Jorge Lopez

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I’d Rather See You Bare Your Soul

Whitney Houston - Central Park, NYC   Septembe...

Image by asterix611 via Flickr

Whitney Houston has been making the headlines for her triumphs as well as for nearly drop kicking her comeback efforts with a less than stellar performance on Good Morning America.  Oh yeah and then there’s I Look to You, her first new album of original material since 2002’s Just Whitney.

I Look to You has so far garnered generally positive reviews but many reviewers have singled out one notable aspect: rarely does Whitney actually address the ups and downs that caused her image and career to nosedive.  In the end, we’re left with a satisfying and certainly welcoming comeback that does little to shed any new light on Whitney Houston aside from hearing her now slightly huskier voice again.

These reviews got me thinking of Britney Spears.  Britney has built a successful career out of using her sex appeal, dance moves and the right team of producers to craft appealing pop music.  And still, we have yet to know anything about Britney except for her public meltdowns and that one heartbreaking moment when she broke down in tears and admitted she was “sad” in her “Britney: For the Record” documentary.

Madonna once told Britney “I’d rather see you bare your soul” (see: “Me Against the Music”) but even now after the release of Circus,  we don’t know very much about Britney Spears except for the all the names people use to refer to her as she stated on “Piece of Me’”.

Being a confessional singer/musician doesn’t necessarily have to translate into a sacrifice of album sales.  Madonna proved this when she released the deeply personal Ray of Light album back in 1998.  Tori Amos may not appear on the radio nor achieve major sales figures anymore but most people will agree that her songs like “Me and a Gun” are amazing pieces of music.  Below is the video for Madonna’s “Drowned World / Substitute for Love” video which was not released here in the states.

Perhaps the current pop music landscape simply doesn’t allow music artists to say how they really feel.  After all, Kelly Clarkson tried it and nobody cared.  Mariah Carey may not necessarily fall under the category of pop music but I question why a woman who’s now pushing forty can’t release something a bit more mature than a song where she feels the need to attack Eminem (see: “Obsessed”).  Did she forget about the tremendous success she enjoyed with “We Belong Together”?

I can thoroughly enjoy a frothy pop song as much as the next person but is getting personal in pop music a surefire way of obliterating any remote chance of getting radio airplay?  I always thought that music was at least partially about discovering songs that you can identify with and often reflect your own life experiences.

I’d Rather See You Bare Your Soul

Whitney Houston - Central Park, NYC   Septembe...

Image by asterix611 via Flickr

Whitney Houston has been making the headlines for her triumphs as well as for nearly drop kicking her comeback efforts with a less than stellar performance on Good Morning America.  Oh yeah and then there’s I Look to You, her first new album of original material since 2002’s Just Whitney.

I Look to You has so far garnered generally positive reviews but many reviewers have singled out one notable aspect: rarely does Whitney actually address the ups and downs that caused her image and career to nosedive.  In the end, we’re left with a satisfying and certainly welcoming comeback that does little to shed any new light on Whitney Houston aside from hearing her now slightly huskier voice again.

These reviews got me thinking of Britney Spears.  Britney has built a successful career out of using her sex appeal, dance moves and the right team of producers to craft appealing pop music.  And still, we have yet to know anything about Britney except for her public meltdowns and that one heartbreaking moment when she broke down in tears and admitted she was “sad” in her “Britney: For the Record” documentary.

Madonna once told Britney “I’d rather see you bare your soul” (see: “Me Against the Music”) but even now after the release of Circus,  we don’t know very much about Britney Spears except for the all the names people use to refer to her as she stated on “Piece of Me’”.

Being a confessional singer/musician doesn’t necessarily have to translate into a sacrifice of album sales.  Madonna proved this when she released the deeply personal Ray of Light album back in 1998.  Tori Amos may not appear on the radio nor achieve major sales figures anymore but most people will agree that her songs like “Me and a Gun” are amazing pieces of music.  Below is the video for Madonna’s “Drowned World / Substitute for Love” video which was not released here in the states.

Perhaps the current pop music landscape simply doesn’t allow music artists to say how they really feel.  After all, Kelly Clarkson tried it and nobody cared.  Mariah Carey may not necessarily fall under the category of pop music but I question why a woman who’s now pushing forty can’t release something a bit more mature than a song where she feels the need to attack Eminem (see: “Obsessed”).  Did she forget about the tremendous success she enjoyed with “We Belong Together”?

I can thoroughly enjoy a frothy pop song as much as the next person but is getting personal in pop music a surefire way of obliterating any remote chance of getting radio airplay?  I always thought that music was at least partially about discovering songs that you can identify with and often reflect your own life experiences.

Musical Flashbacks

Like many children, I was exposed to a lot of the ethnic music my parents themselves grew up listening to and represented where they were from. Like most children I usually didn’t care for it since I was just too cool to listen that “old people stuff” that simply didn’t reflect the more modern sounds of artists like Jesus Jones, 2 Unlimited, Ace of Base, Bell Biv Devoe and of course, Madonna that I was listening to as a kid growing up in the guilty pleasure nineties.

Eventually as time wizened me up and made me realize that it was okay to like Latin music from the past and present, I developed a fondness for Latin pop, mostly because it reflected the same genre of music I prefer in English. This fondness eventually lead me to discover Shakira (before she became a household name in both languages) and other artists like La Oreja de Van Gogh, Juanes and Mexican singers Thalia and Paulina Rubio.

Speaking of Thalia and Paulina Rubio, they both attempted an English crossover but neither managed to grab the attention of American audiences like Shakira, although they both did manage relatively minor hits, the former with “I Want You” off of her 2003 self titled album and the latter with “Don’t Say Goodbye” off of her Border Girl album.

In some cases the manufactured aspect of Latin pop music (some of it anyway) of today reflects the same manufactured approach that’s played on American radio these days which really made me appreciate the time and effort that a lot of singers and musicians put into their craft way back in the day.

With the advent of YouTube and its ease in sharing these videos of the past and present, I’ve recalled a lot of these older artists that I grew up listening to or whose songs I was particularly fond of like Daniela Romo, Emmanuel, Jeanette, Camilo Sesto and Rudy LaScala. Some of those were one hit wonders or simply faded from the music scene but with YouTube I’ve found their videos and it’s so great to get reacquainted with these songs once again while chuckling to myself at some of the fashions and limited technologies that were used to create these videos and now seem so silly but were so modern back then.

Does there always come that point in one’s lifetime when they learn to appreciate the music they were raised on and exposed to or are there common circumstances where even in adulthood this older music still seems…blasé? It’s always fun to revel in that moment when you remember something like Kaoma’s version of Lambada and remember it fondly. Having access to this video and countless others from back in the day or from the nineties for that matter…it only makes the revelry that much more pleasant.

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