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Hastily wrote a lazy Top Music of 2020 so that I would have a record beyond a Spotify playlist. Even though I didn’t spend a lot of time listening to the radio in a car, I feel like I have a good handle on the Top 40 hits of the year.

  1. BTS – Dynamite
    Not a fan of BTS, but this song is undeniable catchy and worthy of being one of the top songs of 2020
  2. Finneas – Let’s Fall In Love For The Night
    A “new-to-me” song for 2020 (I think it was actually released in 2019). I wouldn’t know Finneas if he wasn’t Billie Eilish’s brother; but he seems to be a songwriting talent and it shows in this song.
  3. Miley Cyrus – Midnight Sky
    I guess this is an example where production and (hired?) songwriting resurrected an album.
  4. Dua Lipa – Don’t Start Now
    For my tastes, Dua Lipa (and The Weeknd) were the biggest music acts of the year, and this first single off Dua Lipa’s second album kickstarted this year for her.
  5. Arizona Zervas – Roxanne
    Didn’t get a ton of airplay but it caught my ear
  6. Yukika – Soul Lady
    Discovered this song near the end of 2020. Apparently it’s in the genre of ‘City Pop’ which appeals to my musical tastes.
  7. BOL4 – Dancing Cartoon
    BOL4’s went through a split up this year, and their recent songs haven’t reached the highs of their debut songs. I liked the b-side on their single more.
  8. Miley Cyrus ft Dua Lipa – Prisoner
    Two of the top female artists of this year. I suppose Miley saw Dua Lipa’s success earlier in the year and asked her to feature on this track.
  9. Calvin Harris, The Weeknd – Over Now
    Great Michael Jackson vibes
  10. The Weeknd – In Your Eyes
    Hard to rate this one, it’s catchy with the 80s vibe, but there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about it. I guess you can say that it is a perfect Pop song.
  11. DJ Khaled ft Drake – POPSTAR
    Kind of ashamed to like this song and rank it so highly, but the hook is attractive.
  12. Dua Lipa – Levitating
    I could probably put half of Dua Lipa’s album on this list (honorable mention: Physical, Hallucinate, Fever) as her songs are a satisfying mix of intriguing vocal timbre and retro dance beats
  13. DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper, Lil Wayne – I’m The One
    I don’t know how each of these artists collaborated on this song, who who’s singing which part; but I like the overall result.
  14. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights
    Started off great at the beginning of the year but ended up overplayed.
  15. Taeyeon – Kiss Me
    Obligatory Taeyeon OST ballad. Not her best, but passable to fill a need
  16. Tones & I – Dance Monkey
    One of the first hits of the year and so overplayed that it feels like it’s from a few years ago now.
  17. IU ft SUGA
    This song was hyped because BTS’ SUGA produced and featured on it. I don’t actually think it’s that strong of a song (although it grew on me as I listened to it more).

  1. 사계 (Four Seasons) – 태연 (Taeyeon)
    Usually, the Taeyeon song is at the top of my list because of her singing, but this song is catchy by itself!

  2. Boyfriend – Ariana Grande & Social House
    Not an Ariana Grande fan, but this song is the best duet of the year, with interesting melodies and singing.

  3. Blinding Lights – The Weeknd
    I started watching Stranger Things and this song seems like it should be part of that soundtrack. The Weeknd moves from his Michael Jackson-inspired 80s sound to New Wave-esque electronic. I like it! and I don’t think it’s just because it’s a late entry in the year.

  4. Higher Love – Kygo & Whitney Houston
    I guess how you should think of this song is that it is a remix of an old Whitney Houston song. I’ve never been interested in Kygo’s other music, so it’s really the sample that gets the attention from me.

  5. Memories – Maroon 5
    This year, I really tried to like artists like Lauv and Troye Sivan, and I can just say that I don’t really like their style of music. This song seems to be in the same style but sung by Adam Levine. Maybe I just don’t like the sound of the other artists.

  6. 블루밍 (Blueming) – 아이유 (IU)
    This title track from her EP is much different than all of the other tracks. It is straight up Pop, and feels like a stylistic successor to last year’s single Bbi Bbi (although it won’t be as long lasting). Also, what is a “Blueming”?

