Category Archives: music

My Favourite New iPhone Game

In picking up a new iPhone 13 mini with heaps of storage space, I have been gradually transferring over my music collection to my new device.

In doing so, I have been able to reconnect with so many musical artists I haven’t been able to listen to in the last few years, given the minuscule amount of storage on my previous phone… My mistake… Lessons learned.

Now, with approximately 13,000 songs on my new phone, there is a fair bit of scrolling going on to get from album to album. But interestingly enough, within my scrolling time, a new game caught my eye.

It’s not the kind of game you need to download from iTunes, it’s just a serendipitous discovery I made along the way.

I don’t know if you’ve had the same experience, but the premise of the game goes like this:

While scrolling through the alphabetically sorted list, I started noticing “neighbours” in the list, like Bon Jovi and Bonnie Raitt.

Note: Yes, I know that Raitt starts with an R, but iPhone/iTunes sorts the list on the first name or word.

From there, it is a game of first impressions. Would I like to see these two neighbouring artists or bands in creative collaboration? Would I buy their music? Would I pay money to see them in concert?

In some cases it is a clear yes, in others, not so much.

Back to our first example, I think Bon Jovi and Bonnie Raitt might indeed form an interesting collaboration. I would be interested in seeing them create music or perform together.

In scrolling through my playlists, I see some very natural pairings that would probably make good music together: Enigma and Enya would be delightful to me. The harmonies of ABBA and Ace of Base would probably sound pretty angelic. And who knows, the combined creativity of Niall Horan and Nick Jonas could lead to an interesting duet.

What about Bette Midler and Beyoncé?… is the world ready for this much power on one stage?

Would I pay to see Eurovision winners, Måneskin and Måns Zelmerlöw perform together? Definitely!

What about seeing Lady Gaga do an album of Led Zeppelin covers? Given how she has demonstrated that she can do pretty much anything, I could totally see it.

Another combination that I think would be impressive would be to see Panic! at the Disco sharing the stage with P!nk.

A collaboration between two of my long-time favourites, Kristin Chenoweth and Kylie Minogue, would definitely be worth spending time in a virtual waiting room for tickets.

But when musical tastes like mine cover a pretty wide spectrum, it should come as no surprise that some pairings might lend themselves to a clash in musical styles. For example, an unlikely pairing might be Depeche Mode and Diana Krall. Both excellent musical acts on their own, but I don’t think I would hold my breath that they would share a stage or a studio together. But as the old adage goes… never say never.

In a similar vein, Doja Cat and Doris Day might be a rather stark contrast in musical styles. And yes, for the record, I do have a Doris Day album in my collection. Who doesn’t love Doris Day?

Other pairings that are probably not likely to happen are Pink Floyd and Prince, Billy Idol and Billy Joel, Sugababes and Supertramp. But truly, in today’s musical universe and with technology, anything is possible.

I confess that there are some playlist neighbours that have me thinking “hmm, interesting”, but I can’t really picture the outcome either way, if such collaborations ever happened:

Hall and Oates and Harry Styles;

Kate Bush and Kelly Clarkson;

Jonas Brothers and Josh Groban;

Backstreet Boys and Bananarama;

Matchbox 20 and Matt Dusk;

Spice Girls and Split Enz;

Steps and Sting;

Just the same, given that they are all amazing artists on their own, who knows what kind of music magic such collaborations could produce.

But there is definitely a pair of favourites that make my heart go pitter-patter every time I see them scroll by together: Could you imagine the dance party that would be hosted by Dua Lipa and Duran Duran? I think that would sound pretty fabulous!

So as new music is released and gets introduced into my playlists, I look forward to the amusement of seeing more of the likely and unlikely pairings that can form in my iPhone’s alphabetized lists.

 

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André

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Game Changers: Wireless Headphones

wireless headphones in their charging caseShortly after buying a new iPhone 13 to replace my ailing iPhone 7, I rediscovered my love of music in a big way.

In having chosen a model with 256 GB of storage space, I could store my entire music collection on my phone and was able to play any song I wanted, any time I wanted.

Given how the switch to a new phone was caused by a broken connector port, I started looking for ways to reduce wear and tear on the new phone’s port. Given the price of phones, any measure to potentially stretch its life span seemed like a worthwhile undertaking.

First, every time I plugged the power cord into the new phone, I slowed myself down to be as gentle and mindful as possible, trying not the jostle the phone unnecessarily. My moves were so calculated and slow, you’d think that I was handling a priceless artifact. Given the price of phones, that’s probably an accurate comparison.

Second, when I was moving music from iTunes onto the device, to ensure I wasn’t plugging and unplugging the phone repeatedly, I ensured I had my selections ready to transfer in large batches.

