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5 Catchy Songs You Didn’t Know Were Tragic

  1. “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind  With its utterly singable “do-do-do” chorus and melody, this may be one of the catchiest songs to come out of the 90s–but did you know it was about a struggling meth addict? I certainly didn’t until I sang it at karaoke night in a bowling alley (I mean…something less depressing?) and read all the lyrics for the first time. Lines like “Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break / It won’t stop / I won’t come down” and “We tripped on the urge to feel alive / But now I’m struggling to survive”  reveal the painful hopelessness that comes with crippling drug addiction. Uplifting, right? Some more dreary lyrics: ”She’s got her jaws now locked down in a smile /  but nothing is alright, alright…”
  2.  “Slide” by The Goo Goo Dolls: At first blush, this might sound like a run-of-the-mill catchy love song, with charming lyrics like “And I’ll do anything you ever dream to be complete /…/ Put your arms around me / What you feel is what you are, and what you are is beautiful / Oh May, do you want to get married, or run away?” If you take a closer listen, though, a darker undercurrent is revealed:  “Don’t you love the life you killed / The priest is on the phone / Your father hit the wall / Your ma disowned you” suggests that the song is really about a young Catholic woman dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. This interpretation was confirmed by songwriter and Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik during a VH1 performance.
  3.  “Drops of Jupiter” by Train: According to Pat Monahan, lead singer of Train, Drops of Jupiter is about the passing of the artist’s mother and his effort to overcome the loss. He stated that the lyrics “She’s back in the atmosphere” came to him in a dream, and are meant to represent the concept that his mother returned to him spiritually after leaving for a while. He explained in a VH1 special, “Obviously, loss of the most important person in my life was heavy on my mind, and I thought of, ‘What if no one ever really leaves? What if you just kinda…you’re here, but different?’ you know, and the idea was, ‘She’s back. Here, in the atmosphere.’” Heavy, man. But on the bright side, if you want to interpret this track as a simple love song, there’s always the Taylor Swift cover.
  4.  “Paper Planes” by MIA: Gunshot sound effects make up the majority of the “Paper Planes” chorus, hinting at the morbidness of the song’s themes. Still, the fun hook and danceable beat makes it easy to overlook the extent to which this pop hit deals with violence and drug dealing culture. Lyrics like “sticks and stones and weed and bombs / Running when we hit ‘em / Lethal poison through their system” and “Some, some, some I, some I murder / Some I, some I let go” are explicitly violent, and the disturbing levity of M.I.A.’s tone contributes to the overall darkness of the track.
  5.  “If I Had $1,000,000″ by Barenaked Ladies  BNL weaves a fantasy world in which the male protagonist outlines what he’d buy if he were to receive a million-dollar windfall. Whimsical and goofy, right? Well, on the surface, yes: potential purchases include the remains of the Elephant Man, a mini-fridge (filled with pre-wrapped sausages) and an exotic pet (like a llama, or an emu). Sadly, though, everything he would buy is for a woman who doesn’t seem to love him back. This refrain reveals the misery underlying this song:  ”If I had a million dollars / I’d buy your love.” Unrequited love is among the cruelest of life’s trials, and one could speculate that his riches would be of little comfort to him without this dream woman. And if numerous pop idols are to be believed, money can’t buy love. Sorry, BNL.

 

Can you think of any more? Let me know in the comments!

-Benevolent Siren

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Must-Hear Song of the Day

If you’ve never heard this version of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” you’re doing yourself a grave disservice by not listening to it now. Stop what you’re doing, press play, and take some deep breaths (song starts at 1:07):

I’ll be sobbing in the corner if anyone needs me.

 

-Benevolent Siren

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ALBUM SHOWDOWN: Mylo Xyloto (Coldplay) vs. Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (Coldplay)

If you’re not a Coldplay fan, maybe read one of my other posts instead of this one.  I’m about to talk about Coldplay a LOT.

In the age of the single, few pop albums are greater than the sum of their tracks. In my humble opinion, though, Coldplay bucks this trend, offering radio-friendly singles alongside brilliantly-crafted deep cuts that add up to wholly cohesive and engaging albums. This is especially true of their two most recent albums, which represent a marked departure from their previous offerings in terms of musical and lyrical complexity. As such, those are the two top contenders for My Favorite Coldplay Album, and I’ll be sussing out the winner in this here blog post. (Grammys are nice, but this honor is pretty prestigious too. Just saying.)

