Good Charlotte: It’s Been a While Old Friend

It’s time to bust out my MADE hoodie and LeVel 27 shirts. Good Charlotte is in the house.

I have been a long time fan of GC, as I have chronicled before (check out my review over The Young and The Hopeless here and my review of The Madden Brother’s Greetings from California here). When I heard they were releasing a new album, I was pretty excited. I could once more hear my mom shriek as she saw Benji and Joel’s tattoos and become flabbergasted by such “hard rock” music from the early 2000’s. Good Charlotte and their image was not quite like the Nsync and Backstreet Boys albums I usually asked for.

FullSizeRenderNow let’s jump back 11 years to the present. I have relentlessly jammed out to GC music since and their last album, Cardiology, had me wondering where the band would go next. Well, wifes and babies is what came next for the members of GC. Unfortunately, I’m still single and my dog died last year.

Furthermore, GC has now released their brand new album Youth Authority. The guys always seem to make an album that stops me dead in my tracks and this album is not an exception.

The lyrics, song choices, instrumentation, and content of Youth Authority have matured from their previous records, but there is still that rebellious flair. The sound of the album may seem lighter at first listen, but the treasure of this record is in the lyrics. This album also doesn’t disappoint in the sound I believe GC created, a universal pop/punk sound.* This is truly an album for the fans.

*Disclaimer: I’m not putting their music down by calling it “pop.” I simply am saying that their music crosses over rock and pop charts causing more people to hear their message and their music. It’s a good thing.

The album begins with “Life Changes,” a song of survival and defying the odds. The key lyrics to remember in this song is “You know that love changes. The pain, it rearranges,” for this sets the tone for the entirety of the album.

From @GoodCharlotte's twitter

From @GoodCharlotte’s twitter

The album then goes into its three singles, “Makeshift Love,” “40 oz. Dream,” and “Life Can’t Get Much Better.”  “Makeshift Love” is a more optimistic and slightly sarcastic take on the GC fan favorite, “My Bloody Valentine.” If only there was a triage for the poor boy in that song. “40 oz. Dream” is an ode to what every 1990’s and 2000’s kid misses about what music used to be. The lifestyles of the rich and famous seemed to have hijacked our sound.

“LIfe Can’t Get Much Better” is one of my favorite tracks off the album. This song comes at a slower pace and contemplates the goodness of life that comes with time. The members of GC have been through a lot and it seems they are finally in a place of contentment with this song.

Flipping the record to side B truly solidifies what GC’s message is with this album. This side opens with “Stray Dogs,” a fun song admitting that our other “halfs” really do make up the best of us. Then we have “The Outfield,” a song directed straight at those of us who were once young and hopeless.

I find “Cars Full of People” and “War” to be the lyrical highlights of this album.”Cars” speaks of the people who reek judgement, but never stop to see the actual situation. This is a song of survival and it contains a middle finger to all naysayers. “War” speaks of the war we go through in our lives, but also the war one is willing to pursue for others. Underneath these lyrics this is a song of love and loyalty.

Thus, I find this album to have three resonating themes: survival, finding yourself in others, and never-changing who you are.

First we have survival. The members of GC have survived many hardships and they faced a  lot of people who didn’t think they could make it, let alone last. This is obvious in tracks like “Life Can’t Get Much Better” and “Moving On.” All members of GC have found themselves in different industries flourishing with success. They have survived this storm and proven many wrong.

Inspiring liner notes from Benji Madden.

Inspiring liner notes from Benji Madden.

Next is how the guys have found themselves in others. It’s all about love and hugs here. So many of these songs are what I consider “you” songs, which are songs that point to someone else who has helped you discover who you are while becoming inseparable to who you have become. They make fun of themselves over this topic in the song “Stray Dogs” while getting serious in songs like “War.” This aspect was also obvious in “Makeshift Love.” On the surface, this song is about a bad relationship, but it is set in the past tense.

Lastly, there is the theme of never-changing who you are, amidst any circumstance. Each member of GC’s lives has taken a 180 since we last heard from them, yet their music still carries the same demeanor and they still play on the same topics. The difference with this album is that their lives have now progressed and evolved around these topics. I found this message in “40 oz. Dream” and “The Outfield,” amongst almost every other track.

Right now in my life I have made a huge move to New York. It’s a world of difference from Oklahoma, but I am welcoming the change. I am progressing. Sure I have my naysayers and a huge fear of failure, but I know I will make it somehow. I’m working toward the lives GC has found and this album inspires the strength of perseverance within me.

