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Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Winking Owl Open Up My Heart Review

One band that is slowly rising in popularity in Japan right now is The Winking Owl.  Recently, more bands have come out of Japan that are using a style similar to that of Paramore.  They have melodic female lead vocalists with rock music that is a combination of hard rock, metal, punk, and pop.  The Winking Owl is one band that is in that category.  While they are not one of the more famous bands in Japan at the moment, they are gaining momentum and their single "Open Up My Heart" paved the way.

While there are things that make this band similar to Paramore, one thing that separates them from Paramore it that they are more melodic and heavy, musically.  This song starts off with a good melodic solo that really sets up the tone of the song effectively and hooks you immediately.  The verse  gets a little bit softer but continues the melodic theme.  Then the pre chorus sets up a chorus that has very high energy.  This set up is executed very well and flows very smoothly to create a great listening experience. The vocal work is impressive as well.  The female singer in this band has a great voice that fits the music and carries the song very well.  I also got to give this singer credit for singing English very well. I have heard a lot of Japanese singers sing in English and many of them have an accent that really stands out at times.  However, this singer sings English very well to the point that if there was no Japanese words in the song I could have mistaken them for an American band.  The one minor issue I have with this song is the chorus.  It is a little repetitive for my liking and I feel it could have been written a little better.  However, it is a very minor issue that doesn't kill the song for me, or the chorus for that matter.

Lyrically, this is a pretty standard song.  It is a song about being in a complex relationship and wanting it to be better.  This is obviously nothing new, we have heard this message many times before.  However, they lyrics are written very well.  The phrases are good, they are catchy and they keep your attention.  I also have to say, I can tell this band has been working on their English because the fact that they wrote the English lyrics this well is very impressive.  While this is becoming more common in the Japanese music scene today, a lot of the musicians who write in English are having a hard time.  You can tell because of how simple the English is in the songs and how some bands have a hard time singing it.  This is a problem that The Winking Owl doesn't have.  While there are Japanese lyrics in this song, it is clearly dominated by English and the English is written very well.

I see a bright future for this band.  They have clearly shown they have potential and this song shows that.  If I am being honest I actually prefer this band over Paramore.  As much as I like Paramore, this band has the better singer and better musicians. If The Winking Owl writes more English songs like this, I can see them having a future in America.  With a great vocalist, great guitar player, and well written lyrics, I give Open Up My Heart a 4.5 out of 5.        


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Is This The End of Girls Generation?

Recently, it was revealed that Tiffany, Sooyoung, and Seohyun of the famed KPop girl group "Girls Generation" will not be renewing their contracts with SM Entertainment.  This has sen't shock waves through the Girls Generation fandom, the Kpop community, and most of the music world.  This has left many people in a panic and wondering what the future is for Girls Generation as well as Tiffany, Sooyoung, and Seohyun.

The first thing I would like to talk about is the future's of Tiffany, Sooyoung, and Seohyun.  Now, it is official that they are all basically pursuing acting, Tiffany will be leaving Korea and returning to the U.S. to learn acting, while Sooyoung and Seohyun will sign with other agencies to continue acting.  However, I doubt that this is all they will be doing.  First point is that Tiffany has made it clear for years that music is her biggest passion and she has said repeatedly that she wants to make it, musically, in the U.S.  I doubt she is going to throw music out the window and focus strictly on acting from here on out.  The same thing goes for Seohyun.  She is very passionate about music and has made that the center point of her persona for a long time.  Both Tiffany and Seohyun have done a lot in recent years to build themselves up musically.  They have done solo projects, duets, and who forget them being in TTS.  Sooyoung on the other hand, I can see giving music a rest.  She has been very busy with acting when not working with Girls Generation.  While many of the other members have been working on solo careers, she has just been focusing on acting mainly.  She has done some musical things on the side though.  Her and Tiffany have performed together a few times and she helped Tiffany write music on her solo album.  However, I doubt she will do anything serious with music, at least in the near future.  

