30 June 2015

Estonia #2: It's something in the water...

Switching few letters from the destination of the previous post and jumping to the country that comes alphabetically before it: Estonia. This is the second post for this Baltic country, with the first one being from this January. In the first Estonian music post I featured five songs, that were all in English. In this post you can hear the Estonian language too, since three of the five song are in Estonian.

Wikipedia: Estonia

(I was thinking about starting to add these small 'Did you know?' segments to some of my posts. I have had these kind of parts in my previous posts too, but now I will make them stand out more. At least I will try it out and will see what becomes of it.)

Did you know?:  The Estonian language sounds very similar to the Finnish language. Perhaps it is just an urban legend, but I have often heard it being said that Finnish language is linguistically more similar to Hungarian than to Estonian. As a Finnish person, Hungarian language makes no sense to me, but I can understand surprisingly lot of Estonian. Well, linguistics are an interesting thing so I would not rule it out this being the truth, just really hard to believe.

I have sometimes heard people saying that it would be interesting to hear their native language with the ears of a foreigner. This is obviously not possible, but the similarity of the Estonian and Finnish languages has made me realize that the closest you can get to this is by listening to a language that is similar to your native language but that you do not speak. This can give you a somewhat idea and is actually very interesting. I at least always find it interesting and a bit funny to listen to Estonian language because of the similarity.

But let's get to the music now:

First up we have Iiris. Iiris, birth name Iiris Vesik, was born in the capital city of Estonia, Tallinn in the summer of 1991. She started out her career in 2003 by taking part in a singing competition Tähtede Laul, where she placed third. She participated in another competition too, but it was not until 2010 when she hit famous after performing at Tallinn Music Week. This gained her attention around Europe and she released her first, and so far unfortunately the only, studio album in 2012.

The first song from Iiris is Tigerhead. This song was released in 2013 and is currently her most recent single. It belongs to the genre of pop music, but by listening to it you can notice it is not your typical pop song. The music video for the song won an award for the best music video in the Estonian Music Awards. This I definitely can understand, since the music video looks very nice.

Tigerhead was the very first song I heard from Iiris and to anyone who knows me it should not come as a surprise that I really liked this song. It is weird in a stylish way and pop in an alternative way. Obviously the Japanese inspiration, particularly in the music video, has its affect on me too. I find this song soft and hard at the same time. I really like Iiris' vocals and the music has a magical feel to it, like the entire song overall too. I can see why some people would not like this at all, but me it hits hard. I find it very creative and interesting.

Iiris' style is definitely what gets her noticed; it is just not the sound of her music, but the styling continues to her looks too. Yes, it can get a bit weird, but in my opinion she is weird in a stylish way. Some have made comparisons to other Estonian singer Kerli (who I featured in the previous Estonia post), who also has this interesting style thing going on. Makes me wonder what they put into the drinking water down in Estonia, haha! I find Iiris a gust of fresh air in the field of pop music and I really like her style.

The other song from Iiris is called Melyse. It was released as a single in 2011. The title is a female name, though a pretty rare one, I believe. This song too continues (or can you say continues when this song was released before the previous one) Iiris' style, though this one is a lot darker than Tigerhead.

Melyse has a bit creepy atmosphere and it is almost kind of psychedelic. I obviously like this a lot and find the song very interesting, since I have a tendency to like weird and creepy things. Lots of the creepiness comes from Iiris' voice, though the music is quite creepy too. The beat is actually very strong and I can feel it deep down in my spine. It is a very catchy song, in a better and in a worse. The music video fits very well the messed up feel of the song, though it still manages to remain stylish.

Tigerhead is from Iiris' 2013 EP Chinaberry Girl and Melyse from her 2012 debut album The Magic Gift Box.

Next up is a song from a smaller-scale artist: Ketlin. Ketlin, whose full name is Ketlin Sulli was born in Pärnu, which is a coastal city and popular summer vacation destination in southwestern Estonia. Ketlin has been doing music for at least couple of years. That is pretty much all I can find on her. This is the problem when it comes to blogging about smaller artists: There is not much information available on them. Well, it does not stop me from blogging about them, since the important part is the music anyway!

This song from Ketlin is called Ära Vea Mind Alt. It was released in 2014 and Ketlin wrote the lyrics herself. The title means 'do not let me down' in English and even though as a Finnish person I can understand surprisingly much about the lyrics (or so I think) I do not think I should start trying to translate them. But I believe it is fairly sad song. I believe the music video is shot in Ketlin's hometown Pärnu, though I could be wrong on that too.

Ära Vea Mind Alt is a fairly typical Eurodance song, though in my opinion a very good one. I could definitely hear this playing in a some club (though what do I know since I have never been to a club). Ketlin's other songs belong to this category too, though Ära Vea Mind Alt is by far the best in my opinion. Perhaps understanding some of the lyrics makes me like it more, since it feels emotional to me.

Last up is Grete Paia. Grete was born in 1995 in a town called Kuressaare, which is located in an island called Saaremaa. (I feel very stupid now, since I only just realized that there is two big islands off the coast of Estonia. I am such an idiot, *facepalm*.) Grete is a singer-songwriter, who started her career in 2011. Her most notable appearance is taking part on Eesti Laul 2013, in which she placed second with her song Päästke Noored Hinged. I was not much of a fan of her Eesti Laul song, but later on I listened to her other music and obviously liked what I heard.

The first song from Grete is called San Sebastiano. This song was released as Grete's second single in 2013. The title of the song refers to a holy hill, somewhere in Italy I believe. The lyrics are about a relationship, though I am not entirely sure if it suppose to be a sad or a happy song; to me it sounds a bit like both.

I like the sound of this song and it somehow reminds me of standing in a wind or something (well, that is a bit random feeling to receive from a song o_O). The music is very nice, but Grete's singing is my favourite part. Overall the song feels quite emotional to me. This is my favourite song from Grete and it is actually that kind of song that makes me like it more each time I listen to it. By this point that is already a lot.

This other song from Grete is called Lõpp Sellel Lool. This was Grete's debut single and it was released in 2011. She co-wrote the lyrics and made the melody to the song. The title means something along the words 'end of the story' and it is (surprise, surprise) a break-up song, in which Grete is breaking up with somebody.

I really like the music of this song; it somehow feels sad, somehow strong. Like she would be sad and happy at the same time; There is actually a bit of uncertainty in the lyrics. The song is quite simple, but still powerful. Grete's singing makes the song feel emotional and overall I find this song very beautiful. I think her voice suits perfectly this type of music, song with beautiful melody and meaningful, somewhat sad lyrics.

27 June 2015

Ethiopia #1: Amharic and Hebrew

Africa is the continent that has been getting the least attention in this blog; If looking at the percents, other continents have very closely the same amount of their countries featured, but Africa is lacking way behind. I have in many occasion already admitted that my knowledge on African music is very little, but lately I have been trying to change that and focus on listening to more African music. So far the two African countries I have featured have been Arab countries. Now it is time to move further down the continent, to the Horn of Africa...

Wikipedia: Ethiopia

and more specifically to Ethiopia. One of the tasks that I came across often with this blog is deciding on which country to feature. I use various methods on this matter (though many times it also comes off randomly). A little while back, I asked my friend to name a random African country (minus Egypt and Morocco). She named Ethiopia and Libya. Since Libya is part of the Arab world and I wanted something else for a change, I picked Ethiopia first. (That Libya post will also be coming up in the near future!)

Without any actual knowledge on the Ethiopian music, I set out to look for good music from there. With Ethiopia's population being close to 100 million, it is not that surprising that there is lots and lots of music to be found. I had quite few surprises along the way and found out that Ethiopian music can be very interesting (in a good and a bad way)! I already have planned couple more posts about Ethiopian music, so needless to say that I really liked what I found.

Let's start with Ayala Ingedashet or איילה אינגדשט‎ in Hebrew. Ayala was born in Ethiopia to Ethiopian parents in 1978. When she was two years old she, along with her family I assume, moved to Israel. Ayala has made her career mostly in Israel and so forth she mainly sings Israeli music. She started her career in a youth band and during her military service she was part a navy band. After she left military, she started performing in various shows and released her first own music in 2006. Her self-titled debut album was released in 2007.

