Strange Things are Happening on the Billboard Charts

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” (Photo credit: Lionsgate)

Well that didn’t take long! Only 5 weeks after the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, and the release of accompanying song, The Hanging Tree, lead actress Jennifer Lawrence is featured on the radio hit The Hanging Tree (Rebel Remix) which shot to number 22 on the Billboard top 40 for Adult Pop. The simple four stanzas that Lawrence softly recites in the film were quickly layered over an uptempo dance beat, complete with strings, cymbal buildups and a modest brass melody, all coming together to make a tidy radio hit. The song has climbed Billboard’s modernized chart due almost exclusively from radio play, as the song has only recently appeared online. The track’s nonexistent presence online had been driving fans crazy, as made clear by the frantic comments left on the YouTube videos of other non-Rebel remix versions of The Hanging Tree.

In the “Mockingjay, Part 1,” The Hanging Tree (sung a cappella) is well-inserted into the action, serving to calm the heightened action, as a visibly tense Katniss obliges the pleads of her playful compadres to sing a song while still remaining every bit as solemn. The song she chooses is one she hasn’t sung for nearly 10 years, due to a ban from the Capitol, so singing it immediately after an attack by the Capitol was a marked act of defiance. Jennifer Lawrence has an extraordinarily unique and beautiful voice: quiet, slightly lower, and lightly raspy, one that often breaks when she explodes in a passionate outburst – something that she does in almost every one of her movies. If there is a formula for taking softly-sung vocals on a minimalist track, and remixing it into a dance hit, a la Summertime Sadness or Somebody That I Used to Know, Lawrence’s voice is ideal.

Listen for yourselves: The Hanging Tree – Rebel Remix (YouTube)

Song Review: Taylor Swift – Blank Space

Taylor Swift hits us again with the wonderful “Blank Space”

What starts off with a lonely 808 snare hit with a small synth in an echoing chamber blossoms into a flourish of instruments, complete with acoustic guitar, a nice thick pad and even sleigh bells. Yes, sleigh bells have made it into T-Swizzle’s latest hit and contrary to my initial assumption when I first heard it on the radio in November, I assumed it was just a holiday mix only for radio. I was proven wrong after listening to the album version on 1989, which has the same cheerful sleigh bells, arguably my favorite part about this arrangement.

Over the next verse, Swift paints a picture of a lusty girl’s inner monologue as she contemplates her next romantic escapade, prepared for the equal chances for heartbreak or magic that could ensue. Boys, romance and the emotional turmoil that can come from dating is a source of endless inspiration for Swift. It feels natural, thanks in part to the full throttle nature in which she seems to enter her relationships: at high speed, fearless and eventually slamming into a brick wall of heart ache. She doesn’t care, and probably does it each time out of complete optimism and hope, the lure of a spectacular thrill just around the corner. Fully comfortable with this storytelling style of songwriting and singing, Swift makes the track shine with her playful delivery punctuated with full-stops and whispers, such as when she first promises, “I can make the bad guys good for a weekend” and then more casually threatening, “‘Cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.”  It all works so well for Swift, we are familiar with her style and love her for it.

A radio-ready hit like Blank Space is a bold new direction for Swift, but one that fans already saw coming, after her departure from pure country since Red in 2010. This track is definitely proof of the success Taylor Swift has had and should continue to have in the glimmering world of pop.

Blank Space (YouTube)

Hello World!

Here it is, the first post.

This blog is dedicated to the inspiring musicians who commit their lives to music, while being true to themselves, not being afraid to feel and creating music in the process. I plan to write about artists and genres I’m currently interested in, although I will deviate from time to time to expand the content here and keep things fresh. I tend to gravitate towards female vocalists, so don’t be surprised if you notice a trend forming, but we’ll see what happens.

FKA Twigs at the Metro in Chicago on November 13, 2014

Artists like FKA Twigs have been a huge inspiration for me.

You may start to see who my favorites are and what I generally like, but I don’t want to make this a shrine to only a select few. I’ll save that for another blog, perhaps an eBook. I’ll cover concerts I go to, post videos of artists, and even interviews. Above all, what you’ll be seeing here the most, are posts about songs, albums and artists.

Thank you my friends for all your support and helping me get this off the ground!