Category Archives: Top 10′s

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10 Essential Britney Songs You May Not Know

Britney Spears isn’t just the princess of pop. She’s a pioneer of the genre who redefines its expectations and stretches its boundaries following the release of each of her albums.

And while her list of greatest hits is recognizable to nearly anyone who grew up as part of the TRL generation, some of Britney’s finest and most inspiring work was never packaged into singles. Instead, these songs live on the tracklistings of her albums somewhere in between the monster smashes we all know and love.

Far more than just a machine who churns out songs to dance to, Britney is an artist with an extensive catalog of work that is as versatile as it is influential. Below, check out my list of top 10 essential Britney tracks that fans only familiar with the singer’s chart-toppers may not be familiar with. And don’t forget to share your picks for best Britney songs in the comments section below!

 

10. Can’t Make You Love Me
from Oops! … I Did It Again

By the time Britney released her sophomore album, Oops! … I Did It Again, she was already a global phenomenon. Gone was the cheeky girl-next-door that was introduced on her debut record, and in her place was an established sex symbol whose face could be seen at every newsstand.

While many of Britney’s songs acknowledge her fame (i.e. “My Prerogative,” “Piece of Me,” “Mona Lisa”), Oops! … I Did It Again provides an interesting character study of the pop star. On this album, the then 18-year-old Britney was only first discovering what it meant to be at the center of the public’s eye. Songs such as smash hit “Lucky” juxtaposed the glitz and glamour of being America’s sweetheart with the emptiness and artificiality that label can come with.

On “Can’t Make You Love Me,” Britney yearns for her crush to care about her. She compares her life to what it was before catapulting to superstardom and tries to reassure the song’s muse that despite the changes in her life, she is still the same person she’s always been at the core.

“I have been through changes, but I’m still the girl you used to know,” she tries to convince. “It’s made me no different, so tell me why you had to go? Oh baby, I will trade the fancy cars for a chance today, it’s incomparable. I might be sitting with the movie stars, everybody say that I just have it all … but I can’t make you love me.”

While the song’s upbeat tempo (dance break included) and sugary bubblegum instrumentation may mask the vulnerability of the lyrics, the dangers of celebrity life are fully warned here: people begin to define you by your public persona rather than by your inner being.

And for Britney, this was just the beginning.

 

9. Breathe On Me
from In The Zone

One of the primary components of building up the brand that is Britney Spears is her sexuality. Whether it be a Rolling Stone photo shoot, a sultry music video or an eye-popping performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, Britney has never been one to shy away from the provocative. It’d even be a pretty safe bet to say that there have been just as many (if not more) headlines about Britney’s sexiness as there have been about her music.

But on her 2004 album, In The Zone, Britney stripped down the spectacle of her sexuality in favor of sensuality (i.e. the ode to masturbation, “Touch of My Hand”).

The primary example of this re-focus comes in the form of “Breathe On Me.” It’s nearly impossible to close one’s eyes and listen to the track without feeling teased by Britney’s deliciously suggestive invitations. Almost tantric, the song is about how the real drive behind good sex is not lust, but rather is passion.

“This is way beyond the physical,” Britney seductively coos. “Tonight, my senses don’t make sense at all. My imagination taking us to places we have never been before. Take me in, let it out, don’t even need to touch me, baby, just breathe on me.”

Do your pants feel tighter yet?

 

8. And Then We Kiss (Junkie XL Remix)
from B In The Mix: The Remixes, Vol. 1

Although the standard version of this song has still to see an official release, “And Then We Kiss” was first introduced to Britney fans in the form of the Junkie XL remix on the singer’s 2005 debut remix compilation, B In The Mix.

Two months prior to this song’s release, Britney celebrated her one-year anniversary with former husband Kevin Federline. She had also just given birth to the pair’s first child, Sean Preston. Therefore, it came as no surprise that the new music emerging from the singer acted as a declaration of love to this man who had so profoundly changed her life.

“And Then We Kiss” is a midtempo slice of sophisticated electropop that finds Britney needing to be fueled by her lover’s touch. It’s a sensual love letter that showcases how grounded she feels by the man in her life. Without him beside her, she feels lost and uncertain. Yet to feel his presence provides a sense of clarity that makes all the puzzle pieces fit. He focuses, excites and tantalizes her in ways that were foreign to her prior to knowing him.

Despite that Britney and Kevin’s relationship didn’t last (they finalized a divorce in the summer of 2007), “And Then We Kiss” will surely always serve as a reminder for the singer of the better days the couple had. It’s a gorgeous song about feeling completed by the love of another individual. And no matter what happened after, it’s worth remembering what that feels like.

 

7. Toy Soldier
from Blackout

It’s such an incredible shame that the dark days of Britney’s personal life overshadowed the musical genius of her critically acclaimed fifth album, Blackout. Originally released in October 2007, it was the only one of Britney’s seven studio albums that didn’t debut at #1 (although entering the charts at #2 isn’t too shabby either). Not surprisingly, however, it’s the album that keeps on giving.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the record had certified platinum status and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Music Library and Archives – the only Britney record to ever do so. These archives were created to serve as the “most comprehensive repository of materials relating to the history of rock and roll” and to highlight music that would “broaden awareness and understanding of rock and roll, its roots, and its impact on our society.” In other words, even industry experts and scholars admit that Blackout impacted the genre in unprecedented ways.

“Toy Soldier” is a prime example of Blackout’s brilliance. A stomping club banger with a heavy injection of attitude, the cheeky track finds Britney raising the bar for her new potential lover. Tired of the weak and subpar men in her life, Britney’s next love interest needs to be a soldier: a strong, assertive guy with a fearless attitude and innate drive to protect and take care of her.

Vocally, Britney is extra peppy as the sprightly, fast-paced verses are accompanied by little yelps and carefully selected drawn out syllables. Set against a military drumroll, the song packs an extra punch as it displays Britney’s confidence and reveals a seldom seen playful side of her.

