Musikalischer Mittwoch: Poor, Poor Jenny!

I was bummed when I heard the news about Phil Everly passing late last week.  My parents had a Greatest Hits collection from the Everly Brothers in our car for just about as far back as I can remember.  I have plenty of their stuff in my library, but it hasn’t been on my iPod so I haven’t given it as much play in the 6-8 months.  So, in looking for an appropriate song to plug tonight, I sat down and cranked up the full catalog.

At first, I thought to plug their version of “Barbara Allen” because–thanks to that tape my parents had,–I was well into my teens before I realized that “Barbara Allen” was a widespread ballad that far pre-dated Don and Phil Everly.  But then another song queued up and I was stunned by the images that flooded my mind’s eye from the dusty recesses of my kid-memories.  I didn’t just remember the song in relation to a moment, I remembered–with frightening clarity–exactly how my child-mind had imagined the events of the song.

And since the song was “Poor Jenny” it was pretty trippy stuff.

Most people I know think of “Wake Up Little Susie” or “Dream” or “Bye Bye Love” first.  “Poor Jenny” doesn’t rise to the top of the list, but trust me, you need to give it a listen.  It’s got that fun late-50s, early rock sound going on, in the vein of “Wake Up Little Susie” but with a bit more drive to it.

The slightly amped up drive is appropriate, because Little Susie with her potentially damaged reputation from falling asleep out at the drive in with her boyfriend got off oh-so-much lighter than Poor, Poor Jenny.  You see, Jenny goes out to her first party, on a first date with a guy.  A party that broke out in a fight.  Jenny punched in the face and knocked out.  The cops are called.  The moron boyfriend (who, incidentally is singing this tragic tale) couldn’t carry her, so he leaves her.  Jenny winds up getting tossed in the jail. And plastered on the front page of the paper.  And labeled the leader of a teenage gang.

No, seriously.  It’s in the song!

And then the asshole has the nerve to go visit her in jail.  Needless to say, she wants nothing to do with his lousy ass.  And vengeance may yet be hers on some level since her brothers on his trail and her daddy wants to run him “outta town on a rail.”  Poor Jenny!

The ghastly image of a black-eye’d Jenny behind bars, looking like total shit that flew into my mind after all these years, I have to wonder if this amusing little ditty didn’t somehow go to work on my childish unconscious resulting in me avoiding the dating scene to this day…

Musikalischer Mittwoch: K-Pop Confessions

Among the other things that have happened in the time I’ve been avoiding my blogging duties has been my inadvertent  plunge into Korean soaps (which are really more like  telenovelas in that they have a defined arc–but they are shorter than a Latin American TN) and through this, into….<shamefaced expression> K-Pop.

Now, I was already a fan of My Korean Husband (which has been in the queue for a Time Vampire for a while…since before I went radio silent around here–it’s fabulous and I’ve spent way more time reading cartoons there than I ought), so I’d heard about K-Pop (and Korean Soaps) before, but it’s really all Amazon’s fault I actually started exploring.  They put a bunch of Korean shows up on Prime, and I’m a sucker for subtitles (“Oh, hey, look!  I’ve never watched anything from Korea before…except those random parts of Lost….”) .  Really, you can only dangle foreign media before me for so long and I just have to give in.  It’s a problem I have.  But I digress.

I got sucked into the soap Protect the Boss .  I thought that would be it.  I’d watch the show, become a little more aware of the rest of the world.  Done and done.

Then I wound up with the theme song stuck in my head.

A theme song by a K-Pop girl band called A-Pink.

What results is both my earworm for this week and a combination Musikalischer Mittwoch/Secret Heresy.

The immediate ear worm problem is called “Please Allow Us to Love*.”  But in procuring a copy of this from iTunes to put on an embarrassingly high playlist rotation, I thought I might as well get the whole show soundtrack, right?  Of course right.  And, oh, hey, maybe I’ll just look into other albums from some of these artists….

I’m more ashamed of admitting how much I’m enjoying this whole K-Pop thing than I am of knowing the words to “There’s a Tear in My Beer” (that may be a bad baseline, because as Kristy can attest, I’m not ashamed at all of knowing the words to that one….I should be, though).  I’m at least as ashamed as I am of some of the German Schlager stars I listen to**, or of the Celine Dion albums on my shelf (Shut up.).

