Taylor Swift Red Tour: Los Angeles, CA August 19th and 20th (Repost)

Reposting some older pieces from my other blog.

My last post was a review of Taylor Swift’s most recent album and a confession of my new found love of her. This new semi-obsession would explain my latest fascination with all things red (lipstick, shoes, etc.), retro styles (50s inspired fashion) and black and white polka dots. I say “semi-obsession” because, while I have been listening to her music in increased levels and purchasing Taylor infused merchandise, I’m not to the point of wanting to tattoo her lyrics on my skin or showing up to a concert in full costume. “Semi-obsession” also covers purchasing tickets to her concert (twice). Here’s where I lose some credibility on my former claim.

I went to the first two concerts of her LA shows. They were back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday night. I could make excuses (we got tickets in November for the first show and I got tickets later because another friend of mine wanted to go) but the truth is I saw her perform live two nights in a row and I’m not embarrassed to admit it (okay, maybe I’m a little ashamed but not enough to let it bother me). I sacrificed sleep and a little dignity in order to do this but it was so worth it.

Setlist for Night #1:

State of Grace
Holy Ground
Red
You Belong With Me
The Lucky One
Mean
22
Ours
Everything Has Changed
Begin Again
Sparks Fly
Want U Back (Cher Lloyd)
I Knew You Were Trouble
All Too Well
Love Story
Brave (Sara Bareilles)
Treacherous
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

We (my cousin and I) purchased the VIP package for the first night (I know, losing credibility on “semi-obsession” claim) and that includes a “gift bag” which we got the week before (pictured below). In it was a “Red” blanket, some guitar picks, a light up baton, iPhone case (which I can’t use but is still awesome), phone sound amplifier, some bracelets, some greeting cards, a tote bag, and programs for each of her tours (Fearless, Speak Now and Red). The VIP package also included a signed cd which we received when we checked in, as well as access to the VIP lounge where they provided food and beverages (non-alcoholic) for us. Oh, and tickets for seats in the first 10 rows (we were in Row 9). The only drawback was that the tickets were will call only and my parents had to go down to LA Live (in Monday night traffic, ugh) because we used their credit card to purchase them (my parents must really love me). Despite this, I would say that the VIP package was very worth the price we paid.

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Swift opened with “State of Grace” and stuck mostly to other hits off of the Red Album (makes sense). She threw in a couple hits off of Fearless and Speak Now but nothing from her first album. Each number out spectacled the previous one. There were fireworks, strobe lights, and she even flew over the crowd at one point. She started off on the main stage, then during “22” she moved through the crowd to a small stage near the back of the stadium to perform a short set. While this sucked for the people in the front rows (namely us) I do have to say that this was one of my favorite things about the night. For one, it gave me an excuse to sit down for a few minutes and watch one of the four massive screens broadcasting the performance (oh my god, I’m so old!). Second, I think it’s awesome that she does this to reach out to her fans who paid for (or could only afford) the cheap seats. She doesn’t just pander to the ones who shelled out the big bucks but really tries to reach every corner of the crowd. After this short set, she gets in a lift that flies her over the audience, back to the main stage (while singing “Sparks Fly”) and finishes off the show.

She consistently has had guest performers during her shows and she did not disappoint this night. She had not one but two artist that stopped by to play their latest hits! First up was Cher Lloyd, whom I didn’t recognize by name but once they started singing “Want U Back” I instantly recognized her. The second guest was Sara Bareilles singing “Brave” which I screamed at the top of my lungs because I love her!

All in all, it was a great show. She is a certified entertainer and although there were no encores (my only real complaint) I had an excellent time and was extremely excited knowing that I got to experience it all again the next night.

Favorite Song of the Night: “Holy Ground.” The fast-paced dancing song was the second played and set the level of adrenaline needed for the rest of the night. The highlight was when drummers dropped from the ceiling and she joined them in a drum break.

Setlist for Night #2:

State of Grace
Holy Ground
Red
You Belong With Me
The Lucky One
Mean
22
Fifteen
Everything Has Changed
Begin Again
Sparks Fly
Closer (Tegan and Sara)
I Knew You Were Trouble
All Too Well
Love Story
Treacherous
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

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The only real criticism I can make about Night #2 is that the show is such a planned performance that there wasn’t much variety in the lineup (“Fifteen” instead of “Ours” and a different guest instead of Cher Lloyd and Sara Bareilles). That is hardly a real complaint though. Knowing what to expect did take a little of the magic out of the experience but I actually found that I could enjoy the music a little more the second night because I knew what was coming. The guest performers were Tegan and Sara, who played their single “Closer.” I hadn’t heard it before but they sounded good and there was an excited vibe in the stadium during the song.

Our seats were not the best. We sat on the side of the stage and had a limited view (something we were warned about when we purchased the tickets) so we couldn’t actually see the backdrop for the stage, or any of the four massive screens projecting the concert. However, we did get to see a little of the backstage action (a few costume changes and a sneak peek at her before the rest of the audience sees her).

I think my favorite part of the night was watching my friend Hannah go crazy. She is a huge Taylor Swift fan and the reason we went the second time. Her excitement was worth the cost of the tickets.

Favorite Song of the Night: “All Too Well.” This is my favorite from the album and what I personally think is her best piece of work. It was also the one performance where we didn’t get to see her at all because she played it on piano behind a piece of the stage blocking our view. However, hearing it live and letting myself get lost in the lyrics was an entirely emotional experience.

