Articles by Dan Milliken

Single Review: Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood, “Remind Me”

May 31, 2011

A couple yearning to rekindle the fire in their relationship? Classic country. One asking the other if he/she remembers the old passion and the other chiming in “remind me”? That’s pretty good, too – and genuinely sexy in a way neither Brad Paisley nor Carrie Underwood has ever been on record. There’s no doubt that this single was loaded with potential.

So why doesn’t it feel like the big event it should be?

Mostly because it’s trying too hard to be a big event. Paisley crowds out “Remind Me” with guitar licks and drums, and he and Underwood wail up a storm as it progresses, both sounding technically better than ever but obliterating the song’s smoldering sensuality. They’ve mistaken an “I Need You” for a “Don’t You Wanna Stay.”

There are a few of your typical too-cute Paisley details as well, like an underwhelming second-verse story and the use of “made out” in a song that doesn’t warrant such lyrical smirks.

The core components are still appealing enough, mind. But a little revision – and re-envisioning – might have made the difference between a pleasant summer hit and a career moment.

Grade: B

Listen: Remind Me

Buy:


The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 21

May 30, 2011

Today’s category is…

A Song You Used to Love But Now You Don’t.

Here are the staff picks:

Dan Milliken: “Homewrecker” – Gretchen Wilson

Here for the Party came out when I was fourteen and just getting really into country music, and it was so much fresher than most of the mainstream stuff at the time that it instantly became one of my favorite albums. “Homewrecker” wasn’t my favorite on the set (that was “Chariot,” which still sounds cool), but I did find it amazingly clever and funny in a way I couldn’t once I had gotten properly acquainted with Loretta Lynn.

Tara Seetharam: “Because You Loved Me” – Celine Dion

I thought this was the greatest song ever in elementary school, and I think I may have even concocted a dance to it with my childhood best friend. At that time, its vague, grandiose proclamations didn’t really phase me; now they leave me a little cold, though I suppose I’ll always enjoy it on some level.

Kevin Coyne: “Vibeology” – Paula Adbul

Whatever. It was 1991.

Leeann Ward: “Check Yes or No” – George Strait

In the last couple weeks, I’ve actually been weeding out songs from my iTunes, which has turned out to be over 10 gigs of music that I’ve decided I don’t feel I need to listen to anymore. It’s been surprising how many songs I’ve decided I’m totally over—whether it was due to over saturation (my fault since I don’t listen to radio) or change in taste over time. I used to absolutely adore “Check Yes or No”, but now it feels like a song that I’d obliterate if I was to review it. I remember thinking it was a cute story, but now I think it’s schmaltzy and predictable. My poor cynical heart.

Single Review: Scotty McCreery, “I Love You This Big”

May 26, 2011

A preface for the Scottyfolk: I didn’t watch this season of American Idol, so this single is my first exposure to its winner – no backstory, no jilted favorite of mine he beat. The only metric I’m using is whether “I Love You This Big” sounds like something I’d want to hear on the radio between “Teenage Daughters” and “Amen.”

Here’s my verdict: No.

But it’s an understanding “No,” mostly because this is an American Idol victory single, and only two out of ten of those have been at all decent (Fantasia’s and David Cook’s; if you disagree, I Don’t-Care This Big). McCreery’s bid has all the trappings of its forerunners: generic production, obvious overdubs and Auto-Tune to create a synthetically “perfect” performance, awful Eureka!-moment key change, lyrics so cheesy Michael Bolton gagged (though Rascal Flatts still bobbed their heads along contentedly).

But the song isn’t a great deal worse than the 90′s schmaltz it models itself after, and at least it doesn’t end with the Jesus reference I was expecting from the title (which would have been a shameless rip-off of Jimmy Wayne’s sappy-sweet “I Love You This Much”). For his part, McCreery just sounds like Josh Turner’s young, starry-eyed demo singer who also sometimes rubs his signed copy of John Michael Montgomery’s Greatest Hits like a rabbit’s foot the morning of a big trig test. He’s got a few nice moments of tone and phrasing, and the rest just says, “I haven’t found my own voice yet.”

And that’s fine. I imagine he wasn’t challenged on the Turnerisms on Idol because no one there knew enough to do so – but country fans and radio will call him out. I’m sure the label’s already figuring out how to broach the subject once he’s in the studio. That’s not to say he won’t keep sounding like his heroes, but it should get better. We may find he’s an interesting singer in his own right after a spotty album or two. Hard to say.

