Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chicago (2002)

Bailiff: "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"
Velma: "And then some."

Title: Chicago
Genre: Musical
Year: 2002
Rated: PG-13

Renee Zellweger as Roxie Hart
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly 
Richard Gere as Billy Flynn
Queen Latifah as Mama Morton
John C. Reilly as Amos Hart
Taye Diggs as The Bandleader
Christine Baranski as Mary Sunshine

Plot: Two murderesses compete for the limelight to avoid the gallows in 1920's Chicago.

Based on: “Chicago” the Broadway musical, which was based on the 1943 film Roxie Hart which was based on the murders
Setting: Chicago, Illinois; 1920’s.

Tagline: If you can't be famous, be infamous.

First Viewing: Borrowed from my grandma on VHS in January of 2003.
Added to the list: Summer of 2003.

I have this problem with movie musicals. Generally, I hate them the first time I watch them and then, for some reason, I end up watching them again and I grow to really enjoy them. In some cases, the musical even gets added to My List. (Okay, in two cases.) But Chicago is one of the lucky two. I bet you can't wait to find out why either.

It's the jazz age Chicago, Illinois when folks made bath tub gin and Al Capone did the Charleston on a flag pole. Crime is running rampant. Women are lifting their skirts, flattening their breasts and bobbing their hair. It's a crazy, trashy time when young (?) Roxie Hart watches as the Velma Kelly performs at the Onyx nightclub and is shortly arrested for killing her adulterous husband and sister (and half of her act) Veronica.

Meanwhile, Roxie is carrying on an affair with Fred Casely, a furniture salesman with apparent connections down at the Onyx. A month passes and starstruck Roxie still hasn't been given her own act. Fred has grown tired of Roxie and tells her she has no talent. So Roxie pulls her husband's pistol from her bureau and blows him away.

When her husband Amos returns from work, she convinces him to cover for her. But when it's discovered that Fred is indeed not a burglar, Roxie is taken down to the clink and introduced to prison matron Mama Morton and the six merry murderesses. Roxie tries to befriend Velma and ask her for career advice but is rebuffed.

Mama takes pity on Roxie and hooks her up with Illinois's best criminal lawyer, Billy Flynn who is currently representing Velma. Amos, eager to get his wife out of prison, agrees to gather $5,000 to pay for her defense. Roxie's image as America's Sweetheart is created along with her defense that she and Fred Casely "both reached for the gun." Velma is pushed out of the spotlight and tries and fails to get on Roxie's good side.

However, a triple homicide threatens to steal Roxie's thunder, so she fakes a pregnancy which speeds up her trial. Velma is brought in as a witness for the prosecution. She brings Roxie's diary with her which has a confession to Fred's murder. Billy accuses the D.A. of tampering with evidence and berating him for making a bargain with Velma. (Billy is actually the culprit).

Eventually, Roxie is found innocent. But stardom does not follow. Instead, the press moves on to a new murder. Amos realizes the pregnancy was faked and leaves Roxie. She makes the rounds trying to get into showbiz. Velma finds her and suggests they join forces despite their mutual hatred. The two become a huge success and live happily ever after...

Chicago is one of those movies on The List that doesn't strike an emotional chord with me. I don't identify with the characters. Not even on that "I-desperately-want-to-be-famous!" level. (That passed in kindergarten). In fact none of the characters in this story are even remotely sympathetic, maybe with the exception of Amos. But he's such a fool, you can only feel a twinge of pity for him.

So why, oh why, do I like this movie? Well, it's a musical, so the music is a HUGE reason. Possibly the most important reason. All of the songs are likable, catchy, and fun to sing. And according to Wikipedia, each of the songs are based on a certain style of vaudeville. Here are so examples (stolen from Wikipedia!):

"When You're Good to Mama" - a Sophie Tucker/Mae West/Pearl Bailey double entendre song.

"Roxie" - an autobiographical, observational stand up comedy routine ala Fanny Brice.

 "Mr. Cellophane" - a clown number reminiscent of Bert Williams.

Along with the music, I also love the production design of this movie. It's what I like to call trashy chic. All of the opulence and grand romantic design of the Victorian and Edwardian eras is slowly deteriorating because those jazz age kids have too many other things on their minds than to take care of their parents' antiques. This is definitely reflected in the opening scene at the Onyx Club. What was probably once a grandiose theatre has turned into sleazy speakeasy. 

What must not be forgotten is before Chicago was a Kander & Ebb musical,  it was the real life murder trials of Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner.

Only a smidgen of similarity remains in the original Velma and Roxie.  Belva Gaertner (the inspiration for Velma) was an alcoholic cabaret singer who shot her married lover when she discovered he was leaving her. Gaertner was later acquitted of the crime. Beulah Annan moved from Kentucky to Chicago with her auto mechanic husband. She soon began having an affair. After an argument, Annan shot him in the back and then convinced her husband to take the fall. Her story changed several times. By the time of the trial, Annan claimed she had told her paramour she was pregnant, they struggled and both reached for the gun. Annan was also acquitted.

This real life happening has been the inspiration for several fictional adaptations. Maurine Dallas Watkins, a journalist in 1920's Chicago who had reported on the Gaertner and Annan trials eventually wrote the story as a stage play in 1926. One year later, the play was adapted to the silver screen and produced by Cecil B. DeMille. 1942 had another, sanitized version entitled Roxie Hart, where Ginger Rogers in the title role confesses to the murder to gain popularity, even though it was her husband who did the deed.

