Okami

One of the smartest things I’ve ever done was leave my gaming systems behind when I moved from California to Florida.  Yet it was also the hardest.  But that’s what being it adult means.  It kinda sucks actually.  Gaming for me is the perfect escape. Depending on what I’m playing it is very easy for me to get lost for hours in an epic adventure and forget about my troubles.

On game that I wish I could play now is Okami.  That game was the definition of epic.  Within a week of playing it this game entered into my top 5 favorite games of all time.  And it’s placing is well deserved.  Perfect balance of excellent, innovative gameplay, interesting characters, storyline and of course, the soundtrack.

The music in this game is fantastic.  The music style is inspired classic traditional Japanese.  Which I absolutely loved.  I’ve always like the sound of Japanese instruments.  The way they play the flutes, strings, drums is so distinctly theirs and it’s breathtaking.  No one else can pull off their traditional sound and make it work.  Like with music from anywhere you have to really feel it.  And that’s only possible if you love it, live it, believe in it and own it.

They only released the soundtrack in Japan as they always seem to want to do.  But of course I did not let that stop me from obtaining it.  And so in all of its five disk glory, I uploaded it to my ipod and just let the beauty of the music suck me in.  Before I got the soundtrack there were a couple of spots in the game where the music was just so awesome I would stop and just let the music play.

One of those is my favorite “Ryoshima Coast” parts 1 and 2.  The game was already sweeping and epic, but when I got to this part of the game, it got even more epic.  Part 2 is the best part simply because that’s when the drums kick in and that reed flute becomes more prominent.  Whoever composed this piece, my hat is off to you good sir or madam.  You are a genius.  This tune did not do wonders for my total game time, but who the heck cares!

Another one that I’ll never forget how I felt when I first heard it was still pretty close to the beginning of the game.  “Confronting Ushiwaka” was intense and it wasn’t even that long.  It got the point across very quickly, being ‘Oh shit! It’s about to go down!’ Put this music before any conflict and you have already improved upon it 100%.

Speaking of conflict, “Red Helmet’s Extermination” was fun.  I actually allowed myself to get my ass handed to me on a plate just to get this music to keep playing.  Hearing this even out of context, you can still understand that you are in the midst of a battle of serious magnitude.

The only song with actual lyrics is “Reset”.  Which after I learned the name I accused the game makers of putting in subliminal messages cause that’s exactly what I did when I finally beat the game.  Reset and start all over again, but this time for my 100% completion cause that’s how I roll.  The instrumental version of this song played around the final battle of the game.  I freaking cried!  I cried like a newborn at the beauty and majestic message that was unfolding before me.  It is that powerful.  I had no clue what the song is saying or talking about.  Thanks to whoever translated it.  But the music is so soothing and beautiful.  I actually have it on my playlist for when I’m doing my yoga.

For anyone who hasn’t experienced this epic masterpiece I urge you to try to find it.  It’s a very rare game nowadays though, so finding it may very well be a challenge.  If you have played it and didn’t like it, something is very wrong with you and you obviously don’t know a good game when you see it.  As for myself I love it.  It’s everything that a game should be and in some cases a little more.  My next move is to obtain the sequel so that I can see if they were able to create the magic one more time.

Advertisements

Melanie Fiona

In anticipation of her next album which is supposed to be out in November of this year, I’d like to talk about Melanie Fiona.  She hasn’t been around all that long, but she has left a serious impression on me.  I really love her sound.  Though it’s not unique, it is worlds different from what is super popular right now.  It saddens me how underrated she is.

Her debut album The Bridge which came out in 2009 is a fantastic album.  I’m almost insulted that it didn’t get bigger than it did.  Depending on what song you’re listening to you can hear influences from the Do Wop era, the old school Motown era, some jazz…all the while putting a perfectly soulful spin of her own on it and it’s fabulous.

I recall only hearing three songs hearing from this album on radio stations.  The first and possibly one of the best was the song “Give It To Me Right”.  I love this song! I think it is brilliantly arranged and executed.  That bluesy bass guitar renewed my desire to learn how to play because guitars are sexy.  The subject matter of the song has placed it in my top 10 personal theme songs.

The other song I remember hearing a lot of was ‘It Kills Me’.  Nice little R&B tune about heartbreak and love gone wrong.  This one was her first song to hit #1 on the R&B charts according to my research.  It’s a very nice song.  And I like it, it’s just that it’s not one of my favorites on the cd.  It had they that air of typical about it especially for when it came out.  There was nothing distinguishing this song from all the other R&B artist out there singing about the exact same thing.