The second thing that some people are concerned about is the relationship between the members.  This is one that I am not worried about too much.  Usually there are plenty of small indications that let you know if members are not getting along or are not talking to each other.  The main one is that you don't see them mention other members on social media.  That has not happened with Girls Generation.  If you look on their social media accounts, the members hangout and support each other all the time.  They will constantly post pictures of them hanging out and will help promote their side projects as well as like each others posts.  I am pretty sure that people can be at ease with this one.  I think they all get along fine and will still be great friends going forward. 

Biggest question is what is the future of Girl Generation? I can see this going one of two ways.  The first way is that they disband.  As much as I like Taeyeon, Yuri, and the remaining members, I doubt they can continue as a five piece group.  With Jessica already gone and now losing three more members, that would be hard to keep going.  One reason is that this means half the group is gone and that is going to be hard to fill.  Tiffany and Seohyun have a distinct sound in their voices that is very hard to replace.  In fact, if I'm being honest, I don't think they were able to replace Jessica's voice that well either.  Even now when I listen to "Gee" it still feels weird to me hearing Tiffany say Jessica's lines.  

The second way I see it going is that SM negotiates with other agencies to keep Seohyun, Tiffany, and Sooyoung in Girls Generation.  I see this as a possibility because SM themselves have said they are willing to negotiate with other agencies.  In the past, SM has said that they are willing to negotiate and talk to other agencies if it mean't Girls Generation would stay together.  One thing that people need to realize is that SM needs Girls Generation.  They need them because without them SM will no longer be on top.  Girls Generation is considered the biggest Kpop girl group in the world and if they were to disband that would be a huge blow to SM.  They would lose a good chunk of their fandom they would no longer be the biggest agency as a result.  It is in SM best interest to keep Girls Generation together and they know it.

However it turns out, we should still support all the members in their future ventures.  Where ever they decide to go, what ever they decide to do, support them and love them.  Wish them the best and no ill.  If Tiffany wants to make it in America, buy her records and/or watch the things she gets to act in.  The same goes for the other members. Help them grow and be successful where ever they go. Maybe they disband, maybe they stay together, it doesn't change the musical legacy they have made together.  



Thursday, October 5, 2017

Top 5 Christian Metal Songs

5.  E For Extinction by Thousand Foot Krutch

What I really like about this song is how it builds up.  It starts out with soft slow tone that slowly builds up and gets more energetic.  Then when the pre chorus comes you get hit with an awesome heavy combination of guitar and in your face vocals and lyrics.  This really gets you pumped up and really into the song when the chorus comes. If you are looking for song to get your energy up, listen to this song.

4. One Thousand Apologies by Demon Hunter

This is more of a sorrowful song, that speaks to people who are in mourning and are sorry for something they have done. The song has a heavy melodic sound that works very well for the lyrical message of the song.  Got to give the vocals credit in this song.  The vocals sound very authentic and carry out the songs message very effectively in a way that will make the listener remember.  

3.  Yahweh by  Stryper

You can't have a Christian Metal list and leave out Styper.  Stryper has proven that they are not just a great Christian Rock Band, but a great metal band.  This is made clear in one of their newer songs called "Yahweh".  This song has a great modern feel to it while also paying tribute to the 80's.  The guitar work gives off an awesome power metal feel while Michael Sweet's vocals continue to sound amazing even after all these years.  Whether you're Christian or not, this is one band you don't want to pass up.

2.  Sing and Shout by Angelica

Angelica is a very underrated band and no song proves that more then Sing and Shout.  It starts out with that awesome guitar riff in the intro and then leads into the energetic, uplifting verse.  Then it leads into the very catchy chorus that makes that truly makes you want to sing and shout for the Lord.  The guitar solo in this song is awesome.  It has a great melodic tone that brings out the best of 80's metal.  It's a shame that this band got started when grunge was already on the rise.  They would have been legends.

