Great Love Songs #1 to #7 for February Facebook Meme

In late January, I proposed a Facebook meme to share a love song a day for February that contains Valentine’s Day. Here are the first seven songs of my list and some short commentary with each.

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Favourite Songs I Heard for the First Time in 2009

What were your favourite pieces of music that you heard for the first time last year?

I don’t necessarily mean music that came out last year, just that you heard it for the first time last year because it was new to you. If you care to share, you can put it in the comments following the post. I’d love to know to expand my musical horizons.

Below are a list of favourite songs I heard for the first time in 2009, enough that would fit on CD were I to have made one. Most were from musicals as I really got into them in 2009 after my classic jazz year in 2008. A few were one-off takes on television events, though, so I’ll start with one that was both. It was available on YouTube like most of my selections so I have included the videos to have the music right here for you. I also linked the songs to blog posts I did inspired by them, where I did one.

Someone Like You

from Jekyll & Hyde
Linda Eder & Frank Wildhorn on 2000 PBS Special
Linda Eder delivers a loving performance of this gorgeous song with touching lyrics, accompanied by husband Frank Wildhorn, who had composed the song. (blog post)

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If You Were Gay

from Avenue Q
Rick Lyon and John Tartaglia

Love and humour, not just in song but also video spoof. (blog post)

The Internet is for Porn

from Avenue Q
Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Rick Lyon & the Guys
Possibly the funniest song I have ever heard! (blog post)

Mix Tape

from Avenue Q
Stephanie D’Abruzzo and John Tartaglia

A song that dragged my emotions up and down, enhanced by Stephanie’s nuances of acting while singing this song. (blog post)

As Long as You’re Mine

from Wicked
Idina Menzel and Norbert Leo Butz
An often overlooked song from Wicked that I only heard once I saw the musical, rather than hearing the more popular songs from it. However, I loved it immediately, especially the soft-spoken ending.

Academy Awards 2009 Introduction

Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway
This number was both brilliant and unexpected in being clever, funny and spectacularly performed. My intro to the full talents of Hugh Jackman. (blog post)

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Monologue Song

from Saturday Night Live November 7, 2009
Taylor Swift

How to trash everybody you want to with class and humour while being really cute about it. (blog post)

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Dark Eyes

by Bob Dylan
Judy Collins
Judy Collins gives this sad Dylan song a haunting rendition. (blog post)

Better Angels

Lesley Gore
The original It’s My Party girl seriously grows up with this beautiful tune I first heard on CSI Miami (compilation video of episode shown below).

I Got a Feeling

Black Eyed Peas
Just an awesome dance song, ’nuff said cause I’m getting dancing! Best 2009 song in my opinion. (I chose the flash mob version shown on Oprah for the video cause it’s also so awesome!)

Wake-up

The Arcade Fire
I heard this song via the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are and thought they had made a pretty good choice for a theme song.

The Closest Thing to Crazy

by Mike Batt
Katie Melua
Pretty much describes what feeling in love feels like to me. (blog post)

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Gayla Peevey
I heard it on a Telus commercial and loved it immediately, a bit surprised I had never heard this 1950s seasonal classic until now. (blog post)

You’ve Gotta Have a Gimmick

from There’s No Business Like Show Business
Bernadette Peters, Julia McKenzie, Ruthie Henshall
This is probably the ultimate example of my claim that girls have all the fun songs in musicals, and the video only emphasizes the point.

Married

from Cabaret
Ron Rifkin, Michelle Pawk
A charming little song about marriage. A compact version is shown below.

Mystery

performed on the show Inside the Actor’s Studio
Hugh Laurie
A hilarious and charming example of how lyric writing sometimes feels like to me, trying to find desperate rhymes and more desperate words that conform with desperate rhymes. (blog post)

Love, Look in my Window

from Hello Dolly!
Ethel Merman

There isn’t a video for this one but the piece was written for Ethel Merman when she joined Hello Dolly! If you hear her perform it with the emotions she does, you’ll know why it was written for her. I can hardly keep from crying at points in it. Probably good I don’t have the music for that reason!

I Need 2 Go 2 NY CT 2 C Avenue Q

avenueq1I owe this post to my friend Holly Bartlett, who told me about the 2003 Tony Award Musical of the Year called Avenue Q. The musical’s content that is talked about here, though, has serious potentially offensive content so this is your one and only warning. If you don’t have an edgy sense of humour, please don’t read on. There are plenty of other good things to read about on this blog.

I’ve liked Broadway and musicals for a long time now, but I was and still am quite “old skool” at it, loving the Rodgers & Hammerstein stuff. I have heard of, and love, some more modern stuff like Chicago, Wicked and Jekyll & Hyde. However, I need to pay closer attention to what Broadway is putting out each year if they’ve got stuff which doesn’t get a lot of attention as some of their other shows, but still is great, like Avenue Q.

Avenue Q is a modern Sesame Street parody of similar characters trying to find a purpose in life when things aren’t going so well in adulthood after college. I can’t write a better plot summary than Wikipedia so I won’t try, but I like the description by one of its actors of “Sesame Street done South Park“. The show features a neat visual of real characters and puppets with their masters visible, something I’d like to try and learn one day for fun, and some seriously edgy humour and content.

Below is a medley of some songs in it, played for the Queen of England at the Royal Variety Performance, no less! That’s the one contestants on Britain’s Got Talent were vying to be a part of. So despite Avenue Q‘s potentially offensive content, the Royals proved they could handle it. Good on them!


The actual full musical has swearing in it, all kinds of soft and hard innuendos, even nude puppet sex! Other than songs like It Sucks to Be Me [lyrics] shown as part of a medley above, you also have songs (links are to lyrics) like

With a list of songs with titles like that, and others, better lyrics and even better music, who could resist seeing a show like this?

Ah, but it gets better with the Web and user-generated content. The Sesame Street parody has generated a whole bunch of parody Sesame Street videos of this musical, like the one below which I found just hilarious! The music is the actual music from the musical. Someone just adapted video for it from Sesame Street clips.


There are also versions with everything from Sponge Bob to The Mutant Teenage Ninja Turtles to Disney cartoons! A whole night’s worth of humour from clicking on video responses to each of these videos!

And then there’s If You Were Gay with Bert and Ernie, my favourite characters on Sesame Street who were parodied to be gay in 1997. Avenue Q ran with this to put it into its story with its equivalent characters to Ernie and Bert. So someone then had to have made the parody video with the original music and Sesame Street video clips of Bert and Ernie.


Other songs have parody videos, too!

But in all fairness to Avenue Q, it addresses many tough issues of today like homosexuality, pornography and racism.


If you can’t stomach edgy humour and content, then this show would not be for you. You would not be normal in this, though, because this show is the 21st longest running show in Broadway history at the time of this writing (Jun 11 2009).

As for me, I have never visited New York City, but this might be enough impetus to get me there for a visit and viewing! Before I go, though, I’ve saved the best number, in my humble opinion, for last. Mix Tape isn’t outrageous or anything, aside from a few words, but it is funny. The best part of it is how well it was sung on the recording, shown in the “video” below. There’s actually no “video”, just an image, so read on and listen for all the little things mentioned to listen for.

Julie Atherton, played Kate Monster and sang Mix Tape. She also plays a very different character of Lucy the Slut in the same show (see London performance 2nd from top). But for Mix Tape, Julie had my emotions like a yo-yo on a string with all the nuances she puts into singing the lyrics that also goes up and down emotionally like a roller coaster. Julie acts the song through her singing, basically. All the little gasps, squeaks, sighs, inflections and such not written into the score, and especially how giddily she said he likes me! at the end. Credits to the songwriter/s as well for such a great tune, but I’ve heard so many bad renditions on YouTube, and in singing songs otherwise, that the performer gets huge kudos here. It might possibly the best example of how to perform a song I have ever heard! I mean that for all those nuances, not some booming grand voice sort of best sung description, but that’s the tougher accolades to be getting, in my books. If you were to ask me how I liked that recording, I’d say I love it! pretty much the way Julie squeaks he likes me! at the end of the song! 🙂

Post-scriptum:

It is almost a year later from when I first posted this, now May 31 2010, and how things have changed. Sadly, it’s not been for the good, but I want to make mention as a dedication. I did just get to see Avenue Q a week ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I watched it in memory of my friend Holly who had since passed away. I will always remember her for introducing me to this play, among many other reasons. Then, just a few days ago, Gary Coleman died on May 28. The show just wouldn’t be the same knowing he isn’t in the real world any more. I wonder how they’re handling the situation, but I’m glad I got to see Avenue Q without this circumstance surrounding it as it wouldn’t have felt the same for me.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 8.3

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What’s Your Song of Religion? (Part 5 of 7 on the World in Six Songs)

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Book and Theory Background

Daniel J. Levitin wrote an absolutely brilliant book called The World in Six Songs, supported by a great website with the many music samples referenced, among other great related material.

My basic paraphrasing of the concept is this. All the songs in the world could be fit into at least one of six categories providing an evolutionary benefit to humanity, often ultimately tied to our social nature.

The book and website offer far more detailed interpretations, of course, but I will expand on my paraphrasing with each post and the associated topic.

Daniel J. Levitin and The World in Six SongsIn a series of posts, I will describe each of the six categories in brief, one at a time:

  1. Friendship
  2. Joy
  3. Comfort
  4. Knowledge
  5. Religion
  6. Love

I will describe what the categories are about because they are not as limited in scope as the category names suggest. I will then supply one of my choices and ask all readers to do the same if they so wish. In the seventh post of the series, I will offer the chance to put the song choices all together so readers can read the entire set on one post. I do this because it would be a long post to describe all six categories at once, but to have all the answers in one place might be nice.

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This post focuses on Songs of Religion

July 30th add-on in italics, from Dan Levitin in a summary article
Religious ceremonies and ritual go hand in hand, with music frequently accompanying a ritual. Music acts as a retrieval mechanism to guide the movements and words of a particular ritual, and ritual can allow people to stop worrying and focus on the task at hand. Music is also tied to religious ceremonies such as weddings and funerals where acts can be performed as a community, providing social bonding.

Songs of religion are not simply songs about religion. In fact, the songs of knowledge post showed how the Oral Torah was really a song of knowledge, not religion, even if its lyrics were all about religion. Songs of religion are really ritual songs intended to give meaning to something greater than just the subject itself. Furthermore, this meaning is attached to a belief system that establishes some sort of “social” order, both, less and more than us. It is this search for meaning, a self-conscious act of awareness on our part, for our place in this order which truly separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. However, it is what we embrace in this search, in turn, that has benefited us in evolution.

In our search for something greater that is part of our religious beliefs, we embrace sets of rituals that exist in all religions. Religion gives meaning to these rituals that have little meaning on their own otherwise. Just look at rituals in religions foreign to you and see how you feel about them compared to those in your own. However, those not familiar with your religion would have no different overall reactions to rituals in your religion. Pages 194-195 has a great list of 11 rituals universal to all religions, though, which is an absolutely fascinating read!

Now, the rituals of religion come in two flavours: self-rituals and group rituals. Self-rituals tend to be of the type which promotes survival, like not murdering others or coveting their mates which could cause conflict among us that is not good for survival. Rituals also mean the actions get repeated, which helps survival if all the actions were good for survival. As for religion’s role, religion gives self-ritual self-meaning, like what it could mean for someone in their current and/or afterlife. Religion also monitors external and internal states for danger in guiding rituals to be done at various times throughout life.

