You’re Not Special


2018 is shaping up to be an excellent year for rock music.  Quite a few great albums have already been released thus far & we’re not even half way through the year yet.  One of those albums is Shinedown’s latest effort Attention, Attention which debuted just this past Friday.  I enjoyed their previous album Threat to Survival but it was definitely not my favorite of theirs largely because it just felt too “soft” to me.  However, Attention, Attention is clearly a return to a heavier sound which I’m really pleased to hear.  Ironically though, it’s one of the lighter songs on the record that has really resonated with me this week.  The song is number twelve on the disc & is entitled Specialattention shinedown

I’m not sure why this song is speaking to me so much this week but it is.  Perhaps it’s because it’s so easy to get caught up in the anxieties & hassles of life & get stuck in the trap of thinking “I’m the only person who’s ever experienced this,” “No one really knows what I’m going through,” or “Nobody gets me!”  The truth is we are all unique in some ways & yet we are all the same in so many more ways.  We all struggle with the same basic things in life & yet so often we allow our differences to divide us rather than allowing our shared humanity to unite us.diverse kids

Maybe it wasn’t the intended message of this song but I find it really inspirational to stop feeling sorry for myself for certain things & to just get up, get going, & kick ass like I know I can if I, to borrow a Nike phrase, JUST DO IT.  In the social media age, it’s so easy to compare ourselves to others & feel like other people have things more together than we do but such thinking gets us nowhere; it literally accomplishes nothing.  And there is absolutely no reason to compare our lives anyway.  We all end up in the same grave at the end.  Trying to compete with others is a battle in which no one wins but everyone loses.  comparison

The song’s lyrics are below.  Definitely check it out in the link I posted above.

Hurry up before you go & get old
Hurry up before your blood runs cold
None of us were ever meant to stay
We’re all gonna find out one day

You see life’s too short to run it like a race
So it’s never gonna matter if you win first place
Cause we’re all the same

Stop waiting on your fifteen minutes of fame
Cause you’re not special
I’m not trying to rain on your parade
But you’re not special
I’m not trying to bring you down
I’m not trying to sound so ineffectual
But you’re not special

Hurry up before the bottle kicks in
Before the poison & the pain sets in
If you take it down a notch & you let me explain
That on this earth we are all the same
And all I can say is

Stop waiting on your fifteen minutes of fame
Cause you’re not special
I’m not trying to rain on your parade
But you’re not special
I’m not trying to bring you down
I’m not trying to sound so ineffectual
Cause you’re not special

We all live to love
We all fall apart
We’d all go to war
For the faint of heart
Instead we’re condescending
There are no happy endings
I won’t hold my breath
I won’t cast a doubt
I’d never sell you out
But I’ll give you one last chance to own it
Cause you’re not a God or a poet so

Stop waiting on your fifteen minutes of fame
Cause you’re not special
I’m not trying to rain on your parade
But you’re not special
I’m not trying to bring you down
I’m not trying to sound so ineffectual
But you’re not special

not special

The 10 Best Albums of 2013


I realize it’s a little late into 2014 to be writing this, but I didn’t get the idea until mid-way through January & it took me a while to compile this list, so I’m going ahead with it anyway even if the post seems a bit belated.  A few of these albums were actually released in 2012 but didn’t become truly popular until 2013, or at the very least I didn’t discover them until 2013 so I’ve included them anyway.  I’ll be upfront & tell you that 90% of these albums are rock albums, so if you don’t like rock music I guess this post isn’t for you.  But I challenge you to read it anyway because you never know what might trigger your interest.

Aside from #1, these are in no particular order.

I’ve included links to at least one of my favorite songs from each album because I’m awesome like that.  🙂  At the end I’ve also included some of my most anticipated album releases for 2014.

