Filed under: Features
A few days ago I started a Pandora station in search of, what I consider to be, Contemporary Jazz. I figured that adding elements of both Amy Winehouse (jazzy pop) and A Tribe Called Quest (jazzy hip-hop) would help me to reach a happy medium. I feared finding the top 40 pop artists that are too often worshiped in the modern music culture. On the pop end I found myself listening to Sara Bareilles and Norah Jones both who use jazzy elements in their music more often than one would think. On the hip-hop end I found myself listening to more Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Black Star, and the Fugees (with some of Lauryn Hill’s solo work). On the Jazz end I heard, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Sam Cooke, and even Frank Sinatra.
One of the artists that really stood out to me was Adele. Her influences, Etta James and Jill Scott, add a soulful element to her music which iTunes classifies as pop. She is not the first British pop artist with a soulful voice; in fact her voice is reminiscent of Joss Stone’s but they differ in their musical styles. Adele does an amazing cover of Sam Cooke’s “That’s It, I Quit, I’m Movin On,” through which she shows her outstanding abilities as an artist. After listening to this I thought to myself that this is the Contemporary Jazz that I was searching for because of its ability to be representative of both modern music and the soulful music of Sam Cooke’s time.
“That’s It, I Quit, I’m Movin On” – Sam Cooke
“That’s It, I Quit, I’m Movin On” – Adele’s Cover
While listening to my music, I noticed that some of today’s pop artists have in fact made attempts to connect with the music of the past. I knew that all music is a result of music in a prior era and that music has evolved. Regardless, I thought that the majority of today’s pop artists had lost touch with the past and therefore the quality of their music had deteriorated. Through my listening experience the last few days I discovered that not all pop music has deviated too far from its roots. Songs like Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” and Corine Bailey Rae’s “Til it Happens to You” show a logical progression or evolution from one era to another. Finally, I discovered that Jazz of yesterday has evolved into the Pop & R&B of today, and that the artists of today still appreciate the music of their predecessors.
Filed under: Features | Tags: Andre 3000, Don't You Worry Bout' A Thing, Each Day Gets Better, Everybody Knows, Evolver, Get Lifted, Grammy, Green Light, Heaven, Higher Ground, Hitch, iTunes, John Legend, Kanye West, King and Queen, Let's Get Lifted, Once Again, Ordinary People, Save Room, Show Me, Stevie Wonder, Youtube
Over the past few years, the artist John Legend has crashed into my musical vision. I discovered this artist on the soundtrack of the Will Smith movie Hitch, the track a soulful take on the Stevie Wonder classic, “Don’t You Worry Bout’ A Thing.” Legend has a soulful voice, and an amazing mastery of the piano. In many ways, you could say that he is much like Stevie Wonder. In fact, the two have played together on a few occasions, usually performing Wonder’s standard, “Higher Ground”. Legend is great artist, and I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so because the guy has six Grammys under his belt.
Legend’s most popular song right now on iTunes™ is “Green Light” with Andre 3000, and although the track shows significant musical talent, it is not completely representative of his ability. Many of Legend’s songs have uplifting lyrics, though some rely more heavily on melody than poeticism. Regardless, you will be hard pressed to find a meaningless Legend lyric, whether they are about love, peace, or just dreams.
Legend’s first album, Get Lifted, was a great start to his musical career. Before this album however, he did participate in a few collaborations with other notable artists such as Kanye West, but still put off recording any of his original creations until this album. Personally, I think the best songs on the album are “Ordinary People”, and the title track, “Let’s Get Lifted”. Some say that “Let’s Get Lifted” is about an experience he had while high (on drugs), while others suggest that it just discusses a feeling of happiness and love. This second theory is backed by the fact that the song is a duet with a notable female singer.
“Ordinary People” has a truly awesome meaning behind it, and it’s put into beautiful words. (I suggest that you listen to the lyrics when you listen to any song instead of listening to just the music or the beat) Before the first chorus of the song, Legend sings, “I know I’ve misbehaved,/ and you’ve made your mistakes,/ and we both still got room left to grow./ And though love sometimes hurts,/ I still put you first,/ and we’ll make this thing work,/ but I think we should take it slow/ We’re just ordinary people…” Legend is stressing his thoughts on the necessity of taking things slow in love, and not rushing into things. Legend goes on to describe how deep love can run, and how fragile love is. On top of all this, it’s a beautiful song, especially when the 20 seat orchestra chimes in to his explosive last chorus.
These songs make Legend’s first album a hit, earning it multi-platinum status.
His second album, Once Again was another great album to follow up his debut album just two short years after. The first single from this album was a song called “Save Room“, which had a very nice feel to it. This song discusses the complexities of life, and how easy it is to get caught up and miss things along the way. Legend tells us to “chill” and “save room”. Legend sings, “Say that you’ll stay a little,/ don’t say bye bye tonight./ Say you’ll be mine, just a little bit of love is worth a moment of your time./…Save room for my love./ Save room for a moment to be with me.”
Another great track on the Once Again is a song called “Heaven” which again talks about another love related topic. Other great songs on this album include “Show Me”, “King and Queen”, and (my personal favorite from this album) a song called “Each Day Gets Better.”