I would highly recommend seeing her live to anyone who is a fan. She is a veteran performer by now and knows how to put on a good show. Her songs are just as catchy live as they are on the radio. The differences is that live, you get to dance along and sing at the top of your lungs without attracting strange looks.

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Taylor Swift or: How I Learned to Stop Hating and Love the Country/Pop Princess (Repost)

Reposting some older pieces from my other blog.

A few years ago I wrote a blog on Katy Perry and how she had finally converted me. I now can say the same of Taylor Swift. She receives plenty of critical acclaim from her peers, it’s on the blog scene where most of her haters thrive, and I admit that I used to be one of them. I resisted Swift for the longest time, and even made fun of her in the aforementioned blog. It was never that I thought she wasn’t good as an artist, I just didn’t agree with her general life philosophy or sappy romance stories. I still don’t agree with a lot of what her songs are about but now I can appreciate that they are catching and infectious. In a lot of ways I’m blown away by her songwriting abilities. I truly think that she is one of the greats.

In honor of her tour starting, I thought I’d write a blog about Taylor Swift’s latest album, Red.

Let me first start off with a brief summary of her previous three albums:

Taylor Swift (Self-Titled) (2006)

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The album chronicles the day-to-day emotions and dreams of a teenaged Swift. While the sentiments in most of the songs are a bit immature and naive, there is also something rather magical about viewing the world through this young girl’s eyes. Thus far she had been largely untainted by love’s cruel reproach and major criticism. She was simply a girl looking for love and acceptance. Sweetness reaches its peak with “Mary’s Song (Oh My, My, My),” which tells the story of an older couple Swift knew that grew up together and fell in love (the stuff of girlish daydreams). The rest of the album consists of mostly break-up songs (the subject that now defines Swift’s career), a couple songs about relationships when they were going well and a general song about feeling like an outsider. All-in-all, it’s tone is sweet and it stands as the perfect representation of what most high school girls (which Swift was at the time) think about on a daily basis – boys, love and a fairytale ending.

Fearless (2008)

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This is when Swift’s super stardom began to emerge. Most of the songs on the album are about failed relationships, and while well written, they still don’t express much of a reflection on what love truly is and what these relationships truly meant, other than “he broke my heart, again.” The ones about budding love are idealistic and a bit superficial and, while the breakup songs are more angry, they are the still fresh, raw angry that comes after you’ve been dumped over a text message, not a well-thought reaction to realizing that you were being manipulated in the relationship.

There is one song I want to discuss briefly, “Fifteen.” I think this is one of the best examples of Swift’s philosophy on life, and how it changed from her first to second album. It still addresses her high school self but there are two key lyrics that demonstrate emotional growth – “Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday/But I realized some bigger dreams of mine” and “I didn’t know who I was supposed to be at fifteen.” The first acknowledges Swift’s own philosophy on love and how she has matured from believing in fairytale endings, to realizing that love doesn’t have to be everything, or rather, everything doesn’t have to be about love. She’s realized a dream come true at a very young age. She gets to be a rock star and play music in front of thousands of screaming fans. She has more priorities now than just finding the right guy, although she’s still looking. The second lyric demonstrates another big growth from her first to second album. She now realizes that she didn’t really know who she was then, and maybe still doesn’t now. Life is a process and you have to be open to change, as much as we may not like it sometimes.

Fearless as an album still suffers from a young viewpoint but it makes sense, she was only 18 when it came out. The songs are still impeccably written and catchy. The overall tone is one of someone slightly exposed to real life and pain, who still holds onto the dream of hope and happiness.

Speak Now (2010)

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With her third album Swift reached perfection. This is by far my favorite of her records, including her most recent. I think the overall message and tone of it is the most cohesive and inspiring. It’s very clear from some of the songs that she has experienced true pain and humiliation, as well as recognizing that some of the blame for failed relationships rests upon her. It is also clear that while she has finally been exposed to some of life’s uglier sides, she still dreams big and has hope that someday things will all work out.

I will mention two songs specifically. The first is “Never Grow Up.” I love this one because it is a letter to herself, reminding her to enjoy the simpler things in life and to not grow up too fast. I think this is evidence that she has gone through some serious emotional experiences. She grew up faster than she wanted/expected and lost much of the innocence that she had during her prior two albums. Of course we must grow up and learn to become responsible adults (although some never do) but I think her message here is to not let go of every bit of the child in yourself. Hold on to some of that innocence and wonder. It’s what makes life so enjoyable when you have to deal with the struggles of adulthood.

The second song I want to mention is “Innocent.” This is rumored to be her forgiving song to Kanye West. I love that she takes a higher road and basically says, “Yeah, we all screw up, and what you did hurt me but I forgive you.” I also think it’s an example of some of her best songwriting. I love this lyric – “Wasn’t it beautiful runnin’ wild ’til you fell asleep/Before the monsters caught up to you?” In this one thought she expresses a melancholy nostalgia for innocence and youth and then contrasts it with the harsh reality that life hardly ever works out the way you expect. It’s such a beautiful song written about such an ugly moment.

Every song on Speak Now has a similar tone of wonderment that ties it into an overall theme. Even the songs that are heartbreaking still sound as though her heart is breaking because she had to leave this fairytale world and not because she was in a destructive relationship that left her scarred and broken. In my opinion it’s her most well-rounded album, both in terms of having songs covering multiple subjects, as well as showing growth as an artist. In one record she went from a high school, starry-eyed girl to a successful, strong-willed woman. I think it says even more about her talent that she wrote all the songs on her own.

