dancing and fashion. Once all four girls were chosen, their life in the dormitory became the focus of a reality-based tv show in which their lives were on display 24-7. As a result of this exposure and scrutiny, many fan sites were created which meant that these four girls were viral celebrities before having released a single record.

K-pop’s newest sensation: Blackpink.

The song “Pink Venom” is their latest hit from their first album. The song is meant to introduce the girls as being darker and more mature than their teenybopper image might suggest. The video for this song is very slick and well-produced. It actually sounds kind of interesting because of the mix of genres at play (Jazz, Hip Hop, Pop), the mix of languages used (English and Korean), as well as the instruments used (traditional Korean instruments and modern instruments from around the world, too). The music is catchy but it is always evident that it is also highly calculated and packaged. Every close-up shot is carefully lit and perfectly staged. Every seductive bat of an eyelash is choreographed. But, just the same, the song does sound good and I am sure it will not be the last song we hear from this K-pop group called BlackPink.

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

That’s What I Want by Lil Nas X (CHUM-FM).

You may recall that Lil Nas X burst onto the music scene a couple of years ago with the mega hit, “Old Town Road” which he shared with Billy Ray Cyrus. I feel as though I could write an entire book about this young man because almost everything about who he is and how he came to be the man we know of today is extremely interesting to me. Let’s begin before the beginning.

Montero Lamar Hill aka Lil Nas X (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP).

Lil Nas X is a stage name. His real name is Montero Lamar Hill. He is a black man who is openly gay and yet, his foray into the world of music was into a genre known for its conservative values that can, at times, manifest themselves in the form of racism and homophobia. The Deep South is not a part of the world where gay black men tend to go to seek fame and fortune but that is what Lil Nas X did. What is instructive here is how he went about doing it. The intelligence and creativity that he showed prior to becoming a viral sensation says a lot about who Montero Lamar Hill really is and why he is becoming the public force that he is.

Like Bailey Zimmerman and like BlackPink, too, Lil Nas X harnessed the power of social media in a way that it had never been used before. In his specific case, Lil Nas X pioneered a social media technique on Twitter known as Tweetdecking. Tweetdecking is a process in which a person manages multiple accounts at the same time. In this scenario, a tweet is created by one account. That tweet is then amplified by having all of the other accounts that you control commenting and retweeting the original tweet. Thus, the original account can achieve the appearance of having gone viral without actually having attracted that much in the way of real support from real people. As you know, viral accounts shape the algorithms of what we see on our social media sites thus, tweetdecking enabled Lil Nas X to manipulate the causes that he was supporting. In his most famous case, it was in support of rapper Nicki Minaj. If this all sounds fishy to you then, your instincts are correct. Lil Nas X was punished by Twitter for using their service in that manner. However, his use of social media shows how forward thinking he was when it came to launching his own career and managing his image (which included details about his sexual orientation).

Long before Lil Nas X officially launched “Old Town Road” he was using social media to create interest in the song and in his persona. So, in the same calculating, marketed way K-pop worked, by the time “Old Town Road” hit the airwaves for real, it was already a well known song in the online world. Thus, the fact that a black, gay man was singing, what amounted to a classic country song, resembled a Pearl Harbour-esque sneak attack on those who act as gatekeepers of the genre. Lil Nas X manouvered around the traditional routes that country singers take to garner attention and crafted his own journey via social media. His fans online supported him in numbers that overwhelmed any initial opposition he may have faced. “Old Town Road” was already a hit before the folks at The Grand Ole Opry knew what hit them.

In the time since “Old Town Road” became a hit that held the position for over 19 consecutive weeks, Lil Nas X has used his platform to announce publicly that he is Gay and that, to him, this is a normal thing. He believes that he and other people who identify as having a different sexual orientation than hetrosexuality, are entitled to everything in life that everyone else has…happiness, freedom of expression, legal rights, personal protection and so on. In the song, “That’s What I Want”, Lil Nas X sings openly about wanting the sexual companionship of another man. The video that accompanies this song contains explicit sexual scenes between Lil Nas X and another man than many claim to be inappropriate but, in truth, are no different from dozens of others videos that show heterosexual couples in sexual situations. To each his own, I say.

Lil Nas X is a smart young man who realizes that his path to the top will not be a traditional one. He is creative and intelligent and proud of who he is. As such, he has made more headway in his career than many would have predicted for him. These are not the easiest of times to a black man in America nor to be a gay man in America and yet, here he is…one of the most influential celebrities of his time! One thing that I respect about him is how seriously he takes his responsibilities as a role model for other black men and gay men. He was once struggling to live as he believed he should and found courage in the stories told by others such as Frank Ocean, Billy Porter and Tyler, the Creator…all three being black, gay men who became respected for their skills in Hip Hop, Soul music, comedy and theatre in ways that transcended their sexuality. Lil Nas X knows that there are other young people who feel alone and frightened and angry at how life is treating them. If he can light the path forward for anyone else then he knows he will have truly made a difference. You can’t ask for much more from life than that.

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

***As always, all original content found in this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post may be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Today’s Top 40: The Stories Behind the Hits of Today…Aug. 24, 2022.

As usual, I have consulted the following music charts to help me compile the songs in today’s post: BBC Radio 1, CHUM-FM and Indie88-FM (from Toronto), Spotify, Billboard Magazine and radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle, Washington. In this week’s post, I looked at songs found in the position on each chart. So, let’s stop with the prelims and get to the main event! Here are the songs in Today’s Top 40.

Super Freaky Girl by Nicki Minaj (Billboard Magazine).

The Queen of Hip Hop…Nicki Minaj.

This song is debuting on the charts at ! It is not very often that a song does this. In doing so, Nicki Minaj has knocked Harry Styles, Lizzo and Beyonce all down a notch or two on the charts. Needless to say, there is a lot of buzz about Minaj and her return to the world of music. She had taken some time off because she became a mother just as the pandemic was starting. But she is back in a big way with “Super Freaky Girl”. For those who may not know, Nicki Minaj is highly regarded in the world of Hip Hop music. There are many who call her the “Queen of Hip Hop”. It is a title that is well-earned. Minaj has made quite the career for herself, with hit after hit, selling over 100 million albums in a genre of music that is typically known for male performers. One of the ways she has managed to make herself heard above the masculine din is because of the utter and unwavering sense of self-confidence she projects. Whenever she performs, she exudes power and strength. Thus, it is no surprise that she would mark her return to the music world with a song like “Super Freaky Girl”.

