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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Jackson

Black Music Month Spotlight: My Favorite Black Musicians of The Past

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Since this is my first year celebrating black music month, I’d like to share my favorite black musicians of the past. As an early twenty-something, I am so grateful to be able to appreciate these musicians and their impact on music today.

Janet Jackson- As a 90’s kid, I grew up listening to her and Michael. On her birthday last month, I rediscovered her music via a bunch of tracks that were not released as singles and songs released as alternative versions. My favorite Janet songs are “The Knowledge“, “Velvet Rope“, “Special“, “Funky Big Band” and the guitar mix version of “Black Cat“.  My favorite Janet music video is “Alright“.

When I was a kid, my parents recorded The Velvet Rope tour on VHS when it came on HBO. I loved watching that concert over and over. I also liked watching a VHS tape I still have called The Rhythm Nation compilation, which has all the music videos from the album Rhythm Nation 1814.

Death, the punk band If you have viewed the documentary A Band Called Death like I have, then you know that this band has a unique and special story. In the mid-70’s the band’s original line-up (David, Bobby, and Dannis Hackney) recorded the master tapes for what would become the album Death For The Whole World To See. Unfortunately, the band’s name prevented any record company from fully supporting them, and the music would remain unknown until 2008.

I liked that David Hackney, the band’s late guitarist and founder, was willing to stick to what he believed the band should be. He was the one who came up with the name Death and the spirituality around it, and I liked how he incorporated some of  his beliefs into the song “Let The World Turn“.

Another thing I like about this band is that they were willing to play rock music during a time when black musicians were expected to do Motown or soul and disco music. Some tracks on For The Whole World To See incorporate funk and rock, which is really cool.

Overall, I think this band was ahead of their time. Listening to them led me to discover the Afro-punk music genre, so I’m happy I learned about them.

Poly Styrene from the punk band X-Ray Spex- I love how Poly yelled the lyrics with so much fire and conviction. She didn’t care how she sounded, because she had something she wanted people to hear no matter what. I also liked that she held her ground in a mostly white, male-dominated genre.  I love the song “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” because it really lets you know who she is. Heck, the entire Germ Free Adolescents album reflects her bold spirit. R.I.P. Poly.

Rock Musician Chuck Berry- He was the first classic rock musician I ever listened to. I have four songs from him on my iPod, but I like watching live clips of him on YouTube because you can see how awesome his guitar playing was. Like most people, I think “Johnny B. Goode” is the best.

Blues-Jazz Singer Billie Holiday- I love her voice, especially when it was younger because it was so golden. I love the way she stretches out the words on songs like “Billie’s Blues” because it allows me to savor the emotion in her voice. I also liked how she could fight when she wanted to. According to a BBC documentary I watched, she once hit a guy with a chair because he made a lewd gesture toward her when she was performing the haunting anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit“.

Jazz Singer Sarah Vaughan- Her young voice is like drinking something warm and sweet. It always gives me a good, soothing feeling when I listen to it. She is my number one favorite female jazz singer. My favorite song by her is “Autumn in New York“. I wish I could go back in time and see her live. Recently, I discovered a beautiful live version of the song “Over The Rainbow“.

Jazz musician and bandleader Cab Calloway- I’ve had a couple of his songs on my iPod, but I’ve recently added four more and have become fascinated by him. His upbeat songs like “Jumpin Jive” are so energetic and fun to listen to. I love that he is multi-talented; he could sing, dance, scat, compose songs, and lead a band. Not to mention, he had his own dictionary of slang words!

Besides Sarah, he is someone else I’d love to see live. Recently, I watched this great documentary about him called Sketches and have been watching some live footage of his performances. One that has become a favorite is “St. Louis Blues“. In the past, I also remember loving the live version of “Jumpin Jive” with The Nicholas Brothers from the film Stormy Weather.

Honorable Mentions:

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong– I love Ella’s voice and scatting and Louis’s voice and trumpet playing, but I think they sound best together. They are they perfect combo. Love their versions of  “Summertime” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me“.

Michael Jackson- My favorite song by him will always be “Human Nature“. It holds a special place in my heart because I love the lyrics and his vocals and this song helped me put imagery into my poetry when I was in high school. I don’t really have a particular favorite music video, but I always enjoyed watching the movie Moonwalker on VHS. R.I.P. Michael.

 

Music Video Spotlight: “Many Moons” by Janelle Monae

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This music video originally came out in 2008 and was part of Monae’s EP Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase).  At six minutes long, it was promoted as a short film.

This is my favorite Janelle Monae music video so far. The fact that it is a short film makes the song more interesting because the story in this video is part of a big saga.

In the video, an android auction is taking place and android Cindy Mayweather is the musical entertainment. Yet, something doesn’t seem right in Metropolis. Why is Cindy singing, “Your freedom is in a bind”?

The best thing I love about the video is the dancing. At a certain point in the video, Cindy starts dancing.  if you watch closely, you can see her moonwalk forward and backwards. After that, she starts dancing like crazy. Not only was this a good way for Monae to be herself, but it was also a good way to pay homage to one of her influences.

Related Posts:

Album Review: The Electric Lady by Janelle Monae

Musician Spotlight: Janelle Monae

Written by Serena Zola

September 23, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Op Ed: How Pop Music Can Be More Unique

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A few weeks ago, I read an article on the Huffington Post entitled “Pop Music Too Loud And All The Same: Official“. I don’t know about the too loud part, but I’ve thought most pop music sounded all the same since high school.

Anyway, the article got me thinking about how pop music can be more unique:

1. Don’t be Cookie Cutter; Be You

One of the reasons Pink is my favorite pop musician is that I admire her for having the courage to find her own sound and tell people she was going to do her music her way. And what better way to do it than with the song “Don’t Let Me Get Me”? A song with a similar message is Avril Lavinge’s “Nobody’s Fool”, which is from her debut album Let Go. Like Pink, Avril Lavinge has left her own mark in the music industry with this song and many others.

2.  Use love, sex, and relationship lyrics sparingly

Ok, I know these things make the world go round. However, as human beings, we have other emotions and things we experience. It wouldn’t hurt if more pop musicians wrote about the world around them. Even Michael Jackson, for all his dance songs, literally wrote about the world in  songs like “Earth Song”.

3. Don’t be afraid to go deep

Sometimes, the most powerful songs end up being inspired by personal experiences. Take the song “I’m Ok” by Christina Aguilera. Any fan (or person willing do some research) will know that this song is based on Christina’s childhood. While it might not be as famous as the song “Beautiful”, it is still a song worth acknowledging.

4. Make a creative music video

While the song may be fine by itself, a great music video can bring it to life. If you don’t like the song, then maybe the music video will make you appreciate it a little. A recent example is for Pink’s new song “Blow Me (One Last Kiss).” I don’t like the song due to my personal taste, but the music video made me feel better about it.

LINKS:

Don’t Let Me Get Me- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_t9AA3Z4PE

Nobody’s Fool-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X6pKjgjfko

Earth Song- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sg5EkHF5tg&hd=1

I’m Ok-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quAFmNvk_Zs

Blow Me One Last Kiss-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jNlIGDRkvQ

Written by Serena Zola

August 12, 2012 at 6:00 PM

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