Morning Countdown #21 (9/12/09)

September 12, 2009

dg_film1In true L.A. style, today’s Morning Countdown was conducted as I soaked up the rays poolside. I’m finally over my cold, and I’m feelin’ pretty good, playing tennis, working out, and living it up California-style.

My week here has been a total reminder on the whole American lifestyle. You work 9 to 5 at a tolerable job, bantering with your co-workers, then come home, hang out with family and friends, have fun on the weekends, and repeat. It’s nice, and it’s predictable.

But as much as I’m enjoying my time here, I don’t think it’s for me, at least not yet. As much as Korea drives me crazy at times, there’s still a charge in the air there, a sense that I’m really livin’, a sense that ANYTHING can happen. Living in Seoul is kinda like living in a blender, with a whole lot of thing poppin’, and I think I’m still into being blended, if that makes any sense. Now on with the Countdown:

1) Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (Dance Remix) – Madonna: Solid effort from Madonna, just as you’d expect from a Madonna dance song. So let’s discuss Madonna’s acting career for a moment, shall we? Let’s face it, the lady has not had much luck with the silver screen. In Evita, I though she was decent, but still not great, hampered by the same affected mannerisms that have plagued most of her movies. When the script calls for her character to be angry, you can see the wheels moving behind her eyes, as she grimly sets her jaw, blinking a lot because she’s determined to be SO angry, angrier that anybody has ever been, because she’s Madonna, and she’s gotta do things more than anybody else. Unfortunately, great film performances require a kaleidoscope of shades, with moments of subtlety and holding back. And subtlety has never been Madonna’s strong point, to say the least. Interestingly, Madonna’s most natural film performance came in a little-seen bomb called “Dangerous Game.” The movie was absolutely terrible, but Madonna actually managed to connect organically with a character (as opposed to just playing herself, which she did in “Desperately Seeking Susan” and of course “Truth Or Dare”). In fact, she was far, far more effective than her male co-stars (one of which was critics’ darling Harvey Keitel), who hammed it up and overacted like there was no tomorrow.

2) From Clare To Here – Ralph McTell: I love this song. I’m still not exactly sure what it’s about, if Clare is the name of a woman or a place, or what the heck’s going on. But Ralph sings it like he’s telling you a story for the ages, and it’s that sweeping feeling that gets to you and takes you to a time and place far, far away.

3) The Greatest Love of All – Whitney Houston: A winning ballad from Countdown standby Whitney. It’s really less a song than a showcase for that Voice of hers. It’s crystal clear and absolutely stunning, so much so that you don’t register how corny and cliche the lyrics are. Of course, Whitney’s voice has deteriorated worse than the American economy, but I must say, I really LIKE Whitney’s new album. Whitney has found herself some great beatmeisters to hide her vocal limitations, and the uptempo numbers are irresistibe. Million Dollar Bill and Call You Tonight are two of the best pop songs so far this year.

reamonn4) Tonight – Reamonn: Who? You may not have heard of them–I sure hadn’t–but apparently, they’re big in Europe, especially in their native Germamy. I’m not sure why they haven’t hit it big in the States, because this song is just about perfect. A great melody, understated but effective vocals, moody, introspective, just awesome.

5) Heaven – Bryan Adams: I like Bryan Adams. He’s this blue-collar figure singing for the working classes, kind of a Canadian Bruce Springsteen–uh, okay, maybe he’s not THAT talented; let’s make it a Canadian Richard Marx. Yeah, that sounds about right. Unfortunately, upon this listen, “Heaven” isn’t really his best moment (that would be “Summer of ’69”). It’s a bit too repetitive, a bit too juvenile. Still, it’s better than that “The Only Thing That Looks Good On You Is Me” crap he later came out with, all decked out in mascara and glam rock threads. Not too surprisingly, that was the last I ever heard of Bryan, I believe.

An interesting mix of songs this week, I think, with a mix of superstars and relative unknowns. And in an upset, I’ve gotta go with the underdogs this time, just because their songs are the best ones. “From Clare To Here” is a close second, but the ultimate win goes out to Reamonn’s “Tonight.” Of course, most Americans have probably never heard this song. It’s time to remedy that.

