We Got it From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service is the latest and final album from A Tribe Called Quest. Released 18 years after the group’s last record and months after the death of mercurial MC Phife Dawg, We Got if From Here is an outstanding record. For longtime Tribe fans, it’s a reminder of how excellent they were. For newcomers, it’s a great introduction to Tribe’s brand of thoughtful, layered, and catchy hip-hop. Here are some random thoughts on We Got it From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service.
The mandolin is a wonderful instrument. Whether it’s a bard singing tales at a tavern or a British pop/rock star with unexplainable hair, the soothing sounds of the mandolin enhance just about anything. It’s a scientific fact that reciting a recipe for turkey stuffing to the dulcet tones of mandolin music will result in an instant classic. It’s true.
Today, I’d like you to vote on which song uses the mandolin more effectively. Both songs were massively successful during their respective heydays. And while they’re both fine songs melodically, they were both taken to another level, thanks to the mandolin.
In the red corner is “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart. This catchy tune tells the timeless tale of a young man sleeping with an older woman. Key lyric:
But you turned into a lover,
And mother what a lover,
You wore me out.
Next up is “Losing My Religion” by REM. In 1991, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing this song. Lead singer Michael Stipe describes it as “a classic obsession pop song.” Key lyric:
That’s me in the corner.
That’s me in the spotlight.
Losing my religion.
If you’re ready to vote, here’s the poll.
In case you need a refresher on either of these songs, here they are in all of their mandolin-fueled glory.
As an added bonus, here are some fine cover versions of these excellent songs. The first is by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, while the second is by Clelia Vega. I’m particularly fond of the former…mostly because I wanted Susanna Hoffs to be my “Maggie May” while I was in high school.
Embedded below is an excellent cover of the opening theme for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft by Alina Gingertail. It reminds me of Fredde Gredde’s stellar cover of the theme from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. If you dig Alina’s cover then check out her YouTube page for more excellent music. She does acoustic versions of music found in videogames like Chrono Cross and The Witcher 3, as well as favorites from nerd television shows and movies. I’m particularly fond of her banjo version of “The Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back.
Anyway, please give Alina Gingertail’s Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft opening theme cover a listen and let me know what you think of it.
On October 30, 2015, ESPN made the horrible decision to shut down Grantland. The website offered a fantastic combination of sports and pop-culture coverage. It quickly became my favorite website on the Internet shortly after it launched. Grantland’s writing was longer, smarter, and sharper than most of what you’ll find on the Internet. The site’s closure is disheartening on several levels.
As a reader, Grantland’s closure is disappointing because it had some of ESPN’s best writing. The site excelled at long-form articles that were informative and entertaining. It had a wide variety of writers that skillfully covered a wide variety of topics. While sports was Grantland’s emphasis, it also covered movies, music, television, pro-wrestling, and more. No matter the topic, I could always depend on a well-written article on Grantland that always entertained me and often left me a bit smarter than I was before I read it.
As a reader, I also appreciated Grantland’s simple layout. The design emphasized content and the advertising was tame by today’s standards. Grantland loaded quickly on desktop and mobile devices, unlike some of my other favorite websites (I’m looking at you, The Verge). Sadly, a website with great writing and user-friendly design is uncommon these days. That Grantland offered both was extraordinary.
As a longtime Internet writer, Grantland’s closure is depressing. It shows that corporate hacks are unwilling and/or unable to support great content creation. It’s sad that the dozens of fantastic editors and writers at Grantland no longer have jobs, while ESPN continues to pay Stephen A. Smith to act like an idiot on television. It makes me wonder what kind of support the website had from the suits, its advertisers, and its readers. Obviously something was missing. The high-quality content was there, but did the suits support it with enough marketing? Did the site not get enough ad dollars? Were people uninterested in longer articles? It’s baffling.
As a longtime ESPN.com reader, I’m amused that Grantland’s closure killed the best writing the company had to offer. I used to love ESPN.com, but it has become garbage. While the site is ESPN’s Internet flagship, the writing on Grantland and FiveThirtyEight (another ESPN-owned website) was superior to anything on the “main” website. ESPN.com has devolved in a mashup of moronic click bait, AP reposts, thoughtless opinion pieces, daily LeBron James updates, and the occasional solid article. Copyediting is, sadly, optional on ESPN.com.
Add it all up and it’s disheartening. My favorite website is gone. Another corporate overlord has pissed on the value of quality content. Instead of enjoying my daily dose of Grantland, I’ll have to read the crap on ESPN.com. Oh well, maybe it’s time to give Yahoo! Sports another look.
