the rise of the producer – tortuga ft. mc man

The following post contains added commentary by MC Man, fellow music enthusiast. Besides being the one to initiate this post topic, MC is further qualified to give his opinion by the fact that he’s seen every DJ artist on the list except Skrillex and Deadmau5. Now, let’s get on with it…

Scene 1: You’re in the club, booty-shakin’ or whatever you do and then a teeth-clenching noise erupts the steady booms of traditional top 40s hits. It’s loud, it’s jarring, you love it. Your body rolls and twists and you’re fist pumping in what may or may not be matching rhythm with the house music blasting through the sound system. Where did this stream of dancehall hits come from?
MC: Dancehall is a genre of music associated with Jamaica. For example, Major Lazer is considered dancehall. I think you mean dance hits!
TT: Okay, okay. My bad. Dance hits. Also, I loveee Major Lazer!

Scene 2: You’re in your car, drivin’ along, listening to the radio. Your favorite jam comes on and you crank up the volume, singing along at the top of your lungs. At the end of the track, the radio DJ says something like, “And that was ‘We Found Love’ by Rihanna, featuring Calvin Harris! Up next…”

But who is Calvin Harris? The song is not a duet, so where does he come into play?

The answer is producers.
MC: He is also a dope-a** DJ. Just sayin’.

Side note: a music producer is often referred to as a record producer in the music industry. This person can have many responsibilities including orchestrating recording sessions, directing musicians, delegating the production budget and resources and overseeing the recording, mixing and mastering processes (themusicproducer.com).

Now, more than ever, they are the names and faces getting credit for successful, chart-topping songs. Most resources I checked out naming famous producers went back to the old days. George Martin (“Strawberry Fields Forever”), Phil Spector (originator of the “Wall of Sound”) and Berry Gordy (found of Motown record label) were all recurring figures in the history of production. Without even knowing what they did, I found their names familiar. As the makers of sound, producers aren’t always readily known and it takes some research and knowledge of history to be able to recognize the styles of any given record producer used in their pieces.

As an example, I’ll start with my first experiences with producers. Once I was old enough to pick out my own preferences in music, I grew up listening to tracks laid by Timbaland and P. Diddy, though I wasn’t aware of more than the actual artists’ names at the time. Looking back and realizing P. Diddy was involved in the productions of childhood favorites like “Son of a Gun” by Janet Jackson, “Welcome to Atlanta” by Jermaine Dupri and “Breathe, Stretch, Shake” by Mase, I get big hit of “duh.” The flows of the beats are clearly similar, particularly those of the latter two.

Upon closer inspection, I see where my subconscious was supporting my unwavering love for Timbaland. Songs like “Are You That Somebody” by Aaliyah, “Big Pimpin” by Jay-Z and several others by Missy Elliott, Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado and Bubba Sparxx that have consistently dominated my headphones over the years were all produced by Timbaland.
MC: Speaking of JT, he totally skipped a few steps by employing Timba as his producer. There’s just no way a dude from a boy band is gonna drop a solo record and have the street cred he immediately received (without earning it, anyway) otherwise. I think a lot of people were like, “Oh, snap, he’s working with Timbaland, that must mean he’s aight.” Didn’t hurt that they collaborated on some dope tracks, too.

As awesome and successful as these beat makers were/are, there is a new wave of producers making history. Referred to in the beginning of this post, they are not only collaborating with and lending their beats to artists, but creating their own albums, singles and fan bases under the title of producer.

Names that were unknown, but to a small circle of those in the industry 10 years ago, have jumped into the spotlight with no intention of giving it up. These people are not just one-hit-wonders. In fact, most of these producers have been working steadily for the past decade or longer. I think the advancement and acceptance of technology paired with this grand movement of dancehall music has allowed these producers to come to the forefront of what they create, rather than float around the industry, known only among those they work with or those who read their name in print inside the album jacket.
MC: There it is again. “Dancehall.” Stick to “dance” or “EDM (electronic dance music).” I’m kinda with and against what you’re saying about the advancement of technology. I think what has more to do with the producer’s rise to fame is the 24-hour news cycle. Fan(atic)s want to know everything about the music nowadays and there’s no denying a producer’s involvement in a song. Soon enough, we’re going to be hearing about famous sound engineers and A&R guys. As for the advancement of technology, I think this has hurt the profile of the producer since making music has become so much more accessible to the average joe. That’s why Skrillex was criticized for his comments at the Grammys when he said he couldn’t wait to hear the tracks from the “bedroom geniuses.”
TT: Sorry. Again.

So since it seems these producers have no where else to go but up, how about we get to know them a little? (Take notice of the fact that many of these producers are international, born in foreign countries. This is not altogether surprising, as house music has been more common in the rest of the world and for much longer than in the U.S.)

AFROJACK
Real name: Nick van de Wall
From: Spijkenisse, Netherlands
Age: 24
Active since 2006
MC: This dude is gonna be here in June. He’s playing the A**-Gary too, which is crazy. I think that venue’s too big, but then again, Avicii is playing the TBT Forum because he sold out The Venue a couple of times. I don’t like most of his music, but he’s a rising star, or at least he was. I have a feeling he’s reached a plateau.
TT: I like your endearing term for the Ask-Gary Amphitheater.