In one corner, we have 2008 release Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (VLVODAAHF, if you will), winner of a Grammy for Best Rock Album and the best-selling album of 2008. In the other, we have Mylo Xyloto, released in October 2011, which has hit #1 on the charts in 30 countries and racked up a few Grammy nods to boot. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Let’s get right into the head-to-head.

More gripping overture: Mylo Xyloto. Both albums introduce their respective musical tapestries with lovely instrumental overtures. Mylo Xyloto devotes 42 seconds to its rock-out intro, while Viva la Vida’s is two and a half minutes long and gently eases the listener in. This disparity is indicative of each album’s pace–MX rocks a little harder overall with songs that make you dance, while VLVODAAHF is in no rush and unfolds in a more deliberate fashion. This gives the advantage to MX, as it jumps right into the action without delay.

Stronger thematic consistency and flow: Viva la Vida. The cohesion of an album depends on the connection between songs: transitions between them, thematic ties, recurring aural motifs, etc. Mylo Xyloto is a little disjointed and suffers in this category. For instance, track 9 (“UFO”) is a stripped-down and intimate semi-acoustic offering, while track 10 (“Princess of China” feat. Rihanna) is electronic and synth-heavy. By contrast, VLVODAAHF is meant to be heard in its entirety, with a haunting tone that inhabits each track and glues the songs together in a gooey glob of ethereal perfection.

Catchier singles: Mylo Xyloto by a landslide. This category pits VLVODAAHF’s “Viva la Vida” and “Violet Hill” against Mylo Xyloto’s “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” and “Paradise.” (Plus, “Princess of China” feat. Rihanna is slated to be released as a single on Valentine’s day 2012.) There’s no contest here for me. I never loved “Viva la Vida” as a single–the emotional connection just isn’t there for me–and even though “Violet Hill” is a great song, it works better with the rest of the album around it. Meanwhile, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” and “Paradise” are both extremely engaging and emotionally charged. “Paradise” in particular rings true with the current economic climate and its effects on the outlook of the global workforce: When she was just a girl // She expected the world // But it flew away from her reach // So she ran away in her sleep // And dreamed of paradise…

Greater emotional involvement: Viva la Vida. Viva la Vida’s mournful vocals and piano spin a dreamworld that addresses war, death, and desire, singing right to your soul. Mylo Xyloto is billed as one long love story with a happy ending, but somehow it doesn’t connect on every level the way VLV does for me. Maybe you’ll disagree, which is your right. I can’t decide this one for you. But when Chris Martin murmurs the following lyrics on the closing VLV track, “Death and All His Friends,”  I always stop what I’m doing to really listen: And, in the end // We lie awake and we dream of making our escape… and it gets me every time.

Overall: I have to give it to Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Mylo Xyloto had me dancing at my desk and is chock-full of anthems that will fit right in on the radio. VLVODAAHF, on the other hand, makes slow, sweet love to your soul, seducing you song by song with its haunting melodies and lyrics. Listen to Viva la Vida while meditating, falling asleep, or writing about Coldplay (or anything, really). Listen to Mylo Xyloto on road trips, while taking a brisk walk, or pop in some headphones and listen during work hours.

 

Both albums are strong offerings, but one of them had to win. Do you agree with my choice? Disagree? TL;DR? Let me know in the comments. I’ll read ‘em, I promise.

 

-Benevolent Siren

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The Perfect 30-Minute Cardio Workout Playlist

Note: You can find this and all my other playlists on Spotify by using the post titles as search terms.

Hi there! I’m the Benevolent Siren, and I’m going to be a regular columnist here on Velodyne’s blog. If you want to know more about me, feel free to read my bio. I’m thrilled to be sharing my thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams with all you Velodyne fans. (Actually, it’ll be mostly music/audio talk, but I’ll probably slip a few hopes and dreams in there now and again.)