In the late 60's Bob Fosse's wife read the original play and wondered if it could be adapted. Maurine Dallas Watkins had since become a born again Christian and believed her play glamorized violence and that hedonistic lifestyle. But when she died in 1969, her estate sold the rights. Finally, in 1975, John Kander and Fred Ebb wrote the music to Chicago while Bob Fosse directed and choreographed.

That's just some regurgitated history on Chicago that you could get off of Wikipedia, but I just wanted to pad this blog entry a bit. Anyway...I love Chicago. End of post.

Taylor Swift Discography: Speak Now (2010)

Even though my internet was down for the past couple days, you better believe dear readers that I bought Speak Now as soon as I could, meaning 10:30 the morning of the 25th as soon as I got off work. Admittedly, I sneaked some previews thanks to the pirates at Youtube, but before writing this blog, I listened to the entire album without interruptions or digital manipulation.

1. Mine
A memory song of Taylor looking back on her first serious relationship. How is it serious? Well, “we’ve got bills to pay, we’ve got nothing figured out”. And despite being jaded from past loves and her dysfunctional parents, Taylor goes ahead with it all. Naturally, a big fight erupts and Taylor “braced myself for the goodbye, cause that’s all I’ve ever known” but lovey comes to the rescue and reminds her of their first romantic moment.

2. Sparks Fly
A couple of months ago, if I were to do this little Taylor Swift discography series, I would have included “Sparks Fly” on the random singles entry. For years it existed only in the Youtube realm, but now it’s full fledge album track. I can’t help but wonder, why this song? It’s basically like “Fearless”, an I’m So Happy To Be in Love song. Nothing special, but nothing bad.

3. Back to December
Remember how Taylor is always the victim? Well, this song subverts that. Taylor is reunited with the guy who’s heart she broke, apologizes and admits to regretting her decision. Reportedly, this song is about Taylor Lautner (the werewolf from Twilight). Now that Taylor is a public figure and having her heartbroken by other public figures and not just boys from her school, one can’t help but wonder if any of them will ever learn their lesson and stay the hell away from her.

4. Speak Now
If ever there was a subject for Taylor Swift to cover in song form, stopping a wedding is absolutely perfect. At first she imagines what it would be like to ruin the nuptials of her beloved and his Bridezilla and then she actually goes through with it. Of course, in Taylorland, the groom leaves his bride at the altar and all is right with the world.

5. Dear John
Ah, John Mayer. How I disliked you back in 2003, and how I dislike you now that you’ve broken Taylor Swift’s heart! (Okay, not really. But I never did like him much). Apparently, he is a big womanizer and Taylor fell for it anyway. Back to the victim. “Don’t you think 19’s too young to be played with?” she asks. Well no, 19 is an adult and you should know better. This song is also waaaaay long. Like six minutes long. And “Hey Jude” it ain’t.

6. Mean
Well, it’s catchy, I’ll say that. But calling someone “mean” just seems so juvenile! And a liar. And pathetic. And alone in life and mean. Ugh. However, Taylor does admit that people think she can’t sing. (Damn, I was wondering).

7. The Story of Us
An upbeat break up song reminiscent of “Forever & Always”. I like it a lot more. A whole lot more. Reportedly, this song is also about Joe Jonas when Taylor saw him at the CMT awards they ignored each other. (I’ll just pretend it’s not about him).

8. Never Grow Up
A song that starts from a mother’s perspective looking down at her baby. In the next verse, the baby is a teenager on her way to the movies and Taylor becomes the narrator. Finally, Taylor is a grown up on her own and in her own apartment. You know how I am with family songs and this one is like “The Best Day”. Is it better? I don’t know.

9. Enchanted
In true Romeo & Juliet fashion (or maybe “Love Story”?) Taylor’s eyes lock with a guy’s from across the room. They meet for a moment, but then part forever. She prays that he doesn’t have someone else waiting for him. I enjoyed this one because it echoes back to those unrequited songs from her early days. The ending is ambiguous, so it could go either way.

10. Better Than Revenge
Oh boy, is this song catchy! Is it country? Fuck. No. My friend Andrew, who likes pop punk and NOT country, liked this song for christssakes. One of Taylor’s guys is stolen by this girl who’s “not a saint, and she’s not what you think, she’s an actress/she’s better known for the things she does on the mattress.” And there we have the first ever sexual reference in a Taylor Swift song. Of course, it just perpetuates the myth that “good girls don’t” and sexual skill is equal to maneating. (Tsk, tsk).

11. Innocent
So, Kanye West interrupted Taylor’s best female video award acceptance speech at the MTV awards. Everyone knows that. I feels trite repeating it here. Anyway, this is the song she wrote about the incident. These are some pretty murky lyrics. Is she saying Kanye did it because he was immature? I just thought he was drunk. Pass. P.S. For some reason I doubt Kanye ever caught fireflies.

12. Haunted
A break up song, but one of those overly desperate cry/scream/sing songs for late night drives. Taylor begs the guy not to leave her even though she knows he’s gone “something keeps me holding on to nothing.” One of my favorite tracks. A lot like Evanesence.

