Music Monday: Handel’s Messiah, A Soulful Celebration

Hello all, and Merry Christmas!!! Welcome to this week’s #MusicMonday – another Christmas edition! One of my first segments here talked about my favorite musical creation in the entire universe: Handel’s Messiah. It captures all the greatness of faith, choral music, emotion, and so much more all in one deservedly celebrated oratorio. This work took a tremendous amount of genius on G.F. Handel’s part, and while I have been in love with the majesty of Messiah for years, there’s another great album based on this one that I wish more people were aware of. And I have a site…and I write about music sometimes…and it’s Christmas…so, why not?

Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration

2 centuries after the original Messiah composition, highly acclaimed late 20th-century music producer Quincy Jones decided to try an interesting spin on the Baroque classic. Jones brought in many gospel/R&B artists to bring a different take on Messiah, including Daryl Coley, Take 6, Stevie Wonder, Patti Austin, The Boys Choir of Harlem, the Clark Sisters, Commissioned, Al Jarreau, and so many others. Select choruses and arias are used, providing the source material but re-wrapped in various new genres and different musical twists. First, we get the overture, in which we are taken on a literal musical journey that visits the historical development of some styles of music (including African styles, jazz, gospel, R&B, hip-hop, etc). All of this occurs with Handel’s main overture theme still in tact, but in the absolute most interesting and musical way.

Listen to the beginning of the famous Every Valley Shall Be Exalted tenor aria. Great, right? Right. Now listen to what A Soulful Celebration does. Awesome, right?! I think I heard this as a kid before I heard the original aria (appropriate confusion and wonderment ensued). For unto us a child is born sticks with the same melodic material and format, but the choir has a celebratory field day with adding genres in the midst of this as well. Through this, the choir’s spirit elevates the music to an even higher level that quickly becomes infectious. And of course, that Hallelujah Chorus is a fantastic explosion of Handel’s original creation with some new creativity.

I could go on and on, but simply: what’s so great about this album is what it does with the course material. The musical structure is just so genius in how it makes every single solitary musical decision fit in with a different genre or sound that was a staple of its’ time period. Even further than this, each artist or group really owns the music and makes it their own. This is a true mark of solid musicianship.

Do yourself a favor and check out this album today!! In the meantime, feel free to tell me what your favorite movement is, your favorite Christmas song, compilation, or any of that! Let’s spread some great Christmas cheer with some great Christmas music.

Merry Christmas!!

Music Monday: Joy to the World

Good morning all, and welcome to another Christmas edition of #MusicMonday! In lieu of the most wonderful time of year, we’re taking a look at the best kind of music: CHRISTMAS MUSIC!!!! (subjectivity not a factor)

There are several songs that serve as a staple of this season, whether traditional sacred carols (Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful), fun secular ones (Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman), but there’s one I hold near and dear to my heart because it exemplifies the meaning of the season, and the upbeat, joyous emotion contagious to so many. I’m talking about, of course, Joy to the World!

The Joy to the World was originally a hymn written by Isaac Watts, based on text from Psalm 98 in the Bible, used to celebrate Christ’s triumphant return to the earth. Today we know it to celebrate His birth instead with different verses, but the second half of Watts’ lyrics are still used today.

There are several (SEVERAL) versions and arrangements of this tune. What’s most remarkable about this song is that it encapsulates what Christmas is truly about: the birth of Jesus. There’s just no way you can hear this tune and not at least hear the celebratory sensation of true joy. This may be one of the hardest Christmas/holiday tunes to arrange for, because we’re all so familiar with the traditional arrangements heard in church services and such…but even more than that, you have to make your music truly capture that emotion of “this brings so much meaning to me, and I want to share my joy and peace with you.” And, after all, isn’t that a mindset we should all strive to have when possible in a time of year in which we are easily the busiest and most prone to being scatterbrained?

I hope this Christmas season, no matter how you celebrate the holiday, you can find some peace of mind and take a moment to reflect on the important things, slow down for at least a couple minutes, and enjoy what you do have. Once you do that, choose to celebrate it! We all have something different and we’re all very different people. So embrace that! More so, celebrate the reason for the season. Then, pop in your favorite Joy to the World arrangement! 🙂

Have a wonderful #MusicMonday, and an even better Christmas! 9 days left! What’s your favorite Joy to the World arrangement – a more traditional, or one that your favorite artist just kills at? Feel free to chime in and share your Christmas joy with the interwebs.

Have a great week, and sing on my brethren!

Music Monday: Seth MacFarlane’s Holiday for Swing!

Hello music friends! After long last, welcome back to #MusicMonday! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Christmas, and Christmas music, and had to set aside a few minutes this month to talk about some great Christmas music. There’s really way too much to cover – but here’s this week’s highlight from me:

Holiday for Swing! – Seth MacFarlane
Earlier this year, I talked about Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s swing album Music is Better than Words, which features arrangements in the same vein as the Sinatra/rat pack era of jazz and swing music. It’s a little-known fact that MacFarlane enjoys singing and making music from the music of yesteryear (as well as musicals/soundtracks), but man is he great at it. There’s even traces of it in his animated work – silly, ridiculous songs that still feature complex and specific attention to the orchestrations. Well, this September, he released his latest return to the studio with conductor/arranger Joel McNeely and his stellar orchestra to bring us CHRISTMAS!!!

As an avid fan of the first album, this was everything and more I was waiting for. If you’re someone who grew up with the Sinatra/Crosby/Martin and the gang arrangements, this will echo those very much, but still with its’ own sense of musical identity. If you’re not familiar, it’ll still provide you some excellent vocals and orchestrations that create the most heartwarming of Christmas sounds. The chorus at the beginning of Let It Snow! comes in like a sultry surprise, and then BAM – the orchestra kicks off and paints the picture of excitement for the season. Some songs do more of this, while others like I’ll Be Home for Christmas are more for your fireplace cuddling, or lamenting about trying to get home soon to your loved ones. Norah Jones returns for Little Jack Frost Get Lost and Sarah Bareilles returns for a great rendition of Baby It’s Cold Outside which really favors the Johnny Mercer recording in the best of ways. I think his version of The Christmas Song, the most gentle and simple one I’ve ever heard, may be my personal new favorite.

I could go on and on about this album – JUST GO BUY IT. Seriously, I don’t think it’s getting the attention it deserves. Seth’s voice is pristine, the orchestra is beyond stellar, the arrangements are like none other – just AH. I hadn’t heard some of these tunes before, but I enjoyed them immensely and the constant listening led to starting my Christmas music listening early. Seth’s album here is just what your home or Christmas party needs as you spend time with others, decorate the tree, hit the road for the holidays, office music, or just want to get in the Christmas spirit. Anything, really! I’m putting samples of the entire album below so I can let this work speak for itself!

Thanks for celebrating the first Christmas #MusicMonday – and now, share with me what some of YOUR favorite Christmas tunes might be!

3 Fridays til Christmas,

Music Monday/Top 10 Best Uses of YEET!

Hello and welcome to this week’s segment of #MusicMonday! In this segment, we talk about the grand artistry known as the music of today, yesteryear, and the future to honor multiple interpretations and genres that express a wide range of the human experience through the ears of this universe’s common tonality: music.

Today: we’re gonna HIT THAT YEET!

I know what you’re thinking, and yes – I am serious.

Let’s start here: when I first heard the word ‘YEET’, I figured it was a word in 2014 hip-hop that was casually thrown in as a nonsense word or exclamatory. Then I quickly wondered if it may have meant something derogative, even in the connotation of this song, seeing as how sometimes the simplest things in rap can be offensive/negative, and I’d never want to accidentally promote the wrong thing. Then, I looked it up on Urban Dictionary and discovered that it’s probably the most harmless, random word that could ever be used in the history of slang terminology (or, “slangology”, if you will). If you hear the music without paying as much attention, it sounds like a lesser-budget quality rap song (which, this one is). If you pay attention to the words…it means nothing! Seriously! Here, the group D.X.B. is literally just yelling the word YEET over & over and throwing it in every day situations, like not being able to dance, but he can hit that yeet, for example. You know, sometimes a song can just be dumb and meaningless for the sake of having fun & just getting straight turnt! I will blast this in my car on full any day of the week, knowing that I’m not promoting negative themes that most people complain about in similar-sounding hip-hop music. Other music genres allow songs that might be full of nonsense syllables & exploratory sounds (cough, John Cage) – why not allow this? Could D.X.B. be the John Cage of 2014?

Nah, I think they’re just some hyped up kids who really wanted to hit that yeet.

And now, because you demanded it: TOP 10 BEST USES OF YEET

  1. *An exclamatory remark:
    “AW, YEET!” exclaimed LaMarcus, as his shot went towards the basketball hoop.
  2. *To violently throw an object that you deem to be worthless, inferior or just plain garbage.
    Benjamin: “Hey man! Happy 21st birthday! I got you this for your special day, hope you enjoy!”
    Gabriel: “Nick Cannon’s rap album? Are you serious?”
    Benjamin: “I thought you liked it? It has some nice songs on it and…”
    Gabriel: “UGH, YEET!”
  3. *A dance phenomenon started on Vine
    “I can hit that yeet like Bill Cosby.”
  4. A way to claim something as yours
    “YEET!” exclaimed LaYazmin as she snatched that weave back from her friend.
  5. A word to use to exit an awkward situation
    Jebidiah: Ethel, I know we’ve been friends for years & you’re married, but I have to finally tell you…I love you…as more than a friend.
    Ethel: …um…I uh…YEET! *runs away*
  6. A way to sound like you’re insulting someone without actually saying anything, so it’s not wrong, right?
    Biff: Hey butthead! You look like 50 Shades of YEET today!
    (the gang laughs)

    George: Hahaha…oh Biff…wait, what?
  7. A good word to thrown in your favorite song just to provide mild entertainment
    “Never mind I’ll YEET someone like you…”
    “The best part of waking up is YEET in your cup!”
    “I’m gettin’ married in the morning! Ding-dong, we’re gonna HIT THAT YEET!”
    “Dashing through the YEET in a one-horse open YEET, over the hills we YEET, hitting all that YEET!”
  8. A terrible catch phrase for a local standup comedian
    “I tell ya, my boss’s new wife is so black, he thinks it’s nighttime everywhere they go together because he thinks he’s in an alley way. Ooh, YEET YEET!”
  9. A pet name for your puppy
    Come here, my little yeet! Who’s my little yeet? Who’s mommy’s little yeet? YOU are! Awwww that’s a good little yeet yeet! Here’s a treat-treat for my yeet-yeet!”
  10. A prefix for a word of choice to make others realize how ridiculous a current situation may be
    “Y’all need to stop all this tomyeetery” yeeted LaJacob, to his mooching family at the reunion.

*from Urban Dictionary, but edited

I’m feeling the heat, so time to get off the street.
Have a great week, and HIT THAT YEET!



Music Monday: September

Hello all, and welcome to this week’s segment of #MusicMonday!! In this segment, I present some great pieces of musical artistry that stretches a variety of genres to celebrate it, and ask you for yours in turn!

Today’s #MusicMonday selection, I figure, is a very appropriate favorite:

September: Earth, Wind and Fire

That’s right, everyone’s favorite Earth, Wind and Fire song! It’s one of the simplest catchy songs I can think of in terms of how great it is, as well as what it’s about. It’s about looking back on an innocent time spent with those you love! “Do you remember the 21st night of September? Love was changing the minds of pretenders while chasing the clouds away…ba de ya, say do you remember, ba de ya, dancing in September, ba de ya, never was a cloudy day.” Genuine bliss, genuine love, being totally carefree without a worry, and any worries that did exist were erased by love and good times and golden dreams – maybe it sounds a little corny on paper, but think about it. Wouldn’t you like to escape to a comfy place like this every once in a while? This song just takes me to a nice, easy going place of no worry – just fun. Fun and enjoyment of wherever I am at any given moment, whether I’m in the car starting my day or it’s on in Walmart’s Greatest Hits playlist. Earth, Wind and Fire were (and still are) one of the greatest groups on the face of the planet, and the musicality in this piece is a fantastic one that captures any misfortune the listener may have and chucks it out the window as soon as the guitar starts playing. It’s a great piece to start off your day – and month! So I say, pop this in and have yourself a party, and allow good times to come on in for you and your loved ones.

That’s this week’s Music Monday! What pieces put your mind at ease, or remind you of the good times? Feel free to share them with me, so we can spread the word of good music around and keep it alive!

Have a great week, and sing on, my brethren!

Music Monday: Sinema (Swoope)

Hello all, and welcome to this week’s segment of #MusicMonday! In this segment, we take a look at music past, present and future to celebrate the artistry, and its’ effect on us as a people.

Today’s #MusicMonday doubles as a promo for a new album release of an artist I’ve known for some years now! It just hit iTunes last week and I haven’t been able to put it down yet!

Allen Swoope released his newest hip-hop/rap album last week, Sinema, which uses many of the same styles of hip-hop beats & music creatively, while the focus is on the message he is telling through story and God’s Word. His other projects over the past few years typically do something similar, but this one uses all 12 tracks in a row to tell one straight story – one of lust, addiction, fantasy, and sin. It opens up with an exchange of phone calls between Swoope & a woman named Mya Desiree. (Get it?) They’re into each other, but she spend the album leaving messages trying to get in touch with him while he continues to avoid her. They hooked up recently, and he wants her, but was it really worth it? Is there more to their story? How long can he keep her in the wings, and why won’t she let up? Was it love or lust?

Musically, this thing sounds fresh as a mug. Swoope himself came up as a highly gifted church musician, and created nothing but the best & dopest of sounds in the studio. To add to it, he brought in other talented singers and rappers (J.R., Tragic Hero, Natalie Lauren, Tedashii, etc.) to add to the effect. I could go on about the sound of this album, but really, that’s not where the focus is, and you can get a good sense of that yourself by listening to it. The focus is on the message! I won’t ruin the story for you if you haven’t heard the album, but seriously, check this thing out. Swoope is a master at using God’s words and messages for us and finding ways to put it in music that will captivate the listener. The hook is a dope sound with a beat – but the truthful messages to teach and minister to others is what really sticks. Music is such a powerful medium that can promote any message about whatever’s out there in the world today that might not be the best for us to digest. Any rapper out today can do that – but Swoope specifically focuses on utilizing the words straight from the Kingdom of God. And done so genuine! It’s not just “we made a beat and threw ‘Jesus’ in it” – it truly is from someone who’s heart is after God and making the lives of someone who will learn from this better.

So that’s today’s #MusicMonday! Go on iTunes and check out Swoope’s work and let me know what you think! Let’s promote hip-hop that isn’t only good, but promotes something great.

Have a great week, and sing on, my brethren!

Music Monday: I’m Black, Y’all!

Hello everyone, and welcome to another segment of #MusicMonday! In this segment, I share music of value to me to celebrate its’ artistry, and in turn ask you for yours!

Today’s song (my own personal anthem and most played song in my iTunes) speaks for itself:

That’s right: the ever-famous and truly inspiring I’m Black Y’all from highly-acclaimed artistic film, CB4. This song is a true testament to those everywhere who may be black, bear the last name Black, carry the charge of blackness upon oneself, or may even identify with others who happen to succumb to blackness. The undeniable talents of actor/artist-in-residence Allen Payne bring about the height of pride, joy, strength, and unity in this grand treasure of a statement. To the common listener, the song’s statement may sound like 3 simple words: “I’m Black, Y’all.” However, if you simply listen more carefully and dig deeper within your heart of hearts, you will find this there is much more to this! Payne pours his soul out with the embellishments such as “I’m blackity-black” and “I’m biggety-black-black-black-blackity-black-a-black!” You can’t tell me that this doesn’t represent all the emotion, the pain, the passion of one man trying to simply express his blackness! This is the kind of passion and lack of fear which all artists of any type should be able to muster when showing the people their true selves!

And perhaps, just perhaps, this goes beyond just being black. Perhaps Payne’s plea can be understood and applicable to all people of all creeds. He is proud to be black. If you’re a Latina woman, be the proudest Latina woman you can be. If you’re a middle-aged Caucasian male currently balding, make it the proudest bald spot that ever shined. If you’re an over-the-top political person who uses FaceBook as their platform to showcase your obvious knowledge and love for America which includes arguments you may or may not engage with people face-to-face, make it the proudest and most American FB argument that ’twas ever typed. If you’re a creepy subway personality who drives fear and suspicion into the hearts of passengers on the daily…well, maybe find some better habits, but do so proudly! And then, maybe one day, we can all hold our heads high together and say that we, too, are indeed…BLACK.

I hope you all have been truly inspired by this song and it’s plight, and feel inclined to share your inspirational songs as well! When you see someone on the street today, hold that fist up and say “I’m Black, Y’all!”

Have a good week, and stay black, my brethren!