AVICII
Real name: Tim Bergling (originally named Brad Macnee?)
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Age: 22
Active since 2008
MC: When I saw Avicii at The Venue, it was EFFING. PACKED. May be why he’s playing in an effing hockey rink. I already told you about that whole Leona Lewis fiasco, which gives a real interesting perspective of the role of the producer and the beat maker. Like it’s pretty common in the world of hip hop for a no-name producer to supply a beat and a famous rapper to take it, work with his own dude, and lay down the track. I guess Avicii (rightfully) thought he was too big to have his track jacked from him. It’s whatevs, I guess. Just an interesting point.
TT: For those of you who aren’t aware of the Leona Lewis/Avicii thing, check out this article for the scoop: http://www.dancingastronaut.com/2011/07/avicii-vs-leona-lewis-malicious-copyright-infringement-or-a-simple-misunderstanding/

BENNY BENASSI

Real name: Marco Benassi
From: Reggio Emilia, Italy
Age: 44
Active since the late 1980s
MC: Oh, Benassi. I don’t have much to say about him, except he dropped dubstep the first two times I saw him and I blacked out the third time I saw him. This is probably why.

CALVIN HARRIS
Real name: Adam Richard Wiles
From: Dumfries, Scotland
Age: 28
Active since 1999
MC: Calvin Harris actually started out as a pop act himself, except making his own music. But, if you listen to him, he was never much of a singer. When he started to fashion himself a DJ/producer, everyone was like, “WTF?” Or least I was. Then I saw him at Masquerade Motel and I was like, “Holy sh*t, that was amazing.” That was around the time he was dropping a banger called “Awooga” which was one of the biggest tracks at last year’s Ultra.

DAVID GUETTA

Real name: Pierre David Guetta
From: Paris, France
Age: 44
Active since 1984
MC: Along with Lady Gaga, I blame David Guetta (for good or bad) for EDM’s crossover into pop music. His collabs with the Black Eyed Peas made dance music acceptable and he hasn’t stopped since. Luckily for EDM heads, he still collabs with people who aren’t pop acts, specifically other DJ/producers, like Nicky Romero, Avicii and Afrojack, so he still keeps his DJ cred.

DEADMAU5
Real name: Joel Thomas Zimmerman
From: Niagara Falls, Ontario
Age: 31
Active since 2005
MC: Deadmau5 is strictly an EDM act and has no real crossover potential. But in the world of EDM, he is effing massive. He sold out Roseland Ballroom five nights in a row. That’s bananas. Especially since even he’ll admit all he basically does is hit ‘play’ on a computer. A lot of his tracks aren’t really accessible to the common audience. Most of them time in at 7+ minutes, basically unplayable on any form of terrestrial radio. I like Deadmau5, but he’s super anti-drugs at shows and got into it with Madonna recently when that old hag tried to be relevant and was talking about Molly at Ultra.

DIPLO
Real name: Thomas Wesley Pentz
From: Tupelo, Mississippi
Age: 33
Active since 2003
MC: If you remember our conversation about this dude, Diplo is an interesting character. Rolling Stone’s last issue (or the one before that, I can’t remember) has a good profile piece on him. Like I said, he’s a tastemaker. He’s got no discernible musical talent other than the ability to lay down a wicked-a** beat. He also hollers at who he thinks are up and comers. For example, he’s worked with both Azaleas (however they spell their name). He produced MIA and is largely responsible for her sound. He’s a monster producer, one that I’m sure most famous pop acts would die to work with. Lucky for them, this dude is as effing mercenary as they come and will work with anyone if the price is right. Seriously. Or at least, that’s my opinion of dude.

KANYE WEST
Real name: Kanye Omari West
From: Chicago, Illinois
Age: 34
Active since 1996
MC: IMO, Kanye is the best hip hop producer out there. He just has an incredible ear for samples. Most new guys like Clams have kinda simple stuff. They’re dirty, but I don’t feel their complexity. Then again, I don’t really know anything about hip hop production. If Kanye’s not producing his own track, he’s applying his taste to it, so it inevitably has his signature on it. His music has reached epic level. Just listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy again.

KASKADE
Real name: Ryan Raddon
From: Evanston, Illinois
Age: 41
Active since 2001
MC: Kaskade is my very favorite DJ/producer and arguably the most popular/best American DJ. He falls into a deep house/progressive house vibe, mostly melodic synths and female vocals. He’s gonna be here in July for his Freaks of Nature tour if ya thinking about hitting up a show…
TT: I might be down. I think I’m well overdue for a show.

MARK RONSON

Real name: Mark Daniel Ronson
From: Notting Hill, London, England
Age: 36
Active since 1993
MC: This dude produced Adele’s 21, right? For that reason alone, he should be included on this list. Beyond that, all I know about dude is that he’s a major producer, but I couldn’t name a track. I know his sister is a lesbian (and a DJ) and dated Lindsay Lohan for a hot minute.
TT: I totally forgot about his sister. That’s too bad she overshadows what you know about him. He did the remix to Maroon 5’s “Wake Up Call,” which also features Mary J. Blige, “Toxic” by Britney Spears and a couple Amy Winehouse songs.

P. DIDDY
Real name: Sean John Combs
From: New York City, New York
Age: 42
Active since 1988
MC: LOL, P. Diddy. He proved he has a good ear though when he was dealing with those crazy girls from Danity Kane, tearing up their crappy singing.

