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. 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.


tortuga, guilty as charged

In my first post nearly a month ago, I mentioned my #1 played song on iTunes was “The Story of Us” by T.Swift. Not only has it been four weeks, but that fact has not changed. iTunes automatically archives your top 25 played songs, which can say a lot about a person. And okay, I was a little embarrassed by that confession, but let’s face it, Taylor’s got a gift with the lyrics and I’m not afraid to let the world know I like to jam out to her albums in the car, shower, around the house…pretty much anywhere. If I was hanging out with a group of friends and had my library on shuffle, I’d more likely own up to the tune than jump up to skip it.

However, after carefully combing through my collection, it appears there are quite a few songs that would cause my face to flush if played in company. I call them my guilty pleasures and this post is dedicated to them.

The 40 songs comprise 1% of my library, would take 2 hours, 26 minutes and 35 seconds to listen to once through and collectively have 66 plays. These are the songs I am embarrassed to say I think are worthy of keeping in my shuffle but am sure I will never delete from it. Without further ado, I present to you…

…the highlights (slash half) of my guilty pleasures:

  1. “I Saw the Sign” – Ace of Base: A childhood classic, loved until Bally Total Fitness adopted it to use in their commercial ad campaign. After that, the meaning was destroyed. Plays: 2
  2. “Girlfriend” – Avril Lavigne: “HEY! HEY! YOU! YOU! I DON’T LIKE YOUR GIRLFRIEND!” No way, no way, think I need a new song. It’s good for solo trips in the car, especially the Lil Mama remix, but in front of other people? This is one you lie about and claim you don’t know where it came from. Plays: 2
  3. “La Bella y la Bestia” – Disney (Spanish version): Tale as old as time, I swear I downloaded this to help me practice for Spanish class. For some reason, I never got rid of it. Might have something to do with the loving song sung in a Romance language. Plays: 1
  4. “My Humps” – Black Eyed Peas: Like any sane person would, I skip over this song the second that horn starts to play. I guess I like to hold on to it to reminisce about my high school days when Fergie’s blatant raps were all the rage. Plays: 1
  5. “Every Time We Touch” – Cascada: I remember swinging high on a park swing while jamming this adrenaline-filled number on my mp3 player (iPod, what?). These days, I think it belongs in an exercise class. Plays: 2
  6. “My Heart Will Go On” – Celine Dion: I’m pretty sure I heard this ballad before ever watching Titanic, but everyone else in the world seems to associate the two mediums so they pretend to hate it, but really they’re worried about tearing up. RIP Jack. Plays: 0
  7. “Don’t Forget” – Demi Lovato: Demi Lovato > Selena Gomez. Just saying. Listen to this heart-wrenching tune and disagree. Just try. Plays: 4
  8. “Hero” – Enrique Iglesias: I once saw him serenade a Dollar General manager with this sappy crap at a concert. I pretend not to like him or this song, but at that moment, I wished I’d been on that stage. Plays: 1
  9. “With You” – Jessica Simpson: Super-cutesy and sickeningly sweet, I’d be mortified if this dedication to a guy came on in company, but I belt every note when I’m alone. Plays: 2
  10. “Summer Girl” – Leighton Meester: Yes, it’s from the Country Strong soundtrack. Yes, it’s Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl. No, I won’t refer you to the YouTube video, but yes, I will let it play in my iTunes. Plays: 3
  11. “I Try” – Macy Gray: People seem to hate this song. Like, really hate it. I’ve always loved it. I’ll skip it to keep from hearing others’ grief, but dang it, it’s unique. Plays: 3
  12. “See You Again” – Miley Cyrus: Perfect for road trippin’ by yourself. Perfect for associating it with your guy. Not so perfect for playing at parties or singing to your guy. Plays: 2
  13. “Tearin’ Up My Heart” – *N SYNC: The most nasal of the quintet’s singles, but the first. Ahh, fourth grade. Plays: 1
  14. “How You Remind Me” – Nickelback: Nickelback’s got some haters and I’m not completely sure why. Perhaps to keep from owning up to the fact they worshipped the band when it came out. But I can’t deny it. Plays: 0
  15. “Stars Are Blind” – Paris Hilton: Like many others of her celebrity stature, the heiress attempted a vocal career, but didn’t make it very far. DJ Mon and I used to spin this all the time, though. Plays: 1
  16. “1234” – Plain White T’s: If there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s really cheesy lyrics. However, this is the Plain White T’s. Instead of switching to a new song, I always find myself singing along. Plays: 0
  17. “Wonderwall (Cover)” – Richard Cheese: This is the kind of hire I’d have at my pretend wedding. The guy’s so ridiculous with his covers, but in the are-you-for-real-this-is-so-funny kind of way. Plays: 2
  18. “I Feel Like a Woman” – Shania Twain: The ultimate karaoke song…of my middle school years. The ultimate girl’s night song…of always. Yeah, I said it. Plays: 0
  19. “If It’s Love” – Train: Pat Monahan running around Tropicana Field in all white, touching the hands of every Train/Rays fan he comes in contact with is all I see when I hear this song. But no one else will see what I see. So I skip. Plays: 2
  20. “A Thousand Miles” – Vanessa Carlton: Raise your hand if you’ve seen the movie White Chicks. Now put it down because I can’t actually see you. If you didn’t raise your hand because you haven’t seen the movie, buy/borrow/rent/netflix/torrent it and this song will conjure laughter instead of scoffs. Plays: 1