K-Pop is, well, cheesy.  It’s all the bizarre cuteness you find in East Asia (that I don’t get….seriously, outside of the Idea Channel analysis of Hello Kitty as Minimalism, I don’t get Hello Kitty.  Or Pokemon.  Or any of the other crazy animated-stuff-with-big-eyes.  I get it’s a thing, but I don’t get why it’s a thing), plus bubble-gum-pop, maybe a touch of electronica, heavy doses of saccharine and inevitably performed by energetic and highly attractive people.  “Please Allow Us to Love” is a girl band, but there’s also an inordinately high volume of boy bands.  And when it’s not the peppy dance beat sucking you in, it’s the whole melodramatic ballad thing  (“Protect You” by Kim Jae Joong, I’m looking at you).  I kind of feel like I should be a 14 year old for my listeing to this to be truly acceptable.

It’s also–naturally–in Korean.  And I speak zero Korean.  I might actually speak less than zero Korean.  Even after a full TV series, I understand more Swabisch than I do Korean.  Hell, I know more Hindi than Korean.  It’s the first time I’ve watched that much of a show in a foreign language and learned so little.    So, clearly, I’m getting zilch out of the lyrics.  Which may be to my advantage because with a sound that bubble-gum, I doubt the lyrics are really deep enough to justify commentary.

So, nothing for me in the lyrics, and since we’ve already established that the sound itself is pop-cheese, I  have no respectable way to defend my obsession.  But, even without a way to explain it to myself and others,  “Please Allow Us to Love” has been on repeat in my queue for almost as long as the theme for “Por Ella…Soy Eva” (which, at least there I understood my obsession–I mean, Jaime Camil?  I know, right?).  And I’m not going to say I was dancing around the kitchen to this song, but there may have been some flailing in something vaguely approaching the same rhythm as the song.

I suppose it boils down to the fact that it’s fun.  It’s upbeat (in contrast to my mood of late).  Sure, it’s completely junior-high, but it’s irresistibly peppy.

All that is rational and logical says that I should stop now.  I shouldn’t embarrass myself any further.  I should limit this K-Pop exploration to the handful of songs from Protect the Boss and the few others I’ve found from artists on that album.  I certainly shouldn’t actually follow up on the My Korean Husband videos on K-Pop that I haven’t had time to watch yet.  I’m already harboring a playlist in my car that sports a lot of German Schlager musik, Bollywood songs, 80s country and Mexican Ranchera & Tejano.  It’s already like a really uncool musical United Nations.  Do I really want to include K-Pop?  Shouldn’t I be worried about cultural appropriation issues or something?

Or should I give in and just embrace the cheese?

*Probably on YouTube, but I didn’t check.
**Not Claudia Jung.  She’s awesome and I have no shame over listening to her stuff….but some of the others.  Let’s just say that unless I’m a 50-something German Hausfrau in Karlsruhe or something, there’s really no excuse here…

 

 

 

 

What’s a Girl Gotta Do for Some German Schlagermusik around here?

I don’t have a particular song recommendation this go-round because I’ve been becoming acquainted with my new Claudia Jung album, Alles Nach Plan?  It’s been so long–probably 4 years–since I’ve had new CJ musik that I’m taking my time and savoring this (especially since the imported CD cost me over $40….ridiculous).

Now, I know there’s a kind of cheeZy ridiculousness that I’m taken with this particular musical genre, but that’s not the point here.  Whacky preferences aside, it just should NOT be this hard to get my German Schlagermusik fix–not in this day of Amazon clouds and iTunes music stores–but it is.  Whatever kind of licensing deal needs to happen hasn’t come through yet, and so as long as I’ve got a US address and a US credit card, all I can do is what I’ve been doing since about 2004: writing to iTunes and submitting requests to have them add Claudia Jung’s albums to their catalog.  Every year, at least once a year, I’ve submitted this request with all the success of Remember WENN fans trying to get AMC to release DVDs.  I’d really hoped Amazon’s MP3 store would pick up the slack and fill the gap, but I’ve been checking them for years now, to no avail.

I’m reduced to ordering physical CDs.  This does have some benefits–I like having my favorites on a hard medium, and Claudia Jung has been a favorite since I first stumbled across her “Wenn Es Morgen Nicht Mehr Gibt?” clip on her website when I was still in college (it was a German cover of “If Tomorrow Never Comes”–Kristy had to listen to me squee about there being a German chick singing Garth Brooks songs for a while there). She’s like my German Reba McEntire and I still buy Reba on physical CDs, too.  Also, this means I get liner notes, which is doubly helpful since my German is rusty these days and even though I’ve always found it easier to understand CJ, it helps to read the lyrics.

