I’m very proud of my iPod’s ability to switch from Carrie Underwood to Linkin Park to Josh Groban to The Beach Boys to a choir piece to an embarrassingly high amount of Christmas music…all within a 6 song shuffle.  Granted, it doesn’t help me in terms of being able to plug in and serve as a party playlist, but I enjoy that my musical tastes are a bit bipolar.  Just call my iPod Sybil.
That preface was necessary before today’s song of the day.  A classical piece written by John Lunn, The Suite serves as the theme song to PBS’s Downton Abbey.  Yes, I love the show.  Yes, calling me obsessed would be an understatement.  Yes, I get excited each time the opening credits begin.  Why? Because I get to hear this song in all its glory (and I have an hour of Downton Abbey bliss ahead of me).
I’m holding off on a big long explanation of why this song is great, because it just is.  It’s intense and gentle, all at once and truly beautiful.  Take a listen and hear for yourself.  Any song that features strings and piano is clearly a winner in my book.  I’m off to listen to the song for the fifth time in a row now.
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Unless you live under a rock bolted down by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, chances are you’ve heard about Justin Timberlake’s return to the music world.  Yes, ladies and gents, it’s true.  Last week, he took to Twitter to tease that he may be coming back.  He then released a video announcing that he was ready.

At the very moment the video was released, past N’Sync and JT fanatics absolutely lost it.  Plots to become the next Mrs. Timberlake thickened.  You couldn’t sign onto a single social network without being inundated by posts about Justin in OMG ALL CAPS (some with hearts) from guys and girls alike.  Excitement was at an all time high as people geared up for more information on his next album, “The 20/20 Experience.”

What we all got was a song with Jay-Z, titled “Suit and Tie.”

My thoughts on “Suit and Tie” can best be described with a quote from Gabrielle Union’s character in 10 Things I Hate About You.  “I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?”  As it turns out, you can be.  And as much as I hate to admit it…I’ve officially been whelmed by Justin Timberlake, something I never thought would be possible.  How so?  From an even pros/cons list.

We’ll start with the pros.

That falsetto: One of JT’s staples is his ability to sing in falsetto for…well, forever.  I’m eternally grateful that this was a huge part of “Suit and Tie” since it’s the reason so many fans melt the second he opens his mouth.

Motown vibe: I grew up listening to oldies music stations, cursing the fact that I wasn’t born decades earlier.  While fellow gradeschool classmates were having serious playground fights about who was better, N’Sync or Backstreet Boys (stop fighting, it’s clearly N’Sync), I was listening to The Temptations, The Mamas and The Papas and Michael Jackson, and creeping up to the front of a Beach Boys concert with my dad. (And I shook Mike Love’s hand.  I know, you’re jealous.) The fact that the Prince of Pop chose to pull inspiration from the past makes me want to give a standing ovation.

It’s catchy: Justin Timberlake has never had a hard time coming up with a solid hook and writing something sure to be stuck in everyone’s head for days, weeks, months, years.  In fact, I had “Rock Your Body” stuck in my head the other day for absolutely no reason at all.  I didn’t hate it.

And now, to justify just being whelmed by discussing the cons.

The first 43 seconds:  Truthfully, upon hearing the song for the first time my body froze.  It froze for 43 long seconds.  The sluggish intro left a sour taste in my mouth and it still upsets me each time I hear it.  There is nothing sluggish about Justin Timberlake.  He has more energy than a room full of sugar high first graders, but the song begins with a total drag.  Thank God for fast forward.

Jay-Z: It’s important that I start out by saying that I like Jay-Z.  Quite a bit, actually.  However, right when Justin has me convinced that we’re skipping along at his regular pace, Jay-Z brings us back to that sluggish feeling found in the intro.  He speeds up a bit with quicker triplets at the end of his piece, but I wish he had done something similar all along.

His past: Prepare yourselves for a backhanded compliment. I hate to compare this new song to everything else JT has done, but it’s hard not to when everything else has been so good.  Literally, everything else.  After the first time I heard “Suit and Tie” and even still after the umpteenth time, I’m left with the question…that’s it?  No really, that’s…it?  Is this a sad attempt at being Punk’d? It leaves me hoping there’s more to be found on his new album, so I’ll give him that.  And maybe that was the intention, to release a “whelming” song so that everyone is beyond excited with an album full of overwhelming material.

So there you have it. A score of 3-3. As it turns out, it’s possible to be whelmed by Justin Timberlake.  My fingers are crossed for the rest of “The 20/20 Experience,” though.  He’s a master trickster and here’s hoping he has some good ones up his sleeves.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always thought music should evoke some sort of emotion – a smile, excitement even hysterical laughter.  One of the best feelings in the world is hearing one of your favorite songs come on the radio, your iTunes or cued up at a bar.  The initial recognition of the first few chords can easily result in a gasp or scream.  You smile and scream your way through those happiness inducing lyrics.  But, when it comes to music, I prefer a solid tear jerker.  No, I’m not a weepy gal.  I’m human and it happens, but I try hard not to let it happen much…or around people, especially around people.  However, if you can write me a song that makes me cry, my heart is yours forever.

