Rap is Real

My favorite genre of music is rap. The main reason I favor rap music is that rap lyrics correspond to reality. When rappers are self-centered and materialistic, they boldly proclaim it. They do not pretend to be down to earth like Taylor Swift does. Rappers have the ability to get real with their lyrics. In rap songs, nothing is held back. Quite often, rap songs are highly emotional.

Take Eminem, for example. 95 percent of his lyrics are deplorable, but he gets real in his lyrics. His song “Not Afraid” is not only one of his less offensive songs, but it also is a very inspiring song. In it, he speaks about his struggles with addiction and his decision to say “No, this is wrong and needs to stop.” His lyrics are meant to inspire others to recognize problems in their lives and to make the courage decision to make a change.

This idea of real lyrics extends into Christian music as well. The average Christian music song features empty lyrics that do not say much. Christian rappers will get real with their struggles and admit their challenges. Their praises of the Lord are more authentic and do not posses the same superficiality that plagues the lyrics of their counterparts in the Christian rock genre.

Two great examples of Christian rappers who get real in their songs are Theory Hazit and Fr. Pontifex. Theory Hazit’s song “Find Me” details his life and the treacherous path he was heading down before he gave his life to God. Fr. Pontifex’s album The Symphony and the Static amazingly brings to life the interior struggle of living a Christian, the clash of the beauty of the Faith and noise created by secular culture. 

Their is beauty in truth. When rappers tap into reality and spit lyrics that proclaim the truth, they create songs that are more meaningful and beautiful than the fake songs put out by those in the mainstream music scene. 

Top 50 Billy Joel Songs

Christopher Bonanos of the Vulture recently posted a complete ranking of all of Billy Joel’s songs.  His analyses of these songs and his strange rankings reveal he does not understand Billy Joel’s music. He claims to be a fan of Billy Joel, but some of Joel’s most popular songs are ranked pitifully low and some more obscure songs are ranked surprisingly high. If he truly knew the music of Wiliam Martin Joel, his rankings would look completely different.

As a child, my dad constantly played Billy Joel in the car, and I have come to know Joel’s music quite well. I understand what defines Billy Joel’s music. The songs that define his music are also some of his biggest hits. Bonanos seems to disregard these songs because he does not particularly care for some of them and because they are popular, but when ranking “the best Billy Joel songs”, it is not about an individual’s taste. The focus must be on those defining songs.

Therefore, I present to you, dear reader, my top 50 Billy Joel songs, a list which will (hopefully) more accurately represent what society as whole would say on this matter.

50. “Rosalinda’s Eyes”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  33

Billy Joel gets a little Cuban on us, and it is delightful. 

 

49. “I Go to Extremes”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  56

This song is extremely good!……Pardon the pun. 

 

48. “Shameless”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  60

Bonanos says “No piano!”. To which I say, “Hush!”. This is a good song; do not hate it because the lack of piano. 

 

47. “The Night is Still Young”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  97

I underestimate this song. It has its moments of greatness.

 

46. “All About Soul”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  89

River of Dreams is a unqiue album. An aging Billy Joel puts out an album full of songs that are much different than most of the songs on his earlier albums. 

 

45. “Careless Talk”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  73

Billy Joel has a lot of lesser-known songs that are just downright fun. 

 

44. “If I Only Had the Words (to Tell You)”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  83

Anyone who has ever had feeling for someone and were too nervous to tell them how they feel knows why this song is great.

 

43. “Great Suburban Showdown”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  107

This song evokes memories of unpleasant and awkward social obligations my parents drug me to in my youth.

 

42. “Zanzibar”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  67

I wish more people knew of this song’s existence. 

 

41. “Easy Money”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  81

“Easy Money” is a great opening to a great album, An Innocent Man

 

40. “The Ballad of Billy the Kid”

Bonanos’ Ranking: 42

Billy Joel refers to this song as “historically inaccurate”, but that does not damage its quality. 

 

39. “Half A Mile Away”

Bonanos’ Ranking: 48

I often forget about this song and how fun it is. 

 

38. “Stiletto”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  22

We all have had someone in our lives we loved, despite being treated like garbage by them. This song is about those relationships and how it is hard to see the toxin from the inside.

 

37. “You’re My Home”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  77

“[D]ull” is how Bonanos describes this song. It is a simple love song, and to expect great things out of it is setting yourself up to hate it. Accept this song for what it is: lovely. 

 

36. “Pressure”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  70

This song drops out of the top 100 Billy Joel songs if you listen to the version where “I’ll tell you what it means” is omitted.  

