Sunday, January 28, 2018

Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” wins Grammy for Song of the Year

Updated 11/23/2018.

image from voanews.com

That’s What I Like

Bruno Mars

Writer(s): Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Christopher Brody Brown (see lyrics here)


Released: 1/30/2017


First Charted: 12/10/2016


Peak: 11, 13 AC, 16 RB, 12 UK, 3 CN, 5 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 7.0 US, 0.6 UK, 8.86 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 1363.17


Streaming *: 835.00


* in millions

Review:

The 60th Annual Grammy Awards, held on January 18, 2018, proved to be Bruno Mars’ night when he won all six Grammys for which he was nominated. His 24K Magic won Album of the Year and R&B Album of the Year while the title track took Record of the Year. The big winner, though, was “That’s What I Like.” The song, which he’d performed at the Grammys the year before, walked away with honors for Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, and Best R&B Performance.

The song also won some other significant awards, including the American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Song and the Soul Train Music Award for Song of the Year. Mars also performed the song at the 2017 Brit Awards and the 2017 iHeartRadio Music Awards. WK

Released as the second single from 24K Magic, “That’s What I Like” spent 24 weeks in the top 5 of the Hot 100, one of only five songs to do so. WK It also spent 20 weeks on top of Hot R&B Songs, which tied it with The Weeknd’s “Starboy” and Drake’s “One Dance” for most weeks at #1. WK It became Mars’ fifth #1 song as a lead artist and seventh time on top overall (he was featured on B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ on You” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”). Mars was also on his way to another significant achievement – when the album’s fourth single, “Finesse,” went top 5 it made him only the second male artist in history (after Lionel Richie), to send at least three songs to the top ten from each of his first three albums.

Ray Romulus, who was part of the song’s production team, talked about Mars’ writing process. “When he was in the studio he was…dancing for us and showing us, like, ‘I can’t move like that to this chord or to this drum…change it.’” SF Jonathan Yip, also of the production team, said “We would just go back and forth and were messing around with rhythms” SF because, as Mars had said, “We need to make this bounce.” SF


Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.

Awards:


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Camila Cabello’s “Havana” hit #1

Last updated 3/20/2020.

Havana

Camila Cabello with Young Thug

Writer(s): Camila Cabello, Young Thug, Pharrell Williams (see lyrics here)


Released: August 3, 2017


First Charted: August 26, 2017


Peak: 11 US, 17 RR, 5 AC, 11 A40, 15 UK, 16 CN, 13 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 1.2 UK, 19.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2902.0 video, 1351.0 streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

Camila Cabello made a name for herself as a member of Fifth Harmony, best known for hit “Work from Home.” “Havana” was initially released as a promo single to support her first solo album, Camila, but became the proper lead single when it took off. WK She told BBC Radio 1 that “Everybody kept telling me it shouldn’t be a single and that it would never work for radio.” SF It ended up doing okay – it went to #1 in a dozen countries, including the U.S., UK, Australia, and Canada. WK In the U.S., the song took 23 weeks to hit the top, spending seven non-consecutive weeks at #2 behind Post Malone’s “Rockstar” and Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.” WK In June 2018, it became Spotify’s most-streamed song ever by a female artist. WK

As a child, Camila moved back and forth between Havana and Mexico City before settling in Miami. In “Havana,” she sings about “a mysterious suitor from East Atlanta, though she has left her heart in her hometown.” WK She described it as a song with a “very wind-your-waist tempo.” SF The song emerged from an instrumental with a prominent salsa piano riff created by producer Frank Dukes. When he played it for Camila, it reminded her of her birthplace and she wrote the chorus on the spot. SF Time.com’s Raise Bruner said the song “hits a freshly sultry note” WK which Allison Browsher of Much said “arrives just in time to keep the summer heat going on the radio.” WK

The video was directed by Dave Meyers, who also did Missy Elliott’s “Work It,” Janet Jackson’s “All for You,” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble.” Camila plays two characters in the telenovela-style video – “the bespectacled homebody Karla and the sexy, outgoing Camila.” SF She explained that her family always called her by her middle name (Camila), but when she came to the United States, teachers called her by her first name (Karla). SF At the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, the clip took the prize for Video of the Year. SF


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January 27, 1857: Liszt's Piano Sonata in B minor performed publicly for first time

Last updated August 29, 2018.

Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178 (LW A179)

Franz Liszt (composer)


Composed: 1851-53


First Public Performance: January 27, 1857


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: “A pinnacle of Liszt's repertoire” – Wikipedia


Genre: classical > sonata


Parts/Movements:

  1. Lento assai – Allegro energico
  2. Grandioso – Recitativo
  3. Andante sostenuto – Quasi adagio
  4. Allegro energico – Stretta quasi presto – Presto – Prestissimo – Andante sostenuto – Allegro moderato – Lento assai

Average Duration: 29:40

Review:

Liszt completed his Piano Sonata in B minor in 1953 – specifically on February 2, according to his notes on the sonata’s manuscript. It was published the next year with a dedication to Robert Schumann in return for that composer dedicating his Fantasie in C major to Liszt. WK He wrote the piece during his transition from performer to composer. WK It has been argued both that the piece is autobiographical and that it is related to the Faust legend. AMG It can be considered “the only work he wrote in an absolute sonata form.” AMG

The work wasn’t well received by some of Liszt’s peers; pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein criticized the work and Johannes Brahms reportedly fell asleep during a performance of the work by Liszt in 1853. Eduard Hanslick said, “anyone who has heard it and finds it beautiful is beyond help.” WK In the German newspaper Nationalzeitung, Otto Gumprecht called it “an invitation to hissing and stomping.” WK

The initial negative reception and the sonata’s technical difficulty meant it took a long time to become commonplace in concert repertoire. However, it became established by the early twentieth century and “has been a popularly performed and extensively analyzed piece ever since,” WK becoming “an enduring masterpiece even in the estimation of those listeners who tend to find Liszt’s music overblown.” AMG It is considered “his finest example of the musical technique of continuous ‘thematic transformation,’” AMG which would profoundly affect the future of music, especially later operas by Richard Wagner. AMG Wagner was one of Liszt’s peers who praised the sonata, calling it “sublime” and beautiful “beyond all conception.” AMG

It wasn’t until January 27, 1857, that the work was publicly premiered in a performance by Hans von B├╝low in Berlin. WK


Review Source(s):


Awards:


Monday, January 22, 2018

50 years ago: Aretha Franklin released Lady Soul

First posted 3/16/2008; updated 12/2/2020.

Lady Soul

Aretha Franklin


Released: January 22, 1968


Charted: February 24, 1968


Peak: 2 US, 116 RB, 25 UK


Sales (in millions): 0.5 US


Genre: R&B


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Chain of Fools (12/9/67, 2 US, 43 UK, 1 RB, gold single)
  2. Money Won’t Change You
  3. People Get Ready
  4. Niki Hoeky
  5. You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman (9/30/67, 8 US, 2 RB)
  6. Since You’ve Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby) (3/2/68, 5 US, 47 UK, 1 RB, gold single)
  7. Good to Me As I Am to You
  8. Come Back Baby
  9. Groovin’
  10. Ain’t No Way (3/2/68, 16 US, 9 RB)


Total Running Time: 28:41

Rating:

4.500 out of 5.00 (average of 17 ratings)


Quotable: --


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Appearing after a blockbuster debut and a sophomore set that was rather disappointing (in comparison), 1968's Lady Soul proved Aretha Franklin, the pop sensation, was no fluke. Her performances were more impassioned than on her debut, and the material just as strong, an inspired blend of covers and originals from the best songwriters in soul and pop music.” JB

