Music: Embarassing Enjoyment

The other day, there was a post on Reddit that asked Are there any songs which you are embarrassed to like? There are some great answers; I took the top 80 plus the original poster’s and compiled a list. Here are my mini-reviews of the songs.

Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen: this song is deliciously catchy. My daughter loves it and I happen to think the video is awesome. Unabashed enjoyment. 4/5 stars.

If you wanna be my lover by the Spice Girls: this song is also super catchy. I know way too much of the lyrics to this song. To recap: I am a 30+ year old male. 3/5 stars.

Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus: If I was evaluating this on just guitar riffs, I’d give this 6 out of 5 stars, because this hook is brilliant. Miley was who my daughter replaced Dora the Explorer with and has a soft spot in my heart. 4/5 stars.

Love you like a Love Song by Selena Gomez: my first time hearing this song. Good beat, poppy, catchy, singable, predictable. Oooh, the bass kicked in. Repetitive. Repeat peat peat peat peat? Verses are good, chorus is obnoxious. 2.5/5

Hungry like the Wolf by Duran Duran: This band always reminds of my mom trying to draw “Duran Duran” in Win, Lose or Draw (which is moderately impossible). This song is catchy gumdrop pop schlock. This one made me re-evaluate the last song, and the five star system; I went back and deducted a half from the Gomez song (it was originally at a 3), because it’s clearly less good than this. 3/5

Niggas in Paris by Kanye & Jay-Z: Kanye is like hip hop for people who aren’t good at everything. Jay-Z is undeniably good. I give Jay-Z 4/5. Averaged with Kanye’s score, this song gets a 0/5. Permaskip. This song cray.

Safety Dance by Men Without Hats: 5/5 can’t write – dancing.

1901 by Phoenix: First off, great name. First time hearing this song. Good beat, good hook. Nice voice, makes me feel upbeat. Enjoyable. Solid 3 (plus epsilon) /5.

All the Things She Said by t.A.T.u.: This is a fun song. Very driving, great beat, phenomenal catchy riffs. Great mix of electronic and instrumental music. Somewhat repetitive, but these girls can sing, and are entertaining. 3.5/5 stars.

Lights by Ellie Goulding: First time listening. Don’t dig the hook. Girl can sing. This melody sucks. Oh, the real song is starting. Oh, I’ve heard this before. Good beat, still a terrible melody. Don’t breathe between every syllable. Song failure. 1/5 stars.

Rasputin by Boney M.: ha, ha, ha. Russian squat dancing is hard. This song is well thought out end to end. Any time a hook starts to get even mildly uninteresting, they change it up. This is brilliantly constructed, possibly the best thing on the list thus far, excluding the Safety Dance. 4.5/5

Africa by Toto: This song is a little too overengineered for my taste, which is funny considering I put it right after a song that I said was really well constructed. It’s like it was designed to be elevator music. 2.5/5

Dancing Queen by ABBA: Ugh. 0.5/5

Mean by Taylor Swift: Country is not a genre that I typically enjoy. Taylor Swift is amazingly gifted. This song is smart, catchy, and has the right amount of twang. It’s a masterwork, and she wrote it herself. This is going to get the elusive 5/5 stars.

Hello by Lionel Ritchie: I will admit that I sing this song frequently. Great melody, well paced, very good as solo piano and voice (better than the version on this list). I’ll give it 3.5/5.

Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley: For real? I don’t remember putting this on the list, but here we are. I don’t think I can give this an actual mark fairly; I think the song actually kind of sucks, but it’s gone so far and done so much. 3.5/5

Home by Michael Buble: He wrote this song. In addition to having an amazing voice, this song is well constructed for the “Adult Contemporary” (what does that even mean?) genre. It’s easy to listen to, without making me think that it should be exclusively played in elevators. Great and smart chord changes, nice guitar work, subtly jazzy rhythm work. 4/5

Butterfly by Crazy Town: uninspired rapping with uninspired rock music makes an uninspiring song. It’s mildly catchy, but entirely vapid. The best review of this is Orange County. 2/5