1.  Dive by Disciple

Dive is a song that inspirational and is a great metal song.  The lyrics are about rising up to the challenge and overcoming it.  This song is inspirational to anyone in a though spot.  Musically, this is a very catchy song.  The intro to this song hooks you right away and plays a big part in keeping you engaged with the song.  The vocal work is very impressive.  It's energetic, it's real, and you can tell the singer is pouring his heart and soul into the song.  Every time that I need a song to either get me pumped or to listen to when I am down, this is the song. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Arlequin Eclipse Review

Arlequin is interesting band in to me. They have some songs like "Paranoia" that I like, but others I am not a fan of like "Makka Na Uso".  When they keep a song to a specific tone they are great, but sometimes they try to merge tones musically and they don't do it well.  Where songs like "Libra" by Nocturnal Bloodlust  are able to transition between ballad music and heavy metal smoothly, Arlequin has trouble with that in some of their songs. They try to merge metalcore and power ballads together and sometimes they don't merge the two styles well and it leaves you confused.  However, one song I have come to appreciate from this band is their song "Eclipse".

The guitar work in this song is very well done.  With the guitars being tuned down, they have a deep sound that creates a great intro and hooks you into the song.  The verse keeps the energy of the intro going and the melodic vocal work really works with the music and stays true to the tone of the song.  The guitar solo is very good, very melodic.  It isn't anything super technical but it still sounds good and sets up the final portion of the song well.  My only problem with the song musically, is the form of electronic dubstep they have in the intro and at the end of the guitar solo.  While it doesn't ruin the song for me, it seems unnecessary and it doesn't really enhance the music.  If they left it out, the guitar work, the drums, and bass easily have enough to make this song great.  

When it comes to the lyrics this song is a good form of building charisma.  The lyrics are basically  start out about people doubting you and saying you can't do anything.  Then the pre chorus is when you decide not to listen to them. Then the Chorus is you saying your going to rise above.  The lyrics are very well constructed and carry the message very well.  It is uplifting while at the same time addressing hardships you go through in life.  Overall, a great song lyrically.    

As far as I'm concerned, this is one of Arlequin's best songs.  The music is good, the vocals are good, and the lyrics are written well.  The energy is great and it really keeps you engaged in the song from beginning til end.  While the dubstep hinders the song a little bit, it doesn't ruin the song and I still enjoy listening to it.  I give Eclipse a 4 out of 5.  

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Poison Something to Believe In Review

When it comes to Poison in general, I am not a fan of this band.  Most of their songs are not great musically and their lyrics were generic lyrics based on girls and partying. Unlike how most bands of the 80's made up for their easy lyrics with amazing instrumental technique, this band never excelled that far and their music suffered for it.  Their look was also one of the worst looks in hair metal.  While a lot of the bands of the 80's wore make up looked feminine, Poison was the band that took it over the top.  On their album cover for "Look What the Cat Dragged in" they look like full on girls.  However, they did have one song I came to appreciate and give them props on. That song is "Something to Believe In".

The first thing I will say is that Bret Michaels actually sounds good vocally on this song.  He clearly is singing what he feels and it sounds very authentic.  While his vocal style may not work in every song this band does, it works well in this song.  His voice really adds to the sorrowful tone the song is expressing.  The piano is very effective in setting up the song's tone and really is key in carrying the song.  I feel that if the piano wasn't in the song, the song wouldn't be as effective, so that was a good move on the band's part.  However, the one major problem in this song is C.C. Deville's guitar solo. My biggest problem with it is how repetitive it is.  He does a lot of  playing the same note 3 or 4 times in a row and it really sticks out.  It isn't a problem if he did once or twice but he does it many times through out his solo.  He tries to disguise it by bending the note a different way each time he picks it, or he just plays it fast.  However,  he doesn't hide it well and since he does is so much you catch on to it.  He should of either made it shorter and simpler like in White Lion's song "When the Children Cry" or keep it in a more narrow set of notes such as Skid Row's  "I Remember You".  He made the mistake of trying to sound technical when he really wasn't being that technical.  

