On Ann Wilson’s Tribute and the Need for Slowness

It’s not even 9 am as I’m typing this, but the gears have been turning ever since I discovered I got trolled on Facebook – all for making a post about timing when, really, I was guilty of the same issue.

The back story: singer Chris Cornell unexpectedly died this past week, and as happens as soon as someone famous dies, the tributes and lists of the artist’s best work are all over the media. The golden-throated Ann Wilson of Heart sang “Black Hole Sun” on Jimmy Kimmel as a tribute to her friend, and because she was reading the lyrics off of a music stand, she got blasted for it in Rolling Stone’s video post (and I’m sure there were other posts as well).

I’m one of the people who blasted her – but not specifically for that reason. While I don’t deserve being called an idiot or other nasty names for what I said about it, I did need the reminder to slow down and think before posting.

As much as I enjoy what technology has brought into my life – a freelance career, new friends, fun gadgets – I am also aware that it’s made me impatient. I demand answers and satisfaction and I want them NOW. The laptop slows down, the tablet freezes up, the wifi goes down and I lose my shit.

This isn’t healthy. For anyone.

With Ann Wilson’s cover of “Black Hole Sun,” I came in with certain expectations. The cover she and her sister Nancy did of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” at the Kennedy Center is so good it gives me chills and makes me cry. It made Robert Plant and Jimmy Page get emotional. It set the bar so freakin’ high that I expected a heartwrenchingly beautiful version of Soundgarden’s song in a way that only Ann Wilson can do.

But Chris had just died. There was no time to rehearse and prepare a performance that would come even close to the shock and awesomeness of that Zeppelin cover. No time to craft something so masterful that music fans would be enraptured for years to come.

I’m inclined to think it’s because of the collective impatience we all have thanks to technology. It’s this impatience that the media plays into, time and again. It’s why stories and performances get rushed into existence. It’s why commenters like myself jump in with first-blush thoughts and feelings when we really need to slow down and process.

That said, I stand by part of my original comment: a well-rehearsed cover of “Black Hole Sun” by Ann Wilson would have been amazing. One using her own band, who know her and how to arrange a song for her voice.

But in order to do these things, we all need to be invested in slowing down. In not requiring immediate gratification. In being willing to wait for the good, the beautiful, the expertly crafted.

Until that happens, though, we’re going to need more moments like this to remind us of the value of slowness.

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Musical Interlude: Common

Today wasn’t so great. I took to the bed and slept a lot. The holidays, thoughts of Momcat, and everything that the Ferguson situation stirred up in me were all rattling around in my head and mixing in with professional and financial stress. Not pleasant. But thanks to a long chat with a good friend, who understands me in ways that continue to astound me, I’m feeling much better.

This song, “Kingdom”, was on my mind yesterday and today. If you’re not listening to Common, you should be. He speaks a lot of truth. (Explicit lyrics, so you may want to put on a headset for this.)

Earworms for the Sleepless: Taylor Swift

The last couple of days have been busier than usual and I am tired. Too tired to blog anything of real substance, though I have plenty of ideas on what to write about, and I have the drafts to prove it.

Because I like my posts to be at least a little entertaining, I will say that I’m disappointed in Taylor Swift for taking her music off Spotify. Honey, no one is getting rich off streaming music – that’s what tours, product endorsements and lines of fragrances are for. You know this, your management and label know this, so please go sit on a big pile of money and laugh your ass off, okay?

Part of the reason I’m disappointed is because I watched Taylor Swift’s video for “Blank Space” a few days ago and it was my earworm last night while I was trying to fall asleep. If I could just cue up the song on Spotify, then I could listen to it and get it out of my brain. Instead I have to hunt down the damn video and watch it again. Not cool, Taylor Swift. Not cool.

Musical Interlude: Postmodern Jukebox

If you’re on Facebook you may have seen a few Postmodern Jukebox videos. Headed by musician Scott Bradlee, this collective of musicians and vocalists (and the occasional dancer) takes popular tunes and reframes them as everything from doo-wop to swing music, classic Motown to jazz. Even if you aren’t familiar with the original song being performed, their covers are a lot of fun.

