Complete This Phrase: “Everything I Needed to Learn About Life, I Learned…”

Have you ever seen one of those statements, articles, or even books that touts all of life’s lessons being contained in something? Often, it’s some passion someone has, like marathon running, or some show or movie. Sometimes it’s in a relationship or person, whether it’s one with your dog, or a hero/heroine you look up to.

For a future quote to point to some fun references, I’m wondering if you’d mind leaving a comment and completing the phraseย Everything I needed to learn about life, I learned…

You don’t need to explain it if you don’t want to. That would likely be rather long, I would think, because there’s a LOT to learn about life! But if you want to, you go for it.

I’m not going to explain my choice much other than to say, go see it and think hard, over and over again, about all the many things said, situations presented, solutions developed. And also think about all the things not said, or done, but perhaps implied. So my answer is Continue reading

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Should Hollie Steel and Susan Boyle Sing Next on Britain’s Got Talent?

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Hollie Steel

Hollie Steel

Update: May 24 2009 – I got Susan Boyle’s prediction correct! Waiting on Hollie!

Hollie Steel and Susan Boyle both made great use of the surprise element to enhance their dazzling auditions on Britain’s Got Talent to stratospheric levels. Hollie started off dancing, dressed in a ballerina outfit before she opened her mouth the blast away everybody with her stunning singing. Susan Boyle, meanwhile, looked “frumpy” and over the hill, incapable of having such a polished voice since nothing else about her said “polished”.

But now, we’re getting ready for the next round and those elements of surprise are gone. People will be expecting great performances out of both. What should they each sing to get them the edge over the other?

Simple answer, in terms of concept, if you ask me. Difficult as heck of an answer, in terms of details, if you ask me.

I think they should both sing something which demonstrate the strengths in their vocal abilities, as well as show us a new element of their singing and/or character to add a little surprise. That is, keep the same formula as much as you can. But without both elements, the expectations of another great song would just be too great for either to fully satisfy now that people have an idea of how great their voices are.

There are many songs that suit the strength criteria, with all of breadth, power, great lyrics and such. A British crowd pleaser would certainly be a bonus. Susan’s strength is seriousness and grandeur. We heard her sing I Dreamed a Dream that was slow, with notes held long and several grand flourishes. Hollie, meanwhile, has more dexterity and range in her voice, singing a suitably playful and light I Could Have Danced All Night to suit her girlish looks.

That said about both Susan and Hollie, what might they be able to surprise us with, then? Well, I find it hard to imagine Susan doing most fun number convincingly. She might look like a granny, for example, but can you imagine her singing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins, for example?

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The best I can imagine Susan to do for fun is Honey Bun from South Pacific, like Reba McEntire does below, hip twisting and all as Susan showed she could do in audition intro to Simon Cowell while saying “and that’s just one side of me” that drew quite the reaction from the crowd. Susan would never win on that number, but it’d be hilarious and I’d pay a lot to see it!

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Susan might do well in the style of fun if she were to choose something like A Wonderful Guy from South Pacific. It’s the prototypical fun song for the “frump next door”. Hahaha. I can’t believe I just came up with that! Frump next door. That’s my new affectionate nickname for Susan. Anyway, Susan can even seduce the judges with this song by dedicating it to, say, Piers Morgan, who had asked her on a date to apologize for his cynicism of her abilities on the show and she had accepted. I don’t think Simon Cowell would fall for it, though. It’s all in the lyrics so listen carefully! Brilliant choice for Susan, in my opinion. But, alas, can’t you also imagine how cute little Hollie would be doing something like this??? Susan would be beaten at her own song, even if Hollie could not try to seduce any of the judges with it like Susan could given her age.

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Hollie, meanwhile, I think could go serious in any number of ways while still retaining her childish charm. That is, she could be on Susan’s turf and still keep her identity in all this. What if Hollie stepped out and did the Liverpool soccer team favourite of You’ll Never Walk Alone, in the style Sissel does below with the ravishing surprise ending? I think they’d go nuts for her! Susan couldn’t hit that note, but wouldn’t sound all that unique or special if she were to sing it, even though she’d sing it well.

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Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle

I thought about Josh Groban‘s You Raise Me Up, but that was recently done by former BGT super contestant Connie Talbot. It was outside of BGT at the age of 8, and as much better as Hollie would be able to do it, it’d be too close in time for comparisons. I think if Hollie were to really dazzle, she’d sing For Good, from Wicked. It’s one of my favourite 10 songs, and so thoughtful a song it’d be the one I’d play at my funeral to share a last thought if I could only have one song. Turns out, it might also be one of Hollie’s favourites as Hollie had said on the Today Show that she would love to sing in Wicked in London’s West End! She might well do this song! I only found out in trying to find hints Hollie might have given for her next song and saw she was thinking something similar, if not the same thing. Imagine that! I might just get my wish, and wouldn’t that just be Wicked? Listen to the lyrics in this duet version that I’ve heard interpreted solo before, and imagine a 10 year old singing that to you! I think I’ll need to Kleenex to sponsor me for that one! Ironically, Susan might be old and more suited to give this kind of advice, but she just wouldn’t move me the same way Hollie would. Not even close!

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So what’s Susan to do then, if going fun isn’t suitable for her? I say stick to the powerhouse classics. Maybe she could try one sung by her idol Elaine Page? There’s an emotion filled rendition of Memory from Cats below by Elaine. If Susan could do it with that much emotion, given her voice and less polished look to look like a character who might say those lines, and add in a few growls, it’d be stunning! Even better, I’d love to see Susan sing it in costume! She’d be quite the cat! A “little tiger”, as Simon Cowell called her during her audition on Britain’s Got Talent… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Of course, if Hollie showed up in a little cat outfit, everybody would all be melting over how cute she would be! And even if the audience could immediately predict she’d be singing Memory upon seeing her in her cat suit, I think the voice power and the image of a little girl pouring out such maturity would confound them and dazzle them enough to stun them like Susan could not.

Ah, let’s face it. I’m convinced Hollie Steel will win Britain’s Got Talent 2009, even if the odds are not with me. But whatever Susan and Hollie come up with, though, I’m sure it’ll be good and frankly, I can’t wait! When is that next round anyway?

What would you suggest Hollie Steel and Susan Boyle sing next on Britain’s Got Talent?

By the way, WordPress just enabled videos in Comments. I don’t know how it works yet but if you want to try, see if you can make it work with a video to illustrate your choice of song/s!

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 7.5

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