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Tuesday, 28 January 2020

What Is It Like Working At The Food Court In Costco By Me: An Employee's Perspective & Insight

'It's Fast Food (i.e McDonalds, KFC, Burger King) - only with better pay and benefits'

By Waiching

A typical working day would involve undertaking a range of manual tasks and there is always work to be done, whether it is a busy day or not. Being a Costco food court worker, I feel as if a) you need to possess a good and solid work ethic, b) develop a thick skin as well as being patient, c) be extremely adaptable (as shifts change each week, you need to be fully flexible. One week you might be working 4 days a week... and 2 weeks later, 6 days a week) and be good at multitasking and d) be highly motivated to do the job. What is probably the toughest part of this job, is it can be physically demanding, as well as being mentally and emotionally exhausting and so hectic and working in an environment that is catering based, whilst it can bring out the best of us, it can also bring out the worst in us and others and lead to simmering and strained tensions, frustrations with supervisors, fellow colleagues and co-workers and thus, make you behave in ways that are unexpected and unnecessary. It's hardly surprising that it is dubbed by many as the most difficult out of all of the departments to work in. 

If this was your own business or company, you would go out of your way to attain positive and better results, and yet this is and can be a hard thing to do when you are working for an organisation who is paying your wages, - and yet, in general, it doesn't make money for the building. I'm not sure what it is like in other departments, but in the food court, you are constantly on the move and putting out food & serving members, whilst also maintaining the conditions of the food prep and seating areas. The expectations are and can be too high. My main responsibilities are cleaning the tables, doing the floor, filling things up, but when I am inside the kitchen, I assist in putting food out, cleaning the work surfaces and the walls, putting pizzas in the oven, preparing pizza dough to name. There are virtually two people running the front at the till serving members, with the rest or several of us at the back doing prep work.

The maximum hours you could work in one day is 8.5 and they fly by quickly, so long as you do the work and not think about the time. It is a lot of hard work and it can be tough and rough, but if you are prepared and willing to put in the maximum effort, or at least, try to make it work using your strengths and skills that you have, it makes your life a tad easier. (right-hand side photo of a pizza turntable)

By being used to working in a fast-paced environment and doing things rapidly, speedily and efficiently, as I am so hands-on, I get stuck in with the job and do it, over and over until I get it right and that I become so used to it. If you want to do well and enjoy it, you have to be constantly moving at a fast pace with each task. For me, the job is easy - yet it has its set of challenges as well, I have no qualms in tackling each of them. Being an entry-level position means anyone with little or no prior experience in catering or food retail can undertake the role, given as the skills and duties are easy to pick up, to learn and to grasp from day one, and once you do that, and you continue doing it, the better you will get. It's easy to pick up but this can also take a while to master and get right. Unlike my siblings and parents, I had no prior hands-on experience with food so when I accepted the food court role after the stock replenishing thing didn't work out, I was completely new to the whole thing. Thankfully, colleagues & my supervisors showed me the ropes and it wasn't that long until I figured it out and knew I had to do things by myself. I was one of three new hirees of who passed the 90-day probation period in December 2018 (during those 90 days, which is the period of three months, you have to impress and as long you don't mess up, you are kept on and your position is secure). 

The job itself is relatively straightforward, occasionally strenuous (they actually offered the role to 2 other people, but they turned it down & when they turned to me, I didn't hesitate in saying ''yes''), & but for really, really heavy objects, there is literally nothing that I can't manage, although I am working on prioritizing my tasks efficiently and feel as if I am still learning and progressing every time. Yet I have learnt to pace myself and to work as fast as I possibly can, which is why I consider my speed and being quick as being two of my prized assets. 

I realise that in working in this department, whilst it may work for myself, it is also not for everyone: you have to be mentally prepared for what comes your way; even when things go wrong or you are stuck on auto-pilot, I have learnt that you can't let the pressure, supervisors & members get to you and you mustn't allow your emotions to affect your duties and performance. If you do that, the supervisors and managers can easily notice when you are having an off-day, and thus, not normally performing to your usual standards. 

''Food court workers deserve tip jar for the s**t they deal with'' - Jonescz, reddit 

It is difficult to attain full-time status (I think you need to be working for 10 years or more to qualify), but I still get paid holidays and the benefits are better than with most places. Work at the food court is (hard) labour intensive, indeed - yet not impossible and the pay reflects that, and so in that respect, it becomes financially fulfilling and rewarding. Most places such as McDonald's probably doesn't pay as much as £9.10/9.50 ($14-14.50 in the U.S) as a starting wage for the same type of job. During weekends, it gets busier and I always find myself hustling and rushing all over the place to get as much done as possible and come closing time, there will be less mess and stuff for me to finish before I go home. 

