Music

Good Mood Music: Come Back to Me

I love Janet Jackson. Much like Venus Williams, she too became a legend in the same field where she has a sibling who not only also attained legend status, but legitimately is in the discussion of best ever. (For Janet, it was her brother Michael. For Venus, it’s her sister Serena.) She’s also endured (more than) her fair share of ups and downs during a life that has been on display for the world since her youth–and thrived regardless.

In honor of her birthday, and inspired by Stereo Williams’ tweet, here is my favorite ballad of hers.

Come Back to Me” is one of the record seven singles from one album to peak in the top five on the Billboard Hot 100 (Rhythm Nation 1814). The song peaked at #2, and is a beautiful, wistful telling of the feelings still held for a past love with. Janet has a well-noted gentle delivery of lyrics and it plays so well in contrast to the theatrics of the instrumentals used for this song, especially as it builds towards the end.

Bonus: These are two more ballads from Janet I adore.

From her album Janet., “Where Are You Now.”

Again” is technically from the album Janet. as well, but originally it was on the Poetic Justice soundtrack–a movie she also starred in.

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Music

Good Mood Music: Coming to My Senses

I love blending poetry and songwriting, but TCOY is more like a subconscious stream of thoughts.

This month’s selection is a very recent release. “Coming to My Senses” is a track off of Alina Baraz’s EP The Color of You.

As Alina noted in the quote above from a Complex interview, the whole project flows from start to finish, with each song melding into the next. Projects like that are really good chill out and unwind from what’s going on music for me. “Coming to My Senses” is one of the standout songs on TCOY to me because it has a bit more pace than most of the other songs—and the rhythm of the chorus is really catchy.

…All night, tried to paint a picture of you
In my mind, but you…
You’re a color that don’t exist
What are you?
I hear sounds you make with my lips
What are you?
I’m getting so close to
Coming to my senses…

Music

Good Mood Music: Rhapsody in Blue and Moonlight Sonata

As a former violinist and very short time cellist, I have a long standing and still strong love of classical music. One of my favorite pieces is Rhapsody in Blue. The combination of instruments is uplifting and, at 16-and-a-half minutes, is long enough for you to lose yourself in it for a bit.

Most people know this Gershwin work without being able to identify it by name, most famously because of an United Airlines ad campaign that featured it in the 1990s. The part of the song the campaign pulls from primarily is around 11 minutes in, give or take.

The ending of this piece is magnificent. It’s all good, but the final minute is all but perfect.

Bonus: Moonlight Sonata
This is another piece I’m not sure can be played and I not lose myself in it, especially the first movement of the its three–the beginning 6 minutes approximately.

Gymnastics, Music

Good Mood Music: In the Mood

Another genre of music I enjoy: big band or swing.

The genre was at its peak in the 1940s, although it had a resurgence in the late 1990s into the early 2000s. Big band music is typified by four sections of instruments: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a rhythm section that consists of a guitar, piano, double bass and drums.

One of the most recognizable pieces of big band music is “In the Mood.” The most popular version of this song was done by Glenn Miller and Orchestra in 1939, but it was actually a cover of the original done by Edgar Hayes and Orchestra the year prior.

The Glenn Miller version got a big boost when it was featured in the movie Sun Valley Serenade in 1941, a movie I profiled a musical scene from last year.

I first heard the song as a part of Kim Zmeskal’s floor routine in the early 1990s. (Side note: I just happened to publish this blog entry on her birthday.)

It’s actually one of two big band songs that make up her music. The other is “Sing, Sing, Sing,” originally done by Louis Prima and the New Orleans Gang. The two songs, as well as many others, are commonly heard together because of a compilation medley done by Larry Elgart in the early 1980s called Hooked On Swing.

Music

Good Mood Music: ‘Butterfly’ and ‘You’

It’s a 2-fer this month. This year marked the 10-year anniversary of two of my favorite albums: Butterfly by Mariah Carey and The Velvet Rope by Janet Jackson. Both albums are landmarks releases of what were already legendary careers at the time. Both albums were also both products of introspective periods and produced a number of songs I’ve consistently listened to since 1997.

Butterfly, Mariah’s first release after her split from husband and manager Tommy Mottola, signaled her transition into a more independent self. It was when she took full control of her music and image, exhibiting a side of her that had been hidden since she made her debut at the beginning of the 1990s.

The album’s title track is a straightforward take on how she felt like she was finally emerging from the cocoon of the previous chapter of her life. I can play the album from start to finish without skipping a track, but “Butterfly” is my absolute favorite. In fact, it’s probably only behind “Can’t Let Go” on my list of favorite Mariah songs, if not 1B.

The Velvet Rope is a concept album revolving around the metaphor of the velvet rope as the boundary you set around your emotional availability. Who do you let in? Who do you keep out? I remember in an interview Janet saying that this album was her letting people behind her velvet rope. Throughout the album many sensitive subjects are touched upon such as: the then-emerging phenomenon of social networking, depression, sexuality, homophobia, domestic violence, and self-worth.

You” is the song I go to when I need a musical kick in the rear. It’s a good pick-me-up when I begin to wallow in self doubt. Other songs on the album like “Got ‘Til It’s Gone,” “Together Again” and “I Get Lonely” became much bigger hits, but none were as impactful to me.

Music

Good Mood Music: Got It Good

Usually it’s the singer that initially draws me towards a piece of music. However, in the case of “Got It Good” it was the producer.

During one of my periods of exploration, I came across the Haitian-born Canadian DJ by the name of Kaytranada and got hooked on the stylings of his mixes.

“Got It Good” is a cut from his debut studio album 99.9% that came out in 2016. It contains a sample from “Olho de Vidro” performed by Jaime E. Nair, and features the vocals of Craig David, whose music I’ve also enjoyed over the years.