tortuga reflections

Whitney Houston just died. Youngin’s like me know the name, maybe know a song or two, but have no idea of the legend. Someone mentioned Mariah Carey was like, the next Whitney, so that sort of put it into perspective for me, a minor Mariah fan.

Houston’s called the greatest singer of her time, an icon. But what do I know about her? She’s the woman who belts out those five words like no other ever could, “I will always love you.” She was married to a fellow named Bobby Brown, who sang a song called “My Perogative,” which was later covered by Britney Spears. I learned during all the reports that they have a daughter, also named Bobbi.

To cut to the chase, I don’t know Whitney Houston. I know of her, but I cannot classify myself as a Whitney Houston fan.

In my iTunes, I have one song by her. One.

Name: My Love is Your Love

Number of plays: 2

Date added: 5/30/2011

Fun fact: It was Houston’s third best-selling single ever. And it suddenly seems appropriate for the time:

In my mind, she’s blended into a mix with several other singers who may or may not be from the same era as she is and probably don’t have anything to do with each other:

Tina Turner, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Lauryn Hill.

I have six songs by Celine and two by Lauryn. That’s it. From this microscopic pool of iconic women in the music industry, I have less than ten songs. And I consider myself a music junkie.

In comparison, I have 30 Britney Spears songs, 41 by Rihanna, 44 by Taylor Swift and 25 from Adele. I have 39 songs featuring Beyonce, and I’ve always been bothered by her.

So what’s the deal? Where is the disconnect and what does this say about my choice in music?

I think a lot of it has to do with my upbringing. Before my parent’s divorce the house I grew up in was full of The Bangles, The Cranberries, Seal and 4 Non Blondes. Once I moved in with my dad, I grew up listening to The Beatles and The Beach Boys. I was a stranger to Madonna until two or three years ago. I knew who she was, of course, but it’s not like my dad cranked up “Like a Virgin” when it came on the radio. The sole Houston song on my computer was released in the late 90s and only caught my attention because that’s when I started actually listening to music on my own.

The disconnect, I believe, comes from what kind of music my parents listened to versus the kind I gravitate toward on my own. Perhaps if my mom had been the soul churning, beat chaser I am, I would have heard a lot more Houston growing up. I would have had more exposure to Aretha Franklin and Lauryn Hill.

This is not to say I don’t enjoy the music I was raised with. I find sentimental value in music, especially that which reminds me of someone close to me. I watched The Grammy’s last night with a friend who hates The Beatles. When I found that out, I felt personally insulted. I also felt like she’d been deprived of something great, like Christmas or birthday celebrations. I’ve come to assume she just didn’t hear them growing up. And when The Beach Boys came on with Foster the People and Adam Levine, I wanted to call my dad up right away and tell him to drop his book and click on the TV. (We don’t have cable, so I didn’t, but it’s the thought that counts, right?)

I’ve played The Bangles “Eternal Flame” at the jukebox at the bar, a song I’m told I used to wear out my lungs singing when I was only four years old. I can still recall my mom teaching a room full of foreign students English using Club Noveau’s cover of “Lean On Me.”

I think the main reason for my lack of experience with great performers like Whitney is that at the time I would have learned about her, I was too busy learning songs and artists that meant something to the people I loved the most. And with that realization, I think it’s my duty, from here on out as a music lover, to become acquainted with the iconic singers from before my time.