“The singing here isn’t technically perfect – the roots of what would become Franklin’s unwavering campaign of melody obliteration are evident – unless we're speaking emotionally, in which case there's not a wrong note.” TL This is a “master class in technique, power and pure feel. No filler – just 10 cuts of complete artistic control” BL and “ten steps to R&B perfection.” BL

“The opener, Chain of Fools, became the biggest hit, driven by a chorus of cascading echoes by Franklin and her bedrock backing vocalists, the Sweet Impressions, plus the unforgettable, earthy guitar work of guest Joe South.” JB The song was “inspired by the lines of cotton pickers songwriter Don Covay saw growing up in the south.” TL

“The album's showpiece, though, was You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.” JB “the sexually liberating star turn.” BL It was “written expressly for her by Brill Building pop stalwarts Gerry Goffin and Carole King, based on a title coined by producer Jerry Wexler.” JB “One of the landmark performances in pop music” JB and “an enduring gender anthem,” TL the song floats serenely through the verses until, swept up by Ralph Burns' stirring string arrangement again and again, Franklin opens up on the choruses with one of the most transcendent vocals of her career.” JB

“It’s a testament to Franklin that these songs sound unwritten, as if they didn't exist until she opened her mouth and gave them life.” TL

“Just as she'd previously transformed a soul classic (Otis Redding’s ‘Respect’) into a signature piece of her own, Franklin courageously reimagined songs by heavyweights James Brown, Ray Charles, and the Impressions. Brown’s Money Won't Change You is smooth and kinetic, her testifying constantly reinforced by interjections from the Sweet Inspirations. Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready, a 1965 civil-rights anthem and a hit for the Impressions, is taken at a slower pace than the original; after a quiet verse, Franklin lets loose amidst a magisterial brass arrangement by Arif Mardin.” JB “Even her cover of the Young Rascals’ throwaway Groovin’ is transcendent.” TL

“Powered by three hit singles (each nested in the upper reaches of the pop Top Ten), Lady Soul became Aretha Franklin's second gold LP and remained on the charts for over a year.” JB


Notes: A reissue of the album adds the singles remixes of “Chain of Fools,” “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,” “Since You’ve Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby),” and “Ain’t No Way.”

Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, January 13, 2018

50 years ago: Johnny Cash recorded live at Folsom Prison

First posted 1/13/2013; updated 12/3/2020.

image from findingdulcinea.com

At Folsom Prison

Johnny Cash


Recorded: January 13, 1968


Released: May 1968


Charted: June 15, 1968


Peak: 13 US, 14 CW, 7 UK, 27 CN


Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.1 UK, 3.2 world (includes US + UK)


Genre: country


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Song (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks)
  2. Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash) [2:42] (6/1/68, #32 US, #39 AC, #1 CW)
  3. Busted (Harlan Howard) [1:25] (4/6/63, #13 CW) *
  4. Dark As the Dungeon (Merle Travis) [3:04] (2/15/64, #49 CW)
  5. I Still Miss Someone (Johnny Cash/Roy Cash Jr.) [1:38] (12/58, B-side of “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town”)
  6. Cocaine Blues (T.J. Arnall) [3:01]
  7. 25 Minutes to Go (Shel Silverstein) [3:31]
  8. Orange Blossom Special (Ervin T. Rouse) [3:01] (2/13/65, #80 US, #3 CW)
  9. The Long Black Veil (Marijohn Wilkin/Danny Dill) [3:58]
  10. Send a Picture of Mother (Johnny Cash) [2:10]
  11. The Wall (Harlan Howard) [1:36]
  12. Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog (Jack H. Clement) [1:30]
  13. Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart (Jack H. Clement) [2:17]
  14. Joe Bean (Bud Freeman/Leon Pober) [2:25] *
  15. Jackson (with June Carter) (Billy Edd Wheeler,/Jerry Leiber) [3:12] (3/4/67, #2 CW)
  16. Give My Love to Rose (with June Carter) (Johnny Cash) [2:41] (9/16/57, #13 CW)
  17. I Got Stripes (Johnny Cash/Charlie Williams) [1:57] (8/3/59; #43 US, #4 CW)
  18. The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer (Johnny Cash/June Carter) [7:08] *
  19. Green, Green Grass of Home (Curly Putman) [2:29]
  20. Greystone Chapel (Glen Sherley) [6:02]