Now that we’ve been introduced, I’d like to share my formula for the PERFECT playlist for a 30-minute cardio workout. Assuming each song is about 3-4 minutes long, it’ll take about 10 perfectly-chosen songs to guide you through your workout without missing a beat. After all, pushing yourself is all about mind over matter, and as long as there’s music on your mind, fatigue won’t matter!

Songs 1-2: Upbeat, Dance-y and Cheerful (Sample song: I Like It Like That by Hot Chelle Rae): Welcome to your workout! The first few songs in your playlist should ease you in with a fun and bouncy track, reminding you that exercise can be fun even before your endorphins kick in. Warm up with a pop song with a catchy melody, like Hot Chelle Rae’s “I Like It Like That,” and before you know it you’re dancing down the track (or treadmill, or trail, or whatever).

Songs 3-5: Badass and Bass-Heavy (Sample songs: SexyBack by Justin Timberlake feat. Timbaland, How We Do by The Game): Now that you’re warmed up, it’s time to start taking yourself—and your workout—seriously. You’ve taken the time out to do something great for yourself, and you deserve to feel like a freaking badass doing it! Dominate your workout with pumped up, ego-boosting songs like SexyBack by Justin Timberlake or How We Do by The Game. Make sure songs 3-5 hit hard with the bass, so the music resonates throughout your whole body and keeps you going strong. A good rule of thumb: the more the bass kicks, the more you’ll kick ass!

Songs 6-8: Motivational and Fast-Paced (Sample songs: My Body by Young The Giant, Sexy and I Know It by LMFAO)

LMFAO works out--and if you do too, they've got some sweet tracks to keep you moving.

Getting tired? Must be time for songs 6-8. Any good workout will have its tough moments, and that’s when you need your tunes to take over and push you through with flying colors. Pay attention to the lyrics when selecting these songs; the right track can act as your personal trainer singing motivation right into your ear. For example, “My body tells me “NO”//But I won’t quit//’Cause I want more” (My Body, Young the Giant) or “I wanna see you move” (Chris Cox Britney Spears Megamix) or “I work out!” (Sexy & I Know It, LMFAO).

Song 9: Your Favorite, Fastest-Paced Song! (Sample song: Drop by the Ying Yang Twins, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana)

Now that you’re nearing the end of your workout, it’s time to pull out all the stops and throw your blood, sweat and tears into the next three minutes. This is the last song before cool-down, so dig deep and enjoy the endorphins you’ve worked so hard for. This is the place for your most motivational, fastest-paced, hardcore-to-the-max song, and I’m betting you already know what it is. For me, it’s Magic by B.O.B. feat. Rivers Cuomo, because by this time in my run I’ve proved to myself once again that I do, in fact, have the magic in me. Some other great choices are Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, Till The World Ends by Britney Spears, or Bangarang by Skrillex feat. Sirah.

Song 10: Moderately-Paced and Feel-Good (Sample song: Good Feeling by Flo Rida)

Good job! You’ve made it to the cool-down, but the workout’s not over yet, and neither is your playlist. You owe it to yourself to finish your workout on a high note, so choose a track that makes you feel amazing about yourself and your accomplishments. That said, this song should be a little mellower than your previous tracks. Bring your heart-rate down with a laid-back hip hop song like Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z if that’s your jam, or choose something more literal like Good Feeling by Flo Rida. Either way, ride that “good feeling” all the way to the end.

Phew! I pumped myself up writing this, so I’m going to go work out some energy on a run. Here’s the playlist I just made for myself following these guidelines, and I can’t wait to pop in my vPulse earphones and test it out. It’s about 37 minutes long, which gives me leeway to skip a song or two in my 30-minute run if I’m not feeling a particular track at the moment it comes on. Feel free to borrow from it:

1. Tonight, Tonight by Hot Chelle Rae
2. Teenage Dream by Katy Perry
3. I’m Really Hot by Missy Elliot
4. SexyBack by Justin Timberlake feat. Timbaland
5. Drop by the Ying Yang Twins
6. Chris Cox Britney Spears Megamix
7. Sexy and I Know It by LMFAO
8. My Body by Young The Giant
9. Magic by B.O.B. feat. River Cuomo
10. Young, Wild and Free by Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg

 

Happy workout!

-Benevolent Siren

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