TIESTO
Real name: Tijs Michiel Verwest
From: Breda, North Brabant, Netherlands
Age: 43
Active since 1994
MC: In my opinion, Tiesto is the biggest DJ-producer in the world. He’s amazing and makes great tracks. His latest, with Wolfgang Gartner (big electro-house guy) and Luciana (big EDM vocalist), called We Own the Night is a real banger. Love that track.

TIMBALAND

Real name: Timothy Zachery Mosley
From: Norfolk, Virginia
Age: 40
Active since 1990
MC: I love how Timba got all that goodwill through production and then thought he was the best, came out with a solo album and then disappeared. You can’t deny he had a huge influence on how people view producers today though, huh?
TT: Yeah, what’s he been up to? One of my favorite songs of all time is “The Way I Are” (BTW, did you know that’s Keri Hilson singing in there?)

SKRILLEX
Real name: Sonny John Moore
From: Los Angeles, California
Age: 24
Active since 2002
MC: Skrillex has been THE man of dubstep. As much as many purists want to hate on him (they call his music brostep), in the last year he has become the face of EDM, which you have to respect. I like, but don’t love, any given one of his tracks, but you can’t say this kid didn’t work for his status. He tours almost every day, which is a major part of why he became so big.

STEVE AOKI
Real name: Steve Hiroyuki Aoki
From: Newport Beach, California
Age: 34
Active since 1996
MC: I thought this dude was born in Miami? I’m not looking it up though, so you’ll have to correct me. He’s got a real weird style, but he’s always collabing with people He also owns his own label that he releases tracks on, which reminds me, a lot of these guys start their own labels and foster their own talent. Like Aoki has Dim Mak, Afrojack has Wall Records, Axwell has Axtone and so on and so on.
TT: You’re right. He was born in Miami but grew up in Newport Beach.

SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA
Three members: Axwell (from Lund, Sweden, 34), Steve Angello (from Athens, Greece, 29) and Sebastian Ingrosso (from Grahamstown, South Africa, 28)
Group from: Amsterdam, Holland
Active since 2008
MC: Each of these guys are massive DJs in their own right. They also produce tracks individually and in pairs (“Supermode” I think is Angello and Ingrosso). Axwell has countless remixes and original tracks. His biggest tune right now is a remix of Feenixpawl’s “In My Mind.” Ingrosso has that track with Ryan Tedder, “Calling.” Haven’t heard much from Angello worth a listen in a while.

**Also referring to why this post doesn’t mention much about rock producers: I think it’s reflective of the type of music. Rock music, or bands at least, or very protective of their creativity. They like their bylines, so to speak, and want to be recognized for it. Furthermore, it totally goes against the manner bands are marketed; they are the talent and so should get credit for the music. Genres like hip hop and EDM embrace more than that. Hip hop appreciates lyrical flow and writing, which lets rappers and producers coexist. Even more so, there’s a bunch of rapper-producer duos.

In the world of EDM, the DJ is the producer. Deadmau5 talked about this on Joe Rogan’s podcast. He looks down on most regular DJs because, again with the advancement of technology, you don’t have to figure out the bpm [beats per minute] of a track and when to drop it in. You can just press ‘play,’ have the computer adjust the track’s bpm, lay them over and then switch over completely. He defends what he (and other world-famous DJs do) by saying he plays music he’s created.

At the same time, fans of actual spinning, like comedian Russell Peters, sh*t on a dude like Tiesto because of the press play mentality. He says all Tiesto does is pay a dude for his synth loop and cobbles together a track. While technically true, it’s taken Tiesto years to learn how to build a track up, where to put the drop and then let it go out. Some DJs may not write the music (take a look at “Metropolis” by David Guetta and Nicky Romero compared to “Resurrection” (Axwell recut) by Michael Calfan for an example of this), but they certainly know how to put a song together, which, in itself, is an art.

P.S. Not all EDM is house music. House music is identifiable by its, normally, 4-4 beat (thus the saying “four to the floor”), melodic buildups and major drops. Tiesto, commonly considered a prog/electro-house guy now, came into it as a trance guy. In fact, most of the guys on DJ mags top list are considered trance (Ferry Corsten, Armin Van Buuren, Paul Van Dyk, Gareth Emery, Sander Van Doorn, etc.).

indie tortuga

The most unique artists are efficiently promoting themselves and creating independent success.” – Shawn Gary, music enthusiast

Everyone now wants to be heard, even when they have nothing to say. Sometimes this turns into quick but short lived fame. It can also generate big profit but the players are easily replaceable.” – Funkworm, http://www.indiehiphop.net

It all started when musicians and producers created their own labels instead of trying to get picked up by one of the Big Four: Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI Group. Once these independent labels were established and signed new artists, the rappers and singers became known as independent or “indie” artists. So literally, an indie hip hop artist would be one who is signed with an independent label or unsigned altogether.

Side note: For the record, there is a difference between “indie” and “underground” hip hop. Both are used to describe a group of musicians who are either signed to an independent record label or unsigned. While underground refers to non-commercial music, characterized by politically and socially-conscious lyrics, indie hip hop is characterized by the artists rather than the music itself. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to blanket both under the term “indie”.

But over time, the term has come to mean more than who an artist is signed with. It’s become more of an abstract idea chased by music enthusiasts who are looking for tunes beyond commercial, top 40 hits. Indie artists have a specific sound. It’s the same no matter the genre because it appeals to music lovers of all kinds. For example, Belong steadily streams artists like Bon Iver and Active Child from her Macbook. I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoy independent hip hop.