Legend’s most recent album, Evolver, has some really meaningful songs. A song called “Everybody Knows” is about how truly clueless we really are on some things. In “Everybody Knows“, Legend sings, “Everybody knows that,/ nobody really knows,/ how to make it work,/ or how to ease the hurt./ We’ve heard it all before, and/ everybody knows,/ just how to make it right./ I wish we gave it one more try.” This song is about the word “if”. We all use this word. We all wish we could do some things differently now that we know something that could have helped back then. This album also features a really cool remix of “Green Light”, that has a more reggae feel to it.
Check John Legend out on iTunes, or just youtube him.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: changes, DIY, header, new, old-school, opinions, revamp, tape
As we try to find our niche at Creatively Boundless, we thought it important to give our blog a modern, DIY touch that defines our writing style as a whole. Feel free to sound off, the header is still very much in its “beta” stage, as is the rest of the site. It’s our readers that keep our site running, so why not give them a say in our ultimate design. Thanks for your support.
Filed under: Previews & Reviews | Tags: Boys and Girls in America, Chicago, Live Album, Massive Nights, Stuck Between Stations, The Hold Steady
The Hold Steady have enraptured me since I first hear the scratchy lyrics of Craig Finn on 2006’s Boys and Girls in America. Their most recent album, A Positive Rage (released April 7), is a live album that contains songs mostly from Boys and Girls, but brings in tunes from Almost Killed Me, Separation Sunday, and Stay Positive (the most recent original album). Recorded in Chicago on Halloween at the end of the Boys and Girls in America Tour, A Positive Rage is an unmixed, unpolished, virtually perfect Hold Steady.
The distorted guitar grabs our attention, and the piano jumps over it. “Stuck Between Stations” (off of Boys and Girls) starts. The almost unfinished feel to the song makes it seem like it was recorded on that barroom night, the night John Berryman could fly; it adds a certain in-the-moment quality to the song. “The Swish,” off of Almost Killed Me, has the same unmixed quality; the piano and the bass flow into the guitar so perfectly that you imagine being Craig Finn, hearing your band, and grinning as you rush into the lyrics.
The accidentals on the album similarly make it better; it shows a bit of the process that the band goes through (as the drummer stops tapping the symbol a few beats into one of the songs). There are very few of these mistakes, but they make it a live album at its core; just like the altered fills and the drunken voice, accidentals change the nature of the song oh so slightly.
My personal favorite track off of this album? I love the version of “Massive Nights”—it’s particularly improved by the live nature; there’s an urgency in Finn’s voice (matched by the bassline) that just isn’t on the track on Boys and Girls. I imagine Finn collapsing to his knees on “down on my knees” and looking into the audience while two kids in the upper balcony screamed the lyrics at each other. This track is also the epitome of the unmixed quality of the album, and the accidentals, especially shown at the end, where the guitar runs out and Finn brings us to the end.
Overall, the album is a worthy addition to the Hold Steady’s already impressive body of work; as a lover of the band, I recommend it without question. It’s like a little packaged concert.
NOTE: The songs linked to here are slightly different from the songs on A Positive Rage, being mixed more and not having the same raw quality. To listen to A Positive Rage (as of now), one must buy it or get it from a friend. Amazon link.
Filed under: Discoveries | Tags: Canada, classified, halifax, hip-hop, Luke Boyd, nova scotia, rap
Though most would consider a majority of modern music to originate from the US and England, I thought that for my first post on Creatively Boundless I would observe the credo and look outside of these regions. Hailing from the East coast of Canada, the one man rap group “Classified” is slowly removing the social stigmas associated with the region.
DJ Classified, born Luke Boyd, is one of many up and coming rappers from Halifax, and is now a rising star in the Canadian industry. Classified is a rarity in America, and even if you’ve had the off chance of hearing him, it was not until his ninth album, Trial and Error (2003) that he began to gain notoriety, meaning that you’re unlikely to have heard his earlier work. A quick listen to “It’s Sickening” off the aforementioned album will have most hooked, and his most recent LP, Hitch Hikin’ Music (2006) is well worth a few iTunes™ downloads.
Classified mentions his only musical influence on iTunes™ as Redman from the mega group “The Wu-Tang Clan,” though even the average listener can observe traces of Eminem in his lyrical presentation, and a 90’s old-school influence in his viral beats (not to be missed.) The product is a well rounded artist, able to write bar anthems such as “The Maritimes,” as well as soulful rhymes, as with “All About U.” His most common themes include parodies of the Canadian stereotype, the destruction of the music industry, life in poverty, and his life-long love, sweet Mary Jane. The mix brings out a few laughs, and its originality is a welcome departure from mainstream rap.
I’m currently at odds with mainstream rap myself, but for even the most lukewarm hip-hop fans, Boyd’s highly original hooks are well worth a play. Be sure to give a listen to all the previously mentioned songs on YouTube™ as well as any others you come across. Recommended also are his tracks Heavy Artillery, 5th Element, Gossip, and Hard to Be Hip-Hop Feel free to post your opinions. Included is his unofficial anthem, “The Maritimes.”