Chart information is for the original studio releases of the songs, except for “Folsom Prison Blues,” which was released as a live single from this album. Also, songs marked with an asterisk (*) were added as bonus tracks to the 1999 CD reissue.


Total Running Time: 55:56


The Players:

  • Johnny Cash (vocals, guitar, harmonica)
  • June Carter, Carl Perkins, the Statler Brothers (additional vocals)
  • Carl Perkins, Luther Perkins (guitar)
  • Marshall Grant (bass)
  • W.S. “Fluke” Holland (drums)

Rating:

4.569 out of 5.00 (average of 19 ratings)


Quotable: Cash “delivers the songs with the conviction of someone who has lived through it.” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Few albums come as close to capturing the darkness and rage that lays deep in Cash’s music, as well as the depth of his talent.” AMG Cash had an image of “an outlaw who always sided with the underdog.” ATI Marshall Grant, Cash’s bassist, said, “John had a real feeling for the down and out, for the prisoners…for anybody like that. He came from very humble beginnings in Arkansas.” ATI

“Undoubtedly the most significant prison album ever recorded,” ATI it was “a make-or-break moment in his waning career.” ATI He’d been in trouble with the law for smuggling pills across the border of Mexico, had an affair with June Carter which left some fans upset, and had a negative relationship with the press in general. ATI His record label had threatened to drop him and he’d even contemplated suicide. WP

How It Came About:

Recording a live album with an audience of felons didn’t seem like the blueprint for a career revival. However, in the mid-‘60s, it was difficult to get Cash into the studio and when he did go in, he was unprepared and uninspired. A live album was a way to get an album out of him. He was convinced it would be the shot in the arm his career needed. MA

Columbia Records wasn’t so sure about the idea. Drummer “Fluke” Holland echoed that sentiment. “I remember saying…it won’t sell enough to pay for tape.” RS The record company was finally persuaded and agreed to two live tapings from which the album would be assembled. It was recorded January 13, 1968 for an estimated 1,000 inmates UT at Folsom, a maximum-security prison outside Sacramento. It wasn’t Cash’s first time to perform at a prison. He’d performed at Huntsville State Prison in Texas in 1957. ABS He’d even performed before at Folsom, California’s second oldest prison, BL in November 1966 at the suggestion of Floyd Gressett. He preached at a church in Ventura which Cash sometimes attended and did prison outreach.

The Impact:

The resulting album took Cash to the top of the country charts and spent over two years on the Billboard album chart. It sold three million copies, becoming one of the biggest-selling country records of all time. RS He was embraced by the counterculture WP and became “an icon of cool.” ATI Grant said, “When this album came out, it just turned everything in our lives around. Our careers were turned around. John was becoming what he deserved.” RS

Uproxx’s Corbin Reiff called it “the definitive Johnny Cash album.” UT Photographer Jim Marshall, who was at Folsom to shoot the legendary performance, said he thought it was just as important as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced?, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. RS “It was the realness, the rawness, the honesty at Folsom that made the record important.” RS The album also brought attention to the need for prison reform. Cash felt strongly that the system was broken and not fixing anyone. First-time offenders and full-fledged killers were all mixed together.

