My Top 28 Songs of 2014

It is that time of year where everyone looks back on the past year’s successes, failures, and decisions that we were too scared to take.  This past year has been pretty incredible.  I completed my first year in a management position at one of the world class museums in the world, connected again with my Aunt and Uncle and met their daughter that I haven’t seen since she was a baby, flew a plane, learned how to jet ski, watched two of my best friends get married, had another friend bring their son into this world, saw new choreography, and discovered new music to share.

Everyone does top 10, top 20, top 100 when doing lists, but I am a middle child and I do things differently because I like to throw everyone off their game and maybe be a pain in the ass.  So, I am going to give you my top 28 songs of 2014 since this past year is my 28th year of life on this earth bugging my brothers and gracing my parents with the unlimited chatter about nothing.  I am obsessed with pop and alternative genres, but in my mind music has no boundaries and crossover is in every genre.  These lyrics have made me cry, brought me back to old memories, and have brought me hope for the future in my life.  It also doesn’t hurt that most of these songs have a melody that I constantly hummed when I discovered them this past year, and pretty much annoyed my roommate to the point that she had to go find out what the song was that I was singing around the apartment for weeks on end.  So here goes:

28.  Love in the 21st Century – Neon Trees

27.  Smile – R5

26.  If I’m Lucky – State Champs

25.  Accidental Billionaire – The Summer Set

24.  Somebody to You – The Vamps

23.  Another You (Another Way) – Against the Current

22.  16 Years – The Griswolds

21.  Facedown – The 1975

20.  Carousel – Kate Voegele

19.  That’s What Up – Lennon & Maisy

18.  Don’t Count Me Out – The Downtown Fiction

17.  Bang Bang – Jessie J, Ariana Grande, & Nicki Minaj

16.  London Queen – Charli XCX

15.  Moments – Tove Lo

14.  Back to the Shack – Weezer

13.  Shut Up and Dance – Walk the Moon

12.  Feel Right – Mark Ronson & Mystikal

11.  FUNKNROLL – Prince

10.  Geronimo – Sheppard

9.  End Up Here – 5 Seconds of Summer

8.  Hey Kid – Bad Seed Rising

7.  St. Patrick – PVRIS

6.  Photograph – Ed Sheeran

5.  Here’s To The Zeros – Marianas Trench

4.  Ammonia and Bleach – Emily’s Army (aka Swimmers)

3.  Lost Stars – Kiera Knightly (Begin Again)

2.  Style – Taylor Swift (1989)

1.  Rollercoaster – Bleachers

All artists (except for Taylor Swift) can be found on a playlist here.  I included one video because I think this song represents how we should all be in the coming year.  Don’t be afraid to say Geronimo.  So, here’s to the coming year.  Taking leaps to new adventures, defying fear, leaving the familiar, and hoping that you land on your feet instead of your head.  And if you land on your head, you always have the music to soften the blow.  As Walt Disney said, “Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  And dreams are forever.”

Creating A Legacy

“I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons.  And maybe we’ll never know most of them.  But even if we don’t have the power to chose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there” (Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being A Wallflower).  My family has been putting together photo and document albums of our family dating back to the late 1800s/ early 1900s.  For hours, my father and I went through old photos, newspaper clippings, and letters, getting a glimpse into these people’s lives that I’ve never met.  Everyone eventually dies, and looking through these photos it is amazing how every thing can go poof, and then all of a sudden a hundred years from now someone is looking through your old belongs and they can’t even name who you are in a photograph.   Creating a legacy is like putting your stamp on the world and I am not talking about children.  Many people say that their children are their legacy, but I don’t truly believe that.  I think you need to want something more out of life.  Something that helps people, affects change, and connects with others; whether it is one person or a million people.

Dance is a beautiful form of art that has the capacity to connect with people at any age.  Recently, I came across the music video for Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and don’t get me wrong this song is a perfect ballad written with a simple flowing melody, but what really caught my attention was the choreography.  Napoleon and Tabitha D’Umo combined lyrical hip-hop, contemporary, and ballroom styles of dance, and put movement to every breath, guitar strum, and drum beat within the song.  This video has over 100 million views on it and has connected with people all around the world.  Going through old documents with my father, I read various letters that my Aunt Margret wrote to soldiers (including my Uncle) during World War II.  Those letters got me thinking about this song and how love and compassion were so important during that time.  The uncertainty of if you were going to live or die.  If your sweetheart was going to make it back alive.  How words, love, and compassion affect people on a daily basis.  I think Ed Sheeran, and Napoleon and Tabitha D’Umo get it.  They understand that their art means something and that their legacy will continue live as it connects with millions of people all over the world through movement, music, and words.  They have created something bigger than themselves that can speak to people on a different level of emotions.  They have pushed themselves past the boundaries of comfort, believed in what they have created is important to share, and in the art world it always seems like everything is stacked against you, but you keep pushing because it is something you need to do.