13. Last Kiss
This album should be called Breaking Up is Hard to Do. This is meandering break up song that goes on and on and on without a memorable chorus.

14. Long Live
A love letter to her band. It’s personal and I’m sure nice for them. But it won’t be a hit.

Naturally, I bought the Target Exclusive Deluxe Edition of Speak Now, which includes three bonus tracks and three remixes.

15. Ours
We’re in love so fuck everyone who disapproves…ahem, basically. This one is like the tracks from Taylor Swift, simple lyrics and simple accompaniment.

16. If This Was a Movie
Being a fan of Miley Cyrus’s “If We Were a Movie”, I was hoping for another poppy, friend zone song with cinematic references. But, alas, not on the break up album. Taylor wants her man to come back like he would if this was a movie. Not a bad a song by any means. My hopes were just too high.

17. Superman
Taylor thinks her man is Superman and vows to wait for him when he’s done saving the world. This is a pretty good super hero’s girlfriend song. She gets it. Good for her.

18. Back to December (Acoustic Version)
Not that different. The other version is better. More powerful.

19. Haunted (Acoustic Version)
What’s with stripping songs? Go with the album track. If you were going to make an acoustic version of this song, the tempo should be lowered like the “Forever & Always” piano version.

20. Mine (POP mix)
It’s already poppy as hell! Unnecessary!

Well, dear friends, that is Speak Now in all its 20 track glory. Overall, I'll need to re-listen over and over before I can make any real opinions. Like I said earlier, Speak Now is very heavy in break up songs. Taylor Swift was much more innocent with it's "I don't know who I am" type songs while Fearless seemed to have more confidence and a nice balance between happy go lucky songs and sobering break ups. We are treading into a cynical world.

Favorite Tracks: "Haunted"; "Story of Us"; "Back to December"; "Speak Now"; "Better Than Revenge"; "Enchanted"; "If This Was a Movie"; "Superman"

Okay Tracks: "Mine"; "Sparks Fly"; "Mean"; "Ours"; "Long Live"

Not So Favorite Tracks: "Innocent"; "Last Kiss"; "Dear John"; "Never Grow Up"; All remixes

Common elements found in Taylor Swift's songs (For fun!)
  • Truck/Riding Shotgun/The Passenger Seat/Driving in general - 12
  • 2:00 a.m. (or ridiculously late) - 3 
  • Blue Jeans - 5
  • Fake Smile - 5
  • That Girl/Her/The Other Woman in general - 6
  • Eyes - 7
  • A marriage proposal - 3

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Discography: Taylor Swift (Unreleased Material/Singles/Randomness)

If you go on to Youtube, you can find scads of unreleased Taylor Swift material. Why are these songs currently not legally available for our listening pleasure? Beats the hell out of me. I've tried my best to collect all the songs that are studio quality for this blog entry. I may have missed a few so forgive me. I also tried to avoid live performances from concerts. (You can find a few of those).

First is Taylor's demo CD which has 3 tracks. However, another source tells me there are 10 tracks. Here are all 10 to be safe, but just know tracks 4-10 may also be random unreleased songs.

1. Lucky You
Taylor's reported first ever written song is about a girl named Lucky who's "dances in spite of the fact that she's different and yet she's the same". The chorus is primarily made up of "do do do do do do..." so she had yet to fully thrive as a lyricist. The melody, especially the verses is promising though.

2. Smokey Black Nights
A love song that takes place on the beach. It's okay. It has a few good musical motifs, but the lyrics are weak and murky.

3. American Boy (acoustic version)
A song about, you guessed it, an American boy and his search for love. The recording of this is kind of shitty and the lyrics are still not all they could be.

4. Here You Come Again
A cover of Dolly Parton's classic 1977 hit. It sounds like pretty standard karaoke to me, so I don't think it was really part of the Demo. Taylor sounds about 12 or so and it's waaaaaaaaaay pitchy. Beware.

5. Hopelessly Devoted to You
This is a cover of the Olivia Newton-John song from Grease. Also sounds like karaoke recorded at age 12. However, she sings the song more convincingly than Olivia Newton-John.

6. Am I Ready For Love?
Lyrically, this song is stronger.  This is the first instance of the diary-esque internal type lyrics where Taylor wonders if the pain of love is worth it or if she's even ready. Although, personally, I was a smart ass and always thought I was ready for love. It's a pretty rhetorical question.

7. Can I Go With You?
Taylor doesn't want to see her father go to war and wants to go with him. This song is topical for the early 2000's. This song only works from a girl Taylor's age. Not bad.

8. One Way Ticket
Another cover song, this time it's LeAnn Rimes. It seems pretty ballsy to cover LeAnn Rimes. Too ballsy.

9. There's Your Trouble
This time Taylor covers the Dixie Chicks. Karaoke.

10. The Star Spangled Banner
Exactly what it says. And as bad as you think.

Youtube Limbo
Next are a few studio quality unreleased songs found on Youtube listed in alphabetical order.

American Girl
A cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker's American classic. It's popped out and way reminiscent of Britney Spears' covers of "The Beat Goes On" or "I Can't Get No Satisfaction". Unnecessary but not terrible.