Winner: Tonight – Reamonn

Morning Countdown #18 (8/16/09)

August 16, 2009

wgMy first week of being unemployed started off feeling awkward and peculiar, but it’s come to a nice end, and I declare myself officially in Vacation Mode. Seriously, I can feel my insides loosening up and starting to exhale for the first time in months (it’s actually hurting a bit when I do this; I hope I haven’t given myself an ulcer).

I played tennis today, and I handled the miserable heat considerably better than last week, which was a good sign. Unfortunately, my backhand still proved to be lost in outer space somewhere (and my forehand wasn’t a whole lot better), so I had to be satisfied losing in the quarterfinals of our league singles tournament (we have one every two months). I know my timing will come back with time, but mistiming shots time and time again didn’t allow me to have that good of a time. Ha!

Anyhow, on that (cheesy) note, on with the Countdown!:

1) Rescue Me – Angela Johnson: I heard this song randomly somewhere a few years back, and then I forgot the singer’s name, and I ended up looking for the song everywhere for a couple of months. I was very, very happy when I found it again. It’s a catchy, laid-back R&B tune that’s very good to bop your head to. Now if anyone can tell me the name of the alternative rock song they used to play on K-ROQ years ago with the chorus, “But you don’t send me messages,” my life will be musically complete.

2) If You Told Me That – Whitney Houston & George Michael: Now THERE’S a couple. Bet they would host some fun parties, at the very least. Okay, kidding aside, both Whitney (who could still hit high notes at this point) and George do the song proud vocally, and the lyrics–about two friends who consider making the transition to lovers–are relatable to many, I’m sure (not me personally, though; friends and lovers are like apples and oranges to me, if that makes any sense).

FF3) Almost Lover – Fine Frenzy: It’s a heartbreaker of a song lamenting a love that never had the chance to even start; what’s not to like? Besides, Fine Frenzy’s (terrible name by the way for such an understated band) vocals are just dreamy.

4) Don’t Say No – Patrick Wolf: Patrick clearly wants to be the male version of Bjork, building up elaborate sonic landscapes filled with beeps, grinding noises, and various other factory sounds. It’s all nice and good, but I wish he’d spend some more time with the meat and potatoes part of the song, namely the melody. Fortunately, “Don’t Say No” is one track where he manages to meld everything together to great effect.

5) All She Wants Is Everything – O.M.D.: You may remember this British duo as the minds behind “If You Leave,” the romantic backgroud music for Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy’s make-out session in “Pretty in Pink” (again, John Hughes, R.I.P.). But they’ve had a number of other standout electro-pop tunes (think early Depeche Mode), and this one’s a good example. As in “If You Leave,” the lead singer does a commendable job of 80’s pining and whining (this time about one selfish wench of a girl).

In the end, it’s another tough Countdown decision, but Fine Frenzy’s dreamy lament edges out Patrick Wolf’s industrial command for the win.

Winner: Almost Lover – Fine Frenzy

Morning Countdown #17 (8/5/09)

August 5, 2009

Today I ended up having kind of a powwow session with my 5th-6th grade students in the middle of class. It felt very “Breakfast Club”-style (I don’t want to say Dr.Phil-style, because I don’t like the show, and I find him to be a pompous ass–as opposed to me, who’s an ass but very aware that he’s an ass).

Basically, in the class, we’re spending the week making a book about ourselves. And today, we were working on a page where we write down what makes us happy, what makes us sad, what makes us scared, etc. Well, one boy–big, boisterous, but really more bark than bite and still kind of sweet inside–announced that nothing and nobody makes him happy. Then he in his broken English managed to tell us that he once went up to the top of his apartment building and looked down, wondering what it would feel like to fall.

Obviously, it wasn’t the happiest of stories. The kids were giggling kind of nervously, and the boy himself looked perfectly nonchalant. I wasn’t sure how much of the story was true, but I decided it was time for a special Tommyland talk. So I sat down on a desk and basically told the kids following:

“How old are you guys? 12 and 13? Well, the truth is, this is a TERRIBLE age. You study, you listen to parents, you listen to teachers, you study more, your parents still get angry, and you pretty much don’t get to choose anything. So what do you do? Well, you keep trying your best, and you wait. Because when you finally get through high school and move on to college, BOOM, your life is gonna get so much better. Then you finish that, and you’ll get a job, you’ll make your own money, you’ll make your own decisions, maybe you’ll move into your own house, and THAT’S when you’ll be very, very happy. So remember that life WILL get better. Until then, you try, and you wait.”