Third, I started wondering if wireless headphones would be a good investment. By using the phone’s Bluetooth technology to have the mobile device communicate with headphones maybe that could also help reduce wear and tear on the connector port.

You’d think that as a music lover, I would have already been plugged in to the wonder of wireless headphones. I’m afraid that I hadn’t jumped on that bandwagon yet. Continue reading

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A Return to My Gluttony for Music

Not too long ago, I ran into the “Oh no!” moment that many of us experience at one time or another: The moment when one’s mobile device is having a near-death experience.

It’s not like it was unexpected. Shopping for a new phone has been on my list for a little while. I just hoped that it could have waited a few more months.

The problem was my iPhone 7’s connector port, the one used for recharging and for using headphones. Any cord in that port wasn’t staying in properly anymore. What began as an occasional issue now required progressively more jiggling for it to:
(a) stay in, and
(b) to find the sweet spot for it to recharge or to send music to the headphones.

Needless to say, going for a walk or a run with the phone has been out of the question for several months.

Ironically, this phone was probably the one that has endured the least amount of wear and tear of all of the phones I have owned in the last twenty years. Let’s face it, like most of us, it spent the pandemic at home for two years. Continue reading

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Music for Writing

A close up shot of piano keys. When I look back on my high school and university years, I am astounded that I was able to get my homework done with the radio, the stereo or the television on.

I remember that the music helped me keep the neurons firing, especially after a full day of classes. The background noise also helped keep me company through a lonely night of homework, keeping the borderline extrovert in me happy.

While I don’t seem to have a vivid recollection of the homework process in itself (and truly, who would?) I seem to remember that for most tasks, I could multi-task with music playing in the background.

Did I have music on to study for tests? My memory is a little fuzzy on that question, but I would be inclined to think that I didn’t. I can’t imagine that I could successfully memorize if I had lyrics or radio chatter playing interference with the words on the written page. Today, I definitely can’t.

But did I have music on for writing essays? I am pretty sure that the answer is yes, as this is a habit that still holds true today for my writing projects. However, the music that forms the soundtrack of my writing is very carefully chosen.

Finding the perfect writing tunes has been a fascinating and fun journey in itself. As an all-around music lover, I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of listening to different artists and trying different genres of music to see what works best. Continue reading

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How Music Can Change One’s Mood in a Split Second

This past week, as I was out for the once-per-week, masked, sanitized, and respectfully socially-distanced grocery store run, I had one of those moments that have become all too familiar.

As I turned my king-sized grocery cart around a corner, I was disappointed to see someone going in the wrong direction, completely contrary to the arrows on the ground. I asked myself, after 13 months of Covid-19, have we not gotten the choreography down yet?

But before the cranky old man within me had a chance to fully surface and irritate me for the rest of the grocery run, the grocery store’s speaker system launched into the first notes of Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun”.

As I started humming along (hey, if there’s only 25 people allowed in the store at one time, I can softly hum with a smile under my mask) my mood instantly changed and the non-compliant grocery shopper was already deleted from my consciousness.

When you review the lyrics, it’s not like “Soak Up the Sun” is one of the cheeriest songs ever written, but the chorus, the music and its associated music video convey to me a certain lightness and free-spiritedness that have often helped me let go of some of the little irritants in life.

Have you ever noticed how songs seem to have that power over us, to – please forgive the cliché – turn a frown upside down? And have you ever been in a situation where you are driving around, enjoying a string of one good song after another, and actually hoping for red lights to slow down your commute to enjoy the tunes?

Much like with “Soak Up the Sun”, it doesn’t always have to be about uplifting lyrics, sometimes it can be all about the music itself and a skillful arrangement that just strikes the right notes to raise ones spirits or even better, to energize. Continue reading

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Holiday Music Overload

I admit that I am a sucker for some good Christmas tunes.

When it comes to picking favourites, I am pretty easy going. It doesn’t really matter whether I listen to the classics by Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald or Burl Ives, or modern ones like Wham’s “Last Christmas” or Linda Eder’s “The Bells of St Paul”, I am a fan.

In my own traditions, “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band-Aid is usually the first one I play to kick off my holiday preparations, much like it did when it first hit the airwaves in 1984.

I can’t think of a better time to have the holiday tunes playing than when I am decking the halls, trimming the tree, wrapping gifts or enjoying some holiday baking. To me, the music can be the icing on the cake, turning my holiday activities into more idyllic Norman Rockwell-Hallmark movie moments.

Over the years, I have collected a couple of new CDs each year just to hear different jazz or pop interpretations, to switch things up and to keep the holiday tunes fresh.

