Much like my albums of the year, I’m listing my songs of the year. These songs are standouts and heavily rotated tracks in my library. Only one of the songs happens tp appear on my albums of 2020 list. Nevertheless, it was tough to only pick three, but by limiting that small amount I pull some truly great songs that I’ll be listening to for years to come.Continue reading “The Best of 2020: Songs”
Some might call me a Nelly super-fan but I disagree. However, I will say that there are very few Nelly songs I dislike. When I first heard Nelly’s Country Grammar song way back in 2000, I instantly thought to myself, “Wow, I need to buy this album!” That was back before I had a job and buying an album was a big deal. I think I played the Country Grammar album from start to finish, 314 times. Nelly’s sound was different when he came out, it was more R&B but with a Hip-Hop rhythm. Even almost 20 years later, people are still emulating his style.
Much like I did for Eminem, I’m going to list my top 10 favorite Nelly songs (with descriptions this time).
- Ride Wit Me – Country Grammar (2000)
“Must be the money!” This might be the song that put Nelly on the “map” and it was the first time we heard him really lean into the sing-songy melodies he became known for. Ride Wit Me is an ultimate car cruising song.
- Just A Dream – 5.0 (2010)
Hard hitting bass and strings backdrop make this song great. Just A Dream is easy to sing along to as well put on while cruising down the highway. “Tryin’ to get my Usher on, but I can’t let it burn.”
- Fly Away – Sweatsuit (2005)
Originally debuted in the movie The Longest Yard this song tells the tale of unfair treatment of prisoners, much like the feature film. Another R&B type song that Nelly makes unforgettable. “I keep a gamma ray, I’ma G-5 G, Take a G-5 jeep, G-5 deep…”
- Dilemma – Nellyville (2002)
A duet with the fabulous Kelly Rowland (Destiny’s Child) that brings back some great memories for me. There’s never a bad time to list to Dilemma. “Play my position like a shortstop, pick up everything mommy hittin’…”
- Grillz – Sweatsuit (2005)
The 1st Hip-Hop song on the list. Grillz came out in the peak of rappers getting teeth ornaments decorated with gold & diamonds. This song has a very memorable bass line as well as fun lyrics for a truly stupid fashion trend. “I got a grill I call penny candy, ya know what that mean? It look like now&laters, gumdrop, jelly n beans”
- Hot In Herre – Nellyville (2002)
Definitely a club banger, Hot in Herre is one of Nelly’s most popular songs because it’s fun, it’s hot, and makes you want to get up and dance. This might be the hottest beat The Neptunes have every produced. “Check your reflection, telling your best friend, girl I think my butt getting big!”
- Country Grammar – Country Grammar (2000)
Nelly’s first official single from his debut album introduced us to his country roots and melodic style. I obsessed over memorizing every lyric in this song and I still remember it all today. “Let me in now, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, let me in now.”
- E. I. – Country Grammar (2000)
A very early-2000s feel to this one, E.I. has everything from talking about clothes to buying drugs. This is another fun song to sign along to with the “uh-ooooohhhhh” repetition.
- ‘#1 – Nellyville (2002)
Nelly snaps back at all his haters and criticism in #1. This is one of my favorites because is able to deliver his message with crafty lyrics while still throwing in his melodic tendencies. “Straight emulatin’ my style, right to the down-down…”
- Hey Porsche – M.O. (2013)
This song might signal the end of an era as Nelly has yet to release an album since M.O. Hey Porsche is a fun double entendre song where he throws in a lot of car analogies seemingly talking about a girl named Porsche. “Come and let me slide under, so I can work on, work on you!”
- Honorable Mention – Where the Party At – Jagged Edge – Jagged Little Thrill (2001)
- Fan Favorite – Cruise (Remix) – Florida Georgia Line – Here’s to the Good Times (2013)
- Best of the Worst – The Fix – Single (2015)
- Best Remix – Girlfriend (The Neptunes Remix) – NSYNC – Celebrity (2002)
It’s my top 10 list, I make the rules…
My picks for the best 5 albums of 2018, ranked not by best to worst, but by release date. These albums were selected for their overall enjoyability. It is becoming more rare that albums are enjoyable from beginning to end.
