Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nathan's Mix 2007-3

I am beginning to think I should come up with a better name for the series of popular music mixes I make, but over the last two years it's just been "Nathan's Mix [Year]-[Volume]" and that's served me well. In 2005 I made two mixes - "Nathan's Party Mix 2005" and "Nathan's Slammin' Mix 2005" (the former being more mellow, the latter being more rock-oriented). Before that - before NOW, even, I called my mixes "Music That Doesn't Suck", with a couple spinoffs ("Metal That Doesn't Suck", etc.).

Then they come out with this "Now That's What I Call Music" series, where they take 3-4 good songs and bundle them with 15-16 crappy ones, and they sell millions of copies, but such is the music industry. I don't sell my mixes (to do so would require paying royalties and licensing use of a CD distribution center, among other things) so it's not really fair to compare, but I'd like to think I pick better music. And there's no filler to be found on my mixes. I collect good songs until I have enough to make a CD (80 minutes) and then organize them so they flow well.

Anyway, here's the listing for the third mix of 2007. All in all I like it, and like its predecessor, it mixes in some country as well as rock and pop. This mix features a few interesting covers, so read the notes for each song.

1. Time After Time (Quietdrive)
Quietdrive are virtually unknown, coming onto the popular radio scene with a cover of Cyndi Lauper's 1984 classic. The original was good as a pop song, and the cover is great as a rock song. I only prefer the cover to the original because I prefer rock to pop, but hey, a good song is a good song.

2. Paralyzer (Finger Eleven)
This and the first track were two of the first songs added for the mix, back when the mix was just four songs in rotation (see the ending notes for the one that didn't make the cut). They sounded so well together, I couldn't separate them. This song is hard rock, but it has dance qualities as well, and an infectious pop beat, it's really hard to classify it.

3. Girlfriend (Avril Lavigne)
As a fan of Lavigne's slower songs (e.g. I'm With You, Keep Holding On) it was hard to accept this cheerleader-chant fast-pop/punk song, but I dig it now. I just have to remember, this is basically where Avril started out - though it's a lot faster than Sk8r Boi, it's kind of the same thing. And this is not the radio edit ("I'm the one and only princess"), it's the album version ("Hell yeah I'm the motherf**kin' princess"). I couldn't find the radio edit - and the album version has more bite.

4. You Give Love a Bad Name (Blake Lewis)
This is a pretty faithful cover of the Bon Jovi hit from 1986, except for the beatbox bit which may offend some nostalgics (my wife, for one). I personaly think it adds to the song, giving it a new twist and adding something original from the artist. Not having TV, I did not know that Blake Lewis was an American Idol finalist, but that's what Wikipedia says. I'm surprised he didn't win, but I wouldn't be surprised if many of the finalists are better than the winner. I'm sure you'd have to be at least decent to get on the show to start with.

5. Big Girls Don't Cry (Fergie)
This song however is not a cover of a Cyndi Lauper song (or whoever did that song of the same name in the 80s). No, this one's original - and it shows a different side of Fergie that we've seen in "My Humps" and "London Bridge". This is a good, serious ballad, and in my opinion one of the two strongest tracks on the album. Not best, mind you, but strong, powerful, engaging.

6. 19 Somethin' (Mark Wills)
Now we get into nostalgic country, singing about the 70s and 80s. You know a song that opens with the line "Saw Star Wars at least 8 times" is gonna get my attention. I've had people (even those who didn't like country) tell me that this song perfectly describes the experience of living through these decades for them, so even if country isn't your thing, this song wins with the mass appeal.

7. Red Dirt Road (Brooks & Dunn)
Here's another good country song. Brooks & Dunn is a country band (duo) I'm coming to appreciate as having mostly good songs (the first one to catch my ear was "Play Something Country"). There's nothing particularly special about this song, but for general country, it's pretty good and I enjoy listening to it.

8. I Need You (Tim McGraw and Faith Hill)
"I wanna drive across West Virginia... In the back seat of a Cadillac". Instant classic. This song was absolutely beautiful with just McGraw singing it, but then Faith Hill comes in with the second verse and the quality shoots through the roof. "I wanna dance to the static of an AM radio". Classic indeed. And I thought "Live Like You Were Dying" (Tim McGraw) was great, but this manages to top it. I liked Faith Hill's songs (e.g. "Breathe") before McGraw's, though, and when Faith Hill turns 40, I turn 28. (I also share my birthday with Stephen King, how's that?)

9. Little Wonders (Rob Thomas)
Please, nobody tell Rob Thomas that the 1990s ended seven years ago, because he continues to make the same great music that his band Matchbox Twenty and countless others made great in that decade. (Another 1990s relic also graces this compilation, keep reading.) Thomas has that distinct voice you instantly recognize, and when it comes to male pop singers, he's in the top of his class.

10. (You Want To) Make a Memory (Bon Jovi)
I'm one of those old farts that remembers when Bon Jovi were hard rock, in their 1986 classic Slippery When Wet and the follow-up New Jersey. This song is much more mellow, but it's still good and remeniscent of Slippery's second-half, slower songs.

