Category Archives: music

A Hodgepodge of Music Intrestingness

I’ve been sitting on a lot of music-related articles that I finally decided to consolidate them into one post. Ready? It’s gonna be fun!

Musical Duos
Ever wondered how some successful musical duos met? Mental Floss is ready to tell you about ten of them. For instance, duos such as John Lennon & Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and one of my favorite stories of Prince & Sheila (Shelia E) Escovedo who…

met in 1978 at a concert, where she was performing with her percussionist father, Pete Escovedo. After the show, Prince approached Sheila, saying that he and a bandmate were just “fighting over which one of [them] would be the first to be [her] husband.” (Neither of them ever were, though she did have a brief relationship with Prince in the mid-80s, while he was seeing the twin sister of The Revolution’s Wendy Melvoin.) In 1984, they joined forces for Purple Rain, which (among a slew of other impressive rankings) was labeled “the best soundtrack of all time” by Vanity Fair in 2007.

“Girl From Ipanema”
From NeatoRama, we get the follow-up of all-time! Who was The Actual Girl From Ipanema? This Bossa-Nova hit from the mid-60’s is a must-know for anyone who appreciates music. (BTW, she was a Brazilian model, of course!)

“Come On Eileen”
Mental Floss also profiled one of my favorite 80’s songs: “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners. I never really understood the song very well but I’ve since been able to unpack what the song is all about.

First of all, the lyrics start by referencing ‘Poor old Johnny Ray’. I probably should be embarrassed for not really knowing much about Mr. Johnny Ray, but his jazz/blues songs in the 50’s were considered to be one of the precursors to Rock And Roll.

Lead singer and songwriter Kevin Rowland is ‘serenading’ his childhood sweetheart, Eileen, by remembering their past (their mothers swooned over Johnny Ray) and their present (they are above their current Celtic culture of people with “beaten-down eyes [and] sunk in smoke-dried faces”). He gets so excited about Eileen that his thoughts move from love to lust within two verses!

But if you remember the song, you can’t forget the “Too-Rye-Ay” stanzas! Turns out its meaning is actually Irish Gaelic for “Goodbye and see you soon” coming from a Gaelic lullaby.

“One Night In Bangkok”
Another favorite songs from the 80’s comes from Murray Head entitled “One Night In Bangkok”. The story behind it might not be what you expected. You see, there was a musical in the early 70’s called “Chess” and it was about the world championship of chess between American Bobby Fischer and Russian Boris Spassky. Not surprisingly, it was a snoozer despite being written by the two dudes from ABBA (Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus) and Tim Rice of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita”. However, the story behind this hit is fascinating and outlined, again, by Mental Floss.

Have a great and musical weekend!

Why Dubstep is called Dubstep

Just because this is about the modern musical genre Dubstep, it doesn’t mean you won’t learn something about music and music theory. Ready?

The other day a friend asked me why the music genre Dubstep is called Dubstep. What does “Dubstep” mean? I felt like I understood the answer, but I couldn’t articulate it without making deep “brahhhh whaaaa” sounds.

So let’s try again. And unfortunately it’s actually a bit complicated. And perhaps kinda heady. First…

WHAT IS DUBSTEP?

Wikipedia says it’s

a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London, United Kingdom. Its overall sound has been described as ‘tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals’.

Perhaps the quintessential modern example of this is by a Dubstep artist who goes by the moniker “Skrillex” and his mega-hit from 2010 (and Grammy Award winner for Best Dance Recording in 2012) “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”. In this track you’ll hear heavy wobble-bass (a low-frequency, oscillating timbre) and syncopated (‘off-beat’) drum rhythms. Accompanying these characteristics are more typical Dubstep themes of an intensifying build-up with a bass-drop as the build-up conclusion then becoming the thrust.

Sorry. Got off-track there. Now,

WHY IS IT CALLED DUBSTEP?

I really wish I could find an easier way do describe this, but, like I said, it’s kinda complicated. So let’s break it down…

DUB – In this case, it refers to the focus on the drum and bass

To dub something is really to duplicate, copy, or transfer recorded material from one medium to another. In the 1960’s, a sub-genre of Reggae music emerged that took an emphasis of the bass and drum samples and dubbed them into a new (often instrumental) track becoming Dub music. For Reggae legend Bob Marley, “dub this one!” meant “put an emphasis on bass and drums”. Fast-forward to the 1990’s and you’ll find a new genre of music called “Bass and Drum” emerge laying the groundwork for the “Dub” in Dubstep.

