Singing: The Ultimate Detox

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Perhaps it is because I’ll be singing karaoke in January or maybe I just need to howl at the moon—whatever the case, I’ve recently found myself singing loudly, well, everywhere. I do most of my singing on my commute to any one of the three colleges I teach at, but I also sing at home and while running errands.

A while back, I wrote a post on the link between grief and song, but my current penchant for belting out various tunes has me wondering what other connections there might be between singing and everyday life. Here’s a short list of possibilities I’ve come up with:

  • I just like the feeling of being loud
  • Singing acts like a catharsis, a release of frustration (I am a teacher, after all) and, as previously mentioned, grief (I recorded a podcast about my very recent journey with grief after the sudden death of a family member.)
  • I’m super serious about prepping for karaoke
  • One of my not-so-secret wishes is to be a rockstar, and singing loudly helps me live out this dream, even if only for a pretend audience

Whatever the reason (and the list above is by no means exhaustive), I find I always feel refreshed after indulging in some screamo or holding an extra long note. I’m not super into regular “cleanses” that involve only drinking juices or other dietary restrictions, so maybe singing is my detox and way of giving voice (no pun intended) to all that is not language within me yet.

Your turn: Do you like to sing? If so, what are your reasons? Is it for fun or might there be another purpose?

10 Songs that Should be on your iPod (or other MP3 player…)

Album cover for the Evanescence single "G...

Album cover for the Evanescence single “Good Enough”, version 1. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Streamy Awards Photo 1189

Streamy Awards Photo 1189 (Photo credit: The Bui Brothers)

Wordplay (song)

Wordplay (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, now that I embarrassed myself with 10 guilty pleasure songs yesterday, let me make some suggestions for songs that I think should be on everyone’s iPod.  I’ll admit, I do lean towards rock, but I have been on an R&B kick lately (though that didn’t really show through on this list).  Hope you find something you like!  This started turning into classic rock songs that you shouldn’t be without…hopefully further editing has balanced this post out.

1. Living in the Moment – Jason Mraz
This is a great song to serve as a reminder to loosen up and enjoy life.  I tend to keep busier and more stressed than I should, and this song reminds me to “not waste my days making up all kinds of ways to worry about all the things that will not happen to me.”

02 – Living In The Moment

2. Hook It up – Captain Dan and the Scurvy Crew
Pirate Rap. ‘Nuff said

06 Hook It Up

3. Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked – Cage the Elephant
Good song for when you want to feel badass. Just open the windows, put your shades on, and blast this song down the highway!

03 Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked

4. Taxi – Gym Class Heroes
A song made up almost entirely of band names.  As a writer, I find that impressive.  When I first heard this song, I tried to write a poem made up of band names.  It failed.  This song, however, does not.

Gym Class Heroes – Taxi

5. Good Enough – Evanescence
Usually known for their gothic stylings, this Evanescence tune is almost classical.  The piano and string arrangements are smooth, and when coupled with Amy Lee’s vocals, this song is absolutely gorgeous!  It’s both sad and happy, but then again, sad is happy for deep people.

Evanescence – Good Enough

6. The Doctor’s Theme – Murray Gold
This man is a music genius!  This song is great mood music.  It’s short, somewhat ominous, and yet oddly beautiful.

03 The Doctor’s Theme

7. Welcome to the Jungle — Guns N Roses
I like feeling badass…can you tell?

Guns N Roses – Welcome to the Jungle

8. Catch and Release – Silversun Pickups
I almost went with Panic Switch, but I needed more slow songs and this is a great one. It’s sexy, but also a little sad.  I always picture a figure skater when I hear this song because the music here is so clean and precise.  I also love the bass melody.

Catch and Release

9. Bromance – Chester See and Ryan Higa
This, like Hook It Up, is a silly one.  The title says it all.  I watched the video for this song on YouTube, saw it was available on iTunes, and downloaded it.  It’s set up as part rap song, part 80s power ballad, and all hilariousness.

