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…

 

 

 

 

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.

Playlist for a Time Vampire

Taking care of the music has always rather fallen to me in our family.  In the cassette tape days, I was the one coming up with mixed tapes for the road before family trips.  Then came the CDs.  Now it’s the playlists for the MP3 player.

I always considered it an art.  You need to start strong–usually up-beat.  I prefer to end on something slow and a bit melancholy.  You sprinkle in songs appropriate to the areas you’re traveling, you vary the genres, the speeds, and in the case of my collection, the languages to maintain a balance.  Occasionally you have fun, like the time I had an entire CD where back to back pairs of songs all had something in common–a phrase, a background singer.

My upcoming trip in the month of December requires special planning.  I’ll be gone for more or less a full month, and have probably 50+ hours spent on planes.  I’m going to need a lot of music, a lot of variety, some familiar must-haves (Reba, George), current obsessions (Lucero, Jaime Camil and Bollywood) some new music to tie to the new things I’ll be seeing (still to be identified and purchased), and, to add complexity, this is all happening over the holidays.  I’ll grant you that Christmas in the middle of summer in the Australian bush doesn’t feel very Christmas-y to our Northern Hemisphere set, but the thought of a holiday season without a shot of “Silent Night” is unconscionable to me, so I’ll have to mix in some holiday fare.

I’m left with a delicate task to balance all of these into the perfect playlist to cover the flights, a family Christmas, a side trip to New Zealand (Lord of the Rings soundtrack?  Check), and road-tripping for probably 6-8 hours with my entire family.

Unfortunately, I haven’t done myself any favors by neglecting my music library.  I’ve never really done a proper transfer and clean-up to the new server.  The lengthy library refresh-times as I’ve sat down and added in essential tracks and re-ripped CDs has delayed my efforts to begin constructing this playlist, eating into the dwindling window until departure.

If I would just load up the Mp3 player at random, it would be enough to satisfy most people….but I can’t.  The desire to score major trips and events in my life with the proper music is just too great.  Without the right sound, I’ll be thinking of what could have been.  I need this to fully enjoy the experience.  And if it devours as much time as the trip itself?  So be it.

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.

 

Colombian Coffee

Would we have coffee with…Shakira (aka Isabel Mebarek Ripoll)?

Kristy: Definitely. I’m a fan of Shakira’s but not the biggest by a long shot. I own one album (and perhaps a few downloaded tracks). Until Cammy floated me a copy I was unaware of her latest release. But I find her to be a very interesting person. In addition to being talented she’s also obviously very intelligent. It’s funny thought, because while being smart and independent were huge parts of her image in Latin American 10 years ago, in the US she’s kind of allowed the image of the exotic dippy blonde to take over. At first I thought she was a victim of poor record company promotion, but it’s gone on so long I’ve started to think it’s strategy. So I’d like to have coffee with her to ask her about it. My current theory is that she thought her chances of success in the US were higher if she was just an exotic sex kitten than if American realized there was more behind the shimmy. But I’d like verification on that. I’d also like to have a general conversation with her about things ranging from the Columbian poltical situation to the position of women in the music recording industry. And I feel like I should buy her a cup to thank her for always continuing charity work no matter how big she got.

Cammy:  I’ll have coffee with her, if only to demand a return to her pink-hair, angry-chick-rock-ness.  While her music still sounds great by and large, seeing a music or appearance from Shakira is a kind of let down when you are even passingly familiar with the days when her hair had pink streaks and she was rocking out “Si Te Vas” and “Ojos Asi.”  I’m eager to hear what answers she gives to Kristy about the image change (I might even be willing to hold off on my return to pink-hair demands).  And will she be funny?  Usually smart people are funny, but….And after Kristy’s done with Colombian politics?  I’m gonna ask her about the REALLY important stuff:  Mexican remakes of Colombian telenovelas!  Where does she stand on “En los tacones de Eva” vs. “Por Ella Soy Eva”?  Is she all about “Yo Soy Betty La Fea” or is it “La Fea Mas Bella”?  You think I’m kidding, but I want to know.

Note:  The Management would like to apologize for the late appearance of this post.  Technical difficulties (read: Cammy screwed it up) happened.

Musikalischer Mittwoch: Song of the Summer, No “Mistake”

I’ve met lots of people who have “songs of the summer”–songs that may not lyrically define their summer seasonal experience, but which, for some reason or other, crop up through their summer in a way that renders them part of the essential soundtrack of every warm-weather memory for a given year.  Last year I had Sarah Harmer’s “Captive” and Hey Ocean!’s “Make a New Dance Up.”  One summer in high school it was BNL’s “One Week.”  These songs–and usually it’s only one or two–survive multiple rounds on repeat and become unforgettable parts of our summers.

This year, one of the two songs was “Desliz” a duet from Lucero and Joan Sebastian.  Obviously, Spanish practice via telenovelas with Lucero led me to her music, and, well, I’m never one to avoid good music, no matter what the language. So, I bought the newest album from the Amazon MP3 store.  The whole album (Un Lu*Jo) is a great collecton in total, but “Desliz” just amused the hell outta me.

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A Foolish Fixation

So… I missed my post on Wednesday. And I’m making today’s post only moments into the day. This is really all because I’m going to a conference this Friday and Saturday. But it’s really, really because of a particular road trip fixation I have: having the proper music. And because I have a CD player in my car that plays data CDs, this boils down to making the perfect massive mixed CD.

Driving back from Virginia this January I engineered CDs that held seven or eight musicals, because musicals are the perfect music for road trips. But this time around I’m driving several other students of various backgrounds, musical tastes, and languages. So musicals didn’t seem the best choice (particularly in that one of my passengers hates musicals so much he dislikes “Once More with Feeling” even though he’s a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan). So mix CD it is.

But it was extra pressure. Figuring what of my music would go over with my friends. Not helped by the fact that two of my passengers are ethnomusicologists. People who study music for a living. So I wound up spending several hours that I logically should not have putting together the perfect playlist on Wednesday. Only to have my burning program malfunction and decide it would not work. So I switched to a different program and rebuilt my playlist. Well… I started to, because it crashed halfway through and erased what I had done so far.

So we’ll hope the CD works. Because if it didn’t I will realize that all that time was an even bigger waste of time than it seems.