The kids were listening so intently that you could hear a pin drop (a rare instance in Tommyland). Then one boy–quiet, thoughtful, dreams of being a K-pop singer–asked, “Are YOU happy?” I had to think about it for a moment, but then I honestly answered, “Yes! If I want to eat dukbokki, I can eat dukbokki. If I want to go to Europe, I can go to Europe. So I’m happy.” Then the same boy countered, “But Tommy Teacher always say, have no money!” I just trailed off with “Well, yeah… Okay, let’s get back to our books!”

Anyhow, I don’t envy kids’ lives at all. I hope all the pressures and responsiblities on their tiny shoulders don’t suck the life out of them. On that note, let’s move on to the Countdown!

1) Pero Me Acuerdo de Ti – Christina Aguilera
2) Lovergirl – Teena Marie
3) It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over – Lenny Kravitz
4) The Pretender – Foo Fighters
5) Everybody Plays the Fool – Aaron Neville

We start with Christina’s Spanish ballad, and it’s a solid start. It’s one of my favorite Christina songs, because she’s restrained for once and actually builds up to the moment where she starts letting loose with her big voice (usually she just starts belting from the first note onward). I’m still not sure what the title means, although I know it’s “I’m _____ed of you.” I’m going to guess, “I’m REMINDED of you,” but I’m too lazy to look it up right now. Lo siento.

Then it’s time for another female belter: Teena Marie with “Lovergirl.” I hadn’t heard this song in AGES, and I didn’t even recognize it until a couple of lines in. You have to give Teena an A for effort here. She sings her heart out until she sounds seconds aways from a straitjacket, there’s a power guitar solo AND a keyboard solo, and near the end, Teena actually starts rappin’ for a little bit. In the end, it’s all a bit too much, but hey, she certainly gave it her all.

Lenny and his dreadlocks are next with his ode to Lisa Bonet, the naughtiest of the Cosby kids. It’s a cool song, but the title kind of bothers me. I know Lenny didn’t coin the expression, but it just sounds rather silly. It ain’t over til it’s over. Well, duh! Why not just say, “It’s not over.” Otherwise, it’s just like saying, “I’m not hungry unless I’m hungry” or “If it’s not 3:00, then it can’t be 3:00.” Could you BE any more obvious? Well, if you can’t, I guess you can’t.

Who better to slay such silliness than the Foo Fighters? “The Pretender” is not only my favorite song by the Foo crew, but it’s gotta be one of my favorite rock songs in the last couple of years. I was shakin’ my head to it on the subway, which is always a sign of a great Countdown song.

Finally, we end with Aaron Neville’s inimitable voice reassuring everyone that we all get played some time. You may remember that I’ve talked about this song before, how I find myself humming the chorus for no reason time to time. It’s a great song, although the versus aren’t quite as eminently singable as the choruses (chori?).

But as good as Aaron is, the Foo Fighters are out to kick major ass on “The Pretender,” and there’s simply no denying them. It’s a TKO for the Foo-men.

Winner: The Pretender – Foo Fighters

Morning Countdown #16 (8/2/09)

August 2, 2009


Wow, it’s already August. The weather’s been getting hotter and hotter here in Seoul, mixed in with intermittent rain; the humidity is a killer here. Still, I’ll always love summer more than winter. The bulky clothes; slippery, icy roads; thermal underwear; freezing down to the bones; ugh, no, thank you!

My second week of Camp Tommyland (for 5th-6th graders) went by in a breeze. It was a sweet group of kids–no Devil’s spawn among them. Now I have one more week (for higher-level kids), and then it’s… well, I don’t know! My future lies before me, a dusty road, a blank canvas, a horizon before me of my own making. And somewhere out there, the light of the Eiffel Tower beckons me, as does the smell of Quarter Pounders (they don’t have ’em here in Korea, only Big Macs; d’oh!).

