CMT Crossroads Taylor Swift & Def Leppard (1998) / RED Taylor Swift (2012)

Once fine day, I saw a video clip posted by one of the Google+ users featuring Taylor Swift and Def Leppard performing Hysteria.  That electrifying performance is tantalizing in so many different ways.  First, as a huge fan of Def Leppard, to be able to see them perform live at this age, I mean, these guys still have it.  They still rock.  Later on, I read that Taylor Swift did this Crossroads collaboration partly because her mother is a big fan of Def Lepard.  That is kind of sweet of her.  Second, as you may have already known, I am a mega fan of Taylor Swift.  I am keen to see what the outcome of this collaboration would be, between a classic band like Def Leppard and a successful young female artist Taylor Swift one generation apart whereby the only commonality is the pop genre.

The main presentation has a total of eight songs.  Four tracks are from Def Lappard namely Photograph, Hysteria, When Love & Hate Collide, and Pour Some Sugar on Me.  Another four are Taylor Swift’s Picture to Burn, Love Story, Teardrops on My Guitar, and Should’ve Said No.  In addition, as bonus materials, there are three more tracks: Love, Our Song, and the all acoustic Two steps behind.

All the songs are nicely done.  Joe Elliott and Taylor Swift duet on each other’s songs.  Two bands are merged, very much like jamming on stage.  While I love all the tracks on this recording, When Love & Hate Collide and Teardrops on My Guitar stand out as my favorite tracks.  Interlaced onto the live performance is a set of interview that lends insight on the musical journey of both artists.  What a gem this DVD is.

RED

I wasn’t too sure if I would love Taylor Swift’s fourth album RED.  But I have a high level of anticipation nonetheless.  I like her country root.  Over the year, she seems to have spilled over to the pop genre.  When We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together first debuted on Google Hangout, I wasn’t sure what to make out of it.  That song does grow on me over time, like the rest of RED.  One good thing about her experimental journey in collaborating with other artists such as Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol is that it shows a different side of her.  A sign of growth and maturity, which in turn influences her own production.

My favorite tracks though as the ones written by her in entirety.  As well as All Too Well that is co-written with Liz Rose.  The Liz Rose and Taylor Swift collaboration has produced 16 songs including White Horse, Teardrops on My Guitar, and You Belong with Me.  I am hoping for more like these in the future.

Has anyone managed to crack the codes in her lyrics by picking out all the oddly capitalized letters?  I have tried but have given up.

Jewel – Sweet And Wild – The Title Says It All

If I could hand out album of the year award, I would seriously consider Jewel’s “Sweet and Wild” as one of the nominees.  That is based on the 8,000 songs I have downloaded over one year (thank you Nokia).  If you have heard Jewel singing live – which I did when I was working in Malaysia – you would agree that she sounds even better in front of the audience than her recorded album.  Her 1995 album “Pieces Of Me” thrills me.  More so, the inspiring story of her touring all over America to promote her album.  While her initial debut did not take off, her re-release of the same album has made history.  I also like her subsequent releases up to “0304” when she has totally lost me with her pop approach.  Thereafter, although I am still following her music career, the albums do not quite hit my spot.  Then comes “Sweet and Wild”.

Jewel remains strong, lyrically.  Take the last track “Satisfied” as an example (check out the video at the end of this post).

If you love somebody, you better let it out.  Don’t hold it back while you’re trying to figure it out.  Don’t be timid, don’t be afraid to hurt.  Run toward the flame, run toward the fire.  Hold on for all your worth cause the only real pain a heart can ever know is the sorrow of regret when you don’t let your feelings show.

The beauty of this song – besides its melody – is that she goes on with how to love and ultimately feel satisfied.

