What 2010 gave me

I was going to join an essay writing contest with a whopping P3000 Sodexo (?) GC prize, with the theme, What is the most important thing 2010 gave you. Quickly, me and Romy White thought about the type of essays people are probably going to submit, stuff that would basically announce to the world that in their hollow, middle-class chests, a heart beats, and in their Carpal Tunneled limbs, a hand that gives.

My first thought was 3000 is a lot of CDs, around 6 or 7. So I set aside work to write my pretty stupid idea for an essay about how I’m grateful finally for MP3s and technology in general. I would have said that I’m grateful to 2010 for finally giving me the epiphany that technology is good, that it makes people lead better, convenient lives. But I thought the society of writing geniuses that run the contest might misinterpret the essay as incorrect or just plain stupid, and that I’m missing the point of it since it’s quite clear that one is supposed to write about a heartwarming, modesty or charity-driven Chicken Soup type of essay, which I just don’t have the persuasion powers to pull off.

I would have also said that I’m grateful to 2010 for giving us one of the best Kathy Griffin Specials, Whores on Crutches, her funniest since Strong Black Women. But it’s too much of a giveaway.

Finally, I thought too of saying that Robyn’s Body Talk albums is 2010’s most precious thing. I want to implore everyone to download it since it’s one of those albums they don’t make available in CDs in 3rd world nations, and I think it is really so good. You really, really should hear it. It’s the best. Do you remember 90s singer Robyn? Do You Really Want Me Am I Really Special and Show Me Love? It would have been so gratifiying to win P3000 GC at its expense by saying at 500 words or less, about how much I wanted to give 2010 a blow job for giving birth to Body Talk.

I probably would have gotten away with something about how 2010 gave me the realization that music hoarding is not good and then segue into how hoarding and owning many material things is not a good state of being but then it would have been just as bullshitty as the MP3/technology epiphany horseshit.

Actual human-filled events happened in 2010 including weddings, (two, one that is corked so hard and one that was such a spectacle in all sorts of fashions), illnesses, special gifts (as in Apple special), human kindnesses done to me, really annoying things done to me, death of a friend’s loved one, heart attacks, heart conditions of friends’ families, actual feelings felt for family, etc, etc. These were all important to me and I want to relish or pick life lessons off them but 2010, it also made me realize how incapable I am of assigning importance to what really makes life meaningful, illegal downloads or people. It’s a tough choice so maybe it’s best not to submit them for scrutiny, yes? Yes.

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Madonna

In high school, I borrowed a Ray of Light cassette from someone whose taste in music I should have trusted more, whose tape collection I should have tried to duplicate, whose non-classification of music I should have tried to emulate. She sits Sixpence None the Richer, Smash Mouth, Mariah Carey, All Saints, Sugar Ray, Barenaked Ladies, Fatboy Slim, TLC, New Radicals and Spice Girls amongst each other, gathers them around in her stack like unassuming kindergarten pupils, unaffected by each other’s differences. I liked most of what’s in Ray of Light especially Shanti Ashtangi which was nothing I’ve heard before, Sky Fits Heaven, and Power of Goodbye, one of her bestest ballads, but ended up not buying it, the album, because when you’re a teenage boy in high school, buying a Madonna album was just weird and gay. And to me then as it is now, buying an album is crucial to the appreciation of an artist’s music.

It’s not that I was afraid somebody’d shoot me if I was seen buying a Madonna album, it’s that it was inconceivable to me then as a high school boy to obtain one. I’m shallow like that. It’s irrelevant to point out that I still didn’t buy Ray of Light in college because there are other things to buy and pursue, one diva seemed enough, and college is all indie/alternative music time, without the slightest idea what indie/alternative music even means, but yes, I still didn’t get any of her albums during this period, the phony period.

Although there’s still no point in celebrating the day I finally got Ray of Light, its purchase was the moment that I learned how to get over myself and stop fussing over the purchase of a CD. If this sounds like a dishonest and contrived nothing admission, let me just say how I used to buy more than one buffer CD every time I trek to the church to get whatever diva albums are out, which looking at my stack, were a lot, because I’m ashamed to be handing over Tower Records cashier people with discernible smirks on their faces the new Mariah/Tori/Aaliyah. So I have now, rotting and molding in their respective areas of the CD rack, copies of probably never again to be played albums of Coldplay, Basement Jaxx, Death Cab for Cutie, and all other sorts of diva album buffer. So I mean, I’m not just saying, ‘Look at me getting over musical taste sophistication issues by buying Madonna’s Ray of Light!’ The purchase of this album was really somewhat momentous. You can say, it came to me like a ray of light.