 

6. Before The Goodbye
from The Singles Collection (Deluxe Edition)

Originally intended as the lead single from Britney’s eponymous third album, “Before The Goodbye” was replaced prior to the LP’s release with “I’m A Slave 4 U” – and removed from the record’s tracklisting altogether (except as an bonus track in certain countries).

Musically, “Before The Goodbye” was way ahead of its time. Listening to it now, it’s interesting to note that the song shaped Britney’s sound today more than most of her chart-topping hits did. It has an intensely dark electronic feel that would later be fully explored on Blackout and would bleed into all her subsequent releases. Additionally, the quick whipped verses serve as a teaser to her exploration with hip-hop on future songs like her duet with Madonna, “Me Against The Music.”

While it’s a fantastic track, it’s no surprise that “Before The Goodbye” was scrapped in favor of “I’m A Slave 4 U.” At the time it would have been released, the song would have been far too dance-heavy to make an impact on mainstream radio. Going straight from sugary hits like “Oops! … I Did It Again” and “Lucky” to a thumping club anthem like “Before The Goodbye” would have been too sharp of a departure for Britney. Despite that her third album was intended to herald in a new era for the singer, straying away so drastically from the sound that established her would have presumably alienated many of her (especially younger) fans.

“I’m A Slave 4 U” was therefore a much safer choice to go with. While it was certainly controversial in its own light, the song triumphed as a declaration of sexual liberation. It paved the path for an adult Britney while building off the foundation of her bubblegum roots. And although it did present a new and evolved sound for the pop star, it didn’t radically come from left field as “Before The Goodbye” would have.

Included as one of many b-sides and remixes on the deluxe edition of the 2009 compilation, The Singles Collection, “Before The Goodbye” is finally available for mass consumption. And it’s a career-shaping song that no true Britney fan should be without.

 

5. Inside Out
from Femme Fatale

With last year’s Femme Fatale, Britney introduced dubstep into mainstream pop. Following the success of smash single “Hold It Against Me,” it became standard practice for a pop song to include a dubstep breakdown as musicians like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Cheryl Cole all followed lead.

But on the sultry ballad “Inside Out,” Britney proved that dubstep is not just an ingredient to bake dance floor anthems out of. Here, she utilized it as a tool to illustrate her insatiable need for one more memory to cling to before letting a relationship die.

In “Inside Out,” Britney knows she’s about to break up with her lover. But instead of trying to win him back, she makes herself look as desirable as possible to get one last thing out of him: sex.

“So come on, won’t you give me something to remember? Baby shut your mouth and turn me inside out,” she seductively demands. Whatever else happened between them is irrelevant, as all she’s looking for at the moment is one last hoorah in the bedroom before they part ways entirely.

Britney thus seeks closure by detaching herself emotionally and immersing herself into one final physical act. It’s a rollercoaster for her that’s enhanced by the dramatic dubstep that continues to thrust its way to the song’s surface. Sexy, mature and self-aware, “Inside Out” is as unique as it is bold.

 

4. Born To Make You Happy (Bonus Remix)
from The Singles Collection (Deluxe Edition)

“Born To Make You Happy” was without a doubt one of the standout tracks on Britney’s debut album, … Baby One More Time. While it was in no way groundbreaking, its simple and cute puppy-love lyrics make it the best Taylor Swift song Taylor Swift never recorded.

On the bonus remix of the track, Britney re-recorded her original vocals to give the song a more acoustic feel. Reducing the original down to her bare vocals and organic instruments, this remix provides for a far more raw take on the song. It’s one of the few recordings where Britney’s vocals take center stage without any sort of enhancement (you even hear her clearing her throat). Listening to this version, it’s easy to picture Britney perched on a stool, holding a microphone and really committing herself to singing her heart out.

Recently re-released on the deluxe edition of The Singles Collection, the bonus remix of “Born To Make You Happy” is both a distinctive treat for Britney fans and a middle finger to those who have criticized her singing abilities over the years.

 

3. Unusual You
from Circus

One of the saddest tracks in Britney’s repertoire, “Unusual You” reveals just how jaded the pop princess is when it comes to men. In the song, Britney sings about her confusion that a relationship is actually going well for her instead of falling apart at the seams.

“Baby, you’re so unusual, didn’t anyone tell you you’re supposed to break my heart? I expect you to, so why haven’t you?” she tenderly asks her lover. Talk about trust issues, geez.

Accompanied by a haunting electronic backdrop, this Bloodshy & Avant produced track (the team behind B’s massive hit, “Toxic”) is sprinkled with flurries of piano and a throbbing bassline. It’s a midtempo song with music as ethereal as its lyrical content is melancholy. And what makes it that much more depressing is that to Britney, it’s a happy song about realizing what the true meaning of love is. But to listeners, it’s a song about how psychologically damaged the singer is from the relationships of her past.

One listen in and the song will make you want to buy a plane ticket to Kentwood, Louisiana. After you land, you’ll want to pick up ice cream, drive to Britney’s house for a girls’ night and reassure her that it really does get better.

 

2. Heaven On Earth
from Blackout

There are surely many reasons that Rolling Stone called Blackout “the most influential pop album of the past five years” (the magazine’s “Decade-End Readers’ Poll” also voted the record to be #7 on the list of best albums between 2000-2010). But one of these reasons has to be the album’s unapologetic determination to explore and conquer territory usually written off as too niche for wide, mainstream audiences.

The Euro-disco fortified “Heaven On Earth” is one such example. The glitzy electronic track is masterfully layered with three individual vocal lines in a way reminiscent of Donna Summer’s classic “I Feel Love.” Throughout the song, Britney interjects the melody with stolen whispers and husky alto decoration, giving “Heaven On Earth” a distinctively multi-textured and celestial aura.

A deeply romantic song, “Heaven On Earth” is about how every detail about her lover provides Britney with a sense of shelter. She’s in love with everything about him. His imperfections become perfections and as long as he’s around, nothing else matters. With him, Britney ascends to otherworldly levels of bliss. It’s a sentimental track that finds our beloved pop star high off of the connection she has with another human being – a feeling she so earnestly yearns for in many other tracks within her back catalog.

