Top Four amazing musicians who PLAYED EVERY FREAKING INSTRUMENT on their album

There are a number of Rock Gods who have (1) accomplished this feat while (2) producing an album that is timeless and beautiful and makes you forget that 2020 is a hellscape.

I want to highlight my favorite four, and yes, there are others, who may possibly be your favorite, and we can have a knife fight about the One True Emperor of Every Instrument in the comment section or behind the alley at the Quikmart, where it smells like menthol cigarettes, cheap beer, and desperation.

Here are my four.

Number Four: Butterfly Boucher

She wrote and performed one of the best songs ever, with an entire album that doesn’t include a single bad song, and when I say her name people are like, “Huh?”

Come on. She should be crazy famous. ANOTHER WHITE DASH is perfect.

Number Three: Nine Inch Nails

Trent Reznor is amazing. Instead of one of the music videos from his first album, check out the behind-the-scenes story of how he made it. Love it.

Number Two: Smashing Pumpkins

Billy Corgan could play a rubber band strung up on a box of Coa-Coa Puffs he pulled out of the recycling bin–and you would listen to the damn thing.

Number One: Foo Fighters

Really, it should’ve been Foo Fighter, singular, because it was just Dave Grohl messing around by himself, sans the rest of Nirvana, except he created one of the best albums ever and he’s still at it. (Note: Yes, Kurt Cobain was born in my little town of Montesano, and yes, Nirvana fans still show up from around the world to hang out in Monte and Aberdeen–thank you for coming as you are and spending some money in our beautiful little county.)

EVERLONG is my favorite song from Dave’s album and while his hair is impressively crazy in this video, the song cannot be improved.

 

 

Why KNIGHTS OF CYDONIA by Muse is total madness that still works

If you pitched this, it wouldn’t fly. “Yo, let’s spend six times our budget on a music video mini-movie that’s like a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, except we’ll throw in a lot of Mad Max stuff and cyberpunk along with a dash of SECRET CRAY-CRAY SAUCE.”

Watch, then let’s chat.

Sure, this is weird, and ambitious, but I think they pull it off. There’s a hero, and a rough story that keeps your interest, and when it the story doesn’t quite work, you’re watching for the next moment of cray-cray. Motorcycles? Check. Laser guns? Yep. Robots? ABSOLUTELY.

It reminds me of KUNG FURY, which takes a kung fu cop, Miami Vice-vibes, time travel, Vikings with dinosaurs, and Hitler, throws all that in a blender and turns it into a short film that’s absolutely classic. Instead of upsetting you by jumping the shark, and ruining your suspension of disbelief, videos like this and movies like KUNG FURY start out by jumping the shark while that shark jumps a bigger shark before being swallowed by a space worm that gets chopped in half by a robot samurai.

VERDICT

How did I not know about this song and video before? I LOVE IT.

CARDIGAN by Taylor Swift and the evolution–or stagnation–of music

cardigan taylor swift

Some artists never change. They find their groove, or a niche that PAYS THE BILLS, and ride that pony until it falls over and dies of exhaustion ten miles west of the nearest gas station.

This can be a Good Thing, with certain bands and singers having a signature sound and the ability to produce album after album of consistent music. And it can be a Horrible Thing, with countless one-hit wonders still touring county fairs when they should be collecting a pension.

The opposite strategy is high risk, high reward. If you’re cranking out No. 1 hits, and making 8.4 bazillion dollars on tour, why change a thing?

There are bands and singers who’ve used constant change as a strategy, like Madonna hiring a hot new producer and taking on their style. Not a true evolution, that.

An opposite approach seems to work better. Mega-producer Rick Rubin is famous for long walks on the beach and philosophical talks, and he doesn’t have a signature sound that he stamps on artists. The man has produced everybody from the Beastie Boys to AC/DC to the Dixie Chicks (the list is ginormous). Rubin is more of a coach and mentor, somebody who lets musicians question themselves, stretch out, and grow into something different.

Which is why we’re talking about Taylor Swift and her new album, FOLKLORE.

Is she adopting a style, like Madonna putting on a British accent, or embracing something truly new?

Check out this single, CARDIGAN, and we’ll talk smack.

Whether you’re a giant fan (what are they called, Swifties? I HAVE NO IDEA) or a sneering hater, you have to admit this is good.

