music

5 (unpopular) SONGS TO CHECK OUT

MUSIC.

What do you think of when you hear the word music? Or more importantly… What do you hear?

In March of this year, I was asked to write a paper on my ten favorite songs for a college class. Though I wondered why it would be educationally beneficial to do this, I was able to compose a list of my favorite songs, most of which are pretty unpopular. I’m into songs with deeper meaning, melodies that unleash a river of emotions, and fresh, thoughtful writers.

Since music is KEY to my writing process, I thought it would be interesting to share five songs all of you should check out. I know some of you may not speak English, but maybe you will still enjoy the music itself and could translate the lyrics.

Anyway, here they are!


STRAWBERRY SWING by Coldplay (2008)

This song was released in 2008, two years after my sister was born, and ever since its release, the two of us will play this song and be taken back to a time when she was a little girl, and so was I. This song has great sentimental value for me, and rightfully so, because this song is bittersweet in tone anyway. Interestingly enough, the song begins with a group of clapping sounds that are gradually replaced by drums, and I can see how this relates to the change of a child into adulthood, which is the theme of this song.

There is amazing symbolism within this song that makes it incredible. “Strawberry Swing” refers to the singer and his childhood crush, and the titular strawberry is an adjective for the sweetness of youth and childhood. As an adult, the singer can look back and see how he once thought the world was beautiful, but now he sees it with nostalgic eyes and a desire to remember his childhood with only happiness.

The song reaches a crescendo with the realization, “It’s such a perfect day.” Here he remembers the ultimate brightness of his youth, but there is also an alarm clock-like sound in the background as he has this epiphany. Therefore, it is apparent that we hear is the sudden jolt back to reality for the singer, where his memory is like a dream he must wake up from.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H84ia4pR2PI


THE TRUTH by Carla Morrison (2012)

In high school, I decided to listen to Spanish music (and funnily enough I ended up studying abroad in Argentina), whenever I drove to and from school. In this way, I discovered Carla Morrison, a Mexican-American singer whose main themes include love, family, and pride for her culture. “The Truth” is ironically her only song in English, and it is one I will no doubt include in my wedding someday.

The song is very simplistic, with a consonant chords relying heavily on C major. Carla’s voice is sweet and feminine, and it is perfect against the backdrop of the principal instrument, the ukulele. With each additional chorus, Carla’s voice is layered by harmonized voices, and it is really beautiful, because it showcases her stunning vocals. I think that I love this song because it is relies more on Carla’s melodic voice rather than the combination of five or more instruments. Instead, this song is about Carla and her ukulele, and that leaves more emphasis on the song itself as well.

The beat is 4/4 and very rhythmic as well. It is easy to sway along to the beat and get lost in the beauty of the song, from its romantic lyrics to the sweet thrum of the ukulele. I really appreciate that this song is a lot more calming and simplistic than the others on the list, and it is one that I know I will like forever, even if it is not my favorite song of all time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jAp-CmIB_E


ATTENTION SEEKER by Etiquette (2015)

There are many reasons why this is my favorite song of all time, but I am content to discuss the three major elements that draw me into this one. First, the song’s tempo (or the speed at which a passage of music is played) is slow, casual, and airy. It is lackadaisical, almost as if someone is walking around a park, trying to escape the constant rhythm of the city. There is tempo rubato in the song during its most defining parts, where there is a temporary disregard of the strict speed, and I appreciate this because it is a song of thought, and it almost acts like a string of thoughts in the process.

Furthermore, this song’s melody is one that never grows old to me. Melody can be defined as a sequence of notes that are the principal part of harmonized music, and the melody in this song is incredible. The instruments used are incredible, but it is the melody that really delivers the song. Both the singer’s choice of lyrics and the melody of the music itself are brilliant, and when they are combined—it is magic to my ears.

As a person who loves words, I am drawn to this song because of its lyrical prowess. Lines like “Simple conversation is a land mine field / Tread lightly” are incredibly impressive to me, as I become enraptured by the power of the words in relation to the sweeping sensation of the music itself. For me personally, I appreciate songs with actual meaning, and this one is no exception to this rule.

“Attention Seeker” seeks to examine the condition of the human heart, of a person who wants nothing more than to be recognized by all those around him or her. The singer, on the other hand, promotes an ideology for individualism and freedom of expression, and I love to live by these principles. Add in a steady, calming beat, and there’s my favorite song!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-zHI34EOKE


LIFE HAPPENS by Ardyn (2017)

I only discovered this song a few months ago, but it is one that left me completely inspired, and that is a difficult task for a song to do. This, much like “Attention Seeker” is heavily influenced by both the music component and the lyrics of the singer, so that the combination of the melody and the lyrical meaning produce a single masterpiece.

“Life Happens” is bolstered by layers of sound, which includes multiple musical textures. For example, I really love that this song employs homophonic texture, which incorporates harmony and the combination of melody and chordal accompaniment. Furthermore, every time I listen to this song, I hear a different instrument—a different layer—that inspires me further, and makes me appreciate the time and effort dedicated to this song.