I didn’t like all of Ray of Light, however, because my youthful perception of her gravitated towards the drag queen idea of her and this perception was magnified ten times over by Frozen wherein she ups the drag queen persona/gay icon ante in the video, which looking back on it now, was a really good-looking, understated video. But this is something I would never have admitted or known in high school because it’s high school. Besides, I didn’t know understated. For some reason, you never come off as gay or weird if you had a Mariah album. I know several jocks/big boys in HS who had Butterfly and Number Ones. But it’s quite a different matter with Celine Dion, Tina Arena and Madonna, and so I steered clear. Clearly, I had conflicts with certain issues during high school.

Maybe it was William Orbit’s production that hooked me, but I wasn’t aware of songwriters or producers during the time I was starting to get a taste of her. All I knew was that these are beats that are so weird and pretty, and I recall really liking most of them. Shanti Ashtangi was just too gorgeous to me.

For years, I rolled my eyes so hard over the idea of Madonna. I didn’t like her singles (Music, Frozen, Ray of Light, 4 Minutes), and I only bought her albums in a non-committed, obligatory way you buy certain albums, which was how I bought Something to Remember. When she released Confessions on a Dance Floor, it was still out of obligation that I bought it, but then I thought it turned out to be one of her most enjoyable albums, and that was when I started to enjoy her music as the creatures that they are. It’s puzzling to me though how I chose to begin with Something to Remember over any of her albums, it being a ballad collection and ballads not being her strongest suit, to start off with the Madonna discography discovery.

My appreciation of her began with Confessions on a Dance Floor and more then by the Confessions Tour DVD. When I watched this super freak concert, I understood why people go crazy over her, in spite of the nasty things said of her, in spite of her self-absorbed/self-important reputation, which was something of a turn-off to me. But fuck that already. I’m pleased to have discovered her before it’s too late. I loved the Confessions-era Madonna and I hope she never ages. I hope she stops aging for a while. She will age of course but I hope she never acts it.

Not an illusion of bliss

Sarah McLachlan is not happy lately. My presumptuousness is embarrassing but I would bet on her not being suicidal or raging either. It was wrong to assume that she’s happy on the basis of Loving You Is Easy or on the cover of her new, Laws of Illusion. Not until you read through the liner notes of the CD will you find out about her new drummer, Tori Amos’ very own, Matt Chamberlain, who replaces her long-time drummer and now ex-husband Ashwin Sood whom I’ve always had mixed feelings about because inspect the backstage footage of Afterglow Live and you can sense, in a footage where Sood talks to a bunch of girls ostensibly about how they feel about Sarah and her concert, that there’s an unmistakable flirty vibe in the way he talks to them, the Sarah McLachlan fans. Sarah McLachlan is not frequently featured in the pages of Yahoo OMG, she’s not that type of celebrity, and so of course things as major as her divorce escapes public scrutiny and disdain, as if divorced celebrities is a novelty. She tweets too although it’s highly likely that it’s the record label that’s doing it for her, and only to say, often, that she’s playing at some small venue, at times at a Starbucks, no less, or at times at bigger ones such as wherever her Lilith Fair crew is currently playing. Other than what she means to spill about her life can only be surmised through her songs which is just as it should be.

To hear of her true feelings for Sood, dissect the lush ballad, among some other pretty things in Laws, Forgiveness, where she rips Sood to pieces, but still ever so gently, by piano, by addressing the ‘loving lying enemy’ with a heartbreaking mix of longing and vindictiveness. This lying,  loving enemy, she’s seen its face before but didn’t want to anymore, but she remembers its ‘loving eyes and the moonlit kiss, the evening lullabies’ that, as this is the most beautiful song in here, it’s become evident that she hasn’t quite let go of these blissful things just yet, and these are things, kisses, midday calls, etc, that she will truly miss. But alas, she will never give him forgiveness which is so, so sad. It’s the kind of sad like when you felt like weeping at certain scenes in Boys Don’t Cry just because Hilary Swank’s face is on and her face is so depressing even when she isn’t saying anything.

