And the TMAs Go To…

December 31, 2009

2009 is just minutes away from becoming history, and in my opinion, it was a darn good year in music. It is now time to award the best of the best. So I present to you, the winners of the 2009 Tommyland Music Awards!!!

BEST DEBUT ALBUM: La Roux, La Roux

La Roux showed that a girl didn’t have to act stupid or flauntingly sexy to make great, rhythmic pop music. That mix of brash attitude and killer beats made for a debut to remember.

BEST VIDEO: “Bad Romance” – Lady Gaga

Was there any doubt? Lady Gaga offered one jaw-droppingly surreal image after another, and in the process, became a superstar.

BEST ROCK TRACK: “Heartless (Live Version)” – Kris Allen

Kanye West wrote a very good song. But it was Kris who made it great, infusing it with joy, emotion, and a more-than-capable voice (sorry, Kanye).

BEST DANCE TRACK: “Audacity Of Huge” – Simian Mobile Disco

Have no idea what the heck the song is trying to say. I’m just gonna shake my booty while I try to figure it all out.

BEST COUNTRY(ish) TRACK: “You Belong With Me” – Taylor Swift

Is it pop? Country? An irresistible dose of teen-crush adrenaline? I’ll say all of the above.

BEST HARD ROCK TRACK: “Sliver (Live From Reading Version)” – Nirvana

Kurt came back to slay us all over again. The new kids on the rock block still have ways to go…

BEST RAP TRACK & BEST COLLABORATION TRACK: “Dead And Gone” – T.I. & Justin Timberlake

T.I. lays on the dread and the drama, while Justin delivers the yearning behind the hook. As royal as rap got all year.

BEST KOREAN TRACK: “Gee” – Girls’ Generation

It’s audio Prozac, guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Don’t even try to fight it.

BEST TRACK FOR FILM, TV OR STAGE: “Endless Love” – Glee Cast

I know it’s pure cornball, but I’ve always loved this song. And this is the best rendition I’ve ever heard. It positively soars…

BEST R&B TRACK: “Betcha Gon’ Know (The Prologue)” – Mariah Carey

The bad news is that this was one of only three good songs on Mariah’s last album (others being “Angels Cry” and “I Want To Know What Love Is.” The good news is that this is one of her best tracks EVER, with an air of introspection Mariah has rarely shown before.

BEST BALLAD TRACK & BEST COVER TRACK: “If I Can’t Have You” – Adam Lambert

Forget the mascara, forget the theatrics, but don’t forget Adam’s voice, all he needs here to make you absolutely melt.

BEST MALE TRACK: “Airport Surroundings” – Loney Dear

This song is all about momentum. It just builds and builds, never letting you go, until it has you in the palm of its hand. It’s a great place to be.

BEST FEMALE TRACK & BEST POP TRACK: “All I Want” – Sarah Blasko

Ethereal. Light as air, yet achingly beautiful. It’s the perfect song to count stars to…

BEST TRACK OF THE YEAR, BEST GROUP TRACK & BEST ALTERNATIVE TRACK: “The Way It Used To Be” – Pet Shop Boys

This actually isn’t the first time my favorite song of the year was by the PSB. “Being Boring” was in my opinion the greatest song of 1990 (or almost any year, really). Nineteen years later, the Boys are back on top with “The Way It Used To Be,” a song so breath-taking that it stopped me in my tracks as I was crossing the street hearing it for the first time. Yes, it’s so good that it nearly killed me (and I would still have loved it even if it had).

BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Strict Joy, Swell Season

It’s a quiet sleeper of an album–no powerhouse moment, no obvious single–and a much more restrained affair than the soundtrack to “Once.” What it is is one long sigh in lament of love lost, with echoes of heartbreak that expand and build like the ripples a stone makes upon a pond. It is an album designed to slowly grow roots within you and remain. And so it does.

THE ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Lady Gaga

A genius. A freak. A drama queen. A visionary. Whatever label you throw at her, just make sure it’s designer, and she’ll wear it with a pop artist’s pride. Well done, Gaga; see you in 2010.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


White Christmas…

December 25, 2009

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas… Wait, holy #$@%, it’s no dream, it’s really snowing out there!!! Yes, it’s a white Christmas here in Korea, and I’ve gotta say, it is very nice indeed. I want to wish all of you a very merry Christmas, and as my present, here’s a Zip file of my Top 32 favorite songs of the year.

No, Rick Astley did not make the list, but these great tracks did. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did this year.

