Music Condescension: A Sanctimonious Affliction

We’ve all encountered and endured the hyperbolic rantings of music snobs. You know the type; someone who not only thinks they know more than the average music buff, but more than anyone else, period. The stereotypical music fanatic feels self-important and even entitled to an unjustified sense of coolness by playing the anti-mainstream music game; declaring a particular favorite band or artist is better than whomever someone else is listening to because said artist is more obscure. Yet, these so-called music aficionados are the first to abandon their favorites upon the very first sign of even a miniscule amount of commercial triumph, because of some imaginary belief system based on tiresome and ridiculous self-imposed “rules,” which decree mainstream success is evil and taboo.

Now before you start thinking to yourself that I’m the pot calling the kettle black, understand my point is this: I don’t think my musical taste is superior or inferior to anyone else’s. But then again, I’m certainly not the type of musical hypocrite who will stop listening to a band or artist I’ve followed for years just because the mainstream masses eventually jump on the proverbial band wagon (pun intended). Also, I’ll readily admit I’ve had countless first-hand experiences of initially rejecting particular artists too hastily based upon bad first impressions, only to discover later I had prematurely misjudged or overlooked their significant musical contributions. [Read Full Feature]

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A Look Back at Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour

In celebration of Madonna’s 59th birthday, as well as her provocative Rebel Heart Tour coming to DVD, Blu-ray, CD and digital download in September, I’m reflecting on her fabulous Nashville concert stop back in January 2016. The two-hour-plus show was the first Music City performance of the superstar’s career, which now spans more than three decades. This egregious fact didn’t go unnoticed by the singer as she jokingly professed to be a “Nashville virgin” when she took the stage.

The pop diva’s show was divided into four themes: Samurai, Asian, Latin and Party Celebration. Each segment was individually characterized by distinguishing wardrobe changes, choreography, and song selection. The show’s setlist heavily incorporated material from the singer’s most recent album Rebel Heart, but also contained many fan favorites, some of which she hasn’t performed in years, namely “Dress You Up,” “True Blue,” Deeper and Deeper,” “Who’s That Girl” and an electrified version of her early hit “Burning Up.”

This show marked my fifth Madonna concert overall, since first seeing her live on the acclaimed Who’s That Girl World Tour way back in 1987. I also attended her Drowned World, Re-invention and MDNA World Tours, and each show was an inimitable and exhilarating vision. As every true-blue fan knows, no one else puts on a show quite like Madonna. All five times I was lucky enough to witness Madonna perform live on stage was analogous to sneaking into a master class of the performing arts. [Read Full Review]

Deliberating the Go-Go’s Vacation on its 35th Anniversary

After a six-week run atop Billboard’s 200 album chart with the multi-platinum debut album Beauty and the Beat, all-girl rock group the Go-Go’s hurriedly released the follow-up sophomore effort, Vacation. Echoes of previous singles “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed” could still be heard across radio airwaves when “Vacation” became the band’s third hit single in the summer of ’82. The bubbly title track was the first-ever cassette single and was accompanied by its vivid and playful music video, which revealed the band members hamming it up while pretending to be highly skilled water skiers.

The Go-Go’s second studio album started off strong, but inspiration seemed as if had been stretched thin in order to quickly release a follow-up to the band’s best-selling debut. Leftovers from the Go-Go’s earlier live setlists unfortunately found their way onto the sophomore effort, effectively diluting what could’ve been a solid track listing. The obligatory cover tune “Cool Jerk” and the subpar “Beatnik Beach” sounded like fillers included to expand upon the album’s abstract beach theme. It resulted in making the Go-Go’s second album sound as if the girls had been left scrambling for quality material. Additionally, Jane Wiedlin’s heavy reliance on Webster’s rhyming dictionary (as evidenced on “Girl of 100 Lists” and “It’s Everything but Partytime”) certainly didn’t help matters. Fortunately, Kathy Valentine was aptly able to pick up her cronies’ slack by contributing the effervescent title track, the accidently prophetic “We Don’t Get Along” and the ethereal closing ballad, “Worlds Away.” [Read Full Review]

Tori Amos Delivers First Glimpse of Native Invader with “Cloud Riders”

Prolific singer-songwriter Tori Amos recently surprised fans by releasing “Cloud Riders,” the first taste of her upcoming album, Native Invader. The introspective new single ponders a turbulent relationship and decrees her unbendable desire to survive its storminess.

