Wednesday, August 19, 2015

TOP TEN SONGS OF THE LILITH FAIR ERA! (Yeah, I'm doing a music blog!)

I don't talk about music much here, even though I call this an entertainment blog, the fact is that I do limit my focus a bit too much to film and television. I bring this up 'cause I happened to get into a little trouble recently in a music discussions group on Facebook by saying that I hadn't listen to an new music in the last 15 years, which is admittedly an exaggeration..., not much of one, but an exaggeration. There is a reason that I started to basically abandon the music arena, and that reason is that, most of the music that's come out since, fucking sucked! Holy God did some of it suck!

I know I'm being a bit facetious here, but again, not by that much. Music just started getting overly manufactured, artificial and on the off-chance that music was good it was rarely popular and often wasn't easy to find (No, I didn't download anything, legally or illegally then or now, and I'm still on Metallica's side on that dispute; and "St. Anger" is pretty good too, so screw all of you on that one too.) but, it also generally wasn't as good as stuff before and it certainly wasn't worth the search most of the time. What can I say, 2X amount of money for an album of someone I might like, or X amount of dollars that I'll listen to for the rest of my life? The more option B seemed valid and the less likely that music was gonna go back to good, I mostly don't regret that choice.

Now, many of my regular readers who know that I tend to praise quality of a piece of art over one's personal preferences, when it comes to movies and television; so do I think the same thing for music? Um..., well, if music was a true passion of mine, and I really did and/or could study music the way I do/have studied film, I might, and it certainly does play a part, but honestly, while I can appreciate that which I might not personally liked, I actually think the opposite with music. This might be that I just don't have as trained an ear for music as I do an eye for film, but I think the bigger reasons for this are A. there's just way too much music out there to get through, (Yes, as much as I complain about there being too many films and television series out there nowadays, and there are, that's still nothing compared to to all the kind of music out there there are, not just today either, music's been around for millenniums while film is at the most, 150 years old, maybe a few decades older including early photography, so there's a lot of history to go through) but even if you do that and acquire all the music appreciation abilities and knowledge you can, you're still shoving your ears, often with stuff that, frankly you're gonna try hard to get out of your head. Compare to a bad film or something of the like, you can't still learn or enrich yourself from it, you can still more or less push out of your mind, but something as intimate as unwanted noise pushing through your ears and into your mind, ugh, at that point, I think it's just better and more appropriate to just jam your own jams mostly.

So, now your wondering what music I actually like? Well, if you can't tell by the title of what I apparently jam to, my music is that post Grunge singer-songwriter era of females of kicked ass or rocked out! Half of you probably don't know what I'm talking about 'cause for some reason, unlike grunge, gangster rap, or the godawful boy band teen diva eras, this is pretty much erased from music history, even though it was awesome. When grunge, hair metal and Michael Jackson started to wain a bit, we were soon bombarded, with a singer-songwriter era, that unusually was led by mostly females, this was unusual. Very unusual, especially since most of these girls were rockers. Well, okay, pop/rockers, but still. Many of the artists like Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morisette, Paula Cole, etc. broke through at this point, but this also included a lot of other artists who were fairly well known like Melissa Etheridge, or Tori Amos and, even at one point, Blondie, would gain or regain their highest points of fame. Yes, I'm that emotional white girl in hippie/goth clothing that sits in the corner of the cafeteria reading Sylvia Plath and am probably a still-in-the-closet lesbian. I'm Meg Griffin. I don't care it was awesome, and the Lilith Fair Era never gets any credit! Yeah, that's what I call it, and for those wondering, who's Lilith Fair, uh, Lilith is not a person, moron. (I hate to be mean, but yes, I had that conversation with somebody recently.

Lilith Fair was the concert series, named after Lilith, who was supposedly the first woman created by God who Adam rejected and God then made Eve, it was the culmination of this huge boast of a then unprecedented amount of female rockers, on the charts. Started by Sarah McLachlan, another of these female singer/songwriter started a summer tour of female musicians in '97, and the original run of this festival happened for three summers, and included, damn near everybody. You can go to the wikipedia page and see the whole list, but this was huge. This, at the time, and this is absolutely true of 1997, producers didn't think a tour of multiple women could earn money. I'm dead serious, that's how bizarre this was, and how much they changed everything, this is an idea and concept that seems basically ridiculous now, but back, this was damn near revolutionary.

So anyway, in order to try and bring back some resurgence of the Lilith Fair era, which, I'm gonna call '93ish, to early 2000s, I guess. Some time around then, and name my choices for the ten best songs of the era. There's a lot of great songs btw, and this was a difficult list to make, very difficult. There's just so much great music in this ear, I had to make very painful cuts to make this list and am still not quite sure on this list 100%, The many favorite artists that I couldn't find a spot for on this list is just, ohh, so painful, but here we go, let's count down:


Okay, we're gonna start this off with one of the original leaders of the Lilith Fair movement, and really, one of my very favorite songs. If I ever learn to play acoustic guitar, this is the song I want to learn how to play first.

