About This Site

Each month I select 20 songs (10 songs twice a month) that I am either hooked on or am curious about. Most of the music I select are rock, hip-hop, R&B and pop songs.

My song selection comes from 20-30 CDs I get from various sources each month, as well as recommendations from iTunes and Amazon. I also check out the charts in US, UK and Japan.

March 31, 2009

Britney Spears - If U Seek Amy

Album: Circus

This song is stirring up controversy for its song title. If you say the title outloud, it sounds like you are spelling out the F word (hence “F-U-C-K me”). Parents noticed their little daughters singing “F-U-C-K Me” and complained. For the radio version, the song has been changed to If You See Amy. Whether you think this gimmick is clever or cheesy, the song is a good dance pop tune. Britney asked her fans to vote for their favorite song off her new album, Circus, and this won hands down.

Chris Cornell - Scream /ft. Timbaland

Album: Scream

The cover photo tells it all. Chris Cornell, the rock god, decided to smash up his guitar to quit rock-n-roll. When I first heard that Timbaland and Cornell were working together, I was excited to hear this odd matchup. But the expectation might’ve been a little too high, because none of the songs on the album sound “cool.” Chris Cornell tries to sing club pop style of songs which Justin Timberlake did well with, but with Cornell’s dark vocal, the music and the vocal just don’t match. As much as I wanted this to succeed, it didn’t go nearly as well as Beck and Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse collaboration did. This track was one of the few that I liked the beat (but not the singing).

Iglu & Hartly - In This City

Album: And Then Boom

Originally from Boulder, Colorado, this five piece rock-rap group has been getting a lot of attention in UK. Their single, “In This City” was a top 5 chart hit in England. It is doing moderately well in the US rock chart as well. Their music sound a lot like MGMT with rapping. It is quite catchy, something that would probably be fun to sing along to during the live show.

Keri Hilson - Turnin Me On /ft. Lil Wayne

Album: In A Perfect World

Keri Hilson’s name was introduced to the world when she was featured on Timbaland’s “The Way I Are. But before this exposure, she was a songwriter, writing songs for artists like Britney Spears. She has been featured on numerous rap tracks, including Xzibit’s “Hey Now (Mean Muggin’). Could she go from a songwriter to megastar like Lady GaGa did?

Lady Sovereign - So Human

Album: Jigsaw

Sampling The Cure’s “Close to Me”, British female rapper, Lady Sovereign tries to have another crossover hit since her “Love Me Or Hate Me” was used on cellphone commercial in the US. Sometimes known to media as “Feminem” she is definitely one of a very few white female MC out there right now. Actually I don’t think I can name a single white female rapper (other than Fergie, but does she count as a rapper?).

M. Ward - Never Had Nobody Like You /ft. Zooey Deschanel

Album: Hold Time

M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel (she was Will Ferrell’s love interest in the popular Christmas movie, Elf) formed a group called She & Him last year which was met with good reviews. Now, Portland, Oregon native, M. Ward goes back to playing solo, except for this track, he gets a help from his former bandmate, Zooey Deschanel on catchy indie-rock-pop song.

Papa Roach - Lifeline

Album: Metamorphosis

Californian rock group Papa Roach just released their sixth album titled Metamorphosis. It seems like they are going further and further away from their hard rock roots (remember "Forever" from two years ago? It’s hard to imagine that this is the group that sung “Last Resort” nine years ago. Even the album cover makes them look like a pop rock band like Good Charlotte. With all that aside, the song is catchy, and they are perfect fit touring along with Nickelback this summer.

The Script - The Man Who Can't Be Moved

Album: The Script

The Script is a new band from Dublin, Ireland, the same place U2 comes from. But the Script’s music and lead singer’s voice sounds more like Sting (or The Police). I first heard of them when they covered Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” on Radio 1’s Live Lounge. This track was held to #2 spot for a few weeks in UK (by Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”). Despite being so popular in the UK and Ireland last year, when the album was released in the US in mid March, it didn’t do so well.

Taylor Hicks - Seven Mile Breakdown

Album: The Distance

Say what you want to say about this silly soul patrol guy that was crowned the American Idol on season 5, but he does have a distinct voice. His debut album didn’t do so well, and the label dropped him, and till this day, Simon Cowell still makes fun of him on current season of American Idol. His second album titled The Distance debuted at #58 and only sold 9,000 copies in its first week of release. I liked Taylor Hicks’ music before he went on Idol, but now (including this record and the past) sounds like it’s over-produced. This track is available for a free download from Amazon MP3. I have a feeling we won’t be hearing from Taylor Hicks in a long time after this.

White Lies - Death

Album: To Lose My Life

White Lies is a rock band from London, England. Their debut album, To Lose My Life was released in UK in January of 2009 and hit #1. Their sound is a mixture of The Killers and Franz Ferdinand, so if you like that kind of music, White Lies should be pleasing to your ears.

March 15, 2009

A.R. Rahman - Jai Ho /ft. Sukhvinder Singh, Tanvi Shah & Mahalaxmi Iyer

Album: Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack

Slumdog Millionaire was a big winner at this year’s Academy Award. This song was also awarded Best Original Song award at the Oscars. A.R. Rahman is a renowned Indian film music composer. “Jai Ho”, which means “victory” is mostly sung in Hindi language with bit of Spanish in some parts. I’m not quite sure why Spanish is included on the song. With the success of the film, The Pussycat Dolls recorded an English version, which is doing well on the chart. I thought about selecting that version, but I figured the original would be better. I feel like I’ve been selecting a lot of foreign language artists and songs in recent months.