Let it be said that some artists, even after gaining popularity and moving to major labels, are still respected as independent artists because of their beginnings and success.

To me, indie refers to an aura or essence of an artist. It relates to the sound produced. Indie artists might have a large fan-base and tour across the country, but they generally serve as openers to larger acts and perform in smaller venues and music festivals.

When you focus on the idea that an indie artist has to come from an independent label, things get a little complicated. Many artists, while not signed to one of the Big Four, are signed to subsidiaries or labels owned by the Big Four. I think what it comes down to, after labels have been determined, is the figurative, abstract idea of an indie artist.

For example, Freddie Gibbs is a rapper who’s been around more more than a decade. He’s not played on the radio, has put out at least ten mixtapes and performs at venues with other smaller-name rapper (The Cool Kids, Chip the Ripper, Big K.R.I.T.). He’s signed to a label called CTE (Corporate Thugz Entertainment), started by Young Jeezy and owned by Def Jam, a sub-label of Universal Music Group. But I have him pegged as an indie artist. He has that sound. He’s not all bells and whistles, not all synthesizers and autotune. He’s a straight rapper, reminiscent of Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia.

Tech N9ne was listed as an indie artist on Wikipedia (I know, it’s Wikipedia). After a little research, I found he belongs his own label (he’s the vice president) called Strange Music. It’s tied to RED Distribution, which is a subsidiary of Universal. That paired with his long-lasting career (25+ years) might speak “mainstream” but considering his lyrical content and lack of headlining major national tours, he’s pretty indie.

Backtracking a little to Freddie Gibbs, I mentioned how he put out several mixtapes. It is said that mixtapes are a sign of an indie artist, but MC Man says mixtapes are really the backbone of hip hop in general. (To get some yourself, register at datpiff.com).

So when it came down to writing this post—an inevitable topic—I had a hard time really honing in on the point I was trying to make. I’m still not sure if I really made that clear, but I’ll end this with a slice of how I started my research—iTunes. Please note, this list was created before any research and still no research took part in deciding which artists to post, it is purely based on my instinct. Warning: probably NSFW.

10 artists I thought might be considered “indie” in my iTunes:

1. Afroman

2. Flypside

3. Wale (and Miguel, featured in this video)

4. Frank Ocean

5. Iggy Azalea

6. Murs

7. Nappy Roots

8. Pigeon John

9. The Weeknd

10. Kendrick Lamar

tortuga, more than music

Most successful musicians are given a lot of grief for making it big and getting paid absurd amounts of money for doing it. The insane difference in salary between entertainers and most teachers/police officers/or whatever else you might think of is a continuous discussion. But if you take a closer look, a lot of the more successful rappers and singers don’t just reap the rewards of album sales and tours, but from investing in a business that gives back to the community.

The idea of this blog post came after a plea I posted on Facebook, asking for topics. A friend commented that he heard Lil Wayne had recently purchased the Skate Park of Tampa, right over the bridge from where I live. First off, I was excited because I’m a Weezy fan to the core. Second, I internally, subconsciously blew off this information and didn’t even bother to look it up. Not because I thought it was useless, but because as a true fan I understand that Lil Wayne is not a great skateboarder and so any major move by him in that direction is going to be something of a laughing stock. Anyway, so it turned out that little tidbit was an April Fool’s joke. (Haha?). But it made me think about all the other artists who have a stake in a business or company, or even own one.

By business or company, I mean a tangible piece of property with an address. Legit real estate. I’m not including fashion lines, lingerie lines, shoes, perfume or beauty products. I realize these are all worthy investments and those successful in the fields have helped create billion-dollar industries, but one, they’re all over the place, everyone and their grandma owns one, and second, I’m a bigger fan of sports and food than I am of fashion and beauty.

So, here’s a list of 18 musician-celebrities and the business(es) they own:

  1. 50 cent – His Formula 50 brand of Vitamin Water he created with Glaceau was recently bought out by Coca Cola. He also co-founded a film company in 2009 called Cheetah Visionvitamin water formula 50
  2. Alice Cooper – The rock star owns a sports bar in Phoenix, AZ called Alice Cooperstown, which opened in 1998. alice cooperstown
  3. Bono – The Irish singer owns a hotel in, where else but his birthplace, Dublin. The Clarence Hotel was transformed from a two-star, 70-bedroom to a five-star, 49-bedroom hotel by Bono and his U2 bandmate, The Edge. clarence hotel
  4. Dave Matthews – The DMB front-runner purchased Blenheim Vineyards, an historic Virginian farm that dates back to the 1700s and housed historic figures like Thomas Jefferson, in 1999. Blenheim Vineyards
  5. Fergie – In October 2009, the lead singer of Black-Eyed Peas became a part owner of the Miami DolphinsFergie Miami Dolphins
  6. Gavin DeGraw – The singer opened a restaurant in 2007 with his brother on Manhattan’s Lower East Side called The National UndergroundThe National Underground
  7. Gladys Knight – Technically owned by her son, the self-explained restaurant called Gladys Knight & Ron Winans’ Chicken & Waffles currently has three locations in the Atlanta area. Chicken and Waffles
  8. Jay-Z – The new father is co-owner of an upscale sports bar in New York, Chicago and Atlantic City called the 40/40 Club. He is also part owner of the New Jersey Nets, soon to be called the Brooklyn Nets. 40/40 club
  9. Justin Timberlake – The former-N SYNC member doesn’t stop. He’s opened three restaurants: Chi in West Hollywood and Destino and Southern Hospitalty in New York. He also has his own brand of tequila called 901 and reopened and renamed a golf course in Tennessee, Mirimichi Golf CourseMirimichi Golf Course
  10. Kanye West – His company, KW Foods LLC, bought the rights to the Fatburger chain in Chicago. (Pharell and E-40 have also owned franchises of the restaurant). fatburger
  11. Lenny Kravitz – The rock star and recent Hunger Games actor founded Kravitz Design Inc., a company focused on interior and furniture design (designed a chandelier for Swarovski called “Casino Royale”). kravitz design
  12. Ludacris – The southern rapper is co-owner of Conjure Cognac liquor and Soul headphones. Ludacris Conjure
  13. Marilyn Manson – He developed Mansinthe, an Absinthe label that boasts 66.6% alcohol in a standard bottle. Mansinthe
  14. Olivia Newton-John – The Grease star co-founded Koala Blue Wines and established the Gaia Retreat & Spa, both located in Australia. gaia retreat and spa
  15. P. Diddy – The seasoned rapper opened an upscale restaurant chain called Justin’s in Atlanta, named after his son. Diddy also signed a multi-year deal with Ciroc to help develop the brand by doing more than just endorsing. justin's
  16. Pete Wentz – In 2007, the Fall Out Boy bassist and ex-husband of Ashlee Simpson opened a nightclub in New York, Angels & Kings. The business is also owned by Jamison Ernest of Yellow Fever and members of the bands Gym Class Heroes, The Academy Is… and Cobra Starshipangels and kings
  17. Toby Keith – Of course this country singer’s Oklahoma restaurant is called I Love This Bar & Grill, fittingly named after his 2003 hit single “I Love This Bar.” i love this bar and grill
  18. Usher – At 26, the R&B singer became part-owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Seven years later, it’s still true. cavaliers

After discovering and researching some of these little facts, I have to wonder a few things. First, does it matter whether someone owns, co-owns or has a share in a company? Does co-owning something make it less of an accomplishment? And second, are these businesses and companies good? Are they necessary? Do people go to them and use the services provided out of necessity or are they just a tourist stop? What difference does it really make that a celebrity is part of the decision-making process of a business?

tortuga storyteller

Music is an expression of emotion, a mode of message deliverance. It can come in several forms: sung, rapped, spoken, rhymed, disjointed…with melody or beats, only melody or beats, a cappella… Take your pick.

Some may say a story can be interpreted from any form of music, and it’s true. But some songs require you to hone in on the lyrics, literally tell a story. Within the track, there is a clear beginning, middle and end of a tale. It has a message. It’s not just about someone. It’s not just a couple’s or group’s anthem, proclaiming one thing or another. It’s not a song describing any old generic situation any one in the world with feelings and experiences can relate to. It  tells the audience about a specific moment or collection of related experiences. It might include reflections or flashbacks, internal dialogue or between people or narration in the first-, second- or third-person. It’s descriptive and impressive and gets you to think about it.

Not everyone likes story-telling in music format. There are people in the world who flat-out hate musicals. But the truth is that stories have been around for as long as people could communicate. In a day and age when entertainers make more than teachers, there are quite a few songs created to tell stories of love, loss and life to the masses.

After scrutinizing every artist in my iTunes, I’ve compiled a list of songs that follow the aforementioned criteria. Before we get to that, I made some interesting connections in my search.

  1. I was surprised to see that artists like Akon, T-Pain and Lil Wayne consistently use the story-telling method in their lyrics.
  2. With this discovery, I’m beginning to realize I might be someone who likes that method.
  3. Taylor Swift is also a big story teller, something that I already knew, but never took the time to think about before.
  4. The most common forms of story-telling I found in my library are first-person narrative and chronological, which is also interesting because I’ve been told I tend to write essays in that format (something I’m having a hard time breaking out of doing).
  5. I think most artists tend to tell stories about relationships. Again, something I already knew, but by breaking down the list of story songs into subcategories of ‘relationships’ (and others), the trend was made even more apparent.

Now, here’s the list. Bombs away!