Adam Lambert – “If I Can’t Have You”
Alessi’s Ark – “The Horse”
Ciara & Justin Timberlake – “Love Sex & Magic”
Das Racist – “Combination Pizza Hut And Taco Bell (Remix)”
David Choi – “Won’t Even Start”
Drake – “The Best I Ever Had”
Eminem – “The Warning”
Girls – “Lust For Life”
Girls’ Generation – “Gee”
Glee Cast – “Endless Love”
Kelly Clarkson – “My Life Would Suck Without You”
Kris Allen – “Heartless (Live Version)”
Lady Gaga – “Bad Romance”
Lily Allen – “Fuck You”
Loney Dear – “Airport Surroundings”
Madonna & Lil Wayne – “Revolver”
Mando Diao – “Dance With Somebody”
Mariah Carey – “Betcha Gon Know (The Prologue)”
Nirvana – “Sliver (Live From Reading Version)”
Our Lady Peace – “All You Did Was Save My Life”
Pet Shop Boys – “The Way It Used To Be”
Project Jenny Project Jan & Fujiya & Miyagi – “Pins And Needles”
Rihanna – “Te Amo”
Sade – “Soldier Of Love”
Sarah Blasko – “All I Want”
Simian Mobile Disco – “Audacity Of Huge”
Super Junior – “Sorry Sorry”
T.I. & Justin Timberlake – “Dead And Gone”
Taylor Swift – “You Belong With Me”
Tori Amos – “Flavor”
Whitney Houston – “Million Dollar Bill”
William Fitzsimmons – “Heartless”

Top 32 Songs Of 2009 (Be patient, it’s a big file, but I assure you, it’s worth the wait!)


R.R. Time…

December 23, 2009

My New Place (The Beautiful Room Is No Longer Empty)

It has been some week already. My mother and I finished our week-long stay at Goryeo University Hospital, finally heading out into the great outdoors Monday morning (My mom’s recovering well, but she has to use crutches for the next month). Then I went straight to my new studio apartment to receive my keys and officially move in. After that, it was shop, shop, til I drop for everyday things like laundry detergent, soap, floor mats, kitchen utensils, etc. I’m saving the big stuff–namely a desk and a laptop computer–for later this week (“Ouch,” said my bank account).

I remain very happy with my new place (oh, freedom, how I have missed you), though it is not without its idiosyncracies. My place is right next to the building elevator, and I hear creaking noises every time it goes up or down. And my heater (it’s getting pretty darn cold in Korea) makes a bizarre whistling sound at random times throughout the day (it woke me up around 4 AM this morning). Still, I don’t care. It’s my new home, and I feel grateful to have found it.

Looking back upon 2009, it has been an interesting year indeed. It definitely had its awesome highs (Paris, meeting Tori, Tommyland Chess Tournaments #1 & 2), and it certainly had its nightmare moments (making the tough decision to leave my school, my aunt’s cancer scare, and my mom’s knee surgery). Overall, it was definitely filled with learning experiences, and I think it’s all done me good, even the tough parts, since I was able to get through them without turning into something I didn’t want to be. I can say that I now feel stronger and wiser than perhaps ever before–though that’s not saying much, ha ha–but at the same time, I gotta admit, the last month or so has done a bang-up job of tiring me out, both physically and mentally.

So, what is a wiped-out soul like me left to do to find solace and rejuvenate himself? There can only be one answer: KARAOKE (hey, don’t knock it before you try it)!!! So here is your truly with a tone-deaf rendition of my favorite song in the past memorable year.

The R.R. Song (i.e. The Song Above)


Knees And Needs…

December 17, 2009

My mom had her knee surgery two days ago. We’re still in the hospital; we’re probably going to be here until either Saturday or next Monday. According to the doctor, the knee was in a lot worse shape than was originally thought. It’s not a fun time for my mother, obviously, but she’s dealing, and she seems to have weathered the worst of it. All we can do now is bear it all and wait for her to heal.

Here is my goal/resolution for Year 2010. All I want and need is for me and my loved ones to stay healthy throughout the year. No more hospitals, no more doctors (as wonderful people as they are), no more nurses (ditto), no more shots, no more IVs, no more gowns, no more corridors, no more, no more, no more. That is all for now.