I'd Lie
This is, hands down, one of the best Taylor Swift songs. It's a friend zone song. (Fourth by my count). Instead of being in love with a guy obsessed with another girl (girlfriend or not), this guy is a bit of commitment-phobe. But Taylor keeps her love a secret at all costs, even if she knows every random fact about him. This would be a guaranteed hit if it was ever released. Oh I love this song and if you ask me why, I'll lie.

Permanent Marker
Taylor hates her boyfriend's ex and crosses out her face in all the pictures he still has of her. This is the first instance of Taylor hating the "other woman". It's delightfully immature.

What to Wear
Taylor wonders what to wear before a first date. Very breezy and girly. This would be great as a bonus track.

You Don't Have To
This isn't even a whole song. It's a 40 second clip but it's a damn good clip. Where's the rest of the song?

Your Anything
This one is a little unsettling. Taylor talks about how badly she wants to be with this one guy that "I'd give everything to be your anything". I know it's a plucky play on words but this song is so desperate. It sends the wrong message, but it's honest.

Your Face
After a break up, Taylor doesn't want to forget the memory of her ex. This song is really heartfelt. Pitchy, but heartfelt. One of Taylor's first slow, sad songs.

Random Singles
From soundtracks and the like...

I didn't include Taylor's Live from SoHo live album on my EP blog because it's just live versions of songs from Taylor Swift. The album did include a country-fied slow cover of Rihanna's "Umbrella". It's shorter, a 1:30 and not too bad.

This slow song was featured in 2009's Hannah Montana: The Movie. I haven't seen it, but as far as I know, Taylor is singing in a dance hall while Miley/Hannah Montana is dancing with some dude. It's a simple but beautiful love song. The guy makes her crazier. Go figure.

Thug Story (feat. T-Pain)
In the opening sequence of the 2009 Country Music Awards, which Taylor co-host with Bill Engvall, she shares her various "dreams" of being in the new Star Trek movie and singing a song with auto-tune poster boy T-Pain. Then Taylor gets all Weird Al on us and parodies "Love Story by rapping about how "hardcore" she is even though she "ain't gotta gun, no I never really been in a club, still live with my parents but I'm still a thug!"

Today Was a Fairytale
Taylor's second single to be written for a movie. This time it's 2010's Valentine's Day in which she starred. Eh. Maybe if I saw the movie, I'd like the song more.

A song on the Hope for Haiti Now compilation.It was written by some dude named Kevin Griffin I have never heard of. She was a star at the time, so I'm not surprised she was a part of the telethon. But there had to be a better song for her to cover.

When Taylor sings with other artists...

Two is Better Than One - Boys Like Girls
I don't know who Boys Like Girls are or why they would want Taylor Swift on their song. I didn't really that this was that song I heard on the radio nor that it was Taylor doing the female lead. Wow, I am an ignorant fan. Not a bad song, though.

Half of My Heart - John Mayer
Never really did like John Mayer. Taylor sings the chorus with him. WHY?

Photograph, Pour Some Sugar on Me, Hysteria, When Love and Hate Collide - Def Leppard
This was a collaboration brought on by the CMT show, Crossroads where two unrelated artists join forces and sing each other's songs. It's fun to hear Taylor sing these old classics...and even funnier when they sing Taylor's.

Songs Written by Taylor
...but performed by others...

Best Days of Your Life - Kellie Pickler
This is one of those taunting your ex songs that are popular as of late. It's kind of like "Should've Said No" and "Picture to Burn" only better. Kellie taunts her boyfriend that his best days have past and now he's stuck with the floozy he cheated with. "I've got my pride and she's got you!" I'm kind of bummed that Taylor didn't keep this one for herself, even if she did sing useless back up vocals.

You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home - Miley Cyrus
No matter how famous you get...insert title here. Pretty mediocre song. No wonder she passed it along.

Well, there you go. That's a more than detailed description of all Taylor's songs. I hope this little journey through her discography has prepared you for the release of Speak Now which comes out next Tuesday, October25. As soon as I can, I will write a blog on her newest album and hopefully the bonus tracks. Stay tuned!

Common elements found in Taylor Swift's songs (For fun!)
Truck/Riding Shotgun/The Passenger Seat/Driving in general - 12
Blue Jeans - 4
Fake Smile - 4
That Girl/Her/The Other Woman in general -5
Eyes - 7
A marriage proposal - 2

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DAF #50 - Lilo & Stitch (2002)

"Thus far, you have been adrift in the sheltered harbor of my patience."
Cobra Bubbles

My dear friend Andrew over at Diversion 2.0 whole-heartedly ripped me off by doing a blog series on the 50 (and counting!) Disney Animated Features. I can’t blame him because my series has been collecting dust for quite awhile now. And just like I inspired him, he inspired me to my ass in gear. He is choosing his order randomly while I, who has watched the canon many times, have had the opportunity to rank. So I will be going in ascending order from worst to best. So let’s begin at the very bottom of my barrel with Lilo & Stitch.

I will never forget my first introduction to this movie. I was in the theater on a school trip when I heard the familiar music of my favorite movie. There, on the big screen, was Belle and the Beast dancing to their theme song. Then the camera panned to this giant blue bug crawling on the ceiling. It climbs onto the chandelier causing it to crash to floor, effectively ruining one of the most romantic scenes in cinema history. Belle storms off angrily (and uncharacteristically). Then we jump into a regular trailer with AC/DC's "Back in Black" under scoring.