Red (2012)

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1. State Of Grace
The album starts off with this rock/pop semi ballad about falling in love (big surprise there) after kind of drifting through life and just going through the motions of the everyday (“all we know is touch and go”). It sets the stage for the rest of the album with its upbeat yet rather mellow rhythm. There’s almost a laziness to it that draws you into a relaxed mood and opens you up to the idea of meeting someone, having an instant connection and falling in love with them quickly and intensely (“you come around and the armor falls/pierce the room like a cannonball/now all we know is don’t let go”). It’s a pretty standard subject material and sound for her but at the same time something about it just seems more adult.

2. Red
The title track. This exemplifies the major theme of the album- “red love.” Swift explains what she believes this to be in the CD jacket. I love that she gives a little note to the fans about each album. It helps her explain where she was coming from when writing it and it adds a personal touch that I’m sure all of her fans appreciate. In her view, loving in shades of red means loving in different shades of intensity. This could be great passion, anger, jealousy or even deep depression, which this song experiences all of (“Losing him was blue like I’d never known/Missing him was dark grey all alone/Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met/But loving him was red/Oh, red/Burning red”). It too is pretty standard Swift material, which means it’s a love/breakup song that is so catchy it will get even the most cynical Swift haters singing along.

3. Treacherous
This is probably my favorite song on the album (Track 5 comes pretty close too) and I think it’s an interesting change of pace for Swift. Up until now all of her songs have been very chaste in terms of sexuality. She always wrote about things from a very young, untainted girl’s perspective (first kisses and hand-holding kind of stuff). This is the first time that she hints at a physical relationship between her and the subject of the song (“And I’ll do anything you say/If you say it with your hands”). The line shows that Swift is stepping away from that innocent-starry-eyed vision of herself that has become so iconic. She is growing as an artist as well as a person. She’s bound to write about more mature material and even become bolder with the language she uses.

4. I Knew You Were Trouble
I really like this song because it’s the one on the album where she shows the most change in sound. She’s experimenting and succeeding with new approaches to the way she performs music. There is some pretty heavy dubstep happening that adds to the imagery of a toxic relationship coming apart at the seams (“Flew me to places I’d never been/Now I’m lying on the cold hard ground”). The song evokes the image of a relationship that was much more destructive than simply frustrating. It’s also more about the reflection after the relationship that suggests that she knew what she was getting into (hence the title). She’s taking on some of the blame for the fallout, declaring that she went headfirst into the relationship, knowing that it was a bad idea. The video for this song is really worth watching:

5. All Too Well
I mentioned earlier that this is one of my favorite songs on the album. What I like most about it is the essence of bittersweet emotion in it. Even if I don’t agree with Swift’s life philosophy of falling in love whenever possible, I do envy her ability to do so easily. She obviously fell deeply for whoever she wrote this song about and the backlash of doing so was that when the relationship ended, it hurt that much more (“And you call me up again just to break me like a promise/So casually cruel in the name of being honest”). First let me just say how great the phrase “casually cruel” is. With two words she has instantly related how the other person has treated the breakup, and how horrible it makes her feel to think that they don’t seem at all bothered by it. This reduces her to almost lifeless sorrow (“I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here”). To love so freely and hurt so deeply is something I’ve never been able to do or truly understand. I may not have any experience with a relationship like this but while listening to this song, I feel like I have because Swift is so good at relaying emotion and inviting others into her dreams, happiness and pain. Any good artist doesn’t hold back and she has demonstrated time and time again that she goes headfirst into any and everything she does.

6. 22
This song is really light and carefree and what I love about it is that it promotes the idea of hanging with friends and letting loose without the need for heavy drinking or partying. Not that either of those is necessarily bad (except for maybe the heavy drinking part) but I like that she has a song about leaning on your friends to get you through tough times. The only problem I have with it is that she bookends it with references to romance/guys (“It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters/And make fun of our exes, ah ah, ah ah” … “You look like bad news/I gotta have you/I gotta have you”). While I recognize, and now appreciate, that’s what she is good at writing about, I was just disappointed that she couldn’t let it go for this one song. I could let the first line slip because that is what you do when you hang with friends – complain about past lovers and other stressful things. The last line though feels like a crutch. It’s almost like she got to the end and thought it needed to tie into the rest of the album so she had to add a thought about meeting the next big love in her life. Overall though, the song is about being young, confused, lonely and miserable but making it enjoyable by surrounding yourself with good friends and reminding yourself that it’s okay to enjoy the little things and have fun.

7. I Almost Do
This was the most forgettable song on the album for me. It wasn’t bad, there just wasn’t anything special about it. It is one of the slower songs on the album and I tend to immediately connect with the faster ones, whereas the slower ones need to grow on me. I don’t think that had much to do with it though. The lyrics aren’t inspiring and the idea is a little bland (“In my dreams you’re touching my face/And asking me if I want to try again with you/And I almost do”). Saucy. She’s thinking about an ex and almost calls him but then doesn’t. Okay. Exciting stuff there, Taylor. It’s still good at expressing a sad longing for this person but it just left me saying, “Eh,” (complete with shoulder shrug).

8. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
The one that started it all. This was the first single off the album and a good choice considering it demonstrates the drastic change in her sound pretty well. When I first heard it I didn’t really like it but the more I listened to it the more I began to appreciate just how damn catchy it is. We’ve all heard it about a hundred times by now but I still turn the volume up every time it comes on the radio. I think the fact that it’s written like a conversation is what is so interesting to me. She’s talked about how it came about after ranting to her friend when a friend of an ex told her they (she and the ex) were totally going to get back together. It really does feel as if you were sitting with a friend listening to them rant about an ex spreading rumors and being pathetic (“You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me (talk to me)/But we are never ever ever ever getting back together”).