Heal the World – Michael Jackson


On the Home Front…

December 12, 2009

I want to start by giving cred to both Glee and The Office. This week’s episode of Glee had me absolutely riveted, and although there was little doubt the kids were gonna win Sectionals, I was still really moved, and oh, that last kiss, you go, Mr. Schue!!! Seriously, my favorite TV show of 2009, hands down. And while this season of The Office has been disappointing thus far, they really stepped it up the last two episodes. The whole “Michael lies to the kids about paying their college tuition” episode was absolutely painful (in the best way) from start to finish, and this week’s “Tranny Santa” episode was just as good. I also watched the Top Chef season finale, and although it was a pretty good season with the whole Brother vs. Brother dynamic, I probably won’t watch future seasons. It’s just kind of hard to really get into it, when you have no idea what any of the food tastes like, so you can’t really form personal opinions on how good the contestants are. I know there are fans of the show who bicker about who should have won and such, but I don’t know how you can tell without actually eating the food, so let me have whatever they’re smoking, seriously.

Anyhow, here’s the latest news on the Tommyland home front (literally!). My freeloading days are officially numbered, as I have found myself a studio apartment to call home. It’s not big or fancy by any means, but I’m still very happy with it. My favorite part of the place is the view; it’s on the top floor of a 15-floor building, and it overlooks a small park. I’m hoping it will prove to be inspiring when I finally sit down and start writing (soon, little grasshopper, soon). The funny part is, it’s actually right between my two aunts’ places, and I’d been walking by there pretty much every time I went to visit my mom at Aunt #3’s house. Sometimes, what you’re looking for is right under your nose, as they say. I’ll be moving on 12/21 (nice symmetrical date), and I am counting the days.

(Half-)Korean heartthrob Daniel Henney (aka NOT ME)


I probably should mention a couple of things about how the Korean real estate system works. Basically, there are two ways of renting an apartment: jeonsae and wolsae. In jeonsae, the renter puts down a HUGE amount as a “key deposit” (we’re talking $40,000 as the bare minimum for a small studio) but doesn’t pay any rent. After the contract term ends, the owner returns the money to the renter (apparently, the apt. owner profits by putting that money into a special account and keeping the interest). In wolsae–which is what I’m doing–the renter puts down a considerably smaller amount (or sometimes none at all) for the deposit and additionally pays a monthly rent. In my case, I put down about $20,000 (half of my total savings) as the key deposit (I’ll get that back after a year, knock on wood), and I’ll pay about $300 a month in rent (actually, more like $400 when the nebulous “maintenance fees” are added in). I’ve basically budgeted myself to live at a deficit of $1000~$1100 a month from the remainder of my savings while I write for the next year, which will leave me about $600 a month for all my non-rent expenses. It’s true that I’m not much of a shopper, and my one tutoring job will help a bit, but it’s safe to assume I probably won’t be gaining a lot of weight in 2010 (shades of Paris!).

The whole process with the real estate agents was relatively painless. The only thing that got on my nerves were the fake-flattery compliments (“oh, you’re so handsome; oh, you look so young”). When one agent told me that I kept reminding her of somebody and when I asked “Who?” and she answered, “Daniel Henney!” I knew then and there they were all full of it. Seriously, I wanted to just tell them, “Cut the crap, and just find me an apartment!!!” Fortunately, they did, so I shouldn’t complain. In fact, this song goes out to them. Thank you, agents, and a job well done.

Home – Daughtry


(Top 101) #71. Just the Way It Is, Baby – The Rembrandts

December 12, 2009

Baby. Aside from the obvious articles (a, the, etc.) and pronouns (I, you, and everything in between), and the all-ubiquitous “love,” the word “baby” is probably right up there when it comes to the list of common words found in pop music lyrics. Baby, I love your way. Be my, be my little baby. Hit me, baby, one more time… The list is endless.

However, there is only one song that I can think of where “baby” is sung with the spite and venom as it is in “Just the Way It Is, Baby” by the Rembrandts. This is not the be-your-best-Friend Rembrandts you know from “I’ll Be There For You.” This Rembrandts has had its heart broken and stomped on, and they are pissed. Their sarcastic “baby” to an ex-lover sounds like the most vicious epithet imaginable, and it’s that rage below the surface–as well as the song’s incredible catchiness–that makes this one of the best break-up tell-offs ever. There’s nothing friendly about it.

71. Just the Way It Is, Baby – The Rembrandts


Grammys, Schrammys… Bring on the TMAs!!!

December 5, 2009

What Every Singer Dreams Of For Christmas... Right???