''the food court is way too small of an operation for the amount of business we get. The new kiosk idea was smart, but not for Costco, at times we have 30 Blue tickets with (pre-paid) orders on them while also trying to take orders of customers in line. It is extremely overwhelming (especially when members are giving you a hard time 'cause they have to wait for their order) and I often have to fight the urge to get upset'' - Anonymous, Indeed

I think what appeals to me the most about this role is that there is always something to do, or that I find myself something to get on with, even when it isn't busy, instead of working at front end and standing at the till. A lot of people may enjoy that, but at Costco, this kills my momentum and it isn't long until boredom seeps in. 
I want to challenge myself. The least appealing aspect is when I do or have to do closing (it's as challenging with 3, or even just 2 people doing all the cleaning, tidying), but I just get on with it and in the end, go straight home. Over a year and 4 months later, I am still working at the food court, and to this day, I don't regret making this decision, whatsoever. Because I don't mind the work that I am doing, and as tiring and exhausting as it can get and despite all the hassle that comes with it, I focus on working my absolute best or hardest in doing it and getting paid for it but also communicating with my colleagues to achieve what needs to be done, work-wise. As the food court/cafe has fewer people working in this department, compared to say, front end, if there is say, 5 of us working, roughly we'd be doing double the amount of work of 10 people.

Oh, and unlike at McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, when we go home, our clothes don't smell of chip fat, grease and oil. 

There are things I'd implement and take out if I were in charge, to make our jobs easier: I'd make the prep/kitchen area bigger and extend it, so there is more space and people can move around freely, hire more staff, take out the sink and replace it with a dishwasher to clean the pots, trays, utensils and put in massive booming speakers and a microphone/headset/pre-recorded voice machine where you press a button and it blares out, ''next member, please!'', whenever members are queuing to be served. It will save us time from shouting at the top of our lungs, and losing our voices in the process! Also, a- clean- as- you- go routine/policy, thus, by the end of the day there is less washing up and cleaning to do and so, people can finish and get out on time. 

As with any other job, as well as the sole perks, it comes with the downsides as in you have your bad days, as well as good ones: the food court/cafe has a high turnover rate with people coming and going, I've seen great workers come and go over the course of last year. Yet those who choose to stick it out and keep going, deserve to be applauded for their efforts. I've read and come across some horror stories and tales from ex-workers, both online and in-person who practically loathed working in this department and in addition, some of the members can be difficult to deal with. 

''(The) food court has high turnover, due to people, baby boomer, millennial and Gen Y alike not being able to tolerate the amount of responsibility & work that goes into keeping one afloat & not cutting corners... I was the only one out of 4 new hires that lasted past their 90 days, 2 of which quit and one of which was let go, due to preferring to socialise and clique over doing any work'' - RTK9, reddit
''Way too stressful. Too many expectations and conflicting orders from managers. Hired with a bunch of new employees and we were all fired just before our 90 day probationary period ended. Worked my a** off everyday and still wasn't good enough. Pay is great but it wasn't worth the stress - I cried everyday before and after work'' - former employee, Glassdoor 

Like I said, I have my good days and bad ones, and whilst each day is never the same as the last, I enjoy the fact that I am in a role where I am utilising my existing skills, whilst gaining new ones along the way and whereby I feel as if I am achieving something by going out of my way and working tirelessly in doing so in this department. It's tough, it's challenging but I am up for it and probably see myself doing it until I retire, perhaps. 

Besides the pay and benefits, there are also the member compliments applauding my efforts, and I couldn't really ask for more than that. 

Thursday, 23 January 2020

10 Favourite Celine Dion Songs

By Waiching

Dubbed Quebec's answer to Whitney Houston, the bilingual Celine Dion is a gifted powerhouse pop vocalist performer and one of the most successful female recording artists of the past several decades. From a French-language teen music sensation in Canada and France, she has blossomed into an international pop superstar, whilst still remaining grounded in her roots. Come 1990, two years after winning the Eurovision song contest by representing Switzerland (which is a fact I still can't believe to this day), Celine released her first English language LP, Unison, and ever since then, her career in the 1990s into the early 2000s skyrocketed. Her third English offering, The Colour of My Love, which included hits in the Jennifer Rush cover, The Power of Love Think Twice, broke ground, selling 20 million worldwide and then came the follow-ups, such as 1996's Falling Into You (my favourite album of hers) that had great songs with notable hits, the meatloaf-inspired, It's All Coming Back To Me Now and If That's What It Takes. That album sold 32 million worldwide, followed by A New Day Has Come in 2002, whereby Celine released her first 2000s-based album and one that was arguably more adventurous, ambitious and sounding more versatile, outside of her norm. 