01 – Bromance

10. Lost in the Echo – Linkin Park
I wrote a letter to Linkin Park and told of how this particular song was my favorite from their current album, “Living Things.”  It has served to give me energy and confidence.  For example, I played this song while driving to school on my first day of college level teaching in September.  I love the rhythm and hard-hitting lyrics.

01 – Lost In The Echo

ipod shuffle loja online leilao

ipod shuffle loja online leilao (Photo credit: sucelloleiloes)

Now it’s your turn!  What is one song you think should be on everyone’s playlist?

I Can’t Believe I’m Doing This: 10 Songs I’m Embarrassed to Say I Listen To

Back in August, I wrote a post about music I’d recently discovered. But we all have songs on our iPod that we put on when no one else is listening.  They’re the guilty pleasure songs.  For me, a lot of these songs have a nostalgic quality.  Others, well, there’s just no excuse…

1. Ultimate – Lindsay Lohan

Over (Lindsay Lohan song)

Over (Lindsay Lohan song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, this one doesn’t actually have a nostalgia excuse.  I worked at a library for a few years where I helped out with children’s programming.  Many times we’d play “Freeze Dance,” where the object was to freeze right as a song stopped playing.  One of the songs we played frequently was this one.  After hearing it so many times, I just put it on my iPod.

Lindsay Lohan – Ultimate

2. Who Do You Think You Are? – The Spice Girls
A little know song by Britain’s other fab five.  It’s got a funky retro vibe that I dig. But I swear, I listen for the nostalgia.  Not like I dance around in my apartment on a regular basis to this song.  Nope, not at all.

Spice Girls – Who Do You Think You Are?

3. We R Who We R – Ke$ha
There really is no excuse at all for this one.  I heard it on the radio once and thought it was the most stupid song in existence.  The second time I heard it, I started bopping my head.  The third time, I started singing along.  Oh, pop songs, how you are so terribly catchy.

02 We R Who We R

4. Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley
Why yes, I do rick roll myself on occasion.

Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up

5. Man, I Feel Like a Woman! – Shania Twain
Silly as it sounds, there are times when I feel empowered by this song.  Not in the “I am woman, hear me ROAR!” kind of way.  But in the “I am woman and, dammit, I’m going to have fun!” kind of way.  Also a fun one to dance to.

Shania Twain – Man! I Feel Like a Woman!

6. I Want It That Way – Backstreet Boys

Millennium (Backstreet Boys album)

Millennium (Backstreet Boys album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know why nostalgia embarrasses me, but it does.  I don’t think this is a particularly bad song, though I was around 13 when I first made the “this is a good song” judgement.

Backstreet Boys – I Want It That Way

7. All or Nothing – O-Town
Another boy band.  I’m more embarrassed by how excited I get when this song plays on Pandora than by the song itself.  Also, I belt it out whenever it’s on.

8. A Little Pain – Trapnest
Oh, the days of conventions and cosplaying!  In an article I posted last week, I showed a picture of me dressed as a character from the anime Nana.  That character is the lead singer of Trapnest’s rival band.  There was a time I was very much into anime, thus how this song made it’s way onto my iPod.

Trapnest – A Little Pain

9. Wonderwall – Oasis
Yeah, nostalgia.  I’m not even sure why I’m embarrassed by this song.  Maybe I just needed to fill space in this post…

Oasis – Wonderwall

10. Heartless – Kanye West
Yo Kanye, I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish, but I made up this dope dance to yo’ song.  No really, I made up a dance that’s more a series of hand gestures. I don’t know that I’d perform it if asked.  It’s silly.

Kanye West – Heartless

I was going to include a Schoolhouse Rock song on this list, but ,dammit, I like interjections!

Your turn to share!  Any embarrassing songs on your MP3 player?

Shiny Things! or, 10 Songs I’ve Recently Discovered

Back in November, I wrote an article about songs I was listening to.  I said I would write a post about the new music I discovered on Pandora.  Nine months later, I’m finally getting around to writing that post!  The songs listed here are part what I found on Pandora, part new music I’ve discovered other ways.  Either way, I hope you like what you hear!