1.       The House of Gold & Bones, Volumes 1 & 2 by Stone Sour

It’s nigh impossible for me to pick a favorite album of all time but if I had to do it, I think this dual-album would be my choice.  There are a lot of reasons I say that, not the least of which is that I find myself subconsciously judging other albums based on this one.  I don’t mean to do that because consciously I realize that a concept album such as this is not THE standard for all albums ever made & yet this one is just so breathtaking that it’s become my point of comparison for just about everything.  I didn’t know a lot of Stone Sour music before this dual-album debuted, but when I started hearing Absolute Zero on the radio I fell in love immediately.  I was at Best Buy purchasing another album one day & just happened to see Volume 1 of The House of Gold & Bones & decided to take a chance on it.  Best decision ever.  Within a few weeks of purchasing Volume 1, I was completely entranced.  Every single song is just so perfect & they all flow together like a rock symphony so that often it is difficult to tell where one song ends & another begins.  Volume 2 is exactly the same way.  Between the two Volume 1 is my favorite but honestly they are both phenomenal.  From ballads to harder songs that are more Slipknot in feel, the vocals, the lyrics, the music itself, everything is in top form.  Just about every emotion human beings can experience is touched on in these songs.  There is so much more I could say about this dual-album but I’ll stop now for fear of boring you.  Just buy the albums.  You won’t regret it.

Volume 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7dHBjXnbtk

Volume 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwkGatmflbw

2.       Same Trailer, Different Park by Kacey Musgraves

May I just say that I am really proud of myself for having this album months before Kacey Musgraves started garnering national attention & winning a very well-deserved Grammy?  I used to be so behind the times when it came to music & popular culture & I still am in a lot of ways, but with music I am often quite ahead of my time nowadays, at least in certain genres.  It’s often been said that Kacey Musgraves sings country music for people who don’t like country music.  I think the reason for that is that Kacey’s lyrics are so profound while also being extremely wittyShe also isn’t afraid to write about the nastier side of small town life.  While most popular country stars are singing about pick-up trucks, fishing, & drinking beer, Kacey is penning such scathing & controversial but inspiring songs as Merry Go Round & Follow Your Arrow.  Every single song on this album is a real winner & it’s rare for me to say that, especially about a country album.  If you don’t want to buy the album or don’t typically like country music, just look her up on YouTube.  You might end up buying the album after hearing some more of her songs, just like I did.  (Also of note, Kacey has written many popular songs sung by other country artists including the recent Miranda Lambert hit Mama’s Broken Heart.  No offense to Miranda, but I like Kacey’s version of it even better.  Again, look it up on YouTube.)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo212zOUKxI

3.       The Wrong Side of Heaven & the Righteous Side of Hell, Volumes 1 & 2 by Five Finger Death Punch

FFDP is one of those rare bands whose songs I almost always fall in love with immediately upon hearing them.  They are just that good.  From ballads to thrashing rock & roll anthems, Ivan Moody’s voice is mesmerizing & the band behind him is top-notch in every way.  When you hear a FFDP song, there’s never any question about whose song it is.  You just know.  Like Stone Sour, FFDP released a dual-album in 2013.  These are not concept albums but they are fantastic nonetheless.  There are plenty of the traditional “angry” songs for which FFDP is famous, but there are also plenty of powerful ballads.  The titular song on the first album is one of my favorites along with Battle Born & Cradle to the Grave on Volume 2.  Volume 1 contains several compilations with other artists including Rob Halford from Judas Priest & Maria Brink from In This Moment.  There is also a remake of the LL Cool J song Mama Said Knock You Out featuring the rapper Tech N9ne.  A hard rock/metal band remaking a rap song?  Yes, that’s right.  And it’s amazing.  There’s a reason FFDP is the number one band I listen to on the way to work: their music is just so energizingIs it ironic that what most people would consider to be “angry” music energizes me to provide compassionate care to sick people?  Maybe, maybe not.  There’s a lot more to this kind of music if you just take the time to listen a little deeper.  Bottom line: whether you are already familiar with FFDP or not, check out these albums today.

Volume 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxVQX95GtgU

Volume 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyA1GL1touw

4.       Amaryllis by Shinedown

This is definitely a 2012 album but I love it so much that I decided to include it anyway.  I know a certain segment of rock/metal fans think Shinedown isn’t “hard-core” enough for their taste, but I’ve always found that to be a rather superficial & undeserving judgment.  Shinedown is one of those rare rock bands who have somehow found that “sweet spot” of writing songs that are “tame” enough to be played on mainstream radio (sometimes even on stations that aren’t pure rock stations) while not becoming a pop band.  I’ve seen Shinedown in concert twice & each time my respect for them has only increased.  Amaryllis is an album that covers a vast amount of subject matter as well as an impressive range of musical styles.  There isn’t even one song on this album that I would give less than 4 stars.  If you don’t usually like rock music, I’d recommend Shinedown as a great place to start.  It’s not necessarily that their music is “softer;” they just seem to have a way of reaching out to people across all genres of music.  Even in their more angry/cynical songs, Shinedown has a way of inspiring hope.  Perhaps that is what makes them so powerful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGhJKiMR4XY

5.       The Strange Case Of… by Halestorm

I had the privilege of seeing Halestorm live in 2013 & the best way to sum up that experience is this: I can’t wait to see them again, preferably on a head-lining tour.  A hard rock band with touches of metal here & there with a seriously bad-ass female lead singer?  I mean, what is not to like here?  The Strange Case Of… is a great follow-up to Halestorm’s first album.  From the fast-paced Grammy award-winning Love Bites to powerful ballads like Break In & Here’s to Us, Halestorm is in top form in every way on this album.  In the traditionally male-dominated world of rock & roll Lzzy Hale makes female rock fans like me feel right at home.  At the same time, her music is far from “feminine” & many of her top fans are actually guys.  And it’s not just because she’s sexy.  She, & her band which includes her brother Arejay on drums, is seriously talented too.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmkHqUwa4zg

6.       Blood by In This Moment

I had never heard of In This Moment until 2013.  As soon as I heard the titular song Blood, I knew I had to have the whole album.  Maria Brink & her band are just that talented.  This isn’t music for the faint of heart; it’s raw & sometimes a little raunchy.  But, wow, it is powerful! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulgE1v1eyRk

7.       Onyx by Pop Evil

I am proud to say I owned all three of Pop Evil’s albums before they became more mainstream this past year with the success of their hit singles Trenches & Deal With the Devil off of their 2013 album Onyx.  I first started listening to Pop Evil after the moderate success of  Monster You Made in 2011.  It was that song that prompted me to buy their first two albums & I was thoroughly impressed with both of them.  Then came Onyx.  Each album Pop Evil has released gets better & better so I can only imagine what their next album will be like.  Pop Evil is definitely on my list of bands that I most want to see live in the next year or two.  (P.S. Ladies, the lead singer Leigh Kakaty is a sight for sore eyes.  Do a quick Google image search & I promise you’ll thank me.)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWdtN7pCZug

8.       Fortress by Alter Bridge

Alter Bridge is one of those American bands who have actually had greater success in Europe than here in their own country.  But I’ve been a fan since high school, thanks originally to my husband.  In any case Fortress has made it on many lists of top albums for 2013 & rightfully so.  This isn’t an album that you’ll fall in love with at first listen.  Or at least you might not.  Alter Bridge isn’t known for writing songs with super catchy tunes; in other words they don’t always get stuck in your head immediately.  But what marks them as a truly great band is that their music gets better & better the more you listen to it.  Their music is like an onion; there are so many layers & each time you listen you hear a little more & a little more.  To me that is the mark of great musicianship & these guys have it.  I think Alter Bridge has always resonated with me because they aren’t a flashy band & their music somehow walks the fine line of facing the harsh darkness of life while always retaining a bit of hope.  To me they are a band that will stand the test of time, & I won’t be surprised if fifty years from now they are more respected & popular than they are now.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M9QxzpTjec

9.       Brave, Bold, & Broken by Mindset Evolution

I first heard ME at Uproar Festival in Raleigh in Sept 2012.  At that point they only had a 5-song “album” out but I bought & loved every song on it.  So when their first full-length album debuted in 2013 I purchased it the very day it came out.  And I’ve been nothing short of pleased.  Why these guys don’t get more radio-play I’ll never understand. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fFHCXscp3k

10.   Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies by Volbeat

Ok, here’s a rock album that evokes the feeling of the American Wild West.  As if that isn’t a great enough feat on its own, consider that Volbeat isn’t even an American rock band.  They are actually a Danish band!  I’m not sure that this album really qualifies as a concept album, but all of the songs are about characters from the Wild West.  Volbeat is another of those bands whom you can never mistake for anyone else, yet somehow they manage to really evoke the sound of the Wild West in these songs while still remaining true to their own unique sound.  It’s seriously impressive stuff.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dj1sVQ2qdnI

