hindsight will be 20/20 album review – part 1.

before i get into this, i have to acknowledge last night’s performance. JT absolutely killed it. i was maybe most shocked to see him own the stage so strongly alongside Jay-Z – who, btw, appeared bored and above the majority of last night’s proceedings. this blog isn’t about all that, but i have to at least mention it here. moving on.


SEVEN YEARS AGO – sometimes i like to think about this question: if you could only listen to music from one 18-month stretch, which would you choose? without doing any thinking or research, my initial answer is mid-2005 through late-2006. a short list why…

– future sex/love sounds, justin timberlake
– game theory, the roots
– late registration, kanye west
– kingdom come, jay-z
– back to black, amy winehouse
– demon days, gorillaz
– st. elsewhere, gnarls barkley

…however, none of these received as much hype in my life as the first one: justin timberlake’s future sex/love sounds. i was first in “line” to pick it up in manhattan the day it dropped. skipping my 9:05am tuesday class, i arrived at besy buy at 8:45am. sat in the car until 8:58, then got out and walked up to the door hoping an employee would see my anxious pacing, but they didn’t unlock them until 9:02. i was rather bothered by this because i was losing significant album digesting time. little did i know it would be seven blasted years before i got to experience another JT album.

so when the fanfare surrounding The 20/20 Experience began, i freaked. and when the release date was mentioned as 3/19/13, i freaked again. and when he released the track list last week, i freaked again. and then last night when he took the stage at the grammys, i freaked again.

within a month of picking up Future Sex/Love Sounds, i felt that i had enough of a grasp to put together a track-by-track blog on the album: you can read that here. i was young and silly back then. chances are, i’ll look back on this blog and find it young and silly someday too.

this year’s track-by-track blog will come a month BEFORE the album drops rather than after. what follows is a review based on five pieces of knowledge…

1. track title
2. track list history of justified and future sex/love sounds
3. justin’s personal life
4. the single – “suit & tie”
5. two performances: he performed three songs (“suit & tie”, “pusher love girl” and “that girl”) at a super bowl show in new orleans last weekend. and his performance of “suit & tie” and “pusher love girl” at the grammys last night.

these five bits of information will be what informs my upcoming “hindsight will be 20/20 review” which i will post later this week. in it, i will rank my favorite songs from 1-10 based purely on those five factors and give you my reasoning for each. maybe i’ll totally whiff on a major hit and expect a favorite when it’s a total bust. we’ll see. could be fun.

i encourage you to do it too. read the track names, and rank them based on what order you think you’ll love them in. it will feel like picking a racehorse for the kentucky derby, but i think it could be super fun to compare pre- and post- release lists.

for now, i leave you with JT’s handwritten tracklist he tweeted last week:

that’s it for now. check back in a couple days for my list.


could MJ play at fifty?


DISCLAIMER: i’m sitting in a class called “writing for effect” right now and we’re doing a ten minute free writing exercise. the prompt is, “write about whatever is running through your mind right now.” there are two things on my mind. dissecting justin timberlake’s new album track list (but that blog is coming later this week and requires way more time and intentionality). the other one is from this article…”could michael jordan still play at 50?” here’s what i wrote. unedited…just ten minutes of flow.

Prompt: Could Michael Jordan still play at 50?

Could Michael Jordan still play at 50? The real answer is…SHOULD he play at 50?

There is no doubt in my mind MJ could be a 6th man and play a productive 15-20 minutes and put up 10 points a game. But if we learned one thing from his stint with the Wizards it’s this: MJ’s legacy can be tarnished. Luckily he had a few moments where he managed to transcend his otherwise unfulfilling return from retirement. Let’s be honest though, when we consider MJ’s career, we usually ignore his return because it doesn’t fit into his larger-than-reality persona that he managed to create in Chicago.

What would happen to his legacy if he returned and only averaged 5 points? Right now our memories tell us he can do anything, but what if the reality doesn’t line up with our hopes and dreams? What if he ruins it? What if he doesn’t live up to his own greatness.

He CAN’T live up to our expectations. He just flat out can’t. Our expectations are that he would average double digits, but our underlying motive is that he would have at least one moment where we saw a glimpse of the old MJ: the player that could make grown men look silly. Our underlying desire is to be wowed again, and averaging 10 points a game is not being wowed. Even if the dude is 50 and could be the father of half the league.