 

1. What It’s Like To Be Me
from Britney

Everyone remembers when Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake dated. How could you not? They were the golden couple of their time. But what less people remember is the incredible collaboration the two had on Britney’s third record.

Closing out the album, “What It’s Like To Be Me” is a punchy self-empowerment anthem. Full of sass and a “don’t fuck with me” attitude, the track is without a doubt one of the edgiest in Britney’s discography.

The song is also much rockier than a typical Britney track. Its dramatic use of strings and thrashing drums give the song sharper corners than most of her material. In turn, this sound also gives the track the courage to risk being a little more experimental by nature.

During the song’s bridge, the music drops out and Britney sings acapella over Justin’s signature beatboxing. Layers of Justin’s background vocals are then looped in as Britney’s voice builds to welcome the explosive return of percussion. And as the song ends, it goes back into Britney and Justin’s acapella back-and-forth all the way through its chill-inducing finale.

Individually, these two artists were pivotal in defining the pop culture of their generation. But together, their work is catapulted to new heights. “What It’s Like To Be Me” not only showcased what Britney and Justin each do best, but it solidified that these two talents were unafraid to change the game and would stay on top for as long as they stuck around.

What are your 10 Essential Britney Spears tracks that weren’t singles?

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10 Essential Tracks from No Doubt

Yesterday, No Doubt announced the title of their hotly anticipated sixth album: Push and Shove. Hitting stores on September 25th, the album will be the legendary rock band’s first in over 11 years.

The announcement of the new record’s title came shortly following the news that No Doubt will perform at this year’s Teen Choice Awards (airing July 22 at 8 PM EST on Fox). And this week, they’re filming a video for their new single, Settle Down.

“We are incredibly excited to share the new music with you. Ear candy coming your way!” stated the band about Push and Shove. “Thank you all so much for your support over the last 25 years. We’re really proud of our new album and we hope you love it as much as we do.”

To celebrate No Doubt’s comeback, I’ve compiled a list of what I believe to be the ten essential tracks from their discography thus far. Check it out and share your favorite No Doubt songs in the comments section below!

 

10. HAPPY NOW
from Tragic Kingdom

You don’t want to piss off No Doubt’s lead singer, Gwen Stefani.

Happy Now finds the singer with a vendetta against a lover who scorned her. An obvious result of betrayal, the song serves as a brutally honest reminder that there will be always be consequences if you fuck up.

“No more leaning on your shoulder. I won’t be there, no more bother. If you feel you just might want me, that’s too bad, I’m not the easy,” Stefani sings with a venomous sting. “You’re by yourself, all by yourself. You have no one else, you’re by yourself.”

Featuring a musical breakdown that should make every member of Paramore start job hunting, Happy Now is a true rock tour de force.

 

9. NEW FRIEND
from Everything In Time

New Friend acts as a reverse timeline of No Doubt’s musical evolution. Starting out with a dominant dancehall beat, the song opens like a quintessential track off the band’s Rock Steady era. Yet as it progresses, the track gets increasingly grungier until it reaches its bridge and turns into a full out up-tempo punk banger. It’s a song that can be enjoyed by all No Doubt fans as it appeals to both ends of the spectrum of their sound, making it a unique standout in the band’s catalog.

 

8. HELLA GOOD
from Rock Steady

I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t disappointed in No Doubt’s most recent studio album, 2001’s Rock Steady. I’m all about exploring new territory and being experimental, but I’m surprised this incorporation of reggae into the band’s signature sound lived past the first time Stefani and Co. heard the painfully awkward Start The Fire or horrendous chorus of Detective. Fusing that many flavors together is sort of like adding a third ingredient to peanut butter and jelly. It sounds like it could be interesting but that doesn’t mean you should keep trying to do it when what you have already works so well.

Released as the album’s second single, Hella Good was the only track from the record playing on the radio that seemed like it could be a No Doubt song instead of one by a band going through an identity crisis.

Part funk, part electronic and part rock, Hella Good was the result of a collaboration between the band and hip hop production duo The Neptunes. “A bumping contemporary beat pushes along 80′s style keyboards making it nearly impossible to keep from moving your body,” wrote About.com of the track. And while one would rarely classify No Doubt as club fodder, Hella Good is a deliciously irresistable song that’ll keep you sweating on the dancefloor until the sun comes up.

 

7. SIMPLE KIND OF LIFE
from Return of Saturn 

Only the second song that Stefani wrote all by herself, Simple Kind of Life is a gorgeous and somber ballad that juxtaposes Stefani’s desire to settle down and have a family with her commitment to music.

“At once grand, fragile and very, very sad,” wrote Rolling Stone in their review of the song. “It’s clear this woman whom many desire but few regard as a serious artist has penned a song that can sit on the same shelf with the likes of Elliott Smith and Aimee Mann.”

Accompanied by a gorgeously shot Alice In Wonderland-esque music video, Simple Kind of Life was the most commercially successful track from Return of Saturn. A fascinating character study of one of rock’s most revered females, this autobiographical song is one whose absence would make any No Doubt collection incomplete.

 

6. SPIDERWEBS
from Tragic Kingdom 

No Doubt’s distinguishing blend of ska and pop has always pushed the boundaries of mainstream music. And at the true forefront of this movement was Spiderwebs – the second single to be released off Tragic Kingdom.

Telling the story of a man who won’t stop calling Stefani, the song acts as somewhat of a rock prequel to Destiny’s Child’s Bug-A-Boo.  An upbeat track with an orchestra of brass instruments, Spiderwebs is an impossibly fun kiss-off to people who just can’t seem to take a hint.

 

5. BATHWATER
from Return of Saturn 

Sometimes musicians use really creepy metaphors to evoke certain emotions. When Garbage, for instance, sang “I will twist the knife and bleed my aching heart and tear it apart” on their smash, #1 Crush, you can’t help but wonder if such drastic measures are really necessary.