9. Stay Stay Stay
I have mixed feelings towards this song. It is really upbeat and infectious, which I like but at the same time it gets a little too sweet/sappy for my tastes (always a risk when I listen to any of her songs). It’s very cute and has an endearing message: work through your relationship problems and stay with the one you love (“And I love you because you have given me no choice but to/Stay, stay, stay”). Although I’m not sure Taylor is taking her own dating advice. She does have a pretty bad record when it comes to long-term relationships, or lack thereof. But who am I to judge?

10. The Last Time
I love that Swift has not one but two duets on this album. This one is with Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, who I love. They have such a sad, poetic sound which translates to this song. It tells the story of a couple who is obviously toxic to each other that keep coming back despite being hurt over and over (“Right before your eyes/I’m breaking, no past/No reasons why/Just you and me”). I like the idea that you could want someone so badly and feel such a strong connection to that you keep hurting yourself because you are drawn to them. It’s sadly romantic. Sometimes you can’t explain why but some people can have a power over you and you can’t help let them in your door even after they’ve left you wounded.

11. Holy Ground
I instantly knew that I loved this song. It is so fast and upbeat but has a very melancholy message. She’s reflecting on a past relationship and realizing that even though it’s over, they had a good thing going there for a while (“It was good never looking down/And right there where we stood was holy ground”). This is the first time that she has done this with a song, as far as I know. There are no angry words of revenge or hurt, it is simply, “that was good.” I’d hope that not every relationship would be remembered for all the terrible things that happened or sad things that will never be. Plus, it’s so freaking fun to dance to.

12. Sad Beautiful Tragic
I have to say that I didn’t much like this song when I first heard it. Then I looked up the lyrics and I realized how beautiful and tragic (get it?) some of them are. For example, “Good girls, hopeful they’ll be and lonely will wait.” What a depressing thought. Good girls will be good (pure) but suffer for it by being eternally lonely and stay pointlessly hopeful. So what then? We might as well all be sluts? Then there’s this line, “And you’ve got your demons, and, darling, they all look like me.” This guy dates girls who look similar (creepy) and they’re what haunts him. They may even be what keeps him from moving on. Can’t fight the drug if you keep using it, buddy. Lastly, there is this lyric, “Hang up, give up, for the life of us we can’t get back.” That’s pretty standard breakup stuff there. The relationship is dead and there is no way to revive it so let’s just call it quits (way to “stay, stay, stay” strong). Seriously though, I feel like this song goes so far in the opposite direction of mushy romance that it would be rock-hard depression if not for the fact that it oozes wistful sentimentality. But it’s still pretty to listen to.

13. The Lucky One
Some of my friends have speculated that this song is a letter Swift has written to her future self, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way it seems to come from an experienced opinion. It tells the story of an artist that comes to LA, explodes in popularity and success overnight then crashes, or leaves right before crashing. Perhaps it’s Swift’s warning to herself to not get lost in all the glitz and glamor. It is the only song on the album that isn’t about love in some way (there is one small lyric about a lover but it’s passing and gets jumbled into all the other chaos going on) which is intriguing. It also has some interesting lyrics concerning fame (“And they tell you that you’re lucky/But you’re so confused/Cause you don’t feel pretty, you just feel used/And all the young things line up to take your place”). I have to admit I don’t feel much sympathy for Swift if she’s complaining about the price of fame. She’s rich and gets to do what she loves for a living. Yeah it sucks that her love life gets speculated on in every media form but she also writes about it. It’s bound to be discussed. She can’t have it both ways. That being said, I wouldn’t want that for my life so, a little sympathy is warranted. This song is still growing on me. I like the lyrics and tone but I’m not too hot on the music. It sounds a little too electronic.

14. Everything Has Changed
The second duet on this album. This time Ed Sheeran teams up with Taylor for a light, upbeat song about meeting someone new and the exciting rush of feelings that come after that first encounter. There’s not much to say about this song. It’s cute and endearing with lyrics such as “’Cause all I know is we said “Hello”/And your eyes look like coming home” and “And all my walls stood tall painted blue/And I’ll take them down, take them down and open up the door for you.” I don’t think it’s the best songwriting but it works well as a sweet duet.

15. Starlight
My least favorite song on the album. An ode to Ethel Kennedy, it reeks of sappiness and tries a little too hard for a sense of nostalgia it never achieves. I do think some of the ideas are endearing. For example she sings “You’ll spend your whole life singing the blues if you keep thinking that way … Don’t you see the starlight, starlight?/Don’t you dream impossible things?” I like that sentiment. Don’t worry so much and dream amazing things, it’ll make life more enjoyable. I think that’s something we should all strive for. I just don’t like that it’s given to me in an overly sweet-to-the-point-of-nauseating package. However, this doesn’t stop me from singing along at the top of my lungs whenever it comes on in my car. That’s what Taylor Swift does to you.