In the words of Joey Potter, “We all start off in kindergarten thinking that we can be anything that we want to be, and by the time we get here, we’ve somehow lost that feeling. We’ve all started to believe whatever our parents or friends have told us about what we can achieve and who we can be in life, and we’ve forgotten about that possibility we had when we were younger. . .We could all use a daily reminder that, if you believe in yourself, even when the odds seem stacked against you, anything’s possible.”

What Makes A Hit Song?

MixBoard

What makes a hit song?  For the past four days I have been listening to the hottest hits from the 80s, 90s, 00s, and today to try and see if any pattern emerged, but each decade had it’s own focus of popularity from 80s hair bands to 90s grunge, garage bands and boys bands to 00s pop/ punk artists.  What I discovered is that many producers and writers from past decades are still writing and producing hits for today’s artists and a lot of them have work with one another in some capacity; either producing on the same album or even on the same hit song.

First, you have Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins.  He worked on Brandy and Monica’s ‘Boy is Mine’ in 1998, Destiny’s Child’s ‘Say My Name’ in 1999 as well as with Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Janet and Michael Jackson, and most recently on Ariana Grande’s new album My Everything.  Another well-known producer and writer is Max Martin.  Think of the most popular pop songs from the 90s through today, Max Martin probably was involved as either a writer, producer, or both.  He worked on Ace of Base’s ‘I Saw the Sign,’ Britney Spears ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time‘ to today’s artists such as Maroon 5’s ‘One More Night‘ to Taylor Swift’s current hit ‘Blank Space.’  I have mostly touched on pop and R&B producers but what about rock?  Well, for Rock it seems that Desmond Child is your man.  He has worked with artist such as Aerosmith, Jon Bon Jovi, Chicago, Joan Jett, and KISS, but he also has crossed over into the pop genre with artists such as Katy Perry, Jesse McCarthy, and Ricky Martin (Click here for hit producer playlist).

I could continue to give you a list of other reputable producers that have helped created some of the most recognized music  of yesterday and today, but let’s switch back to my original question and that is “What Makes A Hit Song?”  What I have discovered is it is an artist’s team (artistic and business), how the mass public relates, and what is currently the popular genre in today’s youth.  The teenage years are when you start to find yourself, discover who you are as a person, extremely emotional, as well as being more open-minded to music.  The fans and the branding are what guides the success of the next superstar.

So, what about the artists that have an amazing sound, but don’t have a Billboard hit?  In the music industry, if you have become popular in America you have “made it” in the industry, but what about those bands that have an amazing sound and their lyrics are like poetry?  Mariana’s Trench is one of those bands.  They were signed to Cherrytree Records (associated with Interscope Records) in 2013.  Mariana’s Trench has a huge following in their home country (Canada) selling out arena tours, as well as become a multi-platnium and award winning artist, but in the United States they haven’t even touched the Billboard Charts as a band.  It should just be all about the music.  If you have great music then it should be recognized on all levels, in every country, but unfortunately that is not how business works.  It seems to come back to branding and building an image as well as how that image is perceived by the fans.  Continue to discover new music.  Check out other artists that your friends are listening to, and become a promotional fan for a new artist that you have created a passion for in music.

Check a Marianas Trench Playlist here, as well as other music lead singer and guitarist Josh Ramsey has done collaboratively written and produced with other artists.

Dance for the Next Generation

ParisDancerA musical is like a love letter.  It intertwines two people’s lives that expresses their feelings for one another through song and dance.  How can anyone not fall in love when a man who dances and sings like Gene Kelly?  We all know that Leslie Caron had no chance in the 1951 version of An American in Paris, and Gene Kelly was not giving up until they were together.  Now the movie is being brought to the stage in new fashion by one of the most requested contemporary ballet choreographers to date, Christopher Wheeldon.  Wheeldon has choreographed for some of the great dance companies such as Bolshoi Ballet, New York City Ballet, and The Royal Ballet.  Now, he not only brings his choreography back to Broadway, but makes his directoral debut with an American classic, An American in Paris.