In Bathwater, Stefani sings about literally washing in her lover’s “old bathwater.” She also outs the song’s muse as also being somewhat of a man whore – so I’d advise being a little skeptical about the secondhand filth coming off him, girl.

Literal interpretations of gross metaphors aside, Bathwater has a sweet message behind it. Infused with some borderline campy cabaret zest, the song is not only about accepting your lover’s faults, but immersing yourself in them as a symbol of loving every fiber of their character. It’s a song with real meaning and a strange format that only No Doubt could execute, proving their artistic versatility while simultaneously expanding on what’s expected from their music.


4. DON’T SPEAK
from Tragic Kingdom

Don’t Speak is to No Doubt what Catcher In The Rye is to J.D. Salinger. Sure, his other works are all literary classics within their own rights, but no outlet would identify him in a headline by saying, “Franny And Zooey Author Moves to Human-Free Location.” He’ll always be remembered first and foremost for being the guy who wrote Catcher In The Rye.

For No Doubt, that same title association and claim to fame lies in Don’t Speak. A soaring rock ballad, the track finds Stefani singing about coming to terms with the end of a relationship. Or rather, her unwillingness to accept the truth about the doomed fate of said relationship.

“Don’t tell me ‘cuz it hurts,” Stefani pleads in the song’s chorus, almost as though not uttering the words out loud will make them not true. She’d rather suffer silently than have her fears and insecurities vocalized. She knows she’s about to experience searing pain, so she begs that her lover at least the cushion the blow.

A sad and incredibly vulnerable track, Don’t Speak is a ‘90s pop culture staple. Not only was it the song that catapulted No Doubt to international fame, but it was also a raw glimpse into Stefani’s psyche that grounded her as a spokesperson for the brokenhearted – and inspiration to this day for drunk karaoke singers.

3. JUST A GIRL
from Tragic Kingdom 

I’m usually the first person to get annoyed and disagree when someone makes an essentialist claim about being a homosexual man. Being gay myself, I usually find these generalizations to not only be inaccurate but also often times insulting (no bitch, I don’t want to go shopping with you).

That being said, I have yet to be introduced to a gay dude who has not at some point in his life cranked up his speakers and danced around in his bedroom to Just A Girl. Like, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to strip down to my underwear and emulate Cameron Diaz in the beginning of the first Charlie’s Angels movie and shake my booty all over my house whenever this song comes on. It’s just that feel-good of a track (and while we’re on the topic, let’s all just take a moment to be grateful that Instagram didn’t exist in 1995).

The lead single off Tragic Kingdom, Just A Girl was No Doubt’s first dip into the pool of mainstream. Although initially only peaking at #23, the song’s re-release following the massive success of Don’t Speak saw the song rise to #3, solidifying the band as more than just a one hit wonder. It also served as a middle finger from Stefani to the skeptics who doubted a female-fronted pop/punk band could achieve the same chart glory as one led by a male vocalist.

Between the biting irony of the song’s lyrics and a chorus that instantly imprinted onto your daily humming routine, Just A Girl was not only a confirmation of No Doubt’s staying power, but also of their impending status as contemporary rock legends.

 

2. TOTAL HATE ’95
From The Beacon Street Collection

It’s scary to think that there’s a whole generation of kids out there now who just know Justin Timberlake an actor. This same generation most likely identifies Gwen Stefani as that popstar who likes to sample showtunes and can’t accept the fact that she’s not Japanese.

But what this uneducated youth of America is missing out on is just how badass Gwen really is. She’s the type of chick who you can just tell would wipe you out with one hit but who also probably wears lipstick to bed. Come to think of it, I don’t really know why she’s not the star of her own comic book series. But I digress.

Total Hate ’95 is taken from No Doubt’s criminally underrated ska-fueled independent release, The Beacon Street Collection. Full of trumpets, driving percussion, punk flavor and a honey badger-esque attitude, the song features guest vocals by the late and great Bradley Nowell of Sublime (with whom Gwen also collaborated on the track Saw Red).

Listening to Nowell’s swagger mixed with Stefani’s fiery temperament is sort of like getting a blowjob while on E after winning the lottery and spitting in your former evil boss’ coffee. It’s a complete aural orgasm that pleasures all your stimuli and will leave your head spinning. And as you remind yourself to exhale, you’ll immediately wonder if it were too good to be true. Luckily for you, 99 cents and an iTunes account will let you have that experience over and over again.

 

1. TRAGIC KINGDOM
from Tragic Kingdom

By this point, you’ve probably realized that literally half of this list of ten essential tracks comes from the same album, Tragic Kingdom. And while some might argue that I’m not giving enough love to No Doubt’s other records, it’s important to note that it has actually been scientifically proven that Tragic Kingdom is one of the greatest albums of all time.

Aside from Tragic Kingdom being the album behind No Doubt’s most memorable hits, its title track is what really solidifies the record as the band’s Mona Lisa. Simply put, Tragic Kingdom is a showcase of everything great about the group. From Gwen Stefani’s sultry vocals punctuated by staccato outbursts of rocker-chick angst to the gritty Hotel California like electric guitar solo, the song also serves as a master class in ‘90s alternative rock.

Closing off the album, Tragic Kingdom is as unpredictable as it is catchy. And I’m not just talking about the multiple changes in key and tempo. I mean, if you can honestly tell me that you foresaw the song’s last few seconds to be a brass solo rendition of the Star Wars theme, then I’m going to your father’s house to ask for your hand in marriage because we are investing in some serious stocks, darling.

Nearly two decades after its release, Tragic Kingdom remains the crown jewel in No Doubt’s catalog. It’s an undeniably brilliant piece of music that shows off the individual skill sets of every member of the band. Thus, it’s no surprise that they named their strongest body of work after it.

So my dear reader, your homework assignment to complete before the next installment of this 10 Essential Tracks column is to pour yourself a glass of wine, roll a blunt, download some porn, let some aggression out at the gym or whatever it is that you do to unwind, and listen to Tragic Kingdom at full volume through your headphones. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Welcome to the tragic kingdom. Like The Wanted, you’ll be glad you came.