Different, refreshing, unexpected.

Taylor’s original evolution, from country to pop, was not a surprise. Every artist alive tries to move from a specialized niche to the biggest possible stage.

Personally, I am not a country fan, but I loved her early stuff. The lyrics told stories and the music was infectious. LOVE STORY and YOU BELONG WITH ME are perfect and timeless.

Didn’t like her pop albums as much, though when she slowed down, there were some good burners. OUT OF STYLE is great.

What she’s doing here is stripped down indie music. Instead of a wall of sound, we get stretches of silence.

I’m impressed. There wasn’t any hype train before she dropped FOLKLORE, and it really feels like she spent a few months in quarantine plinking on her piano and writing lyrics for this.

VERDICT

A happy surprise. Well done, Taylor the Swift — give us more like this. Or go visit Rick Rubin at his beach house and go wild with a metal album next.

GET UP by the Bingo Players is pure weirdness, but in a good way

It’s not hard to find weird music videos, mostly because (a) you can’t throw a rock on YouTube without smacking five different music vids and (b) musicians tend to play it really, really safe or truly let their freak flag fly. There’s no in-between.

This video is the good kind of weird. Watch, then let’s chat about why.

Okay, so that’s definitely something I hadn’t seen before: a music video where the heroes are a gang of ducks, getting revenge on an actual gang for their misdeeds.

And yeah, there are seventeen ways this video could’ve gone wrong. But I think it works.

They set things up properly by showing the human gang doing bad things, both to other humans and to the ducks, and the ducks starting to go into action, building up suspense. Then they paid all that off with a nice variety of surprising montage of Duck Vigilante Justice with a good sense of variety and surprise, escalating to a climax. I particularly liked the duck driver–a nice touch.

VERDICT

Yes, this video is definitely weird, but the risks paid off. Well done, Bingo Players.

1944 is a song that will make you cry

The great thing about the Series of Tubes is you stumble upon random treasures, like this cover of 1944 by Elina Ivaschenko.

Beautiful, right?

Obviously, her coach’s reaction help makes this video great. You can see and feel the joy as her singer nails this.

What hit me was the universality of music. Most of these lyrics are not in English and it doesn’t matter, because the emotion comes through, strong and clear.

I’ve seen research by ACTUAL SCIENTISTS that music has near-magical powers when it comes to generating human emotions. You can pinpoint the exact notes and chords that generate joy, sadness, and other emotions.

Here are the lyrics:

When strangers are coming
They come to your house
They kill you all
and say
We’re not guilty
not guilty
Where is your mind?
Humanity cries
You think you are gods
But everyone dies
Don’t swallow my soul
Our souls
Yaşlığıma toyalmadım
Men bu yerde yaşalmadım
Yaşlığıma toyalmadım
Men bu yerde yaşalmadım
We could build a future
Where people are free
to live and love
The happiest time
Where is your heart?
Humanity rise
You think you are gods
But everyone dies
Don’t swallow my soul
Our souls
Yaşlığıma toyalmadım
Men bu yerde yaşalmadım
Yaşlığıma toyalmadım
Men bu yerde yaşalmadım

There’s real pain and history behind the song, which is about Stalin’s deportation of the Crimea Tarters.

The original song is by Jamala, a Eurovision winner from Ukraine.

So this is one of the rare covers which improves the original. Kind of like how Meg Myers took RUNNING UP THAT HILL and transformed it into a rocket ship full of beautiful noise.

Here’s the original song for comparison.

VERDICT

11/10 for making me tear up.

MOTIVATION by Normani is the tip of her talent iceberg

I first saw and heard Normani in LOVE LIES, which is one of the greatest music videos ever. Seriously. I’ve played it 6.2 gazillion times and am still not sick of it. Khalid and Normani nail this thing. If you haven’t seen it, check this thing out. Such a slow burn.

Then I kept hearing her on other tracks, like DANCING WITH A STRANGER with Sam Smith–just perfect.

Here’s the first song I’ve seen from her that’s completely hers. Check it out.

Impressive, right?

Most people are lucky to have nurtured one talent to a world-class level. Singing or dancing. Not both.