But before the future, the present. A lot’s been going on in the world of sports and entertainment. Uber-divas Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Madonna have all released new songs, and my reactions have been “forgettable,” “good song, but shame about the worn-down voice,” and “not her best, but still kind of fun, and I love the laugh,” respectively. Michelle Kwan made an offical announcement that she won’t be competing in this Olympic season. It’s sad in a way, but I do think she made the right decision. Michelle is classy, beautiful, developing a promising future in international relations, healthy, and not exactly starving; all of that adds up to a whole lot more than an Olympic gold medal; to keep chasing it would have seemed desperate more than anything. Besides, she said she’ll still be skating in exhibitions. In fact, she’ll be skating in Korea in a couple of weeks! (I’ll be watching it on TV; I considered going, but the hefty ticket prices seemed a bit much considering I’ll be an unemployed bum after next week)

Okay, let’s move to the Countdown:

1) Pocketful of Sunshine – Natasha Bedingfield
2) What About Me – Shannon Noll
3) The Main Theme to “It Happened In Bali”
4) Love Story – Taylor Swift
5) Cold – Crossfade

The countdown starts with perky Natasha Bedingfield’s “Pocketful of Sunshine.” It’s definitely catchy, but I actually want to talk about Natasha’s other hit, “Unwritten.” I didn’t really like that song until I recently went on a “Hills” watch-a-thon last week and heard it as the opening song about thirty times (at that point, I gave up all resistance and downloaded it onto my Cowon S9). Here’s what happened. There’s a cable station here called OnStyle that plays all kind of American reality shows, and I happened to catch a few episodes of “The City” about a tall, young woman named Whitney who moves to New York and works for some fashion company, and I found it quite watchable in a mindless, brainless kind of way (My favorite episode was when that Mischa Barton-look-a-like bitch Olivia totally stole credit for something Whitney did; it was totally bizarre, though; didn’t she consider the fact that all her scheming lies were being taped???)

After watching “The City,” I learned (thru Wikipedia, where else?) that Whitney was originally a minor “character” on another reality show called “The Hills.” Well, that rang a bell, because I remember coming across it while channel-surfing when I was in the U.S. But at that time, I had no idea who all those girls were or why the heck I was supposed to care, so I always changed the channel. Well, last week, I made up for lost time in a major way, watching all of Season Three (I had heard that it was the most dramatic) in a span of about three days. So now I’m all caught up, having learned that Lauren, while not a genius, seems genuinely likeable; Heidi has serious issues, while Spencer is just an a-hole; Audrina is the most boring person on the show, and her guy Jason is a jerk in his own right; and as it turns out, Whitney, like several other people, was on the show pretty much just to ask, “Really?” and “And THEN what happened?” Anyhow, reruns of “The Hills” are my current favorite form of McEntertainment, and I’m not ashamed to admit it (though I probably should be).

The next song in our countdown has a reality show connection as well, as Shannon Noll was apparently a contestant on the Australian version of American Idol (Australian Idol, naturally). “What About Me” is actually a great, rock-inflected ballad, and the guy delivers it with emotion to spare. I don’t really know anything about Mr. Noll, but apparently, he’s huge down under, so that’s good to hear.

Now it’s time for more TV talk, thanks to “The Theme to ‘It Happened To Bali,” (aka “Memories of Bali”) which is exactly what the title says it is. In case you aren’t familiar with Korean TV dramas, let me update you. “It Happened in Bali” was on TV here a few years ago, and it remains my all-time favorite Korean drama. Its basic storyline isn’t all that different from a slew of other dramas. There’s a love triangle, as two men (one poor but hard-working guy and one rich, spoiled brat) fight over a travel guide they meet in Bali. The travel guide, played by Ha Ji Won, is a young woman who’s had to struggle all her life. A modern-day Cinderella figure? Not at all. She’s admirable in many ways, but she’s also got some serious, serious issues. That’s the thing about this drama that set it apart from all the cliched, you-can-see-the-ending-from-an-orbit-away ones out there. All the characters are deeply, deeply flawed, and all struggle with inner demons of their own. It’s easily the darkest Korean drama I’ve seen (it’s even lit dark most of the time), and I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say you won’t be alone if the ending blows your brains away. It’s a real shocker.

swiBut there’s nothing dark about cute, country crooner Taylor Swift and her sweet “Love Story.” I’m not a huge fan of country music, but I love the song. It’s really more pop than anything else, a young girl singing about falling in love for the first time, and Taylor keeps her voice just understated enough to not come off annoying or cloying (listen up, Miley Cyrus). Speaking of Miley, Taylor actually sang “Fifteen” (another good song) with her at some awards show, and the juxtaposition between Taylor’s cool confidence and Miley’s shrieking was bizarrely engrossing in a train-wreck-can’t-look-away kind of way.