The first song from Ayala (the one found above) is called ממהרת. The title transliterates into Memaheret and translated into 'Rushes' in English. Rushes in the context of hurry. Ayala co-wrote this song. I rarely read the translations of song lyrics (since often it happens that it ruins the song), but this time I was very interested, since the title did not feel fitting to the atmosphere of the song. Well, it seems that Ayala is not singing about rushing from a place to place, but rather the opposite: She wants you to take it easier and pay attention to the good things in life. This message definitely fits the music well, since it sounds very peaceful and harmonic. It almost has a calming factor to it, though the chorus manages to still be catchy.

Ayala was the very first Ethiopian born singer singing Israeli to receive a record deal from a major label in Israel and she has become quite popular amongst the artists in this field. To be honest I was quite surprised to find an Ethiopian singer singing in Hebrew. And even more surprised I was when I found out that she was not the only one and that there were actually many Jews in Ethiopia. But more about that soon, now let's talk about the other song from Ayala.

The other song is called לנוע. This is transliterated into Lanua, which in English translates into 'To Move'. The refrain parts of this song are actually parts of the bible (in this context I of course mean the Hebrew bible), from a book called Ecclesiastes. Ayala sings about there being a right time to everything and the bible parts tell about these time, ie. "a time to love and a time to hate". I always find it very interesting when parts of a book or something have been written into the lyrics. Since I can not understand the lyrics, I do not know how well it actually works, but it sounds brilliant at least. She sings amazingly and the song has a bit sad, yet very strong and hopeful feel to it. It is actually fairly simple song, but also very stylish and touching.

Due to lack of information available, I am not able to tell from which album you can find these songs from.

Like I said previously, Ayala is not the only Ethiopian singer in Israel. Actually two of Ayala's sisters are singers too, which once again makes me wonder if talent runs in the genes. Other one of these two sisters is Malka Ingedashet (and the other one seems to be Miri or Mary, I have not listened to her, though I probably should). Malka can also be written as Malca due to differences in romanization. In Hebrew it is written as מלכה אינגדשט and it seems that her first name means 'queen'. Unfortunately I can not find information on her in English.

The song from her is called תחת עינייך, which in English means 'Under Your Eyes'. It is a very simple song, but sounds very nice. Malka sings nicely and the song has a nice, kind of warm, feeling. I must say I prefer Ayala, but Malka does not lose out much to her sister. Malka has not reached such popularity as her sister, so she does not have much music out, which is quite shame since I really like her voice.

But more about the Ethiopian Jews now. Like I said, it was quite surprised to find out about this connection between Israel and Ethiopia, since they look so far apart on a map. Perhaps this is some common knowledge, but I have missed it completely. The Jewish communities in Ethiopia are known as Beta Israel. Originally the Jews in Ethiopia were mainly living in the Northern and Northwestern parts of the country. Currently the most of Ethiopian Jews are living in Israel, on a big part thanks to Israel's government, which has made operations to help mass immigration of Ethiopian Jews into Israel. This is actually quite interesting subject to read into. More ie. on Wikipedia.

This third singer is not Jewish nor does he sing in Hebrew: Teddy Afro. Teddy is one of the biggest names in the Ethiopian music and has a long career behind him with his debut album being released in 2001. Teddy, real name Tewodros Kassahun, was born in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa in 1976. His name is written as ቴዲ አፍሮ in Amharic, which is the native language of Ethiopia and the language I think he sings in (obviously I do not speak it, so I can not be sure). I must admit that I have never before known the official language of Ethiopia (you automatically assume it is Ethiopian or something like that), so lots of new things learned!

The first song from Teddy is called Hab Dahlak. Unfortunately I am not able to write that in Amharic and since Google Translate does not know the language I can not even translate the title. So we are now left to wonder what she sings about. Well, it can not be something sad or bad, since the song sounds very lovely and positive. I feel a happy atmosphere in it and kind of a tropical sound, reminding me a bit of the music from the island nations of Caribbean and Oceania. Hab Dahlak reminds me of the summer (it is past midsummer and the summer has not yet reached Finnish Lapland, boo, so summery music is highly welcome) and gives me a warm feeling.

Unfortunately the Ethiopian music is not very popular around the world, so the English information on Teddy is little. He seems to have politically active in his lyrics; from his 2005 album songs were banned by the government to be played on radio or TV, since in the lyrics Teddy criticized the government. The album went to become the most selling Ethiopian album to date. His most recent album too caused controversy, since it referenced to a Menelik II, former emperor of Ethiopia. In 2008 Teddy was imprisoned for a hit-and-run manslaughter, though some claimed that this was a political act, since he had criticized the government. His visit to prison was fairly short and he was released in 2009. Teddy sure seems to have a way of making the headlines!

The other song from Teddy is called Lambadina. It was released in 2005. This has quite similar feeling to Hab Dahlak: warm and positive. Again I do not know what he sings about, but it sounds very happy. It feels very summery and is very fun to listen to. I find many of Teddy's songs (obviously I mean those that I have heard, since with his wide discography and questionable availability, I have not obviously heard all of his songs) have this warm and positive spirit. Which I like a lot.

Hab Dahlak is from Teddy's 2005 album Yasteseryal Edition 2, which is the re-issue of his controversial album I mentioned before. Lambadina is from the original version, and also the re-issue, of Yasteseryal.

26 June 2015

Opinion: Sex in music videos

Couple weeks ago I noticed that my blog post count had hit sixties. This obviously meant that the post number 69 was closing by and for any self-respecting bawdy-minded person this of course meant that there should be some sort of special post to commemorate this occasion, haha! The more innocent minds can just ignore this introduction and consider this just a regular post. ;) Okay, I am not sure if I am honestly dirty-minded enough to pull off that introduction, but this still felt like an occasion not to pass.

As an interesting coincidence, I had scheduled a text post (my opinions, blog related post, etc.) for the 69th position (no pun intended, I swear!). The post I had planned was not naughty a bit, so I checked if I had in my notebook some opinion post or something that could fit the theme. And of course there was: Sex in music videos.

I seriously tried to look for more photos to feature within this post, but from this subject it was too hard to find anything I would actually like to have in my blog. So let's just keep it nice and clean here!

This obviously is a subject that really can not be avoided, unless if you do not watch music videos at all. And as a music blogger and huge music video fan (I almost wish to make a career as a music video director), I of course must blog about this subject. In this post I refer mostly to the western music videos, though the trend does not limit to the western world.

I want to now remind that this is just my personal opinions and observations. They are not meant to insult anybody!

So, what is my overall opinion on the current way of having lots of sex and sexuality on music videos? By default I do not like this trend. Like I said, I am a huge fan of music videos and when I watch them, I am very interested on the techniques used and so forth. I suppose that makes me a bit less traditional music video watcher. I like my music videos to have stories and overall I think it is better to have even a bad storyline than no story. Though I also like some stylish videos, that really do not have stories in them, but have been done very well.

To put it simple: If I want to watch music videos, I will watch music videos. If I want to watch porn, I will watch porn. I feel it is unfortunate that so many music videos nowdays fall into the latter category. I am not interested on watching some random chicks shake their asses in every other music video that I come across. Even more unfortunately, I more and more often just listen to the music and skip the videos, since they so often are just the same with lots of cleavage and ass shaking; It has gotten boring a long time ago and nothing original. For a music video lover this is such a shame.

From this point onward, there is a chance that somebody will find what I will say insulting, but like I said, that is not my intention. This is how I feel and I have noticed many other people commenting similar things. Actually I am wondering what types of people prefer sexual music videos over more creative ones? If you belong this group, please comment and tell me why. Is there some deeper reason or is it just perversity?

Honestly, I feel it is a bit, or a bit more, cheap to make music videos that are about sex, sex and sex. It is like they did not put any creativeness or money into it. How did the creative meeting for these kind of music videos go... "Let's have five girls twerking and the singer singing in front of some monotonic backdrop?" "That is brilliant! Okay, we are done here, let's go buy sandwiches or something." ? Sometimes they even decide to go to beach or boat or somewhere to make it more "interesting"! (On a side note, I have never used the word 'twerk' before, so I hope I used in the right way!)