NOW, WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE NO DOUBT TRACKS?

MTour3

10 Fantastic Madonna Tour Performances

We are now just one day away from the start of Madonna‘s MDNA tour spoilers are coming in left and right from rehearsals in Tel Aviv and it looks we’re in for one hell of a treat!

While we eagerly anticipate opening night, we thought it would be fun to look back at some of our favorite performances from her previous world tours. I’ve now completed the virtually impossible task of narrowing down all the performance I love to just ten. Have a look at my selections below and let us know what you think!

10. SHE’S NOT ME

From the Sticky and Sweet Tour
There are hints of the equally fabulous Let It Will Be Confessions Tour performance here, but it’s taken to a whole different level with M poking fun at herself with the mannequin dancers sporting her famous looks.  I  love the freak out at the end where she rolls around the stage then crawls back to the main stage with the express yourself jacket over her shoulders and a wig sitting wonkily on top of her head. Hilarious!

9. KEEP IT TOGETHER

From the Blond Ambition Tour
This song is a classic in book and it really comes alive in this A Clockwork Orange inspired version performed on the Blond Ambition Tour.  I just adore the Sly & The Family Stone Family Affair intro, the husky vocals, and all round excellent choreography. Don’t you miss these extended tour performances?


8. GAMBLER

From The Virgin Tour
She performed this back in 1985 and never again since, although I always pray for it to make an appearance! Decked out all in black and sporting killer shades, M slays this performance. Killer song and attitude for days, marvelous!

7. EROTICA/YOU THRILL ME

From The Confessions Tour
Who would ever have imagined that the early Erotica demo known among fans as You Thrill Me would show up in a live format 14 years after the fact. This was an incredible surprise and it’s a genius reworked version of Erotica complete with super sensual choreography.


6. HOLIDAY

From The Girlie Show
Killer performance of this classic track which frequently appears on tour. Love the military inspired costumes, the insane drums and Niki’s ad-libs. So much energy in this performance its unreal, and it clocks in at over 12 minutes!

5. MUSIC INFERNO

From the Confessions Tour
I lost my mind watching the build up to this one live during opening night of the Confessions Tour. Madonna on screen dancing in a red dress high above the stage was blowing my mind, as were the dancers and of course the music, but when M entered decked out in a white disco suit and proceeded to strut towards the end of the stage and bust moves from Saturday Night Fever I nearly keeled over. Stunning choreography and just an all round fun performance.

4. VOGUE

The Girlie Show
M
always kills Vogue live, I’ve yet to see one bad performance of the song! I particularly love the Girlie Show version where she reinvented it slightly and the costume is gorgeous – love that headpiece!


3. NOBODY KNOWS ME

From the Reinvention Tour
Nobody Knows Me  
is one of my favorite tracks from American Life so I was really excited to see it live. I expected it to be good but was not prepared for the sheer brilliance of such a simple performance. M struts up and down a conveyor belt stomping to the beat of the track and floors everyone in attendance, if that’s not pure star power I don’t know what is!

2. INTO THE GROOVE

From the Who’s That Girl Tour
There is so much energy in this extended mix of one of the best pop songs ever crafted, I just adore the brilliant piano parts. Madonna and her dancers are on fire here, bounding up and down the stage with fervour, this gets me every time and I’ve even been known to recreate this performance in my living room after a drink or two!


p.s I still want that jacket!

1. LIKE A PRAYER

From the Blonde Ambition Tour
This is has to be the ultimate tour performance in my book. It goes without saying that the song is a classic, and it’s also one of my favorite songs, but this performance just takes it to a whole different level! God? she cries as she slides off the bed and then slips into her church robes.  Love her leaping up and down the stage and that glorious end when she gets down on her knees and Niki wails above her. Heaven indeed.

What are your favorites? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter!

garbage

10 Essential Tracks from Garbage

Fans of Garbage haven’t been this excited since 2005.

It was then that the rock band released their last album, Bleed Like Me. This year, however, the freshly reunited quartet is back to inject some grunge into the mainstream.

On May 15, Garbage will be releasing their fifth studio album, Not Your Kind of People (via their own record label, Stunvolume). For those unfamiliar, Garbage are the musicians behind such monster ‘90s hits as Only Happy When It Rains, Stupid Girl, and the theme song to the James Bond film, The World Is Not Enough.

At 4 PM (EST) this afternoon, the iconic rockers participated in a live Ustream chat to talk about the upcoming record with fans and debut their music video for the album’s lead single, Blood For Poppies. Watch below…

Before you go see them on their nearly sold out spring tour, check out the list I’ve compiled of the band’s top ten essential tracks. Whether you’re a lapsed Garbage fan or a new one looking for a jumping on point, this list has got a little something for everyone. And be sure to share your favorite Garbage tracks in the comments section below!

10. MILK 

from Garbage

One of most the most mellow and subdued single choices in Garbage’s playbook is Milk, a haunting song about lost love. Laced with a slow dripping trance backbeat, it also paved the path for the band’s future expanded experimentation with electronica.

It’s a dichotomy, a paradox,” Garbage front woman Shirley Manson told British music newspaper Melody Maker in 1996 about the song. “The thing I really like about ‘Milk’ is the fact that it’s been dismissed by people as the ballad at the end of the album. To me, ‘Milk’ is the darkest, most hopeless of the songs. People say ‘Oh, it’s lovey-dovey, so therefore it’s a love song’. But it’s a very bleak song, it’s about loss and the fear of loss; about things you can’t have and things you will forever wait for.”

 

9. QUEER 

from Garbage

Nominated for Breakthrough Video at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, the music video for Garbage’s Queer stirred quite the controversy upon its initial release. Shot on a hand-held camera, the (mostly) black-and-white music video depicts the first-person perspective of the cameraman as Manson holds him hostage, takes off his clothes and shaves his head.