It has been 63 years since Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron graced the screen in An American in Paris.  The six time academy award winning picture has been adapted into a Broadway show which opened in Paris, France at the Theatre du Chatalet in November 2014; Wheeldon has big shoes to fill.  He chose not to transfer the film directly to the stage, but instead taking an artistic stance and creating all new choreography and extending dance sequences within the score of the musical.  I thought it was interesting for casting he chose to go with a cast of extremely strong dancers including the two leads Robert Fairchild, Principal from New York City Ballet and Leanne Cope, First Artist from the Royal Ballet.  Wheeldon is taking a choreographic direction similar to Movin’ Out where Twyla Tharp had a show that was centered around Billy Joel’s music, but was strongly supported by the dancers that brought the songs to life.

George Balanchine once said, “Dancing is music made visible.”  The beauty and magic that happens when you see a work that you connect with for the first time is an out of body experience and I think society is finally catching up.  Over the last year, I have seen a large change in the dance world where choreographers are starting to be more in the public eye, and not just the people who are obsessive dance fans.  There has not only been growth in Broadway with the bright future of An American in Paris, but also the up-coming Finding Neverland  Spring 2015 debut in which Mia Michaels choreographed.  There have also been some fantastic music videos that have embraced the power that dance can bring to a piece of music in various music genres like Carrie Underwood’s Something in the Water that incorporates the Los Angeles dance troupe Shaping Sound, as well as Ed Sheeran’s Don’t, choreographed by hip-hop duo Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo and performed by Phillip “Pacman” Chbeeb.  Wheeldon’s new show has come at the perfect time where dance is starting become more prominent everywhere through television, music, and stage, and is now being presented to a whole new generation of dance lovers.  The great thing about An American in Paris is it connects an old audience with a new one. So make your New Year’s resolution to go see more live dance.  Connect with something on an emotional level, see something that is not through your iPhone or computer screen, and fall in love all with an art form that can bring you to the past, present, and future in a matter of minutes.

The Power House That is John Janick

recordsBehind every favorite band their is an artist, and behind every artist there is a fan.  Fans are what drive the music industry’s success, but without the blood, sweat and tears of the artist the music would never cease to exist.  John Janick, current CEO of Interscope Records, started off as just a fan of music and rose to the business executive he is today.  In 1996, as a young college student at University of Florida in Gainesville, he started his own record label with Vinnie Fiorello (drummer/ lyricist) from the band Less Than Jake.  The clever man that Janick is, he named it after the one food that every college student eats because they are broke, and in his case really broke because he invested every last dime he had into the label.  If you guessed the food was ramen you were right.  The label is called Fueled By Ramen.  In 1998 the company released an EP that broke the success of the label by a little band called Jimmy Eat World from Arizona.  The success didn’t stop there.  In 2003, the label released an album called ‘Take This To Your Grave’ by a Chicago group called Fall Out Boy.  A few years later Janick and Pete Wentz (Bassist) from Fall Out Boy collaborated to start Decaydance Records (rebranded as DCD2 in 2014) which became connected with Fueled By Ramen.  Decaydance Records and Fueled By Ramen success continued by the release of albums by signed artists such as The Academy Is…(2004), Gym Class Heroes (2005), Panic! At the Disco (2005), and The Cab (2008).  After eleven years of success, Janick signed a distribution deal with Atlantic Records and moved Fueled By Ramen to New York City where it still lives today (1).  Even though Janick is now CEO at Interscope his legacy lives on at Fueled By Ramen where it all started with a kid’s love of music and a dream.  So don’t give up on your dream.  Continue to fight for what you want, and do everything in your power to build connections and knowledge.

Wanting to be involved in artist development, I am currently reading a lot of books on music business, reading liner notes from albums, and stalking music history of bands online.  I have come to realize that everything is interconnected in the music industry and that almost every band I listened to as a teenager, and in my early 20s was because of this guy.  So, I guess you can say that this post is a thank you letter to the man that is John Janick.  Thank you for caring enough about the music and not the money, thank you for understanding that an artist needs to be involved in all aspects of their identity to have success, and thank you for introducing me to punk inspired rock/ pop that put me ahead of the curve in college.

Click on Spotify Playlist for some of my favorite songs and artists that John Janick had a hand in developing and releasing as Co-Founder at Fueled By Ramen.  As Janick said in an interview for the book It All Begins With the Music, “No Food, No Sleep, Just Music.”

(1) All date information was found at www.FueledByRamen.com