In the meantime, I’ll just anticipate the necessary change-of-station at the end of “Teenage Daughters,” breathe, and let the world turn as it will.

Grade: D+

Listen: I Love You This Big

Buy: I Love You This Big

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 18

May 26, 2011

Today’s category is…

A Song You Love By an Artist You Don’t.

Here are the staff picks:

Dan Milliken: “Ticks” – Brad Paisley

He was one of the first country artists I got into, but I’ve developed a sourness for Paisley over the years. With each successive album, his songwriting voice has tended to sound a little more self-impressed and a little less self-aware. “Ticks” is a nice exception to my ears, though. For once, Paisley seems to get that he’s playing the machismo creep, so a listener can take perverse pleasure in listening to him be creepy rather than balk at the fact that they’re expected to sympathize with him. It helps that it’s one of his cooler-sounding singles, too.

Tara Seetharam: “I Never Told You” – Colbie Caillat

This song is a perfect match for the typically annoying (and off key) vulnerable quality to her voice. And we all know I’m a sucker for a well-executed, wistful love song.

Kevin Coyne: “My Life” – Billy Joel

Maybe it’s because the Garth Brooks songs that annoy me the most are the ones where he tries to sing like Joel, or maybe it’s just that too many of his hits made the family mix tapes that made car rides a living hell.  Either way, the man’s music has not worn well on my ears over the years. I love “My Life,’ though. It’s a philosophy I can really get behind, and it has that perfect balance of emotional detachment and simmering contempt.

Leeann Ward: “What Hurts the Most” – Rascal Flatts

There are exactly five songs that I enjoy by Rascal Flatts. Yes, “God Bless the Broken Road” is one of them, but “What Hurts the Most”, in all its sappy glory, is my favorite of them.

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 15

May 23, 2011

We’re halfway done! Today’s category is…

A Song Used Well in a Film or TV Show

Here are the staff picks:

Dan Milliken: “Hold On” – Wilson Phillips

It’s in Bridesmaids. Go see Bridesmaids.

Tara Seetharam: “Will You Be There” – Michael Jackson

I love this song, Free Willy and killer whales with equal passion. Don’t judge.

Kevin Coyne: “Hey Ho” – Gin Wigmore

Weeds uses music more effectively than just about any show I’ve seen, especially in their season finales.  For pure brilliance, it’s impossible to top the way that June Christy’s “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening” was used in the season five closer.  But in terms of truly expanding on the action on screen. “Hey Ho” was the perfect choice, ending season six on the perfect note.

Single Review: Big & Rich feat. Gretchen Wilson, “Fake ID”

May 21, 2011

For the first thirty-five seconds, this sounds like the raddest thing in the radio pile. Snaky beat, those much-missed harmonies, and a cool ominousness, even though you can guess from the title who the protagonist has been driving around looking for.

Then we barrel into the chorus, where it becomes loudly obvious that there’s not much of an idea to this song – except the fact that fake IDs exist, I guess. Maybe the real idea is something like, “we really need another crowd-pleasing radio hit like ‘Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.’” But there’s none of that old goofy charm, nothing so distinctive or catchy about the hook, and meanwhile what’s here just kind of yells at you.

They’re back, but they’re not.

Grade: D

Listen: Fake ID

 

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 10

May 18, 2011

Today’s category is…

A Relaxing Song.

Here are the staff picks:

Dan Milliken: “Can’t Go Back Now” – The Weepies

This husband-wife duo’s sound is mega-soothing, the perfect match for a song which gently nudges the listener to persevere through reality’s burdens and chores. When I need relaxation, it’s usually because I’ve stopped feeling like I can. This one helps me realign.

Tara Seetharam: “The Best Keeps Getting Better” – Alan Jackson

As melodramatic as it sounds, no song is truly “relaxing” for me because I have a hard time separating my emotion from music. The best I can come up with is a song that’s “comforting” – and what’s more comforting than signature Alan Jackson?

Kevin Coyne: “Coming Around Again” – Carly Simon

The hook is great, but there’s something so soothing about the instrumentation and her vocal delivery.  It’s actually a pretty sad song, but somehow sounds calming and even a little uplifting.

Leeann Ward: “If I Didn’t Know Any Better” – Alison Krauss & Union Station

There’s just something so soothing about the mix of this song’s melody, Krauss’s angelic voice and Jerry Douglas’ haunting dobro that always relaxes me.

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 5

May 13, 2011

Today’s category is…

A Song That Reminds You of Someone.

Here are the staff picks:

Leeann Ward: “I Love a Rainy Night” – Eddie Rabbitt

This song reminds me of a college friend who didn’t like country music, but loved rainy nights. After I introduced this song to her, it was the only country song that she could stomach. She’s gone because of a tragic car accident now, but I always think of her with amusement when I hear the song.

Dan Milliken: “Annie’s Song” – John Denver

I never actually got to meet the uncle this song reminds me of. He passed away in an accident in his early twenties. “Annie’s Song” was played at the funeral, and I see my Dad’s eyes travel back there every time he hears it.

Tara Seetharam: “In the Garden” – Elvis Presley

Presley did it well, but regardless of the artist, when I hear this song, I hear my grandma’s sweet soprano in my head. I am forever grateful to her for instilling in me a strong faith –by example, not words– and for giving me my mom, who is every bit as beautiful a human being as she was.

Kevin Coyne: “It Hurt So Bad” – Susan Tedeschi

Three of my best college friends and me, in a car, laughing so hard that we almost drove off the road as one of them sang along with the song. One of those perfect moments in time!

 

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 2

May 10, 2011

Today’s category is… A Song You Hate.

Here are the staff picks:

Dan Milliken: Travie McCoy featuring Bruno Mars, “Billionaire”

I usually don’t hate music if it’s blatantly awful. That usually makes me love it. (I have especially great affection for the universally maligned “We Built This City” thanks to the efforts of Twitter queen Megan Amram.) What grates on me is the technically listenable stuff that is still, slyly, really bland and stupid. Travie McCoy offers some decent verses here atop an aesthetically pleasant track; but it all goes to wash if you try to digest the lyrics of Bruno Mars chorus, which earned extra hate-points for always tricking me into thinking “Santeria” was coming on the radio last year.

Tara Seetharam: Jason Aldean, “She’s Country”

There are certainly more fundamentally offensive songs out there, but this one elicits from me inexplicable anger. From its pounding pseudo-rock arrangement to Aldean’s spitfire delivery (of ridiculousness like “honey-dripping honey from a holler in Kentucky”), everything about the song feels so aggressive. And if you’ve ever been subjected to the rap re-mix without at least a drink in your hand, you have my deepest sympathy.

Kevin Coyne: Brad Paisley, “Little Moments”

It’s the most frustratingly condescending tribute to a wife since “Honey.” At least that Bobby Goldsboro classic was released before the women’s rights movement was in full swing.  Sure, at least he doesn’t kill her off in the end, but is death really a worse fate when compared to your husband living for those little moments when you show what a stupid little woman you are?

Leeann Ward: Darryl Worley, “Have You Forgotten?”

I can digest Toby Keith’s angry anthem much easier than Worley’s patronizing piece of manipulation. Even though I’m just as relieved as anyone to have Bin Laden gone, this song, like few others, still gets my blood boiling.

It’s Mother’s Day!

May 8, 2011

Feel free to mention, discuss or link to some of your favorite mom-related songs, or just any songs that remind you of a special mother or grandmother (since no one really knows when National Grandparents Day is anyway [except me now, via Wikipedia - it's the first Sunday after Labor Day. Woo!]).

Here are a few of mine:

Doc Watson, “Mama Don’t Allow No Music”

Performed by the most awesomely disobedient instrumental ensemble ever (though Watson probably overdubbed half of the instruments himself).

Iris DeMent with Matraca Berg, “Mama’s Opry”

This mama is significantly more tolerant of music.

Taylor Swift, “The Best Day”

The favorite potshot of many who dislike Taylor Swift is that she’s a spoiled, talentless rich kid who probably doesn’t even write her own songs. If that’s the case, someone managed one heck of a cover-up with this song, which captures with humble gratitude and a distinctly young perspective the little, unextravagant ways a mother can inspire and restore her children.

And of course:

Jamie O’Neal, “Somebody’s Hero”



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