  • “Colt 45” – Afroman. In its extended version, it’s a compilation of 15 short, yet explicitly detailed, sexual experiences the narrator has encountered. (First-person)
  • “Lucky” – Britney Spears. It’s a story about a girl named Lucky. She’s famous and every one loves her but something’s missing in her life and she cries, cries, cries. We are left to guess why. (Third-person)
  • “Infatuated” – Christina Aguilera. That it’s about the experience of meeting someone knew and knowing nothing about them, yet finding them irresistible is obvious by the track’s title. X-tina is extremely drawn to a ‘full-blood Boricua’, and argues internally with her mother’s voice of reason. (Internal, first-person)
  • “Tom’s Diner” – Suzanne Vega and “Piano Man” – Billy Joel. Both narrations revolve around the singer’s surroundings. Vega comments on the mundane activities in a diner, much like someone with no life writes in a diary. Joel creates an atmosphere where people in all stages of life come together at a bar and turn to the pianist to cheer them up.
  • “Animal Style” – Murs. When a homosexual couple keeping their relationship a secret slips up, one of them feels confused about what to do and when they try to overcome the obstacle, he kills them both. (Third-person)
  • “What’s My Age Again” – Blink-182. It’s a run-through of a night a 23 year-old guy with ADD spent before getting dumped by his girlfriend for acting immature. (First-person, chronological)
  • “She Tried” – Bubba Sparxxx. The story of a remorseful man who describes the pain he feels at losing the one he loved after she caught him cheating with her cousin. He reflects on the day they met and the dreams they once shared. (Flashback, chronological, first-person)
  • “Regulaters” – Warren G., “It Was a Good Day” – Ice Cube and “Boyz in the Hood” – NWA. These three raps describe days in the life of a stereotypical gangster, brought straight to you from the mouths of some of hip-hop’s elite. (First-person)
The next four songs all use telephone conversations:
  • “Hey Ma” – Cam’ron. It’s every college partier’s goal (right?): to get picked up at a bar and have a one night stand. Cam’ron tells us about a time he scooped up a hottie and brought her back to his house to score. Then we hear a telephone conversation between him and his friend the next day where he dishes about what happened. (first-person, chronological, dialogue included)
  • “You Don’t Know My Name” – Alicia Keys. The more-than-six-minutes-long song focuses on having feelings for someone who doesn’t know you exist. The storyline comes into play about three minutes and seven seconds in, sandwiched between musical-esque harmonies, when Alicia Keys decides to call “Michael” and ask him out. (First-person, dialogue included)
  • “The Call” – Backstreet Boys. The song tells a story, but not a very long one. It’s a scenario of how a guy lied to and cheated on his girlfriend one night while he was out with his friends. (First-person, dialogue included)
  • “Marvin’s Room” – Drake. This song centers around a drunk telephone conversation between two people who were once together. Drake venomously croons that his ex still thinks about him because her new guy isn’t comparable. She repeatedly asks him if he’s drunk. (Dialogue included, first-person)

Here are a couple I found with post-abortion thoughts.

  • “Happy Birthday” – Flypside. In a rap-letter to his aborted child, Flypside apologizes, explains why the child wasn’t born and wonders about how the child might have been. (internal, first-person)
  • “Brick” – Ben Folds Five. A boyfriend takes his girlfriend to get an abortion the day after Christmas and keeps the trip a secret from their families. The secret tears them apart and kills their relationship in the end when it explodes. (Narration, chronological, first-person)
The following two songs happen to be about weddings.
  • “American Wedding” – Frank Ocean. Using the tune of The Eagles’ Hotel California, Mr. Ocean describes the excitement of getting married secretly with tattoo rings to his ‘teenage wife’ and then the sadness of her nonchalantly telling him they need an annulment ‘before it goes too far’. He calls this the American Wedding, because it doesn’t last. (first-person, internal)
  • “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” – Garth Brooks. It’s a man’s drunken experience of sending off his ex with a toast at her wedding, which only served to let her (and all the guests) know how depressed he was, no matter how many friends he has in low places.
These two songs describe the satisfaction found in karma.
  • “Sk8er Boi” – Avril Lavinge. A relationship, beginning to end, is spelled out by someone who turns out to be the boy’s current girlfriend. (Third-person, chronological)
  • “Prom Queen” – Lil Wayne. Weezy gets revenge on a girl who snubbed him in high school by leaving her crying in the rain after refusing to let her in the house. (First-person)

tortuga court: defending ke$ha

She’s obnoxious, vulgar, nasally. Her accompanying beats are sometimes jarring and cringe-worthy. The words she sings, raps, autotunes and says with a synthesizer in the background are not the largest in the dictionary. She’s in your face, wears metal on her face, loves glitter and wearing body paint. Her music is blasted in clubs and the cars of girls “going out for girl’s night!” She is Ke$ha. And I can’t get enough of her.

Let me get this out right now before you get much farther than either rolling your eyes or nodding in obsessive agreement: as she is, she is not a great musician. Her songs cannot be compared to (or maybe even uttered in the same sentence with) those of lyrical geniuses Tupac and Eminem, queen of hitting the high notes Mariah Carey, guitar hero Jimi Hendrix or even pop/country princess Taylor Swift.

What Ke$ha is great at is making anthems for every young woman who’s ever gone out drinking and prowling for guys. (Umm, hello.) By the way, I have to love her for this quote from an interview with Glamour magazine:

Ke$ha, Glamour Magazine, February 2012

So anyway, at the start of this post, her college party attitude was really my only defense for her. However, after doing research (as every decent blogger should do) I’ve come up with several pros for my list for Ke$ha. So in case you’re not convinced yet, allow me to provide six more reasons for you to suck it up and admit (even if it’s secretly) that you kinda sorta like her too.

6 reasons to unhate Ke$ha:

  1. She loves animals.  Ke$ha was named Humane Society’s first global ambassador for animals in 2011 and took the title of Street Dog Defender because she has a soft spot for stray canines. (She once found two dogs literally superglued together). She is also designing an animal-friendly jewelry/fake-fur line.
  2. She’s straight up. She has openly stated that parents should not let their kids listen to her music if they are offended by it because “I wrote those songs for me.”
  3. She might have a beard fetish. Her official Tumblr account is called Put Your Beard in My Mouth. The blog displays page after page of fan photo submissions of guys with hairy faces, crazy mustaches and even images of herself with beards in her mouth.
  4. She really actually works hard. She cowrote every song on her first two albums, Animal and Cannibal. She also wrote “Till the World Ends,” the hit single performed by the queen of pop, Miss Britney Spears.
  5. She’s influenced by the Beastie Boys. Her white-girl-rap-heavy first single, “Tik Tok,” was inspired by the group’s rap style. That song topped the charts in 11 countries.
  6. She has ambition. Ke$ha has stated her next album will be rock and roll. She wants to capture the true essence of rock and roll, adding that it’s “just irreverence and sexiness and fun and not giving a f—.”