Thank you Good Charlotte.

Although, in retrospect, when looking at GC’s entire career, this album has inspired me to move on and realize great things are in store like…

Life. Love. Truth. Trust. Faith. Pride. Love.

 

Yesterday is Not Over: The Sound of Melinda Doolittle

As I have dived deeper into the music listening world of vinyl albums, I have found a culture emerge, especially in the realm of vintage vinyl. I have vinyl records ranging from the 1940’s to today, but there is a different quality to some of my more dated albums and artists.

Back in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s performers had a real task on their hands. Their career could not simply evolve around annual albums and recordings. These performers had to prove themselves time and time again in front of audiences. They had one shot to prove who they were, if it was an audience of 5 or broadcast to millions of people across the world. Their performance and raw talent defined their success.

FOX+American+Idol+Finale+Farewell+Season+Arrivals+1CsQg0FYyxRlThese performances did not have rewind, pause, or “do over” opportunities. It was a one shot game. If they missed, the audience in front may walk away, but if they made it, they had audiences for a lifetime.

That is exactly why I am a fan of Melinda Doolittle. Many of you will remember her from American Idol season six where she came in 3rd, yet I remember her for her timeless performances and how she encompasses the vinyl culture.

I recently sat down with Doolittle via Skype for a one on one conversation about her career, performance style, and what the music world means to her. After speaking with her one on one, I can tell you she is an artist of sincerity, skill, and raw talent.

To know Doolittle’s career and to understand her character and ambition, one must first start at American Idol. Ironically, this was a competition based solely on performance. We quickly began discussing different aspects of her season on American Idol, like what was it like to have Diana Ross as a mentor and the audition process. Doolittle told the story of how she went to try out for American Idol with a group of friends, frankly not expecting to get anywhere.

“When my friend talked me into auditioning for Idol, I thought of it like a joke. First of all, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Secondly, that I would make it as far as I did.”

This wasn’t a lack of confidence on Doolittle’s part though, she was simply content in her line of work. She had become a “first call” back up singer in Nashville. Often producers would wait for Doolittle to come into the studio and lay down background vocals for different artists, including Aretha Franklin, Aaron Neville and Michael McDonald.

“I loved singing background and I had the delusion that when the show was over that I would go back to that…It didn’t dawn on me that I was going to have to do the artist thing.”

Many of Doolittle’s performances dominated season six of American Idol. She got rave reviews for many of her performances from the judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell. Her first big breakthrough was her rendition of “My Funny Valentine,” after which Jackson said she was the one to beat. Cowell began to call Doolittle his personal favorite. When she was eliminated in the top three Cowell has remarked that she should have won.

Although, Doolittle was actually at ease when she didn’t win the American Idol crown. She said she was content and “not upset at all” when Ryan Seacrest called her name to be eliminated.

a98cdbaa5e964c4c82ab029d7d201700“The fact I made it to 3rd doesn’t sound right in my head and I never expected it, but it forced me to learn I really did have a voice as an artist. It taught me what my voice was.”

American Idol may have taught Doolittle what her voice was, but what she channels in her talents today is remarkable.

After season six, American Idol went on to set up meetings for Doolittle with various labels, most of tem being Christian labels. Doolittle, who is an avid Christian, didn’t want to sign with a Christian label.  Although she is a woman of strong faith and her concerts today are not complete with out a few gospel numbers, she wanted to make a different kind of record.

In the end, Doolittle was happy with the path her career initially took. She was free of a contract and in charge of her own musical fate. Doolittle began to shop around labels and eventually signed with Hi-Fi Records and recorded her debut album Coming Back To You. This was Doolittle’s coming out record for she took 10 steps up to the front mic for a full record. Now she needed backup singers.

“Idol forced me into being an artist, which is great. I feel like God tricked me into actually being an artist.”

Although this gave Doolittle freedom, she was also sceptical. When Doolittle began looking for labels she didn’t know what kind of music she wanted to do. She had already ruled out a Christian record at the moment and she was now ruling out pop, for a very observant reason.

“I feel when I try to sing pop it’s like an elephant stomping on a track. The track is all nice, light, and airy, and then I sing. I have a heavy voice.”

18888-coming-back-to-youSo Coming Back to You resulted in a pure soul album that was reminiscent of Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight, and Al Green. Doolittle said that she is just an old school girl and she didn’t know anything different. She made an album that was her style and by her own rules.