For a song about liberating your inner-freak, the accompanying music video for Queer couldn’t be more brilliant. It perfectly matches the song’s message about embracing one’s “strangeness” as what makes them individuals rather than social misfits. The “be yourself” moral of the track is not one seldom found in music, but its unique execution is one that makes Queer a real standout in the band’s career.

 

8. BLEED LIKE ME 

from Bleed Like Me

There was a time not too long ago when songs like Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R, Katy Perry’s Firework, P!nk’s Fuckin’ Perfect and Lady GaGa’s Born This Way dominated the radio all at once. Inspired by the horrifying increase of suicides amongst homosexual adolescents, these songs were written with the hopes of inspiring people to not only remain true to themselves, but to also be at peace and be comfortable with their identities.

Taken from their 2005 album of the same name, Garbage’s Bleed Like Me has a similar message but with a different approach. Instead of focusing on the “it gets better” dreams of a future, Bleed Like Me is about the present pains of waiting for that future to happen.

The verses of Bleed Like Me are split into vignettes that tell stories about people suffering from eating disorders, gender confusion, depression and substance abuse as a form of escapism. The message? Even though you might feel disconnected from the world at a low-point in life, your feelings are never isolated. Even though it may seem like nobody understands, people cope with growing into themselves in countless ways, many of which are unfortunately self-destructive.

And while saying “you’re not alone” may not be the saving advice that drags the characters Manson has described out of the funk they’re in, it’s at least a comforting reminder that there is still a sense of hope out there, no matter how unattainable it may temporarily seem.

 

7. PUSH IT 

from Version 2.0

The lead single off of Version 2.0, Push It showcases a part of Manson rarely seen in Garbage’s music: the glass-half-full, positive-spin-on-things side.

“I want to see you happy/I want to see you shine,” Manson seductively purrs on the track. “Don’t worry baby/We’ll be alright.”

Describing her lover’s pain as causing pain to her, Manson begs and persuades her lover to forgive her for whatever she’s done. A true love song, Push It is a battle cry to save a relationship that might be headed towards its end. And Manson is unafraid to fight until her lover is convinced that what they have is worth saving.

Set against a pulsing wave of electronica-backed percussion, it’s a track that injects a welcome shot of adrenaline to what might otherwise be written off as a somewhat generic plea for a second chance.

 

6. SPECIAL 

from Version 2.0

Nominated for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group at the 2000 Grammy Awards, Special remains to be one of Garbage’s most adorned hits to date.

Inspired by a tumultuous breakup, Special depicts the crossroads lovers face when they realize they’ve grown in opposite directions and no longer satisfy one another’s expectations. In the song, Manson sings about her disappointment and her decision to embark on a solo journey – one in which she’s not restricted by the failed promise of a symbiotic relationship with her lover.

“Do you have an opinion?/A mind of your own?/I thought you were special/I thought you should know/But I’ve run out of patience/I couldn’t care less,” she croons as she kisses her lover goodbye.

Manson masterfully relays the feelings of exasperation and frustration that come with discovering your lovers’ true colors don’t blend well with your own. Acting like a canvas of sorts, Special pinpoints exactly what happens when these colors run parallel to one another – they may seem pretty at first, but they’ll ultimately never meet.

 

5. TEMPTATION WAITS 

from Version 2.0

Although originally a track on Garbage’s album, Version 2.0, Temptation Waits reached its true immortality when it was included on the official 1999 soundtrack to the television show, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. One of that record’s biggest hits, the song has since been associated with the cult phenomenon TV program in the same vein that Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag is linked to Dawson’s Creek or Snow Patrol’s Chasing Car is attributed to Grey’s Anatomy.

Gritty, sexy and upbeat, Temptation Waits tells the story of undying love and thus expertly compliments Buffy’s tone. And no, I never played the song on loop while writing fan letters to Sarah Michelle Gellar. How dare you even ask?

 

4. WHEN I GROW UP 

from Version 2.0

As an adolescent, everyone thinks about how different their lives will be when they “grow up.” For little kids, growing up means things like being able to have ice cream for dinner if you want without getting in trouble. For teenagers, it means things like not having a curfew or paper assignments about historical events you’ll never care about. There’s that ideal notion that after we’ve “grown up,” we’ll have complete control over the reigns of our lives.

Characteristically, Garbage’s take on this concept looks at it through a no-bullshit lens. Almost like a retaliation to the critics who dubbed Garbage as child’s play, When I Grow Up sticks up a middle finger to those who enforce social expectations of adulthood.

Manson has never been shy about having a dominant wild side. In this synthpop fortified grunge banger, she dares her haters to try to silence her from voicing her opinions or to stop her from partying and engaging in what are commonly regarded as defiant acts of sexuality. And while her suggestions of keeping life spicy with golden showers and helicopter rides may not make Manson a parent’s ideal role model for their child, it certainly makes her one of the most bold, unapologetic and interesting women in the industry.

 

3. #1 CRUSH 

from Absolute Garbage

Like the flawless soundtrack to Cruel Intentions, the tracklisting for the soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet reads like a Now! That’s What I Call Music installment of greatest hits from the 90s. Featuring songs like The Cardigans’ Lovefool, Des’ree’s Kissing You and Everclear’s Local God, the album undoubtedly acts as a time portal for anyone who paid attention to contemporary music in 1996.

Garbage’s contribution to the soundtrack, #1 Crush, was originally released as a b-side to their single, Vow. The song was then remixed by producers Nellee Hooper and Marius de Vries for Luhrmann’s film and ended up hitting #1 on Billboard’s Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. And as it’s written from the perspective of a stalker Manson had, it remains arguably the creepiest song Garbage has ever record.

“I would die for you/I would kill for you/I will steal for you/I’d do time for you/I would wait for you/I’d make room for you/I’d sail ships for you/To be close to you/To be a part of you/’Cause I believe in you/I believe in you/I would die for you,” Manson growls over the song’s trip-hop beat.

Perhaps the song’s definition of self-sacrifice for forbidden love doesn’t match Shakespeare’s definition, but its alarming display of being blinded by desire fits perfectly into Luhrmann’s twisted interpretation of his source material, and into the airwaves of mainstream radio.