After thinking aloud in this very chilly Starbucks about how Ke$ha can be so terrible, yet so amazing at the same time, I think I have made up my mind. The stuff she’s put out up until now has been some of the worst, superficial, trashiest music I’ve probably ever heard (yeah, I said it). BUT I don’t think pop/electronic music is her thing. It matches her “I don’t give a whaaaat” attitude but I think she has more potential than it allows her to put to use. Perhaps her rock album will be better. If you give “The Harold Song” a listen, you’ll discover emotional, sentimental lyrics that anyone who’s ever been through a break up can relate to. The pounding beat leads up to a belted chorus free of any autotuning. It’s not much, but I’m betting it’s the tip of the iceberg.

Ke$ha has the potential to appeal to a much larger audience. With the right combination of rhythm and vocals, critics could be eating previous words like “unsophisticated” and “manufactured.” After all, she is but a 24 year old woman, just making music that she calls “a celebration of youth and life and going out and getting crazy.” As her peer, I completely understand. And that is why I keep her CD in my car and hold higher hopes for her in the future.

4 weird facts about Ke$ha:

  1. She recently posted photos of herself with studs she paid to have glued to her scalp on the left side of her head.
  2. To view her site Kesha’s Family (launched in 2011), you have to pay to become a member, or “get converted” or “become a missionary” which means you also get a t-shirt, necklace and a “baptism certificate.”
  3. She once bribed her way into Prince’s mansion in Beverly Hills where she snuck into one of his jam sessions and left her demo CD wrapped in a huge purple bow before being kicked out by security. She never heard from him.
  4. In two years, she’s been nominated for at least 34 awards including People’s Choice Awards, MTV VMAs, American Music Awards and PETA Libby Awards. She won seven times.

Finally, I’ll leave you with some stats:

Total # of songs in my iTunes by Ke$ha: 20

Most listened to: There’s a tie. “We R Who We R” (my favorite) and “Take It Off” (which reminds me of Mastry’s bar in downtown St. Petersburg).

I heard Ke$ha for the first time going out for my 20th birthday in Gainesville. I thought “Tik Tok” was exactly the kind of song girls in the world needed.

tortuga, play and go

Right off the bat, two things: 1) it is Spring Break and 2) one of my brothers and three of my best friends in the world have birthdays this week. (Okay, one was last week, but same thing, right?)

The first part has nothing to do with anything except to serve as an explanation why this post will be shorter than the others. As for the second part, as a designerd, my trademark thing to do for a friend’s birthday is make them a card:

Nicki Minaj

This was a birthday card I made for someone I used to work with who was obsessed with Nicki.

Sometimes I don’t have time, such as this week when everything I’m doing is either trying to get stuff done before deadline or relaxing and soaking up as much sun as I can.

The solution? Make a playlist. Burn it onto a CD. Wrap it up nicely. Hand it over. Happy Birthday.

Burning CDs brings me a joy like few things in this world can. With all the music I acquire on the regular, I am constantly making new CDs for myself or others. In fact, I went six months without a CD player in my car (stupid, old Corolla) and was beyond ecstatic when a couple dudes I know installed one for me (what up, Birdman and MC Man!).

A mixed CD is one of the cheapest personalized gifts you can give, but you’ve got to be smart about it.

Five questions to ask yourself when planning a mixed CD for a friend:

  1. What is the purpose or occasion? Like me, it may be a friend’s birthday. Or maybe it’s an anniversary or a graduation or a random Tuesday. The point is, mixed CDs are kind of like blank greeting cards. If you’re going to give it to someone, you need to make sure whatever’s inside makes sense and serves a purpose.
  2. Who is likely to hear this disc once you’ve handed it over? Many times have I caught myself before putting a song like “Dance” by Big Sean on a CD for a friend who has kids. It has a nice beat, I know a choreographed dance to it, it’s catchy and it’s pretty much my song of the moment. But when I click play and the song starts out “Ass. Ass. Ass. Ass. Ass. Ass…etc.” I know either I need to get the edited version or leave it off the mix. Of course, this means nothing if your friend doesn’t mind his or her kids listening to obscene and graphic language. Throw all the F bombs you want that way then. Just kidding.
  3. Should there be a theme? To me, this is the most joyous part of making a playlist. Bax and I send CDs to each other across the country that have secret themes we have to figure out. I’ve received CDs with track lists about things like colors and clothing. Once I sent her a disc filled with songs naming different body parts. I have two waiting to go in the mail right now that I think are pretty clever. But I can’t say what they are in case she reads this.
  4. Do you have enough songs to fill up the space on the CD? If you can’t find enough songs to make burning a CD worth it, you might need to pick a different topic or come up with another way to show your friend you care. Every so often I have to go through the playlists in my iTunes and delete the ones I started but never really finished.
  5. Will your friend appreciate this gift? I have friends who I know listen to CDs I made for them once and then take it out and misplace it. Well, you can’t please everyone. Also make sure they have a place to play it! For instance, I don’t burn Belong CDs because her car doesn’t play burned ones. Some people I know don’t even have CD players in their house (stupid technology).

