Christmas music is an infinite abyss of sentimentality, mixed feelings, and bizarre traditions we try to get to the root of every year. Much of my favorite Christmas music, like most people’s favorite Christmas music, is what my parents would play on Christmas morning when I was a kid. That involved a lot of vinyl and tapes from the clearance rack at KMart.
Other favorites are probably because I spend way too much time in bars.
Check ‘em out --
1. Jingle Bells? - Barbra Streisand
IF and I mean IF someone is already familiar with this song, they usually hate it. I know two people who love this extremely catchy single. One of them is my sister Liz Barrett and I used to love singing it really fast with her when I was little. Also noteworthy - this is THE most Jewish Christmas song EVER.
2. Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas - John Denver
This is a super sad topic, but it’s tough not to laugh at this one, especially when John Denver starts wobbling “Pleeeease.” No one wants to see their mama cry. We get it John and we're sorry.
3. Christmas Disco - The Mistletoe Disco Band
Rarely has there been a power group assembled that dazzles me as much as The Mistletoe Disco Band. I’ve also never met anyone who loves this as much as I do, including my family. It was always my choice to put on, even though one side was scratched. My personal favorite song is the super trippy version of “Little Drummer Boy.” It’s genius.
4. Kelly Clarkson - Underneath The Tree
I LOVE Kelly Clarkson and this has that great throwback Phil Spector festive heartbroken while hugging sleigh bells vibe. It’s fantastic.
5. Last Christmas - Wham!
THIS has to be the year. I’m finally going to do it. There’s still time to give my heart to someone special, right?!
6. Darlene Love - Baby Please Come Home
This song pumps you right up and then punches you in the gut HARD. Why won’t this baby come home already?
7. Joni Mitchell - River
Speaking of feels, this one always gives me a lump in my throat. It’s not Christmas until I play this one ten times in a row and stare out of a window while crying into a scotch.
8. Slade - Merry Christmas Everybody
This is underrated and underplayed. It’s a great one for people who don’t usually like Christmas songs. Solid stuff.
9. Carnie & Wendy Wilson - Hey Santa
I am a giant nerd for Wilson Phillips. I grew up on their delicious harmonies echoing on Top 40 radio and in the aisles of Rite Aid. However, this is technically not Wilson Phillips. It’s only ⅔ of Wilson Phillips. Where is Ann? I have so many questions.
10. Tom Petty - Christmas All Over Again
This song is so simple, but makes you feel fantastic every time. I really miss Tom Petty.
11. Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You
What are your favorite Christmas songs? Leave a comment!
A lot of people want to be my best friend and I like that, but they always have to realize that they are never going to replace the man I met on a downtown street corner near Liberty Ave in Pittsburgh wearing red shoes and looking like he was about to punch someone in the face back in 2002. We instantly connected and while many people have tried to tear us asunder over the years, here we are! There are SO many songs that remind me of him for so many reasons that sometimes it's difficult for me to truly trace what kind of an impact he's had on my life thus far. In honor of his birthday, I'm going to highlight the first 10 that pop into my head. Here they are -
1. Cher - When The Money's Gone
Pretty sure we were requesting this song long after it was remotely relevant (I'm actually fairly certain this was not a super popular hit for her at ANY point) when we went out to Pegasus and The Real Luck Cafe in the early 2000s. This amazing video did not exist at that time and I'm feeling extra grateful to the person who made this. I want to be their friend. Anyway, this song is extra special for us because we were poor and we ate a lot of Wendy's in Josh's car. We're a lot more literal than people usually think we are.
2. Sweet - Little Willy
This is one of those curve ball songs that Josh would bust out that reminded me that he was growing up and wasn't just into divas with a side of Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette anymore back in 2011. The world was changing and Josh had decided to embrace the 70s outside of the context of The Cher Show. To be totally honest, I wasn't super familiar with it until he introduced it to me. It's a legitimately fantastic song.
3. Britney Spears - Lucky
Like many Americans who knew virtually anything about music in the early 2000s over the age of 12, I was always VERY hesitant to openly embrace the music of Britney Spears in any capacity before "Toxic" came out. Well, Josh was determined to change that. He took it seriously. He would put this song on the jukebox at 5801 and would say "It's a really good song! Listen to the words!" SO often that finally, one night, I started singing along.
4. Reba McEntire - If I Were A Boy
Overall, Josh has made me truly appreciate what an amazing example of a feminist female musician Reba McIntire is. Obviously the Beyonce version was great, but I really connected with this version a lot. It makes me appreciate the writing and the universal message. Also, it amplifies the fact that Beyonce really IS a legitimate country artist.
5. Florence & The Machine - Shake It Out
When this song came out, Josh's mom was in the process of going through a double lung transplant and this was one of those songs that was really there for us on a spiritual level. I'm pretty sure most mornings consisted of listening to this alternating with "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips for at least six months.
6. Eminem - Slim Shady
I can't think of any other reason that this reminds me of Josh other than the fact that he used to dye his hair blonde and a stranger shouted "Look, there's Marshall Mathers!" at him one day. Can't envision that? Here's some photographic evidence that the accusation was not completely unfounded:
7. This SUPER Bad Remix Of "Take My Breathe Away"
Poor Josh. He actually really liked this and put it on a mix CD for me and it made me laugh out loud. Still does. It's terrible.
8. Cyndi Lauper - At Last
This is a song that I was actually not hip to until Josh put it on a mixtape for me and even though I'm sure the rest of the tape was great, I would rewind and play this one over and over again. Josh has always encouraged me to shine, even when I feel like being a thunderstorm. Hearing it reminds me that he's always in my corner cheering me on no matter where he is.
9. Faster Kill Pussycat - Brittany Murphy
We love Brittany Murphy and we miss her a lot. Many young, hot Hollywood actresses during this time tried to drop a track with a DJ and make it work (Lindsay, Kim, Paris) but Brittany could actually sing and choose to work with someone who knows what they're doing. This track still sounds great.
10. Everyday Is A Winding Road - Sheryl Crow
This is definitely a constant theme song for us. We've gone through a lot of ups and downs over the years as individuals and as friends through work turmoil, family stuff, and a lots and lots of crazy lovers (sorry everyone, you're ALL BONKERS). Many people say they like to roll one day at a time. Well, Josh and I live life one moment at a time. I am truly grateful to have him in my life. He's always there to remind me of who I am, even when I forget.
By Molly Steadman
The Grand Theft Auto series has revolutionized and influenced the gaming world in a ton of ways, but the musical aspect of the games, especially the music from GTA V, has arguably made the largest impact. Grand Theft Auto is definitely not the first game to use licensed music during gameplay, but no game before or since has used as much licensed music as GTA V does - the game features 241 licensed songs.
Grand Theft Auto Radio Stations
What makes the Grand Theft Auto musical experience so unique is that gamers get to choose what they listen to while they play. In fact, most of the music in the game is only heard when you’re in a vehicle. While you drive, you get to choose from 17 carefully curated Grand Theft Auto radio stations, spanning a wide variety of genres plus two faux “talk radio” stations.
Video game music, from chiptunes in the early days of gaming to the full-blown orchestral productions in today’s games, are a really important aspect of the gaming experience, but a game allowing the player to choose exactly what they listen to is pretty rare, and serves the purpose of letting you set the mood for the game yourself.
Check out the full list of GTA V’s radio stations and hosts below.
Music Is Freedom
The ability to change the station in Grand Theft Auto adds to the feeling of freedom you feel when you play it. One of the first games to let the player choose their own musical experience was Tetris, which originally allowed players to choose between three songs, labeled simply as A, B, and C. Another example is the Sims, which allows players to choose various genres of music to play on in-game stereos or jukeboxes, and uses actual songs by bands like The String Cheese Incident, The Veronicas, Lily Allen, They Might Be Giants, and Fischerspooner - all translated into “Simlish”, the made-up language that characters use in the game, so the songs are only recognizable by tune, since the lyrics are nonsense.
GTA uses the actual recorded versions of all the licensed songs in the game - no translation necessary - and released the full soundtrack of the game on vinyl as a six-LP set called The Music of Grand Theft Auto V, containing the 241 licensed songs from the game plus original compositions from the score. GTA is not the first game to release a soundtrack on vinyl, but it is the first to do it on such a large scale. Six LPS is a lot of music!
As evidenced from the massive selection of music and the huge, gorgeous, detailed world players explore, GTA V in particular is a game that clearly took a massive collective effort to produce. Licensing music is a complicated and expensive thing that a lot of artists have mixed feelings about, and the amount of effort it must have taken to get 241 songs licensed is something to marvel at in itself. The roster of “DJ” hosts for the in-game radio stations, too, contain a fair amount of A-listers and well-known public figures - most notably, Pam Grier and Bootsy Collins, who have had active careers since the 1970s and can easily be described as legends of the film and music industries, respectively.
Ever since GTA V’s release in 2013, a lot has changed in the gaming world - Minecraft, Skyrim, and the Fallout series are all examples of open-concept games influenced by GTA, and all of them have enjoyed enormous success in popularity and sales, too. A few of them have even released soundtracks on vinyl, but none are even close to being as extensive as GTA’s, and all feature original compositions for the games instead of licensed music.
It's Not Just About The Music
Instead of having to follow a linear mission in the game, players are able to fully explore “Liberty City” (a fictionalized version of New York City). In the original game released in 1997, you could wander around the city for hours without doing anything to further the plot of the game or complete any mission objectives, because the game’s creators at Rockstar North took the time to develop a huge, detailed world full of characters, scenery and side missions.
Grand Theft Auto was actually not the first game to use an open-world concept - the first one was probably a game called Elite that was released in 1984 for Commodore 64 systems - but it definitely was the first to take the concept to a level gamers had never seen before.
The theme continued with the next few releases from Grand Theft Auto - taking players from Liberty City to Vice City (Miami), San Andreas (a combination of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas), back to Liberty City for GTA IV, and then most recently to Los Santos, based on Los Angeles. The city of Los Santos in GTA V is larger in itself than all the worlds combined from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto IV (Liberty City), and Red Dead Redemption (another popular game from Rockstar North). Read: it’s huge.
Grand Theft Auto Is Art
There’s been a lot of debate in the gaming community about whether video games can be considered art, and the amount of work that went into the creation of GTA V is a strong argument that they absolutely can. Easily over 1,000 people contributed to the making of the game, and the amount of hard work that went into it shows. The author of Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto, David Kushner, described in an interview the first time he played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, when he “took a car and just drove down to the beach and watched a sunset because I’d never seen anything like this in a game before.”
Art Is Graphic
The game is definitely beautifully crafted, and the scenery, like Los Angeles itself, is gorgeous - but GTA also received a lot of attention for some uglier aspects of the game. GTA: San Andreas became infamous for the “Hot Coffee” mod (“coffee” being a euphemism for sex), which depicts crudely animated but graphic sex. The mod can’t be accessed by most players, but hackers found a way to get to it with various hacking techniques in every released version of the game. This caused quite a bit of controversy and got GTA: San Andreas’ rating changed from M (Mature) to AO (Adults Only), and got it entirely removed from sale in Australia.
The graphic sex scene in San Andreas was coded into the game but wasn’t actually meant for players to find, and could only be found by hackers who knew what they were doing. But the graphic violence in the game is everywhere, and you don’t need to be a hacker to find it. Often, the violence is against women, specifically sex workers. This has also been a big subject of debate for the game, but ultimately it hasn’t been proven definitively that violence in video games causes an increase in real-life violence. The game isn’t like the Sims; your character in GTA is a criminal, and so the violence in the games is part of the storyline, though some might find it offensive. Judge for yourself --
That's not where the controversy ends. Grand Theft Auto has also been the subject of scrutiny for the blatant racism often present in the games, especially in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, where your character is involved in a gang war between Cuban and Haitian gangs. Various racist slurs are tossed around, but it’s all part of the story. Real life isn’t always pretty, and the makers of GTA sure didn’t sugarcoat anything. The controversy around the violence and profanity in the game didn’t affect sales, though it did spark some debate, mostly because the creators of the game are white men.
What's Next For Grand Theft Auto?
Taking into account the gigantic effort it takes to create a game like Grand Theft Auto V, it’s no wonder that there’s a gap of at least 5 years between GTA V and the upcoming GTA VI, which as of yet doesn’t even have an official release date, but is estimated for release in about 2018. Based on the massive success of its predecessor, GTA VI will definitely be the subject of a lot of anticipation, and one almost wonders how it’ll even be possible to top the masterpiece that is GTA V.
By Joan Barrett
Trying to make it as a musician involves A LOT of marketing and frankly, as someone who has made money doing both, all of it is extremely exhausting and it’s hard to keep up with. Many are very reluctant about embracing social media and diving right into it out of fear of looking like an idiot, lack of time, or sheer laziness. I try not to judge them, but it’s difficult. It’s also sometimes pretty obvious when they aren’t into it and just go through the motions. I genuinely love to interact with my heroes and I am very grateful when they make the effort. It ain’t easy. Here are 10 musicians that are killing it at marketing themselves on Twitter -
1. Ryan Adams
This guy is a class act. He’s not just great at Twitter - he’s great at Instagram, digital PR, and marketing himself in general. On top of that, I have the utmost appreciation for the fact that he covered THE ENTIRE 1989 album and gave Spotify users an opportunity to hear the brilliance of the album (love you T Swift, but no Spotify? REALLY?!). This man is a rare combination of talent, sincerity, AND savvy. Most importantly, he liked one of my tweets one time. Check out his latest single - “Do You Still Love Me”
2. Neko Case
She’s genuinely passionate about what she believes and uses her influence to do some good. Even if she weren’t one of the best female musicians of 2016, she’d still be considered one of the best humans. Also, she takes the time to interact with her followers! Check it out -
She is literally my favorite Twitter user and I am inspired by her on a daily basis in every way possible. NO ONE has a stronger Emoji game than Cher. Sometimes it’s tough to tell when celebrities are sending out their own tweets or if someone else is doing it for them. With Cher, you don’t have to question it. You can visualize the great one seeing the orange one on TV and feverishly spouting out toilet emojis, possibly while on a toilet. The woman is “Living Proof” that you don’t have to be perfect in order to tweet. Dive in there and have fun. She’s motherf******* Cher, alright?!
4. David Crosby
He doesn’t use Twitter to promote his music as much as he uses it to genuinely engage with his fans. Most of his tweets consist of answering questions from his followers and he’s been doing this consistently for a while. His answers are candid and many of them are super funny. I couldn’t get him to talk to me, but Molly Steadman did. And she persisted. She’s good for that.
Her Twitter really makes me feel like she’s as dedicated to her music, her friends, and her fans as her songs would suggest. She doesn’t tweet super often, but when she does, it’s good. I relate with her, especially this tweet. Earbuds with no branding to build buzz for the new album? What a great way to show her dedication to her musical process.
6. Lady Gaga
I’m not super wild about her 2017 Grammy performance, but I love the Joanne album and the promotion of it when it was released was stellar. I’m not sure how much Lady Gaga is involved with her social media, but she does make sure she hires people who know what they’re doing. I would imagine quite a few ad $ went into promoting her hashtags, but they were super cool. I have to admit it. She also mixed it up with some very nice emoji game -
Some musicians choose to keep their personal lives and their professional lives fairly separate. Not Rihanna. The “Work” plus the “Love On The Brain” is a brilliant combination. Like Tina Turner, the woman took an abusive relationship and turned it into art, money, and extra strength for all to see. She keeps the tweets flowing and she’s not afraid to burn a few bridges and encourage everyone to “Live Your Life.” Check out “21 Times Rihanna Was The Best Fucking Person On Twitter.” She’s a real regular person, but so much better than all of us. Here’s a personal fav of mine. It looks like a message one of my friends would send me. It’s awesome.
This remarkable human being has truly evolved within the music industry over the years to continue to dedicate herself to connecting with people in any way she is capable of. Without Twitter and the fact that Sia continually searches for inspiration everywhere she can, we would not know her soul as Maddie Ziegler expresses it. The blessed union started with a tweet. As serious as her little soul is, she’s also hilarious. Her bio reads “i am sia i was born from the bumhole of a unicorn named steve.” That actually makes sense to me. She’s one of a kind.
FOLLOW me on Twitter. Promise I’ll pay attention to you!
In a divided America, there is one thing that we can all agree on - Lady Gaga performing with Metallica at the 2017 Grammys was horrible. You can watch it here if you want, but I don't recommend it.
Gaga's got talent and she's got style and she's one of the best performers of our time, but lately it feels like she’s been intentionally reinventing herself into something basic. Musicians like Ke$ha, Cyndi Lauper, and P!nk are hot pop ladies who have been able to reach a variety of audiences for years and they’ve done it with class and a bit of trash. With Gaga, it feels like a mockery and a very intentional marketing scheme and a lazy one at that.
As someone who reluctantly sang “Enter Sandman” and “For Whom The Bell Tolls” at the Barstow Sportsplex 4th of July shindig back in 2001 because the guitarist was too shy to do it only to get kicked out for making them sound “not metal enough,” the idea that someone of Gaga’s stature would do something like this on purpose is absolutely insane to me. Is it because I don’t like metal? Nope. Is it because I hate Metallica’s songs? Nope. It’s because she wasn’t really feeling it. She’s dabbling in white American musical culture just for the attention and the money. It’s disappointing. What's more disappointing is that somewhere, somehow, there's a VHS of me singing Metallica and I don't have it. Best case scenario is that some one's uncle taped over it with WWF Royal Rumble or something.
Here are 3 renditions of Metallica songs that are not terrible. I promise.
Lissie - Nothing Else Matters
Not that it matters, but she’s an American blonde girl from the midwest and she slays the sincerity of American classic rock. She does it consistently. What I like about her cover songs is the fact that the words are what matters to her. I also encourage you to listen to her cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness.” It’s incredible. After that, dive into her latest release “Live At Union Chapel.”
DJ M.I.F -Tricky Sandman