 

2. I THINK I’M PARANOID 

from Version 2.0

Three years after the release of their enormously successful debut, Garbage released their sophomore album, Version 2.0, in 1998. Another collaboration with Nirvana producer Butch Vig, Version 2.0 was more than just the eagerly anticipated follow-up to a successful rock band’s first album. It was a statement on how rapidly evolving technology was influencing the music industry – and why that wasn’t such a bad thing.

Blending acoustic live instruments with newly available digital resources, Version 2.0 paid homage to classic rock while simultaneously ushering in a new era of pop/rock. As Billboard put it, the record put “a late ‘90s spin on ‘60s pop varieties.” The result was a multi-platinum album that continued to chart from the time of its release into the new millennium.

Version 2.0’s second single, I Think I’m Paranoid perfectly exemplifies this marriage between the “new” and “old” sounds that the album set out to combine. With a stomping percussion background accompanied by an electric guitar and thrashing electronica, the unique structure of the song raised the bar for its peers and crowned Garbage as an innovative band that not only challenges convention, but sounds damn good doing it.

 

1. SUPERVIXEN 

from Garbage

Although never the smash single it deserved to be, Supervixen is a landmark track in Garbage’s repertoire. The opening track off of the band’s eponymous debut album, Supervixen rolled out the red carpet for Shirley Manson and co. when they entered the scene in 1995.

It makes sense that Supervixen acts as the introductory cut in Garbage’s catalog as it’s a song that perfectly represents the band’s sound. It’s an up-tempo shake-the-glitter-out-of-your-hair alternative rock track built out of a soaring pop hook, sprinkled traces of electronica and a heavy serving of the classic grunge Garbage helped define as the signature of ‘90s music.

Combine that with Manson’s deliciously raspy vocals and cut-throat lyrics like “I can take you out with just the flick of my wrist,” and the repeated commands of “bow down to me,” Supervixen is like the college guy you dated in high school: sexy, smart and with a enticing rebellious attitude. And that makes for the ultimate Garbage track.

Check out my previous post and enjoy 10 Essential Tracks from Fiona Apple.

What are your Top 10 Garbage tracks?

fionaapple

10 Essential Tracks from Fiona Apple

We’d like to welcome Alex Nagorski to the Hard Candy family! 

In January, Epic Records chairman and CEO L.A. Reid confirmed via Twitter that a new album from prolific singer/songwriter Fiona Apple would be released in 2012. In the following weeks, Apple released dates for a mini-spring tour that sold out nearly immediately.

While official details about Apple’s upcoming fourth album have yet to be released, the confirmation of the record’s pending release and the jumpstart of what’s sure to be a larger touring year for the singer seem to promise a comeback of epic proportions.

In anticipation of this, I looked back on the moody piano rocker’s previous releases and created a list of what I believe to be her ten best songs. So whether you’re a fan looking to revisit her older material before the new record/tour or you’ve never heard a song of Apple’s and are looking for a place to start, check out the list below.

 

10. BETTER VERSION OF ME

from 2005′s Extraordinary Machine

“Apple may be pop’s leading drama queen (hell, empress),” wrote Entertainment Weekly in their review of Apple’s 2005 release, Extraordinary Machine. To understand this accusation, look no further than Better Version of Me. Lyrics like “I’m a frightened, fickle person. Fightin’, cryin’, kickin’, cursin’, what should I do?” or “can’t take a good day without a bad one, don’t feel just to smile until I had one” serve as indisputable evidence of this claim. Alas, part of what makes Fiona’s music so brilliant is that nothing remains hidden in her songwriting. Better Version of Me is a cuttingly truthful aural diary. It’s equal parts vulnerable, sad, determined and musically bouncy. And therefore a perfect entry point into Apple’s work.

 

9. FAST AS YOU CAN

from 1999′s When The Pawn …

It’s interesting that this song chooses to have the word “You” instead of “I” in the title, when in reality it’s all about an internal conflict that Apple has. On Fast As You Can, she sings energetically about the beginning of a new relationship. But as quickly as goes the song’s driving upbeat, Apple becomes victim to her own skepticism about love and tries to push her new lover away to protect herself. She realizes that she’s the only one who can shield herself from heartache. Fast As You Can is a rare type of pop song: self-aware, honest, neurotic and infectiously catchy.

 

8. SALLY’S SONG

from 2006′s The Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is a movie musical with a cult following so large that every 8 seconds, a Hot Topic employee somewhere gets a bonus commission check. Apple’s rendition of the film’s missewn ingénue’s big ballad takes the already spooky song and with it casts a new spell of longing. Her cover not only breathes new life into a classic song, but delivers a take so gorgeously haunting, I’m sure it could make even the hairs on Tim Burton’s neck stick up.

 

7. O’ SAILOR

from 2005′s Extraordinary Machine

Apple is never one to shy away from pushing the boundaries of her signature dark and gloomy piano/rock sound. O’Sailor is injected with a layer of irrevocable theatricality and thereby shines a spotlight on her versatility as an artist. The desperation and disappointment in her voice is unmistakable, making for one of the most defeatist tracks in Apple’s songbook.

 

6. PAPER BAG

from 1999′s When The Pawn …

There’s a scene in last year’s Blockbuster smash, Bridesmaids, in which Kristen Wiig’s character bakes a masterfully decorated cupcake for herself. It’s a turning point in the film – one in which the protagonist decides to regain control of her passions and become the person she’s always wanted to be.

It’s fitting, then, that this sequence is accompanied by the midtempo rhythm of Apple’s introspective Paper Bag. “Cause I know I’m a mess he don’t wanna clean up,” Apple sings. “I got to fold ’cause these hands are too shaky to hold.”

Like the scene from Bridesmaids, Paper Bag is about that crossroads we can all relate to. That crossroads where it becomes clear that risks and change need to happen if we want to be the best possible versions of ourselves. Paper Bag constitutes Apple’s acknowledgement of this crossroads and signals her first conscious effort to step in the right personal direction.

