Happy New Year y’all!
Wow…another year takes its bow and leaves. Good riddance, I say. Though on a personal level this year has been a mixture of both good and bad, it definitely hasn’t been a good one for the world in general. I’m looking forward to a new year that will hopefully bring it with it brighter days, more clarity, more strength, greater hope…that will just be better than the year that has gone. Wishing you all joy, peace, and health in the new year!
I’ve just seen my parents off at the airport and it has sunk in that the holidays are truly over…always a difficult pill to swallow. This is my favorite season (the most wonderful time of they year!). I hate to see it go. I have a lot to look forward to this year, but currently my body and my mind are loathe to show much activity and movement. We just wants to lies arounds and do nada. Ennui sets in. I’m in danger of simply becoming a zombie, so I thought that some writing would kind of push my body and brain into circulating some thought and action. Or, yunno, I’m just procrastinating more.
Anyway, I present to you my list of favorites in music and some other miscellaneous categories ) These opinions are just passing thoughts and just personal opinions, and probably valid to change hour by hour. If you’re a regular reader, you probably know my love of adjectives is never ending, so please to keep in mind the use of hyperbole, kthx.
Best Bollywood Soundtrack: I think that in comparison to 2007, 2008 showed more innovation and experimentation, but still came short of impressive work. There weren’t that many albums that stood out to me this year, and I barely added any to my library. But even if I didn’t exactly love them, I will say that there was definitely a greater variety in the music out there…more directors, more singers, more styles being played around with. That’s a big step up, and it makes me look forward to the future of Bollywood music.
That said, for me the best album of the year was Yuvvraaj. Apart from my obvious bias towards Rahman as a long term loyal fan, I pick Yuvvraaj because it was so amazingly refreshing for me. And it was a very experimental album for him, this third one this year. I haven’t seen the movie and will never see it (eww to what I’ve heard about it), but that isn’t necessary with Rahman, and especially with Yuvvraaj. From Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, to Ada, to Yuvvraaj, Rahman has taken impressive steps to revolutionize his music and change the flavor each time, and do it with the same magnificence. His music is alive, pulsating with life and rhythm and personality and character. And so, yes, it takes time to get used to each new album, but once you do, you absorb it completely and just revel in it (or atleast, I do). Tu Meri Dost was simply lovely…with its high peaks and its low softness, its fantasy-like quality…Mastam Mastam had a quality of freedom, of rebellion, of carnivals and of tolis set out to celebrate…Shano Shano was downright club music with twists and turns that baffled initially but drew you in soon enough…Zindagi was rich in emotion and ached with pain and angst. New voices appeared throughout, and familiar voices showed new talents and capability. Each time I listen to the album, I discover new nuances, new feelings, new emotions, and understand new aspects of the lyrics that actually makes it an experience each time. That’s a golden album for me.
Best Non-Bollywood Album: If you’ve been to this blog even two times you can guess it. Avengi Ja Nahin was miles ahead of anything else this year, anywhere. In fact, I feel it could be miles ahead of its time and its generation. I don’t know how much it was appreciated in India, but Rabbi is an undisputed genius. I’m literally left breathless by how amazing this album is, and how I discover new things in it each time. Read in depth reviews here and here.
(And don’t take just my word for it…see Deepak Iyer’s list for the year gone by here for further corroboration)
Best Filmi Song (Lyrically and Melodically): This was a tie for me between Khwaja Mere Khwaja and Ek Lau. Amit Trivedi’s lyrics for Ek Lau are undoubtedly amazing: they are simple, beautiful, touching. In a few lines, he says so much of such great importance. He conveys the dilemma of the human being, the pain and angst of our world as it stands today, and the confusion of the normal human caught up in all this conflict. Shilpa Rao’s voice is delicate, soft, trembling with emotion, and adds as much to the song as the lyrics and the music do. It is a masterpiece.
