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Saturday Soundtrack – Brought to You by The Queen of 90’s Rap

25 Feb

In honor of Black History Month, I’ll be featuring African-American artists who have helped shape the way we do music in America. Enjoy!

Queen Latifah has been on the music scene long before she appeared on the silver screen. She started beatboxing professionally in 1988 and put out her first album in 1989 at the age of nineteen. The 90’s were a huge decade for Latifah; she put out three albums and appeared in eleven films. She had a major role in the rise of women in rap, and combined a silky voice with hard-hitting beats. In 2002 she was brought to the forefront of popular media by starring in the film adaptation of Chicago. Since then she’s appeared in over 20 films, but music continued to be a huge part of her career, evidenced by her putting out three albums in the 2000’s and seeking out roles in which she could show her diverse talents.

I’ve admired Queen Latifah for a long time – she was one of the first strong, confidant, curvy celebrity figure I ever saw. She always struck me as a woman who is uncompromising, who knew how talented she was, and just waited for the rest of the world to get a clue.

For fans of Lauryn HillJanet Jackson, Nina Simone, and Etta James.

“Just Another Day” by Queen Latifah on Black Reign (1993)

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Saturday Soundtrack – Brought to You by The Candy Man

18 Feb

In honor of Black History Month, I’ll be featuring African-American artists who have helped shape the way we do music in America. Enjoy!

Sammy Davis Jr. was an amazing vocalist, broadway star,soap opera star, Rat Pack member, and activist. He apperaed in 38 films, including the original Oceans 11. He used his voice as a force for change, as he recognized that music could reach people whose ears might otherwise be closed to him because of the color of his skin. In his early career he was welcomed to perform in major venues, but  entertain, but could not stay at the hotels he performed in, gamble in their casinos or patronize the hotel restaurants and bars. As his fame grew, he started to refuse to perform at segregated venues, pointing a spotlight on the problem of racism.

Sammy’s 1962 version of “What Kind of Fool am I?” got him inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and that’s the song that’s brightening up my Saturday. I hope it brings joy to yours.

“What Kind of Fool am I?” recorded by Sammy Davis Jr. in 1962.

Saturday Soundtrack – Brought to You by The High Priestess of Soul

11 Feb

In honor of Black History Month, I’ll be featuring African-American artists who have helped shape the way we do music in America. Enjoy!

What can be said about the incomparable Nina Simone that hasn’t been said a million times already? Nina was a singer, songwriter, pianist, and amazing civil rights activist. She loved classical music and wanted to be a classical pianist, but by far her greatest contributions to American music came from her instinctive talent for taking classical influences and injecting them with a heaping dose of jazz and soul. She learned to connect with her audience in a tangible way by playing piano during sermons and at revivals. Nina was a commanding presence on stage, and came to be known as “The High Priestess of Soul.” She incorporated monologues and dialogue with the audience into her performances, and I believe this incorporating style was one of the early influences of spoken word.

Dozens of artists cite her as one of their musical influences, including John Legend, Mos Def, Cat Stevens, Mary J. Blige, Jeff Buckley, and John Lennon. Without a doubt, her musical legacy has shaped what music sounds like today, and I cannot get enough of her silky/growl-ey/soulful voice. ‘Feeling Good’ is not just one of my top Nina Simone songs, it’s one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s been covered time and time again, but no one can get close to the grab-you-by-the-heart-and-dive-right-in feel that the original has. (Although, remember My Brightest Diamond? They did a pretty respectable job.)

For fans of Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, and Dusty Springfield.

Feeling Good” by Nina Simone on I Put a Spell on You (1965)

Saturday Soundtrack – Brought to You by Shape-shifting Psychedelic Pop

4 Feb

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MGMT came on the mainstrem music scene with their first major label debut, Oracular Spectacular, in 2007. They became a big thing in a major way, working with and opening for artists as diverse as Radiohead, Sleater Kinney, M.I.A. and Paul McCartney. I’ve always been a huge 80’s music fan, being a product of the 80’s myself, and for my money MGMT is the modern-day extension of everything good 80’s Electronic Euro-Pop brought to music. Even though their sound is comprable to many bands, both older and current, MGMT’s sound is entirely their own. And it all makes me want to jump in place while spinning in a circle.

“Kids” was the 6th track on their second EP, titled Time to Pretend. It was given a facelift and added to Oracular Spectacular. It quickly became one of their best known singles and is one of my all-time favorite songs. I love having this song on while I run or clean, any time I want to feel productive, really.  Even though it clocks in at a moderate 125 bpm, the driving beat makes me want to kick up my heels and get moving. Despite lyrics that definately lean towards the eerie, their psychedelic stylings always make me feel entirely optimistic and happy about life when this song pops up on my playlist. Even the music video is remincent of the 80’s, playing out like the dream of a cinephile listening to the Eurythmics while on an acid trip. What’s not to love?

For fans of Modest Mouse, The Flaming Lips, Vampire Weekend, The Xx, and The Postal Service.

Kids” by MGMT, on Oracular Spectacular

Saturday Soundtrack – Brought to You by Surreal Sound-stylings

28 Jan

Have you heard My Brightest Diamond? If you haven’t, you’ve been missing out. This is the stuff dreams are made of. They’ve got a string section, flutes, a beautiful orchestra playing the soundtrack of dreams. Shara Worden has brought insight into the voice of the modern woman on both of her earlier LP’s, my favorite being A Thousand Sharks Teeth, but with MBD’s newest venture, All Things WIll Unwind she’s grown into the voice of her new role as mother. Some may say her melodious voice gets lost in the instrumentation, but I find the harmonies to be inspiring, her voice threading through the instrumests like the elusive call of the will o’ de whisp. Listen to this as you look for inspration into your next artistic adventure.

For fans of Florence + the Machine, Sia, and Massive Attack.

Inside a Boy” by My Brightest Diamond, on A Thousand Shark’s Teeth

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