 

5. SHADOWBOXER

from 1996′s Tidal

On Shadowboxer, Apple channels her inner predator. Wronged by a lover who now only calls her a friend, Apple’s eyes are opened to the reality that the person she loves may be in fact toxic for her. Yet characteristically, she refuses to go down without a fight. As a “shadowboxer,” she trains to defend herself against the attacks on her heart.

“While her naughty, defiant edge will inspire comparisons to Alanis Morissette, Apple’s relatively literate lyrics and spare, brooding arrangements evoke more sophisticated influences,” wrote The Los Angeles Times when describing Apple’s debut album, Tidal. The biting lyrics and palatial ornamentation of its score make “Shadowboxer” a refreshingly unique track and a must for the iPod of any Apple fan.

 

4. NOT ABOUT LOVE (Jon Brion Version)

from 2003′s Extraordinary Machine  (original Jon Brion-produced version)

A couple of years before Fiona Apple released Extraordinary Machine in 2005, she recorded the album’s content with renowned producer Jon Brion (Kanye West; the soundtrack to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). But when the album’s release kept getting pushed back, fans began to burn with questions. In the fall of 2004, Brion confirmed that Epic Records hadn’t released the album because they felt it wasn’t commercially viable enough. As a result, Brion’s efforts were scrapped and Apple re-entered the recording studios to re-record the album with hip-hop producer Mike Elizondo (Dr. Dre; Eminem).

As a result, the Jon Brion-produced version of Extraordinary Machine became one of the internet’s most sought-after bootlegs. The leaked Brion-produced original versions of the album’s tracks indeed sound like a completely different record than the polished version that was ultimately released. While fans remain divided over which version they prefer, there’s no denying that these songs, no matter in what form, make for an exquisite body of work.

And while I personally find the officially released version of Extraordinary Machine to make for a more cohesive and overall more interesting listening experience, Jon Brion’s original take on Not About Love remains as one of my all-time favorite cuts from Apple.

“On ‘Not About Love’ … Brion scored Apple’s compositions no less extravagantly than his soundtracking work for the indie-film elite, applying dollops of lush orchestration to place her piano and throwback vocals in an epic frame,” wrote Pitchfork in their review of the leaked Extraordinary Machine bootleg. I couldn’t agree more.

The Brion-produced “Not About Love” is a lush track pronounced by the masterful staccato of majestic string orchestration absent from the final version. Two tracks (“Extraordinary Machine,” “Waltz (Better Than Fine)”) from the Brion sessions of Extraordinary Machine remained untouched. Had Epic chosen to release this version of “Not About Love,” they would have struck gold with a lucky third charm.

 

3. LIMP

from 1999′s When The Pawn …

Many people I’ve met who are familiar with the name Fiona Apple but are unfamiliar with her music tend to write her off as just another Lilith Fair singer/songwriter with a bruised heart and keyboard to take it out on. Yet that opinion has never remained intact after I’ve played Limp for them.

Arguably one of the grungiest songs Apple has ever recorded, Limp serves as a threatening warning to the man abusing her. “You fondle my trigger, then you blame my gun. And when I think of it, my fingers turn to fists,” Apple sings as she channels her inner Emily Thorne for what’s surely a harrowing revenge plot.

Put Taylor Swift in a gun range after a night of heavy drinking with Miley Cyrus. Now watch her point the weapon at her targets: Joe Jonas, John Mayer and Taylor Lautner. And there you have a scenario almost as cutthroat Limp.

 

2. CRIMINAL

from 1996′s Tidal

It’s no surprise that Criminal is still Apple’s biggest hit to date. Winning the Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, the song went on to be included in countless “best of” countdowns, including VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the ‘90s and Blender Magazine’s The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born.

In a very Madonna-esque controversy, the music video for Criminal sparked an outcry from conservative critics. Many felt the clip glorified unhealthy expectations of how women should look by showcasing Apple looking like an “underfed Calvin Klein model.” In her acceptance speech for Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards later that year, Apple proclaimed “Everybody out there that’s watching, everybody that’s watching this world, this world is bullshit and you shouldn’t model your life about what you think that we think is cool.”

It’s this unfiltered attitude of self-assurance that makes Criminal both such a fantastic track and the defining one in Apple’s career retrospective (thus far).

In Criminal, Apple calls out her own weakness to hold onto the man she loves. She begs for redemption and a chance to start over, realizing that the error of her ways are threatening her chance at happiness. It’s a dish of despair served over a bed of steaming hot jazz-infused piano rock. And the end result is nothing short of delicious.

 

1. SLEEP TO DREAM

from 1996′s Tidal

When she was only eighteen-years-old, Apple made an explosive entrance onto the music scene with her debut album, Tidal. Still her most acclaimed release to date, Tidal opened with Sleep To Dream, a song that clearly represented the record’s tones and themes. And perfectly exemplified all the reasons so many millions of people call themselves Fiona Apple fans.

Lyrically, the song is daring, poetic and uninhibited. Musically, it’s accompanied by soaring piano hooks, a pulsing percussion beat and swoops of eerie orchestration. And as moody and dark as the song is, it manages to be simultaneously inconspicuous and provocative.

“I got my feet on the ground and I don’t go to sleep to dream,” Apple triumphantly sings in this anthematic tale of self-empowerment. “You got your head in the clouds and you’re not at all what you seem. This mind, this body and this voice cannot be stifled by your deviant ways. So don’t forget what I told you, don’t come back. I got my own hell to raise.” Hell yeah, tell him, girl!

Not only did Sleep To Dream serve as the introductory track to Tidal, but it also introduced the world to a teenager whose deep understanding of human emotion made Apple’s music far more mature than the majority of her mainstream counterparts. After hitting play on Tidal and hearing it kick off with Sleep To Dream, critics and fans everywhere were proclaiming that Apple was a force to be reckoned with. And this year, she’ll be ready to prove that all over again.

Fiona Apple’s spring tour kicks off in Chicago on March 19th. Check here for the dates.

What songs are on your top 10 list?