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!)


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


The Iconic Showdown: MJ vs. Madonna

November 14, 2009

mj_victory

Starry, Starry Night


True icons do not come along too often. Jesus was an icon. Paris Hilton wishes she were. When it comes to popular music, I would say that only five artists really make the list no questions asked: Elvis (natch), The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, and Madonna. Cases could be made for Aretha, Joni, the Rolling Stones, Prince, and Mariah, but I don’t know; they’ve all got serious creds, but there’s still wiggle room for doubt, while the first group are unquestionably in like Flynn.

Of that exclusive group, MJ and Madonna stand out; they really were the most famous, the most infamous, the most talked-about, the most publicity-obsessed, the most video-savvy, the most bizarre, the most interesting, the starriest stars pop music has ever seen. At the Video Music Awards, Madonna talked about the things she had in common with the late Michael, bringing up their Midwestern upbringings and their large number of siblings. There’s actually something else of interest that they share: they’ve both had twelve #1 hits on the Billboard charts. So it’s without further adieu that I present you the Battle of Number Ones between these two timeless legends. Twelve rounds to the finish: who will reign supreme? Let’s find out.

ROUND ONE: Ben (1972) vs. Like a Virgin (1984)

Michael’s career of course started with his brothers, and the Jackson 5 actually hit #1 with their first three singles. Michael sporadically recorded solo records on the side, and “Ben” became his first #1 when he was just 13 or 14 years old. On the other hand, Madonna was a full decade older when she scored her first #1 hit with “Like a Virgin.” It really was the record that unleashed the Madonna phenomenon onto the world, much of it thanks to her writhing-on-the-floor rendition at the VMAs. Interestingly, some people have noted the similarities between the beats of “Virgin” and MJ’s earlier smash, “Billie Jean.” Madonna herself emphasized the connection by throwing in a couple of lines from “Billie Jean” when she performed the song during the Virgin Tour.

Winner: Madonna. “Ben” is sweet, but it’s on the edge of being syrupy. “Like a Virgin,” in contrast, was a lioness declaring herself to the world.

ROUND TWO: Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough (1979) vs. Crazy For You (1985)

It was seven years after “Ben” that MJ really came into his own. His Off the Wall album established himself as not only a solo artist but as a man, not a boy. “Don’t Stop” is a disco classic showcasing MJ’s falsetto. For Madonna, “Crazy For You” was just the continuation of Madonnamania, while also surprising many who didn’t think she had the vocals to pull off a slow ballad.

Winner: It’s a close one, but Madonna takes it again. There’s a reason why the disco craze didn’t last. It just doesn’t age well, especially compared to a sexy ballad.

ROUND THREE: Rock With You (1979) vs. Live To Tell (1986)

This is by far the toughest round yet. Both songs are truly amazing. MJ finds a midtempo groove on “Rock With You” and rides it into pop heaven, while Madonna had to reach deeper than she ever had for her darkest song yet.

Winner: Madonna by a hair. “Live To Tell” is arguably the most emotionally affecting song in Madonna’s canon, with probably the best lyrics she’s ever written.

ROUND FOUR: Billie Jean (1983) vs. Papa Don’t Preach (1986)

“Billie Jean” marks the point when Michael undeniably became the King of Pop. He broke down every barrier there was, simply by making music that was too damn good to resist. Meanwhile, Madonna was busy creating a political firestorm over her teen pregnancy saga.

Winner: Michael. I like “Papa” just fine, but it doesn’t hold a candle to “Bille Jean.” Even now, the thumping bass kicks in, and the song has you in the palm of its hand.

ROUND FIVE: Beat It (1983) vs. Open Your Heart (1987)

Michael’s grip on the world continued with the anti-violence “Beat It” while Madonna was courting controversy yet again, this time by playing a stripper (I think) and kissing (innocently, I think) a boy on the lips in the video for “Open Your Heart.”

Winner: Two in a row for Michael. I actually find “Open” to be one of the most annoying Madonna singles ever. It’s a bit too repetive, and her vocals come off too bratty (not sexy-bratty, which would be good, but just bratty).

