The song is just a Memory now

For Wordless Wednesday, I would like to share with you a video of Chantalyne singing “Memory” last weekend at the 2014 Vars Idol competition.

Regular readers might recall that she won the Vars Idol 2013 title with a rendition of “Time to say goodbye”.

This year, they divided the competition into junior and senior performers, and Chantalyne’s performance earned her the title of Vars Idol 2014 (senior).

Vars Idol 2014

Enjoy the Choir

For those of you who were not able to make it out to a Christmas choir, you are in for a treat. Now that Chantalyne is at an arts high school, she has the chance to sing for us in a fairly professional choir.

I did not record the whole two hours of all seven choirs for you, but here are the three songs that her choir sang.

I should also prepare you that these are not all Christmas songs. Wenceslas / Yankee Doodle, an amusing mash-up by Steve Kupferschmid, can only partly be considered “Christmas”. The Holly and the Ivy is certainly a Christmas carol. Sim Shalom is a Herbrew song. The other choirs also sang in French, English, Latin, Arabic and a couple other languages I can’t identify right now.

Enjoy the show.

Will One Direction defy the history of boy bands?

What is it with “boy bands” that make them so ephemeral? Will One Direction follow the same direction as so many boy bands?

You know the song “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth“? Well all my ten-year-old daughter wants for Christmas are tickets to a One Direction (1D) concert. “It doesn’t matter if the concert is in 40 years, ” she told me without a hint of irony.

Well, the odds are stacked against her that there will be a One Direction concert in 40 years. Or in twenty years. Or maybe even in ten years. Such is the nature of “boy bands” – here today gone tomorrow. No, wait. Hold on just a minute… ah…here yesterday, gone today. Yes, they seem to last just about that long.

So if you’re a fan, or your daughter or niece or granddaughter is a fan, you might want to heed Elvis Presley’s advice: It’s now or never.

Tickets for the One Direction 2014 tour
are on sale now:

One Direction - pre-teen fans love themIf you don’t have a pre-teen daughter or niece, you might be wondering what the fuss is all about. My ten-year-old has been their “biggest fan” for a couple years. She has the posters, the magazines (yes, something she actually enjoys reading!) and the t-shirts. My twelve-year-old saw the movie with a friend, and now she’s also their “biggest fan”.

The thing about pre-teen girls, is that very soon they become teenagers, then young ladies, then…well we all grow up. Some will still like the boy bands of their youth, but they mostly move on to other things, and the magazines get recycled and the posters are replaced by framed paintings.

A very short history of boy bands

And the band members grow up and disperse. Some members go on to launch solo careers. Or they keep on going with albums successful enough, but outshone by their glory days. Could the direction One Direction takes be foretold by the history of some other famous boy bands?

New Kids on the Block: They hit the scene in 1986, but flopped. In 1988, however, their second album was a chart-topper, one of two Number One selling albums. They actually stayed together for a long time after their fan base had thinned out to just the hard-core followers. They reunited in 2007 with enough of their old fans remembering them to go on a reasonably successful tour with The Backstreet Boys.

Backstreet Boys: This band hit the charts in 1996 and enjoyed five years of fame, selling more records than any other “boy band”, including two Number One selling albums. Let’s just keep those quotation marks on that monicker for now. The Backstreet Boys have never really disappeared; they just stopped being the object of pre-teen obsession.

‘N Sync: This band hit the charts in 1998 and also enjoyed five years of fame, sort of like a Backstreet Boys echo. They did lay claim to two Number One selling albums, but Justin Timberlake went on to do his own solo career, so that was pretty much that.

Jonas Brothers: It took three years for them to make it big, mostly on the strength of the movie Camp Rock in 2008. Here we are, five years later, and where are the Jonas Brothers?

Boyz II Men: A more traditional group, these boys were singing together several years before their 1990’s fame, and continue to sing long after their fame subsided. They were not formed by a record label, so they don’t fit the mold of what one typically thinks of as a “boy band”. They don’t lay claim to two Number One selling albums, but they did break many records for their singles, placing them in the record books beside Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

Is there hope for One Direction?

I left the term “boy band” in quotation marks because their is one boy band that never makes the list of boy bands: The Beatles. Yes, when they first hit the airwaves, they were four boys creating perhaps the most famous teenage girl frenzy in recorded history. Parents worried that Beatlemania was the end of the world. And The Beatles enjoyed almost a full decade of popularity until they broke up, along the way becoming the best selling band in history. All four members of the band enjoyed successful solo careers afterwards.

But if you had waited ten years to see a Beatles concert, you would have been out of luck. Even The Beatles had dispersed in less than ten years.

READ ALSO: The Eagles and Hotel California.

Whether they will be together ten years from now or not, One Direction looks destined to have at least a little more time in the spotlight. Just a couple days ago, their third album debuted on The Billboard 200 at Number One, giving them their third album at that position. That is the first time a boy band reaches that milestone…if you ignore The Beatles.