But, even getting the physical CDs is no easy task.  Amazon doesn’t always offer the CDs on their US store (and when they do, they’re expensive).  Once I put in the order, was told it would be on back order and 3 months later Amazon just cancelled the order from their side.  Still don’t have that particular album.  And, yes, I’ve tried places other than Amazon.  There are some sketchy online importers with high prices.  A few of the European shops may be willing to ship to the states–but between the exchange rate and the shipping its usually more than even Amazon.  Some of the smaller retailers want a German credit card.

So I muddle along.  I guess one upside of this eternal struggle to locate this music is that when I DO finally wind up with a new album, it’s such a total treat.

Now, excuse me, I’m going to groove in my totally Germans-can’t-dance way to “Im falschen Film”

Miercoles Musical: “Five Dollar Bill”

As mentioned on this blog repeatedly, I maintain that musicals are the perfect road trip music. I stand that assertion while conceding that sometimes on road trips you want to listen to something else. And for driving around town often musicals aren’t great. While in town I rarely drive more than three miles, and that doesn’t give you much time to get into a plot. I have a few nonmusical CDs in my car, but I made an additional one before my latest road trip and one of the songs on that is the topic of this post.

It is and it isn’t surprising that I like Corb Lund’s “Five Dollar Bill” as well as I do. Musically, it’s not exactly in line with my tastes. It’s not completely outside them—I like that it’s peppy. But it’s a little… well I don’t know a good term for it, but it’s what my mother refers to as “that really twangy stuff.” But I don’t find it offensive in this case and I think it’s because there’s something about the instrumentation and performance that gives it more of an “Old Time” vibe. It steers far clear of what Cammy calls “Nascar Country.”

I think what I like most about it is that it’s a ballad in the folklore sense of the word. It tells a story. And even though Cammy is incredibly wrong in her belief that all I do as a folklorist is tell stories*, I do like a good story. And it’s a good story. A classic trickster story about the Canadian farmer making money off the foolish Americans with their stupid Prohibition. And then pulling one over on the guys who come to get revenge for that (only to be pick pocketed, hence the song.)

Add to that the fact that the song is written in witty lyrics, delivered at a rapid pace to a catchy tune, and you’ve got me hitting repeat ad nauseum whenever it comes up on the playlist.

 

*To be fair, I think her last statement on this subject was something along the lines of “Oh I know you do more than that. I just don’t care about anything besides the pretty stories.”

An Anxious Musikalischer Mittwoch

So, I’m having that kind of week.  One of those tense, anxious, awful weeks where all manner of things from work to car to house, even the cat is adding to my worries.  To be honest, I’ve not really be that tuned in to the music I’ve listened to this week, although I have to admit that when certain songs have come up on rotation, I’ve been far less likely to compulsively hit the skip button.

One of those songs is the appropriately titled “Anxiety” by Ladyhawke, appropriately–though I didn’t know this until 5 minutes ago–from one of the countries I recently visited, New Zealand (and not to be confused with Ladyhawk sans e, the band from Vancouver, BC., although they’re good, too)

As I’ve said, I’ve not necessarily been that focused on what I was hearing, so I won’t try to fake any kind of meaningful analysis of the song.  It’s basically pure co-incidence that the song title fits the mood of this week, I couldn’t tell you if the lyrics really match up, though.  Clearly something about the sound must be preventing me from hitting skip, but I’m not sure what.  I’m sure when I’m more clear-headed I’ll have a better idea of why this tune is spared the skip this week when so many of my usual go-to songs have been callously passed over more than once (I think yesterday was the first time I ever willingly skipped past George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning”….).

At any rate, “Anxiety” has been moved up to a 5 star rating on my iPod.

Miércoles Musical: “I’ll Never Tell”

I know Cammy’s normally the one who does the music thing. Honestly, because I haven’t been exposed to a whole lot of music in the last few years. I can’t read or write while listening to music with lyrics (and while there’s a lot of instrumental music I like just fine, I’m not one to get super excited about it.) Therefore most of my music listening time is in the car. These days, however, my commute is two miles in minimal traffic (and yes, I drive the two miles, because I hate the earth and the bus stop is ten blocks away and it’s freaking cold). So I don’t listen to a lot of music and I hear no new music (the radio stations in my car aren’t even tuned for my current city of residence).