10. "You Were Meant for Me"-Jewel

Those who know me, know that I'm still a huge Jewel fan, this song in particular, off her breakout "Pieces of Me" album, is just a beautiful song. She famously of course, lived in her van before breaking out, but for a cliche guitar playing loser living out of a van, this song is beautiful. I love the acoustic guitar on this song, but more than that, this is one of those deceptively great songs lyrically. It's a love song, but it seems desperate to talk about anything else. It's actually on the surface, just the banal activity that she's going through, while waiting for the person she loves to fall in love with her. That's creepy. It gets more creepy and weird when you think about it. You want to learn subtext in songwriting, I would advise people to study this song and how it's performed with this little girl youthfulness and yearning, you genuinely can't tell whether the song a broken relationship, a diary entry wish, a crazed girl who's stalking somebody, or trying not to stalk somebody, either way it's just heartbreaking I don't think too many people can convey that as well as her.

Remember, this doesn't mean strictly Lilith Fair performers, but any female artist and song in that era, and in case you're wondering, I'm not narrowing this to only singles. In fact, some of these artists that don't make this list is because they're work is often better on the course of an album. (And I'm somebody who still only listen to albums, from beginning to end. Hell, I still call them albums even though they're now mostly CDs. And no, I don't have an Ipod or anything) If I were doing a Top Ten Albums of this era, make no mistake btw, the album my number ten song came off of would be my number one, easily though. This album still kicks ass.

9. "Divorce Song"-Liz Phair

That album is Liz Phair's debut album from '93, "Exile in Guyville", which was promoted as a female response to the Rolling Stones "Exile on Main Street", but was actually just a gloss up collection of Liz Phair's underground "Girlysound" tape. Most might know Phair for her later pop hits, "Why Can't I" or "Extraordinary", which are awesome as well by the way, hell, I loved her "Somebody's Miracle" album as well, but this early album is just amazing. I still listen to it regularly, hell, one of my screenplays was actually titled, "Fuck and Run" after another song on this album, and I could've picked any number of songs from the album, (I could've been really devious and picked "Flower"), but despite the fact this was never released as a single like "Never Said" or "Stratford-On-Guy", but boy, this song, with her realistic casual fuck-it-all lyrics and the crunchy beat, really feels like a conversation. It's sardonic tone and lyrics are just amazing. It's probably the song off that album that everybody can listen to and like.

Hey, also, I should mention, that, while the overly manufactured pop music took over in the '00s, after they started, showing how the manufacture them on TV, (Grrr, "American Idol") but, I should mention that the Lilith Fair era, also had a Kelly Clarkson. By that I mean, we had a girl who broke into music by winning a televised singing competition as well.

8. "L.A. Song"-Beth Hart

Unless you really pay attention to the blues charts, you probably have very little recollection of Beth Hart, I remember waiting and waiting and waiting, hours at a time, for VH1 to play the music video for this song. Yeah, you had to wait for this song, For some reason, this wasn't a hit in America, only reaching #88 in America, and this is probably her biggest hit, sadly. But you gotta see Hart performing this live. I know a lot of women get compared to a modern-day Janis Joplin, I've heard that description for Melissa Etheridge, Nikka Costa, Joss Stone, Crystal Bowersox, etc., but really, I use that to describe this girl more than anybody, especially when you see her live, even on tape, it's just amazing what this girl does. She actually started as a grand prize winner on "Star Search". This song just gets me everytime, a simple, beautiful tale of a girl struggling to find her place in the world as she goes from one disastrous boyfriend to another and back and forth from L.A. It's one of my favorite piano ballads of all time. If this had come out a couple years earlier, it would've been huge and more people would know about Beth Hart.

Speaking of girls with a piano,... well, people who follow my Facebook and Twitter feed might have occasionally noticed me quoting lyrics from this next artist, um, when I do that, it's probably best to stay the hell away from me. This is who I listen to when I'm really pissed off. Usually after an Eagles lost, but just in general as well.