One Direction will grow up, and so will their fans. They might become more obscure or not, but either way, they already have success. None of the examples of boy bands that we reviewed here is a failure. Any budding artist would be thrilled to have one tenth of the success any of them has had.

If you want to read more about the top ten boys bands, here is Billboard’s official take, up to 1012.

READ ALSO: Ten songs that blast the music industry.


10 hit songs blasting the music industry

Some big names like Billy Joel, Pink and The Kinks have had hits with anti-music-industry songs, ironically helping to line the pockets of industry executives.  This is the story of ten hit songs that pop stars performed to bite the hand that feeds them.

There is something sweetly ironic about listening to a hit song produced by the music industry about how evil and corrupt and useless the music industry is. Or to tune in to your fave radio station, only to hear a song blasting radio stations.

And that is perhaps why we love such songs so much. Here are just a few of the music-industry and radio-station-bashing hits that you might enjoy.

Spirit of the Radio by Rush

Canadian rock band Rush sings about the “freedom of music”, but how “glittering prizes” make that freedom so restricted. Money. Fame. The usual. This is clearly a song that criticizes not just the record labels, but the artists themselves for paying too much attention to those prizes and for making the “endless compromises”.

Rush - Spirit of the RadioAll this machinery making modern music
Can still be open-hearted.
Not so coldly charted, it’s really just a question
Of your honesty, yeah, your honesty.

One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity.

They don’t say to what degree these prizes have co-opted them over the years, but it is fair to say that Rush has rarely contorted their music to fit any particular formula. However, it is also fair to say that much of the music they have written that is wildly outside radio format is on the early albums.

In their lyrics, however, Rush makes no compromise. That this song ever saw the light of day is proof of that. On the same album one also finds “Free Will”, a tribute to Ayn Rand and libertarianism and, seemingly, an anthem to explain why they made no compromise on “Spirit of the Radio”.

The Entertainer by Billy Joel

If you thought that “Piano Man” was Billy Joel‘s middle finger to the life of a struggling musician,
you must listen to the much less-renowned but equally compelling “The Entertainer”.

He begins by being suitably cynical about the fickleness of the public, of the fleeting nature of fame itself:

Piano Man by Billy JoelToday I am your champion
I may have won your hearts
But I know the game, you’ll forget my name
And I won’t be here in another year
If I don’t stay on the charts

Like Rush, Billy Joel’s harsh words are not just aimed at the record company executives, but equally at the performers themselves. Billy Joel offers a few choice words for how low entertainers like himself hustle for money:

I am the entertainer
I bring to you my songs
I’d like to spend a day or two
I can’t stay that long
No, I’ve got to meet expenses
I got to stay in line
Gotta get those fees to the agencies
And I’d love to stay but there’s bills to pay
So I just don’t have the time

But like so many artists, he harbors great frustration at all the other people who put their hands in his music, and has to make those “endless compromises” that Rush sings about. Billy Joel puts it this way:

I am the entertainer
I come to do my show
You’ve heard my latest record
It’s been on the radio
Ah, it took me years to write it
They were the best years of my life
It was a beautiful song
But it ran too long
If you’re gonna have a hit
You gotta make it fit
So they cut it down to 3:05

And if that is not a pretty direct reference to “Piano Man”, which most of us know for both its short version and its longer and more complete original version, we can all pack up and go home.

Grace Kelly by Mika

Like Billy Joel, Mika was not impressed with record company executives who wanted to mess with his music. It seems that Mika’s sound wasn’t conventional enough for them, but Mike thought that he could have whatever sound he wants:

In Mika’s own words, “Grace Kelly was written after these musicians were trying to mold me into what I should be. I was really angry and so I wrote the song and mailed them the lyrics. They didn’t call me back, but two years later it’s come full circle.”

Mika sings Grace KellyI could be brown
I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful
I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green
Gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why don’t you like me?
Why don’t you like me?
Walk out the door!

Cowboy Hats by Chris Cummings

Moving from Mica’s anger to Chris Cummings pragmatic cynicism, the country music industry takes one on the chin. Chris Cummings sings about how young performers are sucked into a suckers machine, essentially used for the benefit of the agents.

Chris Cummings sings Cowboy HatsIt’s all done from a to z
We’ll tell you what to say
Just repeat after me
They walk the walk
Sign autographs
Yeah, the money’s all yours
’til you pay it all back


There’s two born every minute
There’s a sucker and a star
We’re all very busy, son
But could you tell us which you are

This is perhaps the most damning attack on the record industry that we visit today, painting them as snake oil salesmen with the main, purposeful intent to dupe starry eyed dreamers.