And lastly, my most anticipated albums of 2014:

The Outsiders by Eric Church (debuting tomorrow, February 11!)  I have a soft spot in my heart for this NC native because he is passionately devoted to his MUSIC above all else.  He comes across as kind of rough around the edges, but in reality he’s a family man who travels with his wife & infant son on his tour bus.  I admire his willingness to speak whatever’s on his mind even when it’s not always popular & his refusal to bend to the whims of popular opinion.  I’m also partial to his music because of its rock & roll feel.  Going to one of his concerts felt like being at a redneck rock concert.  Needless to say, I loved it & would love to see him live again someday.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_P-YNJIdNc

Magic Mountain by Black Stone Cherry (coming May 6)  BSC is a band I discovered in 2013 after seeing a picture of an Alter Bridge member wearing a BSC sweatshirt.  I figured if Alter Bridge liked them, they had to be good.  And they are!  The 2011 album Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea by these small-town Kentucky rockers is fabulous & has me eagerly anticipating their new album this year.  I love the fact that BSC’s music has a very Southern rock feel while still being very hard-core.  I also must point out that the current Florida-Georgia Line hit Stay is actually a BSC song from their 2011 album mentioned above.  It really grinds my gears that BSC isn’t getting credit for that song.  (Sorry FGL fans, but their version sucks anyway.)

Things I Learned From Rock & Roll


A few weeks ago I wrote a post about things I’ve learned from country music & stated that I would be writing a similar post for each major genre of music.  Naturally my next post for this theme is about rock & roll since that is my favorite type of music.  I tried very hard to narrow this list down to five songs like I did for the last post but I just couldn’t do it, so I decided that since rock is my favorite genre it wouldn’t be too superfluous to choose a few more songs.  Besides unlike writing for school assignments, this is my blog so I can make the rules.  Ha!  😉

unity

Please do be advised that some of these songs are not totally G-rated as far as some of the words are concerned (but, hey, that’s rock & roll, right?).

These are in no particular order.

1. Unity by Shinedown: To anyone who thinks that rock & roll is all about drugs & “darkness,” please listen to this song.  In my opinion this is one of the most inspiring, hopeful songs I’ve ever heard.  I’ve seen Shinedown in concert twice & both times their live performance of this song has been incredibly powerful.  The message of this song to me is that no matter how scared or lonely you feel, you’re never alone & there is always hope.  And “your moment of truth is the day that you say ‘I’m not scared,'” which to me means not so much that you’re no longer afraid of the darkness but that you’re facing it anyway.  After all true courage is not the absence of fear but rather the willingness to proceed despite fear.  Perhaps the best way to sum up this song are the lines Brent Smith, the lead singer, says at the beginning of the music video: “We will not fall because we have each other.  We will not fall because we are brothers.  We will not fall because we have love.  We will not fall because we will rise above.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gVdi6sizeY

2.  Here’s To Us by Halestorm: If you aren’t familiar with the female-fronted rock band Halestorm please do yourself a favor & head to Youtube right this minute to check out their fantastic music.  This song is a great place to start, though it’s a bit softer than their average piece.  This is a song that celebrates the transience of life & the fact that mistakes don’t have to be our downfall.  Despite being somewhat softer in style, to me this song is the ultimate “I can do this” song.  It’s what I listen to when I feel like I’m just barely getting by in life, when I need a pick-me-up & a reminder that no matter what life throws my way I’m capable of not just surviving but thriving regardless of the situation.  The music video is also an awesome tribute to the past couple of decades of rock music (note the changes in clothes, makeup, & stage performance throughout the video).  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KC0DNLDXJW8

3.  Justice  by Rev Theory: I still remember the first time I heard this song; I was driving to Blacksburg to visit Jared.  As soon as I got to Jared’s apt I pulled out my laptop to Google the song & figure out who sang it.  This song was one of those “love at first listen” songs for me.  To me this song is just pure adrenaline & righteous anger.  It’s the perfect song to listen to when you feel you’ve been wronged by someone or when life just feels unfair, which is of course inevitable from time to time.  However, if you watch the video you get the feeling that this song was written about more than just the every-day injustices of life & more about the war crimes & crimes against humanity that occur throughout the world.  In any case, it’s a fabulous piece of rock & roll that you should seriously check out.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5N80tNDCGg