Then He Kissed Me by the Crystals: Sometimes the things on this list astound me. If I’m not wrong, and I rarely am, this song is in Rolling Stone’s top 500 songs. It’s catchy, and it’s written by Phil Spector, who was a talented, if crazy, fellow. And the Crystals were one of the best girl bands of all time. 4/5

Staying Alive by the Bee Gees: I guess it is understandable to be embarassed by disco, but this is a great song. Good beat (disco beat), fantastic guitar, horns and strings on top great, makes you want to move. 4/5

No Rain by Blind Melon: Alternative is what I grew to ostensible maturity listening to. This has never been my favourite song, but it is a good, solid song. I always felt like Shannon Hoon was a sad knockoff of Kurt Cobain though I have not much to back that up. There is some solid guitar work in this song, and it’s catchy. 3.5/5

Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson: First time listen. Trite, but decent intro. Girl can sing. As I listen some more… this girl can sing. Now I’m googling this song, and it’s written by… Avril Lavigne, amongst others? This is surprisingly well constructed. Good riffs, catchy, and wow, not to be overly repetitive, Kelly Clarkson can really sing. 4/5

Not Afraid by eminem: I wouldn’t consider myself a fan, but here’s my opinion, this guy is talented. This is slick, well produced, has something to say, and he sells it. This is one of the most honest sounding rap songs I’ve heard. 4.5/5

Tainted Love by Soft Cell: This song makes me giggle. One time I heard it played at a wedding. Somebody who was clearly not me requested it. Full Disclosure: it was me. 3.5/5

Sexy and I Know It by LMFAO: This song is bad. The actual music certainly has a good beat, but the lyrics are so obnoxiously stupid. I understand that’s pretty much the point. Some songs are obnoxious and still work. This is not one. Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle. Vomit. Still better than ABBA. 1/5

Starships by Nicki Minaj: first listening. Is this a real thing? Googling Nicki Minaj. Is this a real thing? WTF? This is the first time I have felt the need to use this phrase in a long while: KIDS THESE DAYS, JEEZ. Still, better than ABBA. 1/5

Stay by Lisa Loeb: Honestly? How did this even make this list? She is everything that a song writer should aspire to be. 5/5

Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Wiser: I found an acoustic version, and it’s fantastic. This is another well constructed song. Catchy, great riffs, pulls you in, great singing. 4/5

Where Have All The Cowboys Gone by Paula Cole: Do not like the sub vocalization / harmonizing at the beginning. Do not like the message: why does she need a man to take care of her? This is a bad song, and she should feel bad. There’s very little music in this music. Still, better than Nicki Minaj. 2/5

My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion: say what you want, she has a hell of a voice. Music by James Horner, words by Will Jennings. This is a super hit because it is a good song. It got too much radio play though, and everyone got sick of it. 4/5

Bing Bang by Lazy Town: first listen. I… what is this? It’s like a brit korean pop mixup for kids. *heads to google*. Okay, I understand now. Well, not much to say. Catchy, fun, forgettable. 3/5

Get Up by Skrillex featuring KoRn: Is there more of this? These bands should do this forever. It’s like the Spawn Soundtrack, and I mean that as a compliment. Where’s the bagpipes? This is amazing. 5/5

Finally by Ce Ce Peniston: after the last song, this seemed really lackluster. I’ll try relistening to it some other time. She can sing, but this song is pointless and uninteresting. Still, better than Nicki Minaj. 2.5/5

Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice: There are two kinds of people. When you say “Stop” one group says “Hammertime!” and the other group says “Collaborate and Listen!” I say “Hammertime!” 3/5

Mmmmbop by Hanson: This is bubblegum pop at it’s finest. 4.5/5

Viva la Vida by Coldplay: I’ve always thought Coldplay was vastly, intensely and strangely overrated. I don’t understand the appeal of this band. However, this is decent song, with a good hook (the strings) and lyrics that don’t make me want to kick a puppy (it was all yellow). 3.5/5

She Drives me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals: Guitar work solid. Bad singing. Upbeat. Loads of Synth. Welcome to the 80s. 3/5

Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga: This song is repetetive, but has a good beat. Gaga can sing. Maybe too much electronic overengineering in here, but it’s certainly listenable. I wish she said “the edge” about 30 less times per chorus. I get it. You’re on the edge. Still, better than Nicki Minaj plus ABBA plus LMFAO. 3/5

Handlebars by Flobots: first listen. Dig the intro. This is evocative of Jon LaJoie, except I feel like it might be slightly serious? It’s kind of catchy. I’m not hating it yet. Okay, it’s pretty funny. I’m starting to dig it. TRUMPET. So to recap: Jon LaJoie meets Cake makes at least 4/5

Don’t Know Why by Norah Jones: Again, this is one of those songs that I don’t understand being on this list. She can sing, she can play, she sang this on Sesame street. 5/5 and I feel bad that that’s all I can give it.