We Built this City by Starship

Starship‘s anthem that featured in the movie Rock of Ages, starring Tom Cruise, gets back to the whole conflict between money and art, and of course the artists are singing about how the money players are getting in the way.

We Built This City, by StarshipSomeone always playing corporation games
Who cares they’re always changing corporation names
We just want to dance here someone stole the stage
They call us irresponsible write us off the page


Who counts the money underneath the bar
Who rides the wrecking ball in to our rock guitars
Don’t tell us you need us, ‘cos we’re the ship of fools
Looking for America, coming through your schools

Here is the song sung by Grace Slick and Starship:

And here is the song mix from the move Rock of Ages:

Rock and Roll is a Vicious Game by April Wine

This rock ballad takes up the theme from the early part of Billy Joel’s “The Entertainer”. April Wine reminds us that you are only as good as your last song, and people will happily forget you for someone who’s last song is on their minds.

April Wine Rock and Roll Is a Viscious GameHe opened up his heart to us, he gave us what he could
We symphathized and harmonized, he made us all feel good
But it’s funny how those things can change, and time can pass us by
Songs that moved us so easily, no longer make us cry

In fairness, this song still does make me cry. In this case, it isn’t really the music industry that is cruel; it’s you and me, who move on to newer music. But that is part of the game.

Don’t Let Me Get Me by Pink

Back on the track of Mika’s anger – oh, yes, he’s not the only one – let’s take a look at Pink‘s version. She got tired of being told by music industry executives to fit the mold, much as Mica was. The result was “Don’t let me get me”.

Don’t Let Me Get Me by PinkLA told me, “You’ll be a pop star,
All you have to change is everything you are.”
Tired of being compared to damn Britney Spears
She’s so pretty, that just ain’t me

In the official video, she speaks to herself in the mirror, but the whole issue was the result of what she was being told in corporate offices.

Not to agree for a moment that Pink is in anybody’s shadow in the looks department, she did choose a different look, one that is all her own, and most people will agree that she built an image which is pretty unique in today’s pop scene.

You might still be able to catch Pink
singing “Don’t let me get me” and other “less than perfect” songs in your town:

Around the Dial by The Kinks

The Kinks zero in on Billy Joel and April Wine’s concern for the fleeting nature of stardom from the music listener’s point of view. Oh, but a twist! It’s not the missing pop star that they lament; it’s the missing DJ.

Around the Dial by The KinksWhere did you go Mr. D.J.?
Did they take you off the air?
Was it something that you said to the corporation guys upstairs?
It wasn’t the pressure,
You never sounded down.
It couldn’t be the ratings,
You had the best in town.
Somehow I’m gonna find ya, track you down.
Gonna keep on searchin’,
Around and around and ’round and ’round…

This song was not, in fact, about how individual DJs could go AWOL. It was about corporate consolidation of radio stations around the world, with automated playlists and fewer DJs (and less local variety in music selection). In fact, this might just be the most critical attack on the music industry on this list.

Radio Radio by Elvis Costello

OK, perhaps this one is almost as critical. Elvis Costello takes his shot at radio consolidation in “Radio Radio”, a short punchy tune of the new wave / punk rock era in the UK and across America. His lyrics are more aggressive, implying a dictatorial bent from the radio companies:

Elvis Costello Radio RadioRadio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don’t give you any choice ’cause they think that it’s treason
So you had better do as you are told
You better listen to the radio

When he appeared on Saturday Night Live, he was asked not to sing this song, but he was a rebel and gave a melodic middle finger to the TV execs.

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me.
I wanna bite that hand so badly.
I want to make them wish they’d never seen me.

What a great song!

You might still be able to catch Elvis Costello
biting the hand that feeds him in your home town (He’s touring right now!):

American Pie by Don Maclean

Let’s end with a song that focuses on the evils and perils of the music industry in a most confusing way. Other than taking a veiled swipe at the Rolling stones and mourning the death of Buddy Holly, it is hard to say just what Don Maclean is displeased about, and he has always refused to say. Whatever it is, it seems to have affected him greatly and given the world another great, epic song.

Don Mclean sings American PieNow for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rollin’ stone
But that’s not how it used to be
When the jester sang for the king and queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me

Oh, and while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned


Now the halftime air was sweet perfume
While the sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance

‘Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?

One thing that shines through this list is that so many of these songs can be called epic, much more than just a couple standard verse and chorus repetitions. These are not formulaic love songs or heartbreak songs.

There are many more examples of songs that attack the music industry from Tom Petty and Graham Parker and the Clash and others. But these are ones that actually hit the charts. I hope you enjoy them.

Read also: Hotel California – the Eagles defined musical innovation

Time to say goodbye

For Wordless Wednesday, let me share with you a video of Chantalyne singing “Time to say goodbye” last weekend.  This performance earned her the title of Vars Idol 2013 (a father’s right to brag a little).