  7. 챈슬러 (Angel) – Chancellor ft 태연 (Taeyeon)
    This year, I was a lot less interested in KPop. I guess the phase is over. In any other year, if I found this song, I would say that it is a niceslow jam, but this year I only listened to it because of the feature.

  8. Senorita – Shawn Mendes & Camilla Cabello
    This is probably my kids’ favorite song of the year. It’s not bad of a duet, but is not as great as Ariana Grande’s.

  9. Don’t Start Now – Dua Lipa
    Between this and her Calvin Harris track from a few years back, looks like Dua Lipa’s niche are dance tracks. I’m fine with that. This is a solid hit but nothing that can elevate it to a higher tier.

  10. 춘천가는 기차 (A Train to Chuncheon) – 태연 (Taeyeon)
    New remake of an old song I never heard of, with some electronic tinges. Another notch in Taeyeon’s discography but nothing to get too excited about.

  11. Sucker – Jonas Brothers
    At the beginning of the year, there weren’t a lot of songs so this was the top pick for its catchy hook. But the song is really just the hook and once you’ve heard it enough times, it…sucks.

  • ‘Taaaake onnn meee!’ The unkillable, oh-so-profitable afterlife of a-ha’s ’80s classic
    I love this song but I have to admit it is an amazing hook and classic video. But a-ha is also a victim of their own success.

    “What’s more interesting,” Daniel muses, “is the ‘philosophical’ revenue the song has generated. A-ha is still big all over the world. I saw them play an arena in Chile three years ago. If not for that song, they wouldn’t have sold any albums, and there’s no 30 years of touring. That one song has probably generated hundreds of millions of dollars.”

    The winding saga of “Take on Me” illustrates both the randomness of having a hit and the degree to which it requires timing and calculation. “‘Take on Me’ is a proven flop, three times over,” says Harket. “It’s also a proven hit. There’s a lot to learn from that.”

    At the peak of a-ha’s ambivalence toward “Take on Me” (Harket can’t recall precisely when), they stopped playing it live.

  • Masterpiece Theatre
    This is a story about a master forger of famous artists (e.g., Picasso). He’s been caught and has written his own book, so I guess this is an attempt at an unbiased view of his life. It is also an interesting perspective about the value of art and “originals”

    Jansen goes even further: If fakes are as good as the real thing, aren’t they worth celebrating? “When a musician reproduces a sonata of Bach, one applauds him. Me, I reproduce a sonata of Picasso and I am placed under arrest,” he lamented to the CBC in 2008.

  • The Death of Hollywood’s Middle Class
    A look at how the OTT video explosion has affected the people behind the scenes (writers & etc)

    “If I was on a [network show like] Community, I would have been paid as a series regular,” Becker says. “But they didn’t make me a series regular, they made me a recurring guest star and paid me a daily rate. If I’d been number five on an NBC show, I’d be making $30,000 a week, but I was making $980 a week [at Netflix]. By the time you pay out taxes, your manager, agent, and lawyer, I was walking away with like $200.”

  • A history of modern capitalism from the perspective of the straw.
    This article starts off strong linking America’s disposable-first culture with the straw, and explaining how plastic straws came to be. But it kind of tapers off without making a point

    While functionally, paper and plastic straws might have seemed the same, to the keen observer who is the narrator of Nicholson Baker’s dazzling 1988 novel, The Mezzanine, the plastic and paper straw were not interchangeable. Paper did not float. Plastic did: “How could the straw engineers have made so elementary a mistake, designing a straw that weighed less than the sugar-water in which it was intended to stand? Madness!”

    Baker’s narrator wonders why the big fast-food chains like McDonald’s didn’t pressure the straw engineers into fixing this weighting mistake. “[The chains] must have had whole departments dedicated to exacting concessions from Sweetheart and Marcal,” Baker writes.

    But there was a problem: lids, which had come into vogue. Plastic straws could push through the little + slits in the cap. Paper ones could not. The restaurant chains committed fully to plastic straws.

  • Facing unbearable heat, Qatar has begun to air-condition the outdoors
    Trying to air condition the outside sounds stupid, but that’s really what Qatar is trying to do. It’s kind of like putting lights outside at night so you can see where you are going.