I did just make myself some new CDs for the car. One was intended to be a new CD of musicals. I mostly created it because I wanted to be able to listen to City of Angels (the musical, not the movie) in my car, but clearly I needed to augment it. I decided to add the soundtrack to the delightful Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode “Once More with Feeling.” Due to a screw up on my part, the tracks on that show don’t play in order, but while that would really bother me with some musicals, it doesn’t on this one. A lot of the tracks lose a lot when detached from their visuals (“Going through the Motions,” in particular). There is one, however, that I find myself hitting “repeat” on a lot (and singing when no one but the cats are around):

“I’ll Never Tell,” the retro, jazzy Anya/Xander duet. Why do I like this one so much more than the other tracks? *shrug* I don’t know, but I can tell you it gets stuck in my head more than any other (except for “Bunnies”). I would guess it’s the combination of the following:

Anya. Have I mentioned that I love Anya? I love Anya. She brings the funny. And Emma Caufield is probably the strongest female singer in the cast. I can’t say the same for Nicholas Brendon, but he’s not bad enough to distract.

The catchy, upbeat tune.

Musical banter. I love when people sing snappy dialog even more than I love it when they speak it. On that note, I want to add that I just love a good duet in general.

Realism. (I mean… realistic for a musical about a vampire slayer) It deals frankly with common relationship problems (including, but not limited to, the anxiety that your fiancée is a vengeance demon).

The funny. Do I need to elaborate?

Clever rhymes.

Choreography by Adam Shankman. I know you can’t “hear” this, but I know it’s there and it makes me happy.

Musikalischer Mittwoch: Blissful Silence

The music to my ears this week is pure silence.

This skirts close to violating the politics ban, but since I can discuss this generally with out having to address any particular party or side:

I HATE ROBOCALLS.

Leading up to the election I was getting up to a dozen calls in a day, all pre-recorded robo-nightmares.  Yes, yes, I know those of you with cell phones only don’t get this stuff, but my having a land-line is not really by my choice.  I’d just mute the ringer, but this is the number that any family emergency call would come in on, so I couldn’t just mute the phone and go along.  No, I had to deal with the incessant ringing day in and day out.

And today?

Nothing.

Not a ring.  Not a beep.  Not a single blinking light message on the answering machine.

Pure silence.

It’s total music to my ears.

Musikalischer Mittwoch: Whoever’s In New England

After a solid week of my playlist consisting of no English language songs other than a faint smattering of Corb Lund and a Nanci Griffith tune or two (everything else has been either Spanish, German, Norwegian, Swedish or Hindi–the U.N. barfed on my iPod), out of the blue, this classic rolled up on my playlist.

In case you’ve completely missed it, I’m a big Reba fan.  Have been since probably the age of 6 or 7.  And “Whoever’s In New England” was critical to that early addiction.  The time before I knew this song is just a kind of hazy memory.  I know from checking that apparently this was not part of the soundtrack of my existence prior to 1986, but all that time before is just so fuzzy I’m not sure much of it matters.

It’s a watershed song in the history of Reba.  The album went platinum, the song was number 1 and it was her first music video.  In any retrospective collection of Reba hits?  This song is there.

And after not having heard it in so long that I’m rather ashamed, I understand why.  It’s a good song.  It showcases Reba’s voice and particular style in a way her earlier songs hadn’t quite done.  The arrangement is undoubtedly country, but not in-your-face as so many songs can be.  It’s good, but you almost forget it’s there because it really does what it needs to do:  stays out of the way of the voice.  And, of course, the voice is fantastic.  Since it was back in the day, Reba’s voice had a slightly “lighter” quality to it, and she doesn’t muddy that up with any vocal calisthenics (sistafriend’s pipes are awesome and I’m glad she displays the up and down control, but occasionally, I can do without the trills).  Here Reba manages to strike a balance of matter of fact and emotional that’s almost creepy.

And some of the lyrics? “When the icy wind blows through you / Remember that it’s me / Who feels the cold most of all….”  I have loved that line as long as I can remember.  In general, you’ve got to give it a nod because, well, you find another country song about Boston that’s done half as well?  (Other than when Reba did a cover of “Please Come to Boston” in 1995.)