(Somehow the embed seems to have stopped working. The video on YouTube is at

Name Your Tune

Just in time for Wordless Wednesday, here comes a “scriptless” film. This film, co-staring Alison Postma and Chantalyne, comes with a message: the importance of making your work your own. Don’t just copy someone else’s work; build on it. Put yourself into it. Make it your own.


Please note that this video has also been cross-posted at


Perseverence – Never Give Up

I was inspired by American Top 40 Countdown.  You might have heard of the band Lady Antebellum (Yes, it is a band, not a person).  Nevertheless, there is a lady in the band: Hillary Scott.

Hillary failed twice at American Idol.  Yes, she tried and did not make it past the first-stage auditions.

So she tried again.  And the second time, she also failed to make it past the first-stage auditions.

Don’t worry, Hillary.  You join a n auspicious line of “losers”, including Abraham Lincoln:

  • Started a business – bankrupt.
  • Ran for state legislature – lost.
  • Applied to law school – rejected.
  • Started a business – bankrupt.
  • Ran for state legislature again – won.
  • Engaged when his sweetheart died – heart broken.
  • Had nervous breakdown – bed-ridden for six months.
  • Ran for speaker of the state legislature – lost.
  • Ran for elector – lost.
  • Ran for Congress – lost.
  • Ran for Congress again – won.
  • Ran for re-election to Congress – lost.
  • Sought the job of state land officer – rejected.
  • Ran for Senate of the United States – lost.
  • Sought Vice-Presidential nomination – lost.
  • Ran for U.S. Senate again – lost.
  • Elected president of the United States.

READ ALSO: Define success

And Canada’s John Diefenbaker:

  • Moved to Wakaw to practice law – locals refused to rent him office space.
  • Ran for village council – won.
  • Ran for Parliament – lost.
  • Ran for Parliament again – lost.
  • Ran for provincial legislature – lost.
  • Ran for mayor of Prince Albert – lost.
  • Elected provincial party leader by default (nobody else wanted the job)
  • Ran for Premier – lost and lost his seat.
  • Ran for Parliament – won.
  • Ran for federal party leader – lost.
  • Ran for federal party leader – won.
  • Ran for Prime Minister – and won three consecutive elections.

Enough – [Christmas video]

This is my favorite Christmas song, by Alberta country artist Remi Boudreau.

I’ve got enough
I’m completely satisfied
I don’t need stuff
Just this thing that’s true and tried
I don’t need the perfect gift to fit me like a glove
I’ve got enough

Even on an average day, I find that we are surrounded with so many messages that tell us that no matter how much we have, no matter how gluttonous we might become, that we could never have enough.  More.  More.  More.  And those messages only seem to grow in abundance as we get closer to Christmas.

Given that we are full-steam into shopping season, this might help us all to keep it real. Watch and listen to the video, and hopefully it will put you in the Christmas spirit.  In THE Christmas spirit.

READ ALSO: Proud to Be a Grinch

Happy Families Stay Connected

My family enjoys our happiest times when we are sharing mutual interests. Being the mother of two teenage sons, it is up to me to try to stay up-to-date with their interests, because they sure aren’t going to make the effort with mine. However, I have found that not only did I become closer to my sons by doing this, I also broadened my horizons and truly enjoyed many of their favorite things.

Here are some of the things you can do to better connect with your family:

1. Watch their favorite television shows
This is one of the best things you can do. Because television series are continuing, this can lead to ongoing conversations that can last for months or even years. You might also discover some great TV series that you never would have tried (My family used to talk for hours on end about Lost). (See 20 Best TV Shows for Parent / Teen Bonding).

2. In addition to watching your teenagers favorite films, introduce them to classic films that they would enjoy
There are so many great teen movies from the eighties that your teens would love and so many classic movies from throughout the years that they are ready to see now. Even if they prefer to watch them with their friends, you can still have great discussions with your teens about the movies the next day. (See 75 Classic Movies Teens Should See ).

3. Share music and video games with Guitar Hero or Rock Band
The Guitar Hero and Rock Band series of video games have been one of the best games to ever bring parents and teenagers together. Many teens first discovered classic rock through these games. Later versions began including new rock songs, which parents could then learn. An entire family can play at once as different band members.

4. Share Young Adult Books with your teens, adults love many of them also
I’ve become a big fan. I devoured the Harry Potter and Twilight series and just read and couldn’t put down The Hunger Games series, the hot new series that is coming out with its first movie next year.

5. Communicate with your teens through the type of technology they prefer
Most teens prefer text messages to phone calls. They will more happily respond to you if you contact them by the method of their choice. (See Text Messaging with Your Teens ).

Guest blogger Jennifer Wagner is the creator and writer of the blog, Connect with your Teens through Pop Culture and Technology,  where you can keep up-to-date of TV, books, movies, music, gadgets, the Internet, websites, education , and all things teenage.