A.R. Rahman - O... Saya /ft. M.I.A.

Album: Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack

I’m not a huge film fan, so the only time I actually want to go to a theater and hand over $10 to see a movie, is when I know the movie has a good soundtrack. Slumdog was one of those films that after listening to some sample audio clips, I was very excited to see the film. And this track was my favorite. This song works so perfectly in the scene where the main character kids are running through the slum. The song showcases chaos, youth and coolness. I’m normally not a huge fan of M.I.A., but on this song, I actually think she sounds really cool (M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" is also used effectively in the film). The film was very enjoyable, and I highly recommend everyone to see it.

Duffy - Live And Let Die

Album: War Child Presents Heroes

The proceed from this album goes toward children affected by war. The CD liner notes states “66% of all people killed by war are children.” That is a lot, and a scary number to think about. What’s unique about this CD is that they asked legendary musicians such as Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, U2, etc to nominate today’s artist to cover one of their classic songs. It’s interesting seeing just some of the names that show up on the album as Beck, Lily Allen, Franz Ferdinand, Elbow and Estelle are nominated to interpret classic songs from the past. My favorite track from the album was Duffy’s cover of Paul McCartney and The Wings classic, “Live And Let Die.” Duffy is a kind of artist that could probably sing anything, and sound good, and yet original at the same time (Duffy covered, Hot Chip’s “Ready For the Floor” last year).

Franz Ferdinand - Ulysses

Album: Tonight

Franz Ferdinand’s “No You Girls” is gaining popularity thanks to the song used on iPhone commercial. But this track, “Ulysses” is burning up the chart in Japan (though not so hot in the UK). Stylistically, it is a little different than their other tracks, but the hook is still catchy and fun.

K'naan - Wavin' Flag

Album: Troubadour

Born in Somalia, Africa and raised in Canada, K’naan has a different background than most hip-hop artist in the industry. If you think surviving in the Bronx or Compton is hard, imagine growing up in the Somali Civil War. This makes K’naan an unique rapper, and this song, especially should appeal to a lot of non-hiphop fans. “Wavin’ Flag” would be a perfect song at a outdoor summer music festival with the crowd waving their arms as the sun set. I can’t wait for the summer.

Lady GaGa - Poker Face

Album: The Fame

All of a sudden, Lady GaGa has turned into an American popstar. Her first single, “Just Dance” took a while, but became a number 1 hit in both US and UK. And now her second single is also climbing up the chart in both continents. Originally, Lady GaGa was signed to write pop songs for artists like Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears, but Akon recognized that she could also sing (I wonder if he pushed her to rap like Fergie on part of this song), and got her to record some songs. Could she get as big as Britney and Christina?

Phish - Gumbo [Live]

Album: 2009/03/07 I Hampton, VA

no sample
I never got into Phish, but I can see how so many people could get hooked on this band. They are a popular jam band, often compared to The Grateful Dead. Most of their fans will tell you that don’t bother listening to their studio albums, because they shine during a live show, where they jam and improvise, sometimes extending a three minute song into a thirty minute jam session. In 2004, Phish broke up to pursue solo career and other projects. I actually saw Trey Anastasio perform live at Bumbershoot festival one year during their breakup. Earlier this month, Phish got back together for a three night weekend concert. What was most impressive was that, the band recorded all of the three shows and uploaded free MP3 of the entire concert on their livephish.com website. MP3 was available within a day after the concert, and they were available for free. Now that is being dedicated to the fans. On this song, toward the end, you can hear the band jam and improvise. I especially like when the keyboardist goes off to wraps up the song.

The Prodigy - Omen

Album: Invaders Must Die

Yes, The Prodigy is back. I was disappointed by their last two albums, but this one puts them back on the map of electro-techno music. Their last effort was done solely by the lead singer, and didn’t include other band members. Good thing Liam Howlett decided to bring everyone back, because the songs sound good. Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters is supposedly playing drums on two tracks from this album.

The Raconteurs - Old Enough [Bluegrass Version] /ft. Ricky Skaggs & Ashley Monroe

Album: Old Enough (Single)

I was channel surfing the other day, and I saw Jack White of White Stripes jamming along with some country stars, on Country Music Television channel. It turned out to be The Raconteurs jamming along with bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs and country singer Ashley Monroe. The song was so bluegrass that I was immediately picturing Coen Brother’s movie O Brother, Where Art Though. Someone once said that Jack White is our generation of Robert Plant. Robert Plant decided to team up with Alison Krauss for a bluegrass-ish album. Maybe it is a thing to do if you are considered a musical genius.

Utada - Come Back To Me

Album: This Is The One

Hikaru Utada is one of the biggest popstars in Japan (if not THE biggest). She tried to crossover to the US market and released her debut album, Exodus in 2004. Despite having a superstar producer, Timbaland producing the album, it didn’t crossover well to the US audience (though it was a hit in her native country of Japan). Utada was raised in New York part of her life, so compared to other Japanese popstarlets, her English is fluent. For her second US album, she teamed up with Mariah Carey’s producers, which I’m still not sure was the right move. This single totally sounds like a cheap knock off of Mariah. Utada is a good singer, but not a great singer like Mariah, and when she tries to sing in high note toward the end of the song, it is so thin that it is almost so hard to listen to. I also noticed on her previous album, Exodus, that Utada’s English songwriting is kind of weird. I think she has true talent when comes to mixing English and Japanese lyrics, but when she has to use 100% English, the lyrics are either too literal or unrelateable.