His track record doesn’t support his success either. Retiring once to try out baseball: failed. Coming back to play at 40: not necessarily a success. He simply cannot live up to our tall-tale expectation.

Or could he?

What if he did?

No no no. He couldn’t.

But maybe?

This series of “what if” questions is what MJ risks. Could it be amazing? Absolutely. But is it worth the risk if it doesn’t work out? My head tells me that he’d be putting his career on the line and making arguments for Kobe and LeBron to truly enter the “best ever” conversation. But my heart says do it.

So…please come back MJ. but only if you succeed. For our sake and your own.

UPDATE: this is part two of our exercise: write a response to your own writing that is intended as a letter, blog, poem or paragraph directed towards a high school audience. again, this is a ten minute free writing assignment. no editing, just flow.

What can MJ teach us about legacy?

Legacy: what we leave behind. Michael Jordan is pretty much inarguably the greatest NBA player of all-time. He did things no one else ever did. He made grown men look silly. He left us with our hands over our mouths in awe and wonder of the freak he was.

But legacy has a way of growing and maturing over time. Like cheese or wine or tabasco, the longer a legacy sits on the shelf, the longer society has the ability to glorify (dare i say deify?) a legacy to where it transcends the facts and figures of a lifetime.

MJ turns 50 next week, and the question on everyone’s chapped lips: could MJ still play at 50? My primary argument is that he should not. It could tarnish his legacy. It could ruin what he spent decades creating.

But the real question we should be asking is this: what legacy is MJ going to leave beyond 50? What if his post-NBA career managed to out-shine his playing career?

See, MJ – just like everyone else – is on a life-long journey of leaving a legacy. We know what he’s done from 0-50…what will people say about years 50-100?

As you navigate your personal journey, consider what you want your legacy to be, and what you want to be remembered for. Will you do something huge that will change the landscape of this world? Maybe it’s something tiny, yet still significant, that no one even knows about. Maybe it’s revolutionary. I don’t know. But maybe you do.

But your journey is happening NOW. What are you doing right this moment that you want to be remembered for? Are you living life with legacy in mind? Often we think about the future so much that we ignore the present. Where are you impacting this world in a way that is leaving your thumbprint behind? No matter how obvious or imperceptible, our legacy is being created right this moment. Let’s be conscious of that and live into this reality.

argyle socks are important to me.

my wife and i celebrated our anniversary a week ago today. well, that’s only sort of true. our anniversary was last tuesday, but due to the busyness of this season, we aren’t officially celebrating it until next weekend. i can’t wait.

the reception at my wedding was hands down the most fun i’ve ever had in all my life. and how could it not have been? all my favorite people in all the world came together to dance and laugh together. how can anything ever compete with that?

my wedding ring is awesome. it’s made of super heavy tungsten, and when i spin it on a flat surface, it keeps spinning on its side for over 2 minutes. which is a loooong time for something to spin. it has become apart of me – i’m used to its weight and how it feels on my finger. and since i never take it off, i sometimes forget i’m even wearing it and it startles me when i accidentally rap it on a stair railing or my desk or something. it’s a fun reminder about how thankful and lucky i am to be married to my wife.

argyle socks season holds a similar reminder for me. please take a moment and observe the banner photo at the top of my blog. those are the feet of my six groomsmen and me. (i’m the one with the skinniest legs and the tiniest feet, if you’re wondering.) i purchased an argyle socks variety pack and let my groomsmen pick which pair they wanted. all different. all awesome. here’s the list from left to right:
– nick g (navy/gray/burgandy)
– dan (tarheel blue/navy/white)
– nick w (tan/white/navy)
– chris (maroon/forest green/navy)
– apc (gray/orange/black)
– dave (kahki/light blue/beige)
– jon (black/forest green/charcoal)

the pack i bought contained two sets of each pair, so i got to keep one pair of each color that my groomsmen wore. this is awesome for two reasons:
1. i have a week’s worth of argyle wedding socks.
2. i get to remember my groomsmen each day depending on what color i wear.

today, i’m wearing dan’s socks. yesterday i wore chris’s. in the same way i think about my wife whenever i look at my wedding band, i remember my closest group of friends every morning when i pull on a different pair of argyle socks. it’s just another way to remember the most fun night of my life and the important people who surrounded me that night.

so next time you catch a glimpse of my socks, you’ll be able to come back here and cross-reference. oh boy.


four haiku reviews.

every year, september is a heavy music month. there’s probably some scientific formula that someone figured out in regards to releasing an album in september and its correlation with the album’s success…like the alignment of life, finances and award shows.

all that to say, i’ve picked up 4 albums in the last month – 3 of them released in the last 2 weeks. i don’t have the time to do full reviews on them, but i will do the following:
1. a haiku review
2. my three favorite songs (with a brief reason)
3. rating out of 5

here we go.

ben folds five
the sound of the life of the mind

release date: september 18

haiku review:
whether he’s solo
or reuniting with Five,
ben can do no wrong.

favorite tracks:
1. erase me (i love it when they cuss)
2. draw a crowd (childish? or absolute genius?)
3. the sound of the life of the mind (very reminiscent of old school bff)

rating: 5/5

kanye west presents…
g.o.o.d. music cruel summer

release date: september 14

haiku review:
who are these artists?
lame. save for a few moments.
still miss vintage ‘ye.

favorite tracks:
1. mercy (kick drum at 3:15 might just save the entire album)
2. to the world (good, but i can’t take r kelly seriously after “trapped in the closet”.)
3. bliss (i had to pick another song to round out the top 3…the eagle cry sold me here.)

rating: 2/5

justin bieber – believe
release date: june 15

haiku review:
a quick prediction:
justin is the next justin.
haters gonna hate

favorite tracks:
1. boyfriend (so say hello to falsetto in 3…2…)
2. take you (get me on the dance floor. i can’t handle it.)
3. maria (distorted matt lauer interview?! amazing.)

rating: 4/5

lupe fiasco
food and liquor II: the great american rap album

released: september 25

haiku review:
lupe means business,
like ‘lasers’ never happened
welcome back, prophet.

favorite tracks:
1. around my way (cause freedom ain’t free, especially ’round my way.)
2. battle scars (a hurting love song from lupe? surprising.)
3. audubon ballroom (lupe drops his two cents on the n-word.)

rating: 4.5/5

alan rickman makes a cup of tea.

there are certain individuals that are awesome at whatever they do. doesn’t matter how mundane or routine the task is, that individual automatically makes the action at least 80x terrificer. some examples include…
– morgan freeman
– star wars characters
michael caine
– james earl jones (see: recites the alphabet)
– any of the three amigos: steve martin, chevy chase, martin short
– ?uestlove
– justin timberlake (rumored to have finally married jessica biel over the weekend – link)
– “the most interesting man in the world”
jared allen
– daft punk

…just to name a few. feel free to suggest more via comments. personally, i’d put alan rickman in the “in the conversation but not quite elite status” category, but when you add in super slow-mo and the inception soundtrack, he’s an immediate lock.


shuffle lessons, vol 2.

in november of last year, my friend jon dropped “shuffle lessons, volume 1” over on his blog. while i’m not the iTunes freakazoid (chimpanzee) that he is, i try really hard to maintain a solid library myself.

the whole idea is this: put iTunes on random and write a little bit about the first handful of songs that come up. jon pulled from his “top 1000” playlist, but i’m just pulling from my entire library…makes the element of surprise that much greater. my goals are three-fold:

– first, i hope to reminisce a bit on some songs i never listen to anymore.
– second, i hope to connect with you all randomly on a new level of music appreciation.
– third, i hope this inspires jon to drop volume 3 sometime.*

* – disclaimer: I do not necessarily have jon’s permission to swipe shuffle lessons…let alone claim volume 2 to be my own and apart of the series. i hope he looks upon this blog with favor.

that said – lets see what happens here…

20120818-014842.jpga new hope – five iron frenzy – all the hype money can buy
consider goal number one to be complete. i haven’t listened to this album in way too long. probably 6 years. five iron used to be my jam. i still break out “our newest album ever” on occasion – I always thought that was their strongest LP – but “all the hype” never got nearly enough playing time. not sure why – what other albums landed in 2000 that it was competing with…

this track, a new hope, is a response to the columbine high school shooting I think. five iron frenzy is a band from the columbine area, so the shooting there sort of framed a lot of their lyrics and their theology. some of the tougher lyrics to get around: did the halls smell of gunpowder still/what made the human mind dark enough to kill?…we all saw it on that day/stunned we stood stuttering/ what did the news say?

rumor has it that five iron is recording some new material – and again their home was hit with tragedy with the movie theater shooting during the “dark knight rises” premiere last month. would be shocked if there wasn’t a response on one of the later tracks similar to this one.

in somewhat related news, the theme of the middle school retreat I am leading next month is “the greatest story ever told” – which is the title of track 1 off this album.

