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#FridayFind | Jon Secada – Just Another Day

It was probably the late Nineties, just before my high school graduation. I was at a wedding for my good friend Elijah’s family. Growing up together, he and I shared lots of music with each other. He was a brother from another mother. Most days we hung out, we definitely rocked out to some heavy metal and bobbed our heads to tons of old school hip-hop. But we both had soft spots for R&B ballads, those tunes we wanted to sing to our girlfriends. Or put on our cheesy mixtapes to them, that we’d pass to them while passing notes between school periods.

Now up until this point, I had absolutely heard “Just Another Day” at grocery stores and on “Yo! MTV Raps” or another R&B music video block. And I quietly liked it from afar. Well this wedding cemented it. Someone was playing DJ on an AIWA Boombox and some CD booklets and for some reason this song kept getting repeated. I thought eventually people would mutiny and take over, but for some reason – no. one. cared.

And I know EXACTLY why. This song is amazing.

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#FridayFind | Robyn – Show Me Love

“Show Me Love”, the 1997 hit that Robyn penned with Swedish hit-maker Max Martin (“…Baby One More Time”) was a track off her debut album “Robyn is Here”. My girlfriend at the time had the CD and would repeatedly play it in her bedroom after school while we’d hang out. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this song would earworm it’s way into my heart. Today, Robyn has moved from Britney Spears territory into a firm Kylie Minogue-like existence with the dance-floor sensation hit “Dancing on My Own”. Today, she’s essentially moved firmly from the mainstream to indie darling with interviews in Pitchfork or collaborations with Norway’s electric duo Röyksopp.

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Guilty Album | New Radicals: Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too

“Make my nipples hard, let’s go!”

I have no clue which back-up singer said this to Gregg Alexander while recording his only studio release Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too (1999), but it completely sets the tone for the entire record. I bought this CD at a K-Mart knockoff store in my hometown merely because of the one-hit wonder “You Get What You Give”. And make no mistake, I firmly expected it to be a $15 single. I had no idea the riches that lay within. The opening track “Mother We Just Can’t Get Enough” still remains my favorite cut off the album actually. But front-to-back, this album brings piano-pop goodness that you can’t help but smile while listening.

If you’ve ever read the crazy story of how Gregg got this unlikely album made, it’s well worth the read.

What I especially love about the album is after the sickeningly sweet opening tunes, the album takes a much darker and interesting tone with the underrated “I Hope I Didn’t Just Give Away the Ending” which opens with a sort of slow vignette of vocals, drums and piano that reaches a fever pitch. The song is masterful storytelling, and ends tragically with a cup of coffee accidentally laden with coke (I won’t give away the ending!).

Other standout tracks include the somewhat psychedelic title track “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too”, or “In Need of a Miracle” (“Been All Around this Bad, Bad World/ Tryin’ to find some Tenderness”) and “Gotta Stay High”.

Really, this album is perfection. It’s not for everyone, but I think that’s why I consider it a guilty pleasure. It’s too poppy for the Bro crowd, but all the same you know they’re toe-tapping when “You Get What You Give” comes on the radio. And it will make sense when you realize Gregg lives on by co-writing a pop hit for Michelle Branch or a few tunes for the underrated film “Begin Again” by John Carney, the Director of “Once”.

 

 

Further Reading: AV Club – New Radicals’ only hit “You Get What You Give” was secretly influential

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#FridayFind | ELO – Don’t Bring Me Down

Who would’ve thought Jeff Lyne’s biggest hit in the U.S. would be the song he dedicated to NASA’s Skylab Space Station? A looped drum sample from “On the Run” is the backbone for this clap-inducing tune. The album “Discovery” in 1979 was definitely where the band pushed wholeheartedly from orchestral space pop into pure disco territory. A few tunes of theirs leaned disco including “Evil Woman” (1975 – Face the Music) and “Livin’ Thing” (1976 – A New World Record), so it was a natural progression for Jeff Lyne to go “full Bee Gees” as it were.

While the rest of the album is certainly far too smooth and relaxed for my taste, the final track really brings an energy you cannot ignore. The crisp drum sample paired with the harmony driven lyrics is just… perfection.

Just as the lyrics state, it’s Friday, “Don’t Bring me Down”.