Where this song really shines is in the lyrics.  It starts off with Bret Michaels singing about a pastor  stealing money, not practicing what he preaches and then transitions into a story about a Vietnam Veteran not being welcomed backed to U.S. after he came home from the war.  He sings about how people treated the Vet badly.  The second verse is really what inspired this whole song.  It is about Poison's manager who had past away and how the band felt about that.  Bret Michaels said that his managers death is what caused him to write this song.  Overall, the lyrics in this song are very deep and the message is about trying to stay positive and finding something to believe in when you are going through rough times. 

This is without a doubt one of Poison's best songs.  While it doesn't change my view on this band overall, I still have to give them credit for this song.  It is deep, it is authentic, it's music really reflects the tone and message well.  C.C. Deville's guitar solo is nothing special and actually hurts the song in my opinion, but even with it I still enjoy listening to this song.  I give "Something to Believe In" a 4 out of 5.  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Breaking Benjamin Diary of Jane Review

Breaking Benjamin is a fairly controversial band among rockers and metal heads.  To some people, they are a decent rock band, while others see them as posers that were just part of a trend.  Whatever you think of the band, they are one of the most successful bands of the 2000's and still have a good career going today.  Where as a lot of other bands of the 2000's have faded, such as Trapt, Three Days Grace, and Seether, Breaking Benjamin has still been able to maintain a decent following.  In my opinion, this band was at their best when they came out with "Diary of Jane". 

Musically, this is one of the heaviest songs of their discography.  It starts out with a soft, slow build up that then breaks out into a heavy, hard hitting intro.  While the instrumental work in this song isn't the most impressive I've ever heard, it is still pretty good.  It has a good energy and the guitar work really hooks you.  Benjamin Burnley's vocals work very well in this song.  His deep voice really works well with the lower tuned guitar and he is able to really carry the song.  One of the things that I consider a flaw in this song is the guitar solo before the bridge.  In my opinion the guitar solo was too short and not a lot was done with it.  It wasn't awful but it was short and not executed to the best it could be.  This isn't a huge fault though and it doesn't kill the song for me musically.  

The songs lyrics are about wanting to be in a relationship.  The message of the song is about someone who is in love with a girl but she is not in love with him.  The entire song is basically telling a story of how this man is trying to win her love even though she is not interested in him.  I must say, that the lyrics of this song are constructed very well.  The phrases are well executed and they have a good flow. Overall, the band did a great job with this song lyrically. 

With good music and lyrics that flow like a story, this is one of the best songs that this band has ever made.  The heavy guitar hooks you and the lyrics are really catchy and tell an interesting story.  While people believe that these guys are not worth paying attention to, they have to at least give them credit for this song.  With "Diary of Jane" they proved that they were a talented band with huge potential, and it explains why they still have appeal today, even though so many other bands of their time have faded.  I give"Diary of Jane" a 4 out of 5. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

3 Things That Can Improve Worship Music

When it comes to Worship Music, there is a lot of good things in it.  The music is energetic, it is uplifting, and it is well written.  I myself play on the worship band at my church once in a while.  However, just like anything else in this world, there is always room for improvement.  I am not writing this to bash or attack Worship Music, I am only giving my thoughts on how it can improve and make a bigger impact.  I would also love to know your thoughts and how you think that Worship Music can improve.  With that, here are 3 things that can improve Worship Music.

1.  Add More Songs To The Mix
Now there is nothing wrong with Hillsong, Jesus Culture, or Elevation Worship as they are talented bands filled with great musicians that make great music.  However, there are also a ton of great Christian artists out there that are just as good as these three bands are.  Bands like Jars of Clay and Switchfoot are very good, and have also made an impact on Christian Music that could really benefit the Church.  Churches should also not be afraid to incorporate different genres as well.  There are plenty of good Christian Rap, Country, and Rock and Metal bands that can really boost a Church musically.  For the record, I am not advocating for the Church to perform Devil Wears Prada or Extol, even though I would give a church props for being bold enough to do that.  I am talking about bands like Stryper, POD, Skillet, and some songs from Disciple and Demon Hunter. Yes, it would be a lot of work but it would be good, because these different genres bring a feel and energy that Hillsong and Elevation Worship don't have.  The last way that Churches can add more songs to their mix is by writing their own songs.  Many Churches all over the world have very talented musicians that can write great songs.  Again, I know it would be a lot of work, but if done right the pay off would be worth it. Each individual church would be unique and that uniqueness would make a bigger impact.  I get that Churches want their identity to be in God and not themselves, which is good and noble, but just by human nature everybody is going to be different, there is no way around that.  As long as their motivation is in the right place and it is not for money, their is nothing wrong with making their own music in my mind.