16. Begin Again
I think this song is the perfect track to end on. Over the course of the album we’ve gone on a roller coaster of emotions, ranging from jealous anger to deep depression. With this song comes a fresh start. It goes through the story of a first date that takes place after a pretty nasty breakup months before. There are references to an ex contrasted against the new suitor (“I’ve been spending the last eight months/Thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end/But on a Wednesday in a cafe I watched it begin again”). The message implies there is new hope that this next person might be the one. Despite all the emotional turmoil she has been through, and all the media surrounding who she dates, Taylor Swift is still that young girl seeking love and acceptance at heart. She has matured and so have her relationships but she holds onto that essence of herself.

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I think that’s what finally convinced me to be a Taylor Swift fan. With all that has surrounded her and still does, she stays true to what she believes in. I don’t feel the same way about love, nor am I obsessed with it the way she seems to be sometimes but I can fully support someone who is loyal to what makes them who they are. It doesn’t hurt that from what I’ve seen/heard she seems like a genuinely nice person.

The major complaints it seems people have about her are that she can’t sing, she writes about the same thing all the time, her views on love are archaic, and she has no real talent. In response to the first, I will say that while she doesn’t have the most amazing voice, she can sing, just watch any of her acoustic performances. I do think her voice sounds better when she just sits singing and playing guitar rather than when she is dancing around all over the stage but that’s not what people shell out the big bucks for. I may be in the minority here but if I’m paying good money for a concert, I want a show, not something I could receive the same enjoyment from as I could from listening to the CD at home.

As to writing about the same thing over and over again, I have complained about this before. However, I’ve come to realize that you do what you’re good at. So what if she only writes love songs? The Beatles catalog is made up of mostly love songs too. Plus, Swift does write about other things occasionally.

Her views on love are archaic. How do you respond to such an idiotic complaint? Everyone has their own view on what love is. Hers may be a little more traditional but why is that a bad thing?

She has no ounce of talent. Her 7 Grammy Awards say otherwise. So do her 11 AMAs, 6 CMT Music Awards, and 73 various other awards.

So what’s the point of all of this? The point is I’ve become a Taylor Swift fan despite my best efforts to avoid doing so. She’s worked her way in with her catchy songs and cute public persona. I may not be a romantic (I haven’t gone that far off the deep end) but I can at least listen to music about it without gagging or rolling my eyes too much. I even enjoy it. The point is I’ve never had to agree with someone’s opinions to enjoy and appreciate their good company and now the same can be said of good music.

#30DaysofFavorites: Favorite Albums (6-1)

I’m celebrating turning 30 at the end of the month by posting a bunch of my favorite things on this blog and my YouTube channel. Today I’m finishing the countdown of my favorite albums. If you missed my Favorite Movie Moments, click here for the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth posts. If you missed my first Favorite Albums post, click here.

 

 

#6 – Full Moon Fever

Tom Petty

Full Moon

I think I ended up stealing my dad’s tape of this album when I was little, and played it over and over in my walkman. I listened to it again recently and didn’t remember much beyond the hits but Tom Petty was definitely one of my favorite artists growing up, and still is. So glad I was able to see him several times in concert before he passed away.

Favorite Track:
“Free Fallin'” was the first song I ever identified as being my “favorite song.” I don’t know exactly how old I was when I first saw Petty in concert (had to be maybe nine or ten) but I do remember staying up long enough to hear “Free Fallin'” and then immediately after falling asleep.

 

 

#5 – Bringing Down the Horse

The Wallflowers

Horse

This was the first album I ever owned. I saw the music video for “One Headlight” on MTV and instantly developed a crush on Jacob Dylan. Then when we were on a family trip to San Francisco, and my dad was doing some Christmas shopping, he asked me before going into the music store if there was any band I liked. I said I liked The Wallflowers, and so he bought me my first cd. I’m quite proud of little ten year old me for having such impeccable taste.

Favorite Track:
Though “One Headlight” will always hold a special place in my heart for introducing me to the band, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself more drawn to some of the B-tracks, like “Josephine.”

 

 

#4 – Speak Now

Taylor Swift

Speak

I mentioned in a previous post that I think Taylor Swift’s best songwriting shows up on her album Red but I think Speak Now is her most thematically cohesive, and it is my personal favorite. After burying my head in the sand for too long, I was shown the light and introduced to more of her music, particularlly this album. I loved the imagery depicted in her songs, and the fairytale life she was presenting through her music. The songwriting shows a little more maturity and demonstrates that its author has faced more of life’s disappointments. Despite all this, she still maintains a more whimsical view of the world. It’s kind of sweet to revisit the album now and see the world through the eyes of the unabashed dreamer she used to be.

Favorite Track:
“Better Than Revenge” is a song I don’t think I will ever hear Taylor Swift perform live. It’s her most unapologetic takedown of one of her “foes” and I love it for all the reasons she probably won’t ever revisit it. It’s harsh, and angry, and spiteful, and feels exactly like what you feel when you’ve been betrayed. It’s too politically incorrect for most listeners nowadays but man is it a fun revenge song to rock out to.

 

 

#3 – Talking is Hard

Walk the Moon

Talking

Walk the Moon was in the process of recording this album when I first discovered them. So this album feels more special to me because I got to see them before their big hit, and I got to experience their joy and excitement as they hit major success. Their latest album is much calmer in terms of mood, and that’s okay but I fell in love with this band because of their ridiculous high energy, and they delivered so much of that on this album.

Favorite Track:
One of the reasons I was so taken by Walk the Moon was because they played “Shut Up and Dance” at that Greek Theatre concert I mentioned in my last post, and they got the whole ampitheatre to get up and dance. As much as I love the finished recording, there is nothing quite like hearing that song live with hundreds of other fans singing along.