That’s it, by my count – the first half. This post took not much actual time, but it was spread out over 2 days. I hope to be able to do more next week.

Kids update

Well, I haven’t actually written anything down about the fact that I am now the father of two awesome girls (no longer just one). Kid2 was born Feb 8, and it’s been awesome having a tiny kid around the house, though it has, at times, been a challenge. We’re lucky with respect to the sleep thing; she sleeps like a champ. We’re also lucky to have an older daughter who is doing an amazing job as a big sister. Kid1 is fantastically caring and awesome and does her best to make sure her little sister has everything she needs.

Kid1 has started to display her proclivity for science. Her favourite activity of an evening is to figure out, set up, hypothesize about and complete a science experiment. For example, the other day, we set out two little basins of water with food colouring in them, then put a paper towel between them to show how capillary action works. We did the same with a piece of standard white paper, after trying to guess if standard paper would go faster or slower than paper towel. That experiment is still going; it is making some fantastic blue / purple / red art in excruciatingly slow fashion.

Kid2 is a baby and does standard baby stuff. It’s hard to drum up a whole paragraph about her.

Kid1 is also deeply into fantasy books right now. We have completely The Hobbit and have started The Lord of the Rings, both of which she loves. My wife just finished reading the first Harry Potter book to her; witches, wizards, ents and elves, orcs and hobbits and magic! There’s never enough to satisfy. I read LOTR for 45 minutes out loud tonight (including the songs, which she tries to get me to sing) and she was begging for more when I was done. Oh, and just the other day, she came home and very seriously said, “Dad. Some time soon, can we watch Star Wars together?”

Being a Geek Dad is amazing.

Sunday Stranding – Update

In my last post, I talked about a problem I experienced in the The City of Guelph, where a local even stranded my neighbourhood so that we weren’t able to leave. As it was happening, I tweeted about it. @CityOfGuelph was kind enough to tweet back with an email for me to get in touch with someone about the problem.

So I emailed the operations department for the city. Within what I would call “one business hour” (I sent the email one evening, and got it returned the next morning by 8 am), I got an email back telling me that they’d read my email and sent it on to the specific person for whom this was pertinent. I was pleasantly surprised that they’d made the effort to get back to me so quickly.

About an hour and a half later, I got a second, very polite, email addressing my concerns, apologizing, and saying they would take it up with the organizer of the event. I was again pleasantly surprised that they would make the effort to get back in touch so quickly. They addressed each of my concerns, and told me that local access was a priority during events like this. I figured that this was probably the end of my contact with the city over this issue, so I thanked them (because I was 75% satisfied) and forgot about it.

About an hour later, that same person got back to me, telling me that they’d checked up with the organizer of the event, and heard that there had been other complaints similar to mine, and that they would address the issue in a variety of ways before the next event happened. They also again thanked me for my feedback.

I’m so happy to live in the City of Guelph, where a complaint (even a fairly minor one like mine) gets heard and addressed within a day. What a great city!

Sunday Stranding

On Sunday, the CIBC Walk for the Cure in Guelph raised $300,000 or more. It’s a great idea for an event; a significant number of people from all over the city of Guelph get together and walk through Guelph while raising money to support cancer research. There is nothing better than a community coming together like this; it showcase the best things about Guelph and I’m proud to say that I donated some money to the cause this year. I have never actually taken part in the walk itself, but it always goes by the end of my street. Here, let me give you an idea:

View Larger Map

I live on Hamel Avenue. The Walk for the Cure always goes down London Road. And, in case you didn’t know, Guelph has been torn apart for Guelph Remastered where the city is (thankfully) doing about 5 years worth of road maintenance and upgrading in 4 months. One of the roads that is currently closed is Westmound Road. If you look at the map, you’ll see that if both Westmount and London are closed, I cannot drive anywhere from my house, and this is indeed what happened on Sunday morning. It was not possible for me to legally drive away from my place of residence and get anywhere.