I believe that the other song was ‘Ay Yo’.  At first I didn’t even know that this was her.  It was one of those instances where I would keep hearing the song, but the radio djs would not state the artists name.  I would blast my stereo when this song came on.  It was so uplifting and upbeat and it made me smile.  Still makes me smile.  When she says “And I’m gon rock it to the fullest in this life, so I’mma give it all I got before I die” how can you not be pumped and say HELL YEAH!

I have two ultra faves.  One is ‘Bang Bang’!  I have this song on two different playlists on my ipod.  It doesn’t make any sense for it to be on one of them, but I insist on hearing this song as often as possible and it isn’t only about its ballsy subject matter.  The music, the way she sings it, everything about this song is just 360 degrees of badassery and I will stop what I’m doing and just listen to it without distractions.

The other song is ‘Johnny’.  I don’t know why but this song totally makes me think of the 50’s.  Poodle skirts, saddle shoes and Chevy convertibles.  It makes absolutely no sense at all.  Maybe it’s the way it’s composed, maybe it’s the background singers, maybe because of the name Johnny.  I don’t know and I don’t waste my time trying to analyze it.  I like the song like crazy.  I get a kick out of it.

I can’t wait til her next album comes out.  It will be the first time in a long time that I’ve bought a whole cd.  And I really hope it’s worth it.  I hope that she stays true to herself and not let the executive douchebags in the expensive suits change her.  If she does that and at the same time grow as an artist and continues to be unique, I will support her music.  I hope people who didn’t listen to her first album go back and give it a listen.  It was a brilliant body of work and she totally deserves to get a lot more recognition from here on out.

Freak n me

I woke up in the middle of the night with my headphone cord wrapped around my neck.  Yes people, I do sleep with my headphones on.  I’ve made it clear that need music playing around me constantly.  Anyway after untangling myself and ensuring that I wouldn’t strangle myself in my sleep, I attempted to slip back into unconsciousness.

The song that was playing was Dru Hill ‘Tell Me’.  Now if you are me this is not a song to fall asleep to because songs like this tend to set the stage for whatever I dream about.  However the song is just so freaking great, I just continue to listen to it as I drift back to sleep.  And then the freak fest in my mind begins.  And no, I’m not about to tell you what I dream about!

That isn’t the only song puts me in the mood for the slow groove.  There are hundreds of songs that have the power to put me in the mood.  Joe’s song ‘The Love Scene’ paints the image of a night of love so bold and colorful that even the most inexperienced person in this area can totally picture in their mind what it would be like.  I can only listen to this song when my mind is occupied.  I’ve convinced myself it’s safer this way.  That one and Changing Faces ‘Stroke You Up’.  This one conjures up memories if I don’t pay attention.  Both good and bad.

Another dangerous one is an oldie but goodie.  The Isley Brothers ‘Between The Sheets’ is straight up classic ‘we’re about to get down now’ song.  It’s not so much the lyrics, but they do help, so much as it is the music.  The music by itself has this awesome sensual allure to it that it’s hard not to want to grab a guy and tell him, ‘You are coming with me’.  The same can be said for the remix to R. Kelly’s ‘Bump and Grind’.  Say what you will about that man, but he knows how to make good music.  He was ahead of the curve with that one.

One of my new ones is Rihanna’s ‘Skin’.  I think in the 2 months since I’ve put this on my ipod I’ve listened to it more than any other song I have.  And I have thousands!  I had it on loop for 3 days straight.  That is how into it I was.  I can’t get over the song.  It blows the hinges off doors with its magnificence.  And if I had a S/O this song would be my sounding board.  The music is awesome. The lyrics paint a very vivid, very clear picture so there is no way you miss the point of it.  I also share this sentiment about Urban Mystics ‘In The Morning’.  I mean, if it happened, wouldn’t that be fun?

If I had to look through my playlist (what a list!), and pick a song that I love above all others…it’d be very hard.  But at the top of the list would be Patra’s ‘Scent of Attraction’ featuring Aaron Hall and LSG ‘My Body’.  For the first song, I don’t know if it’s her accent, if it’s him, if it’s the music, the lyrics or what.  All I know is I remember when it first came out when I was 16 and I loved the song.  I was crushing hard on a boy 2 years older than me at the time and this song made me think of him.  I hadn’t heard it for almost 12 years and then the radio station I listened to played it and nothing else mattered after that moment except for me getting that song for my own.  It is that powerful.

LSG is a group form in which it takes the last names of it’s members Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill.  I don’t remember how I came across this song.  And it doesn’t matter!  I just know that I was coco nuts about Johnny Gill and whatever he did was gold.  My love of this song is most definitely the lyrics.  I wish Johnny would say them to me.