The song has a strong melody, where its succession of pitches creates a strong cadence later in the song. The resting pace has a medium tempo combined with a duple meter. However, it is the song’s ornamented melodies that really stir something emotional within me. The first chorus, there is a strong melody, but in each successive chorus, there is more and more, and it is apparent that Ardyn is a proponent for embellishment to the song as it continues on, which mirrors the song’s theme that life is complicated and difficult and has multiple layers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yDDgLKxwyM


JUNGLE by Tash Sultana (2017)

“Jungle” is a song that is inspired by both a powerful rhythm and a powerful melody. The song features glissando, the technique that uses a continuous slide up and down between notes, and this really bolsters the song in my mind.

The song is strong, and bolstered by its use of guitars and strong rhythm and beat, I can see colors like scarlet and electric blue and violet, in order to reflect the sharp, strong personality Tash Sultana uses for her song. I see images of lovers in a forest, and I can see how the song’s title of “Jungle” is exemplified through the layers of the song—but also from the song’s depth and emotion. Tash Sultana combines all three forces—lyrics, instruments, and melody—to produce a song that has true power and a true hold over me as I listen to it. It’s got traditional elements and untraditional elements, and I love that Tash Sultana is willing to take risks in her songs.

The song is one of my favorites, but it’s one that was a great part of my second semester experience in Argentina. I know that this is one of those songs that I will hear and will transport me straight back to Buenos Aires.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZvP7PwUAwM


Therefore, hopefully you will like some of these songs, depending on your taste in music. Also, the definition of “unpopular” can be kind of hard to define, but these songs aren’t ones you will normally hear on the trashy radio stations of today. (Sorry, was that too ruthless?)

Anyway, if you want to share some of your favorite songs with me, I will absolutely give them a listen. 🙂

Until next time,

-K.

music

COUNTRY MUS(E)IC?

Up until a few months ago, most of my introductory conversations went a bit like this:

“Oh, you’re from Tennessee? Like, with cowboys and country music and stuff?”

“Yeah. But I’m not from Nashville.”

“So, you must love country music, right?”

Um. What do I say? Most of the time I went for the middle-of-the-road approach. “It’s not my favorite.” More like the epitome of my annoyance. I couldn’t even listen to a simple George Strait song without turning the channel.

Then, around April of this past year, something changed. A spark of new life, I suppose. Now, mind you, even though I hail from Tennessee, my favorite genre of music is electronica/indie pop. I grew up on ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, and a splash of Spanish-infused ballads. Country was not part of my repertoire. I listened to anything except country, in fact.

Let’s head back in time to April. It was a fun-filled month, a great month, in fact; and somehow, some friends of mine convinced me, a Tennessean by birth, to go line dancing. In California. “California? Country music?” I asked, perplexed.

It turns out that certain Californians love their country music just as religiously as certain Southerners. I was shocked to discover this. Why? I wanted to know.

It’s something different. Unique.

Not to my ears!

So, because line dancing sounded like a weird and unique thing to do–and why not, when in California–I went with them. I had to borrow some cowboy boots from a friend. When I told my friends back home that I was going to a line dance, they didn’t believe me.

But I did. And since then, from that unforgettable night, I grew to appreciate country music. It took a few more months after that for me to really like country music and to not mind listening to it. While it still is not my favorite genre, it took some Californians and a memorable dance floor to teach a Tennessean to find country music fun.

So, now that I’ve bored you to death with my conversion experience, I’d like to share a few of my favorite female-powered country songs. As a newbie to the world (though I have been to the Grand Ole Opry and prefer a rugged, green field to the city), I don’t know much. I’m learning more and more, and now, whenever my Southern friends blast country music, I’m able to identify a few of the singers and their songs.

Without further ado, here are my top picks. For now. 😉


“BOONDOCKS” by Little Big Town

And I can feel / That muddy water running through my veins

This is my jam now. I can feel this song running through my veins about once a day. When did I first hear it? Well, when I was a kid, actually, because unlike me, my mom did like and listen to country, and so at times she made me listen with her when we drove around in our old Volvo. (Interesting sight indeed.)

I did like Little Big Town, even as an unruly kid with bad musical taste. Something about the four, haunting voices melting together like chocolate in ice cream was a delight to me. However, I would never have listened to LBT on my own.

Now, though, I know most of their hits. “Pontoon,” “Day Drinking,” “Little White Church,” “Better Man,” “Girl Crush,” and “Good as Gone” are all stellar songs that really emphasize Karen Fairchild’s super vocals.

Specifically, “Boondocks” is a definite anthem for the country kid. Even though it took me a while to accustom myself to the genre, I definitely feel a certain camaraderie with LBT on this song that emphasizes the positives of growing up in, well, the boondocks. (And you don’t have to be Southern to resonate with this song. That is what my Californian friends taught me!)