1. Propehcy by Carter Burwell – The movie “Howl” stars James Franco as a very good Allen Ginsberg (I will admit, I was surprised.  Playing Ginsberg in all his mania and even simply reading the epic that is the poem “Howl,” I imagine, is difficult to portray). Very appropriately, the soundtrack of this movie has become my new writing music, particularly this song.  It ebbs and flows, dramatic and serene, love it!


2. Ballad of the Sad Young Men by Roberta Flack – I heard this song in the beginning of a lecture by Patrick Rosal.  It stuck with me and I got the album, “First Take,” for my birthday. Rumor has it that the album this song is on was, as suggested by the title, recorded in one take.  I have a lot of respect for Flack’s undeniable singing chops.

Ballad Of The Sad Young Men

3. Acknowledgement by John Coltrane – If you read my Blue Like Jazz post, you’ll know I’ve been listening to Coltrane for a while.  About a year ago, a friend of mine gave me four gigs of new music.  I’m still discovering new tunes from the cache he gave me.  A discovery within the last three months or so has been Coltrane.  I am most definitely falling in love with jazz music.  Something about its inherent creativity and improvisation speaks to me.


4. Girl with One Eye by Florence + the Machine – Ok, I know Florence been around for a little while, and I’m late to the bandwagon. I’m just now discovering her awesomeness. It was love at first listen for this particular song and I.  It’s sassy and, yes, I do belt it out in the car…terribly.

Girl With One Eye

5. The Cave by Mumford and Sons – I have my roommate to blame for this one.  It’s his favorite song of the Mumford and Sons collection he has.  Maybe about six months ago he kept playing this particular tune incessantly.  I’d be lying if I said it had to grow on me.  This song starts out kind of slow, but quickly picks up pace.  I can’t help but bop my head whenever it comes on.

6. Sky by Joshua Radin, featuring Ingrid Michaelson – Here’s another song I discovered because of a friend.  She randomly said there was a song she thought I’d enjoy and sent it to me.  She was definitely right.  I feel like this tune is unique in that it acknowledges the fact that people in a relationship fear that the other person will leave them, but, many times, these fears only manifest themselves in dreams.  The song ultimately renews the singers’ love for the beloved.

Sky (featuring Ingrid Michaelson)

7. That Wasn’t Me by Brandi Carlile – Another song recommended by the same friend who introduced me to “Sky.”  About a month ago, I got a voucher for three free MP3 songs on Amazon.  I did a facebook poll asking which songs people recommended.  My friend recommended this one, and, once again, she was spot on with her choice.  This song won me over with the first few seconds of piano playing and kept me hooked with the soulful, honest lyrics.

That Wasn’t Me

8. Right as Rain by Adele – This was a Pandora recommendation. Damn, that girl can sang!  I realize people know this already, but it bears repeating.

9. I Will Not Bow by Breaking Benjamin – One of my favorite bands, RED, toured with Breaking Benjamin for a bit.  I wasn’t able to go to a show on that tour, but I heard that Breaking Benjamin has a music style very similar to RED.  Pandora played this song on the RED station I created.  Definitely one to head bang to!

10. The Last Fight by Bullet for My Valentine –  I heard this song during one of the Body Combat sessions at my gym.  There are few things I like more than punching along to a rock music riff.  Bullet for my Valentine has quickly become a favorite band of mine.  They’ve got a great mix of gritty lyrics and attitude that are right up my alley.

The Last Fight

An Open Letter to Linkin Park

Linkin Park Tee

Linkin Park Tee (Photo credit: प्रतीक)

Dear Linkin Park,

Your latest release, “Living Things,” is quite different, as are your last two albums, “Minutes to Midnight” and “A Thousand Suns.”  This isn’t a complaint.  Though I will admit that upon first listening to “Minutes to Midnight,” my immediate first thought was (and I quote), “What the hell was that?!”  Your new artistic direction took some getting used to, but it grew on me.