One Good Example is Jesus Take The Wheel By Carrie Underwood

2.  Increase Stage Enthusiasm
This one varies depending what church you go to or watch.  Some Churches encourage you to get into your performance and have fun with it.  Others stand on stage like statues and don't really give much energy into their performance.  This can be a problem because if you don't appear to be enjoying yourself, then why should your audience?  This also creates a bad impression for people who are attending your church for the first time.  It doesn't give a new person a reason to comeback and even if the pastor is good, the person is never going to forget how dull and lifeless the Worship band was and that will result in someone not choosing the Church.  I also think that big stages and big productions are helpful as well.  Now, some people don't like this because they feel it can be a distraction from God. I do believe that you can go to far, but it takes a lot to get to that point.  If you're setting off fire canisters, that is over the top but big lights and visual projector effects can be effective.  Also, I feel like it depends on the motivation.  If it is about money, people will know and the church will pay for that motivation.  However,  it can really be used to communicate a songs message more effectively and as a result make a bigger impact. 

3.  Don't Be Afraid of Sorrowful and Lamenting Songs
One of the biggest criticisms about Worship Music is that it is all happy music.  Growing up in a Church and watching other churches online, I can understand this criticism.  While I like a lot of the positive, uplifting, God celebrating Worship Songs, I have to admit, that tone takes up about 95% of the songs.  This is a problem for several reasons.  The first problem is that when you sing that message so much, it becomes hollow and loses its meaning.  People don't take it as seriously because they've heard it so much that people become numb to it.  Another problem is that to someone who is not a Christian and doesn't listen to Christian music, it feels fake.  That doesn't mean that the motivations of the musicians are fake or that they are not passionate about the songs. The problem is that when you constantly sing about how happy you are and you are constantly celebrating you come off as unauthentic because no one is that happy all the time.  You will run into problems in life and everyone knows that.
 One of the biggest problems though is that happy music doesn't do anything for people who are in a bad place.  If someone is sad, going through hardships, or questioning their spirituality, happy music won't do much for them because they can't relate to it.  By playing a song about sorrow and mourning, you give that person something to relate to and they feel like someone else understands them.  This gives them comfort in knowing that they are not alone and that other people understand them.  Now, you can argue that it's the pastor's job to acknowledge hardships but I feel that the message sticks better in song.  What I mean is that when you play a song that goes with what the pastor is talking about, the message becomes more clear and sticks with you better.  It reinforces the pastor's message and makes the message more memorable.  Now of course the question comes, what kind of sorrowful songs do you have in mind?
 Some of the best examples that come to mind are songs like, Flood by Jars of Clay, Dive by Disciple, and Going in Blind by POD.  The specific reason I chose these songs is because of how the lyrics are written.  Flood is about feeling like you are drowning and you are calling out to God for help.  Dive is about going through hard times but still having the determination to get through the hard times no matter what.  Going in Blind is about not knowing what to do in hard times and God guiding you back and showing you where to go.  What these all have in common is that they acknowledge people's pain while also giving them hope.  We are admitting that we suffer and go through hard times while at the same time giving hope to those suffering.  It is authentic but not hopeless and that is very powerful. Songs like these can make a certain impact that happy songs cannot and in some ways they resonate better then happy songs.  Now does that mean there is no place for happy music in Worship Music?, of course not.  Celebration is very important as well and should never be ignored.  However, it is just one piece of the puzzle and if the Church leaves out sorrow and mourning, then Worship Music won't make the full impact that it can.