Category Archives: Music

Music criticism, news and views at Sketchy Details

The Best Let It Go Covers Frozen

The Best “Let It Go” Covers

In my other life, I teach musical theater. Specifically, I act as a music director/vocal coach/accompanist/arranger for educational and summer theater programs, but it’s easier to just say I teach musical theater. I work year round with students ranging from 3rd grade to high school seniors on technique, musicianship, and performance.

That’s why I’m drawn to singers like Idina Menzel (#6 on my Supporting Actress list largely on her vocal prowess), Lea Salonga, and Mary Lambert. Their technique and musical interpretation skills are stunning.

Singers like this need to be recognized and praised to provide a better example for our young people to follow. It’s dangerous to label singers with bad habits as great singers. Children learn through imitation. Imitating pop singers who blow out their voices before they’re 22 and require dangerous nodule removing surgery (no matter how many Grammys they win for grinding their vocal cords) is not a good look on anyone.

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Watch: Aimee Mann’s “I’m Cured”

Aimee Mann has a new single out. That alone should be enough to convince some of you to watch this music video. She’s an amazing singer/songwriter still producing great work over 20 years after her solo debut (which, itself, happened after years of success as the lead singer of ‘Til Tuesday).

The novelty here is that Aimee Mann has collaborated with Stephen Levinson, Rob Kutner, and Joel Moss Levinson to write a novelty song for a charity comedy album. “I’m Cured” is a love song from the perspective of the Common Cold. The Common Cold doesn’t make you sick out of malice; it acts out of love. Aimee Mann imagines a scenario where a researcher finally finds the cure for the Common Cold, which puts Common Cold on notice that it’s no longer welcome in the relationship. The whole thing is silly, catchy, and worth a watch.

Proceeds from the sale of “I’m Cured” and the upcoming comedy album 2776 will go to OneKid OneWorld, an international charity organization providing educational supplies and resources (like books, physical schools, and salaries for teachers) to children around the world.

The 2013 Sketchys: Best Songs

Best in Songs 2013

Since I can’t even find enough albums I actually like from 2013 to recognize, songs will have to do as a representation of the year in music. The albums that would have been on a list are M.I.A.’s Matangi, the Hands on a Hardbody Broadway cast recording, and Janelle Monae’s The Electric Lady. That’s it.

The Best Songs of 2013 includes original songs, covers, and even an incredible rehearsal performance. Stage works are included here, as well, since I did not see nearly enough shows in 2013 to recognize the best.

The 2013 Sketchys: Best Songs

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The 2013 Sketchys: Best Music Videos

Best in Music Videos 2013

I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the music output of 2013. There were a lot of big names that delivered underwhelming material and not a lot of exposure for the emerging or underground musicians who can usually fill those gaps. Singles dominated the airwaves and the discussion over albums and even music videos.

Still, there are a few music videos that stood above the rest.

The 2013 Sketchys: Best Music Videos

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Cthulhu Carols

Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates. For everyone else, I hope your day is wonderful.

Christian or not, anytime is a good time to spread the good word of Cthulhu. One day, the Ancient Ones will rise again and we might as well all prepare now. There’s a wonderful playlist of Lovecraftian Carols on YouTube that, sadly, is not embeddable on this most festive of dark, nightmarish days.

Enjoy I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth.

Tammie Brown Coal In Your Stockings

Watch: Tammie Brown’s “Coal In Your Stockings”

I’m not big on Christmas music. I change the radio when it comes on. I tolerate it with family and friends at holiday parties. I grin and bear it if I’m paid to perform it. The kitschy stuff can get me for a little bit but it starts to get (dare I say?) worshiped like the more sincere efforts and immune from laughter somehow.

Cue Tammie Brown, the best entertainer to ever come out of RuPaul’s Drag Race (your mileage may vary, as Tammie’s character is intentionally kooky and she never steps out of character when she has an audience, even when she’s walking around as Keith Glen Schubert), recording a sort-of music video for her new holiday song “Coal In Your Stockings.” Tammie’s music is a trip. It’s designed to be performed live and get a reaction out of a nightclub audience. It’s campy beyond belief.

It’s also really well-written and very clever when you start to break it down. Tammie’s not a great singer, but she is a great musician and entertainer and really sells it. It’s very much like Bette Davis jokingly performing songs on talk shows in the 70s. I’m a bit obsessed. A new holiday classic worthy of a playlist with The Nightmare Before Christmas and Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics.

Cheek to Cheek

Today, my students I’ve been working with since the end of September start their one weekend run of The Philadelphia Story. The singers and a student piano player are performing my original arrangements of 1930s/40s standards as varied as Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash’s “Speak Low,” George/Ira Gershwin’s “Nice Work (If You Can Get It),” and Louis Atler/Sidney D. Mitchell’s “You Turned the Tables on Me.” It’s a strong group of young female singers, so I coached them to pull inspiration from Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, and Ella Fitzgerald. The director wanted Frank Sinatra and I spun that to the abilities of the young performers.

Sadly, their prerecord of “Cheek to Cheek” for the curtain call didn’t work out, so we’re stuck with using one of the big inspirations for the program instead.


John Legend Lindsey Stirling All Of Me

Listen: John Legend featuring Lindsey Stirling “All of Me”

What happens when ridiculously talented musicians from totally different genres collaborate? Magic.

Well, it can be magic. It can also be a disaster. But that disaster is all the more interesting for showing how willing the musicians involved are to collaborate.

Nine-time Grammy Award winner John Legend and Sketchy Details’ favorite Lindsey Stirling got together to record a new version of his song “All of Me” from his new album Love in the Future. It’s beautiful.

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