And it is just not the music videos that are all about sex; Even other music videos, those with stories and more creativeness, have at least the singer with her cleavage so wide that she could just be naked and nobody would notice difference. Mostly this refers to women, but I have noticed it is even more and more common for men too to jump around half-naked in the music videos.

I suppose one main question is, does music videos like this make people buy the song more often? Sure, nudity brings more viewers to the videos on YouTube, but does it make much more profit to the artist/band? For me it is so, that even if I absolutely loved the music video, I would not even consider buying the song if it was bad; Why would somebody buy a bad song, or even an average song, just because its music video is raunchy?

I can not think of any other reason for doing such music videos than attention and the want to make money by it. But other thing I wonder is that when almost every other music video features nudity or sexual content, does it even make a music video to stand out from the crowd anymore? When so many music videos mainly focus on showing dirty dance moves and such, doesn't a stylish, story-telling music video stand out when the dirty ones blend together into one continuity? At least for me it does so.

Do not get me wrong now: I do like many songs that have questionable music videos and sometimes I even enjoy the videos (if they have an actual storyline, that is). But I have also noticed that less clothes equals to lesser quality of the song. Not always, but quite often. The more creative and farther away from mainstream the songs get, more clothes the people on the videos wear and more creative the videos are. I have seen some highly creative videos that have obviously been done with tiny budget, compared to high budget videos containing mainly some dancing and the singer in front of a simple backdrop. Sometimes I feel like the purpose of doing dirty music videos is to hide to bad quality of the song itself and I know many others agree with me on this.

Some advocacy I have seen on having sexual content in the music videos is that it shows artist's freedom to whatever she (mostly it is she) wants. And also that it shows her strong self-confidence. Is it really freedom? For me it seems that artists are forced to go nude to gain attention. It is more like they have no choice and I bet that the most pressure comes from their record labels, since to me it seems common music video viewers are quite tired of these kind of videos. Self-confidence? More like lack of it; A person with good self-confidence does not need the attention and the compliments she/he gets from dancing around half-naked.

So overall, I see making music videos that have sex content a way of trying to make money and something that is almost a requirement to "make it big" in the music industry. Though luckily it seems that the trend is slowly fading away, I at least hope so. Nudity in music videos comes out always as cheap to me. To me it also decreases the value of the song if the video is so vulgar, so it is one more reason why I like to skip the music videos.

I am still not completely against sexual content in the videos; Sometimes they can bring something in the storyline and be well produced. Twerking around in underwear does not belong to this category. I have also avoided using the word 'sexy' in this blog post, since nudity does not equal sexy. I have seen tons of music videos were the singer(s) is fully dressed and yet still very sexy. Even sexy dance moves look so much better with clothes since they come off as sensual rather than obscene.

I guess I just do not understand, or like, this trend. Particularly from the viewers' point of view.
If you are a fan of some artist, would you rather them not to have sexual music videos or do you not mind them or actually like them? I would love to hear people's opinions on this matter, for and against! Especially for since I can not understand why it is supposedly so great to have sex-content filled music videos.

Sorry, if this post came out as rambling or unclear. I had to actually put writing this on a pause for couple of days, since it started to become messy and repeating. Too much to say all at once, I suppose!

22 June 2015

Panama #1: Traditional elements

A brand new blog post, a brand new country. Well, the country is not technically brand new since it has been independent from 1903, but it is new for this blog. And it is Panama. A while back I decided I wanted to blog about some Central American country's music since I had not yet done that. One of the problems I face often with this blog is choosing which country to blog about; Once I had decided I wanted Central American country, I of course had to pick which one of the seven countries I would blog about. I decided to just start getting to know each country's music in an order and see what happens.

Wikipedia: Panama

And by order I mean geographical order. I could have also started from Belize, the northern most country of Central America, but ended up choosing the southern most one, aka Panama. It was a good decision, since I have kept coming across great music from this country! I already have multiple blog posts planned for Panama and I have also moved on to the next country: Costa Rica. The post about Costa Rican music is coming out next month. I do not know if I keep going through Central America in the order (I have already found few great songs from other countries too, like Guatemala in example), so that remains to be seen. But Panama was definitely a great place to start the journey to Central American music.

It was actually quite hard to pick which ones to blog about now, but I tried to pick three artists (two soloists, one band) that represented different styles to give a wider look into the Panamanian music. (Well, what do you know; I always thought it was Panamian or Panaman.)

First up is Flex, also known as Nigga. Born as Félix Danilo Gómez, there is quite interesting story behind his two stage names. He took the stage name Nigga because he was once told that he "sang like a black guy from Jamaica". When Flex entered the US markets, he needed to change his stage name (since the US people and the word nigga do not go well together, as we all know) and that is when he became Flex too. In the Latin America he still uses the stage name Nigga though. But since in most of the information on him in English he is called Flex, I am more use to calling him that, so in this blog I will call him Flex. That is what he is called on his website anyway.

Flex was born 1980 in the capital city of Panama, Panama City. He became active in music in 1996 and his first studio album was released in 2007. So far he has released four studio albums and one compilation album. He has received success in most parts of the Latin America and the US, and he is one of the best known Panamanian artists. Flex is a reggaeton artist.

The first song from Flex was Te Amo Tanto. This song was released as a single from his second studio album in 2009. The title means 'I Love You So Much', which obviously makes it a love song. Well, it is not always obviously but since this song sounds actually romantic, I dare to say it is a love song. I find this song very harmonica, yet catchy and fresh. The other song is called No Puedo Dejar De Amarte. It was released in 2013, though I fail to find any information on which album it can be found on. The title means 'I Can Not Stop Loving You'. This song too sounds very fresh and also calm.

Actually, Flex's music's style reminds me a lot of Oceanic island music. The Caribbean and the Oceanic islands actually have lots of similarities in their music, but they are still not all the same. I can hear lots of Jamaican and other Caribbean styles in Flex's music (reggaeton is heavily influenced by Jamaican dancehall after all), but more of Oceanic tunes. Which I find interesting and I actually had to make sure I was really listening to a Panamanian singer and not Melanesian or something. This is just an observation I made and obviously my personal opinion. But I really love this sound and it feels soothing and exotic; reminds me of palm trees and beaches. Very lovely.

Te Amo Tanto can be found from Flex's album La Evolución Romantic Style, which was released in 2009. I have unfortunately no info on No Puedo Dejar De Amarte.

This is the second artist of this post: Latin Fresh. Real name Roberto de los Rios Reyes, Latin Fresh was born in 1975. He started his career in 1995 and made multiple hit songs, that made him famous in the Central America and also South America. Latin Fresh too is a reggaeton artist, and this is the genre that I would use to describe the Panamanian music since so many of the most famous Panamanian artists sing it. Reggaeton originates from Puerto Rico and takes influence from other Latin American and Caribbean music genres like dancehall, soca and also hip hop.

Due to the lack of information on Latin Fresh in English I do not know why he picked this stage name, but it would definitely be interesting to know. He has worked together with many famous artists, amongst them 50 Cent, Flex and some Latin American artists I am planning on featuring in this blog, eventually. Besides being a singer, Latin Fresh also produces and composes music, and with over 20 years of experience behind him Latin Fresh is many of the major names when it comes to Panamanian music. Currently he works as an independent artist in his own label.

About the songs now. The first song was Vueltita. I was actually going to feature a totally different song from Latin Fresh, but then at the last minute (last minute as before I finished planning on this blog post couple weeks ago) I listened to this song and really loved it. And of course there was no other choice than to feature this and so I ditched the other song (though I really like it too). I think Vueltita was released in 2011 or 2012, though I am not totally sure. The title means 'Little Walk', which makes it a bit harder to guess what the lyrics are about, but since there is a girl shaking her bits in the music video, I assume it relates to that. To me it sounds like a fun, perhaps a bit naughty, club song. It is very catchy and fun sounding, and it hooked my immediately.

The other song is called Ella Se Arrebata. This song is one of Latin Fresh's early hits that made him famous in Panama and abroad. It was released back in 1995, I believe, and honestly I would have not guessed this is so old song. The title translate into 'She Snatches'. I do not know what she snatches, but it sounds (and looks) like a tad bit dirty song. It sounds fun anyways. I actually have a bit love-hate-relationship going on with this song: I first listened to this song, liked it and added it to my Panama playlist. Then sometime later when I listened to it again, I absolutely hated it and could not understand why I liked it in the first place. Few songs later I gave it another listen and now I liked it again. Either I am very fickle minded (could highly possibly be) or there is something in this song that takes a bit getting use to, in order to like it. But currently I like it a lot.

