Although all of today’s songs will have something in common, I can’t think of a more diverse and eclectic Old New Borrowed Blue before today. The inspiration for using the name Brittany/Britney as a theme came from the release of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard’s new punk solo project, Thunderbitch. But we’ll get to that in a minute. First up is a slightly more familiar Britney.
Something Old: It already feels odd to call this 2000 track old, and yet when I watch the video for “Stronger,” it’s impossible not to notice how dated the entire thing is. What is happening? Did she transform her cheating ex-boyfriend into a chair that she starts pointing at and dancing/jumping upon? And why is it that no matter how many times I watch this video, I always hold out hope that she will transform into a werewolf during the bridge, when she ends up in a thunderstorm? Despite my constant disappointment, “Stronger” is in my opinion Britney Spears’ strongest single from Oops, I Did It Again, or maybe any of her 8 albums.
Something New: And this is where it’s time for some Thunderbitch. Brittany Howard takes a half-step out of Blues to make a slightly louder, angrier album. The standout track to me is “Wild Child”, and if you like that, you can stream the whole album for free at thundabetch.com.
Something Borrowed: I think that “Toxic” was meant to be covered and sampled; I tend to love songs that borrow from “Toxic” far more than the original. Is it just me, or do Childish Gambino and Danny Brown make Britney Spears sound more eerie and fierce than ever?
Something Blue: Instead of fishing for another Brit(ta)n(e)y, let’s stick with the music that had me fall in love with Howard’s bluesy vocal and guitar performances from the Alabama Shakes’ debut album, Boys & Girls. Here they are performing “Hang Loose” for a Seattle radio station.
I don’t have any exciting theme for this week, but here are some tunes I’ve been listening to in these last few lazy days of August.
Something Old: Bill Withers often makes for great summer music, and this is certainly not an exception.
Something New: If only I listened to the new Snoop Dogg album before last week, “I Knew That” might have been my song of the summer. Well, now it can be our song of September.
Something Borrowed: Here’s a great example of a sample that is not in hip hop, lest you think borrowing is a genre-specific technique. Here we have one of the most innovative bands around sampling one of the most innovative albums ever made, so if that’s not epic, I don’t know what is.
Something Blue: Remember that myth where a musician sells his soul to the devil for success? Well it’s attached to a particular guy, and that guy is Robert Leroy Johnson, considered the king of Mississippi Delta blues, and “Crossroads” is about as classic as singing the blues itself.
Is it just me, or does it seem that suddenly everyone is far more aware that the end of summer is near? We have more than two weeks left until September begins, most students are back in class, and “the fall” officially kicks off a new season, and yet everyone I talk to is rather suddenly aware that the end is nigh. I for one am attempting to live in the moment of these last summer days, not only because I’m not going back to school, but because I don’t want to think about what comes next.
With that in mind, here’s what I’ve been listening to this week…
Something Old: “The Bridge” is the title track from the very first record that my redhead bought me, Sonny Rollins 1962 album, The Bridge. One of these days I will have to write about the whole album, because it’s possibly one of the most underrated jazz classics ever recorded. For now, this one track captures some of the urgency and busy-ness of the summer, trying to hurry to not miss anything, while still finding moments to appreciate the beauty around us. This video is chopped off at the beginning, but I figured posting a live performance of one of the world’s greatest improvisors might be a good idea.
Something New: My favourite thing about Toronto in the summer (so far) is free festivals and music, and right now thanks to the PanAm and ParaPanAm games, there are some especially fantastic free shows available as long as your willing to stand in a crowded square for a couple of hours. This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing two of my favourite live acts right now, The Roots and Janelle Monaé! Monaé’s Wondaland collective is set to release a compilation EP tomorrow, so consider this my plug, and don’t be surprised if I share another song or two from The Eephus in the future. For now, here is the video for “Yoga”, the infectious dance track that had all of Nathan Phillips Square grooving and singing along.
Something Borrowed: Apparently there is a loose jazz theme running through today’s post, since I feel like sharing the 90’s R&B “Rain”, in which SWV directly borrows their melody from Jaco Pastorius’s theme from “Portrait of Tracy”. The melodical bass solo has been used in a number of hip hop tracks, but likely the trend began with Ghetto Children’s “Who’s Listening?”. So you might want to check that out too.
Something Blue: Yep, I agree that it’s a little ironic to have a lesbian list a song called “I Need a Man to Love” as one of her favourite blues tracks, but it just is. I love how Janis Joplin sounds both incredibly cool and desperate at the same time. I just wish I could find a decent video of her performing it as well.
If you’re not already a fan of Nina Simone, I think you will be by the time you’re finished reading this blog post. Although I have yet to watch it, Netflix has recently released a documentary called, “What Happened, Miss Simone,” that’s been reviewed over at LittleByListen, where you can watch the trailer. In connection with the film’s soundtrack, various artists have been releasing covers of Nina’s songs, and since some of those covers could actually represent any of the categories here, I thought I’d might as well use it as an excuse to post all Nina tracks.
Something Old: Apparently Nina hated that she had to sing standards all the time, so I’ll begin with her original, “I Ain’t Got No… I Got Life,” in which Nina is upfront about her poverty, but lays proud claim on what she does have. In this song, I have found my life motto: when all else fails, I got my boobies.
Something New: Last week Lauryn Hill showed up on the Jimmy Fallon show to perform one of her covers for “What Happened, Miss Simone,” and I nearly died of happiness. “Feeling Good” was an obscure show-tune until Nina recorded it for I Put A Spell On You, turning it into the popular standard it is now, covered by everyone from Michael Bublé to Muse. Ms. Hill gives it yet another distinct flavour, while paying obvious tribute to Nina’s version.Something Borrowed: Nina’s piano tracks are some of the most sample-worthy recordings out there, and her profile on WhoSampled is appropriately long – I’m positive that I’ll be posting others here in the future. Today, however, I’d like to share Reflection Eternal’s “For Women,” a rap remake of Simone’s “Four Women”.
Something Blue: As you might be thinking by now, pretty much everything Nina ever recorded was “blue” in some way. She was a master of turning deep sorrow into meaningful, soul-filled hope, and sometimes some righteous anger. Written in 1964, “Mississippi Goddam” is her response to multiple violent acts against black people in the southern states, particularly the Alabama Baptist Church bombing and the assassination of civil rights activist, Medgar Evers. The protest song begins almost playfully, but you can hear Simone’s outrage grow until there’s no other response than to join in her angry song.