Filed under: Features | Tags: Be Known, Chi-Town, Chicago, Comin From Where I'm From, Common, Jesus Walks, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Spoken Word, The College Dropout
Over the years Chicago has produced some of the greatest rappers of all time. Many of these rappers are conscious rappers and have taken hip hop to a higher level with their creative lyrics and their original sounds. These rappers are extremely good lyricists who made the lyrics in they’re songs incredibly significant by making people think about things in new ways and giving their listeners their intelligent opinions that are very different from what you typically hear in commercial rap. Not only have these artists taken their lyrics to new heights but they have also all found ways of infiltrating the main stream. It is very odd to find conscious well known rappers. One thing that many of these rappers had in common was their hometown Chicago, Illinois, also known as Chi-town.
One of the very significant Chicago rappers that we see today is Kanye West. West grew up in Chicago and went on to do amazing things with hip-hop. In his first album, The College Dropout, he talked about subject matters too honest and too real for most commercial rappers. Kanye was one of the few rappers to dig deep and discuss topics that would typically be ignored, and still manage to get on the radio. One of the most amazing things that West did in his entire career, was get radio play for his song, “Jesus Walks.” In this song he speaks about the lack of variety of subject matter in mainstream hip hop music, and attempts to diversify hip hop with a track about Jesus. In the song he says, “So here go my single dog radio needs this/ They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus/ That means guns, sex, lies, video tapes/ But if I talk about God my record won’t get played Huh?” Oddly enough the song that he thought would get absolutely no radio play managed to become very popular amongst listeners of mainstream hip-hop. Since The College Dropout, West’s music seems to have taken several bad turns. West seems to have become extremely caught up in his fame and fortune and the majority his music seems to reflect this. But independent of outside influences and fan pressure, West managed to pull off one of the greatest conscious hip-hop albums of all time in, The College Dropout. The College Dropout shows how West’s experiences growing up in Chicago have given him the experiences necessary to promote and encourage social change.
Another amazing product of Chicago is Common. He is by far the rapper who has been around the longest of all the rappers mentioned in this article and has done extremely well in establishing himself as the face of conscious hip-hop. The rapper has proven himself through thick and thin, and has never been a big radio artist, but has perpetually left his mark on the conscious rap community through great tracks that make people think and that emphasize the struggles that he has been through. Common has made amazing songs but he also expresses himself extremely well through spoken word poetry. Common opens this piece, “Be Known”, by setting himself apart from commercial rappers and sharing his intentions as a hip-hop artist.
Another Chicago rapper who has done extremely well in making meaningful tracks is Lupe Fiasco. This artists has amazed his fans more and more with each and everyone of the tracks on his albums, and the freestyles on his mixtapes. Fiasco is a former comic book writer manifests that creativity in his albums. Fiasco manages to use poetic devices in his music to help him to get his points across to his intelligent listeners. Fiasco is known for going over peoples heads because of his surprising knowledge of all the subjects he raps about. If you can manage to interpret Fiasco’s lyrics you will find that he is the greatest lyricist of all time. Fiasco enjoys talking about where he came from and how he has managed to escape mistakes that the people around him have made in order to get where he is now. He talks about his native town Chicago and the type of environment that he grew up in, in his song “Comin From Where I’m From.” In this song he talks about the struggles that he had to overcome but also shows admiration for his city and the person that it has made him today.
Filed under: Previews & Reviews | Tags: Hazards of Love, Jim James, My Brightest Diamond, My Morning Jacket, Robyn Hitchcock, Shara Worden, The Decemberists, The Drowned
In these new technological times, people are able to pick which songs to buy off of albums and simply put their iPod on shuffle instead of sitting down and listening to an entire artist’s album the whole way through like they would’ve intended. Some artists have accepted that, and adapted by not making the songs need to go in any specific order to make sense, but not the rebels The Decemberists. On the Decemberists’ new album, Hazards of Love, each individual song is part of an overall story and listening to them out of order simply doesn’t work.
From the solely instrumental Prelude a story is begun, characters are introduced and have their conflicts that are finally resolved in the last track, “The Hazards of Love 4,” when they say “these hazards of love/ never more will trouble us.”
This album, or musical as I should say, is like a twisted fairy tale centering around the story of the lovely Margaret, introduced in “The Hazards of Love 1,” singing to herself of “the hazards of love” in the forest of Taiga. Other characters include a shape shifting monster that knocks her up, William: her love, an evil rake, and an equally evil queen. Throughout the story, which is broken up into 17 tracks, Margaret falls in love, has a baby and is even abducted. Is she saved? And what happens to her and William? You’ll have to listen to find out….
The usually five member band is aided by an impressive number of voices from Robyn Hitchcock and Jim James of My Morning Jacket to Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond to name a few, and each member takes on a different character. Overall this is a great CD from the Decemberist’s, who never disappoint, centering around story so confusing you’ll have to listen to it a few times through just to understand it, but I can bet that you won’t even mind doing just that.
The Hazards of Love 1 (Right Click and Click “Save Link As” to Download)