I guess I like these songs because they can appeal to a side of me that doesn’t get to see daylight very often.  It makes my imagination soar as well as get me to think about past experiences.  From Ginuwine asking how to get ‘In Those Jeans’ to H-Towns ‘Knockin’ Da Boots’, I guess my love and fascination with said subject matter is due to the fact that this other side would like some attention now please.  And one day when I find someone and the mood strikes, I’ll take my cues from SWV and just ask ‘Can We’?

Male Vocal Groups aka ‘boy bands’ NKOTB edition

I’ve always found the term ‘boy band’ highly misleading and slightly insulting.  As a former band geek, when I hear the word ‘band’ I fully expect to see musical instruments of some sort or some sign of instrumental talent present.  Like The Monkees and The Beatles.  Those guys were boy bands.  They did everything.  Otherwise, you are just a vocalist.  And another thing, do you still call them a boy band at the fifty year reunion?  That’s kinda stupid if you think about it.  Well at least that’s my personal opinion and I know it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.  But I digress.

Say the word boy band now days and you’ll hear BSB and N’SYNC.  Though they were the last wave, they were the biggest, but not the only ones.  Hundreds of boy bands have come and gone in the last 15 years.  Some of them great.  Others not so much.  In my research I came across names of boy bands that I’d never heard of.  But they were out there.

What is the appeal of these groups.  Let’s look past the fact that these are manufactured groups.  Let’s look beyond the fact that they were solely marketed to tweens and teens. Let’s forget about the ever popular boy band formula.  Let’s look at their music. In particular the group New Kids On The Block.

I grew up in the 80s when NKOTB exploded on the music scene.  Ah! Joey, Jordan, Jonny, Danny, & Donnie (and Mark before he went solo)!  As a preteen girl I LOVED theses guys!  I’d like to say that in 50% pride and 50% shame I admit that I had the dolls and t-shirts back in the day.   Shut up!!  I gravitated to the messages of love and forever.  Thinking back I think to myself ‘Why was I into these concepts at 10?’  Answer, the songs were catchy as hell…and singers were cute.  NKOTB ‘Hangin Tough’ album was the first of their music I heard.  The song ‘You Got It (The Right Stuff)’ was HUGE!  Watching the video now may make me cringe, but the song still has the same impact.  It’s catchy, well vocalized, the message was cute…what’s not to love.   The album title song ‘Hangin Tough’ tho I’m watching the video as I gather my thoughts to type this makes me want to die of laughter(Oh my God the dancing, those clothes!), and the song is epically ridiculous, it still kick ass.  I still bump their song ‘Step By Step’ off their 3rd album ‘Step By Step’ on my Ipod constantly!

Looking back on it, I think to myself…Oh my God!  I’m honestly not sure if I was as heavily into them because I really liked them or if it was a sign of my environment and I was just rolling with the tide.  All of my friends, yes I mean every single one of them, were huge fans.  We all thought they were so cool and tough looking and seeing the videos again now, I see these guys were anything but.  Were they brave for rocking those outfits and dancing around like a bunch of wounded chimpanzees, sure.  It conveyed what they were trying to get across.  But tough…yeah, no.   I can safely say I don’t think any of these guys would have busted a grape in a food fight.

As far as I know they are still out on the circuit.  Touring, making new music, the whole bit.  And they will continue to do alright for themselves.  I continue to support them partially from nostalgia, but the other part is because they are actually very talented guys that deserve my support.  I want them to keep making the type of music that they make.  As long as it’s fresh and they continue to grow their craft and get better and please God, don’t follow today’s trends, they’ll always have a fan.

Never play that again!

I was having a discussion with a friend the other day and I told her that while I like all types of music there were certain songs that I just really don’t like.  To her this equated that I don’t like all types of music.  I don’t agree with her and I doubt that I ever will.  It just does not make sense no matter how objectively I try to look at it.

I don’t see how an aversion to certain songs here and there equals cutting out and depreciating an entire genre of music.  For instance the song “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin is a tune that I did like in the beginning.  Overtime however hearing this makes me want to smash my head against a rock.  I don’t know if it was overplayed or just extremely annoying, but I learned to loath this song.  I do appreciate the artists work and what he achieved with it.  Still I can do without ever hearing it again.

One song that I also used to like but now hate is the song “I’ll Make Love To You” by Boys 2 Men.  I hate that song for a reason.  It brings up bad memories for me.  This song came about when I was a sophomore in high school and I was dating a really cute football player who turned out to be not so cute.  He used to sing this song, badly I might add, to me all the time.  So now when I hear this song I think of him and get instantaneously angry.  Now, I ask you, does this mean I hate Boys 2 Men, R&B music or love songs?  Well does it?

