Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why I still buy physical albums

AND why I refuse to make the shift to buying MP3s from iTunes or other online stores.

Re-published from Pop Reviews Now. Original post here:

Musically I'm what you'd call a purist - I know how to make music, I know how to listen to it, my opinions on music are centered around the music itself and not image or everything else the pop music industry focuses way too much on and I was raised listening to high quality music as in music from CDs and with file sizes of around 100+ MB for 4 minutes.

I was raised a purist because my dad's one as well - these are the values he didn't outright tell me but he did things that pointed me into the direction of figuring these things out. He's a record producer so he taught me all these things in recording and one of them was the difference between an MP3 and an AIFF or a WAV file.

I was never trained to listen to MP3s or bad quality songs - I was raised to favor extremely high quality file formats and marginalize MP3s because honestly, it really does make a difference. If I lived in a country where they sold physical formats of all the music I wanted I'd buy all the albums regardless of how much it would cost me because of the quality.

Everything sounds clearer, better when you hear it in CD quality - even with crappy earphones like mine I spot the difference. The songs sound fuller so you can clearly discern how much of the songs are real instruments, how much are computerized and how much auto-tune the vocals were put through.

This is exactly the reason why I refuse to let physical CDs die because the quality will never be the same. Call me ancient for sticking with CDs in the digital age but unless they start selling AIFFs online I won't buy digital music - it's not the same. I don't know how I thought of it but you know, MP3s are a way for record companies to mask bad production, excessive use of fake musical instruments and even more auto-tuning. AIFFs let you hear everything as long as you're listening while MP3s are so highly compressed that you struggle to hear anything, really.

MP3s are the reason why hardly anyone thinks when they listen to songs anymore - there are so many things that get lost during conversion and once those recordings come out as MP3s the only thing people hear is the melody and the instrumentation highly compressed to the point of crap-y-ness. No one thinks anymore because there's nothing to think about, it's all gone.

I hate that. I don't want generations after mine to not think when they listen to music, I don't want them to passively listen to music and I REALLY don't want them to grow up ignorant of what actual songs sound like. I now know exactly how hard my dad had to fight to let me hear recordings in their purest and how he's fighting now to keep high quality recordings in people's vocabularies.

As much as I want the music industry to move forward, you cannot sacrifice quality for change. This is creativity we're talking about, these are works of people and they deserve to be heard in their most unadulterated form. Until they find a way of digitally selling the good quality files, I'm staying with my physical CDs.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

So I didn't win.

It's the first time I've actually been able to sit down and write something long about the fact that I didn't win. If I don't sound like myself here or if something seems wrong, don't ask.

There are so many reasons why I should be thankful - it's almost my birthday, I'm a contributor for what's probably the biggest K-pop directory ever, I'm writing a ton of stuff right now, I got to ask the Sugababes a question before Amelle left, I have blogger friends from both sides of the world and I'm surrounded by a ton of amazing music. I've also been told that I'm a good writer, something I can hardly ever agree with.

The one thing I've never been able to do in my entire life though is win a big award by myself. For years I was held back from an academic award by a close friend, I didn't know what I REALLY loved doing and I was way too young. I wanted to prove to everyone around me that I was capable because I feel so inferior in front of even my closest friends. They all have their niches and they're all known for being good at them - it's like I have to prove to myself that this writing thing is actually worth pursuing.

Older batches in school have had Palanca winners and they were younger than me when they won - what does that make me now?

It's easy to say I can join next year and that it's just an award or that it's not known as a very credible award but I've never won anything big for myself before and to writers in the academe running a blog is not enough to be called a good writer. I need solid proof to myself and to the people around me that I'm in this for the long run and that this is not just some fun because I want to do this forever and I need measured, academic proof that I am and can be damn good at this.

What hurts about this the most though is the fact that I sacrificed to much for this and literally put my life story into that essay - I killed myself to make that essay. I want to be a powerful writer with the ability to make or break an artists' career. If I can't even move a panel of judges now, how much more will I be able to make an impact on the gigantic music industry? I'm doomed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What Pop Music REALLY Is.

To me, at least.

Music class this year is theory and history-based and the one important thing I learned from it was the completing piece of my definition of pop music.

I've taken from numerous sources, learned from listening and right now I can cohesively and completely compile my concept of the genre.

Pop music is two things first - it's pop, short for popular or pop as in sweet, aimed at people 20 and under.

Pop as in popular is any style, any nationality as long as it's widely played, heard, listened to and nowadays bought. Pop music is what people are listening to at any given time - it's what's POPULAR.

Pop as in sweet is particularly aimed at teenagers and pre-teens - silly lyrics, simple melodies and hardly any jumping through hoops and walking through fire musically. It's a genre you don't have to really, really, really critically listen to if you don't want to. If you want to, who's stopping you? I do.