ROUND SIX: I Just Can’t Stop Loving You (1987) vs. Who’s That Girl? (1987)

Hey, we’re actually at the same time for both MJ and Madonna! (I was feeling like the guy in the Time Traveler’s Wife for a while) In 1987, we found MJ making sweet love to Siedah Garrett (who would later be Madonna’s back-up singer on tour!) and Madonna singing in Spanglish for the sake of a box office disaster of a film.

Winner: Michael again. “I Just Can’t” is a simple love song, but his vocals are creamy and dreamy, while “Who’s That Girl” is so forgettable that it was actually later left off of her Immaculate Collection CD. (It’s gotta be the first time in history that a #1 hit was left off of a greatest-hits album.)

ROUND SEVEN: Bad (1987) vs. Like a Prayer (1989)

With “Bad,” MJ returned to fighting gang violence with the power of group choreography, while Madonna was busy pissing off the Vatican in “Like a Prayer.”

Winner: Madonna in a no-brainer. “Like a Prayer” was Madonna at her very best, controversial but clear-eyed, sexy but with substance. Meanwhile, “Bad” was so over-the-top both as a song and a video that it came off like a Michael Jackson parody instead of the real thing.

mm2

MJ--Trying Not To Look


ROUND EIGHT: The Way You Make Me Feel (1988) vs. Vogue (1990)

Michael returned to form here with perhaps his sexiest vocals ever. Madonna used an underground dance form to make herself into even more of an icon than she already was.

Winner: Madonna. Two awesome songs here, but how could anyone refuse M’s command to “strike a pose”? Just. Not. Possible. Plus, that whole “Greta Garbo and Monroe” rap is the best Madonna bridge EVER.

ROUND NINE: Man In the Mirror (1988) vs. Justify My Love (1990)

The message of “Man In the Mirror”: Don’t judge others. The message of “Justify My Love”: Don’t f*ck others, just me (and tell me all about how you’re gonna do it).

Winner: Michael. “Man In the Mirror” is one of his best songs, finding him clear-eyed and right on the point. Meanwhile, Madonna begins her sex-crazed downward spiral that will find her publishing a book where she’s sucking on toes, shaving off her eyebrows who-knows-why, humping Willem Dafoe on screen (I don’t really get why scrawny, slightly creepy Willem keeps getting called to do sexually explicit movies), swearing approximately 1,447 times on Letterman, and dating both Vanilla Ice and Dennis Rodman.

ROUND TEN: Dirty Diana (1988) vs. This Used To Be My Playground (1992)

Michael decides to rock out (a la “Beat It”) and scores his fifth(!) #1 from the Bad album. Meanwhile, Madonna releases a sad, delicate ballad from the League of Her Own Soundtrack right before she goes on her rampage and the public and the media both decide they’re sick of her.

Winner: It’s a close call, but I’ll go with Michael on this one. Neither song is all that great, but at least “Dirty Diana” has some life to it. “Playground” seems almost anemic in comparison.

ROUND ELEVEN: Black Or White (1991) vs. Take a Bow (1994)

Michael proves that a call for racial equality can be catchy as all heck (though the original video with the whole crotch rubbing and car smashing was one of Michael’s most baffling moments, which is definitely saying something). Madonna, no doubt sick of getting beat up in the press, tones down the raunch and instead goes for elegant tenderness with “Take a Bow.”

Winner: Yet another epic battle. Dangerous was really the last album when Michael still seemed capable of enjoying his music and his life. “Black Or White,” as political as its message may have been, was marked more by pure joy than anything else. Still, I can’t help thinking that it’s slightly edged out by “Take a Bow,” which is an absolute classic. Madonna’s vocals are perfect in the song, both sad and lush, and the melody is as pretty as they come. “Take a Bow” ended up being Madonna’s most successful single ever and almost single-handedly rescued her career (the artsy video also reportedly convinced Alan Pakula to cast her for “Evita”).

ROUND TWELVE: You Are Not Alone (1995) vs. Music (2000)

The final round, and what a way to finish things off. Michael delivers a classic ballad of his own with “You Are Not Alone” that even an icky video with a semi-clad Michael and his then-wife Lisa Marie Presley couldn’t mar. In “Music,” Madonna returns to doing what she does best, ordering all of us to get on the dance floor and boogie like we mean it.

Winner: It’s another tough round, but Michael takes it. “Music” is fun, but it’s really all icing and very little cake, while “You Are Not Alone” is just timeless.

FINAL SCORE: Michael Jackson = 6, Madonna = 6

Whoa. I swear, I did not pre-plan this. I actually predicted Madonna would win this showdown by a fair margin, as I do believe her body of work is superior to Michael’s (and pretty much anyone else’s, aside from my beloved Tori Amos). Still, I can’t help but be glad that it all ended in a draw, as the whole point of this showdown was to remember how plain awesome both Michael and Madonna were, are, and hopefully will be (looking forward to the unreleased vault of material, MJ!).

Michael Jackson Megamix

Madonna Megamix


Federer, Federer-er, and the Federer-est…

June 13, 2009

FRANCE TENNIS FRENCH OPEN
A week ago (a day after Dinara Safina crashed and burned, to be exact), Roger Federer not only cemented as a part of tennis history, he declared himself as the epitome of tennis history itself. He’s simply the greatest player ever. No doubt, no argument, no denying it, no nothing: he’s the best that ever was.

Hold on, hold on, you may say, what about Rod Laver? He won two Grand Slams (winning all four Majors in one year), and Federer’s never done it even once. What about that? Well, let’s take a closer look. In the 60’s when Laver completed his historic feats (’62 & ’69), all the Slams were played on grass, except for the French, which was played on clay as it is now. It’s not like now, when you also have to adapt to different kinds of hard courts used at the Australian and the U.S. Opens. And no one can deny that the depth of competion has grown exponentially since Laver’s salad days. Laver was a true great, but even he falls short of the -est suffix that can only be bestowed upon Federer.

Roger’s only other real rival in history is Pete Sampras, and they now both share the record for the most Major wins, with 14 Slam titles each. But with Roger’s French win, he left Pete behind in a glorious swirl of red clay. Roger, History, you are now one and the same…

My List of All-Time Tennis Greats in the Open Era (Men):

1. Roger Federer: Like I said, undeniably the greatest ever.

2. Rod Laver: He won less Majors than Sampras, but you have to remember he couldn’t play any during the years he was a pro, until the Open Era finally arrived (he was already 31 by then)

3. Pete Sampras: Awesome, but the missing French link holds him back behind Laver

4. Bjorn Borg: It’s mind-boggling how much he achieved before retiring at 25(!!!).

5. Ivan Lendl: Perenially underrated due to his “personality” (or lack thereof), but he was supremely consistent (held the year-end No. 1 ranking for four years, reached a Slam final for 11 straight years!)

6. Jimmy Connors: My all-time favorite player. Was oh-so-close to a Grand Slam in ’74, when he won all the Slams but the French, from which he was suspended for playing in World Team Tennis. D’oh!!!

7. Andre Agassi: Andre won less Majors than some players ranked below him, but he won all of them at least once.

8. John McEnroe: Truly mesmerzing when he was at his peak, but his years at the very top were relatively brief.

9. Rafael Nadal: He’s blazing up this list muy rapidamente (hey, I took Spanish for 3 anos, gotta use it any chance yo puedo). If only his knees will hold up…

10. Stefan Edberg: Was never a hugely dominant No. 1, but his gutsy performances (particularly during his 2nd U.S. Open run) give him the edge over Boris Becker.

Here’s the most entertaining moment from Federer’s win (aside from the emotion-laden match point and trophy presentation, during which I kept getting chills at what it all meant):

*Can you imagine if the guy had unnerved Federer to the point he ended up losing the match?!? He would’ve been hung from a steeple by his testicles with no argument from anyone…


Top 5 Songs I Learned About From My Friend Michelle (i.e. Vegetarians Can Have Good Taste In Music, Just Not In Food)

May 31, 2009

You Call This FOOD???

This post is dedicated to my friend, Michelle, who I used to work with at a Seoul hagwon years ago. She’s studying art in Oregon now (it’s something got to do with video; it sounds all very complicated), but she came to Korea for a little bit a couple of weeks ago, and I had the pleasure of seeing her again.

But first, a few random musings. I’m feeling a whole lot better about my decision to leave my school. I’m going to make the most out of the time I have left, gently break the news to the kids a week or two before I go, take group photos with everyone, give each and every 6th-grade kid a copy of their group photo as well as a handwritten letter (I should get a headstart, that’s about 180 letters), leave a long letter for the incoming teacher telling them everything they need to know, and basically not do anything in the next few months to mess up anyone’s memory of me. I’ve also started formulating a plan for the coming year–beyond Paris in October–which I think is brave but potentially very stupid, but I’ll wait to outline that until I’m more certain about details.

Okay, now back to Michelle. She’s definitely one of the best people I have met in Korea, both in terms of personality (deep and mysterious) and in terms of taste in music. As I remember it, she only started talking to me once she found out I had a Heather Nova song on my Mp3 player (“Walk This World”). She listens to some stuff that strikes me as rather laborious (drone, drone, no rhythm, no beat, drone, drone), but she’s also introduced me to some amazing songs that I probably would’ve never heard of if not for her. So, with gratitude and fondness, I present the Top 5 Songs I Learned From My Vegetarian (why?) Friend Michelle:

5. I Don’t Care What You Call Me –David Ford: David slowly works his way up to absolute heartbreak, never overreaching, never making a false move. When he finally lets his anger show, it’s just self-flagellation heaven.

4. Jealous of the Moon –Nickel Creek (I always want to say Nickelback, which is strange because I can’t stand that band): I had no idea what bluegrass music sounded like until I turned into the Oscars one year and saw songs from that one George Clooney movie “Brother, Where Art Thou?” being performed. It was enough for me to be sure that I’d never listen to anything like that again without the threat of torture. Well, it turns out I was wrong yet again. Bluegrass, greengrass, yellowgrass, no matter what the heck the color is, the pleading chorus of this song is just impossible to resist.

3. This Old Apartment –Sarah Harmer: I think Sarah Harmer is to Michelle what Tori Amos is to me. So I was actually quite worried when I started listening to her stuff and found much of it rather suffocating (see the drone-drone formula above). But I needn’t have worried. “This Old Apartment” has rhythm to spare, and then some.

Priscilla2. Red Cape – Priscilla Ahn: I LOVE, LOVE this song, which I’m relieved and proud to say, since Priscilla’s Korean-American. It’s smart and cute at the same time, the chorus sticks to your brain like taffee, and Priscilla’s voice is pure heaven.
Over the Rhine

1. Give Me Strength – Over the Rhine: I’ve used this song as the first one on numerous mix CDs I’ve made for people. It’s such an awesome mood-setter of a song, a mixture of Blondie, the Nine Inch Nails, Garbage, and a dash of Tori in there as well. All in all, a recipe for musical magic madness, and yet another reason for me to be glad Michelle is my friend.


Like a Video Virgin: The Top 10 Madonna Songs Without Videos

May 18, 2009

Madonna for Louis Vuitton1_daf69460-76ec-4dda-83b1-6322399f8df2Image isn’t everything when it comes to music, but does it make a difference? Heck, yes! Some purists may decry and deny all they want, but hair, make-up, fashion, lighting, magazine covers, smiles, sneers, tattoos, and above all, VIDEOS have all contributed to our appreciation of popular music. Surely, nobody understood that better than the MTV Queen herself, the one and only Madonna.

Who can deny that Madonna is the quintessential video artist? You think of any of her big singles, and chances are, they bring to mind corresponding visual images that MTV has corroded onto your brain. “Like a Virgin”? She points directly at the camera–at YOU–as she’s standing on that Venetian gondola. “Material Girl”? She’s in her Marilyn Monroe get-up being flanked by a group of tuxedo-ed suitors. “Like a Prayer”? The burning crosses, the stigmata, the kiss on the altar, take your pick.

There’s no denying that much of Madonna’s appeal has been visual, her kaleidoscope of constantly morphing looks and styles adding an extra-sexy oomph to her often very-simple dance music. However, some detractors have gone further and argued that she would have been nothing if not for her videos, that she was all style and no musical substance. In that, I have to come to Madonna’s defense. And the evidence I present to them and to you is this list of Top 10 Madonna Songs Without Videos.

If it’s true that Madonna’s music was completely dependent on visual images, then it should correspondingly be true that her music would be irreparably reduced by a lack of such images (i.e. her video-less songs should pretty much suck). Keep an open mind and take in the songs on the list; you may be surprised.