 

 

#2 – Death of a Bachelor

Panic! at the Disco

Death

It’s great to follow a band over the course of their career and see their different attempts at style changes and music shifts. It’s even better to see them succeed at these experimentations. Death of a Bachelor is the best Panic! at the Disco album to date. The sound of the songs is more self-assured and the lyrics are excellent. On top of that, the songs are also incredibly fun. It’s great to have music move you emotionally and speak to you on a deeper level but it’s also wonderful to want to dance to something energetic and fun. Death of a Bachelor loads itself with lots of upbeat, dance-worthy songs, and still gives some of those necessary emotional punches that you might be looking for.

Favorite Track:
“LA Devotee” is a love letter to the city of Los Angeles. Need I say more?

 

 

#1 – The Guest

Phantom Planet

Guest

This album is sixteen years old. As much as some of the other things on this list have made me feel older than I want to, this one makes me feel ancient, and it makes me feel the saddest. Phantom Planet was the first band I really discovered on my own and fell in love with. While some of the other bands on this list may have contributed to the soundtrack of my youth, Phantom Planet was the score I lived by. This band meant so much to me, and when they decided to no longer make music as “Phantom Planet,” it broke my heart. I had so many chances to see them perform live, and I will forever be grateful for being that lucky. I still love their music but now whenever I listen it’s sort of bittersweet knowing that they aren’t going to be releasing anything new together. Their music had a big impact on my life and I have enjoyed being their fan these last sixteen years.

Favorite Track:
I love all of these tracks so much but I’m going to have to go with the one that started it all. I first heard “California” on the radio one night when I was getting ready for bed. I was exhausted and about to turn it off when the song started playing. I was immediatley drawn in by that simple piano string at the begginning, and sat up in the dark, despite being ready to pass out, to hear the rest of the song. I bought the album soon after, and the rest, as they say, is history.

#30DaysofFavorites: Favorite Albums (12-7)

I’m celebrating turning 30 at the end of the month by posting a bunch of my favorite things on this blog and my YouTube channel. Today I’m continuing the countdown of my favorite albums. If you missed my Favorite Movie Moments, click here for the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth posts. If you missed my first Favorite Albums post, click here.

 

 

#12 – One of the Boys

Katy Perry

One of the Boys

I saw Katy Perry guest judge on American Idol in 2010 (before her current role on the show), and I thought she was hilarious and insightful, while still being critical when necessary (something she didn’t really do on this last season of Idol). It was at that point that a friend of mine mentioned really liking her music that I gave her first album a listen. I’ve been a fan ever since and have had the pleasure of seeing her live several times.

Favorite Track:
“One of the Boys” is still my favorite track on the album. I love that it is a celebration of femininity, and embracing different sides of yourself.

 

 

#11 – Red

Taylor Swift

red

It took a while for me to warm up to Taylor Swift as an artist. I didn’t buy into her life philosophy and her obsession with falling in love. Then I actually started listening to her music, and really paying attention to her lyrics. I was hooked by the time Red came out, and I thought so many of the songs on this album were well crafted and showed tremendous growth for her as a musician. I still think it has her best songwrtiting, though there are a couple of duds (“I Almost Do” and “Sad, Beautiful, Tragic,” I’m looking at you). Overall though, it’s one of my favorite albums, and it was my favorite show of hers that I’ve been to.

Favorite Track:
I mentioned I think Taylor Swift showcases her best songwriting on this album, and I think “All Too Well” is her best written song to date. It is also my favorite of hers. Her word play on it is clever, and she paints such a vivd picture that it feels like you’re right there with her, reliving the memory of this relationship.

 

 

#10 – Walk the Moon

Walk the Moon

WTM

Walk the Moon was a pleasant discovery courtesy of a Panic! at the Disco concert. They were the opening band for a show I saw at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. They had such high energy and their songs were so dang catchy that I just couldn’t resist jumping up and dancing along. I of course immediately went home and bought their album (after actually listening to it via my friend’s Spotify on the way home from the concert). I still can’t help but feel energized and want to get up and dance around whenever I listen to this album.

Favorite Track:
So even though most of the album is high energy, and I like it because of that, my actual favorite track on the album is “Fixin'” which is a little sadder but with a good hook.

 

 

#9 – Vices & Virtues

Panic! at the Disco

vices

Panic! at the Disco is another band I resisted for a long time. I think in high school I found their use of the exclamation point in their name pretentious, and then the removing of it for the second album even more so. Still, I was blown away by their songwriting on Pretty. Odd. and followed them more closely afterwards. When Vices & Virtues came out, it was as though they had combined the best parts of the first two albums into one. It wasn’t quite the frentic rock of the first album but it had more energy than the songs on the second. It found the perfect balance between the two styles, and it had an overall more hopeful sound, which I love.

Favorite Track:
“Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)” is such a bouncy, uplifting song, and it feels like something you need to play whenever you want to get pumped up for something.

 

 

#8 – Raise the Dead

Phantom Planet

dead

Phantom Planet’s last album is ten years old this year. That makes me feel really old. The concept behind the album was to base a lot of the themes and marketing on cult followings. I was happy to be a part of that cult. While it isn’t the lowest energy album, a lot of the lyrics on it deal with much darker themes, such as depression. It was a bit of a break from some of their more happy love songs but I think it felt more personal. I don’t know the story behind every song, and as obsessed as I was with the band, I don’t know what all was happening at the time. However, it feels almost as though they knew things were coming to an end, and decided to write something deeper. That connected with me very much, and not simply because they were my favorite band but because of all their albums, this is the one I felt I could relate to the most.