Khwaja Mere Khwaja is complex, not easy to grasp, but from start to end it is seeped in devotion, faith, in deep emotion and religious love that is quite powerful to listen to. The Sufi touch envelops you and the lyrics, once understood, mesmerize you. The call touches you, the desire of the devotee to reach his Khwaja is touching, and it involves you, it raises you. If you close your eyes, you may find yourself at Ajmer Sharif… (but please, with none of the terrible actors in the scene from the movie: I almost walked out in frustration at those expressionless zombies).
Best Non-Filmi Song (Lyrically and Melodically): Without hesitation: Ballo, from Rabbi’s Avengi Ja Nahin. Possibly the best song written and composed in recent times. The best song all year in any category. It has made my list of life time favorites, and I think it is a rare gem, as is Rabbi. I possibly don’t need to say more than I’ve already said here.
Most Melodious Song with Disappointing Lyrics: This is a unique category, but I find some gems every year where the music is just outstanding but the lyrics fall far behind. It is my belief that a great song is made up by just the right combination of lyrics and melody and the right voices (I don’t mean lyrics must always be super meaningful or symbolic, but they should hold substance of some sort, even if its mushy substance). But, I must admit, a large part of my library is made up of songs that sound oh-so-good but mean so little if actually thought about. Of course, the trick is not to think about them. In this category, the prize goes to Hawa Sun Hawa, in Rahman’s Ada (lyrics and translation here). I can’t bother myself to look up who wrote them, but homeboy sure lives on cliches and over used mushy lines. Seriously, hasn’t the woh kaun hai bit been done to death? Raaz, yaad, uske bina, aaja re aaja…aiyiya, seriously, how can a song be so cliched and overly lovey? Haven’t we moved past that by this point? Not to mention the many lines where the song simply goes to into random words to fill in space (aaja re aaja re aare…!!), and I don’t know if Rahman isn’t a little bit involved there. Lyrically, the songs he’s been choosing haven’t all been very good in recent times, which is slightly disappointing to me (Shantanu Moitra, for instance, always seems to give music to songs with substance, such as the recent Sajjanpur and the older Ab Ke Sawan). Also, don’t tell me you can’t have a love song without 100% cliches…Ek Meetha Marz De is a fine example. I love romance as much as the next woman, but, seriously, lets have less of this and more of that. But the music of the song…aah…SPELLBINDING. That’s how I still manage to listen to it.
My Favorite Male Playback Singer in 2008: Mohit Chauhan. I used to love Silk Route when I was a child, and when he came back as a playback singer, I was delighted. It means I get to hear his voice more. Tum Se Hi in 2007 from Jab We Met was arguably a pop gem (if only I didn’t harbor deep suspicions about where Pritam got that tune from, I would love it even more)…so was Guncha a few years ago, and this year he sang Kahin Na Laage (from Kismat Konnection…another Pritam…aiyah), and then the beautiful Moitra song, Ek Meetha Marz, which sealed it for me. Sure, I’d love to see him add some more variety to his portfolio in the year to come, but I can’t deny that I love those songs mostly because he sings them so well. Sonu Nigam in Hawa Sun Hawa almost took this spot, but then I had had too much of the drawing out of words…
My Favorite Female Playback Singer in 2008: Shreya Ghosal. I’m generally someone who doesn’t really love super sweet voices (honestly, they grate on my nerves at times), but Ghosal is different. From her debut a few years ago, girlfriend has grown and grown and just become better and better. On one of the music competition shows for children, Pritam or some other idiot told one of the little girls she sang better than Ghosal had for a particular song…I think I gaped for about a minute and then said something unladylike, before switching channels. Ghosal is one of the most promising singers of my generation, not just because her voice is so lovely and melodious, but because she makes an effort to expand her styles and pick up varied songs, and because it really seems like she works hard. She packs feeling and emotion into her work, and that is what a great singer maketh. From the most recent Kaise Mujhe from Ghajini, to her bit in Tu Meri Dost Hain, to her small but memorable part in Khabar Nahin…this has been a Ghosal year, and she deserves to be lauded for her work.
Singers I’d like to Hear More From: Vishal Dadlani makes great music with Shekhar, and they both sure do sing well. So please to sing more! Dostana was a fun, light album, but definitely exposed how much potential Vishal has as a singer. Benny Dayal is a new discovery…by Rahman…and I don’t know who this dude is but I would definitely like to hear him more. His voice on Yuvvraaj is full of promise: please don’t disappear! We don’t get to hear Shilpa Rao enough, and the same goes for Srinivas.
**That ends the Hindi music side. I can’t comment much on movies, actors, actresses etc because honestly nothing really caught my eye this year. I will say that Bollywood is finally growing up and I’m very proud of it for doing so. Provocative, mature, sensible and slick cinema is now being produced, which is excellent. I didn’t catch enough of this yet to really name any ones that stood out, but I do have great hope now for the film industry.
And now onto the other half of my music library…my favorite Korean pieces this year. My handicap here is that I don’t always understand all the lyrics (a lot of other times, I’m not that bad in getting the gist, or I look em up ). But that just means the music has to prove itself more. There was some great music this year, but definitely not at par with the year before in my opinion. Going through my library I realized I really haven’t added much to it since 2007, at least not to the same level. Hoping 2009 will bring more great music from an industry, especially from the Indie and Rock scene…
Best Drama Soundtrack: If there weren’t that many great dramas this year, there also weren’t that many great OSTs. Unlike past years, from which I have quite a few favorites added to my collection, 2008 was seriously lacking. Who Are You wins simply because I enjoyed it so much while the drama was going on, and that had to do a lot with the placement of the songs/instrumentals and the way they fit into the story. Thinking deeper, I think Gourmet has greater quality, and more substance, and some very impressive pieces (especially Gyung Hab, with its Arabic twists…wow, what an instrumental).
Best Album: Alex’s My Vintage Romance. Yep, even I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I do like Clazziquai and have always loved Alex’s voice, but I didn’t have humongous expectations when I started listening to it. But many of the tracks have become favorites and his voice just has this quality…it can really fit into the mood of the song, it can smile, it can express pain, it can be flirty, it can be romantic, it can be calm and sober. He really plays with many different styles in this album, and does quite well. Highlights are Lets Clasp Our Hands Together (깍지껴요 ft Gaeko) and Love (사랑하오), and Daisy.
Favorite Song: Umbrella, by Epik High, and ft. Younha. I’ll tell you a secret. This year, I had to loosen up on my Epik High fanaticism. My respect and admiration for them is still as great as ever, but neither of their two albums really did much for me this year, except for bright spots here and there. I’m not sure why. All of their other work has spoken to me, so I’m not sure what happened here. Maybe I should go back and re-listen and re-absorb. However, Umbrella was still impressive…dark, gloomy, full of angst and lyrics that made you ache…in other words, completely Epik High.
Song I Didn’t Expect to Like: But did. Mirotic. Definitely not a DBSK fan, and probably never will be, but this song was very…mirotic. Also, their dancing in the MV and on their on-stage performances is excellent and always supremely polished (with many “how the…what the…huh?” complex steps), and that makes the song even more attractive. But, seriously, are these boys actually real or programmed, too good looking robots? (Shuts up and won’t tag for fear of fan wrath )
Disappointed in…: Clazziquai’s most recent album, Metrotronix. I mean, it is just too much techno and electro for me. And it just doesn’t have…the it quality that their other work has had. Of course, I have the one song featuring Yi Sung Yol. That’s a given, ain’t it?
Year End Bang: My Aunt Mary’s Circle. I haven’t given it too many listens yet but what I have heard, I’ve loved. And how good to have them back on the scene. Thomas Cook’s voice never gets old, I tell ya.
My Wish for 2009: 이승열 (Yi Sung Yol), won’t you please release another album? We’ve been waiting patiently! Hearing you twice a year on OSTs or featured on other singer’s albums is simply not enough. I’ve worn out volume 1 and volume 2, and a new volume would be the perfect present this year. Nothing in the world quite like his voice…
Its midnight and time for me to turn into a pumpkin! Or maybe just time to eat a guava. Don’t ask me why. Go grab your own midnight snack.