 

35. “C'etait Toi”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  109

Bonanos laments the use of the French language in this song, but the French lyrics show off Joel’s versatility. 

 

34. “Just the Way You Are”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  7

Not much needs to be said about this one. It is a classic Billy Joel song. The fact that this one ranks 34th tells you how talented Billy Joel is.

 

33. “Don’t Ask Me Why”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  80

Glass Houses is one of Joel’s best albums, and Bonanos completely misses in his assesment of it.

 

32. “Matter of Trust”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  86

The Bridge is an often overlooked album, and this little gem is one of the better songs on that album.

 

31. “Downeaster ‘Alexa’”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  75

Billy Joel wanted to write a folk song, and this was the result. It tells the tale of a Long Island Bayman trying to make ends meet, while struggling with the changing times.

 

30. “The River of Dreams”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  24

When I listen to this song, I always picture myself lying awake in the bedroom I slept in from when I was 2 until I was 8.

 

29. “Big Shot”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  46

My mom did not want me to listen to this song as a child, but my dad let me. Mom did not want me to hear the word “Bitchin’.”

 

28. “Only the Good Die Young”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  2

This is a top ten song if you take away the lyrics that are offensive to Catholics.

 

27. “Why Should I Worry?”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  N/A

Bonanos did not feel the need to include this in his list, and that is a shame. This track from the delightful movie Oliver and Company fits so well with the film and is very much a Billy Joel song.  The exclusion of this song is unforgiveable.

 

26. “Summer, Highland Falls”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  27

One word: Nostalgia. 

 

25. “She’s Got a Way”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  21

“She’s Got a Way” expresses a feeling that probably all of us have felt. You are able to list all of these things you admire about your significant other, but the one thing that draws you in most is the one thing you cannot express in words. 

 

24. “Allentown”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  51

Billy Joel is able to create truly unique songs, and this is a prime example of that. 

 

23. “Honesty”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  47

A great truth is expressed in this song. 

 

22. “And So It Goes”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  62

This song is vastly underrated. 

 

21. “Keepin’ the Faith”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  39

This is one of those songs I heard so many times as a child that it has become part of who Billy Joel is to me. 

 

20. “Goodnight Saigon”

Bonanos’ Ranking: 38

Bonanos criticizes his use of the helicopter sound effect. However, when you’re righting a song about the Vietnam War, helicopter noises are definitely appropriate. 

 

19. “You May Be Right”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  58

A great song from one of Joel’s best albums, Glass Houses.

 

18. “Tomorrow is Today”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  104

This song cannot be truly appreciated unless you understand the lyrics are based off of Billy Joel’s suicide note.

 

17. “Innocent Man”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  5

Another song that is classic Billy Joel. 

 

16. “This Night”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  93

Boananos criticizes Joel’s use of Beethoven here, but it is a unique choice that deserves praise.

 

15. “Until the Night" 

Bonanos’ Ranking: 68

This is my personal favorite Billy Joel, but I tried not to let my personal bias affect this list too much. See how this works Bonanos? 

 

14.  "She’s Always a Woman”

Bonanos’ Ranking:  34

Dr. Peter Kreeft says this song is offensive if sung about a woman, but a fitting tribute if sung about a woman.

 

13. “My Life ”

 Bonanos’ Ranking: 32

I just cannot understand what Bonanos was thinking when he made this list.

 

12. “New York State of Mind

Bonanos’ Ranking: 

One cannot ignore this Billy Joel classic. Its importance stems from the fact New Yorkers (and wannabe New Yorkers) grasp at any song that praises their city. Regardless of my animosity towards New York, this is a great piano piece.

 

11. “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) ”

Bonanos’ Ranking: 61

This was turned into a children’s book that came with a CD of this song on it.

Most Billy Joel songs remind me of my dad. This one reminds me of my mom. She used to listen to this song while holding me as a baby. Now she cries whenever she hears this song.

 

10. “The Stranger”

Bonanos’ Ranking: 16

The title song of Billy Joel’s The Stranger album ranks highly not only for its musical merit, but also for the truth of its lyrics.

“We all have a face / That we hide away forever / And we take them out and show ourselves / When everyone is gone”

 

9. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”

Bonanos’ Ranking: 1

Joel is criticized by Bonanos for his “heart attack-ack-ack-ack” line, but quite frankly that makes this song.

 

8. “Tell Her About It”

Bonanos’ Ranking: 7

Bonanos’ ranking of this song angers me to my core.  Seriously, has he even listened to this song? It is awesome.

 

7. “Prelude/Angry Young Man”

Bonanos’ Ranking: 19

While not one of his most popular songs, it clearly shows off how talented of a pianist Billy Joel is.