Unfortunately I could not find proper discography or other information on him that would state on which albums these two songs are in, so I can not provide that information here. But will happily add it, if anyone can tell me!

Last up is something a bit different: Samy y Sandra Sandoval. Y is Spanish for and, and so the title features two names: Samy Sandoval and Sandra Sandoval. And you might be able to guess that this is a sibling duo. The brother Samy was born in 1968 and the sister Sandra in 1970. They come from a province called Herrera. They started performing from young age and gained success on talent shows and later as touring performers. They are highly popular in Panama, having had bunch of hits in their career, and they have also performed elsewhere in the Latin America, United States and also Europe.

According to Wikipedia they perform típico and cumbia music. Unfortunately I can not find anything more on típico than that it is traditional Panamanian music. Cumbia on the other hand I have already mentioned in my most recent blog post (if you do not count this one obviously) about Colombian music. Cumbia is a music genre from Colombia. It is very popular in the Latin America and has taken different forms in different countries. Cumbia is traditional music style and many traditional instruments can be heard on cumbia music, different kinds of drums in particular.

The song I selected from Samy and Sandra is called Lindo Querer. The title means 'Beautiful Desire' or something along those words. It was released in 2013. You can strongly hear the traditional sound in this song, and particularly the drums and the accordion sound out strongly (I usually dislike accordion, but here for once it sounds nice). The song is lots of fun and brings a carnival into my mind. It is very colourful and happy song. I must admit that I tend to favour more modern music styles, but this is one of the traditional music styles that I really enjoy.

19 June 2015

Colombia #2: Prayers & Passion

Today Colombia becomes the first South American country to receive a second feature post in this blog. Which is very fitting actually, since Colombia was also the very first South American country I featured. You can read the first Colombian music post here, though I myself cannot bear to read my older posts since I remember how bad quality they were. But they feature great music nevertheless.

Wikipedia: Colombia

The continent of South America has only 12 countries, which is just a quarter of the amount Europe and Asia in example feature. Because I want to keep my blog posts varied, South America gets less attention than some other continents (Oceania is in the same category with South America). This definitely does not mean that I do not like South American music; I actually am very interested on the South American culture and it is the second most interesting continent to me (Asia being the first one, obviously).

The title of the first Colombia post was Sex & Crime. This reflected to the themes that the songs of that post had (I really could have brought those up better and would have had so much more to say about them). This time the title, as you can see, is Prayers & Passion, which I obviously picked to be in the same form is the Sex & Crime title. This title too reflects to the themes featured in the songs of this post. They are kind of similar titles subject-wise too and I suppose this tells a lot about Colombian society and how it shows up in the music; In the first post there was drugs and prostitutes, in this there is drugs and strippers.

The first artist of this post is Juanes. Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez was born 42 years ago in a municipality called Carolina del Príncipe, which is located northwestern parts of Colombia fairly near to the border to Panama. He is of Basque and Spanish descent. Juanes grew up in Medellín, the second largest city in Colombia, where he witnessed lots of crimes and drug lord Pablo Escobar's reign. This affected Juanes a lot and made him want to make the world a better place; Juanes has done lots of activism and he used music as an escape from the horrors he had to face as a young boy.

The first song is called A Dios Le Pido. This song was the lead single from Juanes' second studio album. It was originally released in 2002, but also re-released in 2006, which could be considered the peak of Juanes' career. A Dios Le Pido is an alternative rock song with a strong latino sound. The title means 'I ask God' and in the lyrics Juanes asks God ie. protect his family and friend. He also asks God that his country would not have to bleed so much blood; This part in particular made the song a huge hit in the Latin America and it probably reflects back to the horrors Juanes grew up seeing.

This is my personal favourite from Juanes. The song is very catchy and sounds very latino to me. I have mentioned many times that I do not like to dance and it is very hard for a song to make me feel like dancing: This song does just that. Even if the song is a rock song, it has sort of a pop shade to it too, in my opinion at least. I remember this song being in the radio all the time back in the day and I found it lots of fun already then; Now years later the song has not lost its shine and I feel like it is that kind of song that can be liked by people of all age groups.

Juanes started his career in a metal band called Ekhymosis in 1988. The band lasted for about ten years in which time they released five studio albums, though their success remained fairly small and in Colombian markets only. After Ekhymosis disbanded, Juanes started a solo career. His solo career started of well with his debut album in 2000. His third album Mi Sangre, released in 2004, turned out to be a huge hit; A single from this album, La Camisa Negra, turned out to be a worldwide hit charting number one in many countries around the world.

La Camisa Negra is perhaps Juanes' most or second most notable single, competing only with A Dios Le Pido. It was released in 2005 and like I said it received huge success, particularly in the Latin America and Europe. From my part I can say it was major hit in Finland too and played on the radio and music channels A LOT. In Italy the song was used to support neo-fascism (the title of the song means 'the black shirt' and black shirts connect with the neo-fascism movement), but Juanes has stated that the song has not meant to have anything to do with neo-fascism.

La Camisa Negra is a rock song also falling in the genre of cumbia. Cumbia is a music genre that originates from Colombia and popular throughout the Latin America. In my opinion there is an interesting sound in the song, perhaps it is the cumbia sound? I remember highly disliking this song when I was little and it played everywhere; I remember finding the sound of this song annoying. Nowadays I like this song a lot and find it very catchy. It is a bit dark and strong song, so maybe this is for more mature taste.

The last song from Juanes is Delirio. Delirio is from Juanes' most recent studio album Loco De Amor, released about a year ago. The song Delirio does not seem to have been a single, but it has a music video whatsoever. I by the way find this music video quite stylish. The title means in English 'delirium', which I had to translate also into Finnish since this was a brand new word to me. Lots of new things learned today so far: delirium, cumbia... What next? :D

Okay, back to the song itself. I find this song more mature and calmer than the previous two. Which obviously is not surprising since most people's music tastes change with time, Juanes' too. I really love this song and it could be competing for the spot of my favourite Juanes song, even though A Dios Le Pido is loaded with so many memories. I do not know what Juanes sings about, but for me this song feels emotional and fairly sad. The atmosphere is kind of calm, but also kind of restless. Nevertheless, it is a very lovely song to listen to.

A Dios Le Pido is from Juanes' 2002 album Un Día Normal, La Camisa Negra from 2004 album Mi Sangre and Delirio from 2014 album Loco De Amor.

The other artist of this post is Verónica Orozco. I was actually going to feature only one song from Verónica and then one from a certain band, but I could not choose between these two songs from Verónica, so I decided to feature them both. The band shall get a spot in my next Colombia feature post, whenever that will be out. Besides I have been liking Verónica's music a lot lately, so it feels like she deserves a bit more attention. Unfortunately the information I can find on her in English is limited and my Spanish is still even more limited.

Verónica, full name Verónica Orozco Aristizábal (I have never heard this last name before and now the both artists from this blog post coincidentally have it!) was born 36 years ago in the capital of Colombia, Bogotá. Verónica's sister Ana María Orozco is an awarded actress. Verónica too is an actress and her filmography is far bigger than her discography actually; Verónica has released only one album, which I find unfortunately since I like her music a lot.

The first song is called Miénteme. The title means 'lie', which I find a bit surprising since this song feels kind of sweet. The sound feels old to me, old in a good historical meaning rather than overplayed and boring. The 60s/70s inspired music video supports this feeling. I find this song calm and lovely despite the name. The old sound makes the song definitely stand out from the crowd.

This other song is one of the songs that I have been obsessing over lately: Pasion Asesina. It is not too hard to translate the title even without the help from the dictionary: passion assassin. This song was featured in a movie called Soñar No Cuesta Nada, in which Verónica appears in a role of stripper. This song plays in the movie when Verónica strips and a clip of this can be found from YouTube; I still felt rather featuring a video with just photos of her (though a tad bit naughty photos) to keep this blog more suitable for all age groups and reading environments, haha!

Like I said I have been obsessing over this lately a lot. I find this song very dramatic and catchy. The beat from the chorus definitely hits strongly and I can feel it deep inside of me. Verónica's voice sounds great and the fits the mysterious feel that the song overall has. I can hear words like pistol in the lyrics, so I expect the lyrics be strong too. The strong and mysterious sound of this song makes me come back to it over and over again, and the song is one of my favourite songs this spring/summer.

Both Miénteme and Pasion Asesina are from Verónica's only studio album, self-titled Verónica Orozco, released in 2006.

16 June 2015

India #2: Back to Bollywood

Today it is time to head back to the land of weird, colourful movies with awfully catchy music: ladies and gentlemen, back to Bollywood. Bollywood is the Indian equivalent of Hollywood; That is also where the name comes from since it combines Hollywood with the location where Bollywood movies are being made: Mumbai that was formerly known as Bombay. Many prefer to the entire Indian movie scene as Bollywood, but correctly it is just part of India's movie world, though quite large and highly famous one.

Wikipedia: India

Many Bollywood films are filled with music and dancing amongst the actual storyline, just like musicals. A huge part of Indian music is actually made for Bollywood movies and sometimes it feels like all Indian music is Bollywood. This though is incorrect, but more about that later. I mentioned in my previous India feature post that I have never watched Bollywood movies (Slumdog Millionaire comes to the closest I have been of watching an Indian movie and it is British), but I sure would love to. From what I get from watching songs and clips from YouTube, Bollywood films seem a lot of fun. In this post I will feature few of my recent favourites from the land of Bollywood.

The first two songs come from a movie called Chennai Express. This movie was directed by Rohit Shetty and it was released in 2013. The main stars are Deepika Padukone and Shahrukh Khan, whom both are very famous and among the top actors in India. The movie Chennai Express is one of the highest grossing Bollywood films, fourth highest in India and third worldwide to be exact. Like I said I have not seen this movie either, but based on the songs I definitely see why this movie is so popular.

The first song is called Titli and it is sung by Gopi Sunder, Chinmayi and Srimathumita. (And I was just reminded how much I hated writing the Indian names during my first Indian music post.) Of these singers the first is famous composer who has composed the huge pile of Indian movies and the other two are playback singers who have worked in many, many films, the latter in example in the mentioned Slumdog Millionaire. Since Bollywood songs usually feature multiple singers, it would be too much work and too much to read if I were to introduce them all better than this, so let's talk about the song.

Titli means a butterfly. The song is very calm and beautiful. I do not know what they sing, but for the sound and the movie clip I go assuming it is a love song. It is hard to believe this kind of song would be anything else; It is just so harmonic and romantic. It actually makes me feel kind of calm, which is a huge achievement for a song. I simply love this song and the main female singer's voice is just amazingly soft (do not let the more harsh beginning of the song fool you). Simply a stunning song.

According to Wikipedia the main storyline of Chennai Express is: "about a man's journey from Mumbai to Rameshwaram, and what happens along the way after he falls in love with the daughter of a local don." I do not want to read much about the story in case I get a chance to see this movie someday, but I have always loved trains. The title Chennai Express obviously reflects to a train's name, but I am not sure how it relates to this movie: The state of Chennai is located at a total different corner of India than the places mentioned in the description.

The other song is called Lungi Dance and it is very different from Titli. It is very upbeat and quite funny song. Catchy it is, if not anything else. Lungi Dance is sung and composed by Indian rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh. According to Wikipedia, Yo Yo Honey Singh is one of the highest paid music producers in Bollywood and he seems to have a major CV. I find this song very much fun and it shows again to colourful and fun side of Bollywood (even though the Titli video is more colourful, haha. But I meant song-wise now.). Lungi, by the way, is a traditional, skirt-like cloth worn in many Asian and African countries, India amongst many others.

All the songs from the Chennai Express movie can be found from the movie's soundtrack, released in 2013.

Next up is a bit interesting case: Lazy Lamhe from a movie Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. The title of the movie means A Little Love, A Little Magic. I am not sure of this movie actually is a Bollywood movie, but the song at least would fit into a one. The movie was released in 2008 and it was directed by a Bollywood director Kunal Kohli. The cast includes big names, with main starring Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukerji, Rishi Kapoor and Ameesha Patel (okay, these names were not too bad). The story starts with the main character accidentally killing a couple and a judge ordering him to look after the couple's four children. Interesting law system in India, apparently.

According to Wikipedia, the movie has similarities with the musical The Sound Of Music, so I am all up for watching this. What I find interesting is that some call this movie a children's movie?? My review is based on the Lazy Lamhe video, but for me this does not seem like a children's movie; In countries like the USA and many European countries this would definitely be prohibited for children. Even to me this seems a bit too much, but perhaps it is not a children's movie after all? The movie seems otherwise a bit weird too, but at least the music is great.

The song Lazy Lamhe (Lazy Moments in English) is sung by Anusha Mani, who actually sung also in Chennai Express, though not in the songs featured in this post. The song is a seduction song, fit for the scene seen on the movie I suppose. I do find this song seductive, fair enough. I do not know why, but somehow the word lazy fits perfectly the feeling I get from this song, besides seductive obviously. It is kind of mystical and warm song. Did I say it is seductive already? The music video in my opinion sort of ruins the seduction impact, but the song by itself is very effective.

The soundtrack for Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic was released in 2008 and it of course features Lazy Lamhe.

Let's continue in the bit naughty road started by Lazy Lamhe. This next song is called Shut Up & Bounce and it is from the movie Dostana. Dostana has many translations, ie. friendship and bromance. The story of the movie is that two male friends want to rent an apartment, but they are not allowed since a female lives there too. The guys then pretend to be gays to get to live there and of course they both fall in love with the girl roommate. The film was shot in Miami and the director was Tarun Mansukhani. The three main stars are John Abraham (he is Indian, though the name may be fooling), Abhishek Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra, who I actually featured in my previous India post.

The song Shut Up & Bounce was written by Anvita Dutt Guptan and sung by a duo called Vishal-Shekhar and Sunidhi Chauhan, who is highly popular singer in India. I said we continue on the naughty road, and by this I meant to music video which includes bikinis and such. The song itself sounds fairly clean, besides the Shut Up & Bounce refrain. In my opinion this song sounds a bit like western style dance-pop song. With Indian touch of course. It is very catchy and dancy song. The main singer, Sunidhi Chauhan I assume, has very nice voice and it gives real edge to this song.

And like other Bollywood movies, Dostana also has a soundtrack, which was released in 2008.

I mentioned in the start of this post that not all Indian songs are from a movie, even though it often feels like so. Here is one example of other kind of Indian music: Maahi Rokna Aaj by Shreya Ghoshal. At first I would like to say that the very beginning of this song actually put me off at first (now I actually like it), but the song changes eventually into something very different. Shreya Ghoshal is actually too a movie playback singer (is there an Indian singer who is not?), but like said, she has also released music outside of movies. Shreya comes from a West Bengal city called Baharampur. She is just 31 years old, but already has a long career behind her with her starting professional singing in 1998.

Shreya sings many different kinds of music. Maahi Rokna Aaj is from an album called Humnasheen, which Shreya released in 2014. This album is very interesting actually: the genres are Hindustani classical, Indian classical and Ghazal. The songs were composed by Deepak Pandit and all of them feature different instruments; Many of these instruments I have never even heard of, like mohan veena, tabla and sarangi. The various instruments really give the album an interesting sound and feel. The album is actually a Ghazal album and I only learned about this type of music when listening to his album. And so far I am liking it a lot!

I find Maahi Rokna Aaj very beautiful and touching song. I have no idea what she sings about, but she sings very, very beautifully. Even her voice alone is very touching experience, but also the music is stunning. The song includes the instrument sarangi, which seems to be some kind of smallish string instrument. The overall sound of this song is something I am not very accustomed on, but very, very pretty. A very melodic and stylish song indeed. And I really love Shreya's voice.

12 June 2015

Favourite artists: Sophie Ellis-Bextor. United Kingdom #1

It is time for a new Favourite Artists posts. In these posts I dedicate the post for one of my ultimate top favourite singers or bands. These posts do not usually differ from regular posts that much (since I sometimes also focus on just one artist in those too), though sometimes I end up making a top10 or something else special. In this current post I will be trying out something different.