    Recently, the luxury French department store Galeries Lafayette opened in a shopping mall that features stylish air-conditioning grates in the broad cobblestone walkways outside. Each of the vents, about 1 by 6 feet, has a decorative design. Many of them hug the outside of buildings, cooling off window shoppers looking at expensive fashions. Though nearly deserted in the heat, by 5 p.m. some people begin to emerge to sit outside places like Cafe Pouchkine.

This year I started getting tired of KPop. The music started sounding the same so I didn’t stay up to date with it that much, nor did we listen to it much in the car. Instead, we went back to listening to top40 radio. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, and there were some good songs in the first half the year. The last quarter of the year, surprisingly, was a clunker where most of the new songs were pretty bad.

One interesting thing about the list this year is that all the songs are pretty close together. If I had to rank them, it might go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and then a 10 way tie for #6.

  1. Charlie Puth – Attention

    Ever since I discovered Charlie Puth, I’ve paid attention to his singles. His style of music currently lines up with the pop music I want to hear. Attention was released around April, and I’ve been waiting for his second album to be released, but apparently it won’t hit the streets till 2018! He released a second single towards the end of the year which is decent, but not as great as Attention. This song has a great hook and it is #1 because this is the style of pop I love listening to.

  2. 종현 (Jonghyun) ft 태연 (Taeyeon) – Lonely

    Taeyeon and Jonghyun had a good duet a couple of years ago, and this one is a continuation of that partnership. The song is decent and finally we get a Taeyeon ballad! It was tough ranking this song at #2, but what made it better than the rest is because this is a piano ballad and Taeyeon’s singing.

  3. 볼빨간사춘기 (Bolppalgan Puberty) – 나만 안되는 연애 (Hard To Love)

    Bolppalgan Puberty (now goes by Bolppalgan4 which is slightly easier to remember I suppose) was a chance discovery this year, and I’m glad I found them. This is the first song I heard by them and it instantly caught my attention because of the sound of the lead singer. They’re not your typical KPop (in fact I don’t even find them attractive) but the entire album is great (although not to the calibre of the two songs here or Freesia).

  4. 볼빨간사춘기 (Bolppalgan Puberty) – 우주를 줄게 (Galaxy)

    Like Taeyeon’s Why and Starlight, both this song and Hard To Love are really hard to separate in terms of greatness. They are quite different in style as Galaxy is more upbeat and Hard To Love is a ballad and more soulful; but I don’t think Galaxy will have as much longevity and impact because it is not a ballad, and yet isn’t dance-y enough. That is not to take away from how good this song is still though – this track was the 2017 song of the year at the Korean Music Awards (not fan voted).

  5. Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean, Migios – Slide

    It’s tragic that there was no video for this song but I wonder if it’s because the label didn’t want to make one or one of the artists didn’t? This song played for a little while on the radio and then went away, and it’s too bad. The beat is catchy, Frank Ocean sings well and makes me want to listen to more of his music, and Migios has a great hook. This an Passionfruit were two standout Hip Hop tracks for me this year, when I don’t enjoy listening to Hip Hop.

  6. Julia Michaels – Issues

    I have a feeling Julia Michaels is going to be a one-hit wonder, and she’ll go back to writing great songs for other artists. This song works because there is a movement in pop to a stripped down sound, and this is a great example of that style.

  7. Drake – Passionfruit

    Well, it looks like this song doesn’t have a video, and there are no performances or etc on YouTube. I guess Drake has a (not a) thing for posting things online, as the last video on his channel is Hotline Bling. So you’ll have to live with this cover. There are very few Drake songs I like because I don’t like the way he raps or the instrumentation in his songs. Passionfruit is an exception because of the driving beat and I guess because his singing is less soulful.

  8. Bruno Mars – Versace On The Dancefloor

    Bruno Mars has three great hits on his latest album, and unfortunately this is the one that didn’t get a lot of radio play. I wouldn’t say this is the best, as all three tracks had their merits. However, Versace On The Dancefloor is another recent song that channels the 80s/Michael Jackson era (see The Weeknd). If this song saw as much play as I Feel It Coming, it might be just as popular. It is a worthy ballad.

  9. 수지 (Suzy) – 취향 (Les Préférences)

    Suzy released an EP but this wasn’t the single. However, I discovered this song when I listened to her problems for that EP – and it’s actually better than everything else on the EP (or more fitting to the style of music I like).