The Performance:

The stage was set up in the cafeteria, right behind death row. Carl Perkins opened the show with “Blue Suede Shoes.” The Statler Brothers performed “Flowers on the Wall” and “This Old House” and provided backup vocals for Cash. June Carter joined Cash for duets on Jackson and Give My Love to Rose. ABS

Before Cash took the stage, Hugh Cherry, an L.A. disc jockey who served as the emcee, instructed the crowd not to clap, stand up, or even acknowledge Cash when he came out. However, once he stepped to the microphone and said, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” the group was told “to blow the roof off of this building. Whatever noise you ever made, let it be multipled tenfold.” RS

While the setlist included a few hits — Folsom Prison Blues, I Still Miss Someone, I Got Stripes, and the aforementioned “Jackson” and “Give My Love to Rose,” Cash focused more on songs “about prison, crime, murder, regret, loss, mother, God, and loneliness.” AMG Cash tweaked the lyrics of Cocaine Blues to reflect his narcotics arrest in 1965. UT He also performed Shel Silverstein’s 25 Minutes to Go about a man nearing his execution. In the context of a prison performance, they “lose some of their defiance and gain some sadness, particularly when they’re interrupted by announcements like, ‘88419 is wanted in reception.’” TL

Robert Hillburn, who was there that day writing for the Los Angeles Times, said, “He didn’t just do a greatest-hits show that day; he designed every song for that audience and their emotional needs.” ATI “This set is all about atmosphere. Live at the Grand Ole Opry this ain’t.” AZ

As a result, “Cash stimulates the audience’s emotions, which in turn stimulates his performance, especially since he delivers the songs with the conviction of someone who has lived through it.” AMG “Cash had the audience in the palm of his hands for the entire duration of the show.” ATI The prisoners were “visibly overjoyed,” ATI but “reluctant to respond too raucously [because] they feared reprisals from the guards.” ABS

It made for one of the album’s amusing moments. When one inmate started laughing during Dark As a Dungeon, Cash chuckled as well and then casually admonished him. The prisoner responded with “Oh, hell” which led Cash to say “I just wanted to tell you that this show is being recorded for an album released on Columbia Records so you can’t say ‘hell’ or ‘shit’ or anything like that.” ABS

“Folsom Prison Blues”

Cash wrote the song while serving in Germany with the U.S. Air Force in 1953. ABS He was inspired by watching Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison, a 1951 crime drama. He recorded it for Sun Records in 1955 and it became one of his signature songs. The live version recorded at Folsom was released as a single in 1968 and topped the country charts. Hillburn said, “the live version was…much more dynamic. He had emotion singing in front of those prisoners and you can hear their affection for him.” UT

Some of Cash’s audience at the prison shows likely assumed he’d done hard time, probably because they took the lines “But I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die” literally. WP It has been called “one of the most iconic lines in country music history.” ABS Cash said, “I sat with my pen in my hand, trying to think up the worst reason a person could have for killing another person, and that’s what came to mind.” ABS

However, Cash had never spent more than a few nights in jail (mainly in the drunk tank), but prisoners “related to him as being one of them” said W.S. Holland, Cash’s drummer. WP “Cash had a natural sympathy for men who gave in to their worst impulses.” TL

“Greystone Chapel”

The whole crew assembled the night before in a local motel and were even visited by then-California governor Ronald Reagan. Gressett played “Greystone Chapel,” a song written by Folsom inmate Glen Sherley. It was about finding God in the prison chapel. Cash wrote down the words and rehearsed it with his band to perform it the next day. ATI It was the last song Cash performed, leaving his audience with the line “Inside the walls of prison my body may be/ But my Lord has set my soul free.” TL

Sherley didn’t know Cash was going to play his song and, according to Ventura Star-Free Press reporter Gene Beley, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier man alive.” ATI Sherley recorded an album in prison ATI and maintained correspondence with Cash. Although he was serving a potential life sentence, he was released in 1971 WP and joined Cash on the road. Sadly, he was fired when he threatened to kill one of the band members ATI and killed himself in 1978. Cash paid for the funeral. WP


Notes:

The 1999 reissue added the songs “Busted,” “Joe Bean,” and “The Legend of John Henry.”

Review Sources: