Category Archives: Music

The State of Pop Music

Be honest, who read the title and thought, “Hell no!”

That’s what I would think. Pop music is a genre that has long since gone down the tubes. It’s all over-dubbed, over-synthesized, and all you need, to be frank, is a nice rack. Boom! You’re a mega-superstar. Even those who have talent waste it. Mariah Carey can sing, excuse me, “That girl can saang!” But she doesn’t. Lady Gaga? Same thing. For her, it’s more about the gimmick than the music. –If you need proof, feel free to watch her here as Stefani Germanotta, before she was Gaga. She was a regular girl, in regular clothes, with a great voice, but that wasn’t enough. Even when she got signed and started going by Gaga, she couldn’t make it big so she sold her musical soul to the devil and made it more about the theatrics than the music.

I’m not dumb, I know people like a show. I like a show, too. I don’t mind when theatrics are abundant in a performance, but when it gets in the way of the music, when it becomes the main focus of the artist, it’s too much.

What I’m saying is that video really did kill the radio star. Did anyone happen to catch the 2013 VMA’s over the weekend? I haven’t watched in a few years, but the thirteen-year-old *Nsync‘er that still lives somewhere deep inside of me was just a little bit excited about watching the Justin Timberlake/Nsync performance, so I tuned in. Aside from him and Bruno Mars, I witnessed a live train wreck and wasted a few hours of my life that I will never get back.

Then sometimes, an artist or two will come along and re-instill your belief in something.

Examples:

Adele
Bruno Mars
P!nk
Fun.
Kelly Clarkson

Maybe you don’t like these artists, and that’s fine, but there’s no denying they actually have talent, they use it, and they give a damn about what they put out there. Mainstream radio needs a lot more of this and lot less of this:

Kids, let it be known that this image depicts a disaster, not a deity.
Kids, let it be known that this image depicts a disaster, not a deity.
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Concert Review: Bon Jovi, Chicago’s Soldier Field, 7/12/13

 

Neither the hot night, nor the absence of original Bon Jovi member and songwriting partner Richie Sambora was enough to stop this train. Bon Jovi proved that they are still going strong. With a number one album and a number one tour, topping both Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi shows no signs of slowing down.

Fresh from their two month European leg of the tour, Bon Jovi returned home to the United States and brought their “Sofia Stage” with them. First stop: Chicago. I foolishly expected there to be some sign of exhaustion, but with a week between their last European show in London’s Hyde Park and Chicago’s Soldier Field, Jon, David, Tico, and session guitarist Phil X were all on their A-game, in typical fashion. Even the lesser-known, supporting musicians Hugh McDonald and Bobby Bandiera seemed rested and ready to jam.

Click on the image to see a video of just a few things this stage can do. (You really should see it for yourself.)
Click on the image to see a video of just a few things this stage can do. (You really should see it for yourself.)

They opened with one of my personal favorites from their new album What About Now called “That’s What the Water Made Me” and it proved to be a crowd pleaser. From there, they launched into a few old hits and had everyone going. It was sort of a genius move on their part. The build up and anticipation of their appearance on the stage for the first song meant they could’ve played “I’m a Little Teapot,” and most wouldn’t have cared, so they go with some new material that perhaps not everyone knows, and then pull everyone in and hold them there with songs even non-Bon Jovi fans know.

In keeping with the setlist pros, frontman Jon Bon Jovi made a statement before the start of the tour saying that they were going to try to play a few more crowd favorites and album cuts, which they did, and still, there was never a lull. They knew which songs to pick, when to toss in a ballad, and went to all out jam!

Photo Credit to David Bergman. Purchase prints at www.BonJovi.com/Prints
Photo Credit to David Bergman. Purchase prints at http://www.BonJovi.com/Prints

 

Setlist: 

  1. That’s What The Water Made Me
  2. You Give Love a Bad Name
  3. Raise Your Hands
  4. Born to Be My Baby
  5. Lost Highway
  6. It’s My Life
  7. Because We Can
  8. What About Now
  9. We Got It Goin’ On
  10. Keep the Faith
  11. (You Want to) Make a Memory
  12. Bed of Roses
  13. In These Arms
  14. Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen From Mars
  15. We Weren’t Born to Follow
  16. Who Says You Can’t Go Home
  17. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (with a partial performance of “Dancing in the Streets”)
  18. Bad Medicine (with a partial of “Pretty Woman” — something Jon and Bobby are known to perform from time to time)
    [Encore]
  19. Runaway
  20. Wanted Dead or Alive
  21. Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night
  22. Have a Nice Day
  23. Livin’ On A Prayer (Fake out ending)
  24. Always
  25. I Love This Town

After “Bad Medicine,” David descended from his post at the keyboards and Tico came down from his drum riser for the bow. They should really get oscars for the performance they gave here. Concert goers in my section were teared up, gathering their things, and most certainly wondering what happened to “Wanted” and “Prayer” because everyone knows, those are staples of a Bon Jovi concert, like it or not. Fortunately those same people refused to leave before the band left the stage and they saw what the rest of us saw. The band started a huddle, with Jon occasionally returning his gaze to the crowd, giving the “just give us one second” hand gesture before returning to the huddle to pretend to have a discussion about an encore with the rest of the guys. This trickery lasted about two minutes, long enough to make the guys wonder if it was real and long enough to make the girls go into hormone-overload. (I admit, I nearly blew a vocal chord while screaming and chanting encore!)

No one can deny the pre-show murmurs of “Where’s Richie?” and “What’s going on with them?” But once you accept that you won’t be seeing him that night, there’s nothing left to do but enjoy the show. Jon and Richie have a rapport on stage that the fans live for, so you would expect the vibe to be much different, but in Richie’s absence, Jon has stepped it up and made sure that the fans get what they pay for! (By the way, some are paying a lot, divvying it up for the good seats, but for others, it isn’t so much. Ticket prices on this tour have gone as low as $20.00! That’s a steal, folks! Even in the nosebleeds, this is a show you will enjoy.)

Though there have been many rumors of a Richie-less Bon Jovi Boycott, there didn’t seem to be an empty seat in the house that warm, Chicago night, and while this particular Bon Jovi fan misses Richie too, I have to give credit to guitarist Phil X. Having seen him perform with the band in 2011 during Richie’s stint in rehab, I can assure you that he’s only gotten better, and he wasn’t terrible then. He has a better handle on the songs and the background vocals, though David (Lemma) handles most of those, and his stylistic inflections are there enough to satisfy him, but faint enough to not drive droves of Bon Jovi fans into a murderous rampage.

Fear not, Jovi-Faithful, this “Homebound Train” is still running full speed ahead!

Dementia, Tears, and Kenny Chesney?

If you were anyone else, I would use this opening paragraph to explain to you how powerful music can be, how it can take over your mood in just a few notes, or how the first few bars can suck you into a memory that you can’t escape for three or four minutes. But you’re different. You’ve managed to find your way to my blog for all things fine arts and that tells me that you already know about how important music can be in one’s life.

music-notes

Why is this on my mind today? Glad you asked. Moments ago, I was downstairs in the kitchen straightening up. (You know, dishes, sweeping, taking out the trash, setting the coffee… the usual.) Well I can’t do anything without music, enter iHeartRadio. I was listening to country–don’t judge me yet, you don’t have to like country to understand this–and a song by Kenny Chesney started playing. I love Kenny, always have, always will, and I have all of his albums. The peculiar thing is, I didn’t recognize the song. As a lyric lover, I sat down to pay better attention. (Some might consider this a mistake as I spent the next 10 minutes in tears.)

My mood went from thankful, because my grandpa had gone to bed early and I could relax a little, to being devastated because reality set in all over again, for about the 9 millionth time. This was the song.

*To understand why this brought me to tears within 20 seconds, you should probably know that I’m my grandfather’s caregiver. He is a month away from 95 and is living with dementia, which means I’m living with dementia. It’s no party.

*

Well folks, as I sit here, an oozing bag of tears, I can hear grandpa grumbling in his room. He no doubt thinks it’s 9:20 AM rather than PM, so I must go. I had more to say, but instead I’ll leave you with a question.

What song tells the story of your life? What songs capture you and orb you to another place, or possibly the past?

Band Spotlight: Bon Jovi

Learning about the interests and obsessions of others is a great way to get to know someone. With that in mind, today I am going to share with you my favorite band.

Bon Jovi

In 1983, Jon Bon Jovi started getting radio play in New York and New Jersey, his home state, for the song “Runaway.” Due to its success, he was told to put a band together to promote it. After having a few temporary players, the lineup became Richie Sambora on guitar, David Bryan on keyboards, Tico Torres on drums, and Alec Jon Such on bass until he was dismissed in 1994. (Hugh McDonald has filled in since that time, but is not an official member.) Things fell into place from there and the band’s self-titled debut album was released on January 21, 1984. In 1986, they released the smash hit Slippery When Wet. It went on to break several sales records and is still one of the top grossing rock albums of all time. 30 years later, they have sold nearly 140 MILLION albums and are a worldwide phenomenon.

Slide1

They have 11 studio albums: (in order by release) Bon Jovi, 7800˚ Fahrenheit, Slippery When Wet, New Jersey, Keep The Faith, These Days, Crush, Bounce, Have A Nice Day, Lost Highway, The Circle. 2 live albums (One Wild Night Live: 1985 – 2001; Inside Out), 1 official greatest hits album (Bon Jovi Greatest Hits), 1 compilation album (Cross Road), 1 acoustic album (This Left Feels Right) and 1 box set (100,000,000 Fans Can’t Be Wrong). Their 12th studio album is set to be released in March, 2013. 
If you had to pick three:

If you aren’t familiar with them, other than the usual arena anthems, I would recommend picking up one album from each era.

 new jersey 

1. 80s: New Jersey (This was the follow up to Slippery When Wet. There are hits you will know and then some)

eep The Faith

2. 90sKeep the Faith (The only other album they released in the 90s was These Days, also a favorite.)

The Circle

3. 00s: The Circle (This is their latest album and most relevant to what they are and have been about in recent years. It’s a bit of a political album and is all about standing up for the working man.)