10. Rescue Me – The Immaculate Collection has to be the most essential female greatest-hits collection in all of pop music. It’s hit after hit after hit. There is only one song on there that has never had a video made to it: Rescue Me (“Holiday” doesn’t count because a) it had a cheap video played at clubs & b) the Blond Ambition live performance was shown as a video on MTV and Vh1). Still, the angry, dissatisfied anthem was good enough to hold its own among the other pop classics.

9. Love Tried to Welcome Me – This one’s from the Bedtime Stories album, which was released after a horrible Madonna backlash went on as a result of the whole Sex book scandal (Body of Evidence and the whole David Letterman fiasco didn’t help, either). Madonna apparently tried to show a softer, gentler side of herself with the album, and with “Take a Bow” and this sad little gem, she succeeded.

8. The Beast Within – Okay, this one’s actually a remix of “Justify My Love” (a classic example of a rather crappy Madonna song given wings by an amazing video). But as it has very little in common with the original, I think it’s fair to consider it on its own. The song has Madonna chanting Bible verses over an ominous beat, and it’s awesome, mysterious and foreboding, and even kind of sexy in a decidedly non-Biblical kind of way.

Material Girl7. Angel – I actually like this song even more than the iconic one-two punch of Like a Virgin and Material Girl from the same album. It’s just a simple slice of pop heaven, and her giddy laughter in the song is just irresistible.

6. Til Death Do Us Part – Despite widely being considered a media whore, Madonna has never really talked in depth about her marriage to Bad Boy Sean Penn, which was by most accounts as volatile as Hollywood marriages get. Instead, she chose to address it with this song. The stark, unflinching lyrics somehow manage to work with a decidedly upbeat pop backbeat. Truly impressive.

5. Skin – At some point in the 90’s, Madonna’s unerring judgment in choosing singles began to diminish. First, she wanted to leave “Vogue” as a “Keep It Together” B-side before being strong-armed by her record company. Then she chose to release the craptastic “Human Nature” as a single instead of the far superior “Love Tried to Welcome Me” or “Inside of Me.” Then in an even bigger mistake, she chose “Nothing Really Matters” instead of “Skin,” the sexiest song she had done in AGES. The end result? No video love for “Skin,” while “Nothing Really Matters” peaked at #93, an all-time Madonna low.

4. Gone – This song, from her ghetto-fabulous Music album, is a tough one to describe. It’s kind of a techno-edged hymn which Madonna sings absolutely beautifully. Let’s just call it subtle but awesome and leave it at that.

3. Nothing Fails – This was the one bright light among a sea of mediocre songs on Madonna’s much maligned American Life album. If she had released this instead of that listen-I’m-commenting-on-the-world-but-not-really-saying-anything title track or the Hollywood-is-good-but-bad-or-bad-but-good-who-knows track, the album might have had a hope and a prayer. Unfortunately, she didn’t, and the album sank like a stone.

2. Promise to Try – This has got to be the most heartbreaking song Madonna’s ever sung or written (rivaled only by “Bad Girl,” which had the help of an AWESOME video co-starring Christopher Walken). This is what I have in mind when I talk about how it’s more important to actually SING a song as opposed to just having a great voice. I’m sure someone like Danny Gokey can vocally blast this song into smithereens in a way Madonna never could. But could he break your heart and make you ache with each and every line the way Madonna does here? No way.

1. Amazing – This song had Number One written all over it, and it’s just mind-boggling how Madonna herself managed to sabotage it. According to accounts, her record company recognized its hit potential and wanted it as a single, but Madonna refused to make a video for it, as she wanted the cute but far inferior “Impressive Instant” released instead. Just to make sure that the record company wouldn’t have a live clip to use in place of a video, she then took “Amazing” off the setlist of her Drowned World Tour. Madonna may have been concerned that the song sounded a bit too similar to “Beautiful Stranger,” but really, she shouldn’t have been concerned. Although they’re both guitar-oriented, “Amazing” takes things up to a whole new level of pop-rock heaven and would surely have reached Number One. Oh, well; Madonna wouldn’t be Madonna without making a huge f#&%-up every now and then.

Madonna – Amazing