11. Working Class Hero (Green Day)
Green Day join the fraternity of bands and artists who have covered Working Class Hero, originally by liberal genius and Beatles member John Lennon. I prefer Marilyn Manson's cover - Manson covering Lennon was an instant classic before hearing it - it just has more bite. But this isn't bad. If you follow the provided Wikipedia link for Working Class Hero, you can see who all has covered it.

12. Hey There Delilah (Plain White T's)
I've never been too big a fan of this song, but my wife seems to think it's the best song ever recorded. It is a good song, though, I must admit - so it gets included. I tend to skip it when it comes on, but sometimes I listen to it. "Delilah" just makes me think of that stupid syndicated radio show that plays late at night on virtually every adult pop radio station, although the two aren't related. But still, too many memories of being at home or at work and being in the minority of people who didn't want to listen to the bloody thing.

13. If You're Not the One (Daniel Bedingfield)
This pop song reminds me of the Savage Garden hits, and though it seems written for a much younger audience, I find myself enjoying it. It's a very well written and performed song I grudgingly came to accept into the mix.

14. The Remedy (Jason Mraz)
Here's another song I disliked when it first came out, but it grew on me. It's a fun fast-talking pop song that doesn't seem to get old, if you like it.

15. Hurt (Christina Aguilera)
I used to love hating Christina Aguilera alongside Britney Spears and others a few years ago, but I cannot deny that this song is great, regardless of what I've previously thought of its singer. When I mentioned the two strong tracks in Track 5's notes, this is the one I meant. Others are strong as well, but these two stand out. They originally were together in early versions of the mix, but whichever one I put as the second one would upstage the other, so they had to be separated to show their individual strengths, and to strengthen both halves of the album.

16. I'll Be (Edwin McCain)
I thought I had the album this was on, but I must have been thinking of someone else. I loved this song when it was new - I know I bought it. I must have left it in California when I moved out. Years later I find out one of my favorite cousin's songs is "I'll Be" and I'm thinking it's probably some new hip-hop song, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn it was the 1998 pop/folk song I loved so much. It's an older song, but it's on here, not only for my cousin, but because I hadn't heard the song in years, it's still great today, and it fits well with Rob Thomas' single.

17. Don't Matter (Akon)
A fairly big fan of old-school rap (Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, some NWA, Cypress Hill, etc.), it's rare that I find a new hip-hop artist that really impresses me, but Akon is awesome. His best work seems derivative of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (e.g. Tha Crossroads, an old favorite of mine) but I'm sure those more familiar with the hip-hop genre would name more relevant and recent connections. Either way, Akon makes some of the best music in the genre; his entire "Konvicted" album being at least good, this being one of the better tracks.

18. Umbrella (Rihanna featuring Jay-Z)
I've found Rihanna's songs to be hit-and-miss, but with Unfaithful (and maybe SOS) this one is a hit. It's a little less accessible to those not inclined to hip-hop, but still worth a spin, and it fits on the album. I can see it not holding its newness as long as some of the other songs on the album, but for now it's good.

19. Rehab (Amy Winehouse)
Amy Winehouse sounds like an older black lady, but she's neither. 23 years old as of this writing and English (white), who she really is may come as a surprise for those who are only familiar with her music. I've had people tell me they were sure this song was from the 60s, and were shocked to learn the song came out in 2006. This song completes the set, a good finisher to the album.

Closing notes: This album was dangerously close to being the first mix in my series to include the same song in two simultaneous mixes: "Makes Me Wonder" by Maroon 5. I was only starting to like the song when I put it on Nathan's Mix 2007-2, and it was one of the first four songs on this mix, along with the first three. Until I added the last three ("I Need You", "Little Wonders", and "I'll Be") I intended to leave it. But the total running time came in at 84 minutes. "Makes Me Wonder" was the obvious first choice for removal, but I still had about 50 seconds to remove. The second song cut from the mix was Ozzy Osbourne's "Never Gonna Stop". As good as Ozzy's songs are, they just annoy me for some reason. I did intend for the song to be included, so it'll be on the next one, guaranteed. It is a good song. And the Maroon 5 song might be on the early versions, but it will be cut from the final version again. It's already on one mix anyway.

I really don't have any hints for what Nathan's Mix 2007-4 will contain, if I even make it. We still have three and a half months left in the year, and these mixes generally take 3 weeks to 2 months, just guessing, so there's no reason to assume I won't. But it depends on what good songs are released between now and the end of the year. The Ozzy song will most likely make the cut. There's a new Goo Goo Dolls song, and my wife loves them. If she loves the song, she'll probably vote it in like she did with "Hey There Delilah". Nightwish have a new album coming out soon (albeit with a new vocalist), so if I can find a good song there, I'll try to sneak it in. I'm not too impressed with their current (UK) single, Eva, but there has to be something great on the album. I love introducing people to them. You can bet I'll find a couple good country songs and at least one good hip-hop track to go up there. All in all it'll have the best of popular music with a couple hidden gems.

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