I began to like the use of electronica and cleaner guitar riffs, even if that meant sacrificing the grit and industrial edge that first attracted me to the band’s style.  Unlike many of my friends, I did not discover you guys in high school.  I wasn’t an angsty teen.  I didn’t have (or, at least, didn’t realize at the time) much anger during my teens.  I discovered you guys  in 2007, my senior year of college, after a break up. It was through your music that I found the permission to get angry.

Fast forward five years and you are still in heavy rotation on my iPod.  I still listen to “One Step Closer” when I need to get pumped up, to “Don’t Stay” when I need to get pissed, and to “Breaking the Habit” when I’m creating my own artwork, be it writing or mixed media.

Many people I know were quite disappointed in the direction the band and the music went in.  I can’t say I blame them.  Change is hard.  But I’m honestly very glad to see that while you may have honed a more polished sound, your lyrics are still pretty damn searing.  I think that’s what keeps me coming back.

Since ’07, I’ve graduated with an MFA in Poetry. While working on my own pieces and “finding my voice,” I really gained a firm understanding of what it means to be an artist.  And then I think of what it must feel like to have pressure from an industry that has brought you wild success…and, come to find out, they just want you to keep producing the same thing.  No room for experiments, no room for growth. I’d find that both heart-breaking and maddening. So kudos to you guys for sticking to who you are as artists and as a collective band.  Correction: I think it is this kind of risk and artistic integrity that keeps me coming back.

I meant for this to be a straight-up CD review, but the written word tends to be its own beast.  For those who have not heard the new album, don’t expect, well, anything.  What helped me appreciate this album was to not have expectations, which sounds bad, as if I am asking you to set the bar low.  That is not what I am saying.  What I am asking is for you (yes, you, the reader) to have open ears and an open heart….wow, that may very well be one of the most cliche phrases I have ever typed.  What I mean to say is this: Let the trickling beats and interweaving vocals of Mike and Chester (a staple of this band I’m SO glad they didn’t sacrifice for the album) speak to you.  If they don’t, then they don’t.  Come back to “Living Things” in a year, two years, even five years.  I do think this album has something to say to everyone.  I say this as someone who has been steadily listening to this album for about a month and is still finding new things to enjoy: a beat I didn’t hear before, a phrase I had never caught until this moment.  Am I saying this CD will change your life?  Perhaps not.  But could it offer words for an emotion or event you couldn’t utter before? Most likely. Linkin Park is good at that.

Guys (and I speak to the band now), I think you should know this: A few weeks ago, a friend of mine took a poll to see what we’d choose as a theme song if we were involved in a prize fight for our first national title (he’s really into boxing).  My first instinct was to go with something by Flyleaf (for the screaming chick power) or Bullet for My Valentine (for the pure rock energy).  Then I heard “Living Things” and changed my mind.  I put down “Lost in the Echo.”  That song may not include a female front woman or rock riffs, but there is a certain strength and tenacity that is so real, so intimidating, so perfect that I’d want nothing else to fly in the face of my opponent.  Every time I listen to that song, I imagine myself walking up to the ring, steel-faced (which can be quite amusing if you think about it, since I’m a 5’5″ woman with a pretty thin physique).  But seriously, who wouldn’t feel badass walking up to an opponent with these lyrics swirling around?

Test my will / test my heart
Let me tell you how the odds gonna stack up
Ya’ll go hard / I go smart
How’s that working out for y’all in the back, huh?
I’ve seen that frustration
Been crossed and lost and told no
And I’ve come back / unshaken
Let down and lived and let go
So you can let it be known
I don’t hold back I hold my own
I can’t be mapped / I can’t be cloned
I can’t C-flat / it ain’t my tone
I can’t fall back I came too far
Hold myself up and love my scars
Let the bells ring wherever they are

It was a good reminder that your music will always, in some form, be woven into the soundtrack that helps me to take the hits and to deal a few blows of my own.

Thanks for that.

