Saturday, December 31, 2005

Fave Songs Of 2005

Well, the year 2005 has almost passed us by, and it's a good time to look back at the songs that have rocked our world for the past 12 months. The songs listed below are by no means the best songs released in 2005. Indeed, how do you even measure what's the best? Is there a thing such as the best?

Personally, I prefer the term "favourite" as it simply means that these are the songs that have struck a chord with you and when you look back on 2005 say, five years down the road, these are the songs that you remember 2005 by.

As it is, it is impossible to listen to every song being released by every artiste in the year. Unless you work in a radio station, that would be near impossible. So what is reflected in this list is merely a selection of songs that I have chanced upon and made an impression on me. Without further ado, here they are in no order of merit:

1. Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson
This is a totally unexpected choice as I didn't think that a song by an American Idol winner would make it to the list. But this is really Ms Clarkson's finest moment so far since winning the first season of Idol. She has proven to be a stayer and has quite a few hit singles under her belt already, namely Breakaway, The Trouble With Love Is, Behind These Hazel Eyes and her latest hit Because Of You. She has the pipes and she has proved she's more than just a fad. Let's give her credit where it's due.

2. Cool by Gwen Stefani
I have liked Gwen since her No Doubt days and I was really pleased she managed to be successful on her first solo outing as well. It's a toss up between Hollaback Girl and Cool really. Indeed, Hollaback Girl is one of the best tracks of the year. Its beats and chorus lyrics are nothing short of inventive, but like I said, this is a list of my favourite songs, and Cool stands out for its simple yet touching lyrics, as well as its synth pop sound.

3. The Hand That Feeds by Nine Inch Nails
I've never heard any of NIN's songs before this, and I had no idea how large a cult following they had. Apparently, With Teeth (from which The Hand That Feeds is culled from) is their most accessible album to date. This track really opened NIN to a whole new audience and it is one of the best tracks of the year. It's hard to think of metal songs as dancy, yet THTF is certainly one song that makes you wanna dance. It's all the more remarkable considering that Trent Razor delivers a harrowing perfomance here, never losing his intensity and really meaning it when he asks "Will you bite the hand that feeds you? Will you stay down on your knees?"

4. Virginia Moon by Foo Fighters & Norah Jones
While this track is not released as a single, it deserves a place on this list for being so out of the blue and surpassing all expectations. When word got out that the Foos would be collaborating with Norah Jones, everyone wondered what the song would sound like. The two artistes were so dissimilar and no one knew what to expect. But when I heard it for the first time, I was blown away. It is one of the few songs that I immediately like it the first time I hear it. Trust me, there aren't many songs that make me feel this way. If you haven't heard it yet, go listen to it. You won't regret it.

5. Shake It Off by Mariah Carey
While most people would remember Mariah in 2005 for her mega hit We Belong Together, I for one would remember Shake It Off more. The former is undoubtedly a solid track and Mariah deserves all her Grammy nominations for it, but Shake It Off's offbeat rhythms really made me sit up and take a second listen. The staccato "Ooh ooh"s and "Shake, shake, shake shake shake it off"s were creative and provided something new. And Jermaine Dupri is really a super producer I tell you.

6. Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day
The best Green Day song from the American Idiot album. The guitar riff is simple yet unforgettable. And I really loved the bells accompaniment. Billie Armstrong's vocal delivery is just right, conveying the right amount of emotion and proving that he can sing more than just punk.

7. Little Sister by Queens Of The Stone Age
This is probably the most obscure song on the list, as QOTSA have never been very mainstream to start with. Coming off the heels of its 2002 breakthrough album Songs For The Deaf, Little Sister was the first single off the Lullabies To Paralyze album. It wasn't a significant departure from the Deaf album and it bridged the two albums perfectly. The track is characterised by the super offbeat rhythms that only QOTSA can pull off. There's also the quirky guitar solo towards the end that brings the track to its climax. Top class.

8. Lose Control by Missy Elliott feauring Ciara & Fat Man Scoop
Missy is always known for her weird beats and even weirder videos, and she somehow manages to top herself each time, which is pretty amazing. She has learnt enough from uber producer Timbaland and handled the reins this time round, and the result is one of the hottest tracks of 2005 that's cool and super dancy.

9. An Honest Mistake by The Bravery
The success of Franz Ferdinand has spawned copycat acts like The Killers, My Chemical Romance and also The Bravery. Dance rock is the next big thing and I don't really know how to categorise their sounds anymore. Is it dance rock? Pop rock? Neo rock? It's hard to say. But it's the direction that many bands are going these days and only time will tell if it is a fad. But An Honest Mistake is as good as it gets, so enjoy it while it lasts.

10. Hung Up by Madonna
You have to give it to Madonna for reinventing herself and keeping herself relevant in the ever-changing face of pop music. Popular music has been dominated by hip-hop for so long, and it's always good to have a good pop tune every once in a while. While not terribly original (it samples ABBA's Gimme Gimme Gimme), it does contain enough groove to make you get on the dance floor. If only we can move our ass like Maddy can.

11. Technologic by Daft Punk
This is an odd one, really. It's part techno, part trance. The result is a cute yet heavyweight dance number that defies all expectations of dance music.

12. Feel Good Inc. by Gorillaz featuring De La Soul
I didn't really like this song when it was released but I admit it's a grower. The Gorillaz know how to have fun, and they make it sound so effortless that you can't help but go for a ride as well.

13. The Importance Of Being Idle by Oasis
I almost forgot to include this song in this list, without which would have been criminal. The finest song Oasis has crafted since Champagne Supernova, this one arrived totally unexpected and was a deserving number one hit for the lads. Featuring a falsetto performance by Noel Gallagher, it was outstanding in vocal delivery as well as its musical arrangement. I particularly loved the triplets rhythms and the keyboard sounds. Will be looking forward hearing this song when Oasis performs live in February in Singapore.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Singles #2: Michael Jackson - Bad (1987)

This was the second single off MJ's Bad album. The first single was I Just Can't Stop Loving You, which was a duet with Siedah Garrett and hit Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. This single quickly hit Number 1 as well. However, this was not the end of MJ's streak as he culled three more Number 1 singles off the Bad album, making it the only album in history to have five Number 1 singles.

The only other album in recent times to go near the record is Usher's Confessions album, which contained the Number One singles Yeah, Burn, Confessions Part II, and My Boo, a duet with Alicia Keys. However, note that My Boo was added onto the special edition version of the album, and it was not in the original tracklist of the album.

Back to the Bad single. The Bad single was originally released in 1987, but the one you see above is, I believe, a re-release of the single, as it includes an obi strip with the words "HIStory Japan Tour '96". So I believe it might have been re-released when MJ had his Japan leg of the HIStory tour in 1996.

The song Bad is more often remembered for its video, which was directed by acclaimed director Martin Scorsese. There are two versions of it. The longer version was seldom seen and was included in the DVD release of MJ's HIStory Video Greatest Hits only a few years back. The shorter version of the video was included in the laserdisc release of the same title and it features the music per se, whereas the longer one had more of a backstory and some acting by MJ.

While not one of his best tunes, Bad remains an insanely catchy song and and it introduced the world to the word "shamon", which really is "come on", but MJ took liberties and improvised with its pronunciation. The opening line, Your butt is mine" sounds like "Your bird is mine" even. Well, I guess when you're on top of the world, you can pretty much do anything you want.

The second version of the single is a 7" vinyl and it's in pretty good condition.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Singles #1: Michael Jackson - The 12" Mixes (1986)

This single was released in 1986, four years after the Thriller album was released. The five tracks of this single were of course, culled from the Thriller album. So why this single was released so long after the album was released baffles me. Perhaps it was used as a buffer in between MJ's albums. MJ took his time to complete Bad, releasing it five years after Thriller. How many artistes even dare to take five years to release their follow up album these days? It practically amounts to career suicide. This single is an Australia release and is out of print.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Oasis to play Singapore date!

