I’ve only seen the music video for Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You once, but it left an impression and I think about it on occasion.
I think the story in the video is well done. Usually MVs just have a random guy and girl in some sort of relationship, and this video portrays something similar, but there was also a lot of depth. In the video, the relationship is between a male and female boxer, so there is a parallel between the “shape” of your partner and how the two are both active. It’s not all thematic though as there are times where the video gets purely literal and follows the lyrics (it actually shows doing having AYCE and “getting in a cab” as Sheeran sings it).
The ending was a bit weird though, and required a think. Ed Sheeran’s character trains to be a boxer and shows up at his match. But he ends up fighting a … sumo wrestler? Not surprisingly, he loses because that’s not what he’s ready for. So why was there this plot twist? Well I figured that the video is a metaphor for 2 people planning and tackling a challenge, but when they encounter it, the challenge is completely different than what they expected. The story has a happy ending when Sheeran’s partner comes in and ninja kicks the sumo wrestler, presumably overcoming the metaphoric challenge and confirming the power of Two!
I also think about the video to Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself on occasion, although this isn’t because the video is deep – it’s because I like the artistic dancing.
This year’s music listening consisted of new music from artists that I enjoy, and a smattering of top KPop and western Top40. At home, I had my usual iTunes music and we used a custom Spotify playlist in the kitchen. In the car, I burned KPop CDs but started listening to a bit of radio towards the end of the year as I didn’t keep up with new KPop releases as much and the music started getting stale. I noticed and am glad that Top40 has shifted to be more house and jungle oriented rather than Hip Hop.
Here’s my list for the year:
태연 (Taeyeon) – 제주도의 푸른 밤 (The Blue Night of Jeju)
The Blue Night of Jeju is a cover of, I guess, a classic Korean song (many other Korean artists have covers) and it’s my favorite song from this year for a number of reasons:
It’s by my favorite singer
It’s in the sweet spot of her register
The song and this particular arrangement is catchy
Taeyeon’s music doesn’t typically have guitars so this is unique
The only problem I have is that I can’t find a place to buy it. I believe it’s only digital, and I have to sign up for a Korean service (melOn) to download it. I’m almost at a stage where I’m going to do that!
아이유 (IU) – 스물셋 (Twenty Three)
Pulling an “Adele”, IU wrote a song about her age. I don’t understand it because it’s in Korean, but it’s got a catchy hook. I bought the rest of this album, and this is heads and shoulders above the rest of the tracks; mostly because it’s a pop song, rather than in the style of her more recent albums (i.e., Red Shoes)
Charlie Puth and Selena Gomez – We Don’t Talk Anymore
This song has a great hook (and not much else beyond that), but that’s enough to make it a great pop song. It’s funny that Selena Gomez collaborated on this song because in a way it’s a lot like her songs – the same words repeated over and over again.
태연 (Taeyeon) with Dean – Starlight
Taeyeon’s solo singles are typically in the R&B or soft rock genre, which is not a type of music I enjoy too much. This song is typical of those genres, there is no strong melody or beat, nor is it super catchy or showcase her voice (in fact I feel it’s mostly Dean’s song). However, like Rain, it portrays a feeling and so the song grew on me. I like the video as well.
태연 (Taeyeon) – Why
When I heard about the title track from Taeyeon’s second EP, I was a bit disappointed because I thought it would be in a similar vein to I. However, when the song finally came out, I was pleasantly surprised that it was pretty catchy – it’s a dance track rather than R&B. I think this would be the song that epitomizes 2016 summer for me.
I didn’t like the original video for this song, but the dance version is great. The choreography reminds of Michael Jackson dancing!
It’s tough to pick the better song between this and Starlight from Taeyeon’s second EP. I like Why more right now, but I think Starlight will have more longevity – hence the ranking.
Calvin Harris ft Rihanna – This Is What You Came For
This song is good almost entirely due to Rihanna’s scat-ing, which I find funny because when Rihanna started out, I thought she was a weak singer with a small range.
Justin Bieber – Lose Yourself
This is one of the first songs that I noticed that started having the stripped down approach to songwriting. It’s not really acoustic, just that there is not a lot of instrumentation and it is focused on singing. I think it has aged pretty well since I heard it in early 2016.
티파니 (Tiffany) – Once In A Lifetime
Tiffany had her solo debut album this year, and while I didn’t like her two singles, I thought this track was the standout track. I’m not sure if it’s worth buying the entire album though.
The Weeknd – I Feel It Coming
This song is so new that there isn’t a music video or even a good audio-only version of this song on YouTube. I didn’t like the first Daft Punk x Weeknd collaboration that much (see below), but when I first heard this song, I knew it would be great. It just sounds like Daft Punk, and their cameo in the bridge is perfect. What I missed is that The Weeknd is doing his Michael Jackson imitation, but when the radio mentioned that, it clicked and made a lot of sense. Because it’s so new, I’m afraid that it might not have that much longevity, otherwise it would have ranked higher.
Just Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling!
This is a happy song from a movie soundtrack – sounds like it’s repeating the success of Pharrel William’s Happy from 2013! Great pop song for this year, but I don’t think it’s going to have a lot of longevity.
세븐틴 (SEVENTEEN) and 에일리 (Ailee) – Q&A
This is one of the only KPop songs which isn’t by artists that I like. In fact it almost doesn’t matter who sings it, the song is catchy and the singers are stepping over each other which makes it sound complex.
윤아 (Yoona) with 10cm – 덕수궁 돌담길의 봄 (Deoksugung Stonewall Walkway)
This is a standard pop duet with a catchy hook. I think Yoona’s voice is under-rated (given that she is supposed to be the face of SNSD) but she’s trying to hard in this video.