The singer of this post comes from the United Kingdom and she is, like the title states,

Photo source
Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

I was first planning on making a top5 or top10, but changed my plans when I realised the following; In my posts I usually feature five songs and Sophie has released overall five studio albums. This felt like an opportunity that should not be wasted. So in this post I will feature each of Sophie's albums (that are all amongst my ultimate top favourite albums that I listen to all the time) by introducing the album and featuring my favourite single* from each album. I will also list my four other top favourites from each album, making it into a sort of a top5. *In the case of one of the albums, my top favourite song was not a single, but I decided rather to feature singles since they have music videos and such. I will of course talk about Sophie too in between everything else.

I am featuring Sophie's albums in a chronological order, first comes first. So let's get on with it.

Release date: 27.8.2001
Genres: Electronica, dance-pop, nu-disco
Read My Lips was Sophie's debut solo album. The original release featured ten tracks, but on the reissues and different versions there are more tracks to be found, including live version of Sophie's solo debut Groovejet (If This Ain't Love) that she did with an Italian DJ called DJ Spiller. There was four singles released from Read My Lips, one of those being a double A-side. The first single was cover of Cher's song Take Me Home, though with rewritten lyrics. Read My Lips is Sophie's best selling album to the date.

Sophie Michelle Ellis-Bextor was born in 1979 in London. Her mother Janet Ellis is a TV presenter and an actress, while her father Robin Bextor is a film producer and director, who has also directed one music video for Sophie. Sophie's half-sister Jackson Ellis-Leach is the drummer of Sophie's band. Sophie started her career in 1997 as a lead singer of a britpop / indie rock and called theaudience. The band was fairly short-lived and disbanded in 1999. After this Sophie started her solo career.

My favourite song from Read My Lips is Get Over You, that was released in 2002 as a double A-sided single, together with Move This Mountain. This was one of the very first songs I heard from Sophie. It is a bright dance-pop song. I find the music very catchy and fun. As you can guess by the name, it is a break-up song about Sophie leaving this arrogant dude. I actually also really love the music video, although even to me that other bride mannequin is a bit creepy.

The other four favourites from Read My Lips: Music Gets The Best Of Me, Move This Mountain, Final Move, Take Me Home.

Release date: 27.10.2003
Genres: Pop, dance-pop, alternative pop, pop rock, electronic, D&B
Sophie's sophomore album. During this era, Sophie tried out blonde hairstyle. I remember seeing an interview where she was a tad bit embarrassed of this colour choice and called it a weird phase. Even though she still looks beautiful, I prefer the dark hair and always find it confusing to see her as blonde; The album beared only two singles, so there is not that much to see of Sophie from this era anyway. Shoot From The Hip is my least favourite of Sophie's albums, but I still love it a lot.

Besides being a singer, Sophie has also worked as a model and DJ. She co-writes almost all of her song's lyrics, which makes me always respect the artist and feel like they actually care about what they sing. Sophie's music does usually feel like it has a deeper meaning to it. Sophie has collaborated with many artists during her career, including Armin Van Buuren, Bob Sinclair and Freemasons. In 2005 she married Richard Jones, who is bassist in a rock band called The Feeling (he has also played on Sophie's albums and tours). They have three sons and she is currently pregnant with their fourth child.

The favourite from Shoot From The Hip is I Won't Change You. It was the second and last single from the album, being released very late 2003. The single actually had b-side of Sophie covering the famous Baccara song Yes Sir, I Can Boogie, and I really like it too. I love the lyrics of this song: Sophie is describing how she use to change everything about herself until she found the right guy, who made her realise she was okay the way she is. That might sound a bit common and boring story, but the lyrics are actually very fun and quirky. The music video is also fun, with Sophie speed dating.

The other four favourites from Shoot From The Hip: Mixed Up World, You Get Yours, Nowhere Without You, The Walls Keep Saying Your Name

Release date: 21.5.2007
Genres: Pop, dance-pop, nu-disco, electropop, pop rock
MY PERSONAL FAVOURITE. I seriously had hard time picking out the favourites to feature: I simply love all the songs from this album, maybe except one. Between her second and third albums, Sophie took a break to have her first child. The time between these two albums is almost four years and I feel like Sophie's style changed a lot in this point. But definitely in a good way, like I said this is my favourite from her. The previous album failed to hit top10 in the charts (Shoot From The Hip charted 19 in the UK), but Trip The Light Fantastic brought Sophie back to the top10. Better than in the UK, the album charted number three in Russia. Oddly enough Sophie seems to be quite popular there.

The single is called Catch You. And this is the special case I mentioned in the start: My actual favourite from Trip The Light Fantastic is the song called Can't Have It All. But I rather featured singles in this post. Catch You, even though I absolutely love this song, did almost not even make it to the top5. This is quite rare case where I love bunch of the album tracks more than any of the three singles. For me so many of the album tracks feel very meaningful and amazing.

But about Catch You; It was released in 2007. The song is very fast paced to fit the theme of the song: Sophie sings about her love interest running away from her and she saying that he can run wherever he wants, but she will still catch him. It is kind of a stalkerish song with Sophie singing she lurks around behind curtains and in coffee spoons, in example. The lyrics are quite fun actually. In the music video Sophie is chasing somebody around in Venice and it is quite stylish video. It was directed by Sophie Muller, who has directed a huge percent of Sophie's music videos.

The other four favourites from Trip The Light Fantastic: Can't Have It All, If You Go, New York City Lights, The Distance Between Us

Release date: 18.4.2011
Genres: Dance-pop, house, nu-disco, synthpop
The Make A Scene era started of with Sophie collaborating with Freemasons and then with Junior Caldera for a single. Also the fourth single from the album was a collaboration, this time with Armin Van Buuren. The list of people working on this album is quite more wider than the other albums, so there is lots of variety in this album, though I feel there is also a distinct sound I connect with this album. During the making of this album, Sophie parted ways with her record label and with her father she started her own record label EBGBs in 2009. If you did not notice, the three first albums had one similar word in titles: Lips, Hip, Trip. I am quite disappointed that she stopped with this or did not start a new one, haha.

This album consists my number one favourite from Sophie, which was also perhaps the first song I heard from Sophie (give or take on Get Over You) and one of the reasons I fell in love with her music: Bittersweet. The song was released in 2010 and I heard it when it was fairly new. Ever since then I have been a fan and I immediately bought all three of her albums (Make A Scene was released a year later). I think my love for Sophie is partly due her interesting and different voice, partly due to great songs. There is actually not that many songs from her that I do not like. One reason too why I like her is that she has lots of variety in her music, so it never gets boring.

Like said, Bittersweet was released in 2010. It was the third single from Make A Scene. It is a dance-pop, nu-disco, house song. (On a side note, bittersweet is my favourite word in the English language.) Sophie sings about being in love with somebody, but her mind is saying it is not right. This is one of my ultimate favourite songs ever and so I am finding it hard to describe it without blabbering on for pages. So let's just say I absolutely love it. The music video is actually quite stylish, featuring weird dance moves and slow motion shots of the dancers being thrown colourful paint at. Does not sound that stylish, but it is.

The other four favourites from Make A Scene: Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer) [Freemasons featuring Sophie], Not Giving Up On Love [Armin Van Buuren vs Sophie], Synchronised, Magic

Release date: 20.1.2014
Genres: Pop, folk
This one is quite different from Sophie's other albums. As you can see, other one of the genres is folk and that describes the album quite well. Others of Sophie's album have been dancy pop albums, but Wanderlust has more of a natural and a bit old feel to it (I seem to be bad at describing it). The overall feel of the album is a bit darker than with the others, but there is also other kind of magic here. The album is produced by Ed Harcourt and all the lyrics are written by him and Sophie. Four singles were released from Wanderlust.

My favourite from Wanderlust is The Deer & The Wolf. It was released as a single last autumn and is currently her most recent single. Like other on the album, the song is a pop folk song. I do not know what the instrument is, but there is one that is very strong in this song and gives it a nice sound. In the lyrics Sophie describes her relationship as placing her and her partner in the roles of a deer and a wolf. I think Sophie references herself as the wolf, though that is hard to believe with her innocent and pretty look in the music video. Although the music video is very simple, I really love the look of it. Earlier this year I had The Deer & The Wolf on repeat for a long time and it might end up in my top10 for 2015 most listened songs.

