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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 – 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 – 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)


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Reelin’ in the Years – 2004

It’s 2004 and I’m 42 years old. Not much on the charts or album releases that I can relate to.

I’m exploring the Toronto Public Library which has a great network of branches. You can order a book, magazine, CD or DVD online from any branch and a van delivers it to the branch of your choice. Add up all the branches in our geographically large city and that comes to quite a selection.

Daniel Ek addressing Spotify staff.

Daniel Ek addressing Spotify staff. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These days Spotify is rendering that a bit redundant for music, and the library should probably put its funds towards obtaining a free Spotify account for all Torontonians. But we’re not there yet. We do have Naxos, though, which is awesome for classical.

So this year I’ve settled on a song rather than a particular version of it. I like this tune a lot. Cat Stevens wrote and performed it in 1967. P.P. Arnold sang another version in ’67. It was a hit in Canada in ’73 with a take by Keith Hampshire. Rod Steward also did a cover in ’77.

Here’s the 2004 incarnation by Cheryl Crow:

And the version that spoke to me as a kid:

Reelin’ in ALL the Years


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Reelin’ in the Years – 2000

It’s 2000 and I’m 38 years old. I remember sitting in the basement playing around with some fonts on our Windows 98 PC, trying to make a catchy banner for Earthpages for the year 2000.

Everything felt pretty new and 2001 was just around the corner—a special year for me because my favorite movie was 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I saw as a kid.

Chuck Berry releases an Anthology in 2000 and since he’s one of the originators of Rock and Roll, I think it appropriate to list one of his best tunes (there are many) for the year 2000.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Fats Domino: The quiet rock ‘n’ roll rebel who defied US segregation (scroll.in)


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Reelin’ in the Years – 1997

OK Computer released by Radiohead in 1997. I like the album/band name but the music never grabbed me – Image via discogs.com

It’s 1997 and I’m 35 years old. U2 releases Pop which for me was a waste of money. One could actually discern the beginning of U2’s slide with Zooropa (1993), Achtung Baby (1991) being a tough act to follow.

Meantime David Bowie releases a strong album, Earthling. I almost chose the song “Little Wonder” from that CD as my fav for ’97 but it doesn’t resonate so much now. I mean, this was 21 years ago and people change.

’97 was the year I completed my doctorate. Hardly a light year. I remember standing in the hall awaiting my examiners’ response after being grilled on my thesis.

Also a TA that year, one of my undergraduate students showed up to cheer me on. He was a bit unconventional and, thinking it would help, started to massage my back while I was standing in the hall. It just made me tenser. I had bought a new suit for the occasion and was afraid he would wreck it while working on my back muscles…

Such is life. I guess I politely asked him to stop. I dunno. Can’t remember exactly.

For Christmas that year I got a greatest hits CD containing the single “Walkin’ On The Sun.”

I like this song’s retro style. 1950s or early 60s, for sure. The lead singer reminds me a bit of Chubby Checker or Bill Haley.

Most of the other pop from ’97 doesn’t age very well. This song harkens back to a classic time of surfboards and beach parties, so still works today. Sort of like that old song “I’m Your Venus” which has been reworked at least twice, I think, for ladies’ razor commercials!

And their kids were hippie chicks or hypocrites
Because fashion is smashin’ the true meaning of it

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

The Number Ones: Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” (stereogum.com)


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Reelin’ in the Years – 1994

It’s 1994 and I’m 32 years old. Cruising along with my doctorate, living in Ottawa and spending some time in Toronto during the summer while my parents are away.

TLC’s amazing album CrazySexyCool comes out this year

Apartment living in Ottawa got pretty buggy at times, and my parents’ empty house was a welcome respite.

Also, the spacious Toronto Reference Library had The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, whom I was studying, and a lot of related material.

Toronto Reference Library – Wikipedia

So in summer, I would wake up in the morning, get my things together and, clutching my Toshiba 286 laptop, take a long walk downtown to the library. If I had enough energy after my daily thesis write, I would then walk further south to St. Michael’s Cathedral, in the heart of the downtown core.

I was fairly active in younger years, jogging about 30 to 45 minutes most days in my late teens and early twenties. So by my thirties, I was still walking long distances in both Ottawa and Toronto, and loving it.

St. Michael’s Cathedral 2011 (before renovation)

Choosing my favorite tune for this year was a showdown between TLC’s “Creep” and Bass is Base’s “I Cry.” After listening to both songs, “I Cry” comes out on top.

I like TLC but Bass is Base hails from Toronto, my hometown and where I live today. So this one reflects my turf in ’94. Its multicultural groove speaks to me as Canadian delighted that I can meet people from all around the word the moment I step out my front door.

Who needs to travel?

Reelin’ in ALL the Years