STEP – In this case, it refers to the style of rhythm

This may be even more difficult to explain. Modern music typically follows a 4/4 rhythm in which you can count a “1 and 2 and 3 and 4” pattern per measure. Electronic music (going back to Disco up to and including House/Techno) often places a kick drum (bass) on each of the 4 beats in the measure. If you put the kick on the 1 and 3, you’re now talking about a 2-step beat which is sometimes used in Country and Pop music, but especially used in Jazz, Blues, and Boogie.

What sets the latter apart from the former is something referred to as a shuffle. The ‘shuffle’ adds tuplets to the beat. In other words, you get a kick or snare on some or all of the 8’s, 16’s, and 32’s in the 4/4 measure. Sounds complicated, but you recognize it when you say “that beat is funky”. Hip-hop used it effectively and perhaps can be thanked for reintroducing the syncopated rhythm. In this case, you’ll typically find the snare resting on an off-beat such as a 16, 32, or even an 8 that feels ‘one moment too late or early’.

ARRGH! Okay, just watch this…

Whew! Told you this was complicated. See why I can really respect some of these Dubstep artists? There’s real music theory behind it — whether they know it or not!

So to bring this back home, Dubstep it called Dubstep because of the focus on the drums and bass, along with it’s irregular step in it’s rhythm.

Krispy Kreme – The Baddest (Rap)

The Baddest Rapper, Krispy Kreme

This is perhaps ‘the baddest’ rap song I’ve ever heard. LOL!

Need lyrics? Here’s a few samples…

I had to fight my whole life
I could beat you up even if you had one thousand knives
Even if you had infinity knives
I would punch you up into the air like a kite
I bet you sleep with a nightlight
Cause you’re scared of the dark
Cause you stink like a fart
Well I’ll light your fart on fire with my rhymes
[…]
I have four hundred cars
I have four hundred scars and four hundred guitars
I have four hundred houses
I have four hundred mouses and four hundred houses
[…]
I’m tough as nails
You’re slower than a snail
I beat up every single person in jail
I dare you to try and punch me
My face is so hard you’ll say, “Ouch, you crunched me”

A couple of downright crazy music videos

We all love a great music video, right? Well, what about these?

First, thanks to the Mental Floss blog, I’ve now seen what might just be the craziest music video ever: Hall & Oats – “She’s Gone”. As they quote from their source:

Is Daryl Hall wearing high-heeled clogs and smoking a cigarette during the video (and at 1:37 — uh, aren’t you supposed to be lip synching or something)? Yep. Are they literally “paying” the devil to replace the woman by throwing fake money in the air every time they sing the lyric? Of course. Is John Oates wearing a tuxedo shirt with neither arms, sides, nor back? You bet! And does the devil then help him into a tuxedo jacket, and does that tuxedo jacket have flippers, and does Oates then rip off a wicked fake solo while holding the guitar in his flipper-clad hands? Yes, yes, yes, yes!

Wow.

Next, thanks again to the Mental Floss blog, is an explanation about The Beatles – “I Am the Walrus”. In this case, the crazy is really in the song itself. So just who is the Walrus?

“Walrus is just saying a dream,” recalled John more than a decade after he composed it. “The words didn’t mean a lot. People draw so many conclusions, and it’s ridiculous. I’ve had tongue in cheek all along…It could have been ‘The pudding Basin’ for all I care. It’s not that serious.”

Heh! It kinda reminds me of another lyrically nonsensical song from Beck – “Loser”.

Somebody That I Used To Know cover

Seeing Goyte on SNL this weekend reminded me of this great and unique cover of the song by Walk Off The Earth…

That cover became so popular that they even made a parody of their cover!

The funny thing is that I was first exposed to this track from Goyte, not by Walk Off The Earth or even Goyte, but as a Dubstep remix by Bombs Away last September! (the track has since been removed from Soundcloud, but not from multiple copies on YouTube)