A more recent song that just fills me with uncontrollable rage is the song “Bed” by J Holiday.  I hate, loath and despise this song.  I hate everything about it.  The lyrics, the music, the composition.  Everything.  It grates on my nerves like nails down a chalkboard when I hear it.  It is by far the most irritating song ever and I wish I could shoot it, dismember it and bury it so that I never have to hear it again.  That’s how much I hate this song.  Got nothing against the kid singing it, though I’m sure he’s all auto-tune, but I have to respect his hustle and this song made him popular. But I seriously believe that my IQ level dropped 10 points having heard this song.

Got an even better one for you.  As astonishing as this may sound I absolutely abhor one Michael Jackson song.  Yes, it’s true.  According to my mother, grandmother and aunt the song “She’s Out Of My Life” disturbed me as an infant.  An infant, people! With no concept of music appreciation whatsoever I was hating on this song from a bassinet.  They had to stop the record(look it up if you don’t know what that is) before it got to this or I would have a class A fit.  Listening to it as an adult I didn’t find anything in particular that was god awful about the song until he hit this one particular note that for some reason does not sit well with me.  So suffice it to say, I still can’t listen to this song.  I dare someone to tell me I’m not a Michael Jackson fan cause I don’t like this.  I will slap the taste buds off your tongue.

And I admit that yes, there are some artist or acts that I may not like too much, but they unfortunately they by some magical design they have catchy songs.  Perfect example of this is the Pussycat Dolls.  Hate them.  Aside from being a shallow, plastic, under dressed mess, they are thieves.  Their very first hit “Don’t Cha” was stolen from a burlesque act created by Elise Neal.  I never understood why they were a group anyway.  It was basically Nicole Scherzinger and the rest were her backup dancers.  So while I think that they were auto tuned talentless hacks, that song “Buttons” is freaking awesome.  I love that one.

What is it about certain songs or genres that make us hate them or like them.  Is it in the music itself that we are opposed/drawn to?  Is it the lyrics or the artist or the presentation?  When we hear a song, what is it within us that once we hear it we decide then and there that we like it or don’t?  Does it come down to we just like what we like or is there something more to it?  Just curious.

The Tipper Sticker. Screwing kids over since 1985.

The seal of doom

This sticker used to make me seethe with rage and anguish.  It was the symbol of unavoidable doom.  Because as a kid who has parents that actually pay attention, this was a sign that the piece of musical art that you wanted to get your grubby little paws on was in mortal jeopardy of being left behind in the store without any chance of negotiation.

I remember back when I was 15 I went to the store with my dad and as per usual I ended up in the music section.  This was the year that Bone Thugs-n-Harmony had released their cd ‘Creepin on ah Come Up’ and boy did I want it.  So I got it and headed to the register and waited to pay for my new property. (Whooo Haa lucrative babysitting gigs!)  So I get up there and the lady behind the counter looks at me and asks how old I am.  I tell her and then she proceeds to tell me that I can’t buy it without my parents permission.  Something told me that something was not right here, but I was a slow and stupid kid who couldn’t look much further past what she wanted.  So I hunt my dad down and get him to the register and he looks at my purchase, looks at me, then the conversation goes like this:

Nope.  You can’t have this.

But daaadddy, I want to get this.  I’ve been saving up for it.

No.  I don’t want you listening to this stuff in my house.  It’s got unacceptable language.

Much wailing and begging ensued but being as my dad was/is a minister, it was a battle that was not to be won.  So I left the store feeling angry and dejected.  How dare these people tell me what I can and can’t buy with my money?  Where’d they come off treating me like some dumb kid?  I brooded that day for hours in my room.  Plotting my vengeance or whatever it is 15 year olds plot.  Someone was going to pay for this outrage.  Retribution would be mine!

Later dad came and talked to me and explained his reasoning behind his decision.  It went a little something like this:

The reason I didn’t allow you to have that cd is because the messages in that type of music are not cool or acceptable.  I don’t like all the foul language, the degradation of women, the violence, and not much meaning.  All this bitches and hoes stuff.  Do you consider yourself either of these things?

Of course I don’t dad, but for me it isn’t about that anyway.  The songs are catchy and I like the music.  I don’t go around saying these things.

Good.  Stay that way.  But there is my reasoning and hopefully one day you’ll understand.

Well, that’s the cliff-notes version.  I understood him then.  I just didn’t agree with him.  In a way I still don’t.  I live under the belief system that words mean nothing unless power is given to them.  I hear the term bitch all the time.  Heck I get called it very often.  I just take it as a clue that the person saying it doesn’t have a very large vocabulary to work with.  True, the music then and more so now use these terms oftentimes to the point of excess to get their point across, but I didn’t see it as a reason to reject outright hearing what the point was.