Five singers I vow to get to know:

  1. Whitney Houston. Duh. How many times have I said her name in this post?
  2. Tina Turner
  3. Etta James
  4. Gladys Knight
  5. Mariah Carey. I think I need to re-explore pre-Emancipation of Mimi.

Five singers I already know, who can reduce me to a pool of tears:

  1. Adele. Her performance of “Someone Like You” at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards was…awesome. In the real sense. I’ve loved her since “Chasing Pavements.”
  2. Christina Aguilera. I can’t say much for her these days (umm Bionic?), but back when Stripped came out and even Back to Basics, her voice was incredible.
  3. Alicia Keys. Songs in A Minor is probably one of my favorite albums (and album titles) ever. “How Come You Don’t Call Me” will have a place on any sing-a-long mixed CD I ever make. (Hey, Alicia. How come you don’t make music anymore?)
  4. Amy Winehouse. Maybe she makes this list because of the phenomenal difference of her voice and any other in the world. Maybe a little part of me wants her on here because she will never make another album. But there is no denying, the woman had talent.
  5. Jennifer Hudson. Okay, this is my weak addition. I admit, I’ve always loved her because of “Spotlight” but after last night’s performance of “I Will Always Love You,” she is a must on this list. I teared up. A lot. Her tribute to WH was solid. And her obvious emotion at the second to last note—nearly unbearable.

tortuga truths

Welcome to tortugatunes, a blog about jammin’ out.

I am the main tortuga, which is turtle in Spanish (I have a healthy obsession with sea turtles, more on that later). I am a journalism student aspiring to be a designer at a national magazine and in the meantime waiting to hear back from graduate schools. As a designerd*, I keep a running list in my head of anything and everything that inspires me. Number one on this list? Music.

This blog will be a continuous stream of my thoughts about the music scene, particularly anything with a pounding beat or heartbreaking lyrics.

What does music mean to me? I can remember the first song I ever listened to and knew I was listening to something that would change my life. Say what you will, but it was, in fact, “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. I was 9 years old and my friend was writing a love note to a cute boy we knew and used the lyrics of that song (and then signed my name). Whatever. The point is that the memory did not stick with me because of my humiliation when the boy’s mom called my dad later or when I saw the boy at school the next day, but because of Britney Spears. She opened a whole new world for me that day.

Music is more than something to fill an awkward silence or a source of entertainment. Music surrounds my world, encompasses my very soul, knows everything about me and gets me through my very worst days and celebrates with me on my best.

It is everywhere. I sing with it in the shower and in the car. I bump it in my stereo speakers, my headphones, my earbuds. I have whole libraries on my ipod, my Mac, my PC and in my CD collection. I discover more every day through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pitchfork, Soundowl, Hype, SPIN Magazine, Rolling Stone… I can’t think of a time when music is not there. If you feel the same, welcome to tortugatunes. If you have no idea what I’m talking about but want to know, stick around. This blog is not for those who merely use the radio in their cars during their weekly commutes. This blog is for those who have a passion for music.

Pause here for a shout out to three people who have greatly influenced my taste of music, whether they know it or not. (I may refer to them in later posts): Monica (DJ Mon), Manny (MC Man) and Becca (Bax).

Side Note: The great thing about music is that, especially with today’s technology, it can be taken anywhere. I mentioned earlier that music is everywhere. Well, I have my preferences of which music I take with me places. When I’m in the car, I prefer songs I know all the words to so I can turn up the volume and belt them out. While ‘nerding out, I like to blast my headphones with old school hip hop and some dubstep covers. In the club, bring on the dubstep and top 40s, please!

That being said, to jump things off, I thought I’d share some intimate facts about the inner workings of something I call, “TMAC JAMS,” or, my iPod.

Number of songs: 4,249

#1 played on iTunes: “The Story of Us” – Taylor Swift, Speak Now

Last five artists downloaded:

  1. Elle Varner: Conversational Lush album – I heard of her from Miguel’s song, “All I Want Is You,” which has an Elle Varner Remix.
  2. Action Bronson: Dr. Lecter album (MC Man)
  3. Danny Brown: XXX album (MC Man)
  4. Jay Ellington: “Obstruction of Justice” – The song was sent to me via Facebook from Jay Ellington, an artist based out of Clearwater under the group Utmos, Inc.
  5. Iggy Azalea: Ignorant Art album (MC Man)

Favorite artist: There will always be a place in my heart for Lil Wayne.

Eight of nine Wayne albums I have

*designerd: one who finds pleasure in discussing fonts, tools in Illustrator and showing others how InDesign works.