 

6. “We Didn’t Start the Fire”

Bonanos’ Ranking: 20

I was speechless when I saw how low Bonanos’ had ranked this one. Yes, it is overplayed, but everyone knows this Joel hit. To dismiss it is a completely foolish decision.

Fun Fact: Billy Joel plays the guitar in this one.

 

5. “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”

Bonanos’ Ranking: 

This is the Ranking where Bonanos’ is close to getting it right. Although, his description of it as three-songs-in-on is wrong. It may sound like that, but a close listen reveals it tells the tale of ex-lovers reconnecting at “their Italian restaurant.” They rehash old times and discuss the King and Queen of their high school’s prom, the legendary Brenda and Eddie.

 

4. “It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me”

Bonanos’ Rankin: 18

This is one of Billy Joe’s biggest hits. Seeing Joel perform this song live is an absolute treat. When my dad saw him do this song live in the summer of 1980, it was the number one song in the country, and the eruption of cheers when he began playing the song was so loud my dad could not hear the song. In 2009, I saw a much older Billy Joel perform “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.” He stood near the front of the stage, popped the collar of his suit coat, and sang into the microphone. The microphone stand became a prop for him. He used the stereotypical Elvis dance moves with it, as well as twirling it around and around during the saxophone solo. When the song was over, he heaved the stand towards the edge of the stage. A stagehand appeared out of nowhere, snatched the stand, and quickly disappeared.

 

3. “Uptown Girl

Bonanos’ Ranking: 55

Bonanos’ ranking on this one is an absolute joke. This one of the songs you think about when you think about Billy Joel. The classic music video and sound make this one enjoyable song to hear. Why it was ranked so low is beyond me. 

 

2. “The Longest Time”

  Bonanos’ Ranking: 10

 "The Longest Time" is the ultimate a capella song. Anytime you want to whip out an a capella song to impress the ladies, this is the go-to song. Billy Joel sings all four parts of this song. The guys in the video are lip-syncing. This song is classic Billy Joel.

 

1. “Piano Man ”

Bonano’s Ranking: 15

There can be no other song ranked number one. Joel is referred to as “The Piano Man” because of this song. I chose the video above because he is able to stop singing and let the sudience continue the song for him. That is incredible.  This song is Billy Joel. 

 

 

Conclusion: 

This list is probably not perfect, but it is much better than the list that inspired it.


         

      An Analysis of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”

      Taylor Swift’s new album, 1989, embraces what the rest of us have known for a while now: Swift is no longer a country singer. She may have began her career as a country singer, but there is nothing country remaining in her new music. The song on 1989 that most exemplifies this is current hit, “Blank Space.”

      I hate this song. One of the main reasons I despise it is the fact that if I hear it on the radio, I have to listen to it. Even though I think “Blank Space” is a bad song, it sucks me in like a blackhole. It is catchy, and it drives me crazy how easily it gets stuck in my head.

      This song does not work with Taylor Swift’s voice. If any other pop singer sang “Blank Space”, I would have it on my iPhone and would be jamming out to it non-stop in my car. Her voice is just simply more suited for country music. It would be interesting to hear how “Blank Space” would sound if she dropped the computer-generated beat and picked up her guitar, to sing an acoustic, country version of this song.

      Furthermore, the dissonance between the music and her voice illustrates who Taylor Swift has become. 

      I used to admire Taylor Swift for not trying to shed her squeaky-clean image like other teen pop icons before her had done. When Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and others began to put over-sexualized content in their songs and music videos, the quality of their work went down, and they began making frequent appearances in the tabloids for their revealing outfits and raucous lifestyles. Swift had not been known for this kind of behavior, but by walking the runway at the Victoria Secret Fashion Show and making a music video where she sings in her lingerie while holding a large knife, she has lost the right to claim the “girl next door” persona. Swift should look to those who have gone and fallen before her as cautionary tales, for if she continues down this path, there will be a Taylor Swift sex tape or mug shot within five years.

      When examined under this lens, some of the lyrics of “Blank Space” become worrisome. Hearing Swift sing about wanting to date someone she refers to as her “next mistake” and making “the bad guys good for a weekend” should cause concern amongst her fans. This is a dangerous attitude to embrace for someone who wants to shed the image of being a serial dater. Furthermore, fans should be irked by the bridge that declares, “Boys only want love if it’s torture.” Even if this is meant as a joke, man-hating lyrics will not grow her fan base and will cause problems in relationships for people who will hear those words and believe them. These lyrics can only lead to disaster.