“Sweet and Wild” contains some emotionally desperate songs, like the dramatic opening track “No Good In Goodbye” that demonstrates her brilliant vocal capability.  That track is almost as sad as some of the songs in her debut.  But the crying sound is no more, which is more pleasing to the heart (l did not notice how much she used the crying sound until lately when I listened to her debut again).  Majority of her album are tracks that are so sweet that I cannot stop smiling listening to them.  Tracks such as “I Love You Forever” and “Stay Here Forever”.  I would suppose these are the songs inspired by her recent marriage.  There is even a song on a couple having a row that surprisingly, it sounds absolutely sweet.  Check out the lyrics excerpt for the song “Ten” on her stopping and counting to ten before leaving after a fight.  I am sure most of you who are or have been in a relationship would be able to relate.

One, I still wanna hate you.  Two, three, I still wanna leave.  Four, searching for that door.  Five, then I look into your eyes.  Six, take a deep breathe.  Seven, take a step back.  Eight, nine, I don’t know why, we even started this fight.  By the time I get to ten, I’m right back in your arms again.

And to sweeten the song, like the 10 things I love and hate about you, here is the answer to the emotion above when she counts her blessing because one could lose what one is not thankful for.  Lyrically, I think it is beautiful.  So is the song.

One, you still move me.  Two, three, you send chills right through me.  Four, you keep me wanted more.  Five, when I look into your eye.  Six, you’re my best friend.  Seven, that will never end.  Eight, nine, I don’t know why, but thank God it happens every-time.  By the time I get to ten, I can see how bless I’ve been.

“Sweet And Wild” – like most of her previous albums – is leaning towards pop than country.  It is not a powerhouse country pop album like others who do well in the chart.  But it is quite likely one of the sweetest and most accessible Jewel albums I have come across for quite some time and I fall in love with all the tracks in this album.

Lisa Ekdahl – Give Me That Slow Knowing Smile – It’s Simply Heavenly Beautiful

Lisa Ekdahl

I would love to give her that slow knowing smile and make her say hey, hey, hey, hey.  And we would say oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.  Just like her song.  From the whistling in the beginning of “Give Me That Slow Knowing Smile”, the simple repetitive chords of an acoustic guitar and the harmonizing bass line, the gentle entrance of Lisa Ekdahl’s feather like voice, to the subtle drums and electric guitar strumming and solo that is not overpowering yet making the song interesting, you know “Give Me That Slow Knowing Smile” will haunt you for a long time, in a good way.  The new album from the Swedish singer and songwriter Lisa Ekdahl has this element of dreaminess and simplicity that works well with her unique child-like vocals.  To be honest, I could not get into her previous Swedish release “Pärlor Av Glas (Pearls of Glass)”.  The style of that album is too different from the Lisa Ekdahl I have come to know.

I enjoy listening to her old album “Sings Salvadore Poe” of jazz and bossa nova written by her husband.  I think “When Did You Leave Heaven” and “Heaven Earth & Beyond” are two of my all time favorite records of hers.  Some may critize the suitability of Lisa’s child-like voice for the jazz genre.  But just take a listen to her rendition of “Cry Me A River”, “The Color Of You”, and “When Did You Leave Heaven”, you would simply want more.  But more doesn’t seem to arrive, yet.

This new album I would classify under pop-folk.  Entirely written by Lisa Ekdahl, the lyrics are as heavenly light as the music delivery.  The opening line in the form of chorus for “The World Keeps Turning” is captivating: The world keeps turning we can’t change its course.  What I can’t hold by love, I won’t hold by force.  The world keeps turning beyond our control.  What I can’t hold by love, I won’t hold at all.  It turns out to be a dreamy love story, strengthen by the symbolic images of a running lover invoked by the lyrics.  Another song of my faovrite is “One Life” when she sings, “All of us came in through the same door … all of us will very soon be leaving.  We were brought here soon we will depart.”  And the one face that she keeps referring to turns out to be the face of God.  Simply beautiful, in a heavenly way.

A short album of 36 minutes and below is a live video clip of the opening track “Give Me That Slow Knowing Smile”.  For those who purchase the CD, it comes with Opendisc technology that allows you to access to her commentaries, interviews, and videos online.

Taylor Swift – Fearless – Less of Country and More of Pop This Time

Taylor Swift, Fearless

It is easy to forget that onto the second album, Taylor Swift is only 19 years old.  17 when she first released her debut that in my previous review, I have strong belief in her potential.  In 2006, she topped the US Country chart while attaining a 5th on the US Billboard 200.  “Fearless” topped all the major charts in US and Canada, which comes as a surprise to me in some sense, not a surprise in another.