Bruno Mars – 24k Magic
I guess Bruno is creating a new niche for himself now that hip hop & R&B are dying on top40. Instead of house or becoming a singer/songwriter, he’s continuing his Uptown Funk trend and becoming the leading funk singer of the ’10s. This song is really good when you first hear it, because every part of it is something different. But it falls off a cliff pretty quick once you hear it often. All the unique elements become regular.
태연 (Taeyeon) – Rain
This song is an earworm for me but overall I didn’t enjoy it that much (again because it’s R&B/soft rock).
The Weeknd ft Daft Punk – Star Boy
The Weeknd and Daft Punk, two of my favorite musical artists collaborating on a track. This is going to be awesome! Well it turns out that it wasn’t that great. It’s not a turd, but the beat wasn’t as catchy as other Daft Punk tracks and The Weeknd doesn’t singing is not as melodic as it could be (although I noticed that most of The Weeknd’s singles don’t really involve singing like his early works).
Selena Gomez – Hands To Myself
I got Selena Gomez’ album for free last year as part of a Microsoft Groove promotion, but didn’t really listen to it (only listened to Same Old Love). Then I heard this song on the radio and added it to my playlist. The song is actually not noteworthy, except one line in the bridge that makes it worth it.
I finally spent some time and put together a new system. Instead of basing it on when I added the song, I just based it on the year of the song*. So now, I have the following component playlists:
Songs from before 1990
Songs from 1990 – 1994
Songs from 1995 – 1999
Songs from 2000 – 2004
Songs from 2005 – 2009
Songs from 2010 – 2014
Songs from 2015 – 2019
Songs that I’ve added in the last year
Songs rated 1 or 2 stars (above playlists are only 3 stars or higher)
Songs that are not rated (added recently)
I have general rules on all of them where it omits songs played within the last 8-12 weeks (12 weeks for the 00s, shorter for older and newer songs) and limits to 10. From that I build a single smart playlist which should be a mix of all time periods, songs that I enjoy listening to but haven’t listened to recently, and have a stronger weighting towards new songs.
Hopefully this system will provide enough variety for another decade, at which point I think everyone will be streaming.
*I know that this is not always accurate, because greatest hits or compilations will have a year of when that CD was released, rather than each individual song
This year I had to actively seek out new music because all my music is curated by myself. The majority of my listening is either from my own library (still iTunes, although all my music is on Google Music now) or from a custom playlist on Spotify. I don’t have any passive music sources for Top40 or others so there’s not a lot of new music coming in.
In terms of buying, I actually bought a couple of CDs this year (a couple of discs to complete collections)! I also bought a bunch of singles and albums from iTunes and Google Music. Not a lot of money spent though as I waited for sales or credits.
Here’s my top tracks for this year:
태연 (Taeyeon) – 사랑 그 한마디 (Love, That Only Word)
Taeyeon released a solo album this year, and while I was excited – I was also disappointed that it didn’t have any great ballad singles to showcase her singing (I don’t think U R is that great). I think she is much more suited to singing an OST like this one. I don’t think the song is as great (emotional/touching) as IU’s When Would It Be but it’s more enjoyable for me to listen to the timbre of Taeyeon’s voice and the vibrato on her phrasing. I actually heard this song first in 2014, but started listening to it more in 2015 after I bought it from iTunes.
윤현상 (Yoon Hyun Sang) & 아이유 (IU) – 언제쯤이면 (When Would It Be)
I think this is more of Yoon Hyun Sang’s song with IU being featured on it. Even without IU, it would be very good because the singing and piano is haunting. IU’s voice adds a lot of color to it while at the same time capturing the sadness in the song. I think IU sings too many up-tempo songs when she can really excel at ballads such as time one; but I guess she needs to differentiate herself from other singers.
나윤권 – If Only
Best male solo ballad of the year. Starts off unassuming but I like the harmonies that come in. I had this on a CD for a long time but didn’t know who sang it until I was coming up with this list.
Amber – Beautiful
I came across this song because it was on Amber’s solo debut album. I wouldn’t have paid attention to her album had it not for Taeyeon being featured on the title track (Shake That Brass – which is ridiculous and unnecessary for Taeyeon to be featured on it). This song is a nice acoustic slow jam unlike Shake That Brass though. I thought Amber was a rapper but she sings pretty well on this one.
소녀시대 (Girls’ Generation) – Lion Heart
When SNSD’s 5th album was announced/teased, I thought I would like You Think more because Lion Heart was too retro/swing (I didn’t like Dancing Queen that much, although maybe because it was a remake of Duffy’s Mercy). However, Lion Heart is clearly much catchier than You Think and an overall better song even if the choreography is odd.
Sam Smith – I’m Not The Only One
I bought Sam Smith’s album on sale via Google Play and really wanted to enjoy the album. However, the only track that really stuck with me was this one (and the reason I bought the album).
소녀시대 (Girls’ Generation) – Party
I’ve complained about Girls’ Generation getting poor songs given that they are such an influential & popular group. However, their 5th album has 2 really great singles. Party is not as good as Lion Heart, but it’s still a very fitting song for summer.
Coldplay – Adventure Of A Lifetime
This song (and Coldplay’s new album) came out right around I wrote this blog, so while I think this song sounds pretty good, it’s still fresh to me. It doesn’t actually sound like a Coldplay song, and it reminds me more of Cut Copy. I’ve streamed their new album and I think this is the best track by a wide margin.