That morning a lot of “What ifs” ran through my head before I tried to lodge a complaint. What if one of my elderly neighbours (or my pregnant wife!) required a trip to the hospital? What if the people on my street wanted to head out for 9am Mass? What if I had a contractor coming in to do work on my home?

I got answers to at least two of these three questions. If you wanted to go to church on Sunday morning, you were out of luck. If you had a contractor coming in that morning to work on something, you were similarly out of luck. There was no detour or workaround to get to my home. I’m thankful that we didn’t need to find out what would have happened if a trip to the hospital was required.

Trying to lodge a complaint with the organizers was not particularly productive. Each person that I talked to made me feel as if I were being unreasonable. I admit that this is subjective, but I was made to feel that it was unreasonable to complain about an event to raise money to fight cancer. Then came the rub; one of the gentlemen that I spoke with told me that they had already had to change the course of the event to account for some of the construction. This means that someone looked at the route and reviewed it, and changed the route because of construction but they didn’t consider the two streets that were cut off from the rest of Guelph.

Nothing really bad happened. Some of my neighbours had to stay home from church and the work that I’d scheduled to start early in the day started later. Couldn’t we move events such as this into some of Guelphs amazingly well maintained parks or through the downtown core? Residential areas don’t need to have this kind of event blocking them off from the rest of the city. As frustrating as it was for me, it must have been even more frustrating for those who lived on London and couldn’t even leave their driveways. 10 minutes of playing with Google Maps and it’s easy enough to devise a route that brings people through the downtown core instead of through residential areas.

View Larger Map

A Month of Android

A while ago I purchased a samsung galaxy vibrant (the first day they were available here in canada actually) and I thought o would give a but of a review of my thoughts on the phone and the OS after having used it for almost a month.

The phone is beautiful. The screen makes iPhone 3 screens look pretty bad and in my opinion, it beats the iPhone 4 in a side by side comparison. The Samsung is slick and gorgeous, responsive and vibrant; from a purely aesthetic standpoint, the phone is downright sexy. The call quality matches that of my previous phone (which was a real phone, not a handheld with a phone added on like many smart phones seem to be). I do not experience reception loss from holding the phone in a particular way. Using this device as a phone is easy and pleasurable.

The place where the device really starts to shine is when you start to dive into Android. There are a ton of apps and many of them are free, or under $1. Some of them suck; I have deleted 15 or 20 apps that I just didn’t enjoy using, but there’s no real downside to downloading paid apps because you can get a refund. Android market is pretty awesome. There are a ton of apps, some more useful than others; the barcode scanner is pretty cool and a Blizzard authenticator for WoW, I use just about every day. The google maps app works really well as a GPS which is beneficial since someone broke into my wife’s car and style ours. There’s a good selection of decent educational games for kids and, of course, a pretty decent app for wordpress which I am using right now.

I’m a big fan of how intuitive things are. The other day for example, my four year old daughter managed to record new ringtones and set them for events on the phone (“ooo your phones ringing. Blah blah” is now what I hear when someone calls me). The fact my kid can do that without any help from me is pretty impressive. It is true that she is a little geek in training, but it is still great to see how easy it is for her to manage fairly complex tasks.

Swype is impressive. This lets you glide your hand over the on screen keyboard and “draw” the words that you are writing. It does make for some interesting automatic corrections [Edit: Like version one of this article, for example], but significantly increases my (mostly) understandable wpm count. Look for a video of it on youtube and have a look, if you are unfamiliar with it; swype is certainly worth checking out.

Overall I would give this new phone high marks across the board. I have never seen a phone that I like as much. The iPhone 4 comes close, especially the overall aesthetic, but the responsiveness of this little machine and the slightly larger screen along with Android help it win out as far as I am concerned.

[Edit: I’ve got Hello World done in an Android App, and it took almost no time to do so. App Development is easy and fun.]