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Guilty Album | Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1

Star-Lord’s Sony Walkman. Total nostalgia trip. When the opening bass thumps of “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone starts busting through those orange foam pads, or the “Ooga Chaka” chant of Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”, you instantly know the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 is going to be the real deal.

“Guardians of the Galaxy”‘s soundtrack was a pop cultural phenomenon that essentially caught traction with lots of folks not only for the nostalgia factor, but certainly for the guilty pleasure quality of the selections. Director James Gunn and his team made sure to carefully craft a 70’s era mixtape that anyone would be proud to receive from their newfound love (or their *cough* dying mother).

While a few tracks are truly rock ‘n’ roll, soul or disco classics. A majority of them are just pure sweet guilt. Nestled within David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” and “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways is the effervescently positive “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum. Or the friggin’ brilliant storytelling of “Pina Colada Song”. Or “O-o-h Child” by The Five Stairsteps, which is basically a smile wrapped up in a song.

This phenomenal soundtrack re-introduced these tracks to me in the perfect way, while I was geeking out in a movie theater to the adventures of Groot, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Drax and Star-Lord.

Needless to say, it’s a must listen. And an overall good slice of songs that this blog was built for. Check it out!


YouTube Playlist


Spotify Album


 

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#FridayFind | Toto – Africa

The time has come for my inaugural #FridayFind guilty pleasure pick. And what better artist to start out with than Toto, and their amazing #1 hit “Africa”.

Why has this tune endured for me? Partially because the lyrics make absolutely no sense. I have no idea why a woman coming on a mid-day flight has any damn thing to do with rains in another country. And I don’t know why a man cares about Mount Kilimanjaro’s similarities to Mount Olympus. My money is on keyboardist/vocalist David Paich and drummer Jeff Porcaro merely needing lyric lines to rhyme.

While not quite as embarrassing to knowing all the words to “Careless Whisper”, when I was a young lad, I would rather die than admit that this cheesy song was one of my all-time favorites. It wasn’t until I grew into my own in NYC and a close buddy, tech journalist Chris Velazco, shared his joy for the tune too! What followed was repeated karaoke entries of the song at Sing Sing and other dingy sing-along ‘oke bars across the 5 boroughs.

One such occasion happened in San Francisco in front of a majority of my colleagues at TechCrunch. The moment I submitted it, a pang of fear gripped me. What if we were laughed out of the room? Surely such an unironic tune with a killer marimba and pitch perfect harmonies would get the crowd going? To my undying joy and adulation, nearly everyone gleefully joined in with singing at the top of their lungs.

As you can see, even to this day, I quite enjoy the thigh-slapping action a good jam of “Africa” produces.

So this just happened #africa

A video posted by Chris Velazco (@vlzco) on

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From Guilty Beginnings

Music is the great equalizer. Many forms of art still remain relatively unattainable to the masses without a big money commitment. But radio and home stereo ownership exploded music into pretty much any American home as long as you wanted it. I was raised in a home that was dominated with music. My father proudly built his stereo setup which included an enviable vinyl record collection, of which I inherited half.

My collection has expanded quite a bit, but a majority of his mint classics remain.

Music ownership and knowledge became a point of pride for my whole family and I began digging into each genre for hidden gems. It was around the time I could buy music that we also started getting Rolling Stone and SPIN on our doorstep each month. What followed was an education on classic and must-own albums. I began to despise most “Pop” music while in my teen years. The Popular Music that I enjoyed was stuff from earlier decades – The Beatles, the Rat Pack, Michael Jackson or even Elton John. But even as my tastes started to veer to the underground, to the hidden gems, there was always a part of me that could admit I enjoyed cheesy or catchy tunes. Some earworms took a deep hold of me and I would seek out songs that I wouldn’t dare admit to my guy friends or family.

This was the beginning of my admiration for guilty pleasure music. Tracks, artists and albums that I enjoyed despite the embarrassment or stigma. Some were choices that were before their time culturally, and some were just cringeworthy that I couldn’t help but love.

So, The Guilty Mixtape is my outlet for all the music I couldn’t share with the world, but enjoyed repeatedly in quiet. Some are #throwback picks that I wouldn’t admit when younger but proudly love today. Others are recent favorites that I think you should hear and guiltily love with me. The rest are submissions from people I respect — friends, journalists, musicians and more. Anybody who feels brave enough to confess their musical sins. Welcome!

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