  10. 태연 (Taeyeon) – I Got Love

    Taeyeon release an album, and then a month later released a deluxe version. Fortunately, I waited until the deluxe edition is out to buy. I’m not a fan of the genre of music that is on the album – not a lot of ballads, but a bunch of throwaway dance and easy rock songs. This song is one of singles and has a catchy and unique beat. Like Versace On The Dancefloor, the video is too distracting and takes away from the song.

  11. IU ft G-Dragon – Palette

    IU released two albums this year. One was a sequel to her remake album (more remakes) and one had original material. Palette was the single off of the latter. Both albums were OK, as I am a fan of her songs. Nothing was as super-catchy as 23. The live promo choreography of this song is unique in that it uses 80s style – the generation I grew up in is finally retro!

  12. Calvin Harris, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, Big Sean – Feels

    Crazy all-star cast for this song which is kind of a departure for everyone. But I guess they banked that this would be a hit single – and it certainly feels like it. Katy Perry is unrecognizable until I heard mention of her name in the credits. Pharrell sounds typical. Big Sean has a retro beat for his rap that sounds like it was C+P from a Puff Daddy era song. And Calvin Harris. I’m not sure what he gets credit for? I guess for pulling everyone together.

  13. 소녀시대 (Girls Generation) – All Night

    The last (?) Girls Generation album came out this year and it was a clunker. All of the songs were unremarkable and forgettable except for this one, which has a great stuttering hook. With 3 members not signed to a contract, everyone approaching their 30s, and basically every member having a try at a solo career. I think this is it for SNSD and it sub-units.

  14. Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like

    This song and 24K Magic are prototypical Bruno Mars songs/hits. It’s catchy, and a great pop song. Nothing much to say except the formula works for him.

  15. Niall Horan – Slow Hands

    I’m not a big fan of Niall, 1D, or any of the other members’s songs. But Niall had a good song with This Town and this one is even better. Great pop song, but probably will be forever stuck in 2017.

  16. Ed Sheeran – Shape Of You

    Song came out early in 2017 (I think it was part of last year’s Grammy’s) and I’m kind of tired of listening to it (I even blogged about it). But it should remain a top Ed Sheeran song in my books.

  17. Taylor Swift – Ready For It

    I think Taylor Swift is the top female singer in pop today but I’m not a huge fan of her. She had a couple of releases this year and the last one is the best. However, I feel like she released half of this song previously as Wildest Dream. This was the one song in the last part of the year that I liked.

  18. 윤아 (Yoona) – 바람이 불면 (When The Wind Blows)

    With SNSD breaking up on hiatus, I think Yoona’s angle is to start a solo career in China. She had a Chinese EP last year and this song was a dual Mandarin/Korean release. I think she’s an underrated singer and if she gets a decent and fitting song, then it’ll do well. This song is not a hitmaker, but it is OK and she carries it fine. In fact, this song kind of reminds me of Taeyeon’s 11:11.

As I’m writing my Top Music of 2017 blog, I realize it might be interesting to see how rankings change over time. For me, top music should be an indication of longevity – how will I still like the song after a few years. So here’s the list from 2005 (12 years ago):

  1. Annie – Heartbeat
  2. Gwen Stefani – Cool
  3. Feist – Inside & Out
  4. Coldplay – Speed Of Sound
  5. Sum 41 – Pieces
  6. New Order – Krafty
  7. Franz Ferdinand – The Fallen
  8. Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone
  9. Sufjan Stevens – John Wayne Gacy Jr
  10. Jimmy Eat World – Work
  11. Kathleen Edwards – Back To Me
  12. The Decemberists – Sixteen Military Wives
  13. The Bravery – An Honest Mistake
  14. Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc
  15. Imogen Heap – Hide & Seek
  16. Embrace – Gravity
  17. Tegan & Sara – Speak Slow
  18. Kylie Minogue – I Believe In You

In my re-ranking, I have an arbitrary cut-off where I don’t think a song should be on the list (kind of a 3.5 star line on iTunes). And then I just re-ranked everything based on how I like the song now. Also I didn’t add any new songs since I don’t remember what came out in 2005.