“BISCUITS” by Kacey Musgraves

Pourin’ salt in my sugar won’t make yours any sweeter

Kacey Musgraves. Who’s she? That was my first impression of her. She had an okay voice, and her music seemed sweetly country. Then I started to listen to her more intently, first with “Merry-Go-Round,” which won a Grammy. This woman knows how to write a song.

After “Merry-Go-Round,” I listened to “Follow Your Arrow,” and thought again that she knows how to write songs that are interesting and pull you in. Unlike most of today’s rather repetitive message, Kacey takes a spin on daily topics.

In “Biscuits” we are reminded to let others live their lives without judgment, lest we be judged. Kacey is a bit controversial in the country community, but because of her songwriting ability, I find her songs lively and summery fun.

“JOLENE” by Dolly Parton

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene / Please don’t take him just because you can

“Jolene” is a classic, both in the country field and across the United States. Jolene, with her long auburn hair, is a stunner, but even more so is the phenomenon herself, Dolly Parton, whom I first noted on an episode of Hannah Montana (haha).

“Jolene” may be an older song, but I love it. In fact, “Jolene” may be in my top two songs. There is something about the lyrics that draws its listener in, from the rolling octaves to the gutsy message. It may not be the feminist anthem of the century, but I love it. Jolene’s bad, the narrator’s jealous, and the narrator’s man is tempted. It’s a love triangle for the ages.

Dolly Parton, why didn’t I listen to you sooner?

“I GOT THE BOY” by Jana Kramer

I got the first kiss, and she’ll get the last / She’s got the future, I got the past

Once upon a time, when I was about fourteen, I spent a summer with Netflix and a little TV show called One Tree Hill, a teenage drama that introduced me to Jana Kramer, who played a singer on the show. Flash forward to my country days, and she has a song I really like, “I Got the Boy.” Mind blown!

I didn’t necessarily care about the song when I first heard it. I thought Jana’s voice was a bit twangy, but when I heard it the second, third, fourth time, I listened to the song and was able to connect to the narrator. The song is interesting, because it twists time and develops a story between a teenage love to an adult love. I’m not the biggest romantic in the world, but the song made me think about time and love and, yeah, I like this one.

“HEADS CAROLINA, TAILS CALIFORNIA” by Jo Dee Messina

We can pack tomorrow, tonight let’s flip a coin / Heads Carolina, Tails California

When I heard this song the first time, I was like, “Who is singing this? This voice is weird!” I picked up my lifeline, my cellular device, and met Jo Dee Messina. I’d never heard her name before, but I can tell you, I know it now.

The song is a fun one. It is the perfect summer road trip song, if you’re off on an adventure with the love of your life. “Heads Carolina, Tails California” reminds us of a certain spontaneity revolving around young love and the opportunity to do whatever you want, impulsively or not.

While it is not my favorite country song, I like this one because it fits in my love of travel and the concept of learning to be free enough to do what you want to do on your own terms.

ANYTHING BY THE QUEEN OF COUNTRY POP, SHANIA TWAIN

Shania is legend.

Let’s swing back to the time I told you my mom made me listen to country. For whatever reason, as a kid I never considered Shania Twain country. She sounded like a pop singer to me, and I loved her. Therefore, now that I like country, I’ve been listening more to her than the usual classics such as “You’re Still the One,” Man! I Feel Like a Woman!,” and “Forever and Always.”

Honestly, there are a million more I could add to this list. My ultimate favorite of hers is “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” And now that she’s in the middle of a full-force comeback, I’m more excited than ever!

“ODE TO BILLY JOE” by Bobbie Gentry***

He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge / And she and Billy Joe was throwin’ somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Bobbie Gentry wrote my favorite song of all time. That feels good to get off my chest.

I discovered this song back in my I-hate-country-phase. Honestly, I listened to it over and over again in secret for a while, until I finally opened it up to my family and friends, who also love this song and the unbelievably great storytelling within.

Billy Joe is a strange dark mist of a song. It’s a mysterious, what the heck happened, and what did they throw off that darn bridge type of song. It’s one that you can debate with anyone and everyone just to hear what people think happened between the young narrator and her secret relationship with a young man named Billy Joe. I think the reason I love it so much is because it tells a story within the four minutes or so of song, and we don’t fully know the whole story. Can we trust the narrator?

All I know is that, when I went to college, I listened to “Billy Joe” when I desperately missed the green lush countryside of North Mississippi, where this song takes place.

This is a must! Everyone needs to hear it at least once (if not a million times) in his or her lifetime.


So, there you have it, my friends!

I am a country music muse these days. And I’m going to encourage you to check it out too, no matter where you’re from, or who you are, or what you believe country music to be. There is the stereotyped bro-country genre, and the beer and trucks and girls and dogs, but that’s not what I want to hear. There are some serious treasures within this genre!

Check it out!

Until next time,

-K.