But the genre has one final description. It's got clean lines, it's processed, partly manmade, and it's like all the other modern art forms. You see how architecture in the 21st century uses manufactured materials - steel, concrete and is square, angular but built by people. How literature these days is catchy, edgy and has bite and popular visual art is mostly made on computers these days - they all mirror how pop music is.

So, pop music is literally a reflection of every other present art form - it has the qualities that literature, visual art, architecture and every other field has.

Which brings me to an external point. I HATE it when people separate 'art' from music and think that 'art' are the paintings you see in galleries and the sculptures lying around. Art is music, literature, painting, architecture, filmmaking, broadcasting, those billboards and advertisements around you - THEY ARE ALL ART FORMS.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I can't take this.

I can’t take the pressure - it’s too much. There’s so much expected of me and I can’t do it. The amount isn’t like what it was last year - this is much worse. I have to be musically competent to the point of damn good and I have to jump through fire to please the people around me. I have to ‘do my family justice’ like how all my other cousins did it. But I’m different - I can’t take it. There’s too much to to, too little time and it’s killing me.

It’s like they expect me to do everything ‘I’m meant to’ while following my dreams. I mean if all I’m expected to do is get high grades and nothing else, that can be done. But things I can’t do are the ones that are being expected of me ALL AT ONCE. I have to do Cherubim, supply this gigantic instrument to an ethnic dance contest we HAVE to win and they still expect me to juggle school AND writing?

I see it as slave-driving.

I hate it. All I want to do is effin’ sleep and write. I don’t want to be judged, I don’t want to be called ‘weak’ because I’m can’t juggle school and Cherubim.

In the back of my mind, I have a hunch that I didn’t win the Palanca. I didn’t. I’m gonna get depressed and everything and I won’t be able to write for months. I hate rejection and this means that I’m not a good writer because if I can’t even win a Palanca, what do people ACTUALLY think of my writing?

UGH. I hate my life - I hate everything about what I’m ‘meant to do’ and I wanna get rid of it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why A Capella is my main basis in gauging the abilities of a pop vocal group.

When I look at and listen to boybands, my gauge for how good they are is a capella work. That's what matters to me because boybands should be able to sing extremely well together - there are at an average five members so they should have something that solo singers don't. In this case, it's the ability to do a capella work extremely well.

My definition of a capella for bands is is 3 or more guys in a boyband singing different lines of a music score at the same time with no accompaniment from musical instruments whatsoever - their instruments are their voices. Once you add drums or guitar it's not a capella to me even if they sing different lines of the music score.

A good a capella piece/performance has members' vocals in their proper places, each one cleanly executing their part (no mistakes in the harmonies or phrasing) with strong but not overpowering volume and timbre, on tempo with the correct dynamics and all voices blended well at the same volume/level.

OK - why use a capella as a judge? Because music is the main thing - it always SHOULD be. To be able to judge how musical the group is and how well they work together, I look at the a capella work.

The most obvious reason is because a capella work shows me whether or not every single member can sing together with the group and individually. Since they're singing different notes, you know which part isn't being done well if it sounds off and since they're singing the same words, at the same tempo and phrasing at the same time, you know if they have the ability to listen and work with the group to make a whole. It's the most basic thing they can show with a capella - if they don't pass this, it's game over for me.

A deeper reason for using a capella as a basis is to show how technically musical the group is. Since they don't have a steady drum part that doubles as a metronome to depend on, they have to have someone or all of them have to have a good sense of tempo and time because they'd fall apart otherwise. They also have to have a sense of dynamics - there's no instrumental to tell them when to go forte or piano, that all has to be done by the members themselves. At the end of the day, they have to know what the crap they're singing - there's no room for mistakes when harmonies are concerned.

Frankly, everything about the performance has to be perfect and that's hard for five guys who most often have never met each other before they became a band.

Over time, I've found good and bad a capella and eventually I've found my standard for amazing performances. The boyband in question is none other than Westlife. There's one performance/song in particular that I use because one, it passes all my basic and further requirements for a strong a capella performance and two, this was done as a joke in their early days. A JOKE that was THIS GOOD.

For further proof and evidence that they truly deserve to be called Gods of a capella, see this video:

Westlife are my benchmark for all other groups - those 40 seconds or so say more than what a whole collection of a capella performances of BSB do. Strong vocals, tight, clean harmonies and conviction - that's what makes them the best for me.

Other notable acts who do a capella almost as well are Ju-Taun (the American representative) and DBSK/TVQX/Tohoshinki (the Korean respresentative) - below are some performances of DBSK in one video for your viewing convenience.