Favorite Track:
The title track felt like a last chance call for fans to embrace the music, and “raise” it from the dead, which is maybe where the band felt they were heading while recording. It also touches upon an idea of an inner demon type of conflict (perhaps depression, or loneliness), and again an attempt to overcome that conflict. It is dark while still being hopeful.

 

 

#7 – Teenage Dream

Katy Perry

Dream

After finally becoming a fan of her first album, I was a bit skeptical when Katy Perry started releasing singles from her follow up album. They sounded a lot more poppy and there didn’t seem to be a trace of that punk rock girl that I liked so much from One of the Boys. Then, of course I listened to the album and realized I was actually a fan of Pop music. Or at least I was a fan of Katy Perry’s style of Pop. I think this is her best album musically, and thematically. She is a bonafide Pop star but she still writes her own music, and dang if it ain’t catchy as hell. Again I was impressed with her ability to surprise me and show me that just because it’s something different than what I usually listen to doesn’t mean it isn’t good, or worthy of my attention.

Favorite Track:
As much fun as I have with “Peacock,” I’m going to have to go with “Califoria Gurls.” As a California girl myself, I can’t help but sing and dance along to this song. It’s so fun and carefree, exactly how Southern California feels sometimes.

 

 

Stop by tomorrow to see the last batch of my Favorite Albums.

#30DaysofFavorites: Favorite Albums (18-13)

I’m celebrating turning 30 at the end of the month by posting a bunch of my favorite things on this blog and my YouTube channel. Today I’m continuing the countdown of my favorite albums. If you missed my Favorite Movie Moments, click here for the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth posts. If you missed my first Favorite Albums post, click here.

 

#18 – musicforthemorningafter
Pete Yorn

Pete Yorn

I’m a sucker for a good singer-songwriter, and Pete Yorn is a good singer-songwriter. Musicforthemorning after was released a little early for me to really follow when it was first out but the great thing about music is that you can pick it up at any point. This was another album that was a soundtrack for my high school years. It’s a slow, slightly downbeat set of songs, and makes for a very relaxing listen.

Favorite Track:
While “Murray” was my favorite for a long time, upon a recent re-listen, I think “Strange Condition” is the best track, and holds up really well seventeen years later.

 

 

#17 – Josie and the Pussycats
Josie and the Pussycats

Josie

Josie and the Pussycats is the greatest girl rock group that never was. I actually got the chance to see the original musicians perform at a screening last year when they released the vinyl, and it was thebestthingever! The movie was great, so much better than it deserved to be, and it was wonderful that they showed the same level of commitment to the music.

Favorite Track:
Backdoor Lover” by Dujour is definitely the best track on the album but I’ll provide my favorite Pussycats track as well, which is “I Wish You Well.”

 

 

 

#16 – Everybody Wants
The Struts

Strut

This band rocks, and if you aren’t currently listening to them, you’re doing something wrong in your life. They are straight up glam rock, and they are entirely unapologetic about it. They are a British band and so they haven’t gotten too much airplay in the US but they are so good! I’ve seen them live a couple of times now and they bring so much energy. Listen to them, and then go see them live. They’re that awesome.

Favorite Track:
“Could Have Been Me” is their US single, and still my favorite track off the album.

 

 

#15 – Gravity
Our Lady Peace

Gravity

So many of the albums on my list were ones from my high school years. This is another one. I discovered Our Lady Peace thanks to Fuse, back when all they played were music videos. I then bought the album, listened to it over and over, went to Tower Records and bought all their other albums and listened to them over and over. This of course was back when people actually bought music.

Favorite Track:
The whole album doesn’t necessarily hold up as well today but their first single, “Somewhere Out There” is just as good.

 

 

#14 – Pioneer
The Band Perry

Pioneer

For someone who didn’t like Country music for most of my adolescence I have quite a few Country albums on this list. The Band Perry is a bit more of a modern Country band than the other artists on this list but I love that they’re a family of performers. This album is full of great songs that range from more backyard country to some folksy sounds, so there’s a nice mix to listen to.

Favorite Track:
“Pioneer” is bittersweet, wistful, and melancholy all at once, which is why this title track is my favorite on the album.

 

 

#13 – The Education of a Wandering Man
Jamestown Revival

Jamestown

I believe this is the most recent addition to the list. I saw Jamestown Revival open for another band a couple of years ago and I was blown away by their sound and stage presence. They have a bluesy country vibe, and their music sounds like something you should be listening to while driving on the open road in some backcountry. I love it, and this is another band that you should be listening to right now.

Favorite Track:
“Journeyman” feels like the heart and soul of this album, and sounds like something you’d hear playing in a local bar in a small town right before it’s playing on the radio.

 

Check in tomorrow for the next batch of my Favorite Albums.

#30DaysofFavorites: Favorite Albums (30-25)

I’m celebrating turning 30 at the end of the month by posting a bunch of my favorite things on this blog and my YouTube channel. Today I’m starting a countdown of my favorite albums. If you missed my Favorite Movie Moments, click here for the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth posts.

 

 

#30 – Hearts on Parade
American Hi-Fi

Hearts on Parade

This is really a toss up between both Hearts on Parade and The Art of Losing. I like both albums quite a bit and they each have a fun, upbeat vibe despite some more melancholy themes in many of the lyrics. The music itself is very peppy and has that early 2000s, late 90s pop rock kind of sound.