And then there’s the the video.  The only thing this video is missing is Spencer and Hawk sprinting through the background in one of the Boston shots.  At one time, it would have been a simple enough video (albeit, one with a clear storyline–Reba’s been a good one for that from early on…up until CMT went all f’d up, but that’s another rant), but now it’s a time capsule of 80s goodness.  The clothes.  The cars.  Reba when she still had chipmunk front teeth AND THE PERMED MULLET.  Oh, it’s just beauty.  And how d’ya like the shots inside Boston’s Logan airport from way the hell back in the day when people without tickets could go all over the place (remember before security, kids?).

For those looking to educate themselves on the country genre, this is a must listen.  It marks the sharp up-tick in the career of someone prominent to the genre, was a key song in the swing back into more traditional country post 70s-early- 80s crossover, and any audio tour of country music just wouldn’t be complete without it.  Also, it’s awesome.

Musikalischer Mittwoch Has “Cows Around”

My family is full of cow people.  It’s a lot easier for me to count the number of people on Dad’s side who were not dairy farmers than it is to try and tally up how many of us were Holstein-hoarders.  While the rise of consolidated farm corporations forced the last of the family to give up the dairy business in about 2009…there are still plenty of cows around.  It’s like a disease.   Cows aren’t easy to have around.  They require more work and money than you’d think.  But, even though the family has all sought work off the farms and the milking barns are closed up, they don’t know how to give up having at least a few of those mooing, bellowing, chud-chewers around.  Even I still cling to the small dream of having my own place with room for a cow, despite the realities and facts I know about the damn things.

So when I was giving my first listen to Corb Lund’s new album, Cabin Fever, and “Cows Around” came on, I found myself clutching the steering wheel trying not to laugh myself right off the road (I was driving to visit Kristy at the time).

Every Corb Lund album gives me at least one dance-able western-swing style song (like “Little Foothills Heaven” on Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer), and usually at least one song full of humor (like “Family Reunion” from Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!).  This time, the two collided in one fabulous ear-worm.  The musical style and tune are very jaunty–it’s an instant toe-tapper.  It would be great for a really fast turn around the dance floor (think of the speed and style of something like Vince Gill/Reba McEntire’s “Oklahoma Swing”).  And then the lyrics, oh my.  If you don’t have first hand knowledge of the cow-ownership malady I described above, the song will sum up the situation concisely:  “Let me bestow this western blessing / Share what I have found / May you always have cows around / What else you gonna spend that extra money on? / What else is gonna get you up, hours before dawn?….”  On the surface, it’s funny because it’s the juxtaposition is ridiculous.  And for those of us who’ve encountered this, it’s hilarious for its accuracy.

And, if the cultural education provided by this depiction of the bizarre love-hate relationship cattle owners have with maintaining a herd, then you may at least appreciate the chance at 2:34 into the song to get a nicely rhymed listing of various breeds of cattle (both beef and dairy).

 

Musikalischer Mittwoch: Por Ella, Soy Eva

If the first song of my summer was “Desliz” the second song was definitely “Por Ella, Soy Eva,” theme song to the telenovela I’ve been addicted to.   The show’s (hot) lead, Jaime Camil lends his voice to this one, because apparently the Venn diagram of pop singers and telenovela actors overlaps quite a bit in Mexico: Lucero, Jaime Camil, Thalia….

It was a nice contrast to my other summer song, despite their shared language. “Por Ella Soy Eva” is more obviously upbeat, for one.  Obviously this is appropriate for the theme song to a comedy about a dude cross-dressing to hide from the law.  This upbeat nature also makes it highly appropriate as a summer song.  I can attest that it’s a fantastic song to improve one’s mood on a drive in to work.  It’s also more of a straight pop-piece than the other–an easier sell to those with less of a penchant for regional styles.

I was a little surprised to find myself this taken with a tv theme song.  Even though I’ve encountered other telenovelas with good themes, I hadn’t really expected this one to hold up as a stand-alone song.  After finding it glued in my brain from watching the show, I resigned myself to downloading the entire album from Amazon.com, and I’ll be damned if the theme wasn’t something that plays just as well if you’ve never seen the show.

Mostly, I found it fun to sing along with.  Not easy, mind you, but fun.  There are still parts of the thing I can’t splutter out properly, even after looking up the lyrics (which I found absolutely necessary as the tendency of Spanish music to run together with all the vowels, really made this one a muddle), I still can’t manage to spit out some of the lines.  But it’s not hard to belt out “Porque, por ella, soy Eva, cada paso es una prueba….”

And this summer?  I did.  A lot.