In order to set the musical tone for “Super Freaky Girl”, Minaj freely samples from the classic Rick James funk song, “Super Freak”. In addition to using a throbbing baseline, “Super Freaky Girl” hangs its musical hat upon the GOAT-mentality that shines throughout the lyrics. Let me be clear about the lyrics, they are extremely profane and sexually explicit. My age must be showing because, for the life of me, I cannot imagine this song being played during the morning drive time on any radio station. It is a filthy song…which, in turn, is used as a badge of honour. I won’t repeat the lyrical content in this post but, rest assured, if I sat down next to someone in a restaurant or other public venue who was talking aloud like Minaj sings in this song, I would move away. For me, I have no sexual interest in any woman beyond my wife so, when it comes to someone like Nicki Minaj, her sexual forwardness has no impact on me. In the end, all that is left for me is her music. To my mind, I don’t care for it. This is in addition to criticisms that she is using her position of influence to breathe new life into the career of a convicted sexual predator like Rick James.

However, there is no denying that she is a powerful female presence in a genre where strong women are not that easy to find. I wish her luck and am curious to see how “Super Freaky Girl” gets played on public radio. I know that there are “explicit” and “clean” versions of some songs but, in the case of “Super Freaky Girl” by Nicki Minaj, if you take away the explicitness of the lyrics, I am not sure there would actually be anything left except a constant series of bleeps. Maybe this is just me talking. What do you think of “Super Freaky Girl” by Nicki Minaj?

It is the listed song in the US as you read these words.

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

Big Energy by Latto (CHUM-FM).


Sigh! I feel old as I listen to yet, another new song by a female Hip Hop singer that is cloaked in profane expletives and sexual explicit lyrics. “Big Energy” is the sanitized-for-public-consumption title of this song. The real title is “Big D*ck Energy”. Latto is the former winner of a reality show in the US for aspiring Hip Hop artists. At the time of the competition, she went by Miss Mulatto. Then, she shortened her name to simply, Mulatto. Now she goes by Latto. The “Big D*ck Energy” she sings about is meant to refer to self-confidence and swagger. Latto states that many men exude this privileged air on a daily basis but that it is more difficult for women to do the same and not be labeled in some negative manner. So, she sings about sexual confidence and the fact that the men surrounding her need to up their game in order to earn her attention and affection. The lyrics to this song are very explicit, almost as if Latto is daring the music industry to censor her words and prove her point. Again, whether the singer is male or female, I am not generally a fan of songs built on a foundation of locker room talk. That may just be me. To some, having a woman speak boldly about her prowess in the bedroom is the height of feminism because she is claiming ownership of her body and how she uses it. Admittedly, there is power in that. As with Nicki Minaj and “Super Freaky Girl”, I will enjoy seeing how ”Big Energy”, in all of its frank sexual talk, appears on the public airwaves.

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

Mistakes by Sharon Van Etten. (KEXP-FM).

Sharon Van Etten.

Like too many young women, Sharon Van Etten found herself in an abusive relationship. She entered that relationship as someone with aspirations of becoming a singer/songwriter. However, as part of the abuse she endured, she was not allowed to sing, write nor to attend public music concerts by her partner. Eventually, Van Etten summoned the courage to leave and strike out on her own. She is now five albums into a journey that began with her simple desire to have her voice heard. I first became aware of Sharon Van Etten because of a standout performance she gave at the Glastonbury Music Festival in 2019. The performance was of a song of hers called, “Seventeen” which is basically a song written in the form of a letter to her younger self. *(You can watch that performance here). Like many performers, the pandemic sidelined her career for a while but now she is back with a brand new album called We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong. The first single from this album is a song called “Mistakes”. The performance you will see in the video is from a recent appearance on the Late Night With Stephen Colbert Show. Van Etten recently performed at Massey Hall in Toronto. From all reports, she was excellent.

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

Afraid To Feel by LF System (BBC Radio 1).

LF System: Larkman and Finnigan.

LF System is the name of a DJ duo from Scotland composed of Connor Larkman and Sean Finnigan. They are known for producing House music, which is a style of electronic dance music in which song lyrics are sampled and used in rhythmic, pulsating ways that drive an emotional response in those who are listening. In the specific case of the song, “Afraid To Feel”, Larkman and Finnigan sampled liberally from a 1979 song by Silk that was called “I Can’t Stop (Turning You On)”. *(You can listen to Silk here). In this sample, Deborah Harry from Blondie lends vocal assistance during the chorus. What Larkman and Finnigan did was to play around with the samples in ways that caused them to sound soulful, at times and, at other times more like a Disco vibe. All in all, “Afraid To Feel” has a good beat and is easy to dance to as they used to say on American Bandstand. It is definitely a song that will get your toes a-tapping. Enjoy.

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

I Ain’t Worried by One Republic (Spotify).

One Republic on the beach as part of their video shoot for “I Ain’t Worried”.

“I Ain’t Worried” is the second single to be released from the soundtrack of the Top Gun movie sequel. *(The first song was “Hold My Hand” by Lady Gaga. It was reviewed in a previous post that you can read here). The story behind “I Ain’t Worried” is that Top Gun star Tom Cruise was heavily involved in compiling the music that was to be used throughout the movie. For one particular scene that was being shot on a beach, Cruise went searching for music that would lighten the mood of the film and lessen the tension from all of the action and danger being portrayed on screen. The band, One Republic were made aware of his desire for a “fun, carefree song” and set about creating an original song for the film. Their record label submitted “I Ain’t Worried” to Cruise for his consideration. He loved it and thought it captured the essence of that particular scene perfectly. When you watch the official video for this song, you will see it used as Tom Cruise had envisioned it in the movie. For those interested, One Republic has been around for over a decade now. They had a huge hit a few years ago called “Counting Stars” which was a favourite of my own family for a while. You can listen to “Counting Stars” here).

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

Scratch the Surface by Sloan (Indie88-FM).

Sloan: Murphy, Ferguson, Pentland and Scott.

Sloan have been one of Canada’s premier Alternative/Indie bands for over three decades now. They formed in Halifax in the early 1990s and quickly became one of the most loved bands in the country. They had a string of hits including “Underwhelmed”, “Coax Me”, “The Good in Everyone”, “Money City Maniacs” and many more. One of the funny things about Sloan is that, despite their success, they are still relatively unknown outside of Alternative music circles. For instance, in a household like mine that is filled with Pop music lovers, I am reasonably confident that I am the only one who has ever heard a Sloan song before. They are under-rated only in the sense that their songs are not written in a Pop formula and therefore don’t usually end up in the rotations of many Top 40 radio stations. But make no mistake, Sloan have been bringing it for many years now and are easily one of the most respected bands in all of Canada.