임재범 (Yim Jae Bum) & 태연 (Taeyeon) – 사랑보다 깊은 상처 (Scars Deeper Than Love)
This verse starts off well with Taeyeon’s solo but the chorus isn’t that interesting. This is a remake of what I assume was a pretty successful song in the past. Taeyeon sounds like a little girl in this song though, I guess it’s a higher than she usually sings.
아이유 (IU) – 스물셋 (23)
Lots of IU singles on the list this year, although I didn’t pay as much attention to her releases as I did SNSD’s. I actually skipped through this song on her Chat-Shire album (I wonder if she knows chat is cat in French) when I listened to it the first time, but once I realized it was a single, I listened to it again. The verse is not catchy which is why it didn’t register with me, but the chorus has great hooks.
Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass
My kids love dancing to this song because it has a strong…bass line. I think that’s why I like it too as I don’t generally like Trainor’s retro sound.
Pentatonix – Can’t Sleep Love
Stumbled upon this group billed as an Acapella group and thought that that was weird. How can Acapella be so popular? Well it turns out that it was false advertising as it is basically electropop (think Boyz II Men + 10s Pop). The album was only 99¢ on Google Play so I took a chance on this just because their setup was so weird. This is their single which is pretty catchy (and a late addition).
Selena Gomez – Same Old Love
A late addition since I’m not up to date on Top 40. It sounds pretty catchy but not a good as Love You Like A Love Song.
아이유 (IU) & 장이정 – 금요일에 만나요 (Friday)
A couple of IU songs ahead of this one this year, but this is still catchy. It’s acoustic which is a bonus.
M&D – 하고 싶어 (I Wish)
I wouldn’t normally pay attention to a song by Super Junior members, but this song got featured in Superstar SMTOWN (and the game is reciprocally featured in the music video). The song is pretty catch so it stuck with me. I listened to the entire album and it’s actually surprisingly good. Each song is basically a different genre – I guess they were trying to grab all demographics. The video is also hilarious.
Now that I’ve spent even MORE time moving around my MP3s, I realized a couple of more things:
When your album name or your album artist changes (I think), iTunes decides to change the modified date on that song. This really messed up my smart playlists as now half the songs in my collection have been modified in the last month. Add to that that some recent upgrade of iTunes updated the library data so that all the added date got mangled (pushed everything into 2012), and I’ve basically lost track of when each song entered my library. So my playlists no longer works, thanks iTunes! Now the only thing keeping me in iTunes is the investment I’ve made into song ratings.
Originally I had decided only to move albums for mainstream artists. But then I had a large dance music collection which I moved over. This added a lot of noise to my artists page, but eventually I decided that I would rather just backup my physical music collection entirely in the cloud.
My music collection size has ballooned greatly. I think before this work, it was around 20GB. Now it’s around 43GB
There used to be a hack to convert DRM-protected songs that I bought from iTunes to iTunes Plus (no DRM and better bit rate). But that no longer works. So I have a bunch of music that’s locked inside iTunes. Oh well, it won’t stop me from moving away from iTunes (eventually)
I started out using albumart.org (proxy for Amazon) for cover art and allmusic.com for genre details. However, I found out that discogs.com is much better for both. Especially because I can find obscure Canadian CDs and singles on there. However, there are still a couple of albums I can’t find)
While I’ve been reorganizing my music for an eventual move to Google Play Music from iTunes. I was thinking that I might need to change how I rate individual songs. Currently it’s on a five star system like this:
No stars – Still getting acquainted with the track
★ – Song really, really sucks. I don’t want to listen to it
★★ – Song sucks, but I guess I’ll listen to it for variety
★★★ – Good song
★★★★ – Great song
★★★★★ – This song is a classic. Probably candidate for a My Fave Songs blog if I ever get around to it
Now I’m thinking a better system might be this:
No stars – Still getting acquainted with the track
★ – I never want to hear this song
★★ – I don’t want to hear this song unless I’m super bored with my library
★★★ – This is a good song, so should come up randomly on shuffle
★★★★ – This is a great song so should come up more often on shuffle
★★★★★ – This song is a classic but I don’t want to hear it too often just because it’s rated the highest
I’m not sure I can actually achieve this sort of control over my playlist, but at least I can mark songs in this way. It’s going to be a lot of work (and probably not worth it) to re-rate everything though.
In the past, I had some loose rules about when to rip an entire album or just the couple of hit singles. In the early days, I used to primarily rip singles, but as HD space became cheaper and cheaper, it was easy to rip an entire album – but I didn’t always do that, because then there would be a lot of filler tracks polluting my library.
So moving all the “full” albums was a good start, but now I have to dig up my CDs and re-rip many of them to fill out existing albums – that’s probably going to take a few weeks if not months. And I’m not sure whether I want to re-rip all my CDs. There definitely are many CDs that I bought just for a particular single, so I don’t want to spend time re-ripping those.
I also came to realize that I have a lot of albums that I don’t recall why I bought. They don’t have any great singles, maybe a couple of 3-star tracks, but nothing noteworthy. I bet most of them were bought while I was in Seattle, but I can’t explain it much further than that.
I started a project over the Christmas break because I was a bit frustrated about how I was storing my music on my hard drive. Over the last few months, I have been slowly re-organizing some of my music. Originally I stored my music sorted by genres, which is a bit unconventional. I think typically the folder structure is Artist/Album/ but I put multiple artists & albums into one genre folder (i.e., Electronic, Pop, Ethnic, etc). I decided to follow this method because I thought it was unnecessary to have a huge amount of folders, especially since I sometimes only rip a couple of songs from an album.