There was bad blood between me and Lilo & Stitch from the very beginning. Needless to say, I avoided seeing it until the very last moment when I marathoned the canon with my friend Karen back in 2006.

The film begins in space (oh God) at the Galactic Federation Headquarters on Planet Turo. Dr. Jumba Jookiba (David Ogden Stiers...oh, how the mighty have fallen) is on trial for genetic manipulation. It's revealed that he created a super monster that is programmed to destroy everything it encounters. Experiment 626 is sentenced to exile (instead of death). But he escapes into hyperspace and crash lands on Earth, specifically Hawaii. Dr. Jumba and his Jar Jarian assistant Pleakley (Kevin McDonald) are sent to Earth to exterminate 626 before he destroys the planet.

Meanwhile, we meet Lilo (Daveigh Chase), an eccentric little girl who late for hula lessons. She's quirky. She brings Pudge the Fish a peanut butter sandwich because he controls the weather. She's quirky. At hula lessons, another girls calls Lilo "crazy" and is then ATTACKED. Lilo is kicked out of class and walks home alone instead of waiting for her sister, Nani (Tia Carrerre). Lilo locks herself in the house and listens to Elvis records. QUIRKY.

Leave me alone to die.

To make matters worse, social worker Cobra Bubbles (Ving Rhames) comes to inspect the house and plans to return in three days to see if Nani has cleaned up her act. Lilo doesn't help matters by lying about being punished with a pillowcase full of bricks. QuIrKY!!!!

So what's the next logical step when you have three days to organize your life or lose custody of your sister? Get a pet! Nani lets Lilo choose adopt a dog from the pound. But instead she picks 626 and names him Stitch (Chris Sanders). As you can imagine, HILARIOUS HIJINKS occur. Things unravel at an alarming pace. But don't worry, there's time for Elvis and surfing!

Damn it, I HATE this movie. And to keep myself reasonably calm, I'll put all my reasons in a nice, convenient list.

  1. Lilo. She's a freaky, mentally disturbed brat. Quirky does not equal likable or even interesting. Yeah, she lost her parents...SO DID EVERY OTHER DISNEY CHILD EVER. I don't see Bambi performing voo doo. 
  2. Stitch. He's a Jar Jar. He has an irritating voice. He's gross. He's destructive. He's not necessarily stupid but he causes trouble for everyone. How is that cute? Please tell me teen girls of America, how in the fuck is that cute??? 
  3. Nani. She's an idiot. When you have three days to fix your life, do not add one more responsibility to the list. She enabled this whole situation. 
  4. Space. Yes, I like Star Wars. And yes, I even like other Disney films that incorporate Sci-Fi elements (Atlantis, Treasure Planet). But there's something about this uber-cartoony outer space that I don't like. It's too corny and almost making a joke of itself. 
  5. Hawaii. I'm not one those girls with hibiscus flowers all over my room and car. Hawaii has never been a romantic place for me and I feel Disney movies should have a kind of fantastical, romantic aura. Which leads to... 
  6. Present day setting. Certainly Lilo & Stitch is not the first (or last) Disney movie set in "the present" but typically, those rank lower on my list. Hawaii would be a fine setting if it was historical, but with the touristy place that Nani works at, the Elvis soundtrack and the surfing, it just sucks the magic out of the movie. 
In conclusion, a movie with two unlikable protagonists + Hawaii + space = a movie Jordyn hates. i know this movie has its fans and if you are one, you are welcome to your opinion. I just hate movies built around characters like these. In the early 00's, Disney was drowning and luckily, Lilo & Stitch was their Carpathia. So, in a way, I'm thankful...but I still hate the fucking thing.

Rated: PG (for mild sci-fi action)
Run Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Based on: Original story
Setting: Present day (circa 2002) Hawaii

First Viewing: Summer of 2006 during my first epic DAF marathon on VHS.

"He Mele No Lilo" - Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu and the Kamehameha Schools Children's Choir
"Heartbreak Hotel" - Elvis Presley
"Stuck on You" - Elvis Presley
"Suspicious Minds" - Elvis Presley
"Devil in Disguise" - Elvis Presley
"Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride" - Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu and the Kamehameha Schools Children's Choir
"Until We Meet Again" - Tia Carrerre
"Hound Dog" - Elvis Presley
"Hunka Hunka Burning Love" - Wynonna
"I Can't Help Falling in Love" - A*Teen (End credits)

Favorite Song: "Until We Meet Again" - Tia Carrerre

Favorite Moment: Nani and Lilo say goodbye. This is actually the only part of this movie I like! When the outlook is bleak and Lilo is to be taken by social services in the morning, she and Nani sing "Until We Meet Again" with the hope that they will be reunited in the future.

Favorite Character: David (Dave Kawena), a waiter who repeatedly asks out Nani. (He's the least of the ass hats.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Taylor Swift Discography: Fearless (2008)

In the fall of 2008, fans eagerly awaited Taylor Swift's sophomore album, Fearless. What they got was a more mature and tightly made album with bigger hits and stronger melodies. The album shot Taylor Swift to crossover fame and she became a househeld name almost over night thanks to her gang buster romantic songs.

1. Fearless
This is the first song where Taylor is in a happy relationship and how it makes her feel fearless and invincible. Thanks to good ole Wikipedia, I learned that Taylor wrote the song on tour while she was not dating anyone. The song is about "the perfect first date" and how "no matter how many times your heart has been broken, you will fall in love again." (Okay, kid.)

2. Fifteen
Taylor looks back at her freshman year, describes meeting her real life best friend, Abigail, and how the world revolved around boys. The song describes several milestones like the first and the first kiss, all of which happened to Taylor her freshman year. (Bully for her). Near the end of the song "Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind" which makes me assume sex, but I could just have a "dirty mind" compared to Taylor. This song is gentle warning to those around fifteen and a bittersweet recollection to all of us who crossed the threshold maybe seven years ago or thirty-seven. "Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday" is so true to me, all though it was more of an eleven thing.

3. Love Story
Oh boy, was this song huge. Basically, it's a less violent version of Romeo & Juliet. "Juliet's" dad disapproves of their relationship but somehow "Romeo" has a chat with him and it ends with a marriage proposal. (Speaking of fifteen...ahem) I owe this song's popularity to the naive romantic in all of us. External conflict romances endure because everyone would rather have true love in any circumstance than to yearn for someone who is emotionally unavailable. It's less emotionally damaging.

4. Hey Stephen
Taylor likes a dude named Stephen who is the shit and she's the only one who knows it. It's a light little diddy, and kind of nice after the INTENSITY of "Love Story". However, it's overlong.

5. White Horse
This song is the anti "Love Story", or, more accurately, the results of "Love Story". Taylor is disappointed that her life didn't turn out to be the fairy tale she thought it was. It's a sobering song, with minimalist guitar work. You pay attention and it brings you down a peg or two. It must be noted that the song is not cynical. Despite Taylor's prince being a jerk in shining armor, she has faith that she will "find someone someday who might actually treat me well."

6. You Belong With Me
Of course, immediately following the realistic "White Horse" our hopes are raised through the roof with "You Belong With Me", an amalgam every teen comedy ever. Taylor is the girl next door in love with the quarterback who (naturally) is dating a stuck up cheerleader who just doesn't understand him the way Taylor does. It's upbeat and catchy as hell and was a major hit. I swear, everytime I got into a car between October and December of last year I heard it at least once on the radio. Interestingly, "You Belong With Me" does not have a lyrical conclusion with Mr. Football confessing his love to Taylor. The ending is left up to the listener's interpretation, but with the cinematic video, it's pretty obvious how Taylor thinks it should end.

7. Breathe
A pretty standard break up song with backing vocals by Colbie Caillat (Why? Why not, I guess). Break ups suck. Let's move on.

8. Tell Me Why
This is probably my least favorite track on the album. Taylor dates a douche and wonders why he's so mean. I wonder why she's still with him.

9. You're Not Sorry
After giving a guy several chances, Taylor realizes that he isn't sorry and that he'll never learn his lesson. This is a pretty simple song, but I like it a lot.

10. The Way I Loved You
Often in Taylor's songs, she plays the victim; she's been ignored, unloved, cheated on, dumped, heartbroken and it's always someone else's fault. With "The Way I Loved You" she's kind of the villain, although I doubt she even realizes it. Taylor is dating a "charming, endearing, comfortable" guy who treats her perfectly but she's not satisfied and misses her wild ex with whom she had crazy fights with in the rain. So what does she do? Does she break up with the nice guy? No, she's Miss Co-dependent, she has to be with someone consarnit. Besides "he can't see the smiling I'm faking, and my heart's not breaking cause I'm not feeling anything at all." Yeah, this song is kind of evil, but it's also unapologetic. That's ballsy. However, these are things Taylor would never admit to her boyfriend or her friends because she knows how awful they sound. Overall, this song proves that anyone can be both a victim and a perpetrator.

11. Forever & Always
Notoriously, this song is about Taylor's short lived relationship with Joe Jonas and how he dumped her over the phone. The song tells of how a relationship can be "very serious" one minute and the next day be nothing. Trust me, that's not just high school, so it's relevant to everyone unfortunately. I didn't like this one at first but it grew on me.

12. The Best Day
Taylor sings about her mom. It's sweet, but not my steez. I'm not big on family songs, but from what I've read, this one is pretty good.

13. Change
This song was featured on a 2008 Olympics compilation CD and was the first song from Fearless I heard. I didn't particularly care for it, but, once again, it grew on me. "Change" could refer to many things; sports, romantic entanglements, etc. and it's up to the listener to choose just what Taylor is singing about. No matter what, she believes in you. (Corny but fun).

Almost a year after the original album came out, Taylor released Fearless: Platinum Edition that included five new tracks and one new piano version. None of the new tracks became big sellers. (Note how the cover has a badly Photoshopped black background put in).

14. Jump Then Fall
Easily the best of the new songs at least musically. Taylor is happy to be in love and wants the object of her affection to go for it and fall in love with her. It's happy, it's Taylor.

15. Untouchable
At 5:11, this Taylor's longest song and boy, does it go on. The melody is particularly strong, nor are the lyrics. I've listened to it several times and I'm still not sure what it's about other than wanting someone untouchable.

16. Forever & Always (Piano Version)
Exactly what is says. This version is slower, prettier and certainly more heartfelt. I actually prefer it because of the added emotion.

17. Come In With the Rain
If you go on Youtube, there are several unreleased Taylor Swift singles floating around. (Wait for that post). This was one I collected way back in 2006. It's a good song, but I can't help but wonder why this one was chosen instead of others. The lyrics are kind of murky and interpretations are copious in amount.