I got that cd about a week later from a friend of mine. (Take that! :-p )  And started listening to some other people.  Tupac was the biggest one.  It took me months to listen to all his music.  I got ahold of Ice Cube, Wu Tang Clan, Public Enemy, NWA, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane and others.  Dr. Dre’s ‘The Chronic’ is still one of my favorite rap albums ever.  I listened to so many groups and felt sad because A. I almost missed out on a genre of popular music that was interesting and B. my father didn’t think I had brains enough to comprehend what I was hearing.  All because of a stupid sticker that had to ruin everything.

During this time, my friends totally griped that this was some sort of plot to keep music by black artists under.  But they were totally wrong.  The white artists were catching just as much heat and ire due to this sticker.  A lot of those artist were the ones that were up on Capitol Hill protesting the infringement of this tag on their music.  Which I totally respect and admire.  And even better, they were pretty damn vocal and open about their displeasure in their music.  Which was really freaking awesome.

But in time dad would come to be 100% correct.  Rap these days really doesn’t have much meaning to it.  Not like it used to anyway.  Now it is all about ass and screwing and making money.  Which, depending on who your listening to, has become tiresome, uninteresting and annoying.  In that secret experimental rap music stage, I also went back a bit further.  I listened to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and the Sugarhill Gang.  I still love those groups to this day.  They remind me that you can get your point across and be fantastic without being vulgar and over the top.  I kind of miss rap/hip hop as being a lyrical social commentary about what’s going on.  And they didn’t need labels.

But the question is ‘do I think that these artist need to be flagged?’  To keep it out of kids hands, if their parent is not going to pay attention to them, then yes.  If you have a parent that does pay attention and will sit down and have open discussions about it instead of banning it outright, then let experience it.  In the end, do I think it will make a difference?  No.  I’ve proven that kids will get what they want from wherever if they want it bad enough and know the right people.

I both curse and bless Tipper Gore for her blatant interference into my life.  As a kid I didn’t get it and didn’t want to.  I couldn’t see past what I wanted.  But now as a full-grown woman I get where she is coming from.  I don’t like it, but I get it.  And to think, the whole thing was born because of a song by Prince of all people.

Grease

Looooooove is a many splendid thing…Did I mentioned that I loved musicals?  No!  Well yes, yes I do and as a kid who grew up in the 80s it should come as a surprise to no one that as a lover of musicals I loved Grease.  Everything about it, the settings, the costumes, a young John Travolta.  I know the movie word for word.  Ask my family, they’ll tell ya.  I remember when I was about 9 or 10 living in Florida and I had a babysitter named Jessica.  She always brought her vhs copy of Grease with her when she came to sit for us.  We in turn let her watch our copy of Pete’s Dragon which she loved.  Bartering at it’s finest folks.

I won’t go into the story.  We all know it.  Yes it was kind of cheesy and hokey but sweet Lord, that’s what makes it so charming and how it stood the test of time.  It’s a classic.  The music and songs were a huge part of that.  And young John Travolta.  I defy anyone to tell me that when they hear ‘You’re the One That I Want’ or ‘Summer Nights’  they don’t sing along.  They even play these songs on the radio sometimes.  That’s how great these songs are.  My personal favorite songs are ‘Beauty School Dropout’.  And why not, it was sang by Frankie Avalon!  He’s freakin’ awesome.  And ‘Grease Lightening’  That song kicks all of your asses.  It is made of 100% pure greatness.  The music from Sha Na Na that plays during the dance scene is dated, but still fantastic.  I will probably try to Hand Jive right now if I heard the song.

I’m not too sure about the stage musical.  I haven’t had the opportunity to see it yet.  I know that this was a play before it was a movie, but it would still be nice to see how it translated from live theater to silver screen.  In my research I’ve read that back in the 70s the play had the part of Danny played by Richard Gere, isn’t that crazy.  For a time I had wondered if John Travolta could actually sing, but I found out that he was in the play at some point too, so the answer is yes. Yes he can.

Writing this post has made me think about this film and I acknowledge that I haven’t seen it in about a  year. Also that I need to rebuy the soundtrack cause I have no idea where my copy is and it upsets me. I know it’s probably strange to want to constantly watch the same movie over and over, but this truly was a great film.  It had everything, great story, fantastic songs, and a young John Travolta.  It just wins.  I mean, who can listen to the opening song ‘Grease’ and not be sold for the next 90 minutes?  See ya!