That worked for many years. But recently because I have been buying my music online instead of ripping CDs, I ended up with a couple of new folders based on where I got the music (Google, Amazon, Promo/SoundCloud/Free Downloads, etc). Those were sorted separately AND was not sorted by genre. So now my mp3 organization was a hydra, but it actually wasn’t a big deal because who really cares how the music is stored on the file system when you access it through a UI?
Now last year, I started uploading my music to the cloud. The interface seems suited to the more conventional Artist/Album format so I started duplicating my MP3s and converting some of the albums I liked and storing them as albums for upload purposes. Pretty soon I had a couple GB of duplicate MP3s, and I realized that I would just have more and more as music listening started moving “to the cloud”.
So I started a project of extracting all my albums from my genre folders. I thought about scripting the work, which you can do with VB on Windows, but I figured the work wouldn’t take long enough for it to be worth it – debugging and figuring out how to do things in VB would probably just take as long (and require more thinking).
Hopefully after this, I will be able to backup and duplicate my music collection on the cloud instead of having to do it on my web hosting.
Like 2013, I didn’t buy any physical CDs this year. But I did end up buying a lot more music because Google Play Music started selling music in Canada and they have deep discounts on a lot of albums throughout the year. Unfortunately, most of the music I’ve been buying have been ones that I already know/enjoyed. So like last year, most of the new music from this year is KPop.
John Legend – You & I
If I wasn’t married then this would be my first dance song. It is really simple but really touching. Best on John Legend’s album.
소녀시대 (Girls’ Generation) – Goodbye
While I probably listened to the title track from SNSD’s 4th Mini Album much more often, I think Goodbye is the better/best song on the album. It’s more rhythmic and a strong ballad from SNSD’s two most distinguished singers. Too bad Jessica is no longer part of the group to sing it!
Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud
This is a late addition to the list but I found it when I was browsing around on Spotify. I didn’t like A-Team that much so haven’t been listening to him but I think this one is great and his voice timbre actually improves the song.
CN Blue – Can’t Stop
This is one of those amazing songs which seem to be unlike the band’s DNA (the other songs I know from CN Blue seems to be less pop-py) in the vein of Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams. The piano intro/verse is what makes this song.
아이유 (IU) – 너의 의미 (Meaning of You)
Apparently this song is a remake from a 1984 Korean track, but I think this cover is much better because the melody suits IU’s voice. Also the melody will get stuck in your head
투개월 (Togeworl) – 톡투미 (Talk To Me)
Togeworl songs are great pop songs, and while this one is not as good as Number 1, it’s still pretty catchy. The music videos are going to be dated though (or viewed as cultural snapshots?)
John Legend – All Of Me
This song received a lot of airplay and press as I heard a lot about it being a ballad *before* I actually heard the song (I didn’t hear it until I bought the album). It is OK and grew on my a little once I listened to it more. But it’s not as incredible as I thought it would be.
아이유 (IU) – 소격동
This song is catchy but I think it might not be for the right reasons. I paid attention to this because it is completely unlike any other IU songs, it’s kind of electronic and she seems like she is just doing “vocals” rather than being her song.
소녀시대- (Girls’ Generation-TTS) – Stay
Taetiseo’s songs are usually pretty poor because they are trying to appeal to a certain demographic (the lead single, Holler on their 2nd album is even worse than Twinkle!) and I think this might be the best song on their 2nd album. It’s a straight up pop dance track so it appeals to me more, but that is also a drawback because it will blend into all the other pop songs once it loses its newness factor.
Jesse McCartney – SuperBad
Another late addition so I’m not sure how much staying power this song has. Originally I thought it was by Justin Timberlake because it’s very funky.
The life and death of a master of the universe
The story of a successful, well-meaning (at least as portrayed by the article) entrepreneur who was pushed into depression and then suicide by activists against his social projects in Africa.
Wrobel’s signature project as CEO of Sithe was the Bujagali hydroelectric project in Uganda. For years, the country’s economic development was crippled by a lack of widespread, reliable electricity and a dependence on trucked-in oil. The $900 million, 250-megawatt facility on the Nile River was funded by Sithe and public-sector partners, and launched commercially in August 2012. The dam boosted economic growth by nearly doubling the country’s electricity capacity and by providing renewable power at a price two-thirds lower than before, according to Sithe materials. Wrobel helped put together more than $20 million in social program funding to accompany the project, including investments in education, health, environmental resources and business development.
Burger King Is Run by Children
Given the recent news about the Tim Hortons and BK merger, I figure I should jump to this article in my queue and read it. Basically, it says that BK is in the business of making money, and not so much about food.
Wall Street has responded enthusiastically. Burger King went public again in June 2012 in an offering that put a $4.6 billion value on the company. As of early July, its market cap had risen to more than $9 billion. The doubters are in the minority now, and many in the investment community would like McDonald’s and Wendy’s to mimic the kids at Burger King. “These things are seemingly working at Burger King and causing questions to be asked about the strategy of others in fast food,” says David Palmer, an analyst who covers the restaurant industry for RBC Capital Markets (RY). “Like, why aren’t you doing what they’re doing?”
The Secret Life of an Obsessive Airbnb Host
An interesting look at what it’s like to be an Airbnb host. I haven’t stayed with Airbnb myself yet, although I might try at some point in the future. I’m nowhere near considering being a host though.
The year was 2011 and Airbnb was far from a household word. Telling my mother that “I could sleep in the office once in a while to earn extra income” made the absurdity of my plan palpable. I had to run the idea past someone, and Mom is a black belt in reality checks.