7. "She's Your Cocaine"-Tori Amos

Oh, I can't believe this song wasn't a single. Now, ironically, I personally prefer Tori Amos's work before and after this era more than I do her songs from this era, like "Little Earthquakes" her amazing debut album, or the obnoxiously bloated and absurd concept album, "Scarlet's Walk", (What can I tell you, I like concept albums about a porn star and her travels criss-crossing the country; it speaks to me) but while her early work was great, it was mainly her and a piano, until her "From the Choir Girl Hotel" album in '98, which includes her biggest single, "Spark" as well as such great songs as "Jackie's Strength", and my personal favorite, "Playboy Mommy", (Which came close to making this list) she was mostly just, her and a piano. Okay, a couple pianos. (She is a classically-trained pianist, although she was thrown out of the Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute of music for her interest in rock'n'roll, btw, she was 11 at the time and was there for six years at that point) but this is the song I love. It just rocks, It's slinky and sultry, sexy. This is a song that should be lap danced to in a smoky red-lighted room. It's androgynous, and bizarre and yes, I know the real dance hit from the album was "Raspberry Swirl", but I never really thought that song was sexy, even the remix version. This song is what I imagine being played at the lava lamp fueled after-party pot-smoked orgy from the local "The Rocky Horror Show" performers.

Actually on top of a Kelly Clarkson, the Lilith Fair era, also had a Britney Spears. Yeah, a teenager who bursted onto the scene with an overly sexualized video and image that caused loads of controversy and became a major hit. Unlike Britney Spears, ours is actually a helluva musician.

6. "Limp"-Fiona Apple

Yeah, I thought about putting "Criminal" on here, the controversial and most popular song Fiona Apple has done, and it's amazing, but honestly, I like my Fiona Apple a little older and more drugged up, allegedly. Her second album, "When the Pawn Hits the Conflict He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and he'll win the...." Okay, I can actually type the whole thing out if I wanted to from memory, but I won't, but her blend of jazz rock alternative is just a revelation on this album. If "She's Your Cocaine" what's playing during that orgy above, that album is played when everybody wakes up and stumbles home the morning after. And "Limp", the second single, is just beautiful and vicious. Still only 22 when she did this, This is the song about, what I believe are empty threats against whatever man or men wrong her, but oh man, this song. It's actually kinda amazing it's only three and half minutes only, it feels like an epic, complete with an incredibly drum solo in the middle, that starts out her usual sultry self, but just gets angrier and angrier as the song goes on. It was definitely way too weird to be a hit, although the video from director P.T. Anderson, who she was dating at the time, is pretty awesome, (Not as great as their video for "Paper Bag", but still) Years later, this originally ignored and mocked album would start being considered a masterpiece and I agree, no 22-year-old should put out something that's this mature and yet still seems like so lyrically selfish and childlike, in a good way.

5. "Come to My Window"-Melissa Etheridge

Definitely one of the greatest bridges in rock history, Melissa Etheridge's Grammy winning, signature song, "Come to My Window", on the surface is just a great love song from an already established great artist. Etheridge had broken through years earlier, most notably for her debut album, and such great songs as "Bring Me Some Water" and "You Can Sleep While I Drive", However, with it being her first single after coming out as a lesbian in early '93, on her fourth album, "Yes I Am", the song takes on a more personal definition, especially that kick-ass bridge that most everyone read as a proclamation of her insistence on coming out, remember, this was years before Ellen even came out, and most anybody else frankly, so this power ballad about wanting love at any cost, creates a double-meaning that still holds for a lot of people in the LBGT community. For me, it's just one of the best songs I've ever heard about the desperate desire of loving someone. How many so-called love songs ever come up with an line like "I would dial the numbers just to listen to your breath." This is one of the few songs where you actually truly believe that there's actual love involved, and no surprise, it's easily the highest-ranked love song on this list.

Now, this next girl is probably, by far, the least well-known artist on this list. That's a shame, but while she oddly wasn't apart of Lilith Fair herself, if any artist is the living definition of that doing whatever you want, and getting it out there however possible style of guerrilla music, it's this righteous babe.

4. "Not a Pretty Girl"-Ani DiFranco

I have to mention this amazing alternative folk rocker who only has one gold album, but that's not because of a lack of talent. Ani DiFranco produces about a double-album or two a year of new material, and releases it on her own record label. each time experimenting with everything from hip hop to punk to jazz, to, whatever-the-fuck some of her stuff is. I could've picked any of her songs, my personal favorite is "Little Plastic Castle", which is probably her most successful album/song, but the title track to "Not a Pretty Girl', a song about how this outrageous can-do girl dares intimidates others with her mere presence, really is a defining Lilith Fair Era song. Hell, it could easily be the theme song for the whole movement. It's blunt, and just cutthroat like all great folk rage songs, and while it's lyrics, might seem simplistic on first glance, it really does tear down basically every female stereotypes and when she says won't be caught dead working for some man, you know damn well this one means it. This is the feminist that scares the feminists, and you get that and more from "Not a Pretty Girl". I often joke that musically I got stoned at Lilith Fair and never really came home. That's not true, but if it did, 2-1 that it was probably her joint. Radical, political, everything that truly defines Lilith fair can be summed up in Ani.

Now, most of these other artists, I'm already huge fans of and are generally the artists I think of as the best of this time (Hell, I think of them as the best now too). This one, however.... Well, it's not that she's bad, she's not, and she's definitely one of the Lilith Fair regulars, but I gotta admit, she's not a name I think about when listing off the great artists of this era. She only has the one hit, but oh man, is this a great hit.

3. "Bitch"-Meredith Brooks

One of the few people who toured all three years of Lilith Fair, it's not surprise that Meredith Brooks's "Bitch" is easily one of the era biggest and most remembered hits. Remember, this wasn't a time where there were many brazenly titled songs on the radio, but "Bitch" was just too catchy and too powerful to ignore. Brooks is a great guitar player, and it's unfortunate that this punk rocker is probably the era's biggest one-hit wonder, she's way more talented that that, but this is also easily her best song. Both sexual and abrasive, and filled with everything from sardonic rage to double entendres, ("I'm a goddess on my knees...") I don't care if you're a girl or a guy, when "Bitch" comes on the radio, you're blasting it up and singing along.

Now, for probably the biggest artist of the era and a perennial Lilith Fair leader,-, oh enough, stalling, Hit It!

2. "All I Wanna Do"-Sheryl Crow

Believe it or not, this was actually the third single off of Sheryl Crow's debut album, "Tuesday Night Music Club", after "Run, Baby, Run" and "Leaving Las Vegas", which, in hindsight is just-, how did they not realize how catchy this is? This broke out, right as grunge was on the way out, and after all that depressing downboat rock, this was a literal breath of fresh air on the radio. She's probably got better songs admittedly, like "Strong Enough", or "There Goes the Neighborhood", and frankly I love much of her post Lilith Fair stuff like "Soak Up the Sun" even more, but man this song is just awesomely catchy. And it's so strange, a song with seemingly improvised spoken word lyrics, except for the chorus, and it literally seems to be nothing but describing an empty bar that she's hanging out at. According to Crow, she was pretty drunk when she wrote this, but how many songs are this good at setting up tone and scene through lyrics? Lyrically, it's a song that should be spluttered out of a bar juke box, but it's a song that seems more at home strangely, just walking down the street. It's probably the last song she wanted for a signature song, but it didn't take long for us to realize how talented this former elementary school teacher is. This a song that some might try to recreate, but nobody does it this well.

And now, drumroll: 


(Drumroll ends)

Huh, for all these amazing songs and artists, you know strangely, the one thing you didn't have was a song, about being really angry at a man? Just you know. Not really, you didn't get a song about a girl raging and being angry about a guy? Well, so much for that stereotype. (Sly smile) Yeah, like you didn't know it was gonna be number one.

#1. "You Oughta Know"-Alanis Morissette

Of course, this is number one, what the hell else could be? Even if I didn't think it was, I'm too scared to put anything else number one. Yeah, Alanis Morissette didn't do Lilith Fair, 'cause she was just too big at the time, as "Jagged Little Pill", exploded over the world, and the song Alex Forrest would sing in the bathtub, if she had gotten out of it alive (Sorry for spoiling "Fatal Attraction" for any of you), "You Oughta Know", took what was clearly a personal experience and then, well, just fucking raged it, and forever reminded us, well, mostly for me, it just taught me never to piss off a songwriter. Yikes. For everybody else, this became an anthem and a call to arms for anybody who's ever been fucked over. It's raw, beautiful, violent and brilliant and without it, who knows whether there'd be so many other female singer songwriters to break out at that point. This made her the biggest star alive and she'll probably never live it down, but who'd want to. Well, except Dave Coulier, especially if you do the math, but-eh, well, I think he and a lot of people learned their lesson after this. "You Oughta Know" is the number one song of the Lilith Fair Era.

Oh, on top of some of the other songs mentioned throughout, here's a few others that missed the cut for one reason or another, in no particular order, seriously, this was a very difficult list to make:

"Don't Speak"-No Doubt"
"Goodbye Earl"-Dixie Chicks
"Doll Parts"-Hole
"Get Ur Freak On"-Missy Elliot
"Here With Me"-Dido
"Undressed (This is Love)"-PJ Harvey
"I'm Only Happy When It Rains"-Garbage
"Angels Would Fall"-Melissa Etheridge
"It's Oh So Quiet"-Bjork
"Torn"-Nathalie Imbruglia
"Wise Up"-Aimee Mann
"Save Me"-Aimee Mann
"Conflake Girl"-Tori Amos
"I'm the Only One"-Melissa Etheridge
"Turn Off the Light"-Nelly Furtado
"I Don't Want to Wait"-Paula Cole
"Stay"-Lisa Loeb

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