Month: July 2013

Ninety 90’s Songs: The Hits of Summer

Ah, summer. Heat. Vacations. And in my case moving day. Every time I move it takes place in the heat of summer. Heavy boxes, over-sized furniture, clumsy and unprofessional loading and packing methods. All the while there is some hot summer hit blaring over the radio, whether it’s in my car while I drive between homes, or from the radio from the construction down the street. This summer, drunk and idle college students and heat stricken laborers struggle with “blurred lines” a la Robin Thicke, but in summers past the song titles where more accurately themed and purposefully targeted.

#67 “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Will Smith is many things, actor, singer, father, husband, superstar, but he is not subtle. “Summertime”, released in June of 1991 asks nothing else than to be a summer jam. In fact, you could say Will Smith is quite the seasonal artist. Rarely ever has he been popular in any other season except summer, when he commonly stars in summer films, releases film/music tie-in singles, songs about summer, cities in Florida, and the like.

The song is “chill” and features a constant and flowing back beat and synth mix. As is common in rap, The Fresh Prince narrates a list of recommended summer activities one should partake while this song plays. The video reinforces this list by showing the ideas in action for those who are unable to follow the rhythm of the rap lyrics.  At the very least, listen to the back-up singers and play leap frog or dance or drink booze as is easy to hear and see from the video.

Rap by Will Smith tends to be rather tame and primed for the Adult Contemporary charts. I can’t tell if this is an example of East Coast Rap, to which West Coast Rap seems harder and rougher, or if that is just Will Smith trying to pander to his TV and eventual Hollywood film audiences which compose of children and mildly concerned parents.

Regardless, “Summertime” is a classic summer single guaranteed to at least blend into the background of any barbecue, but it isn’t so agitating as to flare up frustrations arising from packing and moving in the miserable heat of the summer. Play on “Summertime” even in the winter, where you will just wind up depressing us with nostalgia from those warmer months.

 

Ninety 90’s Songs: Sooner of Later, There’s More Madonna

Some artists are pervasive and expansive, spanning several mediums and occasionally garnering acclaims where none thought possible. Eventually trying her hand a movie directing, before that Madonna began in the 80’s to appear in films and continued thereafter to, bit by bit, and bra cup by bra cup infiltrate the Hollywood scene. And she always made a scene.

#68 “Sooner or Later” by Madonna. Written by famous American composer Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd, West Side Story) for the film “Dick Tracy”, in which Madonna played femme fatale Breathless Mahoney, “Sooner or Later” gave Madonna a chance to not just be in a film, but contribute to its soundtrack and ultimately perform an Oscar award-winning song.

While on the outside the song is merely a jazz/pop torch song, on the inside it is Broadway in essence, a sleazy jazzy number that Bob Fosse should have had his way with. The song is slightly out of context to the lackluster adaptation of noir figure and detective Dick Tracy and his walky-talky watch and yellow couture.  Had the film been a musical, then this song would be right at home.

The most important aspect of this song is probably its least expected. Madonna performed it live at the Academy Awards the year it won an Oscar. Why is this important? Already Madonna was the queen of pop and likely could have contained herself within the music business and found no lack of work. It was her live performance of this song that cemented her as proof of concept as a star, and eventually led her to other famous work in films and music, and Oscar awards.

The video attached is the aforementioned performance, with a sleazy strip-teasing choreography, and even a slight nervous tremor during a closeup that betrays Madonna’s anxiety about performing in front of people whom she wanted to be her peers.