I think she’s got heaps of talent in singing and dancing. She reminds me a lot of Ariane Grande years ago, before she went supernova, and people knew her mostly for spot-on impressions of Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Shakira or whoever. Wait for the middle of this video where she does Christina Aguilera singing THE WHEELS ON THE BUS, which is crazysauce. I would totally buy an album of her doing covers like this.

VERDICT

I believe, deep in my soul, that Normani is going to take over and dominate the airwaves. Give us moar moar MOAR.

Why PHYSICAL by Dua Lipa is such good fun

Dua Lipa is one of the rare singers who continually tries new things in music videos, and songs. Those risks tend to pay off. I can’t remember the last song or video where I skipped it.

I only heard PHYSICAL on the radio and found the video because a dancer did a tribute that I swore was the actual official video.

And this song itself is a tribune to the original 1980s LET’S GET PHYSICAL by Olivia Newton John.

First, let’s check out Dua Lipa’s video before we talk smack.

Good, right? It’s paying homage without being a direct ripoff of Oliva Newton John.

What I like is Dua Lipa clearly cares about dance. They aren’t part of the background, making her look good — she’s dancing right with them, in this one and every video I’ve seen her do. Impressive.

The pioneer of legwarmer videos

Now here’s the original, which is still funny, but hasn’t aged that well.

This was a big deal when it came out. Huge.

Now it looks pretty cheesy, like those Crystal Light National Aerobics Championships, which is amazing and worth being studied in Contemporary History 376: What Were They Smoking in the 1980s?

VERDICT

The more I see and hear of Dua Lipa, the more I like her stuff.

Great job–please keep taking risks and trying new things with these videos. Give us moar moar MOAR.

IF THE WORLD WAS ENDING is the right kind of song for 2020

Wait five minutes and 2020 will deliver unto you new craziness, like today’s massive hacking attack.

So this song by two people I’d never heard of, J.P. Saxe and Julia Michaels, totally fits the mood of this year of apocalyptic nuttiness, with all of us just waiting for what’s next.

Giant meteor? Fine. Alien invasion? BRING IT, INTERGALACTIC MAGGOTS–WE ARE EMOTIONALLY NUMB AND UNAFRAID TO DIE.

Here’s the video:

Simple, right?

They didn’t hire a Hollywood action blockbuster director and spend $8 million on sets, explosions, and backup dancers.

Two characters singing separately on split screens. Then together.

Simple, cheap, and beautiful.

VERDICT: Love it. Give us moar moar moar.

GOOD THING by Zedd and Kehlani is just about perfect

Listen: I’ve grown up watching music videos, and have seen them evolve and branch out.

There are dance videos, art-house cray cray, stadium rockers, short films, low-rent masterpieces and high-budget flops.

This video is nearly flawless.

There’s a real story in here, character arcs, a theme of the working class versus the decadent rich–and great dancing at the end.

Most music videos will shoot for maybe one of those things and roll with it from start to finish. All story, all theme, all dancing.

I really like how the director put all the ingredients together without overdoing any one thing.

VERDICT

The acid test for a music video, book, or movie is simple: Do you want more?

I’ve replayed this a dozen times in the last week and it hasn’t gotten old once.

Love it. Give us moar moar MOAR.

 

 

DATA AND PICARD is the weirdest music video in the quandrant

Listen: there are three types of music videos.

  • Expensive Monsters, made by pop stars and rappers, and these videos have budgets bigger than the gross national product of Paraguay.
  • Shoestring Specials, shot on your buddies iPhone and edited by Carl, who dropped out of UCLA film school but still has his subscription to the Adobe Creative Suite, so you pay him in beer.
  • Obscure Weirdness, where all the wild things live.

It’s the obscure stuff that’s the most fun, because you never know what you’ll find. Sometimes it will be gross, or lame, or shocking. But other times, it’s like finding buried treasure without a pirate map.

Here’s what I just saw. Take a look and a listen.

It’s silly and stupid, right? But also brilliant. So maybe stupidly brilliant.

The sets and costumes are COMPLETELY SPOT-ON, like they bribed the night shift guy at Paramount–maybe he’s a cousin of Carl’s.

I’m loving the actor’s facial expressions, which are perfect, especially when he’s playing Data.

So: I’m required by law to like this. It’s creative, and a lot more fun than watching your average music video from a Far Too Serious Pop Star.

VERDICT: Give us more of these.