18. SuperStar
Taylor is in love with a superstar and fantasizes about what it would be like to date him. I wonder which of her famous boyfriends this one's about. It's okay.

19. The Other Side of the Door
Trouble in paradise! Taylor and her man have a spat and she's being a total girl about it. "I said leave but all I really want is you to stand outside my window throwing pebbles saying 'I'm in love with you'..." Uh, yeah. So high school. I can take blind hope and naive optimism but this shit irritates me to the core. Grow up and say what you want.

Fearless is a superior album to Taylor Swift and either of her EP's. It's tighter, is more focused, has bigger hits and each song is about something pretty specific. There are no outright duds on this album and I find it easier to listen to the whole thing than her first album. It was a great follow up and all her fans are anxious to see how Speak Now will fare in comparison. I'm hoping for more mature lyrics and themes and at least one really good Friend Zone song. (But hey, that's just me).

Common elements found in Taylor Swift's songs (For fun!)
  • Truck/Riding Shotgun/The Passenger Seat/Driving in general - 11
  • Blue Jeans - 3
  • Fake Smile - 3
  • That Girl/Her/The Other Woman in general - 4
  • Eyes - 7
  • A marriage proposal - 2

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Taylor Swift Discography: Sounds of the Season (2007) and Beautiful Eyes (2008)

Between the release of Taylor Swift and Fearless, our girl had two extended plays that I will cover in one post.

The first was a six track Christmas EP titled Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection. It was released exclusively through Target and then on iTunes in November of 2007.

1. Last Christmas
Taylor covers Wham!'s 1986 hit where she meets up with the guy who broke her heart. She is determined to give it to someone else this year. Of all the millions of Christmas songs, this one is a pretty damn good choice for Taylor to cover since it deals with being wronged. I'm not familiar with Wham!'s version, so this one is it for me.

2. Christmases When You Were Mine
This is a pure Taylor song where she longs for previous Christmases when she had the man of her dreams. The lone acoustic guitar adds to the melancholy. It never gives the reason for the break up, which I like. Great song and the best on the album.

3. Santa Baby
Uh...this song works best when it's sung more sexually. Taylor isn't that way (or won't let herself be) so it kind of sucks. She's too innocent for it.

4. Silent Night
It's the words, but a different melody. I liked it actually more than I thought I would. Of course, I'm pretty anti-Christmas music so anything I haven't heard a million times is good.

5. Christmas Must Be Something More
The second original song on this EP. I'll be the first to admit, songs about Jesus make me uncomfortable and this one is too Jesus-y. Yes, her heart is in the right place. Christmas should be about Jesus's birth. She even touches on how it's been blown into something preposterous.

6. White Christmas
It's "White Christmas" with guitars and a banjo.

Meanwhile, Beautiful Eyes is a pretty shitty excuse for an EP. There are only two original songs out of six. She released it to tide over her fans until the release of Fearless that following fall.

1. Beautiful Eyes
A pretty basic "I'm in love with you" song. The melody isn't too bad but nothing about it is terribly memorable.

2. Should've Said No (Alternate Version)
What makes it alternate? An acoustic opening and back up singers.

3. Teardrops on My Guitar (Acoustic Version)
Basically the pop version with acoustic guitars.

4. Picture to Burn (Radio Edit)
Couldn't hear the difference. (And like it needs editing?)

5. I'm Only Me When I'm With You
Same track.

6. I Heart ?
I really, really don't like this song. It's shrill and harsh sounding. It deals with a break up and how the guy wants her back. She is unsure, hence the "I Heart ? written on the back of her hand". Wikipedia says this song was written when she was twelve which makes sense because only someone that young would write that on their hand. Probably my least favorite ever.

Common elements found in Taylor Swift's songs (For fun!)
  • Truck/Riding Shotgun/The Passenger Seat/Driving in general - 5
  • Blue Jeans - 2
  • Fake Smile - 2
  • That Girl/Her/The Other Woman in general - 3
  • Eyes - 6
  • A marriage proposal - 1

Taylor Swift Discography: Taylor Swift (2006)

In honor of Taylor Swift's third album coming out in a couple weeks, I decided to go through the tracks of each of her albums/EP's. Since I'm fourteen (not really), I am one of the many that like her songs. Their innocence and honesty almost make me nostalgic for when I had my innocence and honesty. (I joke). This blog with dissect and analyze Taylor Swift's lyrical choices and themes that are repeated in her songwriting.

First up is Taylor Swift's debut and self-titled album. According to the end all pantheon of information, Wikipedia, Taylor wrote most of these songs during her freshman year of high school. Many are about relationships despite the fact that she had yet to be in one while writing some of the songs. The album was released October 24, 2006 when Taylor was sixteen.

1. Tim McGraw
The first album track and single is a country standard, meaning a song about a woman reminiscing about a summer romance. There are many examples:
  • "Maybe It Was Memphis" - Pam Tillis
  • "Strawberry Wine" - Deana Carter
  • "Georgia Rain" - Trisha Yearwood
  • "Innocence" - Sarah Buxton
However, all those songs differ in two ways: 1. The singers are all at least in their late twenties. And 2. Every one of those songs is about losin' it. "Tim McGraw" is the most innocent and details nights of backroadin', slow dancin', and breakin' up come the summer's end and no hanky-panky. So far (meaning up to 2010), all of Taylor's songs are devoid of sexual content or even "he wanted to go farther but I said no" content. (Sorry to disappoint). Anyway, this is a great kickstart for the album even it is a ballad.