Like mentioned before, Sophie is currently pregnant, so she is probably not releasing new material for now. But she is already working on new material for her sixth studio album. She is working again together with Ed Harcourt (with whom she made the entire Wanderlust album with), so I expect there is lots of interesting music to come. More folk? Who knows, but I think I will love it whatever genre she decides to sing (Still do not go heavy metal, Sophie! Your voice is too cute for it.). Sophie's music never fails to affect me and her albums remain as my most played ones even after many years.

10 June 2015

K-pop boy bands part 3. South Korea #3

This is the next part for a series I started last December: K-pop boy bands. I do not think I originally meant to start a series, I considered a sequel but that was it. But here we go with the third part of the series. The first part from December featured five K-pop boy bands and the second one from February featured one band and was also part of my Favourite Artists posts. In this post I will feature five more groups; These are not some top listings, but rather some random songs/bands I like.

Wikipedia: South Korea

For those who do not know: K-pop means Korean pop music. K-pop comes from South Korea (not to be confused with the northern counterpart). K-pop has become popular in other countries too in recent years and is currently quite phenomenal; In YouTube comments for K-pop music videos, you can notice people from all around the world. Boy bands are a huge deal in K-pop, along with girl groups too. I myself I am a huge, huge fan of South Korean girl groups, but have also found favourites from the boy band front too. This is not such a certainty, like I talked about in this older post.

I am planning a girl group series too (K-pop and others too) and that will debut in this blog probably this year. But now it is time for the boy bands, so let's start with:

Shinhwa. Nowadays there is an uncountable amount of new boy bands debuting each year, but Shinhwa debuted already in 1998, way before the major breakout of boy bands in the K-pop world. The band has been together since their debut and they are the longest-running boy band in the history of K-pop. Shinhwa has released so far 12 full-length studio albums. In its time, the band has reached huge popularity and is one of the best known names in the K-pop scene, with its members having high success as solo artists too. The members are Eric Mun, Minwoo Lee, Dongwan Kim, Hyesung Shin, Jun Jin and Andy Lee. There have been no member changes during the band's existence.

The song Venus was released as a single in 2012. In 2008 the band set on a hiatus, which lasted for four years; Venus was the first single to be released after the hiatus. It charted number six in the South Korean charts. Shinhwa has done many different kinds of music in the 17 years it has been active; Venus presented their more recent material being a pop-dance song with an electronic sound.

Since the members are a bit older than in usual K-pop boy bands (ages ranging from 34 to 36), their sound sounds more mature, and at least for me this is what makes them stand out from the crowd of the boy bands. I really love Venus: From the English parts of the lyrics, I get that it could be a love song, though the sound sounds fairly dark to me. I feel it is kind of a mysterious song, especially with such a title.

Venus is from Shinhwa's album The Return, which was released in 2012.

The second boy band is called TVXQ!. In Japan they are known as Tohoshinki and sometimes referred also as DBSK because of their Korean name Dong Bang Shin Ki, which seem to mean Rising Gods Of The East. (Pro tip of the day: If you are getting into K-pop music, stop trying to make sense of the boy bands' / girl groups' names. Seriously, it just will drive you insane.) The band was formed in 2003: Their record label wanted to form a new boy band, since the loss of their previous two, including Shinhwa, which changed label in 2003. Originally the group consisted of five members, but is currently a duo formed by U-Know Yunho and Max Changmin. (Additional pro tip: artist names do not make much sense either.) With huge boy bands with bunch of members (ie. Super Junior [featured in the first post of this series] with its 12 members), a duo is nice alternative.

Catch Me was released in 2012 in South Korea, 2013 in Japan. It is a K-pop (J-pop in case of the Japanese version), electropop, house, dupstep song. I think I will take Wikipedia's word for that mouthful. In South Korea the song charted 16, but in Japan it hit the number one spot. I do not know why, but for me this song actually does sound a bit more Japanese than Korean (talking about the Korean version now), so I can understand why it did so much better there.

For me the song also does sound a bit different from TVXQ!'s other songs (at least of all those I have heard), so maybe they sing a bit differently here. However it is, I really like the song and find it very catchy. I think the sound and the feel fit the name perfectly: It feels fast and dramatic, like even the music is saying "catch me if you wanna".

Catch Me can be found from TVXQ!'s album of the same name Catch Me, released in 2012. The Japanese version is available on their Japanese studio album Time, released in 2013.

Next up is SHINee. Formed in 2008, SHINee consists of five members: Onew, Jonghyun, Key, Minho and Taemin. This is a direct quote from Wikipedia: "Shinee is considered to be a fashion icon having started the "Shinee Trend" and are known for their highly synchronized and complex dancing." I do not know anything about men's fashion, but they do look stylish in the photos I have seen of them. So far the band has released seven full-length studio albums, four in Korean and three in Japanese, plus also bunch of mini-albums, live-albums and such. They have had many number one singles in South Korea and pretty much all of their Japanese singles have charted either number two or three in the Japanese charts. They even have multiple singles that have sold over million copies, which in my experience is a lot in South Korea.

The song above, Ring Ding Dong is one of their number one hits. It was released in 2009. You might be able to guess from its name, that the song is a bit weird. Well, for avid K-pop fans this is very usual kind of music (at least you come across songs like this all the time, whether you like them or not) and not shocking at all, but those who are not use to K-pop could be weirded out by this a bit. In my opinion it is not all that bad, but I have read confused comments on YouTube, so take that as a warning if you have not yet heard the song.

I find this song very much fun and highly catchy; The ring ding dong parts are even almost too catchy. I really love the beat and they sing well. It is that kind of song that you either love or hate, it is hard to see alternatives speaking from experience. I obviously love this song a lot and find it very fun to listen to. There is something dark and twisted in it (just like me, haha), and I kind of expected different kind of song based on the name.

Ring Ding Dong is from SHINee's 2009 EP called 2009, Year Of Us.

A story about what happened to me while planning this post: I had wrote down three songs I wanted to feature in this blog and when I started to write down the fourth I noticed that all of the band's names started with the letter S. I considered making this sort of a S edition, but since I wanted to feature the last song of this post (the band's name does not start with a S), I could not. So I switched the fourth S -starting band to TVXQ! and will eventually feature it in a another post in this series. This next band is one of the original three S -starting bands I had on my list.

It is SS501. The name is again not just random letters and numbers (if you want to believe), but it has a meaning: S stands for Superstar, other S for Singer and the numbers for "five members united as one forever". They like to make things complicated in K-pop, don't they? SS501 debuted in 2005 and is currently on a hiatus since 2010. The five members (What if one leaves, will they take a new member or change the name or keep it incorrect? Much for the forever united anyways.) are Hyunjoong Kim, Youngsaeng Heo, Kyujong Kim, Jungmin Park and Hyungjun Kim. Currently the members pursue solo careers.

I do not know how popular the band is or has been, but I would guess not as popular as the other groups featured in this post; I have never come across their name in the K-pop circles I hang out in (I will give that those are mostly girl group circles though) and came across their music randomly.

Love Like This was released in 2009 and was one of their last singles before SS501 went on the hiatus. This song is a lot more softer and sweeter than the other songs in this post. It is a love song in pop genre. Well, at least I believe so. The chorus is catchy and the overall sound feels bright and fairly positive. It does have a slightly sad shade to it too, perhaps partly due to the fact that the boys look not very happy in the music video. I suppose that is one of the good sides of not understanding the lyrics: you can take songs like this however they fit best to your mood.

Love Like This can be found from SS501's 2009 mini-album Rebirth.

Time for the last song! This band is called B.A.P. Yet more random letters, though they seem to mean Best Absolute Perfect. Well, at least the person who came up with this name has high confidence on the band. B.A.P was formed in 2012 and are currently inactive since 2014. There seems to be major problems with them and their record label with lawsuits hanging on and so forth, but since this is not a gossip blog let's focus on the music. Unlike the other groups featured, B.A.P is not a pop group, but rather a hip-hop group. It consists of members Yong Guk, Him Chan, Dae Hyun, Young Jae, Jong Up and Zelo.

