Ten Songs from 2015 that you should be listening to: #3 Grip and #4 Grip (Interlude) from Creed

CRD205_000084.tifFull disclosure – as of this writing, I have not seen Creed. But, my brother has. In fact, as soon as he saw it, he bought the soundtrack AND the score – for these two tracks specifically.

I don’t know where in the movie these songs show up. I don’t know why they are called “Grip”. I don’t even know if Creed aka Johnny Storm aka Wallace wins his fight. All I know is that I can power through an extra two or three reps when these songs pop up in my workout playlist.

Both versions were written by Ludwig Göransson. The R&B version, with vocals by Tessa Thompson1, starts out with a great lyric (“I might give a little / But you can take it all / I might try to run / But just to make you follow“) over a driving beat. Göransson’s euro-smooth-soul-pop-electronic sound is perfect here (and is great for Tessa’s voice). The track almost sounds like something from Zero 7’s Simple Things.

The second track, taken from the Creed Original Motion Picture Score, keeps the driving beat, but replaces Tessa’s lyrics with a humming and synthesizer take on the lyrics.

Tessa Thompson – Grip

Ludwig Göransson – Grip (Interlude)

Ten Songs from 2015 that you should be listening to: #5 Seal’s The Big Love Has Died

91DceG5od3L._SY355_[1]“The Big Love Has Died” is a BIG ballad. Sweeping strings. Hopeless lyrics. A chorus that crescendos to a high, before an unexpected drop.

If anyone could sing this song, it’s Seal. His partnership with producer Trevor Horn gave pop some of its best ballads of the 90s. In fact, I’m not sure anyone except Seal could pull off an epic ballad like this – especially given his very public break with model Heidi Klum. Seal was never one for providing a lot of detail in his music (he doesn’t even put song lyrics in his liner notes1). Still, he did admit to some influence from his personal life on “Big Love…”:

You try to be adult about [a breakup], be mature and objective and positive about it, but unfortunately that’s not the reality at the time. When that wound is still fresh your immediate reaction is to be damning and final, to want closure, to forget, to move on. To live in denial. That is the immediate emotional survival mechanism. I wanted that song to capture that in a way that people could relate to it.

-Seal, as interviewed in the Daily Telegraph

Trevor Horn gave a more succinct answer: “Over the past few years, Seal has been through the tumble dryer of love. He gets sad on the record. You can hear him being sad, but you can’t hear him being bitter.”

I love the honesty that Seal sings with in this song. Whether it’s about his divorce or a break-up with his high-school sweetheart, it’s a truthful, yet tasteful, take on the sadness and hopelessness that comes from a failed relationship.

Seal – The Big Love Has Died

Ten Songs from 2015 that you should be listening to: #6 Mocky’s Tomorrow Maker

Mocky-by-Vice_Cooler-15_04_29_1[1]The whole reason I’m writing these post about by favorites from 2015 is because of Mocky’s Key Change. I was mousing around online a few weeks ago, and, by chance, came across Mocky’s 2015 release in iTunes. I’m not new to his music: Saskamodie’s “Music To My Ears” has been part of my iTunes library since 2009. So given than, I should have been on the lookout for his new album.

Key Change is a gorgeous, gentle blend of songcraft that recalls classic pop and soul records but still feels decidedly modern.

Well, I missed it, and many of the online blogs I read missed it as well. So, I’m making up for lost time by telling the world how great this album is. There are a number of stand-out tracks: “When Paulie Gets Mad” sounds like it could be the main theme in a Woody Allen film1; “Soulful Beat” makes me long to zip around town on a hot summer night with the car windows down; the sparseness of “Weather Any Storm” is beautifully haunting.

My favorite track is the three-minute “Tomorrow Maker”. Mocky starts out with a slow, burning groove that’s custom-made for a blaxpoitation flick. He then flips the script at the 1:58 mark, turning the late-night jam into a funky, bass-thumping, hand-clapping, piano-scatting romp

Mocky – Tomorrow Maker

Ten Songs from 2015 that you should be listening to: #7 Teedra Moses’ All I Ever Wanted

NEW YORK - MAY 10: Recording artist Teedra Moses poses for photos at Teedra Moses and Keke Wyatt's Showcase at Room Service May 10, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/Getty Images)Teedra Moses dropped a classic “hood-life” LP – Complex Simplicity – in 2004 and disappeared (outside of the occasional mix-tape or guest appearance).1 11 years later, she’s back with her second official release: Cognac & Conversation. Teedra is still down, but has evolved: check her lyrics to 2004’s “You’ll Never Find”

Oh cat daddy…

Tell me what you know about, tell me what you know about.
(You and me together)
Loving, so sweet, no beef, just us two
Tell me what you know about, tell me what you know about
(Love through any weather)
Fuss, fight, put you out, take you back cuz baby it’s a
(Ghetto love affair, Ghetto love affair, Ghetto love affair)

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Ten Songs from 2015 that you should be listening to: #8 Jazmine Sullivan’s Mascara

Jazmine-Sullivan-Mascara-Promo[1]As Kanye once said: “I ain’t sayin’ she’s a gold-digger, but she ain’t messin’ with no….”

Well, Jazmine Sullivan does call them gold diggers, in the excellent “Mascara”. Her opening lyrics let you know exactly what’s she’s singing about (in the first person, no less)1:

Yeah my hair and my — fake, but so what?
I get my rent paid with it and my —- get me trips
To places I can’t pronounce right
He said he’d keep it coming if I keep my body tight

Simply put: its a great song with great production from Key Wane. And yeah, it’s about a “kept” woman, but really I think its about all of us – the paranoia or worry we have about our looks.

Most people think I’m shallow
‘Cause I’m always dressed like I’m going out to the club
But I gotta keep up cause it’s new chicks poppin’ up everyday
And they want the same thang

Jazmine Sullivan – Mascara