20120818-014852.jpgre: definition – black star – black star
the first thing I think of when i hear any track from black star is “dave chappelle’s block party”. i knew who mos def was, and I knew talib kweli from his verse in kanye’s “get em high” and his mention in jay-z’s “moment of clarity” (if skills sold/truth be told/I’d probably be/lyrically/talib kweli), but I didn’t know of their duo “black star” until I saw DCBP. they perform this song early in the movie, and i think I had downloaded the whole album off limewire by the time the movie ended.

mos def is hilarious, and kweli is absolutely ridiculously good. how does he do it? he and twista should compete in some lyrical exercises sometime and put it on youtube. heck, sell tickets. i’d go.

speaking of, I remember when kweli was coming to kstate my senior year, but he got arrested after arriving in manhattan for possession of marijuana. he had to cancel his show and i didn’t find out until I was walking to the union and the rest of campus was deserted. I remember i looked up the situation on my red Palm Centro (which, fun fact, is the same phone Lily has in “how I met your mother”!). so I never got to see him. sigh. oh well.

20120818-014902.jpgfeel good inc (stanton warrior remix) – gorillaz – d-sides: remixes [disc 2]
one of the most remixable tracks ever created. it’s mash-ups on the dj hero soundtrack are some of my favorites: feel good inc/hollaback girl, feel good inc/heard it through the grapevine, feel good inc/ atomic. this track is alright I guess. not as strong as some other remixes I’ve heard – or as strong as the original for that matter – but it’s ooookay.

here’s the thing about mashups: they need to fill one of the following qualifications in order to be a success…
1. they make at least one of the two songs better – it’s like drinking a jack and coke…why would I ever want to ruin either of those beverages by combining them unless it makes a creation better than one of the the originals.
2. they isolate a unique part of the song that you wouldn’t expect – you can’t just lay the chorus of one song over the back beat of the other song and expect it to be a smash. you have to isolate some details that are easily missed in the originals and highlight them in a new way that makes it special.
3. they somehow combine the two so that you don’t miss the original – a good mashup is able to distinguish itself from the original in a way that makes the original forgettable in the moment. an even better mashup manages to replace the original, so that when you go back to the original you actually miss the elements of the other track. examples of this: feel good inc/heard it through the grapevine of the dj hero soundtrack, selected tracks from danger mouse’s “gray album”, kanye’s “say you will” and dido’s “here with me”…course both of those songs are pretty boring to begin with so it was easy to improve on.

this track does none of those things, so i can’t give it a thumbs up. odd that the gorillaz gave it the thumbs up to go on their “d-sides remixes” album.

20120818-014908.jpgi want you – savage garden – savage gardens
aka the “chicka-cherry-cola song”. two things I remember about this song/album…

1. I remember being in elementary school and sitting at the neighborhood pool trying to memorize all the words to this song when it would come on Z95.7 (now called “the vibe”…dumb). I used to get really tripped up on the “magenta” line in the first verse, and I get lost throughout the second verse until he says “deep sea diver” and then I’m back on course.

2. I remember one Christmas with all my cousins and we all got a different CD. mine was DC Talk, “Nu Thang” and I was ecstatic. I already had “free at last”, “jesus freak” and “dctalk”, so that completed the discography to that point. but then one of my cousins opened up this album and I remember being so jealous because I had spent the entire summer prior trying to learn the words and that was my golden opportunity to learn them all and it was given to my rival cousin instead. ugh.