Which brings me to today’s song, “Scratch the Surface”. The term “to scratch the surface” usually refers to someone or something that has only just begun to realize their potential. The term indicates that only a small amount of what is possible has been shown and that there is much more waiting to be discovered. In a funny way, “Scratch the Surface” perfectly encapsulates Sloan’s career. After taking a brief hiatus for a few years, Sloan reformed, moved from Halifax to Toronto and released a new album. The video for “Scratch the Surface” shows Toronto at its glitziest, all the while the various members of Sloan (Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, Jay Ferguson and Andrew Scott) walk around the city unnoticed by the public. The band pokes fun at itself and at its position in the social media landscape all throughout this video. My favourite part of the video (among many parts that I liked) was Jay Ferguson riding a bicycle through a park and discovering a box of records that were being thrown away. Needless to say, as he flips through the stack, many of the records relate to Sloan and/or to bands and singers who influenced them). The video displays a sense of humour and intelligence that has always been a hallmark of the songs Sloan produces. Sloan definitely has a trademark “sound” and “Scratch the Surface” fits seamlessly into their musical catalogue. Enjoy.

***Unfortunately, the link to the lyrics video for this song cannot be found here. So, in its place, here is one of my favourite Sloan moments…”Coax Me” with the folks from Choir, Choir, Choir. Enjoy.

***As always, all original content found in this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post can be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Today’s Top 40: The Stories Behind the Hits of Today.

In this edition of Today’s Top 40, I used the following current music charts that are published weekly by BBC Radio 1, Billboard Magazine, Spotify, KEXP-FM (Seattle), CHUM-FM and INDIE88-FM (Toronto). For this week, I looked at songs that were found at or close to position . I found lots of great tunes and interesting stories to go with them. So, without further delay, let’s dive into Today’s Top 40.

Snap by Rosa Linn (BBC Radio 1)

Rosa Linn.

Rosa Linn is a singer from Armenia. If you have never heard of an Armenian Pop singer before, well now you have. Rosa Linn’s story is a very interesting one. She was selected to represent Armenia in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The ESC has been a big deal in Europe for quite a long time. In fact, the contest has been around so long that it was the vehicle that ABBA used to get their first big break when they entered the contest with a song called “Waterloo” almost half a century ago. As Eurovision unfolds, it does so like the FIFA World Cup. Nations are placed into smaller competitive brackets (for organizational purposes) where they compete against each other in a series of round robin competitions. A select few from each bracket then qualify to go on to the final round of twenty which then becomes an elimination tournament like those types of shows seen in North America (such as American Idol). In the case of Rosa Linn and her song, “Snap”, she was eliminated in 20th place in this year’s competition. But, the story doesn’t end there. Ever since she was eliminated, there has been a groundswell of support given to her by outraged fans, many of whom believed that “Snap” was the best song in the whole Eurovision tournament, let alone the 20th best song! Since being eliminated, “Snap” has gone viral, as the cool kids say. It is roaring up the European music charts and finds itself at with a bullet on the BBC Radio 1 chart in the UK.

“Snap” is a good strong Pop song that mines the familiar territory that comes with an emotional romantic breakup. However, one of the things that is helping to capture the attention of the public is an unusual and very creative official music video. Having watched it, I can attest to the fact that the video for “Snap” is very interesting from a visual perspective. *(Much in the same way that the video for “Ceremony” by Joy Division/New Order was more a movie told silently in colourful, meaningful imagery. You can recall that video here.) In any case, “Snap” by Rosa Linn is one of the most noteworthy happenings in the music world at the moment. Feel free to click away on the link above and see what all of the fuss is about. For what it is worth, I think this video justifies the hype.

***The link to the lyric video can be found here.

The Kind of Love We Make by Luke Combs (Spotify)

Luke Combs.

Luke Combs is one of the rising stars in the world of Country music. He has had numerous hits in his young career and has already been nominated twice for Entertainer of the Year and, as if that wasn’t enough, Luke Combs is the youngest singer in many years to have been invited to join the legendary Grand Ol’ Opry. Luke Combs possesses a strong, clear voice and has a passion for storytelling that allows him to tap into many of the emotions and experiences felt by “ordinary folks”. I guess that is something that Country music singers/bands tend to do better than other genres. It is easy for audiences to see themselves in the songs that many Country stars sing. “The Kind of Love We Make” is no exception. In this song, Combs offers some excellent advice for those of us who have been married/in a relationship for a number of years. The song is a cautionary tale about becoming too settled and comfortable, too distracted by parenting and running a household that you allow the romantic passion that originally brought you together to flicker out. It is easy to stop being lovers and morph into a kind of platonic friendship that, while comforting, is nothing like those days when the mere sight of each other got your hearts a-pumping. So, “The Kind of Love We Make” is a song that encourages couples to keep finding time for the romantic side of their relationships. In true Country fashion, the video tells a wonderful story that many of us can relate to.

***The lyrics video for this song can be found here.

She Had Me At Heads Carolina by Cole Swindell (Billboard Magazine).

Like Luke Combs, Cole Swindell is one of the young guns in the Country Music scene. He has had many Top Ten hits and has won awards for his singing and for his music videos. That creativity is on full display in this song, “She Had Me At Heads Carolina”. One of the many things that the Country music genre does well is to honour its roots. So, while sidelined from touring because of the pandemic, Cole Swindell and a few of his songwriting buddies gave themselves a challenge. The challenge was to write a new song that built upon the story of a legendary Country song from a previous decade without simply echoing the song or turning it into a sequel. After several swings and misses, the boys opted to use the song that introduced the world to Country star Jo Dee Messina, “Heads Carolina, Tails California”.

Cole Swindell and Jo Dee Messina.

In 1996, Messina released her debut single, “Heads Carolina, Tails California”. This song was about a working class couple who were caught in the humdrum of everyday life and sought greener, warmer pastures elsewhere. The location of those new pastures was to be determined by a simple flip of a coin. Like so many songs before it, “Heads Carolina, Tails California” has this “us against the world” feel about it that has you rooting for the couple as they pull up stakes in search of finding a better life somewhere else. Needless to say, this song became an instant classic for Messina, who has never looked back in her career.