Sunday Morning Playlist

Music - an art for itself - Headphones and mus...

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a music related entry.  I love finding new bands and artists (and recently discovered Pandora Radio… “new music” post to come soon).  In that spirit, I put together a playlist showcasing a sampling of what I’ve been listening to lately in hopes that people can find a new song or two to add to their mp3 player.   So here it is: a collection of what I consider some funky, killer, and risque tunes!

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Lazy Sunday Afternoon Music

Nothing But the Best (album)

Image via Wikipedia

Most days I’ve got a soundtrack playing through my mind.  This lovely, lazy Sunday’s playlist includes a track by Old Blue Eyes.  Enjoy the tune 🙂

Frank Sinatra – All the Way

Seeing RED

I got to meet the guys of one of my favorite bands last month.  It was St. Patrick’s Day. While most people wear green on this day, all I saw was RED (I know, I know, terrible pun).  I’ve been a fan of this band since before their first album was released.  I first heard their music back in 2006 on Myspace (gasp!).  I was hooked.  When I heard they were offering the chance for six fans to hang out with them during each stop of their latest tour, I knew I had to go.

And I did.  And the guys were awesome — funny, down-to-earth, talented dudes.  I was the first person to step onto the tour bus.  I had no idea what to say, so I just said “Hi!”  Before I knew it, I had shaken hands with each of them and was sitting next to the drummer.  We hung out for about 30 – 45 minutes and talked about everything from their new album to the fact that they had a fight with a taser a while back.  It was definitely one of those “I can’t believe I get to live this life” moments.

I went to this concert with a friend of mine who works for a magazine.  She was able to get a press pass (Thanks, Suzy!)  This means that during RED’s set, I was in their faces taking pictures.  See?

I will never forget being in the press pit, headbanging, singing, and clicking away with the SLR.  Now, I never have high expectations when trying to take pictures at a concert because most of them turn out to be unintentional light paintings.  But sometimes, you get shots like this:



The Link Between Grief and Song

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between grief and singing.  I know these can be thought of as pretty disparate concepts; one is filled with anguish and the other is (usually) associated with beauty.  And yet I can’t help but think they are inextricably linked.

I’m reminded of a poem by Jane Hirshfield called “If the Rise of the Fish”.  In this poem she writes, “If the leaves.  If the singing fell upward.  If grief./For a moment if singing and grief.”  I love these lines.  What would happen if singing and grief existed together in the same space for a moment?  What would that look like?  Would it be a mixture of light and dark?  Would it look gray and muddled or luminous?  I’m not quite sure but I love the fact that Hirshfield plays with this concept.

As far as my own creative process is concerned, I tend to write when going through a hardship.  Tension, living in the gray and unknown is what moves me to write.  And this creative process is helped along by music.  Most of my process has been influenced by the belief that tragedy is not necessarily found in the process of enduring a rough time; the real loss would be doing nothing to turn hardship into something beautiful.

There is a song by RED that I find myself going back to.  It’s called “Hymn for the Missing.”  Although these guys are pretty hard rockers, they compose some beautiful instrumentals.  And I think this song illustrates the concept of melding grief and beauty really well.  The lyrics clearly convey loss: “Where are you now?  Are you lost?  Will I find you again?  Are you alone?  Are you afraid?  Are you searching for me?  Why did you go?  I had to stay.  Now I’m reaching for you.  Will you wait?  Will you wait?  Will I see you again?”  So many questions.  I can’t help but think of this verse as depicting the bargaining stage of grief.  The uncertainty leads to questions, but questions don’t always lead to answers.  And still, we put them out there.  In the backdrop of this song is a beautiful piano arrangement that crescendos into an absolutely gorgeous, full instrumental – a reminder that grief and song can complement each other in the most heart-breaking, stunning way.  Listen to “Hymn for the Missing” here:

Hymn For The Missing


As I mentioned before, Red is a rock band so I wanted to showcase what they can do.  Check out their face-melting performance on Conan back in February: