I don’t always do a “review” for the Top 40 chart, although I occasionally check the list for songs that I might like to cover. This keeps my covers list fresh and new and also keeps me aware of what other recording artists are producing. After listening to this week’s “interesting looking” Top 40 songs, I felt the urge to create a blog post on it…
I didn’t do a listen to every song, because not every song looked like one I would want to cover, so it is usually the female artist’s songs that I end up listening to. Besides, who has the time to listen to all 40 songs?
I noticed right away that many of the artists’ songs had very sexual lyrics. And the sexual-lyric topic of 2011 is not the romanticized “I’m in Love” type of sex that we were singing about back in the 90’s and the early 2000’s. The new sex topics in songs are kinky sex, orgies, I’m-a-sex-freak type lyrics, and the I’m-a-cheater-but-proud-of-it lyrics. And here I thought that my own vague references to relationships and sex in my song’s lyrics were too revealing. Ha!
I listened to part of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and immediately caught the strangely demonic/satanic undertones. The first thing I noticed was that in the image they used for the song, Lady Gaga has little points coming out of her back and head…much like Satan’s horns and wing-like points in the back. The music video tells a story about the birth of evil and then seems to reference a part of the Bible in Revelations about a whore giving birth. (Pardon the language, I’m pretty sure the Bible uses this exact word.) If that wasn’t enough strangeness, she then goes on to say, “It doesn’t matter if you love him or capital H-I-M.” OK, that one was obvious. When the word “him” is capitalized, it means God. That we all know. There’s also the huge reference to gay pride, which I think is a good thing. And she obviously is supporting the “born gay” theory with this song. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, google the lyrics. Nothing wrong with the gay pride aim either…but there’s something strange about the way it comes across. It could be art, it could be satanic reference in order to get a reaction – and if so, it worked. Congrats Gaga! You’ve shocked us again with how far you will go for fame…and then pretend to hate the “fame monster”. I’m not a hater…didn’t the Bible say something about love the sinner, hate the sin? Love the artist…hate the art. *grin* This could be easily compared to Michael Jackson’s Thriller in which he acted as an undead zombie monster in the video. Just art, nothing to get ruffled over. Despite her recently evil creation of Born This Way, I still enjoy many of the other songs she has recorded. Either way…I won’t be covering this song.
E.T. featuring Katy Perry…also a strange sex song. This song’s lyrics talk about sex with an alien. OR…it could be using a metaphor to say that the guy is so “out-of-this-world” that he is like an extraterrestrial. That said, the song has a unique melody and a catchy chorus. It also musically references the techno-aliens of the old 60’s movies with it’s strong autotune and skipping robotic sound. Clever. I’ll just ignore the line “Could you be the devil”instead of going the whole “satanic” route again. . .another un-coverable song about weird sex…with aliens.
Tonight by Enrique Inglesias…The song lyrics mention “You know my motivation given my reputation”. The rest of the song sounds like a sex song, but doesn’t seem to reference anything really strange…until you pull up the video. In the music video, Enrique meets several different women in dirty underground clubs and in fancy upscale spa resorts (because that is the life of a superstar….dirty underground strip clubs and upscale resorts…juxtaposed within the same weekend adventure…(eye roll). He has sex with each one, presumably without even knowing their names. Sort of like the Axe body spray commercials. So far, that’s pretty typical for a music video. Then, the video starts showing Enrique with all of his women hanging out together. In the final scenes of the video, they are all having an orgy in his posh resort hotel room. Uncoverable song. Nice melody, simple chord structure, memorable chorus.
Rolling in the Deep by Adele…Once again, Adele has made a greatly touching song about real life experience- heartbreak. She also has a song called Someone Like You that is at the top of the charts as well. Beautiful. Rolling in the Deep is a song about being stronger after the turmoil ends, where Someone Like You leaves me with a sense of “shattered pride” and a deep sadness that is being revealed to the listener. While the two songs are both about heartbreak, they have opposite perspectives. This is great! This is exactly what my CD is based on – – love from different angles. I’ve found not one, but TWO songs that I can cover! Yay!
Yesterday I went to the PASA (Pennsylvania Area Songwriters’ Alliance) Winter SongWorks in Cherry Hill, NJ. I saw a few familiar faces, met some new musicians, and had a great time with the inspiring workshops! I stayed for 4 workshop activities. Most of the educational workshops closed with about 15 – 25 minutes of writing a song based on parameters given during the instructor’s portion, followed by a “song sharing” time after that. I was impressed with how several of the writers could create entire songs in the time allowed – and some of the songs were quite clever!
After giving birth hormones make your skin erupt like Mt. Fuji, hair from your head falls out and hair everywhere else sprouts like a forest. With all of this going on, it may be difficult to conceive the notion of ever looking pretty again. Besides not being able to fit into any of your pre-pregnancy clothes just yet, you might not even be able to find time to take a shower, let alone put on makeup! I did a search the other day for “Beauty for New Moms” and was led to a website that recommended tips for beauty based partly upon what celebrity moms are doing to get prettied up in the weeks after delivery. I’m not saying that beauty tips can’t be ascertained by observing celebrity moms, but the “tips” I found seemed to be the most unreasonable suggestions for new moms. I got the impression that the writers either forgot what it is really like to be a new mom or they have never been one themselves.
While celebrity mom suggestions are nice, I’m not trying to get fancied up for the grammys. I just want to get myself together enough so that I can go to the grocery store without people looking at me like I just crawled out of a cave. I don’t have the money or resources to hire a team of people like JLo did to get my pre-pregnant body back in 2 weeks or less. One of the makeup tips from the site recommended the smoky eye, under the premise that if you play up the eyes, you don’t have to spend makeup time on your lips. These women obviously don’t really have newborns, do they? This must be some kind of joke. The Smoky Eye?? I can’t even accomplish the smoky eye with much success when I am fully awake…let alone sleep-deprived and using a baby wipe to clean the grease off of my eyelids because I didn’t have time to shower and my hormones are pumping enough oil out of my face to fry an egg with. The smoky eye? I think not. Mascara? maybe.
Cover Girl does have that new dual-ended stick that is supposed to make the smoky eye super-easy to accomplish. That MIGHT work for my time budget.
Even celebrity moms can look less than stellar when deprived of sleep.
This particular website also recommended creamy, brightly colored lipstick. Can I go a whole day without kissing my baby? Some doctors say that mommies have an uncontrollable urge to kiss their babies because it is a natural bonding process. Other doctors say that I’m checking the baby’s temperature. And some say that I’m sampling all of the germs on the baby’s face so that I can create the antibodies and deliver them to the infant in my breastmilk. Whatever the reason, brightly colored lipstick would certainly make fulfilling that urge difficult. Not to mention that most of the celebrity moms I saw wearing bright red lipstick were going to red-carpet events. I may go to the mall to walk around with my stroller. I might stop by the grocery store. Red carpet? I don’t think so. I would look ridiculous walking around with bright red creamy lipstick while I push my baby’s carseat in my grocery cart with one hand and double-check the stipulations on my coupon for prune juice with the other hand.
1. Lip Stain Instead of a lipstick that will prevent you from kissing your baby and make you look as though you were getting ready for a red-carpet event, a lip stain is light, will stay on your lips instead of all over baby’s face, and might even give your lips color for up to 3 days if you choose the right brand. Besides, new mommy, you aren’t sleeping anymore anyway, so why take the time to scrub your lips before “bed” when you’ll only be lying in bed for 2 hours. Scrub your lips when you finally get a chance for that long-awaited shower. Until that moment, you can have a color-stained pout that makes you look and feel prettier. Probably not JLo-at-the-grammys pretty, but prettier than “cave dweller”.
I know that Drew Barrymore really makes that Cover Girl lip stain look fantastic, (I secretly think she may have had some work done on her face this year, or the camera guys did a lot of tape editing)…anyway….the Cover Girl lip stain is not good. First, it isn’t a stain. It washes off with water. It’s drying. If you read the reviews for it, there is a lot of defective product out there. The lip staining pen dries up really quick. The strawberry colored one I had was actually more of a dark red hue than the color that was shown on both the display and the tube.
Maybelline’s lip stain actually DOES stain the lip without rinsing off in water. However, I hear that there are a lot of good lip stains out there to be tried. I have a slightly raisin-colored Maybelline lip stain that has a clear balm stick at one end. Just be careful with darkness of hue and staying power when you buy your lip stain. It might be worth it to ask someone who works at Sephora what they would recommend and try before you buy if you can.
2. Sunglasses. There’s one thing that the celebrity moms above all have in common that I would agree is a good tip. Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses will hide the most tired part of your face; your eyes. It seems that many of us have a hard enough time making our eyes look pretty when we have gotten a decent amount of sleep. Trying to salvage their youthfulness after several weeks of bad sleep seems to be a fruitless endeavor.
Sunglasses come in a variety of different hues, and you might find that a pair of lighter, colored sunglasses works better than a blackout pair if you will be going indoors. It feels a bit silly walking around indoors with dark sunglasses on, so you’ll probably take them off…which defeats the purpose of wearing them to hide those tired eyes.
In one of my Youtube music videos, I actually used a lot of colorful non-black sunglasses. You c
an check it out by clicking this picture if interested. If really colorful sunglasses are not your thing, there are also many places that sell more conservative tones of gray and beige.
(Target, Sears, and believe it or not Five Below are my “go to” places for affordable, stylish sunglasses.)
3. Hair Texture. Last season, straight hair was the must-have style. I even fell into the trap of getting that side-swept bang cut into my hair that everyone gave tutorials for on YouTube. The side swept bang is nice, but it requires an incredible amount of prep time to make it “sweep” just right, and then an incredible amount of hair product to make it stay in that swept look. While this isn’t a huge burden on girls that have time for daily showers, this amount of hair-time is nearly impossible for you, new mommy. In the odd chance that you DO get to shower, perhaps you’ll have time to dry your hair, but dry, straight iron AND style it? pfft. Straight hair also looks like a rats nest if you pull it into a ponytail and then later decide you want to wear it down. It also doesn’t fare well if you sleep on it. Not that you will be getting a lot of sleep as a new mommy, but what little sleep you get will most likely destroy your hairstyle. Hair with texture is making a comeback, which is helpful for us, because unwashed hair can lend itself well to having texture! The trick is making the hair look stylishly textured without looking greasy or dirty.
TRY: Dry shampoo spray. There are lots of different brands of dry shampoo spray out there. Before being a new mommy, you probably even thought, “Eww…why don’t people just take a shower?” Well, here is our chance to have a little empathy for those who just don’t have time to shower every day. Dry shampoo spray is meant to absorb the extra oils in your hair, leaving it looking less greasy. If your hair is dry or frizzy at the ends, you may find after using this that the ends of your hair need some smoothing. Enter product #2..
A Spray Bottle of Water. I use an old bottle that once had detangler in it and just fill it with water. I’m poor and cheap-o like that. They do sell spray bottles for water though. You can find them in the hair or travel sections in most major retailers. Sometimes spraying your hair with a bit of water and combing it into place looks just as good as if you had a shower. I like the idea of trying water first before any major products like mousse or pomade, because whatever product you put in your hair may very well be there until you have your next shower…and who knows when that will be!
One of the tips from the websites I researched recommended braiding my hair before bed and taking it out in the morning for a soft, wavy look. So, I thought I would try it…
I dampened my hair with water, and worked in a bit of gel. I separated my hair into 4 sections and french braided it. This took more time than I probably would have spent just taking a shower, to be honest. And I needed to braid the top part of my hair so that my hair wouldn’t be curly on bottom and straight on top. I had to keep dampening my hair as I braided, as it took a while. Once all of the hair was in braids, I patted more of the holding gel on the braids. In the morning, I took out the braids and poof! my hair was curly. I “combed” through my hair with my fingers, trying to get it to lay in such a way as to not keep re-parting itself where I had parted the original braiding. My ordinarily side-swept bangs were incredibly poofy, and made me look like I belonged in an 80’s hair band. I sprayed a bit of water on my scalp and rubbed it in with my fingers to help lift the roots a bit, being careful not to get the curly parts overly damp. Despite my best efforts, the top part of my hair was still straight. So, I pulled out my old crimper that has been collecting dust in my closet since the early 90’s and used it to make the top of my hair blend in with the rest. I went through several stages of crimping my bangs, hating them, wetting them with water and waiting for them to dry…then crimping again…until I finally got them to look almost normal. Unfortunately, babies like to get their hands tangled into mommy’s hair. So, I pulled the curly mass into a ponytail on the right (since baby’s head is usually on my left). Keep in mind while scanning these pictures that I am a very tired new mommy who is not wearing makeup.
CLICK AND DRAG TO VIEW
For the amount of time that I spent fussing over this hairstyle, I do not feel like it is a good “tip” to save new mommies time. It may have worked if I had a different hair texture, or if I didn’t have bangs. The day that I took the braids out the hair looked pretty “decent”, but was not a style that you could comb easily, making it look a bit more dreadlock-like by day 2 (another day without a shower, by the way) and by day 3 I HAD to take a shower because I just looked like a frizzy mess. I think I will stick to my spray bottle of water and dry shampoo.
4. Wear makeup products that have a built-in applicator. There are so many new products out there that have the applicator built-in for truly one step application. But Beware some of the Loreal products with those brushes that are built atop the lid. They LOOK like built-in brushes, but are actually not all that convenient. The more convenient types are like the Neutrogena Mineral Sheers, where the powder actually flows through the brush. It won’t cover imperfections as well as liquid foundation, but it’s better than nothing at all if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands.
5. Use a nail buffer.
Now that your hands are constantly on your baby, the last thing you want is for her to accidentally ingest some nail polish. Let’s face it – you’re going to be sticking your fingers into her mouth on a daily basis now…so nail polish is (for now) a thing of the past. Put a nail buffer on the back of the toilet tank and use it each time you go to the loo.
6. Wear Casual Anti-Wrinkle Dresses if it’s warm. There are a few reasons for wearing dresses. The right cut can hide parts of your new body that you are uncomfortable with. Some dresses are very comfortable for napping in. It is easier to find dresses than tops that have easy access to the milk-factory for breastfeeding moms. Certain cuts of dresses will still fit after you get your pre-pregnant body back, unlike jeans which are very size-specific. It’s takes less time to throw on a dress than to match up tops and bottoms.
Hopefully some of these tips will give you back your confidence and help get you out the door to enjoy the world. And if all else fails, throw caution to the wind and hit the town as you are; with your new jiggly bits, with your hair that cries for a product to fix it, and skin that looks very far from Dove-commercial ready. Remember that you are beautiful just as you are, and when your baby smiles up at your face, she really doesn’t care whether you have the best looking “smoky eye” or not. To her, you are the most beautiful person in the world.
After purchasing Smashbox Photo Finish (oil free) clear primer and finding it to be an incredible waste of money for me, I was surprised when I tried the little sample of Loreal Magic Perfecting Base from a peel-off in a magazine and found that under foundation, it actually made my face look pore-free! Voila! Of course, there was only a very very small amount of the product under the peel-off strip, so I even had my doubts as to whether the full size product would perform as miraculously, but it did!
Loreal’s Magic Perfecting Base works like spackle does for construction workers. It works best if you only apply it where you have a problem. Anywhere you have pores that can’t be covered by foundation, it works miracles. It is surprisingly inexpensive (around $12.99 at CVS) and really does dry quickly, invisibly, and feels weightless. These things are important for me. That was my issue with the Smashbox Photo Finish – even though it claims to be oil-free, it seemed to never dry, and felt exactly like oil would on my face. It also made my foundation slide around like oil.
Magic Perfecting Base would probably work best on oily or combination skin, as it isn’t as moisturizing as other bases and primers I’ve tried. Due to the size of the jar, you will also need to use a Q-tip to remove the product unless you have very short fingernails.
I’ve been using this base for about 6 or 7 months now, have used half of the small jar, and the product continues to perform the same as it did on day one.
Today I received a letter in the mail from HillTop Records. In brief, the letter said that HillTop Records has begun a recording project and is interested in my compositions. The letter requests that I send 3 or 4 of my best compositions to them and they will arrange, produce and record my songs if chosen and pay me royalties on the back end. Whaa? Like any songwriter, I must admit that I was a little itty bitty bit excited to be getting correspondence from a record company, especially since their address is in Hollywood, CA. However, I did notice some strangeness in the letter. They didn’t say what artist or artists they were marketing the songs to – they just mentioned that their artists had performed with some very famous names in music, like Barbara Streisand and Dolly Parton. Performing with a famous artist really doesn’t say much. I performed with Shania Twain in October of 1998 at the Hulman Center…as a backup person – for one song – along with 5 other people. But, I could say that I’ve performed with the stars, as Hilltop Records would put it.
After doing a google search for “Hilltop Records” the first thing I saw on the list was “Hilltop Records Scam”. My heart sank. The itty bitty bit of excitement vanished entirely. I read the other people’s reviews of Hilltop being a scam. Apparently, they collect names from the Copyright office when people file to copyright their songs. (These are public documents and available for anyone to review.) After they choose one of your songs to put on their compilation CD, they ask you to pay around $400 for recording fees for your song. Then, they arrange it and have crappy musicians record it. The final product does not sound remotely professional, produced, or even edited. The sound quality would not have even “cut it” had these songs been recorded in the 60’s before the use of music technology became a must in the industry. Anyway…back to their services. After they have a product to sell, they list it on Amazon. I have seen other reviewers say that they couldn’t find HillTop Records CD’s anywhere, validating that they ARE indeed a scam. So…it seems that in order to prove that they aren’t a scam, they listed some things on Amazon.
The CD they have listed on Amazon is a compilation CD of Christmas songs, sung by “Hilltop Records Singer”. Ah yes, I’m sure LOTS of people will search for that when they want to purchase a CD.
They took the time to upload one song from the compilation CD, which has a picture of an Asian man on the front of it. The sample song is of a woman singing. The singing is not good. Not good at all.
There are 2 other CD listings from Hilltop Records. One of these has an image, and the description of the songs directs the buyer to zoom in on the image to see what songs are on the CD. There are no samples to listen to on any of their Amazon listings besides the one song. Oddly, all of these CDs have “only one copy left”.
HillTop Records has even created their own rebuttal, insisting that they are not a scam, that they are a legitimate company doing as they promise. One of Webster’s definitions of “scam” is “A fraudulent business scheme; a swindle.” Webster also defines it as “To swindle, by means of a trick.” Aha! They definitely fall into that second definition of “scam”. And they seem to have their bases covered just enough that they think they don’t fall into the “fraudulent” department…but with enough research, you will see that they are fraudulent.
On their website, they state “Our emphasis is on Production Value, Promotion and Sales”. OK, Production value is objective. Promotion? They want writers to believe that Hilltop will promote the music, but what is being promoted is more Production…so that Hilltop Records can make more profit. Their emphasis certainly isn’t on sales of the product/songs. What they are selling is the service of having your songs recorded at your expense. You won’t make any royalty money, because Hilltop is not promoting your songs to sell them. They are promoting themselves to sell the scam.
You will also see on Hilltop Records’ website that they have Internet Radio. OK, possibly a legitimate way of promoting for the artists, right? No. It isn’t even radio. It has been pre-recorded, and advertises Hilltop Records’ services. We get to listen to a short snip of a song from one of their artists. You can rewind the pre-recording…it’s just an audio track…NOT radio.
On the right hand side of their website, they have artists and their songs with buttons that say “play” and “buy”. If you hit the play button, you will hear about 20 seconds of the song. 10 seconds of intro, and then 10 seconds of the first verse…with the singer not sounding so great and the intro music sounding like a karaoke track from a cheap DJ. Basically, given such a small sample of the song and not even in the chorus part of the song, I would not say that having a song up on their site is worth the $400 they are charging.
I did say that they fall in the “fraud” description too…and here’s how. Their songwriter’s testimonials are fake. If you compare the page that has their written letters of thanks and appreciation with the page that has the list of all their “Hilltop Records Songwriters”, you will find that none of the names match up. NOT ONE of the names that are signed in the testimonials can be found in the list of their songwriters. This is fraud, because it means one of two things. 1. Hilltop Records falsified testimonials, creating a lie and thus a fraudulent trick to make people part with their money or 2. These artists that sent letters of thanks were not included on their list of songwriters, a benefit that these people (if they are indeed real and not falsified people) paid for.
Tread carefully musicians…and be sure to research anything that smells fishy.