What Cole Swindell managed to do was honour Messina’s song by making the singing of it part of a love story of his own. In “She Had Me At Heads Carolina”, Swindell sets his song in a karaoke bar where he watches a girl sing Messina’s song on the karaoke stage. In Swindell’s lyrics, he states how beautiful he thought the girl looked, but he is just as enthralled with her because she “loves 90s Country just like me”. In Swindell’s capable hands, he manages to honour a singer he admires, honour the roots of the Country music genre and, at the same time, reaffirm the foundational aspect of Country music which states that it is real music for real people. All in all, this is a clever take on a time-honoured Country music tradition and proves to be an enjoyable song in all regards.

***The lyrics video for this song can be found here.

Pharmacist by Alvvays (KEXP-FM)


I find it interesting that it took a radio station from Seattle, Washington to showcase the latest song by a band with its roots in Cape Breton, the home of my heart. The lead singer of Alvvays (pronounced “Always”) is a young woman named Mollie Rankin. Mollie is the daughter of John Morris Rankin, who was one of the founding members/siblings of Cape Breton’s famous Rankin Family band. As such, Mollie Rankin is descended from musical royalty in the eyes of those of us who call Cape Breton our home. While adept at playing the type of Celtic music that made her family name so well known, Mollie Rankin has chosen, instead, to focus on a career built upon a foundation of Alt-Pop. Her band’s most famous hit to date is the catchy song “Marry Me, Archie”, which you can listen to here.

Well, Alvvays has released a new album called Blue Rev. The first song from this album is called “Pharmacist”. The song has not been officially released, so there is no video as of yet…only an audio track, so in the link above, that is what you will get to hear. But the folks at KEXP-FM are pumping this song’s tires and, as a result, it is already a hit with fans of that station’s music. “Pharmacist is about three minutes long and is filled with the same type of jangle-Pop energy and spirit that have come to typify their sound. Alternative music is my go-to choice of genres so I think this song is a lot of fun. Hopefully you will give it a chance and a listen and will like it, too.

***If I can find a lyrics video for this unreleased song, I will post it here.

Happiness by The 1975 (INDIE88-FM)

The 1975.

The 1975 are an English band who happen to currently be operating out of that musical breeding ground of Manchester, UK. They are known as an Alt-Rock band who write songs with literate lyrics. The 1975 are also known for producing highly creative music videos. Keep all of that in mind as you watch the video for their latest song, “Happiness”. The whole song is filled with lyrics like, “I have traveled far to hold you near”. The wordplay is clever and will keep you guessing as to what the message of this song actually is. The music video is equally engaging. As I watched, I found myself constantly having the focus of my gaze re-oriented by the stop-start filming technique being used. That is not necessarily a bad thing because it kept my mind guessing all throughout the song. I apologize if it seems as though I might be making “Happiness” seem like a challenging song to take in. On the surface, it is a bright, fun, boppy tune that is easy to listen to and enjoy. However, bubbling just below the surface are a lot of creative touches that you don’t always get from bands. I appreciate the lengths that The 1975 went to in order to bring a deeper meaning to their music. If you care to give this song a listen, I hope that you will find it witty and clever and enjoyable, too.

***The link to the lyrics video can be found here.

Moth To A Flame by Swedish House Mafia ft. The Weeknd (CHUM-FM).

Teeny tiny iPod Shuffle.

About five or six years ago, when my daughters were more children than the young women they are today, my wife and I gave them each an iPod Shuffle. If you are familiar with iPod Shuffles at all, you will remember that they looked like sticks of gum and were basically just meant to hold and play a finite number of songs. You really couldn’t do much with the music held on these devices except to press play and listen to the same songs in the same order again and again. We bought these for the girls to use during road trips in the car. We thought that they were ready for this type of device because they had begun to have an awareness of popular music because of what I listened to and what they heard on the radio when driving around town with their mother. One of the songs that made it onto that original iPod Shuffle playlist was a song by Swedish House Mafia called “Don’t Worry Child” *(which you can listen to here). “Don’t Worry Child”, along with Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” (which the girls also had on their playlists) were among the very first songs to crossover from the burgeoning Electronic Dance Music genre and have success on mainstream radio. Because we could plug the Shuffles into our car’s audio system, we all became quite familiar with the thirty-fifty songs each girl had on their playlists, and, as a result, we know far more about Swedish House Mafia than you may expect from nerds like us.

Swedish House Mafia.

“Moth To A Flame” is the latest single from Swedish House Mafia to enjoy crossover success. This is helped in part because of the presence of The Weeknd on this song. The Weeknd owns his own publishing company. This company signs and promotes other artists and bands besides The Weeknd. One of the bands that recently signed onto The Weeknd’s company was Swedish House Mafia. So, it is not unexpected that a collaboration would take place and that The Weeknd would use his star power to boost the signal on this new song. Even though this is not a Hip Hop song, “Moth To A Flame” uses the same group dynamic as old-school rappers used back in the day. In this case, The Weeknd is the singer of the lyrics while the three members of Swedish House Mafia act as DJs. They bring their skills at sampling to bear and surround The Weeknd’s vocals with an enormous soundscape to play in.

Much is expected from this song because of the business investment being made, so I imagine we will be hearing “Moth To A Flame” quite a bit over the next few months. You get to hear it while it is still relatively fresh and new. Enjoy.

***The link to the lyrics video for “Moth To A Flame” can be found here.

Note: Header photos taken at the recent Osheaga Music Festival held in Montreal at the end of July, 2022. A link to the festival website can be found here.

***As always…all original content found in this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post may be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Today’s Top 40: The Stories Behind the Songs That Are Hits Right Now

For today’s post, I surveyed the following websites and looked at the songs listed on their Top 40 charts from this past week….BBC Radio 1, Billboard Magazine, Spotify, Indie88-FM & CHUM-FM (out of Toronto) and KEXP-FM out of Seattle. In all cases, I chose the song they had listed in position . There are some heavy hitters located in chart spot this week, so without further delay, let’s find out about Today’s Top 40 right now!

Break My Soul by Beyoncé (BBC Radio 1 AND Billboard Magazine)

Beyoncé is far past the point of simply being another musician who happens to be releasing new music. For the past decade or so, Beyoncé has always released music that has been purposeful and strong and defiant. She has championed the role of females in our patriarchal society. She has taught a generation of Black people to take pride in their heritage, and to move forth into the future with heads held high. She suffers no fools in any regard. So, when the news broke last week that Beyoncé had new music ready to be released, it caught everyone’s attention.