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert have done just that with Over You.  For all who missed the CMAs last night, the emotional ballad Over You won Song of the Year.  But, last night was not the first time I heard this song.  In fact, I distinctly remember where I was when I heard it first.  I was driving back from a voice lesson, along a street one block west of my high school.  The song started and I turned it up a bit, drove the length of a few houses and turned it up a bit more.  Came to a stop sign and stayed stopped for much longer than I should have, but I was busy.  I was listening, leaning forward, ear angled towards the speaker.  Normally, I’m not a die hard Miranda Lambert fan.  This song was different.  I was sold the second she surprised me by going down on the word “cold” instead of the expected up.  By the time I finally realized I had been at a stop sign for about 45 seconds, I was singing along with Miranda, teary eyed.  Why?  The song got me.  I didn’t even know what it was about at that point, but the DJ let me know as soon as the song ended.

I have been fortunate enough to never have experienced the loss of a sibling.  Blake Shelton can’t say the same.  The song Over You, sung by his wife Miranda Lambert, is about Shelton’s brother, who was killed in a car accident when Shelton was 14-years-old.  As he said at the CMA Awards last night, his dad encouraged him to write a song about the experience.  For years, he didn’t do it.  Once he wrote the song, he tapped his wife to sing and record it.  Shelton’s dad passed away in January of 2012, and he was awarded the coveted Song of the Year less than a year later.  During the acceptance speech, Shelton said, “I lost my dad in January, and it’s so amazing to me that tonight, even after he’s gone, he’s still right.  I just needed the right person to write this song with, and the right person to sing it.”

I can’t believe I’m thanking someone for making me cry, but…thank you, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, for writing and recording Over You.  I’m actually proud to say you make me teary eyed both when I hear the song, and you two did it again during your acceptance speech.

Watch the acceptance speech, too!


Also, 2 CMA/past HauteThought feature shout outs – congrats to Dave Barnes for being nominated with God Gave me You (recorded by Blake Shelton) – I saw that nice close up they got of you right in the beginning! Also, congrats to Love and Theft for being nominated for Vocal Duo of the Year and New Artist of the Year!

Hello, there.  Remember me?  Probably not.  I haven’t seen you for 3 months some time now. (Time? What is time, really?)  And for that, I apologize.  It has been impeccably poor timing in terms of being a missing person, since I’ve done more musical things in the past 3 months than I had in the year leading up to my absence.  So maybe that’s it.  Maybe I’ve been off being oh-so-musically current that I simply had zero time to give attention to something that I used to pay attention to most: HauteThought.  You’re right, that’s not it.  And if that was true, it’s a pretty sorry excuse if you ask me.  The truth?  Work picked up and the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was sit in front of a screen again.  Lame reason, I know, but it’s a true one nonetheless.

Moving on…

I really, truly have been doing music related things as the time passed.  I was able to see Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw at the Brothers of the Sun tour, go to Lollapalooza for the 2nd year, visit Nashville (Music City) with my family (a place I’ve wanted to live since 6th grade) and this past Friday, I saw Gotye in concert.  See?  I haven’t been a musical shut in.  I’m taking my most recent musical getaway to jump back into the blogosphere.  Thank you, Gotye.

I have to be honest with you.  Up until I featured Gotye’s “I Feel Better” as song of the day, I only knew “Somebody That I Used to Know.”  Basically, I was like everyone else.  The day I stumbled across “I Feel Better,” I dug a little deeper into Gotye’s Making Mirrors album and I’m so thankful I did.  What I found was an eclectic mix of sounds and styles, all under one album title.  That said, when I discovered he was coming to Chicago, the question ‘should I go?’ never crossed my mind.  ‘What should I wear,’ however, did.

Gotye played Chicago’s Charter One Pavilion on Friday night and showed Chicago a thing or two about what he can do as a musician.  Sure, I knew he had a different and slightly addicting voice (and also sounds eerily similar to Sting and Phil Collins at times).  Yes, I knew he was from Australia.  Yes, I was aware that everyone with a set of working ear canals knew the song “Somebody That I Used to Know.”  What I didn’t know impressed me more.

I didn’t know how extremely involved Gotye would be with his performance.  Half of my photos from the night show Gotye as a blurred figure because he ran from percussion set to a synthesizer back to a different percussion set throughout the entire performance.  So the guy doesn’t simply have a good voice.  He’s also a percussionist.  Color me impressed.