Man of the Woods by Justin Timberlake – 2/2/18
Justin Timerblake’s 5th solo album (counting 20/20 experience as two separate albums) explores new sounds. JT is dabbling in some country styles and it lands very well with his new “Man of the Woods” persona.
Beerbongs and Bentleys by Post Malone – 4/27/18
The second album by Post Malone shows his growth in the music business as well as proving that he’s for real and here to stay.
Dan + Shay – 6/22/18
The third and self titled album by country duo Day + Shay who are famous for taking the Rascal Flatts style and bringing it into modern country music.
This One’s For You Too by Luke Combs – 6/1/18
The re-release or “deluxe version” of This One’s For You released a year prior by Luke Combs. The 2018 album completes his debut into country music after being discovered from Vine.
Kamikaze by Eminem – 8/31/18
The 10th album by Eminem and according to Marshall, a makeup for his last pop-ish album. This album goes back to classic Eminem with funny lyrics, great rhymes and personal attacks. No holds barred.
Take time, before we get too deep into 2019 to take a listen to these albums if you haven’t yet.
I like Eminem’s music, but I’m not a super-fan. When he first burst onto the hip-hop scene, I enjoyed his funny stuff, but mostly liked it because it was the popular thing to do. As him and I grew older, I listened to him less and less.
I decided to make a personal top 10 list since he has put out a lot of different songs over a vast period of time.
- When I’m Gone – Curtain Call
- Rap God – The Marshall Mathers LP 2
- Love the Way You Lie – Recovery
- Forgot About Dre – (Dr. Dre) 2001
- My Band – (D12) D12 World
- Not Afraid – Recovery
- Guilty Conscience – The Slim Shady LP
- The Way I Am – The Marshal Mathers LP
- Fast Lane – (Bad Meets Evil) Hell: The Sequel
- Greatest – Kamikaze
- Honorable Mention – Square Dance – The Eminem Show
- Fan Favorite – Stan – The Marshall Mathers LP
- Best of the Worst – Shake That – Curtain Call
The gadget you don’t need until you have one
HomePod: The iPod that lives in your home
The latest product from tech giant Apple is their own take on the very popular “lady in a cylinder”. The HomePod aims to fill the gap where the competition lacks in areas such as sound quality, ease of use, and aesthetics. I’ve spent the last month with the HomePod, testing everything I could.
It Packs a Punch
The Apple HomePod is a small cylindrical device that is about the size of a two liter soda bottle, with the top cut off. It’s covered in a thick mesh that feels soft but also sturdy at the same time. Inside, the HomePod packs a large upward facing subwoofer and seven tweeters around the bottom circumference. In between those there is a six microphone array for hearing your voice as well as to fine tune the sound based on the surroundings. The speakers and microphones are controlled by a stripped-down version of the fourth generation Apple TV. The processing power allows you to shout anything at it and it responds very quickly.
I don’t consider myself an audiophile, but I enjoy high quality music when I can get it. When I listen to music over bluetooth in my car I can hear the lower quality compared to playing over USB. That’s about the extent of my sound quality identifying experience. The HomePod does a great job of producing great sound in a small package. It sits next to my forty-eight inch, nine speaker sound bar, and the HomePod has noticeably better sound.
The music stopped and I thought “there’s no way she heard that.”
The HomePod only knows one music service and that’s Apple’s own Apple Music. That means the HomePod cannot play music from Spotify, Tidal, Google, or any other music service out there. You can play songs from Apple’s giant library, your own iTunes library, or songs you’ve previously purchased from iTunes, so there is a lot of variety. If that is not enough for you, you can still stream whatever you like from an iOS device to the speaker, just like you AirPlay to an Apple TV. The benefit of using Apple Music on the HomePod is you don’t need your iPhone or iPad to play it. In fact, if you turned off all your devices, it will still be able to play music from Apple’s streaming service. If you’re thinking of getting a HomePod, switching to or signing up for Apple Music is definitely worth it.
Beyond playing great music, the HomePod packs the same helpful assistant as iPhones and iPads. Her name is Siri and she is very willing to help you any way she can. The HomePod doesn’t have a screen or a way for you to interact with anything, so Siri is limited. Speaking “Hey Siri…” into the air turns her attention towards you as she hangs on your next words. I’ve had moderate success with asking Siri random questions. I’ve been using Siri for a long time so I know how to ask her things and what she can and can’t do. Here are some things I asked my HomePod that resulted in the correct answer on the first try: What is 60g in oz?; What is the scientific name for a sloth?; How many tablespoons are in 20oz?; Who is Michael B. Jordan?; Who sings purple rain?