Her new album is called Renaissance. The first single to drop is called “Break My Soul”. The song is a glorious throwback to 90s House music tunes that were all the rage in the clubs back then. It has a driving beat and will surely be one of the dance hits of the summer. But, as mentioned, Beyoncé is known for making political statements with her music and “Break My Soul” is no exception. First of all, this song is a response to the experience of workers during the pandemic. The Covid-19 experience was bad for many different types of people in our society. In “Break My Soul”, Beyoncé comments upon what it was like for workers to be forced to expose themselves to dangerous work environments just so that the bottom lines of billionaires could increase. In particular, she sings about a movement/moment in time that has come to be known as The Great Resignation which details the wave of people who refused to go to work in person during and/or after the pandemic. In the bigger picture, The Great Resignation movement is one that is seeking to re-configure how work gets done in this Age of Information, which, when you start to think about it, impacts transportation, everyday things like personal wardrobes and the making of lunches, the use of private buildings, flexible work schedules and much, much more. And yet, “Break My Soul” is a throbbing, beat-driven dance tune that will get your toes a-tapping! Honestly, it is!

But, Beyoncé wasn’t content to merely comment on the nature of labour in our world. In “Break My Soul”, she lent her enormous influence to two people who were well known in the world of 90s House Music but not so well known in popular culture by sampling their work at key moments in her song. The two people were Robin S. and Freedia. The reason this is important…beyond the impact it has on the lives of these two performers…is that Beyoncé is allying herself with three social groups that are currently under legislative attack all across America. Robin S. is a Black female and Freedia is transexual. By including these samples, Beyoncé is making it clear that she supports Black people, females, as well as those who occupy any position on the gender identity spectrum.

Sometimes, a song can become leaden and burdensome when it attempts to make too many weighty statements beyond the mere musicality of the song. But that is not the case with “Break My Soul”. It is a peppy dance-oriented groove that will make you want to move. More power to Beyoncé for producing good music that is simply good music…but that is, also, more, too. ***The lyrics version of “Break My Soul” can be found here.

Hold My Hand by Lady Gaga (from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film, Top Gun: Maverick (CHUM-FM)

Every generation seems to have their Barbra Streisand or their Céline Dion. Today’s comparable artist would be Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta or, as she is better known, Lady Gaga. Germanotta chose her stage name based upon the Queen classic song, “Radio Gaga” and, in particular, Freddy Mercury’s outstanding performance of this song during the 1987 Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London. *(You can watch that performance here). There are many who rate Mercury’s performance that day as being the single best live performance of all time. It was a moment in which Mercury and his audience were operating in perfect harmony. It was a powerful piece of music history. One of those in awe of it was Germanotta, who has devoted her whole life to attempting to bring that same spirit of Freddy Mercury to life via her career in music.

That Lady Gaga can sing is obvious. The lady has pipes! Right from the very beginning of her career, she has released all manner of songs in all manner of styles and had hits with them all. “Just Dance”, Poker Face”, “Bad Romance”, “Paparazzi”, “Love Game”, “Born This Way”, “Alejandro”, “The Edge of Glory”, “Applause”, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” (with Tony Bennett) and the Academy Award winning song, “Shallow” (with Bradley Cooper from the movie “A Star is Born”) are just some of her hit songs which, taken together, read like a musical soundtrack for the last twenty years in popular culture. Lady Gaga has sold over 170 million albums so far, which makes her one of the most successful musical artists of all time.

Lady Gaga.

As a performer, Lady Gaga is becoming as well known as an actor as she is a singer. Her work in “A Star is Born” may have brought her into the public eye, but since then, she has commanded the spotlight in movies such as “House of Gucci” and is now lending her fame to the new Top Gun movie as well. “Hold My Hand” is the first single from the movie soundtrack, and it is soaring to the top of the charts. It is a power ballad that showcases Lady Gaga’s extraordinarily powerful voice. She wrote the song as a power ballad because, as you may know, the song style known as the power ballad was popular back in the 1980s when the original Top Gun movie premiered. So, “Hold My Hand” is not merely a song that will tug on the emotional heartstrings of those who have watched the movie, but it is also a connective song that ties this movie with the original from the 1980s. Lady Gaga is one of the biggest musical names on the planet these days so it is no surprise that she appears near the top of this week’s charts.

***The lyrics version of “Hold My Hand” can be found here.

A Potion For Love by Aurora (Indie88-FM)

Norwegian Singer, Aurora

Ever since I discovered Aurora’s cover version of the Beatles hit “All Across the Universe” last year while doing the “Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History” countdown, I have been a huge fan. What a sweet, ethereal voice she has! In my mind, Aurora is the logical successor to one of my other favourite and highly original singers, Bjork! Like Bjork, Aurora hails from northern Europe, specifically, Norway. She grew up near a fjord in an isolated part of the country and likens her childhood to being like the one experienced by the children who went through the wardrobe and into Narnia. Aurora brings this childlike sense of magic and wonder to the music she sings. You can choose almost any song of hers from YouTube and you will find the comments section filled with emotional gratitude from people from all over the world who view her songs as possessing such a feeling of beauty and peacefulness in a time of such global stress and despair.

“A Potion For Love” is no exception. It is a song about heartbreak that reads like a novel. The lyrics are highly intelligent and speak to the experience of loving and letting go and the emotions of that connection that is never truly over regardless of what terms the relationship ended upon. If you have never listened to Aurora sing then you are in for something completely different and unique. There is no one who sounds like her today. She stands alone. I, for one, feel fortunate to have stumbled across her work when I did. I hope that you will feel that way, too. ***The lyrics version for “A Potion For Love” can be found here.

Bad Habit by Steve Lacy (KEXP-FM)

Steve Lacy.

I have often been accused of being a music snob by my wife. She and I have very different tastes when it comes to the type of music we like to listen to. She is on record as saying that every song doesn’t have to tell a story or have a deeper meaning to be a good song. My beautiful wife maintains that a song can be great simply because of how it makes you feel and how it makes you want to move. Not surprisingly, my wife is drawn to the genre of music known as Pop. On that basis, I am fairly confident that she would approve of “Bad Habit” by a singer named Steve Lacy.

This song comes from his new album called “Gemini Rights”. The closest comparison I have would be Phillip Bailey, the falsetto-sounding co-lead singer of Earth, Wind and Fire. Lacy possesses an airy voice that brings a sense of lightness to his song. “Bad Habit” is a breezy, simple-sounding song that feels exactly right for playing at sidewalk cafes and outdoor patios on a summer’s day. If a breath of fresh air is what you’re after, then “Bad Habit” by Steve Lacy is probably for you. Enjoy. ***The lyrics version of this song can be found here.

Heat Waves by Glass Animals

Glass Animals.

And speaking of perfect Pop….”Heat Waves” by Glass Animals has been on the charts for over two years now!!! For many people, it is the perfect summer-sounding song. It is an earworm in the very best sense of the term. This song by English Pop band Glass Animals came out in time for the summer festival circuit prior to the onset of the pandemic…and, just like COVID, it has lingered all this time. Like many songs, its lyrics revolve around relationships and breaking up, but they are sung in such a sweet, melodic way that it appears as though “Heat Waves” has become woven into the very fabric of modern culture as we experience it today. The song is set in “…a summer day in June…”, which, when you think of it, is a clever ploy because of this wording. “Heat Waves” re-emerges every year in June like clockwork and fans fall in love with the sweetness of its sound all over again. I am sure that you have heard this song playing in the background while shopping or while driving in your car. It is a light and airy, very catchy tune. If you have never heard of it before then be prepared to thank me or loathe me for introducing it to you. Once you hear “Heat Waves”, you will always remember it. Whether that is a good thing or not I will leave up to you.

***The lyrics version of “Heat Waves” can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of the post may be reblogged, copied or shared in any form without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Today’s Top 40: The Stories Behind Today’s Biggest Hits…Glastonbury Music Festival Edition: Part II.

In this edition of Today’s Top 40, I am going to wrap up our look at the recent Glastonbury Music Festival by introducing you to two young performers who stole the show there, as well as reacquainting you with two dear old friends who gave, arguably, the most memorable performance of the entire festival. Here we go! This is Glastonbury Part II!

I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend by Girl in Red. *Lyrics video is here.

Marie Ulven Ringheim of Girl in Red.

Girl in Red is a band from Norway that is fronted by a charismatic twenty-three year old woman named Marie Ulven Ringheim. Like many of this generation’s most popular acts, Girl in Red came to the attention of the public via performances on social media. In this case, Ringheim was given a guitar as a teenager and started writing her own songs and uploading them to the file sharing platform known as Soundcloud. It was while on Soundcloud that people first heard her song, “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend”. This song captured the more inclusive mood of today’s youth by being unabashedly about Ringheim’s desire for a girl named Hannah. The song is a guitar driven bit of jangle pop and is a hoot to listen to. In 2017, Girl in Red was signed to a record contract and released their debut album called Chapter 1. Since then, the video for “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” has been streamed a quarter of a billion(!) times. Girl in Red was voted as Best New Act and “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” as Song of the Year in Norway in 2018.

Aside from the great initial success of this song, Girl in Red gave an outstanding live performance of “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” at Glastonbury that you just have to see. The video is seven minutes long. The first half is the type of standard stage show you would expect to see but then, at the halfway mark, Ringheim challenges the audience to perform a “wall of death”. They agree to try. What follows is an amazing example of the trust that exists between an artist and their fans when rock n’ roll is done properly. The second half of this performance is awesome! When you watch it you will see thousands of people having the time of their lives. It is truly something else! Definitely worth a few minutes of your time. And yes, the “wall of death” scene just goes to prove that COVID is over, right?! It’s really over, isn’t it? This crowd certainly thinks so. But we won’t think about that just yet. Simply enjoy this amazing performance and remember what it feels like to have fun on an epic scale such as this.

Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender. *Lyrics video is here.

Sam Fender.

“Seventeen Going Under” is the title track from Sam Fender’s second album. Fender is a good example of not rushing to judgment on a person because of how they look. On the surface, Sam Fender is model handsome. Because of that, it is easy to view him as a beautiful boy who has been given the spotlight because of his looks more than because of any talent he might possess. However, to do so would be wrong and would cause you to miss out on a performer who has endured quite a lot already in his young life and whose songwriting has gained comparisons to a young Springsteen.

The song “Seventeen Going Under” is Fender’s autobiography. It tells the story of a life spent battling poverty, bullying, obesity and abuse. It does all of this in the guise of a guitar driven rocker that will have you cheering for Fender by the time he is through with you. The short strokes of his story are that Fender grew up in Northern England in poverty. His parents had an abusive marriage which, at times, involved the abuse finding its way to him. Fender was overweight as a child and was bullied because of it. The combination of abuse at school and at home caused Fender to mask his sadness and sorrow by becoming an extroverted class clown type. Eventually, Fender found music as an outlet for the emotions he was bottling up inside. As well, one of his uncles began teaching him self defense as a teenager. The discipline needed to be successful in that endeavour helped to tone his body. However, just as life was beginning to look up for him as a teenage boy, his mother was stricken with health problems and Fender felt as though the responsibility for caring for his family was falling on his shoulders. So, at age seventeen, he felt he was falling under the weight of his burdens and so he wrote the song, “Seventeen Going Under”.

This song has achieved widespread acclaim. Sam Fender has been declared Best New Artist in the UK and “Seventeen Going Under” was proclaimed the winner of the Ivor Novello Award as Best Song in this very year of 2022. When you watch the live performance, you can see that the audience is definitely on Fender’s side as they sing along from the very first notes. It has to be gratifying to have come from where he has and then to receive the type of reception he got at Glastonbury. When it comes to watching the video, I suggest that you watch the lyrics video first. That video is less visually distracting which will allow you to focus on the words he is singing and the story that he is telling. The comparisons to Springsteen are not a stretch by any means. This young man actually has some writing chops. The more I learn of him the more I wonder if his career will mirror that of another model handsome young man named George Michael. Time will tell, I suppose. But, for now, allow me to introduce you to a great, well written song and a wonderfully-positive live performance as well. Enjoy both.

Imagine! All these years later, Paul McCartney and John Lennon share the same stage again.

I’ve Got a Feeling by Paul McCartney and “John Lennon”. *Lyrics version can be found here.

When it was first announced that 80 year old Paul McCartney would be the closing act at Glastonbury, many thought that this was a mistake. Music festivals such as Glastonbury tend to be energy-fuelled affairs that often showcase the music of up and coming acts. While big name acts appear on the bill, too, those acts tended to still be ones that were actively recording and releasing new material such as Foo Fighters, who headlined Glastonbury just before the pandemic shut everything down. So when Paul McCatrney was announced as the headliner, many thought his show would be slow paced and pedestrian and that it would be a set filled with old music from a bygone era.

So, imagine everyone’s surprise when this 80 year old man absolutely killed it for over two solid hours! McCartney’s set was helped by special appearances by Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl (who was making his first public appearance since the death of friend and drummer, Taylor Hawkins a few months ago). However, the biggest surprise was McCartney himself. His voice was strong and his stamina solid. He played like he always had and sounded fresh and vibrant as ever. It seemed as though he was having fun. Consequently, the audience was given a glimpse at the charismatic presence of a man who helped change the way the world listens to music.

One of the best parts about moments such as McCartney’s performance is that the lessons of history need not be dull. The Glastonbury Music Festival is, above all else, a vehicle for showcasing the best of British music. What better venue than this for introducing modern audiences to the generational talent that is Paul McCartney and The Beatles?! Thus, it was with much poignancy that Sir Paul launched into the song “I’ve Got a Feeling” toward the end of his set. You may remember that this song was one of the final songs The Beatles ever recorded together. As their time together was ending and they were all going their separate ways, the members of The Beatles managed to record a few final songs. One of them was “I’ve Got a Feeling”. That song was one of the songs they were able to perform at the famous rooftop concert at Abbey Road studios that marked the end of their live performing days as a band. So, there was a lot of history at play when Paul McCartney started to sing this song on the Glastonbury stage. About two thirds of the way through the song, McCartney was joined by a special guest who served to bring the history lesson home. That special guest was long time songwriting partner and friend, John Lennon….well, sort of! History came to life on that stage and an entirely new generation of British music fans got to bear witness to something extremely special that served as a foundation for all of the new music they had heard at the festival up until that point. It is not an understatement to say that it was a magical moment and one that will be remembered for a long time. I guess that it just goes to prove the point that just because someone or something is old doesn’t mean it still can’t rock one’s world. Please click on the link above and watch a genius work his magic once again.

That closes out my coverage of the 2022 Glastonbury Music Festival. *(You can read Part I here). I hope that you have enjoyed reading about and watching some of the amazingly talented performers who graced the various stages at this festival. It was so nice to see live music again. If you want to get a glimpse of a far larger group of artists and bands who performed at Glastonbury, you can access their performances by clicking on the BBC Music link here. Thank you all for reading and listening. Have a wonderful day.

***As always, all original content in this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this blog post may be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Today’s Top 40: Glastonbury Edition…the Stories Behind the Most Memorable Performances from the 2022 Glastonbury Music Festival.

NOTE: In this edition of Today’s Top 40, I am abandoning my usual format of showcasing the top songs on various music charts. Instead I am going to focus on the recent Glastonbury Music Festival. There are several major music festivals that typically take place around the world over the course of the summer, with Glastonbury being one of the biggest and most important of them all. This year’s edition of Glastonbury was the first live, in-person gathering since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. I think that everyone was happy to be there, and the festival did not disappoint. Unfortunately, the politics of Roe v. Wade being overturned in the United States cast a pall over the proceedings. Many of the performers and audience members had opinions on the matter and were not afraid to state those aloud. This politically-charged atmosphere produced some unforgettable moments, many of which you will read about below. For now, for what it is worth, know that I completely and unreservedly support a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. My social media platform is not that large but I will use it to champion this cause. To start, I present some of the best and most memorable performances from female acts at this past Glastonbury Music Festival. This is, in no way, tokenism. All performers were outstanding and worthy of the spotlight. So, without further delay, here are the festival highlights from Glastonbury 2022.

Stoned at the Nail Salon by Lorde (featuring Arlo Parks and Clairo)

Arlo Parks, Lorde and Clairo sing “Stoned at the Nail Salon” at Glastonbury.

Don’t let the title fool you. This is such a lovely and intelligent song. The live performance is absolutely stunning. “Stoned at the Nail Salon” appeared on Lorde’s latest album from 2021 called Solar Power. It is a delicately-constructed song that is almost sung a cappella, with only a subtle acoustic guitar accompaniment in the background. The song is a rumination on the life path of young women in today’s world and the choices one gets to make or not, according to society’s norms. In particular, it is a song about how gender defines a woman’s journey. Specifically, as a male, I was always encouraged to follow my dreams and ambitions and taught that how successful my life ended up being viewed by others depended upon my job and income, the size of my car and house, the beauty of my wife and so on. That this sort of valuation is nonsense doesn’t matter. It is how society’s game is played. For many women, they can be encouraged to follow their dreams and ambitions, too, but woven into that journey is the expectation of having children…a family, and of living a life in which domesticity plays a part. In “Stoned at the Nail Salon”, Lorde writes about having a good home, a loving partner and a dog who comes when she calls, and yet she wonders if she is missing anything in life because of how the path she is on was chosen for her in a lot of ways by societal expectations for women. What really makes this performance special is that Lorde unselfishly shares the stage with two other female singers…Arlo Parks and Clairo. Both of these young ladies are in their twenties like Lorde, but they have had very different life experiences up until now. However, when they sing, the most glorious harmonies occur. It is easily the best live singing performance I have seen in a long, long time. From the very first notes of this song, the audience and the three singers all realize that something magical is happening. It is wonderful to bear witness to. That three talented young women of differing backgrounds could sing together and speak as one is especially poignant given all that happened this week in America.

***Note: the link to the live performance can be found in the song title that begins this section of the post. However, starting today, I am going to include a “lyric” version of each song for any reader who is experiencing difficulty understanding the words of the songs I am highlighting. So, the link to the lyric version of “Stoned at the Nail Salon” can be found here.

Both Arlo Parks and Clairo have good careers of their own. In order to give each woman her due, I am including a link to their websites and a link to a song video of theirs as well.

So, for Arlo Parks, who is a poet and folk-pop singer, the link to her website can be found here. The link to the official music video for her beautiful song “Hope” can be found here. The lyric version of “Hope” by Arlo Parks can be found here.

For Clairo, who has been producing alternative folk-pop for many years now, the link to her website can be found here. The link to her live performance of “Bags” can be found here. The lyrics version can be viewed here.

I Know the End by Phoebe Bridgers (featuring Arlo Parks)

Phoebe Bridgers and Arlo Parks sing “I Know the End” at Glastonbury.