Favorite Track:
I’m going to have to go with “The Geeks Get the Girls” because it’s just so fun, and it is the reason Hearts on Parade made the list rather than The Art of Losing.

 

 

#29 – You’re Awful, I Love You
Ludo

You're Awful

Ludo is one of those bands that I fear I may have discovered too late. They’ve only had three studio albums, and none of them have been hugely successful but they have a great energy, and their songwriting is entirely unique. Some of the lyrics are a little disturbing but that’s kind of the point. I’ll say that I don’t think they are for everyone but I have seen them live, and there is a crowd out there made just for them.

Favorite Track:
This album has some great high energy songs, and for my favorite track on the album, I’m going to have to pick “Lake Pontchartrain” because it showcases their unique songwriting perfectly. The song tells a vivd story of a fateful road trip taken through a very disturbing part of Louisiana.

 

 

#28 – Untamed
Cam

Untamed

This is a more recent addition to my list. I wasn’t the biggest Country fan growing up but lately I’ve found myself listening to more Country radio stations, and picking up more Country artists’ records. I think for me it all just really depends on the artist and their sound. Cam mixes an old school Country vibe with a newer pop sound. Her first single off the album “Burning House” flashes back to a late 90s kind of theme with a soulful, weary sounding vocal. “My Mistake” takes on that more pop friendly feel. I think she has a great Country voice, and her album mixes the right amount of fun fluff with deeper, more emotionally rich tracks. I’m excited to see what else she’ll come up with.

Favorite Track:
“Want It All” has an upbeat chorus and throughline with those more meaningful lyrics I mentioned. She’s reflecting on what she has, or hasn’t done, so far to obtain her dream. She’s making a promise to herself to push harder to share this passion she’s feeling for what she sees as her purpose in life.

 

 

#27 – Dizzy Up the Girl
The Goo Goo Dolls

Dizzy

I grew up listening to classic rock thanks to my parents. When I was old enough to start picking my own radio stations to listen to, I gravitated towards the ones that played whatever modern rock there was. That’s how I discovered many of my favorite bands, including The Goo Goo Dolls. They echoed the sound of the bands I had already been listening to so that instantly appealed to me. This album was basically on repeat from my 8th grade year to high school.

Favorite Track:
“Acoustic #3” is one of the slower tracks, and while I love the album’s singles “Broadway” and “Iris,” this one is more mellow and emotional. I like acoustic versions of songs, and I like that it’s a bit of a break from the more rock heavy tracks.

 

 

#26 – Move Along
The All-American Rejects

Move

This was basically the soundtrack to the second half of my senior year of high school. My best friend and I both had copies of the album, and I remember driving around with him, talking about what the future was going to look like, wondering how things were going to change for us. This was the album we played in the car while driving through our town, thinking about what was next to come.

Favorite Track:
The title track isn’t exactly uplifting but it does have a sense of resilience to it. The point isn’t to pick you up and tell you it’s all going to be alright. The point is to give you enough strength to just keep “moving on.”

 

 

#25 – Get Born
Jet

Get

This band was so good, and so much better than the time they were releasing this album. I’m so bummed they weren’t more successful. I think they released one or two more albums but nothing that gained the same popularity. Their sound hearkened back to that classic rock I grew up with. I got some intense 60s/70s rock vibes from this album then, and still do listening to it today.

Favorite Track:
Are You Gonna Be My Girl” is definitely good, and it’s easy to see why it was such a hit. I’m still partial though to the second single, “Cold Hard Bitch.” Also worth a listen is “Timothy,” a nice ballad that concludes the album.

 

 

Check back tomorrow for more of the countdown.

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Discovery of the Week: Harry Connick, Jr. is Hilarious

This is less a new discovery and more a recent revelation but I missed last week due to a hectic schedule so I want to make sure to do a post this week. Plus, I really want to share this insight with people.

Photo courtesy of http://www.eonline.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.eonline.com

I pretty regularly watch American Idol, and I am not ashamed to admit. I haven’t followed it religiously since the first season and even after I initially started watching it, I wasn’t consistent. I like the performances in Hollywood and the theme weeks but I’ve never gotten really emotionally attached to a contestant. Although, I did just go to a David Cook concert in November and had a blast. So, I would call myself a fan but not a fanatic.

Photo courtesy of http://www.metrolyrics.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.metrolyrics.com

I’ll be honest and say that I don’t care what the judges have to say most of the time. I have never been drawn into a season because of who they have judging that year … until now. I was very interested to see how the new trio work together. I enjoyed Keith Urban’s commentary last year. He was pretty honest and seemed to genuinely enjoy the music and performances. It was a fresh addition to a show that had gotten way too scripted. I wasn’t ever in love with Jennifer Lopez but I think her air of sweetness is a good quality for judging.

After watching the first three episodes of the season, I know the real star of the judges panel is Harry Connick, Jr. Man, is this guy funny and ruthless. He has a great attitude considering most of the people auditioning don’t even know who he is but he plays it off wonderfully. He also has great chemistry with Keith Urban (I think they have a little bit of a bromance going on) and J. Lo.

What I really like is that he’s brutally honest with the contestants. If he doesn’t like a performance, he doesn’t hem and haw about how they have a good personality and such. He tells them blatantly that they aren’t good. He isn’t necessarily mean about it but he is blunt. He’s like Simon but with a better personality. Plus, he’s provided us with some of the best moments in Idol history and they aren’t even at Hollywood week yet!

Seriously, this guy is great …

harry conick on Make A Gif