      Taylor Swift was once a pleasant departure from the usual celebrity. She was sweet, down-to-earth, and likable, but now she is a completely different person. As society has embraced Taylor Swift, she has embraced society, and that will lead to her downfall. I hope, for her sake, she returns to her roots.

       

      Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Good Music

      4 December 2011

          I maintain that when a jazz singer covers a pop song it is always better than the original. One of the tracks on Jamie Cullum’s recent album, a cover of Rhianna’s“Don’t Stop the Music”, is no exception. “Don’t Stop the Music” is one of the many tracks on Cullum’s fifth studio album, The Pursuit, that take Cullum’s already note-worthy career to a whole new level.

          Jamie Cullum has long defied genre. In The Pursuit, he stretches definition of jazz even further than he already has, not only covering a Rhianna song, but also songs originally written for musicals. Cullum covers “Just One of Those Things” originally written by Cole Porter for the 1935 musical Jubilee, “If I Ruled the World” from the West End musical Pickwick, and “Not While I’m Around” from Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The cover of the Sondheim song is most impressive due to the fact that the original was written for a singer who an extremely high range. Cullum, however, is able to pull the song off by singing it in a much lower key. Also genre defying is Cullum’s original song “Music is Through”, a seven minute song that sounds like it belongs piping through the sound system of a dance club, rather than on a jazz album.

          Even Cullum’s “jazzier” songs are have a pop feel to them. “We Run Things” has dominating drum beat and a computerized rumbling sound that builds through out the song. The explosion happens at the chorus then dies down for each verse. “You and Me are Gone” starts off with the piano and the drum just sort of jamming, but as the song begins it builds in pop sound. It also features excellent vocals by Cullum which are usually forgotten about due to his amazing piano skills which are also very impressive in this song. However, the piano is noticeably quieter in this song than his other songs. “Wheels” has drum beat playing for most of the song that legitimately sounds like a train chugging down the tracks. “Wheels” features a simple piano melody, bold vocals, and lyrics that tell of a world that gone off the tracks and is simply a fun song to listen to. Another fun tune from The Pursuit is “Mixtape.” This track tells the tale of man making his love a mixtape in a world of digital audio. The nostalgia of this song combined with the upbeat tempo and masterful piano and drumming makes the listener want to dig out their old boom-box and make their special someone a mixtape. “I Love This” is another song on the album that has a mellow romantic feel to it. It is a simple song, but yet has a quality about it that makes the listener yearn to sing along and tap their foot. Featuring lyrics like “I think that you could mend my broken heart/Cause I love this”, it is a song that most people can relate too, the feeling of euphoria upon discovering a new love. Probably Cullum’s biggest hit off of the album is “I’m All Over It”, a bouncy tune about the feeling of getting over a broken heart. The vocals, the piano, and the drums all have a very similar sound and rhythm, but as the song progresses they each have their moments where they break from the norm and have their own bold moment.

          Offsetting the peppy songs previously mentioned are a couple slower, more traditional-jazz-like songs. “Love Ain’t Gonna Let You Down” and “I Think, I Love” are nice break from the more upbeat songs. “Love Ain’t Gonna Let You Down” is a triumphant song of new love. There is a soft drum beat and more instruments, such as horns, heard than in the rest of the songs on the album. “I Think, I Love” starts off with Jamie Cullum breathing so deeply it is picked up by the recording equipment and a soft piano intro. It is a song a simple song that tells of memories of a relationship and how that relationship grew into love. 

          Depending on the edition of The Pursuit, the album may come with bonus tracks. The US Deluxe Edition of The Pursuit features the bonus tracks “Gran Torino”, “Grace is Gone”, and a live version of “Don’t Stop the Music.” “Gran Torino” is a Golden Globe nominated song Cullum wrote with Clint Eastwood for the movie Gran Torino. One of the other bonus tracks is also from a movie. “Grace is Gone” is from the movie of the same name. Both “Gran Torino” and “Grace is Gone” are beautiful, simple, and slow songs. The live version of “Don’t Stop the Music” was not recorded in front of an audience, but is an unedited version of the song featuring just Cullum and no band. Cullum not only plays the piano keys in this version of the song, but also bangs on the piano with his hands to use it as a drum and plucks and strums the strings of the piano, showing off his versatility as a performer.

          Cullum shows why he slowly gaining fame in The Pursuit. He can play a wide variety of genres and songs while staying true to his style. The Pursuit is an excellent album featuring not only original songs, but also covers of songs. While his original songs are excellent, his covers steal the show. Cullum is currently in the studio working on another album. One can only hope it will feature a cover of a Britney Spears’ song because it would be very interesting to see what he would do with “Oops... I Did It Again” or “Gimme More.”