Michaelwclark.com

Just my stuff


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Some say life is the dream and the afterlife is the awakening

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We Are The Future (and a few things went wrong…)

This experimental piece started out with my desire to get back into using the mic. Most of the vocals are me with some heavy digital filters. At the beginning and end, I also use some electronically generated voices from FL Studio and Alter Ego.

I don’t expect a lot of people to like this! But I do. It means something to me. And art is about being true to yourself. At least, that’s how I see it. I suppose a commercial artist would also be concerned about the audience.

It’s not that I don’t care about the audience. I actually spent days and days trying out different mastering techniques to get this as “commercially professional” as I could at this stage in my learning curve.

But again, I know it’s out there. I’m used to being slightly ahead of my time. It has its joys, misunderstandings, and related challenges. But that’s what I am. 🙂


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Reelin’ in the Years – 2009

Mandisa, finalist on American Idol.

Mandisa, finalist on American Idol. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s 2009 and I’m 47 years old. For those of you just joining my journey through the past, Reelin’ in the Years is an autobiography of sorts thru pop music. When I was a kid music was paramount. Its importance has always been there but my focus has shifted over the years. It’s not always easy to pick a favorite pop tune for a given year when almost none of it speaks to you.

I guess pop is about youth. And when you get a little older you have to branch out. Well, yes and no. These days I’m enjoying pop more than ever. So things have come full circle. But rarely do I feel the magic of the 70s and my AM radio.

In 2009 I’ve pretty much hit a brick wall with Top 40 pop. Lady Gaga didn’t grab me, except for maybe her sociological importance back then. And Taylor Swift hadn’t really hit my radar. No, I had to find something else.

Luckily I did. My girlfriend at the time, Ginger (not her real name), lived in a small city that had its own Christian radio station. She was quite well versed in Christian pop while I was a newbie. One day while visiting Ginger I walked down to the dollar store and bought a Christian pop CD – actually a double CD – for a mere dollar or two.

Turns out I really liked some of it. The songs were older Christian songs but I realized there was something there.

The Christian folk-rocker Bruce Cockburn once said that if the music is no good, the Christian message doesn’t get out. I guess Cockburn’s comment stuck with me and I’d just assumed that all Christian pop was bland crap (musically speaking).

But that’s not true. There is some good stuff. WOW Hits is a good place to start for anyone interested. The artist Toby Mac appears quite often on WOW Hits. And rightly so.

This tune is especially dear to me because it reminds me of a pawn shop down by St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto. Until recently, the pawn shop and church were in a downtrodden end of town (now undergoing gentrification).

The other reason I like this tune is the backup vocalists, Kirk Franklin and Mandisa. When Ginger and I broke up, a song by Mandisa helped me get thru some of the rough times.

So for 2009, my favorite tune is by Toby Mac (with Kirk Franklin and Mandisa). I dedicate this to all the beautiful souls down at St. Michael’s Cathedral who “don’t want to gain the whole world, and lose their soul.”

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Taylor Swift voices support for March For Our Lives in rare political statement (thefader.com)

 Elton John: I’m Still Standing – A GRAMMY Salute To Air On Tuesday, Apr. 10 On CBS (denver.cbslocal.com)

 K-Pop Stars Red Velvet Set To Perform In Pyongyang This Weekend (gpbnews.org)

 What Is METALLICA Teasing For Monday? (metalinjection.net)

 Red Velvet, other South Korean musicians leave for Pyongyang performance (rappler.com)

 Without a hit song every musician is a rookie- Oshine (vanguardngr.com)

 Author Marcus J. Moore Is Turning Kendrick Lamar’s Impact On Black America Into A Book (bossip.com)


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Reelin’ in the Years – 2008

It’s 2008 and I’m 46 years old. I remember some difficult years after my father’s passing. Things were unraveling a bit until I got into a new relationship with Ginger (not her real name).

Looking back through my life I see just how much different women have helped to keep me going in the right direction. In my bio, I talk about God and how important that is to me. And yes it is. But God also works through people. And Ginger came into my life at the right time.

Ginger and I went our separate ways but I appreciate the good times and how the relationship helped to get me where I am now.

I’ve never married and don’t have kids. Being a contemplative person can put one a bit out of touch with the latest trends, memes, etc. It didn’t help with my writing much. Trying to connect with an audience when you spend a good deal of time in contemplation isn’t easy.

It’s getting better as I’m older and probably more integrated than before. My conversion was no small or superficial matter. So it took a while to pick up some of the ol’ routines that seemed so worldly and superficial immediately after.

Around this time my niece introduced me to Coldplay. She gave me a CD that I thought was pretty good.

Listening to this song again, I’m thinking a lot of vintage bands lose their spark and a new generation takes their place. We need new generations to keep things fresh. Not just in music but in life itself.

That might sound funny after my 2007 rant about ageism. But I know there’s something wonderful about youth. Talented and creative youth, that is. Conventional, narrow-minded youths bore me like anyone else. And yes, some older people bore me too. Countering ageism isn’t about chronological age. It’s about maintaining our sense of wonder, curiosity, and openness—at any age.

Luke and Rey – Luke is amazed at Rey’s quick grasp of the Jedi fundamentals and her immense potential – via Pinterest

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 IBM’s ageism scandal: 5 ways the company reportedly screwed older workers (fastcompany.com)


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Reelin’ in the Years – 2007

It’s 2007 and I’m 45 years old. This year makes me smile because the Canadian TV comedy show The Kids in the Hall used to do a sketch where this groovy looking guy would fall into the camera and the headlines would read “He’s hip, he’s cool, he’s 45…”

I think the implication was that being 45 or more is sort of like being a loaf of stale bread or a bag of sour milk. And as wrong as that is, it’s a cultural bias that persists today.

In a word, ageism.

I probably was an ageist when I was younger. And I don’t blame younger people for looking at me now (55 yrs) as some kind of damaged goods past my shelf life.

Let’s be real. That’s how it often is. People say “age is only a number” but when it gets down to brass tacks their ugly ageism emerges.

Madonna once said on the topic, “So am I suppose to die..?” (or something like that).

That’s my sociological rant for today. To get back to the music, the prime focus of Reelin’ in the Years, I choose this tune for the best of 2007.

I dig T-Pain because he popularized a vocal effect called “auto-tune” that has become pretty mainstream in 2018. Basically, a software program corrects your pitch and can vary parameters (like speed and the musical scale you’re being shifted to) to get a robotic sounding twang.

Others did it before T-Pain. But he made it a staple. As a matter of fact, there now are auto-tune programs (and presets within programs) named after him.

You can hear the effect with various degrees of subtlety throughout the tune but it’s really obvious around the one minute mark.

I recall hearing another song with auto-tune in a dollar store in Peterborough ON sometime in the late 2000s to early 2010s. The effect was more popular and I realized it was becoming a thing. I found that interesting because auto-tune is about the interface of mankind and the machine, a place where I think we are collectively headed.

For those old skool critics of newer music who may think auto-tune is just a cheap gimmick, I urge them to try doing it themselves. As a bedroom producer, I can tell you that doing it well is an art and a science. You gotta be smart, tech-savvy and artistically gifted to pull it off. Yes, you can make your voice twang with a VST plugin. But to get it timed right, clean and effective, well, that’s another matter. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they are talking about.

Before my time some conservatives thought electric guitars were a cheap sellout or of the devil. Dissing electronic music without any kind of appreciation of what’s involved to my mind is not so different.

People get stuck in patterns… at any age.

T-Pain performing at Hot 97's Summer Jam 2007 ...

T-Pain performing at Hot 97’s Summer Jam 2007 in Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Believe it or not, T-Pain and his wife just gave us major relationship goals (mashable.com)

 T-Pain ft. Mr. Talkbox “May I,” MURS ft. Tech N9ne “Same Way” & More | Daily Visuals 2.15.18 (hiphopwired.com)


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Reelin’ in the Years – 2006

It’s 2006 and I’m 44 years old. 44 is an unlucky number for the Chinese. At least, for those who believe in the I Ching. Hexagram 44 is a time where temptation and darkness can cause real danger.

I Ching hexagrams 0 to 64

I Ching hexagrams 0 to 64 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to consult the I Ching pretty much daily when I was a lot younger. By 2006 I don’t take it too seriously. Basically, I got bored of it never really coming true.

It dawned on me that I was just projecting my own desires onto the hexagrams. And I also believe the Holy Spirit is of a different order than the order talked about in the I Ching. However, I admit, I still notice when I see the #44.

Stormy Daniels

Stormy Daniels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve been watching the news you’ll know that 2006 is the year Stormy Daniels claims to have had unprotected sex with President Trump.

I guess someone had a bad day…

I recall hearing this song and not thinking too much of it until the extremely catchy chorus. It’s by a Canadian artist who did better in other countries than in his own native land.

That happens sometimes.

Stone Path, The I Ching Trail, Autumn Is Not

Reelin’ in ALL the Years


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Reelin’ in the Years – 2005

Image – Wikipedia

It’s 2005 and I’m 43 years old. Pope John-Paul II and Johnny Carson die this year while North Korea announces it has nuclear weapons.

I remember driving downtown and hearing if not this song another one by Mariah Carey and thinking how pop music, in Toronto anyhow, had become the era of the diva.

This isn’t a bad song but I don’t think it’s great either. More about vocal gymnastics than memorable melody. But I could be wrong. Music is a very personal thing. And for all I know folks younger than myself might like this just as much as I enjoy some 70s fluff—e.g. “Reunited” by Peaches and Herb.

So here’s Mariah, looking sexy as if you’re just about to jump into bed with her. Sex sells. We all know that. In this case, sensuality, vocal acrobatics, and an okay tune made for the #1 single in 2005.

Luckily, things will get better in the pop world.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Poo Bear announces album featuring Justin Bieber, J Balvin, Jennifer Lopez, and more(thefader.com)

 Man charged with felony theft of Frances McDormand’s Oscar(bostonherald.com)