Doolittle has gone on to release various recordings that have received praise. Her most recent set of recordings is an extended play titled You’re The Reason in 2013. These tracks find Doolittle experimenting with modern R&B with a dash of pop while keeping in touch with her old-school, soulful roots. With this EP Doolittle co-wrote 3 of the 7 tracks. Writing was some what new for Doolittle and this process became therapeutic.

“When I went into the studio we were supposed to write a fun, up-beat, really great song. They asked me ‘What has been going on in your life?’ These people on Twitter had just reamed me. I posted a picture and they were saying ‘you’re so ugly.’ They were saying the worst things and I was so hurt by it, but I was trying to be strong about it…I needed to find out what my reaction to that is.”

Rolling with the punches was not an option for her and it was time to take a stand in her professional and personal life. Doolittle said she really didn’t find out who she was till about two years ago when this EP was released. This is obvious in the song content and the history behind these recordings.

melindadoolittle-epAlthough Doolittle had recorded with success, she stated that making records was not her favorite aspect of being an artist. So instead of delving deeper into her recordings we began to discuss her favorite way of delivering music: live performance. She was quick to say why she loved singing live.

“If there is not an audience I am bored out of my mind.”

Since American Idol Doolittle has performed around the world. She has performed at such esteemed venues as Carnegie Hall and The White House, amoungst many others. These experiences led Doolittle to look at making music differently then the industry’s generic formula. She decided to define herself through performing, not an album.

“From now on I’m going to let the shows determine the record. A lot of people let the record determine the show.”

Today, Doolittle decides what works with her voice by watching an audience’s reaction. It’s all about what the crowd brings out in her at that moment. The song has to work for both her and the people she is singing for. Then, I was curious what the determining factors assisted Doolittle in making musical choices.

“It’s the give and take with the audience. It doesn’t have to be because of applause. Sometimes I see it in somebody’s eyes, somebody cries when I’m singing or just like, I see joy on people’s faces in the audience….If their joy matches the joy I have singing it, then I found the song that works for both of us.”

Melinda_Doolittle_performs_in_the_East_Room_of_the_White_House

Singing at The White House.

For Doolittle it is completely about the performance of the music in the here and now. Sure, she makes brilliant recordings, but that’s not the only aspect she is focused on when it comes to music. She stated how she didn’t care about the production or how grand the show was, the most important thing to Doolittle is how her music connects with an audience. She likes to see this first-hand, when she has her one chance to prove to the people immediately in front of her that she is a true artist with real talent.

This is a little reminiscent of days past.

“I need people to have an experience when they come to a show. I need it to be an escape, because the world we live in is not fun.”

Number one songs and awards don’t determine Doolittle’s status as a musician, nor does she particularly care about accolades. An artist’s true mission should be the music, the message, and the performance. If the music doesn’t resonate what does it mean? If the performance isn’t an experience, why would you go?

Doolittle isn’t of the old school, she’s of the real school. She can really sing and she can really perform.

She doesn’t take music lightly and she is a master of her song in its rawest environment, a live performance. This is what the singers of yesterday possessed, but that doesn’t mean it is an antiquated idea. This is what I believe is the vinyl culture. The reason I collect vinyl is for its genuine, warm, and pure vocals. Basically, the over all performance.

Vintage vinyl has within its groves some of the best, unaltered voices and performances of some of the greatest artists. It took a certain caliber to make a record and perform when these albums were made. Doolittle is of the vinyl caliber.

Doolittle does not take this feat lightly and she is aware of the torch she is carrying. She explained how it meant the world to her when people compliment her and tell her how she channels the great soul and classic artists.

Cnb2kwmUkAANGVi.jpg-large“I met Percy Sledge before he died. He stopped me backstage at an event we did together. He said ‘You carry our mantle and there aren’t many who will. Please don’t loose that. Please continue to do this. Promise me that you will.’ I was like ‘Oh yes sir'”

As I talked with Doolittle and as I have listened to her music, I have fumed over so many names in my head of who’s mantle she is carrying. I’ve thought Diana Ross, Gloria Gaynor, Judy Garland, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, and many more. The true question is now, how does Doolittle want to be remembered? Who does she look up too.

“I want to be Barbra [Streisand] with a side of Gladys [Knight].”

That, my fellow vinyl collectors, is the essence of a true performer, one that belongs on vinyl. Doolittle reminds me of the legends and performers that have come and gone, but the most important thing Doolittle reminds me is that….

Yesterday is not over.

Check out Doolittle’s latest performance with Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Jukebox and hear Toxic like you’ve never heard it….