Finally, we end things on a rocky note with Crossfade’s “Cold.” It’s straight-up rock in the Creed vein, but fortunately, it’s served up a whole lot better, as I can’t stand Creed.

So in this varied group of songs, it’s time to choose a winner. And it’s a pretty close call, Taylor beats out Shannon to get the happy ending she sings about.

Winner: Love Story – Taylor Swift

Morning Countdown #15 (7/25/09)

July 25, 2009


The goodbyes and the gifts just keep on coming. Today I had dinner with a girl that I’ve been tutoring for the last five years. She’s going to be starting sixth grade in a few weeks, and it’s crazy to think I met her when she was in kindergarten. Anyhow, she’s a sweetheart, and since I’m not going to see her for quite a while, she, her mom, and I had dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was my treat (for once), as they had been so nice to me over the years. It was a good decision on my part, as they gave me a Samsung digital camera gift. It was much appreciated, and it will come in quite handy in Europe, I’m sure. So all in all, it was a good day. On that note, let’s start the day’s Countdown!:

1) Survivor – Destiny’s Child
2) Philadelphia
3) Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix) – Los Del Rio
4) A New Agenda – Janet Jackson
5) I’m Happy – Lee So-ra

The day’s countdown starts with “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. The group had some smokin’ hits (my personal favorite being “Jumpin’ Jumpin”), but they’ve always inspired mixed feelings from me. Let’s face it, the group was all about Beyonce, Beyonce, and Beyonce, with the other members relegated strictly to the background. Of course, when a couple of the original members tried to rectify the situation, it was Bye-Bye, Talk To You Never. Even the group’s name is rather telling: Destiny’s Child, not Destiny’s Children. Gee, I wonder which member of the group was that particular child. Hmm… Anyhow, “Survivor” is rather catchy, but it’s a bit too shallow and silly to be the female power anthem that it clearly wants to be (lyrics like “I’m not gonna diss you on the Internet” and “I’m not gonna compromise my Christianity” just come off more self-serving than empowering here). Still, it is a notable addition to the group’s catalogue if only for being one of the few songs that gives perennial third wheel member Michelle Williams a solo part.

Today’s Countdown is a bit schizophrenic in mood, as the woo-hoo, girl power vibe switches to the despairing elegy that is Neil Young’s “Philadelphia,” taken from the movie by the same name. I personally didn’t care for the movie and found it rather overwrought, but Tom Hanks’ performance was spot-on, and I was really glad for him when he won the Oscar. I remembered a number of years before when Tom was nominated for “Big,” which was such an awesome movie, and I felt so bad for him when he lost out to Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man.” I thought, ‘Oh, man, that sucks, because that’s the best shot he’s ever gonna get.’ Well, my cinematic predictions proved to be just as off the mark as my tennis predictions, that’s for sure. Anyhow, “Philadelphia” the song is all about hopelessness and despair, and it’s awfully touching, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone to listen to it while walking on a bridge, that’s for sure.

Then the mood abruptly changes gears once again to the song that inspired the dance craze known as the Macarena. I actually remember breaking out this dance with my high school friend Pearle in a fashion boutique in Santa Monica where the song started playing, both of us laughing our asses off while people looked at us like we were crazy. Good times. But listening to the song again, I hadn’t realized that the song’s story was so disturbing. Don’t remember? Well, the song is basically about this girl Macarena who has a boyfriend but decides to cheat on him–with TWO guys at once, mind you–simply because they’re “so hot.” Hmm. I bet her poor boyfriend wasn’t doing the Macarena when he found out. Still, the beat is quite irresistible.

After that slut tale, it’s time for Janet–sorry, Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty–with “A New Agenda.” This is a great track and a great reminder of a time when Janet was singing about things other than how much she likes sex. It’s a call against racism in which Janet declares herself an “African-American woman standing tall with pride.” Unfortunately, Janet’s last three or four albums have found her embarrassing herself further and further with her Penthouse oohs and declarations. To get back on track, she needs to do several things: 1) Work on her voice. She’s never been a power singer, but she had a pretty Diana Ross-style coo, which has turned weak and raspy in recent years. 2) Go back to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and regain the hooks that she once had in spades. 3) Again, enough with the whole I’m-a-sexual-creature crap, and write about the world around you. With Michael gone, Janet needs to step up to carry on the legendary Jackson name, and I’m hoping she can do it.

leeFinally, we have Korean chanteuse Lee So-ra with her ironic “I’m Happy.” You don’t need to understand Korean to listen to the song and realize that she is not happy at all. Of course, the lyrics do make the point clear. She’s sending her lover away, because she knows she’s not what he needs, and she’s trying to assure him that she’ll be absolutely fine, as she is perfectly happy. Yeah, right. In the end, she finally crumbles, telling him goodbye while confessing that she’ll love him until the day she dies. Heartbreaking stuff, and Lee So-ra’s inimitable voice suits the song perfectly, sending waves of sadness right to the heart. And this emotional tsunami of a song drowns out the catchiness of “Macarena” in the end for the win.

Winner: I'm Happy – Lee So-ra

Morning Countdown #14 (7/18/09)

July 20, 2009

Chris Evert played her last U.S. Open in 1989, and I clearly remember watching her lose in the quarterfinals to Zina Garrison. Zina played crafty, smart tennis throughout, using her backhand slice incredibly well to move Chris Evert around without giving her any pace to work with. At match point, Zina served down the middle from the ad court, and Chris’ forehand return found the net. At that moment, the British announcer simply said, “With that, an era has ended.” Well, I wish he was around on Friday when an era in my life came to an end as well.

Friday was my last day of regular classes at my school, and like the rest of the week, it was overwhelming, exhausting, and above all, just plain awesome. I held my tears in check, until the bell rang for my very last class, when I let them go for five, ten seconds tops (causing one disgruntled student to ask why I didn’t cry for her class). But really, it couldn’t have gone better, thanks to the kids more than anything.

One thing about kids is that they need to know that their feelings are just as valid as anybody else’s, and for them to know that, you have to allow them to express what they feel. And boy, did they ever. I got a whole Costco bag-ful of letters (one ingenious class made theirs into paper airplanes and hurled them at my head when I walked into the room, a couple missing my eyes by inches!), two mini photo albums, three glass jars full of origami stars and cranes, countless notebooks, a few pencils and pens, a photo frame, two chess knight pieces (I think they were symbolic of something, I’m not sure what), a homemade cake courtesy of a student’s mom, two bowls of dukbokki, and my favorite strictly from a material point of view, a Guy Laroche bathrobe(!). It was a full, full day, and as bittersweet as it all was, I felt proud more than anything else, both for myself and for the students. At the risk of sounding immodest, I really did try my best and worked my ass off for three years, and the kids more than made it all worthwhile.

Okay, I’m going to make myself vaklempt all over again, so on with the Countdown!:

1) Crazy – Gnarls Barkley
2) Meet Me Halfway – Kenny Loggins
3) Remember the Time (Live) – Kris Allen
4) Hyperballad – Bjork
5) I Believe – Blessed Union of Souls

We start with Gnarls Barkley (brother of Charles?), and “Crazy” is a well-deserved hit, but I’ve just heard it so many times that it doesn’t register like it once did. It will probably start fresh again after another six months or so of not hearing it. Still, I love the voice and the arrangement.

Kenny Loggins is next, and you may know him as the singer of schmaltzy rock soundtrack tunes such as “Footloose,” “Danger Zone,” and well this one, “Meet Me Halfway.” I’m pretty sure this is from a Sylvester Stallone movie that I saw on cable a long time ago. As far as I remember, Stallone is a single dad who tries to support his son by arm wrestling his way to greatness or something like that. Needless to say, the movie was a bunch of nothing, but the song, well, it’s pretty darn good. It’s schmaltzy, yes, but Kenny’s soaring voice suits schmaltz perfectly (a la Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie).

Then it’s–sigh–Kris Allen. Oh, how much I’ve missed thee. It already feels like a lifetime ago that the Kris-Adam duel took place. This is a great live performance with Kris doing what he does best, strumming the guitar and turning a well-known track into his brand new creation. It’s slightly marred by the bum high note near the end, but otherwise, I think Michael Jackson must have liked it (another sigh).

b36c3ddaed4c7978Bjork follows with “Hyperballad.” I have very mixed feelings about Bjork. I know she, Tori Amos (see you in Paris!!!), and PJ Harvey were once to alternative music what Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Christy Turlington were to supermodels at large. But at the risk of alienating all the fans of the Icelandic pixie, I find 90% of her music to be pure gibberish where she programs an electro-factory rhythm arrangement and then just starts wailing nonsense over that with no rhyme and reason. Okay, before you attack me (the way Bjork infamously lunged at a reporter at an airport), let me add that the remaining 10% is well, pretty spectacular, still with little rhyme and reason, but a whole lot of otherwordly magic. “Hyperballad” falls straight into that 10%, thank goodness.

klThe day’s Countdown comes to an end with “I Believe,” and I haven’t heard the song in ages and ages. Well, it may have been better off kept in the vault a little bit longer, because as sweet and earnest the whole thing is, it’s also sappier than a maple forest in Canada. Racism, parental intolerance, forbidden interracial love, these are real, pertinent issues even today. And I’m sorry, just crooning “Love is the answer” and “Love will find a way” over and over isn’t gonna make them go away.

In the end, the race comes down to Kenny and Bjork, with Kenny ekeing out the win. What can I say? I’m in a schmaltzy state of mind (another factor is that I know my brother really likes the song, too).

Winner: Meet Me Halfway – Kenny Loggins

Morning Countdown #13 (7/10/09)

July 10, 2009

Next week is my last week of regular classes at my school. I will wrap things up by giving out Sticker Champion gift packs to the winning teams, giving letters and photos to every student, and by having an “all-fun” final class with a showing of a classic Simpsons episode: “Kamp Krusty.” Could it inspire the kids to stage a mutiny on the school? Perhaps, but it will be the last couple of days, so they won’t have enough time to organize a major revolution… hopefully 🙂 Anyhow, on with the Countdown!:

1) Same Script, Different Cast – Whitney Houston & Faith Evans
2) I Do – Lisa Loeb
3) Let Me Sign – Robert Pattinson
4) Love Tried To Welcome Me – Madonna
5) Celebrity Skin – Hole

Today’s Countdown starts with Whitney and Faith’s catfight-over-a-man duet, a grown-up version of “The Boy is Mine,” if you will. It’s a great song, and Whitney is in fine form here. At this point in her career, her voice wasn’t quite as crystal clear as it once was, but the slight rasp she had actually worked to her benefit, as it kind of gave her an edge and an aura of a woman who’s been through a whole lot and lived to sing about it. Of course, things went downhill for Whitney real fast, but she’s announced her new album will be coming out soon, and I hope she’ll have the successful comeback that I wished for Michael Jackson (sigh), just so she can tell off the world, “Crack is whack, and I am BACK!” (insert canned laughter here)

Lisa Loeb follows, and no, it’s not the “Stay” song. Lisa actually has several other good songs, and “I Do” definitely qualifies. It’s rockin’ in its own intelligent, book-loving girl kind of way. Actually, I just remembered Lisa had a reality show years ago where she just went around trying to find a boyfriend because she really wanted to start a family. It sounds a bit coarse, but Lisa came off very sweet and just as smart as her music would suggest. I don’t know what she’s doing now, but I hope she’s okay and still into all things Hello Kitty.

The third song is “Let Me Sign” courtesy of Twilight hearthrob Robert Pattinson, and it’s more of a tease than a full song, barely lasting over robp2two minutes. But I gotta say, it packs quite a moody wallop in its 138 seconds. It’s intense and atmospheric, and it leaves you hungry for more. Not surprisingly, it worked perfectly as the musical backdrop for when Rob bit into the Twilight girl and sucked her blood out (in order to save her life, of course; he’s the vampire with the heart of gold).

Madonna follows with “Love Tried to Welcome Me,” which has also been a favorite of mine from her Bedtime Stories album (it’s second only to “Take a Bow,” in my opinion). It’s a gentle, sad lullabye of a song, and it works perfectly. In fact, Bedtime Stories is the rare Madonna album where the ballads work and the uptempo numbers sink like stones (sorry, but I’ve always hated “Human Nature” aside from the video).

Then Hole! I haven’t thought about this band for ages, until I read recently that they were getting back together. I don’t know if anybody still cares, but for a time, Courtney Love was THE female face of rock, and “Live Through This” is probably my favorite rock album by a woman-fronted band. “Celebrity Skin” actually came from the following album, but it’s still a killer track.

Overall, it’s five solid songs without much between them. Madonna finishes at a close second. But in the end, I gotta follow the bloodthirsty voice beckoning from the dark woods.

Winner: Let Me Sign – Rob Pattinson