20120818-014921.jpgisland girl – elton john – rock of the westies
love me some elton john – key word “some” – but certainly not all. this is maybe the worst ever. it’s is absolutely mind-blowing that this song made it to #1 on the US Billboard in 1975. I mean, c’mon, you’re telling me that in ’75 this song has more weeks at number one than the eagles “one of these nights”, kc and the sunshine band’s “that’s the way (I like it)”, and earth wind & fire’s “shining star”?!?! that’s just embarrassing. c’mon 1975…what were you thinking?

and don’t get me started on the subject matter. this “island girl” that elton is singing about is, according to the lyrics, a big girl/standing six-foot-three/turning tricks for dudes in the big city. awesome, so despite the jovial carribbean sound to the song, the “island” is manhattan, ny, and the “girl” is a prostitute. and a rather gargantuan prostitute at that. in fact, one might even wonder if this “girl” is actually a “girl” at all considering elton’s sexuality and the culture surrounding homosexuality in the 70s.

and here’s a fun little ditty: she wraps herself around you like a well worn tire/you feel her nail scratch your back just like a rake. what a wonderful image, elton. as bad as “daniel” and “nikita” and “little jeannie” are, “island girl” wins the prize for the worst track ever recorded by sir elton.

…well. there you go. the first five songs that came up on random on my iTunes, and those are my thoughts about each one. now please, leave your thoughts on one or all of them and maybe we can reach goal two together.


amy winehouse.

i was introduced to amy winehouse’s music about 4 years ago, shortly after she released Back to Black in late 2006. at the grammy’s the following year, she took home five awards – best pop vocal album, song of the year (rehab), best female pop performance (also rehab), record of the year as well as best new artist. that was easily enough to pique my interest (even though, at the time, i was ticked that she beat out justin timberlake in a couple of those catagories).

Back to Black is one of my all time favorite records now. soulful and gritty, yet upbeat and polished. produced by mark ronson, it features that oldies/60’s vibe that amy embraced and nailed better than anyone i’ve heard to date. i quickly sought out her first studio album, Frank, and loved it too.

I first heard that amy had passed away while i was on vacation with my wife in Europe. we had spent a week in London, exploring the entire city (including Amy’s home neighborhood of Camden Town, and the previous morning we had left for southern Spain. our second night there we got locked out on our patio at our condo and ended up having to holler up for help to the English couple hanging out on the balcony above us. in our conversation, the man – Roger was his name – asked down to us, “hey, are you all music fans?”

thinking that he was simply interested in enhancing our locked out experience with some tunes, i hollered up, “absolutely!” and he responds with, “do you guys listen to amy winehouse?” i responded, “absolutely! that’s awesome! put her on!” he replied, “she’s just died actually.”

now, i don’t know amy winehouse personally. in fact, i know very little about her actual life outside of her music and the persona she adopts in her songs. however, i would venture to guess she is one of the more honest musical artists of the last decade. when she sings about drinking and doing drugs, going to rehab, fighting the darkness of depression, falling sadly in and out of love, i believe her. so when i first heard that she had died, i wasn’t shocked. i don’t think any of us were shocked.

that was initially what was so sad about amy’s death – we really weren’t that shocked. it didn’t hit us hard in the face (unlike steve jobs’s death may have) because it was somewhat expected. the life she was living was always going to end that way…as sad as it is to say that. that was the real tragedy – not that a 27-year old woman had passed way too early, but because we weren’t surprised by the news.

but over the last few monthas, as i have reflected on her short career, i’m finding myself deeply saddened by it. sure, a lot of my sadness is strictly selfish; as a consumer of her music, i am really distraught that i won’t have the opportunity to digest her material anymore. she had just won 5 grammys 3 years earlier and was riding a steep track up the music success ladder. to know that she won’t ever get to put together a “junior” album is a real shame.

selfishness aside, i’m still plagued by a sadness that i didn’t expect. i think about the ultra-talented 20-somethings that i am close to – whether that talent be musically, artistically, relationally, athletically, whatever – and i start to realize what a tragedy this loss truly is. the world lost a truly talented individual; one who had already contributed something beautiful to society, but – in the chaotic and confusing world we live in – had her life cut short.

i wonder where amy’s soul is today. i sure hope she is in Heaven, but i really don’t know. it’s not my place to know. it’s not my place to judge her lifestyle and bestow salvation or not. all i know is that amy winehouse would make a terrific angel, and if God has no timeline and if it’s not too late to put in a good word – i pray she is with Jesus now.