Music Monday: Beggin’

December 15, 2008

Let me say this first: I absolutely adore late-60s music, especially the doo wop and soul. Until recently, though, I never paid attention to the groups or the history behind the music — just the singles.

What surprises me is that so many groups I had assumed based on vocal styling alone to be black were, in fact, very white. The Four Seasons (maybe because I often confused them with The Four Tops) fell into this group.

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons — Beggin’

The Four Seasons belted out Beggin‘ in 1967, right as the group was overshadowed by Frankie Valli’s exploding solo career. The song doesn’t get a lot of modern air play on the oldies stations I listen to, and that might be in part because it never climbed higher than number 16 on the Billboard top 100 even when it was first released.

I don’t know why. This song is terrific, with its dirty back-up vocals over the loose piano keys. It’s got that same dark, velvety tone as The Turtles or The Grass Roots.

Adidas Originals House Party commercial

I hadn’t heard this song in a long time, and then while flipping through channels I heard it revamped with a lot of bass and a heavier snare. It was an advertisement for Adidas, with The Four Seasons track revamped by French dance musician Pilooski (see the video below for his full edit).

Some of my friends in the British Isles have informed me this song was big there last year, was overplayed on radio and in clubs, and is hated by a large section of the populace. To the haters: I assure you it’s new to my ears, so bear with me.

Pilooski — Beggin’ (Remix)

Apparently, the song was released in June 2007, but I never heard it — maybe because I rarely listen to radio. Truth is, I like the pseudo-retro 50s clothes and dance moves almost as much as the music. I really wish we would see more old 50s and 60s songs — especially Motown grooves — updated like this.

Video edit commissioned by 679 Recordings

I don’t know if either vid aired stateside, but there were two versions of the Pilooski edit. This one almost looks like Flash — pretty low-budget — and remixes the Seasons’ own dance moves across a surreal landscape with trees of snapping fingers.

Madcon – Beggin’

Norwegian rappers Madcon definitely ghettofied the tune in 2007 with a blaxploitation aesthetic and added rap breaks. Once again, the best part of this video is the dance routine, which just screams “Jackson Five meets Good Times.” If you can get past the irritating XBox 360 product placement, then there’s an extremely sexy three-second shot starting at 3:07.

Music Monday: Such Great Heights

March 31, 2008

The Postal Service

Cleveland doesn’t have an indie or alternative-that-isn’t-Smashing Pumpkins stations, so this song filtered down to me in commercial form. It was released in 2003 by The Postal Service, but I first heard it on the Garden State soundtrack and then (as a cover) on that infamous kaleidescope M&Ms commercial. I didn’t really think much of it at the time.

Then Andrew sent me a YouTube link for the above vid a couple of months ago, and I instantly recognized the song. But what I recognized wasn’t — again — The Postal Service. What tugged at my mind was a jangling ditty I’d heard by piano virtuoso Ben Folds.

I’ve spent a good bit of time in the past few hours trying to decide which version I like better. The original is more clipped and polished with an electric edge.

I think the video is worth mentioning. Remember when Mr. Rogers used to take us to the peanut butter factory of the cotton mill to show us how those things were made? Well, I’m not sure if the PS vid was filmed in a real microchip lab or if some set design engineer deserves a raise, but The Postal Service uses some very nice shots to give us a new spin on the old Earth-as-dirt-under-a-giant’s-fingernail chestnut (think the big pull-back shot at the end of Men In Black).

Ben Folds

He’s a genius. I’ve always had a man-crush on Ben Folds, and here we get so many things to praise: Starting with his awesome glasses, hitting his frenetic piano-key-jamming performance, and wrapping up with the improvised percussion.

After a lot of reflection, this is my favorite version of the song (to date). It’s by far the most dynamic in it’s highs and lows (see what I did there?) and I really think the piano is an underused tool. With so much being done by synthesizers, you can sometimes forget how great that deep, rolling concert piano timbre is. Plus, he adds the word “shit” where it should be.

Iron and Wine

This cover was released right on the Postal Service single in 2003, and it’s my least favorite of the three (I know, Wiki-heads, there are some other covers but I haven’t tracked them down). Iron and Wine blatantly try to yank my emotions around with that angsty whisper-over-acoustics tactic I hate. That’s led to a legion of 14-year-old amateur guitarists posting their YouTube odes. Ugh.

Sadly, it works so well as a soundtrack mood piece that I can’t just blow it off entirely. Oh well.

Music Monday: Tripping Daisy and Rip Slyme

February 25, 2008

1. Tripping Daisy — I Got A Girl

Here’s an example of a talented early 90s band that never caught on. Maybe if the airwaves hadn’t been crowded with Pearl Jam and Bush, Tripping Daisy would have gotten more credit for their irreverent alt-punk. If nothing else, I’m surprised frontman Tim DeLaughter didn’t get more attention for his looks — in this video, he reminds me a lot of Brad Pitt a la 12 Monkeys.

I remember I Am An Elastic Firecracker (the band’s breakthrough album) got a lot of play on the Canadian radio stations that seeped across the US border, but there was never much in the way of follow-up. Maybe it’s because the band’s sound was only very loosely defined, growing more disparate and experimental toward 1996-1997.

2. Rip Slyme — Super Shooter

I don’t listen to J-pop, but I do watch anime. So when Andrew sent me some of his more eclectic videos by AIM a few weeks ago, I recognized this one immediately as the opener to Gantz. I remember always getting pumped up by the song and then having the show let me down (anybody want some leeks?).

Rap seems to me like a distinctly American institution. Pardon my musical xenophobia here, but I laugh when I hear Mexican or German or — in this case — Japanese rap. It’s just bizarre. It’s like a Kenyan playing polka or an Indian singing reggae. Rip Slyme managed to supersede that strange boundary, though, with Super Shooter. I think it might be the video game sound queues that save them.

Customizing a cell phone is easy with the right tools

December 7, 2007

FROM JASON’S CELL PHONE — Those ringtones on your phone are just little WAV and MP3 files, and the wallpapers are just tiny JPGs. That means you could convert your phone to just about any theme — if only there were a way to get your custom clips and images to it.

Sure, you could pay $2.99 per ringtone to buy through the service provider. Or you could use a couple of simple online tools to upload any ringer and any wallpaper for free.

For some phones, getting free toys straight from the Internet is a snap. Some providers, though — like Verizon — make it quite counter-intuitive to get anything at all to or from a phone (especially the lower-end ones).

It took quite a bit of digging to find upload tools that weren’t scams, overly complicated software downloads, bloatware, or pay sites. These links below, however, work like a charm:

Upload free ringtones

Upload free wallpapers

Get wallpaper dimensions

Upload free ringtones Upload free wallpaper Get wallpaper dimensions


It takes about 5-12 minutes for the messages to traverse the cell network and beep to your phone. Be patient and don’t spam yourself like I did the first time trying to get it to work.


My phone has been converted to a Star Trek communicator using this ship’s intercom hailing sound along with a text message tone from Worf. This one from Data or this computer dialogue also work pretty well.

Couple it with this United Federation of Planets logo wallpaper I cropped, and you’re set to go.

It’s a little bit nerdy, sure, but you should have heard the reaction from my co-workers the first time I got a call at the office. I couldn’t resist flipping the phone open dramatically and doing my best Shatner.