It's confirmed: Oasis will be stopping by the shores of Singapore finally on 23rd February 2006! This is from their official website:

19 December 2005

Oasis are pleased to announce that they will extend their Asian tour in Feb 2006 to Singapore for the first time and play the Indoor Stadium, Singapore on Thursday 23rd February and return to Hong Kong for the first time since 1998 to play the Asiaworld Arena, on Saturday 25th February. Full ticket purchase including on sale details are below;

Singapore – on sale 22nd December Tickets:S$160, S$98 (Standing) S$160, S$98 and $68 (Seated) Available from SISTIC outlets plus S$2 sistic fee
Tel: SISTIC 6348 5555web:

This is exciting news because this will be their second attempt at staging a concert in Singapore. The first time in 2002 was cancelled due to the Bali bombings. I even bought tickets for the show and had to go all the way to the Indoor Stadium to get a refund!

Certainly hope nothing goes wrong this time around! Looking forward to singing along to Champagne Supernova as well as rocking to Roll With It. I will certainly wave a lighter in the air for Don't Look Back In Anger, that is, if lighters are allowed in the venue. Heck, I need to buy a lighter cos I don't have one. Ok, keeping my fingers crossed for this one...

Friday, December 09, 2005

The 48th Annual Grammy Awards Nominees

The Grammy nominees are out! You can view the complete list of nominees at Top of the news is of course, the fact that Mimi has been emancipated and rewarded with eight noms, including the top 3 biggies: Album, Record and Song of the Year. However, she has to share the honours with Kanye West and John Legend, both of whom also scooped up eight nods apiece.

Kanye West himself is having a banner year, being nominated 10 times just last year for his debut album, The College Dropout. John Legend is also a Kanye West protege, and his album, Get Lifted, was released on West's label. Besides, West also contributed production duties on Mariah Carey's Emancipation album. After his disappointing showing last year, where he only won three Grammys (due to Academy voters' sentiments to the late Ray Charles), West is hoping he will garner a bigger share of the honours come February next year.

Let's examine some of the major categories:

Record of the Year

  • We Belong Together (Mariah Carey)
  • Feel Good Inc. (Gorillaz featuring De La Soul)
  • Boulevard Of Broken Dreams (Green Day)
  • Hollaback Girl (Gwen Stefani)
  • Gold Digger (Kanye West)

Three of the songs here have topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts: We Belong Together (14 weeks), Hollaback Girl (4 weeks) and Gold Digger (10 weeks). Mariah's track is one of the biggest tracks of the year and is surely the one to beat. However, the other nominees are not exactly slackers either. Feel Good Inc. and Boulevard both hit number one on the Modern Rock charts too (Boulevard narrowly missed out on the top spot in the Hot 100, peaking at number 2). But in the case of the Gorillaz, considering that they're the only British group here, they stand a slim chance of picking up the top gong.

Album of the Year

  • The Emancipation Of Mimi (Mariah Carey)
  • Chaos And Creation In The Backyard (Paul McCartney)
  • Love.Angel.Music.Baby. (Gwen Stefani)
  • How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (U2)
  • Late Registration (Kanye West)

This category is another tight race, and as usual, it features one sentimental favourite in the form of Paul McCartney. Critics have said that this is Sir Paul's best work in years, but still...

Mariah refuses to call Emancipation her "comeback" album, insisting that she has never been away. However, no matter how you see it, it truly marks a return to form for Mariah. Despite her chart topping successes in the 90s (she's the only artiste to have a number one hit every year of the 90s), she has only won two Grammys (Best New Artiste and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Vision Of Love in 1991). It might finally be time for some critical recognition.

Gwen Stefani proved that there is life after No Doubt, emerging as a formidable solo act (the album has already culled five hit singles). I recently purchased the album and I must say that it is one of the top pop albums of the year. However, Stefani is unlikely to win this category, but being nominated is already a very big honour for this new solo artiste.

Kanye West released his sophomore album to critical acclaim and I'm counting on him to win this one. He'll probably just edge out Mariah for this award, seeing how he was "snubbed" last year.

Another critic darling is U2, who seem to have a perennial date with the Grammys with every album that they release. Atomic Bomb didn't bomb, but it was released such a long time ago that voters might simply forget about it. Also, it isn't as strong as their previous album, All That You Can't Leave Behind.

Best New Artiste

  • Ciara
  • Fall Out Boy
  • Keane
  • John Legend
  • Sugarland

Looking at the history of winners for this award, only one hip-hop artiste has ever won this award, and that was Lauryn Hill in 1999. As such, you can count Ciara out. Besides she isn't as groundbreaking as Lauryn Hill was, who indeed broke ground by being the first artiste to win Album of the Year with a hip-hop album.