  1. Feist – Inside & Out
  2. Annie – Heartbeat
  3. Kylie Minogue – I Believe In You
  4. Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone
  5. Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc
  6. Imogen Heap – Hide & Seek
  7. Gwen Stefani – Cool
  8. Sum 41 – Pieces
  9. Jimmy Eat World – Work
  10. New Order – Krafty
  11. Embrace – Gravity
  12. Tegan & Sara – Speak Slow
  13. Kathleen Edwards – Back To Me

So 5 songs have dropped of the list, and I think there’s a couple of clear tiers. Songs 1 – 4 are still great, 5 – 7 are decent, and 8+ fill out the catalogue.

  • The highly unusual company behind Sriracha, the world’s coolest hot sauce

    Reading this story, it either means that Sriracha is really secretive about its numbers, or maybe it just doesn’t keep track so they can’t tell you!

    Most commercially distributed hot sauces are made with dried chilies to make it easier to harvest, process and bottle the product at scale. McIlhenny, the maker of Tabasco, for example, buys its chilies from producers around the globe. But Sriracha is—and always always has been—made with fresh chilies. It’s what separates it from the competition, says Tran.

  • My Family’s Slave
    The author of this article had a domestic slave in their household as they were growing up, and this was in the 20th century. He talks about how and why she stayed with the family until she died.

    We couldn’t identify a parallel anywhere except in slave characters on TV and in the movies. I remember watching a Western called The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. John Wayne plays Tom Doniphon, a gunslinging rancher who barks orders at his servant, Pompey, whom he calls his “boy.” Pick him up, Pompey. Pompey, go find the doctor. Get on back to work, Pompey! Docile and obedient, Pompey calls his master “Mistah Tom.” They have a complex relationship. Tom forbids Pompey from attending school but opens the way for Pompey to drink in a whites-only saloon. Near the end, Pompey saves his master from a fire. It’s clear Pompey both fears and loves Tom, and he mourns when Tom dies. All of this is peripheral to the main story of Tom’s showdown with bad guy Liberty Valance, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Pompey. I remember thinking: Lola is Pompey, Pompey is Lola.

  • In Sync We Trust: Pop Music’s History of Lip-Syncing (and Lying About It)
    A look at the history and slow acceptance of lip syncing. I don’t think you can detail like this in a Wikipedia article so it’s nice to have a historical report collected. Especially now that lip syncing is not that big of a deal and people aren’t worried too much about it.

    An even more egregious example of this kind of pop-music bait-and-switch came via the Italian dance act Black Box, which released an album, Dreamland, in 1990 that was almost entirely sung by a woman named Martha Wash and with no credit to her. Instead, a model named Katrin Quinol lip-synced Wash’s vocals in videos for the group’s global hits “Everybody, Everybody,” “Strike It Up,” and “I Don’t Know Anybody Else,” and appeared on the covers of Black Box’s records. What’s galling about this particular case is Wash was already well known among dance-music fans—she was one half of the Weather Girls, whose 1982 single “It’s Raining Men” was a hit that time made an anthem, and before that she was known for her work with legendary disco diva Sylvester. Martha Wash’s soprano is as singular as it is titanic and it’s amazing that anyone ever tried to pretend that it belonged to someone else after it had already fallen on the listening public’s ears.

  • Will China Save the American Economy?
    China wants to move money out of their country and they are doing so by investing in America. Some are investing money into companies, but this article suggests that Chinese companies building/repurposing manufacturing plants in the US will save the American economy. I don’t see what or how Chinese management can bring to manufacturing jobs in American, when they left the US for a reason (high cost of labour, low efficiency, etc).

    In 2004, factory workers in China made $4.35 an hour, compared to $17.54 that the average factory worker made in the U.S., according to the Boston Consulting Group.

    But labor expenses are rising in China. According to the Chinese Business Climate Survey, put out by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the consulting firm Bain & Company, businesses there cite rising labor costs as their top problem. That’s in part because worker organizations are gaining strength, and strikes and labor disputes are becoming more common. Today, Chinese manufacturing wages adjusted for productivity are $12.47 an hour, compared to $22.32 in the United States, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

  • Exposed: How maulvis take money for one-night stand with divorced women trying to save marriage

    Under Islam law, it’s not possible to remarry your original husband unless you marry someone else. So clerics have taken it upon themselves to do one-night marriages in order to get around this rule.