Amos previously revealed the future-facing theme of the new album by saying:

“The songs on Native Invader are being pushed by the Muses to find different ways of facing unforeseen challenges and in some cases dangerous conflicts. The record looks to Nature and how, through resilience, she heals herself. The songs also wrestle with the question: what is our part in the destruction of our land, as well as ourselves, and in our relationships with each other?”

The lyrics of “Cloud Riders” seem to fulfill Amos’ cryptic promise of Native Invader’s subject matter as she sings:

“Standing on the edge of a cliff/ Didn’t think it would come to this/ A dead calm before the storm/ Not a sound from their engines/ From the other side, saw a shooting star at 4:22 AM.”

And in the line: “Underneath the stars above/I said, ‘No, stop, I am not giving up on us/And I am not going anywhere soon,” Amos sounds more than ready to stand her ground.

Upon initial listening, the lyrics and melody of “Riders” conspicuously harken back to Amos’ Scarlet’s Walk era. In fact, it would easily sound at home on the 2002 set, comfortably nestled between “A Sorta Fairytale” and “Strange.” [Read Full Review]

40 Years of Love: Donna Summer and the Derivation of Electronica

It’s been 40 years since the world first heard the future of music when “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer shocked us into a new sonic awakening. The electronic masterpiece – composed by Summer along with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte – was the foundation for what was to become known as electronic dance music. Whether you loved or loathed disco, “I Feel Love” commanded everyone’s attention and became a dance floor anthem during the summer of 1977. At the time, no one had previously heard anything like it. It’s hypnotic melody, combined with an irresistible synthesized bassline and pulsating dance beat was musical nirvana. Summer’s sensual vocal delivery was the icing on top of the cake as she perfectly conveyed the euphoric essence of the song’s timeless and universal message of love. The first lady of love had struck gold (and platinum) again and delivered another game-changing record every bit as earth-shattering as her breakthrough hit, “Love to Love You Baby.” [Read Full Review]

Vinyl Rewind Redux

As subscribers of my music blog may remember, I featured Vinyl Rewind in a Q&A piece a couple of years ago. However, with the continued resurgence of vinyl, I recently reached out to the Vinyl Geek for a second time and again he was gracious enough to answer a few additional questions.

With the contemporary renaissance of vinyl record collecting, now is the perfect time to dive into Vinyl Rewind. Not only has renewed interest in the vinyl record format become more popular since the 1980s, but interest has also made the internet ubiquitous with numerous music blogs and websites discussing the enduring format. Among the most noteworthy and enjoyable I’ve found is Vinyl Rewind, which is hosted by wax enthusiast Eric Callero, aka the Vinyl Geek.

The Vinyl Geek shares his insight of his latest groove-a-licious finds in an extremely entertaining and informative style. I always learn fascinating tidbits about albums I’ve enjoyed for years (most notably, his in-depth analysis of The Beatles and Prince’s Sign o’ the Times double albums), as well as find new items to add to my wish list each time he uploads a new video. So, if you treasure collecting favorite old and new albums on this long beloved format as much as I do, then I highly recommend checking out the Vinyl Rewind website and subscribing to the Vinyl Geek’s YouTube channel.

After habitually visiting his YouTube channel for longer than I can now recall, I’d amassed a handful of questions which the Vinyl Geek was kind enough to take the time to answer for me. His insights were both interesting and beneficial, so I thought I’d share his responses with fellow crate diggers who not only appreciate vinyl, but are always seeking a gratifyingly successful new haul. [Click here to read my Q&A with the Vinyl Geek]

Prince: Purple Rain (Deluxe Expanded Edition)

In 1984, Prince became a household name when his popularity soared into the stratosphere upon the release of his film debut and its accompanying soundtrack Purple Rain. Eventually selling over 25 million copies to date, Prince’s sixth studio album concurrently served as a full-length release of new material as well as underscored his dramatic first appearance upon the silver screen.

Prince fans and the mainstream masses alike know the classic hits spawned from The Purple One’s seminal release by heart: “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry” and the epochal title track, all of which became staples of radio, MTV and Prince’s live repertoire. Now, 33 years later, we have reason to rejoice and revisit this stunning work of genius anew with the release of the Purple Rain Deluxe Expanded edition… [Read Full Review]