4. Weathered by Creed: This is one of those songs that speaks to the difficulties & sorrows of life & how sometimes we just feel like we’re barely holding together, barely making it from day to day.  We’ve all had times in life when we feel like that for whatever reason.  What makes this song so special to me is that it addresses those feelings without holding back, without trying to conceal how ugly & despairing we can feel at times, while also giving hope that there is more to life than this darkness.  My favorite lines are these:

Take all this pride/And leave it behind/Because one day it ends/One day we die/Believe what you will/That is your right/But I choose to win/So I choose to fight.”  These lines remind us that life is too short to stay miserable forever & that in order to succeed in life we must never give up the fight.   Sometimes that means laying down our pride, asking for forgiveness (from ourselves as well as from others), & pushing onward. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu0VRsVCQ48

5. Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch: If you’re not familiar with Five Finger Death Punch (FFDP) please do yourself yet another favor & look them up on Youtube immediately.  Ivan Moody’s brooding voice combined with the fantastic musicianship of the other band members makes for some seriously epic music.  I don’t think they’ve ever made a song that I didn’t like.  Though it’s difficult to choose, Wrong Side of Heaven is certainly one of their best pieces.  This song describes the eternal battle between good & evil that exists inside all of us.  The lyrics refer to God as a “she” so if that offends you, I’m sorry that you will miss out on such an amazing song.  Wrong Side of Heaven describes how as adults we are faced with the startling realization that right & wrong are often not as easily recognized as we would like them to be & that at some points in life we are all going to be disappointed with the choices we make (“What have I done, who have I become?”).  In spite of this though we cannot take the easy way out & blame the devil or anyone else for our bad choices (“I spoke to the devil today, and he swears he’s not to blame/And I understood, ’cause I feel the same”).  This song resonates so much with me because I feel like the battle between right & wrong is something each of us faces every single day & we are all at times “on the wrong side of heaven & the righteous side of hell.”  Perhaps another reason this song speaks to me so much is that I often feel like I am caught in the middle with my friends because I am more conservative than my liberal friends & more liberal than my conservative friends. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsCp3l815G8

6. All I’m Dreaming Of by Black Stone Cherry: Black Stone Cherry is an awesome rock band with a lot of Southern rock influences that are sadly not as well known as they should be.  Their entire album from which this song comes is fabulous.  All I’m Dreaming Of is a gorgeous song that speaks to the need for more love in the world.  I think the best way to show the power of this song is simply to share some of the lyrics, so here are some of my favorite lines from the piece: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I60g8Vfr0xs

Something about our world today
That makes me wanna cry
There’s too much anger and too much pain
Too much money and too many lies
If I could have one wish tonight
I would beg of us to forget our pride
If we could do just one thing right,
We could help each other to love our lives

All I’m dreamin of is good times, good friends, and somebody to love
All I’m dreamin of is no fears, no tears, and blue skies up above

7. It’s My Life by Bon Jovi: To me this song encapsulates so much of the traditional spirit of rock & roll.  This song celebrates the idea that life is short so we better make the most of it while we can.  Sometimes that means doing things our way & disregarding the opinions of others, even those who mean well but don’t agree with us for whatever reason.  I certainly don’t think that we should seek to have fun at the expense of others or disregard our work/school/family obligations in search of fun, but I do think we should seek to enjoy our lives as much as possible.  For after all if we don’t enjoy life, why are we here?  To me this song embodies the idea that instead of asking why we should do something we ought to be asking “why not?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SKFwtgUJHs

I could write about so many more songs but then this post would be long & probably boring.  To me rock & roll encompasses the whole spectrum of human emotion & that’s what makes it so powerful.  Please check out some of these pieces if you’re not familiar with them; I promise they won’t disappoint.  As someone who once thought rock & roll was of the devil & generally grating to the ears, I can now say I’ve learned there is so much more to it than initially meets the eye (or should I say the ear?) & it’s well-worth your time to invest in some good rock music.  You never know, it might even become your new favorite genre, as it has for me!