    At Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, the team met Zubair Qasmi, a qualified maulana married with two wives. He nominated himself up for a third at the prospect of nikah halala, in exchange for money.

    “I spend many nights out. It’s much easier to manage this with two (wives). One would think I am with the second. And the second would think I am with the other. It’s not at all difficult with two (wives),” he bragged.

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:

  1. 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:

    1. It’s by my favorite singer
    2. It’s in the sweet spot of her register
    3. The song and this particular arrangement is catchy
    4. 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!

  2. 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)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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).
  15. 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).
  16. 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’ve been using this scheme for my iTunes playlist for about 10 years now. It’s a good system – when it worked. Unfortunately, when I went through the process of re-organizing my playlists, the dates got all messed up. I’ve went about two years with my smart playlists pulling songs in a dumb manner (half my songs were “added” in the last 2 years).

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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).
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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 (proxy for Amazon) for cover art and for genre details. However, I found out that 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.

The actual work to convert my MP3s from genres to artist/album hierarchy didn’t end up taking too long (maybe 3 hours total). However, I still have a lot of work to do. The problem comes down to, and it’s always this, the conflict between albums and singles.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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?)
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

  • nterview with an Auschwitz Guard: ‘I Do Not Feel Like a Criminal’
    Interesting because of the history, and because I visited the site a few years back

    SPIEGEL: Did you see the corpses being burned?

    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.

  • Jimmy Iovine: The Man With the Magic Ears
    A QA with Jimmy Iovine about his career. Pertinent due to Apple’s recent purchase of Beats, and because U2 has a new album (which Apple seems to be marketing)

    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:

  1. Official MV
  2. Official dance practice
  3. M! Countdown 20140306
  4. KBS Music Bank 20140307
  5. Music Core 20140308
  6. Inkigayo 20140309
  7. SBS The Show 20140311
  8. M! Countdown 20140313
  9. Yu Huiyeol’s Sketchbook 20140314
  10. KBS Music Bank 20140314
  11. Music Core 20140315
  12. Inkigayo 20140316
  13. Show Champion 20140319
  14. Music Core 20140322
  15. Inkigayo 20140323
  16. KBS Music Bank 20140328
  17. Inkigayo 20140330
  18. SBS 20140615

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.

  • The Burden of Being Messi
    It’s World Cup time, so that means more stories about Messi (previously: a visit to his hometown). Nothing too new here, but a reminder that we’re all waiting for him to succeed.

    “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.

  • Stairway to Heaven: The Song Remains Pretty Similar
    Is Stairway to Heaven a rip-off? It seems pretty likely. I didn’t know that Led Zeppelin had many other songs that were rip-offs though!

    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.

  • Meet the godfather of wearables
    Title says it all – he’s led the field for awhile, and the lead on Google Glass was one of his students
  • Guys and Dolls: Veteran Toy Designer Wrestles With the Industry’s Gender Divide
    This article starts slow, but then goes into some interesting thoughts about how toys are being made now (especially for girls)

    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.”

  • Falling for the Stars
    A short article about stunt artists

    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.

  • Production Music: The Songs You Almost Know By Heart
    A quick look into the world of making music for TV and movies (not the celebrity kind)

    “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.

  • Why the Smart Reading Device of the Future May Be … Paper
    This article claims that deep reading (with comprehension) is better using physical paper, and cites a bunch of studies about this. I don’t buy it though, and it seems like the author doesn’t necessarily believe it either

    Ackerman also noted, however, that preference played an important role. When students preferred screen reading, they learned less when required to read from paper, and vice versa.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 태연 (Taeyeon) – 그리고 하나 (And One)
    One of two Taeyeon OST songs this year. The other sucked, but this one is good!
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 알리 (Ali) – 지우개 (Eraser)
    Not sure why I liked this song, it seems to be by an older artist but is sung well.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 스텔라 (Stellar) – 공부하세요 (Study)
    Nice disco-style pop music
  12. 나인뮤지스 (9MUSES) – 건 (GUN)
    This is a catchy single with a nice hook that reminds me of the 80s (Hawaii Five-0?)
  13. 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.