It didn’t surprise me that she couldn’t fathom why I would move out of my apartment for days on end because a stranger was paying me ninety dollars per night to sleep in my bed. To a woman who watches hours of crime dramas every day, the concept of Airbnb sounded harebrained. But I knew I wasn’t crazy — just desperate.
W.: The crematorium chimneys weren’t very tall. Depending on the wind direction, it stunk badly. And starting in 1944, the crematoria weren’t able to keep up. Next to them was a ditch, perhaps three or four meters across. A fire was burning in the trench day and night. Two men were always carrying straps that they used to pull them (Eds. note: the corpses) out of the gas chamber, removed the straps and threw them into the fire. If you were standing in the area, it was impossible to look away.
Rock has a real problem. All you hear every day is how not cool the record industry is. That’s going to have an effect on who gets into music. All you need is a new Bruce Springsteen deciding he’s going to work for Apple – or create his own. Look at the intensity and force that went into making Darkness. If Bruce ever had a fucking excuse not to do it, maybe he would have chosen not to. It’s the same thing you see when musicians get older. To make an album like [Pink Floyd’s] The Wall or any of the great Stones albums – it’s painful to go to that dark place. When you have horses and a boat and friends in the South of France, kids who want your attention, it makes you not want to go to that place. You go there because you have to.
Apollo loves watching Girls’ Generation dance to Mr. Mr. so I end up playing the video for him via YouTube. Luckily for Apollo, there are many, many versions of Mr. Mr. during the brief promotional period for the hit. Here are some official and fan links:
I think the dancing & choreography is actually quite interesting and inventive. KPop groups are known for their synchronized dancing, but the videos actually depart from this idea and the camera work focuses on individuals. My favorite version is the dance practice version, because you can see how the members cycle around to enable the focusing.
“There’s less room for forgiveness for Messi,” Sottile said. They’ve built the team around him, all hopes are pinned on him and yet nobody outside his teammates has his back. Leading your team to a World Cup championship is hard enough to do in a team game, even when everybody in your country loves you. The bar for Messi is so high — it’s not just if Argentina wins, but how — that it’s basically impossible for him to meet it.
The Trouble With IBM
I was still at IBM when Palmisano introduced the Roadmap 2015 plan, and thought it was really aggressive. Now that we’re a little closer to it and more details have come out how IBM is doing, I think it is a good idea that I left when I did.
That phrase, financial engineering, is a catchall used by critics for the variety of ways IBM has made earnings per share go up even as revenue goes down. The spectrum of maneuvers starts with common practices like dividend increases and share buybacks, and extends to more esoteric tactics like designating major costs as “extraordinary” and devising ways to pay lower tax rates. The most transparent companies present their performance according to generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP. IBM’s 2009 annual report didn’t use the phrase “non-GAAP” at all; the 2013 report used it 125 times.
Ultimately, the legal test isn’t what experts say. Under U.S. law, the standard a jury or judge would apply is whether the song in question sounds like a copy to an ordinary lay listener. To get an idea in this case, I conducted an informal poll of passersby on Los Angeles’s Venice Beach and Hermosa Beach, playing clips from Taurus and asking what song it sounded like. Of the 58 people surveyed, 18 named Stairway to Heaven, without being given any song titles to pick from. It was the only song anyone mentioned by name, with the exception of one young man who recognized it as Taurus.
So we came up with this line of girls’ accessories—they weren’t dolls—based on solving mysteries or going on adventures on your bike and solving puzzles and reading maps and finding hidden things. We came up with this whole campaign, the graphics and color combinations and everything. But the marketing people looked at this and they said, “We can’t sell these,” and we said, “Why?” And they said, “Because little girls can’t read.” And we said, “Well of course girls can read, they go to school.” And they said, “No, no, no. The little girls that we would be selling this to aren’t old enough to read,” meaning 5-year-olds.
We were designing these toys for 10-year-olds, and it was such an eye-opener that they wouldn’t even consider marketing this type of toy to a 10-year-old. I was crushed to realize that we’re limiting a whole lot of play by only selling toys to girls who are so young that they can’t read. Any kind of feature that involves reading, whether it’s instructions or a special little book or anything like that, isn’t very marketable.
How To Think
Some ideas as to why an inner city school in Brooklyn has been excelling against other American private schools when it comes to chess.
The Ice Sculpture Business
If you ever wanted to know about the Ice Sculpting business, then this is the article to read. The writing is a bit dry, but the topic is obscure enough to capture my attention for the entire article.
Last year, Bayley and his team built a truck out of ice for a Canadian Tire commercial. The final product weighed eleven thousand pounds, set a Guinness World Record as the “first propelled ice creation to drive,” and garnered attention from every media outlet imaginable. “In all my advertising years, I’d never seen anything get so much publicity,” laughs Bayley. “People from all over the world were calling us.”
Once Donaldson had to double for a thirteen-year-old paperboy who rides a bike across a wooden bridge that collapses. The bridge was already built when he arrived on set, forcing him to fall seventeen feet into eighteen inches of water with his arms out. Had the bridge been moved a short distance, he would have fallen into four feet of water, no problem. But there was no time (read: no money). It took three days of walking the bridge and sizing it up before he knew he could do the stunt. “My thinking was if I walk away with a broken arm, chipped tooth and broken nose, I’ll be lucky,” he recalls. He had to do the stunt twice. The first fall nearly knocked him out. Dazed, he got up right away to do it again before he lost his nerve.
“TV is super quick,” he told me. “My quickest thing I did, I did a Russian rap song in two and a half hours,” he said. “They used it. And that was in Russian. I don’t speak Russian. I had to find a Russian rapper to rap on it.” This was for the CW show Nikita, and his two-and-a-half hour effort resulted in three months of rent.