Ten years ago, when I was learning Swedish, I accumulated some CDs from Sweden’s top pop singers that not only added fresh new voices to the mix, but also introduced me to traditional Swedish songs. Today, I couldn’t imagine my holidays without them.

Overall, I will admit to having a pretty big appetite for holiday tunes… but not all the time. Continue reading

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How I Miss Music Video Programs

Ever since music video programs took to the airwaves in the 1980s, I have always been a huge fan of the art form. Whether it was “Friday Night Videos”, “Video Hits”, “Good Rockin’ Tonite”, “MuchMusic” or “MusiquePlus”, I was glued to the set. Hour after hour I would watch, mesmerized by this cool art form combining music, film and storytelling in a tight package with a run time of about four minutes.

Through my late high school years and university years, music videos formed the soundtrack of my life, featuring artists like Duran Duran, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Bananarama, Depeche Mode, the Pet Shop Boys and the Jackson family. Music videos welcomed me home from school, were the focal point of some parties, helped keep me awake through late-night essays and helped me pace myself in studying for final exams.

When I got into the career years, priorities changed a little as did my ability to watch 12 consecutive hours of music videos. But I remained a fan nonetheless, often keeping the music channels on for background music while I cleaned my apartment or worked in the kitchen.

A few nights ago, I realized how much I missed music videos as a source of background music. I decided to try to recreate that feeling.

Since I got the iTunes app almost a decade ago, I have purchased a few music videos that were particularly special to me, but not enough to make a playlist as diverse as what a music video channel offered back in the day. Plus, iTunes doesn’t carry all of my old favourites.

YouTube on the other hand, carries almost everything I could possibly want, with only a few exceptions. Sadly, some treasured videos are hanging by a thread in cyberspace with only a couple of grainy versions to be found. Continue reading

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50 Reasons to Love Music

1- Music can pick up a listener’s mood when they’re feeling down.
2- Music can help a listener to relax when they’re feeling wound up.
3- Music can help set the mood for any activity.
4- In the morning, the right song can help set the pace for the whole day.
5- The right music can make traffic jams more bearable.
6- The right background music can make a movie a masterpiece.
7- A game show would not be as much fun if it didn’t have the right background music.
8- A horror movie would not be as enjoyable without the appropriate background music.
9- Music is a great conversation starter.
10- Music makes people want to move.
11- Music makes exercise more fun. Continue reading

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Where Have All the TV Theme Songs Gone?

This season, the American television network “The CW” launched a reboot of the favourite 1980’s prime time soap “Dynasty”. In watching the very first episode, I was delighted to see several nods to its original series, including having kept its great orchestral theme song. The only thing was that it was a much shorter version of it.

Similarly, Netflix has recently rebooted “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” Again, a really unique theme song, but chopped down to just a few bars of its original.

Have you noticed how the opening themes for many American TV shows have gotten shorter and shorter over the years? Now, some shows don’t even have them at all.

If I mentioned the names of program like “All in the Family“, “Golden Girls”, “Three’s Company”, “The Brady Bunch” or “Gilligan’s Island”, even if you weren’t a huge fan, I’m sure many of you would be able to recite a few words if not the whole theme song.

These theme songs became deeply entrenched in our pop culture, and some have become synonymous with the decades when the shows originally aired. In doing so, they also became entrenched in our hearts and minds.

As young kids, we couldn’t play “Batman” without singing few rounds of the famous “Na na na na na na na…” theme.

What would have become of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” with a theme song about a messy breakup instead of the inspiring words about making it after all? Continue reading

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Boxing Day Memories: Sam the Record Man

When I think back to my Christmas wish lists over the years, music has been a constant. As a long time music lover, my voracious appetite for music goes as far back as age 10.

Through my early teens, I had an allowance from my parents, and in my later teen years, I had pocket money from a part-time job. A lot of that money was spent on records.

At that time, vinyl record albums were relatively pricey for someone earning $2.35 per hour. Christmas became that opportunity to ask Santa for the albums I did not get a chance to pick up myself through the year.

In preparing that wish list, there was some careful consideration and a few (if not several) trips to the record store(s) to ensure that the albums I chose would bring maximum enjoyment. I would meticulously review the song lists and count the number of songs I knew versus the ones I didn’t, and then compared from one album to the next.

We didn’t have listening stations, YouTube, iTunes or Spotify to check out those other unknown songs. Sometimes I might have been able to borrow a certain album from a friend or from the library, but for the most part, those other songs were often a mystery until the record was home and on the turntable.

When I think back, I am surprised at how methodical I was for such a young age, but value for money was pretty important given my limited means and my appetite for music. Continue reading

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