Phoebe Bridgers is a singer who has already achieved much success in the US with several Top 40 hits such as “Motion Sickness”, “Kyoto” and “Sidelines”. Bridgers released her debut album in 2017 and won several awards for it including “Best New Artist”. Bridgers is known for alternative and folk-rock music and models herself after the legendary singer/songwriter Elliott Smith *(you can read about Smith and Bridgers in this post about Smith’s hit “Miss Misery” here). The song “I Know the End” comes from her most recent album and is referred to as a three-piece suite. That is helpful to know because it is a song that can fool you into thinking it is a dreamy ballad when, in fact, it is a song with three distinct sections, all of which have different tempos and styles. The song represents Bridger’s thoughts on the direction life in America is heading. Being an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ2 rights, Bridgers is very fearful of the future for anyone who loves differently and seeks to live openly. The talented Arlo Parks shows up to lend her presence to Bridger’s song. It is instructive to see Parks with Bridgers after seeing her with Lorde and Clairo because both songs are very different, requiring Parks to be a different performer for each.

***The link to the lyrics version of “I Know the End” by Phoebe Bridgers can be found here.

Rainbow by Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves performs “Rainbow” at Glastonbury.

Kacey Musgraves is a country and western singer. But, she is a bit of a rare breed for that genre because she is an outspoken advocate for causes that tend to be on the left of the political spectrum whereas the genre, as a whole, tends to skew more toward conservative politics. Musgraves is a Grammy award winner, as well as being a multiple Country Music Association award winner, too. Because of her willingness to use her platform to further the causes she supports, Musgraves had some things to say about the Roe v. Wade decision handed down by the increasingly religious-minded US Supreme Court. You can hear her words at the beginning of the video for her song, “Rainbow”. “Rainbow” is from Musgraves’ third album. The video for this song won the CMA award for Video of the Year. Her album won the Grammy award for Country Album of the Year. The song is about finding the strength to overcome adversity. Musgraves states that “Rainbow” was the last song of hers that her grandmother ever heard her sing before passing away and that singing it at her funeral was the toughest performance of her life. Not surprisingly, Musgraves has dedicated the song to the LGBTQ2 community and has invited them to use it as an anthem for any parades, meetings or promotional campaigns.

***The link to the video containing the lyrics version of “Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves can be found here.

Chaise Longue by Wet Leg.

Wet Leg.

Wet Leg are a female duo from the Isle of Wight. The two musicians are Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers. The name of their band comes from a local saying on the Isle of Wight that states you can always tell the tourists from those who live there because the tourists often get their pant legs wet disembarking from the small ferry that brings visitors to the island. Thus, those known as “wet legs” are wanderers and explorers and in many ways, outsiders. So, too, are the band, as they travel the world. I can tell you from my own YouTube music feed that Wet Leg are one of the hottest bands in the world at the moment. I have watched them appear everywhere from late night talk shows on TV, to appearances on any and every radio show that broadcasts live performances, all the way to music festivals such as Glastonbury. Wet Leg play a variety of musical styles but they are becoming best known for the energetic style of rock that they play. “Chaise Longue” is their biggest hit to date and is one of the most popular songs on music charts at the moment, too. Their performance at Glastonbury was one of the more widely anticipated ones on a roster packed with hit makers. If this is your first time watching/listening to Wet Leg, I can guarantee you that it will not be the last time you hear of them. They are on the cusp of being the next big thing. You heard that here first.

***The link to the video containing the lyrics version of “Chaise Longue” by Wet Leg can be found here.

F*ck You by Olivia Rodrigo (featuring Lily Allen)

Lily Allen and Olivia Rodrigo at Glastonbury.

I will close this post with a performance that made headlines when it happened. Right now, Olivia Rodrigo is one of the shiniest of stars in the world of music today. It is fair to say that she is well-positioned to be this generation’s version of Taylor Swift should she care to continue along the path she is currently on. *(I have profiled Olivia Rodrigo before. You can read that post here). So, a lot of attention was paid when Rodrigo took time from her Glastonbury set to address the Roe v. Wade decision. Rodrigo stated very passionately that the Court’s decision was one that will cost many women their lives. She proceeded to list the names of the conservative judges who authored the decision overturning abortion rights laws that had been on the books for half a century. Then she introduced a special guest singer named Lily Allen. Allen is a well known singer, particularly in the UK. She has had many hits of her own and was the winner of the Ivor Novello award for songwriting, as well as the Brit Award for Top Female Performer. The song “F*ck You” is a Lily Allen song. She wrote the song over a decade ago in response to the policies of US President George Bush. Since Bush has left office, “F*ck You” has been an all-purpose song that is used to take aim at whichever politician is trying to implement policies that cost lives, in the opinion of Allen. So, what better song for Olivia Rodrigo to dedicate to the US Supreme Court than “F*ck You” and who better to sing it with than Lily Allen herself.

Just one of the many articles written about The Dixie Chicks controversy.

As a lover of music and a student of history, the parallels between how Rodrigo spoke about conservative US policies at Glastonbury and how the all-female band The Dixie Chicks spoke about the Bush government after 9/11 are striking. For those unaware, The Dixie Chicks criticized President Bush for seeking to invade Iraq in the wake of the terrorist attacks in NYC on 9/11. Lead singer Natalie Maines simply said that they were embarrassed to have Bush for a president. The fallout from that public statement given during a concert in Paris was swift. The Dixie Chicks were the subject of an organized campaign to blacklist them from appearing in concert, on TV or radio in the US ever again. There were death threats against all three members of the band. Their record sales plummeted. Their song “Not Ready To Make Nice” was written in reaction to the experiences they endured. *(You can watch that video here. The lyrics video is here). In my opinion, it was a shameful chapter in US music history. Many have speculated that much of the reason for the ferocity of the pushback from conservatives in America was because the members of The Dixie Chicks were all female. Many have concluded that male singers have said and done much worse and have gotten off with light taps on the knuckles, if even that. That a strong female such as Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks caused such an over-the-top reaction twenty years ago makes me wonder how Olivia Rodrigo will fare when she returns to the US. I applaud her for having the courage to speak out on behalf of other women whose voices are never heard. I wish her luck in the coming days, weeks and months. I hope that she doesn’t need it. In the meantime, enjoy one of the most talked about performances from Glastonbury 2022.

***The link to the video containing the lyrics version of “F*ck You” by Lily Allen can be found here.

The link to the official website of The Glastonbury Music Festival 2022 can be found here.

***As always, all original content found in this post is the sole property of the author. No portion of this post may be reblogged, copied or shared in any form without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

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