Earlier in the week, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert featured music from The Legend of Zelda played by The Symphony of the Goddesses. Colbert has had several nerdy guests on his show, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. As a nerd, I absolutely love that The Late Show With Stephen Colbert has had tech and gaming segments. Considering that many of his viewers grew up as gamers and technology is more mainstream than ever, it makes sense for his audience. Still, I was surprised (pleasantly) that his show’s guests have been so nerd-friendly.
Changing the channel to NBC, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has been a disappointment in terms of nerd content. When the comedian hosted Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, guests from gaming and tech were common. Off the top of my head, I recall Kudo Tsunodo giving a demo of Xbox Kinect, Cliff Bleszinski showing off Gears of War 3, and journalist Josh Topolsky talking tech gear on the show. For whatever reason, these types of guests have largely been absent from The Tonight Show. Perhaps the producers felt that gaming and tech content weren’t appropriate for the “big” show. Perhaps some hack executive mandated that Fallon go with traditional guests that have movies, music, and TV shows to promote. Whatever the reason, it’s disappointing that Fallon has mostly abandoned nerdy programming.
The unfortunate programming choices on The Tonight Show, have made me appreciate the guests on The Late Show. Hearing the wonderful music from Zelda on a late night talk show was brilliant. Watching CEOs of the companies that make products and offer services that I love (or in Tesla’s case, dream about) was outstanding. It’s fantastic that these types of segments are mixed in with the overly polished “artists” promoting their latest movie, album, tour, TV show season, etc. When Colbert debuted on Comedy Central, I was delightfully surprised by his mix of comedy, intelligence, and satire. With The Late Show, he has delightfully surprised me with his nerdy guests. Keep ’em coming, Mr. Colbert!
With the Straight Outta Compton movie just around the corner, the denizens of the Internet have been having fun making their own “Straight Outta” memes. In a sharp move, Beats by Dre has created a meme maker at StraightOuttaSomewhere.com. I’ve seen dozens of hilarious memes generated with this tool and I’d love to hear about some of the ones that have cracked you up. Even better, I’d love for you to create your own and post a link to your witty concoction.
As for some of my favorites, here are two. First up is one the makes fun of LeBron James’ receding hairline.
Next, is a super nerdy one from my pal Lauren.
Now it’s your turn! Kindly share some of your “Straight Outta” memes and make one of your own when you have a chance.
Oops, he did it again. Kanye West just can’t help himself. Unhappy with Beck’s Morning Phase winning “Album of the Year” at the 2015 Grammy Awards over the heavily favored Beyonce self-titled album, West stormed the stage and interrupted the proceedings. The classless move was similar to the time ‘Ye interrupted Taylor Swift winning an MTV Video Music Award over Beyonce. While it was only a brief hop on stage at the Grammys rather than the full-on interruption at the VMAs, West followed up his moronic stunt with some ignorant comments:
If the Grammys want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more. ‘Flawless,’ Beyoncé video. Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé, and at this point, we tired of it.
That’s just pathetic. I’m a Beck fan, but not an ardent one. He has written and performed several songs that I enjoy, but he’s also written and performed more songs that I don’t care for. I’m also weirded out that he’s Continue reading “Kanye West Cements His Status As Music’s Biggest Prick”
As many of you know, I’m a big fan of “shreds” videos. A well done shreds video totally cracks me up. The best clips are musically accurate enough to be recognizable, with the right amount of horrible playing/singing to make you laugh. The last time I wrote about shreds, I focused on heavy metal acts like Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne. The genre lends itself marvelously to shreds; it’s fun to butcher virtuoso guitar playing and bang heavy drums off-rhythm. Today, I give you a trio of my favorite pop music shreds. Today’s lineup is Hall & Oates, Backstreet Boys, and Miley Cyrus.
This live performance of Hall & Oates “Maneater” is a fantastic example of a superior shreds video. The composer did an exemplary job of mixing different musical instruments and vocals, syncing them perfectly with the performance. Small touches, like the hollow sound that occurs when Hall hits the microphone stand, really help bring this video to life. Plus, John Oates is just a funny looking dude. It’s a scientific fact that videos that feature a white man with an afro and a pr0n-stache are exponentially funnier than ones without a white man with an afro and a pr0n-stache.
This clip of the Backstreet Boys singing “I Want it That Way” shows that a capella shreds can work too. It helps that it was performed on Oprah, as cutaways to the live crowd and Ms. Winfrey herself lead to some funny moments. The ridiculous faces made by the Backstreet Boys are even funnier. Lastly, middle-aged men singing a boy band song is always a good laugh. On a technical level, the composer did a great job crafting horrid harmonies.