Here’s the Body Parts CD I made for Bax back in November:

  • “Bubbly” – Colbie Caillat
  • “My Body” – Young the Giant
  • “Let Me Clear My Throat” – DJ Kool
  • “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” – Busta Rhymes
  • “Hair” – Lady Gaga
  • “Put Your Hands Up” – Fat Man Scoop
  • “Hands All Over” – Maroon 5
  • “Arms” – Christina Perri
  • “Starry Eyed” – Ellie Goulding
  • “Soul Meets Body” – Death Cab For Cutie
  • “Ms. New Booty” – Bubba Sparxxx
  • “If I Never See Your Face Again” – Maroon 5 ft. Rihanna
  • “Baby Got Back (Cover)” – Jonathan Coulton
  • “Dirt Off Your Shoulders” – Jay-Z
  • “Lips of An Angel” – Hinder
  • “C-C-C-Cinnamon Lips” – OK GO
  • “Break Yo Neck” – Busta Rhymes
  • “I’ve Just Seen a Face” – The Beatles
  • “Lucky Arms” – John Michael Montgomery
  • “Hips Don’t Lie” – Shakira
  • “Head Over Feet” – Alanis Morrisette

While you’re here, why don’t you check out this awesome podcast I made a guest appearance on this week? It’s called Everything Abridged and is hosted by two of the coolest kids I know, Ren Laforme and Casey Peterson! I talk about my previous post regarding cover songs:

http://dothisthing.org/2012/03/everything-abridged-episode-2-learnin-about-baseball/

 

tortuga, covered

My favorite thing to do, second only to downloading new music, is to download cover songs. There’s a lot of debate and out there about how a cover song is defined. Dictionary.com says it’s “a recording that was first recorded or made popular by somebody else.” I don’t think the song has to initially have been popular to reach cover status, but I do agree with the first part of the definition. Cover songs are created from originals previously recorded.

I think the artists who create good cover songs take an original tune and twist it to make it their own. Maybe it was sung acoustically, changed genres or the lyrics were sung in a different tone which changed the emotion of the song. The musician takes a song and makes it their own, while keeping an essence of the original.

If a musician is going to cover a song, whether it’s on YouTube or at a show or concert or whatever, the tell-tale sign that it’s a genuine cover is whether the artist is showcasing his or her own talents. If the song is obviously being done in a silly manner, like a parody, it doesn’t count. It also doesn’t count if just a clip of a song is used. Cover songs do not include mash ups or remixes and the lyrics have to be pretty close to the original version. As a side note, there are also many songs out there that have girl and boy versions (such as “Marvin’s Room,” the original by Drake and the reply by JoJo). I do not count these kinds of songs as covers.

There are several bands, groups and individuals known for their cover songs. The married couple that make up Karmin was made famous with their covers of “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj, “Look At Me Now” by Chris Brown and “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO. Mike Tompkins has several YouTube videos of his a cappella versions of Top 40s hits such as “Paradise” by Coldplay and “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry. Cover band Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine is known for its Disturbed cover, “Down With the Sickness,” which debuted in the 2004 movie, Dawn of the Dead.

I started noticing cover songs with the Punk Goes Crunk and Punk Goes Pop albums. Soon after, I discovered a band called Boyce Avenue. These sources became the basis for my iTunes Covers playlist.

I know there are several great songs out there that have been covered or that are covers and someone’s going to freak out because I didn’t mention them. However, as is, the playlist consists of 321 songs and would take 19 hours, 17 minutes and 51 seconds to listen to all the way through. The majority of these songs come from the 2000s and are Top 40s hits. I’ve complied a list of my favorite covers or at least ones I felt it is my duty to pass on. (The original artist of each song is in parentheses). And feel free to suggest your own covers you’ve come across.

The top 20 cover songs in my library:

  1. “Creep” – Afghan Whigs (TLC)
  2. “Whatever You Like” – Anya Marina (T.I.)*
  3. “Love In This Club” – Boyce Avenue (Usher)
  4. “Black and Yellow” – Cris Cab (Wiz Khalifa)*
  5. “Baby” – Drew Ryniewicz (Justin Bieber)*
  6. “Only Girl (In the World)” – Ellie Goulding (Rihanna)
  7. “Take Me Home Tonight” – Every Avenue (Eddie Money)*
  8. “Ride With Me” – I Call Shotgun (Nelly)
  9. “Gangsta’s Paradise” – In Fear and Faith (Coolio)
  10. “Pursuit of Happiness” – Lissie (Kid Cudi)
  11. “I Need Love” – Luka Bloom (LL Cool J)
  12. “Hold It Against Me” – Miquel (Britney Spears)
  13. “Fireflies” – Mike Tompkins (Owl City)
  14. “Lovefool” – The Morning Benders (The Cardigans)
  15. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” – Muse (Frankie Valli)*
  16. “My Body is a Cage” – Peter Gabriel (Arcade Fire)
  17. “Baby, I Got Your Money” – Say Anything (Ol’ Dirty Bastard)
  18. “Mrs. Jackson” – TV OFF (Outkast)
  19. “D.D. (Dirty Diana)” – The Weeknd (Michael Jackson)*
  20. “The Scientist” – Willie Nelson (Coldplay)

*Recommended or introduced to me by a friend, given credit on Facebook.