Standout songs are easy for me to pinpoint.  Naturally, “Somebody That I Used to Know” was performed very well.  There was a bit of a surprise here, though.  I assumed his opener, Missy Higgins, would sing her way through Kimbra’s portion of the song.  Instead, Gotye had the audience sing this portion while he tinkered away on one of the many instruments he’s mastered.  “State of the Art” also proved to be a standout on Friday.  The matching animation behind depicted a family who purchased a state of the art music machine.  It has the ability to recreate sounds normally produced by standard musical instruments, much like a computer.  Gotye sings through a distorted mic, “Now for an arm and a leg, We get three half-dozen beats to choose from. So now we can pretend that there’s an orchestra in the loungeroom.”  Being the EDM/all things techo-hater that I am, I couldn’t help but smile as I saw the animated family become horrified by the musical machine they purchased.

Gotye’s top song was not the single, nor was it the song I purchased a ticket to hear (as it turns out, he didn’t get a chance to play it).  “Eyes Wide Open” proved to be Gotye’s strongest performance of the evening.  This is a song that not only delivers musically and lyrically, but gives a strong message, as well.  While I usually pay attention to lyrics, I didn’t truly hear them until the live performance.   The song talks about walking the plank with our eyes wide open.  This push against ignorance and choosing not to stand up for things caught my attention immediately.   (I’ve since done a bit of Googling and found the song may be about global warming.)  Thank you, Gotye, for using your talent to send a message.

Dear Dave Barnes,

I apologize if this sounds out of line, but I need to tell you something. I woke up to your voice every weekday morning for 3 years. “Until You” remained my morning alarm for 3 years of my college career. I never once got sick of it and pressed snooze not only to gain 10 more minutes of precious sleep but also to hear more of the song (ok, let’s be real, I probably snoozed 3-4 times each day). I still get text messages from roommates past when they hear Until You because they, too, got to experience the song each and every morning. One of the best concerts I’ve been to was your visit with Matt Wertz to the Canopy Club in Champaign, IL. This was before Blake Shelton got ahold of “God Gave Me You” and before “Until You” even had a music video. What I’m trying to say is I’ve been a longtime fan and I truly appreciate you waking me up every morning.




Somehow, I am just now getting to listen to Barnes’ “Stories to Tell,” and I’m shaking my head in disbelief that I didn’t keep this album on repeat from the second it came out in March until God knows when. “Stories to Tell” has a more playful feel than some of Barnes’ past albums but I love it just the same, and potentially even more. One thing, however, has remained consistent throughout Barnes’ career. He continues to write both the music and lyrics for all of his songs. In my eyes, Barnes encapsulates the meaning of being a musician. Flawless vocals, instrumentation, great songwriting and meaningful lyrics all in one, “Stories to Tell” does more than just impress. It has continued my respect for Barnes as a musician in an industry that has gone through a plethora of changes throughout the past decade.

Barnes’ music expresses human emotion, particularly love, and makes the listener want to experience these emotions right along with him. In Missing You, he sings about a past love and made me respect the end of their relationship as if they were my friends. I don’t know him personally nor do I know his past flame, but I do know that after listening to Missing You a couple times through, I’m convinced that he and this mystery girl had great chemistry but are mature enough to move on.

You and me together
I’d pick you up and we go
Some place only we’d know
Summer, whole life
Stay up dreaming all night

I started this post as a Song of the Day as soon as I listened to White Flag. Now that I’ve finished listening to the album in its entirety and eager to start it over, it’s turned into an album gush review. After a great past few days full of friends, love and family (and an impromptu visit from my dog), “Stories to Tell” not only became my new go-to album, it made me incredibly grateful. Thanks, Dave Barnes; you’ve done it again. You’ve created a fan that will stick around as long as you continue to make music, and beyond.

White Flag:

Stories to Tell:

Missing You:

And the one that started it all:

I truly and honestly believe Sara Bareilles can do no wrong.   What I’m about to tell you is old news.  She’s a great lyricist, plays the piano perfectly, has one of the best voices in the music industry today and, to top it off, a sense of humor.  I realize that I give a positive review about a majority of the songs that gain the coveted “song of the day” title, but it takes a lot for me to 100% respect a song and its artist.  Somehow, I have yet to hear one I dislike or don’t respect from Sara B.  Why? Because when someone with an extreme amount of talent succeeds, it’s hard not to commend them time and again.

My last encounter with Sara Bareilles’ voice was during the Plot Your Escape show at Chicago’s Union Station.  I, of course, was standing there trying to soak in every last sound of hers while surrounded by a group of girls who didn’t know how to shut their mouths.  I didn’t know I was capable of feeling such rage.  I also didn’t realize I’d still feel it two months later.

So, when I saw a great Facebook status about Sara B. yesterday, I realized I had to have a love fest post today.  Thank you, Katie, for posting Stay.  I can honestly say I’ve been listening to it on repeat all day and will be hitting replay the second it ends.  The song is full of emotion, feeling and talent.  It commands my attention and makes me want to sprint to a dance class and encourage someone to choreograph something to Stay immediately.  I know, probably not the reaction most of you have to a song, particularly a slower one like this, but the lyrical dancer in me lives on.

Stay is off of Sara’s upcoming EP, “Once Upon Another Time,” which will be available May 22.  Head to her website for a free download of the song!

Aaaand I’m listening again.


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