Before she sets Ashwin Sood to endless days of remorse, she frolics, or, her term, awashes herself in illusions of bliss, in songs like Illusions of Bliss, gets really illusory in Loving You is Easy, screaming ‘I get so high!’ ‘Shot like a starburst!” which is the closest she gets to sounding like a crazy, a rare treat considering she’s always been usually melancholic and discreetly angsty which have always been concealed under her gentle piano playing.

I don’t know how significant it is that her new drummer is also Tori’s, but just the thought of the possibilities is exciting. While it’s thrilling to fantasize that the two might duet, or just be in the same room together,  I don’t think the idea will come from the drummer (no offense meant to creative drummers). Not that that’s urgent. They’re fine on their own, even if in McLachlan’s case, long-time collaborator Pierre Marchand’s still doing much of the production, doing great things to otherwise usual Sarah McLachlan songs, which are basically songs that will get played in movie or TV scenes that usually signify the emotional crux of the story, songs that will get heavy blogger emoting-through-music posts, songs like Angel which a decade after getting featured from the City of Angels soundtrack, many still find haunting and lovely, descriptions which have been consistently used by anyone who’s ever cared to talk about Sarah’s songs, songs like Love Come which crescendoes to a gorgeous ahhhh… ahhhh… ohhh, that’s become almost a signature, songs like that that no one does quite lovelier than she.

That Forgiveness is about Ashwin Sood is just conjecture of course, and it hardly matters who the song’s about or what it’s really about, but really, it’s about Sood, but it doesn’t matter eventually because it’s just as resonant and beautiful had it been about her dog. When Sarah McLachlan does this, sing about someone who’s wronged her, as opposed to occasions when she writes a plain, old love song, like Push which she wrote for Sood, you realize suddenly how horrible it must be to do someone harm which is such a simplistic realization but that also when you encounter these, songs like Forgiveness or its equivalent, say, when someone writes you a well-crafted, seriously thought and constructed letter/e-mail, that there’s no harm or pain that you wouldn’t trade for pain you wish you have instead, instead of being its inflicter. If I were Sood, I’d stay away from the radio forever, or I’ll just move to my homeland India where Sarah McLachlan wouldn’t get much radio airtime. But then a world without Sarah McLachlan songs, that’s impossible and unbearable, less aurally beautiful, maybe even if I were Ashwin Sood.

Girls and Boys, Slut and Junkie

It doesn’t look like Tori Amos is going to be making the type of songs she used to make. Sarah McLachlan looks happy lately which doesn’t bode well for those who yearn for the angsty Sarah of old. Regina Spektor and Ingrid Michaelson fill the void for the meantime and Ingrid Michaelson in particular fills the Sarah void with the singer-songwriter sincerity that’s been missing from pop lately. I’d buy you Rogaine when you start losing all your hair is one of the sweetest things I ever heard in a song because you can tell it’s an actual situation where she’s getting that and it’s a sentiment close to me because some of my hair is falling. The feeling I get from her Girls and Boys is the same feeling I had when I first heard Surfacing and Candy-coated Waterdrops by Plumb. This instantly goes to my list of if Emergency Albums to Listen to If I Had One Day to Live.

For the last few days, I allowed myself to get harassed by Christina Aguilera’s Bionic which is quite the epic failure. Because it’s out there begging to be appreciated for its artistry, I permitted it to assault me with its sexiness. For lack of prominent things to download, I did Bionic and what an assault to the senses that was. What it does best, if anything, is it makes you appreciate all the musicians you used to take for granted, ie Madonna, who she apes in a song called Glam, a song that wishes it were Vogue. That and much more. Bionic is such an embarrassing thing to listen to. Pussy songs and baby songs sit side by side each other. I wish I’m just trying to sound clever but it really is an awkward thing to slog through. Christina thinks no one has ever heard of Santogold so she does her and thinks no one will notice. It’s such a shame because I had high hopes for her! Burlesque the movie is one of my most anticipated things this year and I’m hoping it turns out really bad/good but more bad. I hope Christina skanks it up to unprecedented heights in that movie.

Alanis Morrisette’s The Couch could be a movie. In the same way that Aimee Mann’s songs were turned into Magnolia. The Couch would be about a dysfunctional family that spans generations of therapist-seeing children and parents, set in a mood that is as haunting and as colorful as the song’s mood and tone. I really can’t tell mood apart from tone and it is for albums such as this that makes me wish I know how else to say How Gorgeous. Alanis herself can star in it, maybe play the role of the therapist or whoever. Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie could be a musical even. It would of course be a high art, high concept type of musical that would be beautifully worded and sung and people wouldn’t mind the artiness of it because it would be meticulously crafted just like its source album which is one of the bestest things I ever heard ever.

Heartbreaker

I don’t get it when people say Mariah Carey songs changed their lives, whichever songs that may be, because with the exception of Hero, I don’t see how Heartbreaker, Dreamlover, Fantasy, Honey and other boy-come-rescue-me songs of hers can change anyone’s life. But maybe I’m underestimating the power of such songs since no one speaks more effusively about boyfriend-longing than she does and maybe these songs really are life-changers in their own special ways. Her songs certainly haven’t changed my life but I will say that her album releases mark one of the highlights of my year, at least since the dawn of the blog, which is to say around the Emancipation of Mimi period, around the time when album information is updated at a pace approximating the speed of light. I don’t camp out of record stores in anticipation in the same way that Star Wars fans camp out of cinemas or Harry Potter fans camp out of bookstores although I think that doing so is romantic and crazy, but I certainly take a moment out of my life to relish a Mariah Carey album release, from the blog-stalking to purchasing to actual listening.

Today would have been the release of Angels Advocate, the supposed remix version of Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, but it’s not going to happen since allegedly, or perhaps matter-of-factly, the album was such a flop. My guess is that it didn’t sell because we are now in an age where music can be obtained for free, true at least for people who don’t care to own CDs anymore and multimillion selling singers such as she are the ones who stand to lose from this the most. Or it could simply be that people’s taste for pop has radically changed and some just simply don’t care anymore for those artists who at some point in their careers have been so successful and popular. It’s kind of sad.

But it’s okay that she puts a halt on the album’s release. I’ll move on. What’s annoying about it is that you just know that the scrapping of the album is due to the fact that her recent efforts (Angels Cry & Up Out My Face) weren’t the hits they were projected to be. Mariah is unabashedly a commercial artist whose fame was largely brought by commercial success. Memoirs the remix could have been a better version but the boardroom presentation of market statisticians and prognosticators at the record label which showed her sale’s steep decline must have prevented the album from being released. And that sucks! Selfishly, I thought it wouldn’t have mattered if she flopped again because flopping is all the rage nowadays anyway and it’s quite cool for Mariah to not care about sales and her songs charting just as long as she releases an album, because finally, people might shut up about her sales already and she can finally really be free artistically and maybe make the best music of her career, #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 or not. If only the decision had been on her instead of on record label executives.

I’d say it’s fine, her not releasing the remix album but it’s really not. If there’s any consolation to that, it’s that there’s not going to be a repeat of the flop fiasco and she’s spared the embarrassment of selling so few. I can live with Memoirs for the meantime since it’s for me one of her greatest, I could listen to it for years, but it breaks my heart just the same. It would have been nice to hear her trade verses with R. Kelly in Betcha Gon’ Know or diva off with Mary J Blige in It’s A Wrap which is one of the cancellation’s major heartbreaks, not to mention the Jump Smokers remix, but such is the state of album selling these days.

It’s weird that a very successful artist such as her is still constrained by record companies that she ’emancipated’ herself from so many times already. It kind of makes you think that all the emancipation proclamations were just in service of an album theme, the truest in essence of which is exemplified by Butterfly, not that other more explicit emancipation album, The Emancipation of Mimi. With her albums, you never really notice the ‘themes’ because they’re almost non-existent anyway because you obtain a Mariah album to hear her wail and sing with rappers and fellow divas. Personally, I’m glad that she’s sold a gazillion albums in her 20 years of singing but I wish she would just let go and really truly emancipate herself.

Glory of the 90s

Ace of Base. Glicos. Streetboys. Universal Motion Dancers. Pearl Jam. That’s Entertainment. St. Mary’s Academy. Archie & Jughead Double Digest 256 pages. X-Men. Cedie. Uhaw. Solid Gold Songhits. Cutterpillow. Mariah Carey. One Sweet Day. Always Be My Baby. Bone Thugs N Harmony. Bone Thugs N Harmony feat. Mariah Carey. CrazySexyCool. Dragonball Z. Palibhasa Lalake. Cynthia Patag. Gardo Versoza. Seiko Films. Priscilla Almeda. Cory Aquino. Filbars. Goldcrest. Mercury Drug. Nintendo. Rockman 1, 2, 3, 4. Backstreet Boys. Spice Girls. Robin Padilla. Beverly Hills 90210. Cartimar. Jagged Little Pill. Puff Daddy/Bad Boy Records. Typewriter. Boyz II Men. Miss Universe. Miss Belgium. 3-story Tower Records. Quad 2. Quad. Return to Innocence music video. Paolo Contis. Tropang Trumpo. Melrose Place. Cristy Per Minute. Eric Fructuoso. Thank God It’s Sabado. Wacks/Kiko. Donita Rose. VHS Porn. VHS. Angie’s Video House. Ferris Beuler’s Day Off. Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion. Sega. United Colors of Benetton. Hanson. Freddy Krueger. Dawson’s Creek. Dawson’s Creek Soundtrack Volume 1. Tira-tira. Star City. MTV Soul’d Out. Camille Pratts as Princess Sarah. Angelica Panganiban as Becky. Kurt Cobain. 7-11 nachos. Barbie’s Cradle. All Saints. Top 20 at 12. Fun House. Manilyn Reynes. Jay Manalo. Devon Sawa. Are You That Somebody music video. Aaliyah. Semi-charmed Life. Titanic. Always (Erasure). Low-waist. Nerds candy. Fanta. You on My Mind. Penthouse. Mix tape. 200 pesos pirated CD. Dave Matthews Band. Crash Into Me. Brown-out. Flintstones chewables. Bubble Tape. Cry Baby. Silent All These Years. Sustagen. Kero Keropi. Fido Dido. Tina Paner. Nova Villa. Laser Disc. The Cask of Amontillado. N*SYNC. The Boy Is Mine. Joyce Jimenez. Acne-free. Corn Flakes. TT Boy. Ron Jeremy. Taboo. Nokia 3210. Ice candy. Freestyle Live! Building a Mystery. Landline. Autograph. Sometimes (Britney Spears). 10 Things I Hate About You. Phoebe Buffay. Joey Tribbiani. Floppy disk. Prince of Persia. Lemmings. Michael Myers. Matthew Mendoza. Patrick Guzman. Gelli de Belen. Carmina Villaroel. Decades Bar. Tom & Jerry. Magandang Gabi Bayan Halloween Special. Suddenly Susan. Bugs Bunny. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Maala-ala Mo Kaya. Youth. No Internet.

Familiar Alien

To hear something familiar, I listen to Tori Amos’ Abnormally Attracted to Sin. She brings me back to an unforgettable period a few years ago. I don’t know how I even got to like Tori during my barista days, how her songs are all I ever played in my discman that I was  carrying around during shifts. I don’t know how From the Choirgirl Hotel, an album that is  mostly about her miscarriage could sound so good to me. It could be a plain fascination for the sounds she used to make. From Spark to finish, I loved it. Maybe it doesn’t have a big fat meaning, my liking it at the time but it was a significant part of my barista soundtrack. Maybe I was influenced by my coffee shop with the very classy muzak. It is after all where I got acquainted with The Weepies, The Guggenheim Grotto, Spinto Band and Elliott Smith.

And so thank God for those songs and artists that reminded me of those days because I can not feel anything with Abnormally Attracted to Sin. I really liked the sounds here the first time I listened to it. I liked Welcome to England a lot and I was more or less accurate in my prediction of how she’s going to sound in here. I’m fairly ignorant in the language of music so by sound I mean the ones she used to make circa To Venus & Back. Remember Bliss, Concertina and Datura? Those were good. AATS serves as a reminder of that era. Venus was nothing like I’ve heard before, and I listen to this and I get nothing. It must be the length because at 17 tracks, it’s a bit of a chore to listen and I’m in an album hog mode. I acquire music almost every other day. I acquire and acquire that the hard disk/CD shelf space are all but cramped and old friends such as Tori get pushed in the background. Or it could be that nothing remotely interesting is happening right now with which to need a soundtrack.

In consuming Tori Amos music, do we need bit of a drama? Lyrics from previous albums provided timeless but just for me lines such as ‘If the divine master plan is perfection, maybe next I’ll give Judas a try’ or ‘So don’t give me respect, don’t give me a piece of your preciousness’. I don’t know about anybody else but these lyrics went well with coffee.

I think it might be the insatiability for new albums that snuffed whatever interest I may have had on this. In the future, when I can’t enjoy anything any more from any of my divas, Abnormally Attracted to Sin might serve as a reminder of when I hogged but only half-consumed. Or someone must order Miss Amos to come back to Planet Earth and sing her alien lyrics but once familiar music.