The National Academy of Recording Arts And Sciences announced this year’s Grammy nominations this week, and well, like every year, it’s a mixed bag indeed. Let’s start with the good: Lady Gaga got her props (yay!). And I know there’s a Taylor Swift backlash thing happening, but I was happy to see the nominations for “You Belong With Me” (haters always try to tarnish female vocalists with the “But she can’t sing!” argument; it’s so sexist–I mean, people all agree Bob Dylan’s a great artist, and his voice sounds like driven-over slush).

Now, let’s move on to the bad and the ugly. “I Gotta Feeling” was one of the five best tracks of the year? I actually like the Black-Eyed Peas, but oh, PLEEEEEZ. Beyonce’s “Halo” isn’t quite as bad, but I’m not sure if it’s one of the top 5 songs on Beyonce’s album, let alone everyone else’s. And again, it’s hard not to sigh at the Academy’s continuing habit of rewarding tried and true artists just for being who they are, no matter how mediocre their material (I’m talking to you, U2!). Above all, it is just sad to wade through the bloated list of nominations and find so little of music that truly inspires, music that makes you immediately want to tell all your friends (and readers) about, music that makes life worth living, gosh-darn-it!!!

So in order to correct the musical scales of justice for once and for all, I set aside my disappointment with the Grammys and replace it with this: the Official Nominations for the 2009 Tommyland Music Awards (cue the Applause sign)!!! It’s time to separate the grating from the great, the artificial from the artistic, the generic from the genius, the pap from the pop, the terrible from the Tommylicious. ARE YOU READY… TO… RUMBLE???

**My nominations are based on the 2009 calendar year, not the weird August-to-August year the Grammys use, so albums released in 2008 couldn’t be considered (although album tracks released as singles in 2009 were still eligible). This explains why albums by Beyonce and Taylor Swift aren’t in the running (they WERE nominated for the 2008 TMAs, which I may recap some time). Also, there is a small possibility that the nominations may change slightly from now and 12/31, as there are still 3 1/2 weeks left in the year for me to be exposed to some new bad-ass music. Any changes will be noted on this site.**

**Final Edition**

BEST DEBUT ALBUM (I don’t really understand what criteria the Grammys use to determine their New Artist award; I prefer using the first album as a concrete form of criteria)

— Adam Lambert, For Your Entertainment
— Alessi’s Ark, Notes From the Treehouse
— Florence and the Machine, Lungs
— Kris Allen, Kris Allen
— La Roux, La Roux

BEST ALBUM

— Lady Gaga, The Monster (The Fame was nominated for the 2008 TMAs)
— Lily Allen, It’s Not Me, It’s You (love that title)
— Pet Shop Boys, Yes
— Swell Season, Strict Joy
— Tori Amos, Abnormally Attracted To Sin

BEST TRACK BY A MALE ARTIST

— Adam Lambert, “If I Can’t Have You”
— Eminem, “The Warning”
— Kris Allen, “Heartless (Live Version)”
— Loney Dear, “Airport Surroundings”
— William Fitzsimmons, “Heartless”

Lady Gaga And Adam--Clearly Thrilled With All Their TMA Nominations


BEST TRACK BY A FEMALE ARTIST

— Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”
— Mariah Carey, “Betcha Gon Know (The Prologue)”
— Sarah Blasko, “All I Want”
— Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”
— Whitney Houston, “Million Dollar Bill”

BEST TRACK BY A GROUP

— Girls’ Generation, “Gee”
— Glee Cast, “Endless Love”
— Our Lady Peace, “All You Did Was Save My Life”
— Pet Shop Boys, “The Way It Used To Be”
— Simian Mobile Disco, “Audacity Of Huge”

BEST COLLABORATION TRACK

— Ciara & Justin Timberlake, “Love, Sex, And Magic”
— Madonna & Lil Wayne, “Revolver”
— Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johanssen, “Relator”
— T.I. & Justin Timberlake, “Dead And Gone”
— Project Jenny, Project Jan & Fujiya & Miyagi, “Pins And Needles”

BEST ROCK TRACK

— Girls, “Lust For Life”
— Kris Allen, “Heartless (Live Version)”
— Mando Diao, “Dance With Somebody”
— Our Lady Peace, “All You Did Was Save My Life”
— Weezer, “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To”

BEST HARD ROCK TRACK

— Linkin Park, “New Divide”
— Nirvana, “Sliver (Live Version)” (I KNOW Kurt’s dead, but their Live From Reading live CD was released this year, and it’s utterly awesome)
— Papa Roach, “Lifeline”
— Seether, “Careless Whisper”
— Telezombies, “Why”