The song above is called No Mercy and it was released in 2012. This song also seem to have done a lot better in Japan than South Korea, with charting number two in Japan and only 40 in South Korea, though the sales numbers go the other way around. Wikipedia states pop rock as one of this song's genres and the song is definitely more rockier than the others in this post.

When I first heard it, I admit I had a bit WTF moment. I did not like the song at all and never planned on listening to it again. Then one day I saw some girl in a grocery store wearing the same hat than one of the members in the music video (the BOY cap also seen in the thumbnail, is it famous or something?), and this song popped up in my head immediately. I thought I would just listen to it again to get it off from my head, but I got hooked that time around. Maybe after the initial shock was gone I realised this is actually a very good song! It was definitely a great thing that I went back to listen to this, since I now love this song a lot.

No Mercy is from B.A.P's EP of the same name No Mercy, released in 2012.

Phew, one of the longest posts I have ever written in this blog! Perhaps only four bands to the next part, so that it will not get too overwhelming to read, nor write?

07 June 2015

Australia #2: Ancestry diversity and disco

I traveled to Turku (where I use to live) this week and started to overflow with ideas to this blog, mainly the History Of Music series thanks to the visit in a certain museum. More about those later since I have lots of planning to do; I am just currently highly excited about the upcoming subjects in the History Of Music series! But now let's get back to the regular schedule and up next is a visit to Australia.

Wikipedia: Australia

When I first started this blog, I thought that I know lots of Australian singers. Then when I started to list those, I came up with barely none. This quite surprised me, since I always had thought I listen to lots of Australian singers. When I looked into Australian music more, I realised that I had been actually correct: I knew lots of Australian singers, but I did not know they were Australian! Many singers I had thought to be British (or American too) turned out to be Australian! I had quite few surprises there.

So far I have had one post related to Australian music, which was my Favourite Artists post about Delta Goodrem. Now it is time for a regular feature post about Australian music, featuring three female singers: one of them I am a long-time fan of, one of them is a new one to me and one of them I have known by name, but not musically (until few weeks ago that is).

First one is Jessica Mauboy. She is 25 years old singer-songwriter and actress. Jessica was born in Darwin, which is the capital of Northern Territory and located in one of the northernmost points of Australia. Her father is from Indonesian descent and her mother is an Indigenous Australian belonging to Kuku Yalanji people. This explains Jessica's interesting looks and Jessica has honoured her heritage by in example playing a role of Indigenous Australian in a movie. Although an actress, so far Jessica has only done couple of movies and she seems more focused on her music career.

The very first song from Jessica that I heard was Inescapable. It was released in the summer of 2011 as a single from Jessica's second album. Inescapable (why is that word so freaking hard to write correctly?) was produced by Youngboyz and it is a pop song. The story tells quite (okay, far more than quite) obsessive and stalkery love story.

I find this song like Jessica sings: "I'll be inescapable like a song in your head". I can not even imagine how many times I have had this song stuck in my head. It is so catchy, both musically and vocally. I really like the shade Jessica has in her voice, which is very clear in this song. Even though the lyrics are fairly creepy, the song sounds happy and bright. The music video is not utterly creative, but I really love the colour schemes it has. Whenever I see the blue colour from the scenes with Jessica singing in the golden cage-thingy, I once again get this song stuck in my head. And fittingly it is seriously hard to get rid of!

Jessica hit famous through Australian Idol (obviously the Australian version of Simon Fuller's Idol franchise), where she participated the fourth season in 2006, placing second. Since then she has done very successful career. Jessica sings R&B and pop and so far has released three studio albums. So far Jessica has had one number one single in Australia (+ many top10 singles). For many Europeans she can be known as the Australian interval act in the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. Jessica's label is Sony Music Australia.

The number one hit mentioned in the previous paragraph is the song featured above: Burn. It is a break-up song in a R&B-dance genre. Burn was released in 2008 and it was Jessica's second ever single. Besides being a number one hit in Australia, Burn charted within top100 in Japan too, being Jessica's only single to chart in Asia. The music video featured Jessica in a club and of course dancing in front of a fire (do not burn yourself for real, Jessica!).

I find this song catchy and quite fun. The music sounds interesting and Jessica's voice just add more depth into it. It has kind of a dark feeling, yet the song is fairly positive. You could say it is yet another song about a girl telling the guy to f* off, but I find the lyrics more interesting than they usually are with this kind of story. It is Jessica's vocals and the highly catchy beat that make me really love this song.

Inescapable is from the Deluxe Edition of Jessica's second album Get 'Em Girls. Burn is from Jessica's debut album Been Waiting.

Moving onto the second artist: Samantha Jade. Samantha is 28 years old and from Perth, the capital of Western Australia located at the southwest tip of Australia. Like so many other Australians, Samantha too has variable ancestry, with her father being of Anglo-Indian descent and her mother of Scottish. Besides being a singer, Samantha is, as per usual, an actress, former child model and songwriter. She has written songs for many famous artists, including JoJo and Ashley Tisdale. Samantha too is signed to Sony Music Australia.

The song above is Sweet Talk. It was released last November (aka November 2014). This song is that kind of song that I am sure many would hate, obviously not me. I think it tells a lot when I say that it is bubblegum pop and disco. I tend to be a sucker for music from this genre, even though unfortunately often the songs go too much overboard (even for me); I do not think that is the case with Sweet Talk.

It is very cute and sweet song, making seriously honour to the bubblegum pop genre. But I think it is softer than many other bubblegum pop songs. It is a fun and happy song, and it should not be taken too seriously. It is that kind of song that can make you smile, or bang your head against the wall, your pick. And it is not much to anyone's surprise that I absolutely adore the pastel colours from the music video. Such a perfect fit to the cutesy of the song!

Well, if you are one of those that this song did not make smile, here is a different kind of song:

Samantha had a rough start to her career in the mid-00s. She released three singles, that did not sell well, with the third one failing to chart at all. After being dropped from her label, she tried to work independently, but in 2010 ended up to work at her father's mining factory. In 2012 she decided to give a final shot at being a singer and auditioned for the fourth season of Australian version of The X Factor. She ended up winning.

This second song from Samantha is called What You've Done To Me. It was released in 2012 and it was the winner's single of the season of The X Factor Australia that Samantha won. It is a pop and dance song. I am use to that reality TV competition winner's debut singles tend to be ballads singing about growing wings or it being the winner's time to shine. This is quite different from those, being an uptempo love song.

I find this song catchy and fun. The overall atmosphere feels light and positive. Even though I think Samantha's voice sound interesting normally too, in this it sounds even more interesting. I do not know why, but I somehow get a ballady vibes from this song, when it sounds nothing like a ballad. I think it is quite complex song, at least to listen to.

Sweet Talk is from Samantha's second album that will be released later this year. What You've Done To Me is from Samantha's self-titled debut album Samantha Jade, released in 2012.

Last up is Havana Brown. (And I just learned that there is a cat breed called Havana Brown. hashtag random fact of the day) Havana, whose real name is Angelique Meunier, was born 30 years ago in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state and the the second most populous city in Oceania. Havana's parents come from the island of Rodrigues of the African country of Mauritius. She started her musical career as a DJ in 2008 and in 2011 she released her first single We Run The Night, that turned into being a huge hit worldwide. She sings mostly electro music (electropop, electrodance...).

Havana has worked with many international superstars and as a DJ she worked as a supporting act to like of Rihanna and Enrique Iglesias. I first came to know Havana Brown in 2009 when I went to Britney Spears' concert (part of her Circus Tour): Havana was the opening act of the show. For a long time I knew her as a DJ (I am not much into DJ'ing, so my interested in knowledge on this field is minor), until few weeks ago I found out that she was also a singer nowdays. Of course I had to listen to her.

Warrior is Havana's single from 2013. Wikipedia states its genres as: dance, electropop, techno, eurobeat and trap. Quite a mixture! Like you could guess from the title, it is a song about toughness and high self-esteem. I immediately fell in love with this song: It is very dark and complex. The beat is very strong and the song changes many times throughout its length. It is quite dramatic and definitely powerful. Whatever is the far opposite of extremely boring, is what I would call this song. I tend to have couple of songs on repeat at a time, and currently this is one of them.

Warrior is from Havana's 2013 debut studio album Flashing Lights.