Like it does for self-rituals, religion gives group rituals group meaning and monitors internal and external states to the group. This is the more important benefit to evolution when compared to the self. This is because group rituals promote group activities, which not only protect us from ourselves but also from other factors of harm to us, and better than individuals could do alone. Group rituals are essential to religion because one cannot find a place within a greater social order if there were no one or nothing else around oneself to create this social order.

Finally, all rituals, with their meanings given by religion, are intended to reduce ambiguity in life by changing the state of the world into something more exacting. It also lets us move on with our lives with the direction given so we don’t subject ourselves to situations not beneficial to our survival.

At this point, I would like to insert a note to say that while the general big picture descriptions of religion described in the World in Six Songs are beneficial to evolution, when it comes to the main organized religions in human history, I’m not sure I would concur. I think modern organized religions have become so warped from the spirit of religion’s concept I would debate whether it has had net benefit on humanity or net hindrance. Ironically, this has been since we supposedly have become “civilized”. So much wrong has been done in the name of organized religion, or hidden by it, that I really do think we could do better without it. I think we’d be better off if we only embraced religion in its intent rather than its meanings that it often has no business giving. Organized religion is just a pretense to guide us as if those leading it knew what were happening when they have no idea.

Songs associated with rituals mean there is a time and a place for songs of religion, with consequences. Thus, funeral and wedding marches count, but not national anthems or Christmas carols. There are places and times for national anthems, football fight songs and Christmas carols when you could break out in one or the other, and there wouldn’t be much problem. Try the same with funeral or wedding marches, especially the former, and there might well be. Children’s songs where participants move parts of their body selectively also count as songs of religion because of their ritualistic nature. This practice to develop motor coordination through repetition when we are young and learning is also of benefit to us evolutionally. Finally, gospel songs are religious songs, and it was mentioned that Dan Dennett had suggested that atheists should have pro science gospel songs as atheism doesn’t have gospel religious songs — a thought I, both, like and found tremendously amusing.

Audio sample of songs from the Religion chapter in The World in Six Songs can be found on the website. No direct link was available, but click on the Songs menu option and appropriate page number range link carrying pages 189 to 228. Please note that not all songs are meant as samples of Religion songs. Some are just referenced material in the book text.

Overall, I found this chapter on songs of religion to be very profound and deep, as it should be considering the subject matter. Despite the long post, I have only touched upon the many things Daniel Levitin touched upon for which there is much to think about each.

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Author Daniel Levitin chose

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My choice for Song of Religion is

Lacrymosa , by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from his incomplete Requiem (funeral music), K. 626, that is magnificent from beginning to end.

It seems the current opinion is that only the first 8 bars were actually written by Mozart, with the rest under instruction for completion. However, listening to it, sounds like the instructions were pretty complete to me.

I have had the pleasure to sing this piece in choir and, well, let’s just say when you hear this piece with all the parts around you, singing one part, that’s when you really “get” the genius of Mozart.

I have also heard this version sung whereby the choir stopped at where it was thought Mozart stopped composing (I believed that version was about 8 bars into the vocal section), and they just stopped dead and walked off. It was so moving, the reminder that Fate doesn’t care for what we do and stops where it wants, that I cried in realizing the finality of it all.

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Frederic Chopin’s Funeral March, from his Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, also works well. This version is by Vladimir Horowitz. Masterful!
(the music, not video which is just black which might be appropriate but boring as heck)

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Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu from his Requiem is also a favourite of mine. I have also sung this in choir. Sissel Kyrkjebø does a beautiful job here!

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I don’t know what to say about all the funeral music selections here. I LOVE classical funeral music for some reason. It gives me such peace and lets me focus incredibly well. I especially like writing anything I need to focus and be concise on to it. Obviously, I don’t blog to it. :-)

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What is your choice for Song of Religion?

Please leave your choice as a comment.

Lyrics and YouTube/audio link would greatly enhance your answer so readers can know more about your choice. They are not necessary, though, and not possible if no lyrics or version exist.

You can include songs you wrote as a choice, too!

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 10.7