Guest vocalist extradionnaire JT, also with many nominations

BEST R&B TRACK

— Ciara & Justin Timberlake, “Love, Sex, And Magic”
— Mariah Carey, “Betcha Gon’ Know”
— Pitbull, “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)”
— Sade, “Soldier Of Love”
— Whitney Houston, “Million Dollar Bill”

BEST RAP TRACK

— Drake, “The Best I Ever Had”
— Eminem, “The Warning”
— Jay-Z & Alicia Keys, “Empire State Of Mind”
— T.I. & Justin Timberlake, “Dead And Gone”
— Outsider, “Outsider”

BEST DANCE TRACK

— Black-Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow”
— Cobra Starship & Leighton Meester, “Good Girls Go Bad”
— Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”
— Sally Shapiro, “Save Your Love”
— Simian Mobile Disco, “Audacity Of Huge”

BEST COUNTRY TRACK

— Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me” (Taylor’s already won; it’s the only country-ish song that I heard all year that I wanted to hear again)

BEST KOREAN POP TRACK

— 2PM, “Again & Again”
— G-Dragon, “Heartbreaker” (Yes, he ripped off “Right Round,” but he also made it sound 100x better)
— Girls’ Generation, “Gee”
— Outsider, “Outsider”
— Super Junior, “Sorry Sorry”

BEST POP TRACK

— Alessi’s Ark, “The Horse”
— Das Racist, “Combination Pizza Hut And Taco Bell (Remix)”
— Girls’ Generation, “Gee”
— Madonna & Lil Wayne, “Revolver”
— Sarah Blasko, “All I Want”

BEST BALLAD TRACK

— Adam Lambert, “If I Can’t Have You”
— David Choi, “Won’t Even Start”
— Glee Cast, “Endless Love”
— Mariah Carey, “Angels Cry”
— William Fitzsimmons, “Heartless”

BEST ALTERNATIVE TRACK

— Loney Dear, “Airport Surroundings”
— Pet Shop Boys, “The Way It Used To Be”
— Phenomenal Handclap Band (w/Lady Tigra), “15 To 20”
— Project Jenny, Project Jan (w/Fujiya & Miyagi), “Pins And Needles”
— Tori Amos, “Flavor”

BEST TRACK FOR FILM, TV, OR STAGE

— Bruce Springsteen, “The Wrestler”
Glee Cast, “Endless Love”
— Linkin Park, “New Divide”
— Miley Cyrus, “The Climb” (Yes, I know, but it IS a good track…)
— Subtle Sexuality, “Male Prima Donna”

BEST COVER TRACK

— Adam Lambert, “If I Can’t Have You”
Glee Cast, “Endless Love”
— Kris Allen, “Heartless (Live Version)”
— Mariah Carey, “I Wanna Know What Love Is”
— William Fitzsimmons, “Heartless”

BEST VIDEO

— Camera Obscura, “French Navy”
— Depeche Mode, “Wrong”
— Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”
— Subtle Sexuality, “Male Prima Donna”
— Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”

Sorry, Lily--There's Always Next Year!

THE ARTIST OF THE YEAR

Adam Lambert
Glee Cast (Seriously. They reminded us just how FUN music can be!)
Lady Gaga
Pet Shop Boys
Tori Amos

THE BEST TRACK OF THE YEAR (20 nominees for this biggie):

— Adam Lambert, “If I Can’t Have You”
— Alessi’s Ark, “The Horse”
— Ciara & Justin Timberlake, “Love, Sex, And Magic”
— David Choi, “Won’t Even Start”
— Eminem, “The Warning”
— Girls’ Generation, “Gee”
— Kris Allen, “Heartless (Live)”
— Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”
— Loney Dear, “Airport Surroundings”
— Madonna & Lil Wayne, “Revolver”
— Mariah Carey, “Betcha Gon’ Know”
— Our Lady Peace, “All You Did Was Save My Life”
— Pet Shop Boys, “The Way It Used To Be”
— Project Jenny, Project Jan (w/Fujiya & Miyagi), “Pins And Needles”
— Sarah Blasko, “All I Want”
— Simian Mobile Disco, “Audacity Of Huge”
— T.I. & Justin Timberlake, “Dead And Gone”
— Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”
— Tori Amos, “Flavor”
— Whitney Houston, “Million Dollar Bill”

All of the TMA winners will be announced between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I now leave you with Lily Allen’s “F*ck You,” which just missed out on being a Best Track nominee. It’s not meant as a message to the Grammy people, I promise.

F*ck You – Lily Allen