Beyonce- Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)

Quality: 4

Clean: 3.5

Genre: R&B, pop

single

Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) is Beyonce’s second single from her album I Am Sasha Fierce. On first listen the music and lyrics converge to create an empowering go-girl kind of message. The beats are heavy and strong, as if Beyonce is shaking a finger in your face. Very danceable and fun, the music is also somehow feminine as if not to separate Beyonce’s power from her female-ness. Have you ever seen the 80’s movie Xanadu? There is a moment in the film where Olivia Newton-John emerges from another realm into our human world. All decked out  in crazy 80’s hair and makeup, her power and beauty do not belong on Earth…the same other-worldly 80’s sound effects are in Single Ladies, signifying that Beyonce too is too much for this world. Lyrics also reinforce the message. I love the way the song begins. Beyonce calls out: All the Single Ladies, all the single ladies, saying: Step UP!! Be strong, you are strong! The chorus is also great: If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it…oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh, telling all the dead-beat boyfriends in the world that there will be no more taking advantage, no more wasting of time. That all the single ladies are not going to be satisfied with less than what is deserved, which of course is the love, respect and commitment that an engagement/wedding ring symbolizes. I like this message. I wish more of my single friends would not compromise for a man. I wish they knew that they are beautiful and capable without one and that they are worth waiting for. They don’t need to change who they are when they meet someone, nor do they need to lower their standards. I love Beyonce for this message.

On consecutive listens however I start hearing other parts to the lyrics. Imagine the situation: you’ve been with a guy for three years, but instead of him proposing like you had hoped, he dumps you. Of course you are devastated and cry your eyes out. But now you are starting to recover and need some validation. Are you really worthless like he said?  So you go clubbing with your girlfriends. You dress to kill and receive lots of attention from the men-folk. They think you are hot and it feels good. So you dance with provocatively with them, and you receive the attention you wanted. Your ex is even there and he’s jealous because he knows you look good. This feels even better. Your confidence is restored and you feel like a woman again.

My problem with the picture painted above is that confidence is restored not because of the content of her character but because of her body.  Every woman wants to know that she is beautiful but it should not be the source of her total self-worth. When the first thing men notice about you is your body, they sometimes aren’t interested in getting to know the rest of you. They may spend time with you but they are really spending time with your body. Beyonce even underscores this when she sings, “if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it.” Why didn’t she use the word “me”? because she was referring to her body. This might have been the problem with her prior boyfriend.

Overall I think this song is fine. Its catchy and the message is mostly positive but the details are a little shady.

Lyrics:

All the Single Ladies, all the single ladies
Now put your hands up

Up in the club, just broke up
I’m doing my own little thing
Decided to dip, now you gonna trip, another brother noticed me
I’m up on him, he up on me, don’t pay him any attention
Cause I cried my tears, gave him three good years, can’t be mad at me

If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it…oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Don’t be mad once you see that he want it
If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it…oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

I got gloss on my lips
A man on my hips
Got me tighter in my Dereon jeans
Acting up, breaking my cup
I can care less what you think
I need no permission, did I mention, don’t pay him any attention
Cause you had your turn, now you gonna learn, what it really feels like to miss me

If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it (repeat)
Don’t be mad once you see that he want it

Don’t treat me to these things of the world
I’m not that kinda girl
Your love is what I prefer, what I deserve
Here’s a man that makes me, then takes me, and delivers me to a destiny to infinity and beyond
Pull me into your arms
Say I’m the one you want
If you don’t then, you’ll be alone, and like a ghost I’ll be gone

All the Single Ladies, all the single ladies
Now put your hands up
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it
Don’t be mad when you see that he want it
If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it

Owl City- Fireflies

Quality: 3.5

Clean: 4

Genre: electronic, bubblegum synth-pop

owl city

I heard Fireflies on the radio which seemed a little out of place. Living in a somewhat rural area, all of the radio stations are either Country, Christian or Ryan Seacrest. Ryan of course only plays the most popular, never anything different or interesting.  You know how it goes: mostly R&B, some Miley, Lady Gaga and once in a while a generic alternative song.  Owl City doesn’t fit those molds.  Electronic beats, and lyrics not about dancing or baby-making, I found the song refreshing. Given, I haven’t been up with the latest Indie releases, I haven’t prowled the internet for interesting and new music for about ten months. My music canvas has been mostly blank so Fireflies was like an invitation to listen to music again.

The lyrics are cute, puzzling and peppy. Falling asleep, or not being able to, and that funny line between the two states of being where reality is blurred seems to be the topic, though it is not clear. Although I’m not exactly sure what he is talking about, I don’t mind because its different and unexpected.

You would not believe your eyes if ten-million fireflies lit up the world as I fell asleep,
Cause they fill the open air, and leave tear drops everywhere,
You’d think me rude but I would just stand and stare.
I’d like to make myself believe that planet Earth turns slowly,
Its hard to say that I’d rather stay awake when I’m asleep,
Cause everything is never as it seems.
Cause I’d get a thousand hugs from ten-thousand lightning bugs as they try to teach me how to dance,
A fox-trot above my head, a sock-hop beneath my bed,
A disco ball is just hanging by a thread.
I’d like to make myself believe that planet Earth turns slowly,
Its hard to say I’d rather stay awake when I’m asleep,
Cause everything is never as it seems.
Leave my door open just a crack (please take me away from here)
Cause I feel like such an insomniac (please take me away from here)
Why do I tire of counting sheep (please take me away from here)
When I’m far too tired to fall sleep.
Ten-thousand fireflies, I’m weird cause I hate good-byes,
I got misty eyes when they said farewell.
But I’ll know where several are, if my dreams get real bizarre,
Cause I saved a few, and I keep them in a jar.

The music is crackly and beepy with simple bass and a little bit of piano and strings–nice and uncomplicated yet not so basic that its just a loop played over and over. Owl City is just one dude, Adam Young, who’s voice sounds a bit like Postal Service, as does the music itself. Yet Fireflies is more bubblegum and less crafted than Postal Service. Fireflies sounds as if Adam composed the song himself in his basement and recorded it purely for fun, without over-analyzing. In fact the internet-lore is just that: living in his parents’ basement he couldn’t sleep, so he wrote and recorded this song. He became popular via Myspace and now it has escalated to a radio hit. That’s how it ended up on Ryan Seacrest’s station.

The criticism of Owl City is that 1. it sounds too much like Postal Service and is therefore unoriginal, and 2. he’s not Christian enough. I guess I don’t mind that it sounds like Postal Service. Its different enough for me that it isn’t in the same category. Postal Service is actual good quality music with style and meaning, while Owl City is just for fun, silly and all smiles. As for criticism #2…I didn’t know O.C was supposed to be Christian. I go back and forth between the whole Christian-band-sounding-Christian-enough thing.  Perhaps if I had the entire album, I’d feel the same way I did about Family Force Five, that it was too much fun to be fun. But, for now I just like the song Fireflies for what it is.  I enjoy listening to lyrics about something different and positive for once (unlike the rest of Ryan Seacrest radio Lady Gaga gag gag).

Links: Official site (you can listen to the song here), Myspace, Owl City hater review

Storm, Lifehouse

Quality: 4

Clean: 5

Genre: rock

A friend pointed out to me the song Storm by Lifehouse the other day. The lyrics are poignant, conveying that horrible disorienting sense of being utterly lost. There is also hope however, because the lyrics insist that “if I could just see you, everything will be alright, if I’d see you, the storminess will turn to light.” Whether searching for a lifeline, or knowing there is one and waiting for it to come, having hope or looking forward something better can make a huge difference in the midst or our sufferings.

The story of Jesus walking on the water comes to mind. Especially when Peter walks on it too, and then gets scared and starts to sink below the waves. Jesus then catches him. Maybe Lifehouse was using this story as a metaphor, or maybe just the water itself was the metaphor, but without the story. Either way, it is effective.

Psalm 130 comes to my mind when I listen to Storm. Perhaps because I have had my small portion of sufferings and have clung to these words. Listening to Storm, reminds me of those times. Perhaps also because when I am suffering, no one I know, can truly provide me with the peace that I need. No matter how good a relationship I have with a friend, mentor or significant other, I have to handle my trouble alone. There is one exception. The Lord comforts me and walks with me. He gives true hope. Not just hope that I will feel better, but hope that indeed “everything will be all right,” because he redeems my life. He changes it. He renews it. When I pray, he is with me, the best friend that only he can be. Psalm 130 reads:

Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord!
O Lord hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than the watchmen for the morning,
more than the watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Here are the lyrics to Storm. Listen to the song and read the lyrics together.

How long have I
been in this storm
so overwhelmed by the ocean’s shapeless form
water’s getting harder to tread
with these waves crashing over my head

If I could just see you
everything will be alright
if I’d see you
this darkness turn to light

And I will walk on water
and you will catch me if I fall
and I will get lost into your eyes
and everything will be alright
and everything will be alright

I know you didn’t
bring me out here to drown
so why am I ten feet under and upside down
barely surviving has become my purpose
cause I’m so used to living underneath the surface

If I could just see you
everything will be alright
if I see you
the storminess will turn to light

And I will walk on water
and you will catch me if I fall
and I will get lost into your eyes
and everything will be alright

And I will walk on water
you will catch me if I fall
and I will get lost into your eyes
and everything will be alright
I know everything is alright
everything’s alright

Linkin Park, What I’ve Done

Quality: 5

Clean: 5*

Genre: Rock/nu metal

Dooood! If you know Linkin Park you might be surprised to see them on this blog. But honestly, sometimes there are artists that strike right at the heart of existing, the very essence of life. This is one of those bands. I think sometimes they get caught up in their status as a rock-rap/metal band and sing about the usual topics, but here is a song that will rock your socks off if you listen closely to the words. I can’t say I’m surprised however. Read Ecclesiastes and then listen to In the End. Enough said.

Before I keep going, I want to make a shout-out to my professor from Bible college, Mr. Oliff, who pointed out this song on Facebook.

First lets talk about quality. I gave What I’ve Done a 5 maybe a bit unfairly. Its more a 5 for Linkin Park as a band overall. They have done some great quality rap-rock mashups, have fused electronica with their metal sounds and even use different vocalists and vocal styles depending on the song. That all to say that this particular song is more average for them. I am actually not a huge fan on Linkin Park. Usually they are too metal sounding for me but occasionally a song like this comes out that still contains their style but is more palatable for a non-matal listener.

Now as far as clean is concerned, I gave it a 5 with an asterisk. Minutes to Midnight, the album is rated explicit and this will put some people off. Even if you only buy What I’ve Done alone, it still comes with the rating of explicit attached to it. The song itself is not explicit, does not contain swears or innuendos. Linkin Park as a band however does not hesitate on a normal basis to throw around profanities or adult topics. I hesitated to even review What I’ve Done, because of the rating, but the words are amazing.

The reason I decided to review this song after all is because the purpose of the blog is to find quality and clean songs wherever they may be found. This song, found in an unexpected genre and album is no exception. It unequivocally sends a positive and thought provoking message. Also, this is an opportunity to point out that even though people don’t all agree on the same philosophy of life or religion or whatever, all of humanity still feel similar emotions about guilt, redemtpion and purpose. The song is about what we as individuals and even collectively as humanity have done, all the atrocities, war, pollution and abuses. The song begs if we can ever make up for or erase all these things? The answer in the song I believe is no we can’t– but we can find mercy and forgiveness. We can start over. The song says that the forgiveness comes from ourselves (or self). I agree that this is true in a sense. When I hurt someone, they can forgive me but I can’t move on until I also forgive myself. (I also would add that absolute forgiveness and mercy come from the Lord). The words also indicate that even though mercy and forgiveness come, pain and heartache don’t automatically disapear.

What I’ve Done helps me argue that there isn’t a clear line between “Christian” songs and “secular” songs. Certain topics are universal and not exclusive of “Christian” art. My husband used to listen to Tupac and he says there are some songs where he would think, “what…is Tupac a Christian?” Truly talented artists have a way of cutting through all the drivel and showing the rest of us what reality is. They cry out and express universal pains and joys that strike everyone. Ok that lecture was long enough. Check out the lyrics and song below. I’d say the video adds to the interpretation.

In this farewell
There’s no blood
There’s no alibi
Cause I’ve drawn regret
From the truth
Of a thousand lies

So let mercy come
And wash away
What I’ve done

I’ll face myself
To cross out what i’ve become
Erase myself
And let go of what i’ve done

Put to rest
What you thought of me
While I clean this slate
With the hands of uncertainty

For what I’ve done
I start again
And whatever pain may come
Today this ends
I’m forgiving what I’ve done!

Lecrae, Take Me As I Am and Cash or Chirist/Fanatics

Quality: 5

Clean: 5

Genre: Rap

Christian rap artist Lecrae is coming out with a new album, Rebel,  September 30. You can pre-order it from his label and from Amazon…although they are currently out of stock. If you like rap, you should check him out. I always thought I could like rap, but I never listened to it because the entire genre was too laced with profanities and ill-treatment of women. Last year one of my students introduced me to Lecrae. I felt like my musical world was turned up-side-down. Here was good quality rap music with a positive message. My husband had had the same quandary. He basically only likes rap/hip-hop but had in the past couple years just stopped listening to ALL music because NOTHING he liked was clean. So finding Lecrae was a gold mine for both of us. As one facebook fan says, “…god provided an answer to my music problem. Positive lyrics and sick beats.”

Take Me As I Am, is both my husband’s and my favorite song by him. Its from his 2005 album, Real Talk. Its basically the story of his and every conversion from living for ourselves to giving our life to Jesus. The words are poignant and convicting. Listening to a song like this on the drive to work sure beats the radio with songs like Promiscuoius Girl et al.

This is a fan made video

My second favorite song by him is in collaboration with another artist, Trip Lee. Cash or Christ/Fanatics is a mash-up between Lecrae’s original rap Fanatic and Trip Lee’s original rap Cash or Christ (from album If They Only Knew), with metal music in the background. It might sound weird but it is awesome! The main message is about living a life for Christ vs. for our material lusts. The mashup is found on an album by 116 Clique called Amped.

Here is another fan video. (I’m not a huge video person but its a way to share the songs with you). listen to the chorus by Lecrae where he says over and over that he’s Redeemed. It makes me tear up almost every time.

Check out his Myspace page which has a couple of his new songs.

Jem, It’s Amazing

Quality: 4

Clean: 5

Genre: Pop, dance

Jem: as a child of the 80’s the first thing I think of when I hear that name is Jem and the Holograms!

Ok seriously, I remember when Jem came out with her first album 4 year ago. I heard her first single, They, once on the radio and rushed out and bought the little mini EP, It All Starts Here (which was produced before the full album Finally Woken). My initial enthusiasm was a little much and I was slightly disappointed at the rest of the EP. I still liked it because it was, after all, good pop music and more on the electronic/triphop/dance side.

Jem’s second album, Down to Earth, came out yesterday. I haven’t gotten a copy of it yet…however she’s put out a couple singles already. It’s Amazing, was released as a single in June and on the soundtrack of Sex and the City, the movie. Jem’s contribution is a solid, affirming, motivational and fun song. Lyrically, it reminds me of Mariah Carey’s Make it Happen, or Jordin Spark’s One Step at a Time. Jem urges the listener not to give up, to work hard and to have patience! The chorus is inspiring for anyone needing a little encouragement: It’s Amazing all that you can do, It’s Amazing, it makes my heart sing, now its up to you.

Musically, this song is hard to classify. Poppy, yet slightly more dancy than most pop, the beat is slightly DnB but not really…let’s just say pop. Jem revels in these inbetween genre labels however. Her first album was a little trip hop, a little alternative, a little pop, a little acoustic folk rock. This song clearly has electronic roots looping over and over in the background, but it also has trumpet, guitar, strings, and piano, not to mention Jem’s soothing voice. Oh and as a bonus a computerized 80’s sounding voice at the end urging the listener to trust her instincts, and not give up! Its a good song, not super great. I love it for its positive message and poppy beat. Certainly more creative than most dime-a-dozen pop singers out there. For 99 cents on iTunes I can’t think of a reason not to buy it.

Jem’s Myspace

Jordin Sparks, One Step at a Time

Clean: 5

Quality: 3

Genre: Pop

What attracted me to Jordin Spark’s latest single, One Step at a TIme, wasn’t the music, but the words. The encouraging lyrics speak to us who feel that life isn’t progressing fast enough; When we feel as if we are on the brink of a something great or want to skip over the little details of life to get to the big stuff.  She reminds one that even the mundane stuffs of life are important and meaningful. There is a “life is a journey not a destination” quality about the song yet she captures the frustration/impatience of these moments so well that she doesn’t teeter over into cheesiness: We live and we learn to take one step at a time, there’s no need to rush, it’s like learning to fly, or falling in love. It’s gonna happen and it’s supposed to happen that we find the reasons why one step at a time.

Not normally a music video lover, I stumbled apon it at the local video rental store where it was on repeat. I was amazed by how heart warming the scenes were, all depicting normal people doing mundane tasks but all on the brink of something great. One set of scenes portrays a mother teaching her young son how to ride a skate board, one of a couple getting ready for the prom, one of a girl packing up to go to college.

Its a good thing that I didn’t know that Jordin Sparks was an American Idol winner when I first heard One Step at a Time. Actually I think the show itself is inspiring, funny, and one of the only clean shows on prime time television. The singers who come out of the show however, have a certain sound about them: highly produced, specifically manufactured for a certain demographic (whatever that particular singer’s is), good vocals but not great pop music. Jordin Sparks caught me without my usual skepticism radar, which is good because I would have missed out on a great song.

You can buy this song on iTunes, or listen to it on her Myspace page.