For comparison’s sake, here’s “Titanium” as performed by Sia/David Guetta, and as a ’40s crooner tune by Postmodern Jukebox. I love both.

And here’s Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” alongside Postmodern Jukebox’s ’60s girl group version. The flaming saxophone nails it.

Check out more Postmodern Jukebox covers on their YouTube channel.

Full Moon Mood Music

Sometimes I am so predictable. It’s a full moon tonight and once again I’m all about songs that mention the moon.

This first one from Neko Case, “I Wish I Was the Moon,” has some amazing lyrics, but I’d expect nothing less from Neko Case.

The second song is from Emma Hill and Her Gentlemen Callers. I’ve met Emma a few times (she is a sweetheart) and heard her perform live on two separate occasions. “Meet Me at the Moon” is one of my favorite songs of hers.

Last up is a new song from Ainjel Emme, a musician I met years ago in L.A. with an incredible voice and mad skills. “Damn the Moon” has been one of my earworms since she released it in October. Now it gets to be one of yours, too.

Saturday’s Shout-Out: Ainjel Emme

In 2002-2003, I became friendly with the members of a L.A. based all-girl rock band, Goddess Freak Ensemble. Like any band, the group went through some changes in guitarists and bassists. Through each change they continued to make beautiful music while showcasing their sexy, sassy selves. But when they briefly worked with Ainjel Emme, it was mind-blowing. Her mad skills on the guitar are evenly matched by her amazing voice, which is wistful and sly and sad and wise all at once.

A couple of months ago I started thinking about Ainjel again and decided to track her down on Facebook. Sure enough, she’s got her own page and frequently posts links to videos and songs. When I heard some of the stuff she’s been working on recently, I was once again blown away. Knowing how Giles feels about his lady singers (I call them his sirens), I had him take a listen. His face lit up at the first few notes.

I don’t want to even try comparing her music to anyone else, she’s that phenomenal, but I will say this: if you love great music, and you love hearing women sing and play guitar, give Ainjel a listen. Go buy her music. And then tell a friend.

To whet your appetite, here’s Ainjel doing a cover of The Smiths “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”. Check out other performances on her YouTube channel.

We Only Said Goodbye in Words

I was saddened to hear of British songstress Amy Winehouse’s death today. Not completely surprised, since news stories over the past several years illustrated her problems with addiction, but still saddened.

I found her voice mesmerizing in its power and soulfulness. Her songs had such a fun, retro feel with lyrics that betrayed their currency: the horns and the backing vocals were so very Sixties, but the lyrics were pure Millennium. Would Peggy Lee or Dusty Springfield have sung the line “What kind of f**kery is this?” To my untrained ears, the track production sounded slightly distorted and scratchy, as if they were remasters of an analog recording. And her look was rockabilly chic, with a treacherous looking beehive, tattoos and stiletto heels.

Her songs were used to define a time period that wasn’t even her own. Remember how “You Know I’m No Good” was used in early ad campaigns for AMC’s “Mad Men”? That song perfectly summed up the character of Don Draper, a man who viewers were still getting to know while his wife Betty remained in the dark for a little while longer.

I enjoyed singing her songs at karaoke, and one in particular helped me through a very dark period of my life four and a half years ago. “Back to Black” is a song not just about the end of a relationship, but also about addiction and dependency. Having dated an addict, I can tell you that the relationship an addict has with their drug of choice is one that is extremely hard to break, and relationships with real people suffer greatly. That was the case with my ex, and sadly, that seems to have been the case for Amy, too.

Wednesday’s Wackiness: Techno Tim, the Record Store Cat

Once again, my Page-A-Day Calendar of Weird Websites brings the wacky. Today’s wackiness comes courtesy of the Record Store Cats animated “series”. It’s a collection of cats wearing headphones, and all of them apparently like to hang out at the local indie record store. Cats are so retro like that, you know. Some of the animations are quite funny.

My personal favorite out of all the Record Store Cats, though, is Techno Tim. I’m not sure what techno song he’s listening to, but apparently it makes him very bouncy.

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Check out the rest of the Record Store Cats gang to find your own favorite whisker-bangin’ kitty.