Contrary to your iPhone, Siri on the HomePod doesn’t know who you are. Whomever sets up the HomePod initially can choose to allow some details to be passed through the Apple account, but it’s still very limited. The nice thing about this is anyone that can yell “Hey Siri!” can control the HomePod. This can also cause some disagreements between people who want to hear two different songs.
One of my favorite HomePod activities is when I wake up with a random song in my head, I can shout out loud and have it played
One place where the HomePod excels over the competition is how well it can hear you. Even at whisper with music playing the HomePod picks up the “Hey Siri” command. I was in my kitchen cooking with the exhaust fan on, the HomePod was about twenty feet away with a wall between us. The HomePod was playing something from Apple Music when I said “Hey Siri skip” at a volume that a person next to me would struggle to hear. The music stopped and I thought “there’s no way she heard that.” The next song began to play and I was taken aback by how well it could hear my over all the noise.
The Kit of Home
Another way Siri on the HomePod is helpful is by controlling HomeKit devices. These are smart home devices that are compatible with Apple’s home ecosystem. I have structured the smart devices in my home around this ecosystem allowing me to take full advantage of Siri for automation and control. By shouting at the HomePod I can close my garage doors, turn up the heat, turn on/off lights, and trigger scenes I have setup. The HomePod also acts as a HomeKit bridge that allows you to (if you don’t already have an Apple TV) access your HomeKit devices from outside your home network.
Who should buy one?
If you’re deeply invested in Apple’s ecosystem (which is easy to do) with a subscription to Apple Music, HomeKit compatible devices (Philips Hue bulbs fit this bill), like listening to music in your home, and use an iOS device; the HomePod is definitely for you.
It’s going to be hard to find a lot of people that meet those criteria, which is Apple’s fault, but at the same time it helps get more people into their ecosystem.
One of my favorite HomePod activities is when I wake up with a random song in my head (which happens almost every morning) I can shout out loud and have it played, and it sounds great!
Measuring the Competition
Apple is late to the “lady in a can” game, which seems to be their modus operandi as of late. There is plenty of competition in this space and surprisingly the first mover here was Amazon with their Echo line. Amazon has released nine products with their Alexa assistant before the HomePod shipped. Google now has three different types of devices that use the Google Assistant for your home. Amazon, Google and Apple’s devices all have the same functions; play music, control smart devices, and try to answer your dimwitted questions.
Which one is the best? That’s a hard question to answer for everyone, and each person you ask might have a different answer. The best one for you is which system you’re invested in. Do you have Apple products throughout your home or are you more in the Google ecosystem? Amazon has the advantage of being the cheaper solution and throwing their products at consumers every way possible. It’s more likely you know someone with an Amazon product in their house than the other two.
Apple’s HomePod is another great first generation product. A lot of people are comparing it to the the original Apple Watch, which is fair. Both of those devices are late entries to a new market for Apple and so far, both have been received very well. My time with the HomePod has been great and I don’t regret the purchase at all. I’m looking forward to the near future where Apple makes smaller/cheaper versions of the HomePod that I can stick in various places in my house.
In summary, John Gruber put it best when he wrote, “What AirPods are for your own ears, HomePod is for your home.”.
My musical taste has always been under scrutiny by anyone who rides in the car with me. On any given day, my music library could play the likes of Nelly, followed by 2Pac, Michael Jackson, then John Mayer, and sprinkle in some country too. I call it eclectic, but others just call me confused. All that considered, I enjoy music very much and consider it vital to my existence, especially in the car. I used to be the guy who would be browsing through hundreds of CDs at the stoplight trying to find the right album. My history of music follows all the major trends as I was never afraid to adopt the latest craze. In high school it was all CDs and Napster.
It wasn’t until college that I got my first iPod, but I didn’t really jump in completely at first. I had an older car with an aftermarket stereo, so I was limited to options at the time. My favorite thing was the MP3 CD where you could load up a regular CD with 100-200 songs opposed to the traditional 15 or so songs.
“A Junkie’s Lament” Continue reading “Which is better Apple Music or Spotify?”