As I played around with Google Play Music and uploaded some of my music, I got to wondering what the future of my music listening would be like. Currently I have a bunch of music loaded into iTunes which I listen to on my computer. I also put the same music on iPod because that keeps the same play counts as iTunes. I also have all my music rated and use custom playlists based on the rating, play count, and when I added the song to iTunes. That’s a lot of complexity which I don’t think any cloud service will be able to reproduce.
But the trend seems to be to stream music online (and perhaps charge subscription) to your device. If not that, at least your music is on the cloud and accessible anywhere. That seems like a good idea, but i have no idea how I will convert my music listening to that approach!
Even a hybrid approach is difficult. I organize my music by genre instead of the typical artist/album approach. It’s a big mess when I want to upload because I want to convert them to the “standard” organization first. I suppose I can just upload a lot of garbage and have Google help me sort the files, but I have a second problem – which is that I have a lot of singles and not that many albums. Then I end up with a lot of artist entries that only have a few songs (don’t get me started on various artist albums and having the correct album artist). It starts breaking the experience and I wonder, why I don’t stick with the status quo.
In fact I’m thinking, maybe I should draw a line where I started buying (cheap!) complete albums from Amazon and Google Play, and just start building my music collection starting from that!
Google Play Music finally launched in Canada today. I’m kind of happy about this, because it means sales and cheap music. Their launch promotion is a bunch of current hit and past albums for $1.49. For that price, I don’t mind buying albums that I don’t really know; and picked up Arcade Fire’s Reflektor and Tegan & Sara’s Heartthrob on a whim. Hopefully there will be more sales, credits or promotions because that would be a good way for me to continue building my music collection since I don’t spend much time on it anymore.
I guess Google Play Music is like Amazon Cloud Player, which I have had access to for a long time. A quick play around Google Play (heh) and I think I would use it more than I would Amazon’s offering. One reason is device integration (I don’t have Amazon phones/tablets) but I think it’s more because the design is nicer than Amazon’s utilitarian approach. Being able to upload 20,000 songs (instead of Amazon’s 250) is really useful too, because I checked my iTunes and I have less than 5000 songs there. So I can upload my entire collection and store it in the cloud. For free!
I’ve complained in the past that even though Girls’ Generation is a huge KPop group, they seem to get low quality songs. I complained about their previous big single I Got A Boy as being a bit weird and Hip-Hop style rather than Pop (which is true). But that track won the 2013 Video of the Year from YouTube so I guess they proved me wrong. Although I still think that that single deviates from their core fan base; I suppose they have aspirations to be a group famous worldwide (instead of just Asia) so that could explain their song decision.
The lead single from their “4th mini album” is different. Mr. Mr. is a pop track and has a catchy hook. But there is a breakdown near the end which has a North American dance beat. Maybe it’ll be their cross over hit?
Another single I like (although this is from a Japanese release awhile back) is Beep Beep. It has a neat video, but for some reason I can never find a correct version online (either the video is cut off or the video extends beyond the song as if the music was added on after the fact). Here’s a live version
Since I listened to KPop most of the year, this list is quite sparse. I don’t think I even bought a CD this entire year! Anyways, here goes:
Armin van Buuren ft Trevor Guthrie – This Is What It Feels Like
In a way, having this song at the top of my list is not that odd, because Armin is a trance DJ that is (has?) crossed over into Pop. This song still retains some of the Trance spirit though. Also, I heard on the radio (what? well it happens sometimes) that Trevor Guthrie was in soulDecision! That’s kinda pop too.
Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble
Although this was released late in 2012, it was new to me this year. Taylor Swift’s songs are getting better and better, probably because she’s moving straight into pop now.
Bonnie McKee – American Girl
I had another catchy song by Bonnie McKee a few years ago, and this one is even better. Too bad it didn’t get more popular. At least I was able to get the MP3 free as a Fourth of July promo.
Tegan & Sara – Fool Again
Nice piano riff on this track, which I used as an alarm for awhile. Tegan & Sara have finally graduated from the indie scene? Maybe only in Canada.
Daft Punk ft Pharrell Williams – Get Lucky
There was a new Daft Punk album this year, but I didn’t get it on CD as I just bought it digitally. I wouldn’t say the album was as great as everyone made it out to be. It was decent. This single is decent too, but I still enjoy their Discovery-era stuff more.
CHVRCHES – The Mother We Share
I found out about CHVRCHES from a sampler I downloaded and liked their brand of electronic. This was the second track I received from them, downloaded for free from iTunes. It’s the better of the two!
Anna Kendricks – Cups
I don’t actually like this song, but am amazed that they were able to shoot the majority of the video in a single take (or is there CG here?)
Most of my music listening this year was around my existing music collection and KPop. Here are the best KPop songs this year
소녀시대 (Girls’ Generation)- Express 999
I don’t like most Girls’ Generation songs, but this one is very good. I like it because it’s a dance track, but not just because of that – they release a lot of high tempo tracks in Japanese which I don’t enjoy. The structure of this song is different and I like the variety in the different sections. There’s no clear hook, but all the motifs are good.
투개월 (Togeworl) – Number 1
This is a duo which gained popularity through some American Idol-like show, and this song is really catchy. I also started listening to the Lim Kim (the female in this group) due to how good this song was.
태연 (Taeyeon) – 그리고 하나 (And One)
One of two Taeyeon OST songs this year. The other sucked, but this one is good!
예성 (Yesung) – 먹지 (Gray Paper)
I had this song as my morning alarm for a long time. I think its as good as any ballad by Bruno Mars.