I'm not quite sure who Sugarland and Fall Out Boy are. They seem quite obscure in this part of the world. Keane had a good year last year, and I'm quite surprised that they're nominated. Didn't know that they had managed to break into the tough US market. However, no British act has won this award for the past 15 years, so Keane seems unlikely to win. The best bet will be John Legend then.

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance

  • It's Like That (Mariah Carey)
  • Since U Been Gone (Kelly Clarkson)
  • Good Is Good (Sheryl Crow)
  • I Will Not Be Broken (Bonnie Raitt)
  • Hollaback Girl (Gwen Stefani)

It's surprising Mariah got nominated for It's Like That when I felt that she gave a better performance on We Belong Together. Kelly Clarkson has been faring very well on the charts and this might be the song to win her her first Grammy. Like U2, Sheryl Crow is another perennial favourite. She gives a credible performance on Good Is Good, but it's not her best. Hollaback Girl might be a little too rowdy and vulgar ("This my shit, this my shit") for the conservative voters. Bonnie Raitt is an unknown quantity, so look for a tussle between Raitt and Clarkson.

Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals

  • Gone Going (Black Eyed Peas & Jack Johnson)
  • Virginia Moon (Foo Fighters featuring Norah Jones)
  • Feel Good Inc. (Gorillaz featuring De La Soul)
  • A Song For You (Herbie Hancock featuring Christina Aguilera)
  • A Time To Love (Stevie Wonder featuring India.Arie)

While not exactly a major category, I'm highlighting it here because I'm very pleased to see Virginia Moon being nominated. Before Foo Fighters' latest album was released, there was talk of them collaborating with Norah Jones and the initial response was nothing short of shock: a hard rock band and Norah Jones of light jazz on the same track?

I was very eager to find out what the end result would be and I was pleasantly surprised, like everyone else, at what a fine tune they have come up with. The Foos managed to reinvent themselves to suit Jones, and Dave Grohl's "other" voice (the non-screaming one) compliments Jones' perfectly. I really hope they win this category.

Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal

  • Speed Of Sound (Coldplay)
  • Best Of You (Foo Fighters)
  • Do You Want To (Franz Ferdinand)
  • All These Things That I've Done (The Killers)
  • Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own (U2)

This is one tough category. Every nominee is good and it pits the most exciting bands in business today in the same category. U2 has been blessed with exceptional luck at the Grammys and they have won their fair share of awards, so I think it's time they let others have the chance. Best Of You is a solid track, but the Foos haven't been kicking up a big storm in the US this past year.

Franz Ferdinand, The Killers and Coldplay are probably the best-reviewed and best-loved bands in the US right now, so it's real tough trying to pick the winner here. However, I think Coldplay will tip the scales because they proved their consistency and quality over three albums, whereas the other two need more time to prove their worth.

Best Hard Rock Performance

  • Doesn't Remind Me (Audioslave)
  • The Hand That Feeds (Nine Inch Nails)
  • Tin Pan Valley (Robert Plant)
  • Litte Sister (Queens Of The Stone Age)
  • B.Y.O.B. (System Of A Down)

I'm glad to see that two of my favourite songs of the year are included here. The Hand That Feeds and Little Sister are among my Top 10 songs of the year, and both are evenly matched. If either wins, I'll be happy.

Best Female R&B Vocal Performance

  • 1 Thing (Amerie)
  • Wishing On A Star (Beyonce)
  • We Belong Together (Mariah Carey)
  • Free Yourself (Fantasia)
  • Unbreakable (Alicia Keys)

The only reason why It's Like That was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance instead of We Belong Together is because the latter is nominated in the R&B category. So It's Like That is more "pop" than We Belong Together? To me, both are quite R&B sounding.

Anyway, Mariah should win this category without breaking a sweat. Beyonce is so last year. Fantasia is a diva-wannabe and it will be a good chance to learn from the real diva. Amerie had a hit in the catchy 1 Thing, but it's too lightweight. Alicia Keys is super over-rated with this song, when compared to If I Ain't Got You, my song of the year for 2004.