Personally I prefer her debut “Taylor Swift” to “Fearless”.  I am in love with the song “Teardrops On My Guitar” and “Tim McGraw”.  The lyrics of her previous album are more emotional, the country ambiance blends well with her young sweet voice.  Her level of maturity exhibited in “Taylor Swift” fools me in believing that she is older than what she seems.  In “Fearless”,  the country sound is much toned down and her song topics while still evolve around love relationship of a young girl now go into the hearts of the mid teens such as the song “Fifteen”.

“Fearless” is a pleasant album to listen to.  No, there is no “Teardrops On My Guitar”.  What comes close, to me, is “You’re Not Sorry”.  Needless to say, the country-heavy upbeat “You Belong With Me” is another favorite track.  “Fearless” is a pop album with a tint of country flavor.  Taylor Swift may have overstretched her voice in some parts of the song and perhaps, it is this sense of genuine approach that draws the crowd.  It takes three consecutive solid albums – in my book – to have me converted into a loyal fan.  And I have high hope for her next album.

Speaking as such, in the name of Country, I have high hope for Carrie Underwood‘s third album too.  Below is the official video of one of Taylor Swift’s singles from this new album, “Love Story”.

Best of Olivia Ong – Didn’t Know That She Is a Singaporean Singer, Gasp!

I may as well be the last Singaporean on earth to have heard of Olivia Ong.  You know what it is like when you turn on your radio and people would ask, “Who’s that singer”?  I got that a lot (from non-Singaporeans) when I put on Olivia’s compilation album, in a positive way.

I confess that I am not that into local music talents.  “Best Of” is my second Singaporean CD (read on to see what the first one is!) and I couldn’t resist such a crisp, soothing, and seemingly innocent voice.  Who’s that girl?!

You may have already known how much I am not into cover music, set aside oldies (I was however in love with oldies when I was really young, when MJ and Madonna ruled the chart).  There isn’t much musical arrangement in her tracks, simple and sparse, but yet some of the songs captivate me.  Seriously, if I have a friend who can sing like Olivia, I wouldn’t mind hearing her sings every day.  And if someone has a voice like Olivia, it really doesn’t matter how simplistic the music is.  Though it wouldn’t hurt if her further releases raise the level of sophistication in terms of music arrangement as well as perhaps to add more soul into the songs.  Totally head to the Jazz direction and I could be a huge fan.

When I first listened to the opening track of “Best Of”, I thought Olivia is a Japanese.  Half of “Sweet Memories” is in Japanese and I happen to like that a lot.  Not sure about the authenticity of the pronunciation.  But she sounds convincing enough to me.  If you are a native Japanese, please tell me how off my observation is.  Olivia is also the only Singaporean who is entering into the Japanese music scene.  Impressive.

I love Simply Red‘s “For Your Babies” and her interpretation works for me.  Probably one of the strong reason why I bought this album together with that half-Japanese-half-English song originally by Akiko Kobayashi (小林明子) called “Fall In Love”.  And for some unknown reasons, I also love the upbeat and playful Jazz-feel track “Feelin So Good”.  Does that bonus half-Chinese-half-English song “Butterfly” sound like a good old Shirley Wong (later known as Faye Wong) song?  Certainly to me.

Now, back to the first Singaporean CD I have bought, it was recorded by Min Lee the classical violinist quite a number of years ago.  I just realized that Min Lee has released her second album.  I hope I can find it in a store nearby.  Time to lend the local industry some support!

Update 07.01.2009

Since Oct, 2008, there has been lots of comments and keen inquiry on Olivia Ong.  First of all, thanks for dropping by.  Also through this blog entry, I managed to get in touch with one of her band O2Q member Alvin.  And he has shared one set of the videos on their recent live performance in Singapore.  Do check them out.  Hope you enjoy as much as I do.  The band is very professional too.  Great stuff.

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