브라운 아이드 소울 (Brown Eyed Soul) – Always Be There
A lot of Western songs use 80s beats/synths in their song, but this song uses 90s synths. In fact when I heard it I thought it was a throwback to classic Boyz II Men. It’s awesome!
알리 (Ali) – 지우개 (Eraser)
Not sure why I liked this song, it seems to be by an older artist but is sung well.
산이 (San E) -아는 사람 얘기 (Story Of Someone I Know)
I saw the name San E on a lot of tracks this year, it’s like he is trying to be Nicki Minaj or someone? Well he’s a rapper for one, but he’s not scary. This is a catchy single he had.
소녀시대 (Girls’ Generation) – 유리아이 (Lost In Love)
I didn’t like this song at first, but as a I listened to it more, it grew on me. It’s not actually by all of Girls’ Generation, just Taeyeon and Tiffany.
박지윤 (Park Ji Yoon) ft San E – 미스터리 (Mr. Lee)
I don’t think they could make this song in the Western music industry – there just aren’t that many people with the same last name! Great contrast in the rap by San E as well on this one.
김예림 (Lim Kim) ft Swings – Voice
There’s nothing that stands out about this song, but Lim Kim has a great timbre in her voice, and this is a relaxing track. I think the rap in this one detracts from the song though.
스텔라 (Stellar) – 공부하세요 (Study)
Nice disco-style pop music
나인뮤지스 (9MUSES) – 건 (GUN)
This is a catchy single with a nice hook that reminds me of the 80s (Hawaii Five-0?)
파이브돌스 (F-ve Dolls) – 짝 1호 (Soulmate)
Yet another catchy disco single…but these do not have a long shelf life.
Still going through the backlog of my favorite KBallads from the last year 태연 (Taeyeon) – 가까이 (Closer)
When I first heard this song, I thought it was too simple that I would get tired of it soon. Instead the more I listen to it, the better it is. I even spent $1.29 on iTunes to buy it! This one is from the KDrama To The Beautiful You
제시카 (Jessica) & 온유 (Onew) – 1년 후 (One Year Later)
This is the first song that I’ve listed that is NOT from a KDrama! I first found it while looking up songs by Girls’ Generation (of which Jessica is a part of). This video is a bit overzealous in the airbrushing though.
지아 (Zia) & 케이윌 (K.Will) – 그대이길 바래요 (Hope It’s You)
Another duet (and not from a KDrama). I think both of these musicians are not that screen friendly so they have actors playing out an experience to the song. After hearing this song, I went through Zia’s discography and listened to a lot of her tracks for awhile!
요조 (Yozoh) – 자꾸자꾸 (Again and Again)
Back to the KDrama songs, this one is from Love Rain. After hearing this, I went through Yozoh’s discography as well (but it’s not as large as Zia’s). I like Nostalgia though.
While I enjoy KPop for its pop music, I am disappointed in the overall catchy-ness, and thus the quality of the pop. However, I think one area which Korean music excels is in ballads – in fact, I would say that for me, they are the spiritual successor to Cantonese ballads which I listened to on occasion
I think Cantonese pop is perpetually stuck in the mid-90s – the production sounds like its from that epoch. I guess they never adopted the “wall of sound” approach. Meanwhile, KBallads sound like they have adopted the updated production standards that Western music use – and there seem to be a lot more of them. I guess KDramas are popular (I don’t watch them), and almost every series has an OST with several ballads.
I’ve been listening to KBallads for over a year now and here are some of my favorite KBallads. They are in no particular order except for when I remembered I should put them on my list of favorite KBallads.
허각 (Huh Gak) – 한사람 (One Person)
This is from a KDrama called Big and originally I thought it was a decent (but not great) song. I bought it from Amazon using one of their credit codes, and after listening to it many times, it has grown on me.
이윤지 (Lee Yoon Ji) – 처음 사랑 (First Love)
This is from the KDrama The King 2 Hearts and instead of being sung by a musician is actually sung by one of the actresses! I thought she sings it really well and her voice is sugary like Dido’s.
태연 (Taeyeon) – 만약에 (If)
This is Taeyeon’s first release on an OST (from Hong Gil-dong) when she was 19. The song is very simple with spare instrumentation (only a piano and vocals) but is beautiful.
Now that it’s been quite a few years since I started listening to Top40 music, it’s a good time to reflect on how fleeting some musicians careers are. I don’t mean the one-hit wonders who are popular for two months, but the artists that were on top of the world for an extended period of time. Back in the late ’90s, some of those artists were Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore.
I envision that those artists were hoping to follow in the footsteps of Madonna and have a career that stretches 30+ years, but that never happened. I would say that none of them are known for their music anymore – Christina Aguilera is doing reality TV (albeit of the music variety), Jessica Simpson is promoting diet programs, Mandy Moore is out of the limelight and while Britney is still releasing albums, she’s not really successful and more of a robot than anything else now.
It’s likely that most artists just have a shelf life of 5 years, unless you are a generational talent like Madonna – but then there are artists like Mariah Carey, Kylie Minogue, and Jennifer Lopez who have had longer careers and weren’t as successful as Madonna. While Lopez peaked a bit later, she’s still going strong (although you might say she’s a generational talent for the Latino community).
It’s interesting to wonder who of the current crop of stars will fade into obscurity and who will still be popular? I’d think that Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo, Bruno Mars, Rhianna, Katy Perry will not last; but I’m not sure who will – it’s probably someone you don’t expect.
When I decided to read Guitar Zero, I was hoping to read about the author’s journey from being musical illiterate to being fluent at the guitar, and perhaps emulate his path. I was starting with a better foundation than him, and had lower expectations. But the book didn’t end up being what I expected.
I had hoped there would be a step-by-step (or at least some plan) on how to play the guitar, but rather this book was about how music affects the human brain, and how a human whose brain hasn’t developed musically yet can become more musical and benefit. I wasn’t interested in the latter, but the former was sometimes interesting.
The specific effects of music on brain chemistry was not interesting to me, but I enjoyed the discussion on how song structures can affect our enjoyment of music – music satisfies our brain’s need for repetition and novelty at the same time.
On the whole, I skimmed through large sections of the book quickly, thinking that it was quite long (240+ pages) and I was getting bored. Lucky for me, the book ended around page 170. What were the last 70 pages? Acknowledgments, glossary, index, appendix/images etc!
Most people realize that the music they listen to during their formative years is the type of music they end up listening to for the rest of their lives. That’s why you have people listening to oldies (or now Classic Rock) radio stations. There is probably some physiological science behind this and it is considered gospel.
But I’ve realized that that isn’t true for me. During my teens (late 90s) I listened to Europop/dance and the hits of that time period – Radiohead, Oasis, Mariah Carey etc. I still enjoy listening to the songs I liked from that era; but by no means do I only want to listen to those songs. In fact since that time, I’ve spent considerable time listening to other genres such as trance, indie rock, 80s and now KPop in addition to the Top40 songs that are popular each year. There are always some good songs from those genres and time periods which I like to keep shuffled up; so my music listening habits are certainly not restricted or unduely centered around the late 90s.
I guess the reason behind this is that a lot of people listen to music when they were growing up, but listen to it because “it was there”. Maybe they were at a dance, or went to the mall, or had nothing else to do. But if you enjoy music, you don’t need to restrict yourself to those years and want to explore what else you’ll like – so there is no reason that your enjoyment should be entirely from a 5 year period.
In my opinion, Girls’ Generation is the biggest KPop group out there (well I’m not sure where the boy groups rank). But I have this pet peeve that because of their success, I don’t think they actually get any good (i.e., catchy) songs to sing.
This is not really a surprise. Because of their popularity, anything they release is going to be a hit and rabidly consumed by their fans. Therefore it makes sense to not pay for top flight producers and songwriting; but the US music industry is the same way. Anything Coldplay, Rhianna or Jay-Z releases will be considered “good” and they are (some singles) a cut above, not just songs from the discount bin.
I was hoping this would change with Girls’ Generation’s Korean comeback at the beginning of this year. Sadly, I was disappointed with their first two singles – Dancing Queen is a cover of Duffy’s Mercy and I Got A Boy is a odd non-formulatic hip-hop number. I think they are trying to set a style and evolve their sound; but it just doesn’t sound good (and I don’t think it’s a “you’re getting old, you’re not in touch with the younger generation” issue, because I don’t see Western Pop moving this way).
I know that I’ve been complaining that I haven’t been paying attention to new music anymore, but this year I REALLY haven’t! It’s true this time. In the car, I’ve been listening to Korean music so there is hardly any opportunity to be exposed to new Western music. I bought a few CDs, but it is negligible now. My music buying is almost exclusively done on Amazon and music is purchased as MP3s. I spent less than $25 buying music online as well as a combination of freebies from Amazon (I hardly download freebies from iTunes anymore). I know it’s less than $25 because I bought a gift card on Amazon and have been deducting my purchases from it. I still have over $10 left!
Now onto my list of (Western) songs. Ordering them is hard because they haven’t really made an impact in my listening habits – in fact the top 1/2 songs would probably be KPop (Trouble Maker or Bloom).
Justin Bieber – Boyfriend
With Justin Bieber’s album, he started on the second phase of his career following in the footsteps of Justin Timberlake and going towards more of a R&B style. It had to happen because his voice has lowered and he’s not able to sing so high without falsetto anymore (which ironically he does in this song). Boyfriend was the lead single and first look at his transformation. It’s a good song, but probably a weak #1 in my books.
David Guetta ft Sia – Titanium
The David Guetta train and my musical preferences occasionally intersect, and this is one of those instances. Sia is a good singer (I knew her before she sold out and started doing collaborations) and a scientific word like Titanium is such a weird song title. But this was a popular song this year on the charts, and in my books as well.
Train – Drive By
I never really liked Train but I liked this particular single from them because it has a catchy chorus, a driving beat and an off-beat rhythm. That’s pretty much it, since it it is otherwise generic radio top40 pop.
Neon Trees – Everybody Talks
A very catchy song with a neat retro video that elevates Neon Trees from a one-hit wonder to a two-hit wonder?
Anjulie – You & I
I heard this song once on the radio and thought it was pretty catchy – so put it on my “top music” list. Then I never heard it again afterwards! That pretty much explains a lot of my picks this year.
Maroon 5 – Payphone
Payphone is probably the culmination of a lot of work in 2011 to create a hit single for Maroon 5’s new CD (and to make Wiz Khalifa more of a household name). Well they succeeded on the first part I think!
Nicki Minaj – Starships
If you randomly heard this song on the radio, you may not know that it’s by Nicki Minaj! Did you know Nicki Minaj’s real name is Onika Tanya Maraj? I can understand why she decided to use a pseudonym.
Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
One of the catchiest and most popular songs of the year is pretty good, and decent in my books too.
The Wanted – Glad you Came
When I first heard this song, I (for unexplained reason) thought it was by J-Lo. It has that catchy manufactured feel to it.
Fun. – We Are Young
I’m not sure why Fun. is popular, it just sounds like some guy yelling! Their first single was played enough that it started getting catchy to me.