2. Picture to Burn
An upbeat, angry (and slightly irrational) song about a break up. Taylor has moved past phase 1 of crying into her pillow and into phase 2 which, apparently, includes burning shit and hating a truck. It also includes the realistic line of "nothing's stopping me from going out with all your best friends". Of course, it's an empty threat made by a hormonal teenage girl. This song personifies how obsessive girls are about their relationships and how quick they are to claim what a worthless jerk their ex is.

3. Teardrops on My Guitar
Ah, the friend zone. Taylor often finds herself in it, but this is by far the best song about it...ever. She sings of the unwavering secret pain of hearing about the object of your affection's love life when it will never include you. This one was inspired by a true event when this guy in one of Taylor's classes would talk to her everyday about this other girl. I, myself, have been there, so I'm a big fan of this one. "He's the time taking up/but there's never enough" is my favorite lyric. Only someone who's been there could write that.

4. A Place In This World
"I don't know what I want/so don't ask me cause I'm still trying to figure this out" opens "A Place In This World". And those lyrics pretty much exemplify this song about being aware of how clueless teenagers actually are. Also that you don't have to have it all figured out right away. Pretty basic, but still likable.

5. Cold As You
A song about a girl in a relationship with a cold and emotionally unavailable dude. Taylor often is the victim in her songs and this one is pretty much a pity party. However, this situation isn't usually discussed in least not to my knowledge. "And you come away with a great little story of a mess of a dreamer with the nerve to adore you."

6. The Outside
This is an upbeat teenage angst song. Apparently, Taylor wrote this one when she was 12 and feeling alienated from her friends. She desperately wants acceptance and to a lesser extent, popularity. At first, I thought this was an unrequited love song, but it definitely makes more sense now that I know the original context.

7. Tied Together With a Smile
Finally, thanks to Wikipedia, I discovered that this song is about Taylor's bulimic friend. (Why did I assume everything was romantically tinged?) Again, being about a female makes so much more sense. Overall the song is about insecurity and how girls deal with it, either by dieting or "giving away love like it's extra change."

8. Stay Beautiful
This one is about a dude that doesn't know attractive and talented he is, at least in the eyes of Taylor. This is more of a "secret love" song vs. an "unrequited love" song. She ponders confessing, but I guess just isn't ready. She seems pretty okay with that though.

9. Should've Said No
Taylor gets cheated on and even though the guy begs for forgiveness, she stands her ground. A standard country song about cheating, if you ask me. This one was released as a single probably because country music doesn't have enough grrrl power songs about kicking his cheatin' ass to the curb.

10. Mary's Song (Oh My, My, My)
Taylor wrote this song about one of her neighbors who apparently had a childhood romance that grew into a long lasting marriage. It's very sweet and one of my favorites. The fact that is was written about an older woman makes it even more believable since very few marry their high school sweetheart, let alone their childhood one. But since I'm from a small town in the country, I know it's not impossible. At eleven, this song would have been my dream come true.

11. Our Song
Even though "Tim McGraw" and "Teardrops on My Guitar" charted reasonably well on the country charts, "Our Song" was Taylor's first number one. The song is light hearted and seems like the happier days of "Tim McGraw". I'm still not sure why this one was such a big hit. It's catchy enough but I don't get its intense fame.

A year after Taylor Swift came out, a deluxe edition was released with a meager four additional tracks. Instead of giving it its own page, I figured I just tack it on to this one.

12. I'm Only Me When I'm With You
This could be a song about friendship or romance, I can't really tell. So I assume that it's about that murky possible transition period. The title says it all; Taylor can't be herself around anyone else but the subject of this song. Fun and upbeat.

13. Invisible
Friend zone song #2. This time, however, the guy she pines for is pining for an unattainable chick with no idea of his existence. Taylor offers that the two of them hook up so they can both stop being invisible. The songs details the circle of hell where "he likes her, but she likes him, and he likes somebody else, you just can win".

14. A Perfectly Good Heart
Taylor the victim deals with an "unfair" break up that she should have seen coming. It's always someone else's fault in high school...and for some people, always. This is a pretty mediocre song and I see why it wasn't included until the Deluxe Edition. Although, I know there are better songs that could have been included. ("I'd Lie", cough, cough).

15. Teardrops on My Guitar (Pop Version)

Apparently, I have the international Deluxe Edition which includes a poppier version of this song. It's the same vocal track, only with a faster drum beats and less twang. Ignore it.

So, that's Taylor Swift's first album. A lot of the songs are similar in theme and sound. There are definitely some catchy, winning tracks and other fair ones. None of them outright suck, that's for sure, but I can safely say that Taylor Swift is not as good as Fearless.

Common elements found in Taylor Swift's songs (For fun!)
  • Truck/Riding Shotgun/The Passenger Seat/Driving in general - 5
  • Blue Jeans - 2
  • Fake Smile - 2
  • That Girl/Her/The Other Woman in general - 3
  • Eyes - 5
  • A marriage proposal - 1