Last, but not least, is Miley Cyrus performing “Wrecking Ball” on Ellen. Similar to the Backstreet Boys performance, the talk-show setting helps. Miley’s edge is that she’s singing a ridiculously dramatic song; a rich white girl whining about problems just begs to be made fun of. The composer did a fine job with the instruments, particularly the wretched guitar playing. On its own, “Wrecking Ball” is easy enough to laugh at. Give it the shreds treatment and the song hits a whole new level of comedy.
Naturally, I want to watch any shreds videos that you recommend. If you come across some great ones, please post them in the comments section.
The Star Lord vs. Ronan the Accuser dance-off showdown in Guardians of the Galaxy is an adorably ridiculous scene. On the verge of defeat, Peter Quill (Star Lord) decides to distract Ronan with some singing and dancing. On paper, it doesn’t make any sense, but actor Chris Pratt pulls it off with such charm that you can’t help but enjoy the scene. Of course it helps that it’s see to the fantastic “Ooh Child” by the Five Stairsteps. A classic soul song from 1970, “Ooh Child” is a tender and uplifting tune…that’s a brilliant precursor for a laser rifle blast.
Since I’ve watched the movie several times this week, “Ooh Child” has been stuck in my head. Let’s take a look at several versions of this excellent song, starting with the original from the Five Stairsteps. The live performance below is taken from Soul Train and is all kinds of awesome. The ’70s outfits are…spectacular.
Although the Five Stairsteps originally recorded the song, some people are more familiar with the Nina Simone version. I’m not going to argue with anyone that thinks of “Ooh Child” as a Nina Simone song since Nina Simone is awesome. Personally, I prefer the original, but totally understand people that prefer the Simone version.
Next up is a pair of covers featuring Cyndi Lauper. I’m a huge fan of her songs (especially “Time After Time” and “True Colors”) and adore her voice. First up, Cyndi teams up with Destiny’s Child for some lovely harmonizing accompanied by an excellent keyboard tone. That version of “Ooh Child” is followed by an a capella (mostly) clip of Cyndi and her backing artists.
As a big fan of Hall & Oates, I really enjoyed their take on the song musically, if not lyrically. Featuring Hall’s soulful voice, some pleasantly subtle guitar playing by Oates, and dreamy keyboards, this version is distinct. The lyrics were rewritten for this arrangement, which I wasn’t really big on. I prefer the simplicity of the original.
The Valerie Carter version below features some nice vocals, but I’m not too sure about the slide guitar solo. It kind of “rednecks” (yes, I’m using that word as a verb) a very soulful song.
Lastly, as a fan of acoustic jams on a porch and an even bigger fan of sandwiches, I’m high on this “Ooh Child” cover by Danielle Ate the Sandwich.
In addition to being a ruthlessly rocking bassist and one of the most powerful denizens on planet Earth, GWAR’s Beefcake the Mighty is an avid vaper. He even has a juice named after him (German Chocolate Beefcake) in Mt. Baker Vapor’s line of GWAR Fluids. Minutes before he took the stage and conquered the crowd, I had a brief chat with Beefcake the Mighty to learn more about his vaping habits and how the relationship with Mt. Baker Vapor came about. The answer to the latter was simple, as Beefcake boisterously exclaimed, “They came to me on their knees!!!” As for the type of vaping gear the GWAR bass-playing badass likes to use, Beefcake favors simple devices. Check out the video above for one of the zaniest interviews I’ve ever conducted.
As for the show itself, it was a total blast. It took place at The Observatory in Santa Ana — an intimate venue where the crowd could really connect with the band. It was my first GWAR show and it was entertaining on several levels. The music and show were enjoyable on their own, but what I really loved was the utter lack of pretense. You can tell that the band is serious about entertaining their fans, but don’t take themselves seriously at all. It was such a refreshing contrast to most “artists” out there. The show itself was great, but the unique vibe is what will stay with me — a very particular and very pure type of fun.
For many GWAR fans in attendance, this was the first time seeing the band since original frontman Oderus Urungus passed away. The tour’s plot revolved around using a time machine to (mistakenly) order pizza and grab Oderus from the past. Several portions of the show were a tribute to the GWAR mastermind and you could feel the love the fans have for him. If you’re interested in furthering Oderus Urungus’ efforts on Earth, please check out the outstanding Dave Brockie Fund.
Anyway, please watch the video above when you have a chance. It was definitely fun for me to conduct and edit, but it was also very challenging. Both my feet are wrecked and I was on crutches for the entire interview. I was pretty close to keeling over towards the end. Ha!