Those huge, overblown ballads, well, but for say 1997's My Heart Will Go On taken from the Titanic movie soundtrack, & I'd add perhaps the arid cover of Eric Carmen's All By Myself, have become profound and meaningful. Yet without regards to, she has come in for a lot of stick from critics and the equally sprawling masses, - with some accusing her of relying too much on pop & R&B conventions and for the excessive, over-the-top emoting and wabbling in her records. The disdain and ridicule of Celine from all quarters are mostly by virtue of her biggest and schmaltziest hit songs and their sentimentality lovey-dovey factor, which is the main complainant, that gets under people's skin. The term 'sentimental' means several things: sweet, tender, touching, poignant, sad... and there is the other end of the spectrum: adjectives in 'saccharine, syrupy, cringeworthy, corny, over-emotive', are often banded around by people with regards to Celine's love songs. It is quite the contrary with her Francophone releases whereby there is rarely an overbearing ballad in sight. Regardless, be it in French or English, whenever she sings, it is just too good. If people dug deep enough into her discography, they'd see to it there is more to Celine than just the 'Titanic song' that she is most well-known for. 

Celine Dion has been grouped in the same category as Whitney and Mariah Carey when it comes to power ballads and their powerfully rich and raw vocals & massive pipes dominated the bulk of 1990s Western pop music. For someone who didn't learn English until the late 1980s and of whom ultimately sang songs in English, and this helped her sell millions of records, this is quite an accomplishment coming from Celine. 

1. That's The Way It Is (1999); one of Celine's rarest, best and positive mid-tempo numbers, but also it is the much-needed welcome to her back catalogue, defying naysayers that she is not 'cool' enough to be able to embrace this current - or be it then latter 1990s- style of pop music, and alas, it represented a bold move for a singer who is predominately known for her ballads - and it paid off, brilliantly. It's lively, youthful, at the time of its release, That's The Way It Is was completely unanticipated from Celine, and by teaming up with the writers and producers behind the hits for Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, it thus resulted in another smash hit for the Canadian superstar.

''when you want it the most there's no easy way out, when you're ready to go and your heart's left in doubt, don't give up on your faith, love comes to those who believe it, and that's the way it is''

2. When The Wrong One Loves You Right (2001) - A New Day Has Come; this is almost in the similar vein to Everybody's Talkin' My Baby Down and to an extent, That's The Way It Is, only it is poppier, snappier, and, like the latter, it's a Max Martin production, courtesy of its catchier melodies and riffs. This should have been officially released as a single and through its production values, this was primed for radio airplay; if this had been the case, When The Wrong One... would have easily surged its way to the #1 spot. This is one of my personal favourites of hers.

''I can't stop, can't fight, can't resist it, when the wrong one loves you right (oh.... yeah), can't run, can't hide, can't say no, when the wrong one loves you right (oh...., when the wrong one loves you right'' 

3. Pour que tu m'aimes encore/If That's What It Takes (1995) - Falling Into You; French version, English version, it's still the same song, regardless, although I have a fondness for this one as Pour que tu m'aimes encore, as Celine vocally sounds even more beautiful. I think in English, it feels more rosy, confident, uplifting, defiant, whilst in French, it is more emotive, touching and flowing. This is also her most memorable French song. 

''J'irai chercher ton coeur si tu I'emportes ailleurs, meme si dans tes danses d'autres dansent tes heures, jirai chercher ton ame dans les froids dans les flammes, je te jetterai des sorts pour que tu m'aimes encore''/''when the storm rises up, when the shadows descend, ev'ry beat of my heart, ev'ry day without end, ev'ry second I live, that's the promise I make, baby, that's what I'll give, if that's what it takes, if that's what it takes''

4. Everybody's Talkin' My Baby Down (1993) - The Colour of My Love; A mid-tempo New Jack Swing number and a second stab at R&B, following on from Love Can Move Mountains, Celine belts out this underrated classic (and that's classic as in oldie, but a goodie also) effortlessly. What more can I add, but that Everybody's Talkin'... is a fabulous song.

''momma says he's bad for me, poppa says I'll be sorry, everybody's talkin' my baby down, and all my friends doubt him, tell me I should live without him, everybody's talkin' my baby down''

5. Nothing Broken But My Heart (1992) - Celine Dion; Diane Warren is credited for this early Celine ballad and it is taken from her second English- language LP, the self-titled, Celine. As I get older, I appreciate this one far more than I did before. The ending gives me goosebumps, especially. Nothing Broken But My Heart could have been a corny-sounding pop ballad, - yet Celine Dion makes it so incredibly good with an emotionally powerful vocal performance.

''oh baby, since you left me, you might think that my world's been torn apart, but if you see me, baby you'll see that, nothing's broken but my heart''

6. The Power of Love (1993) - The Colour of My Love; There have been several versions of this song released and dotted around on YouTube, but Celine's cover is my favourite: I prefer her vocals over Jennifer Rush's (who did the original) and Laura Branigan's and the production in this one, which gives this track that extra kick, is even better. As power ballads go, they come no bigger than the likes of The Power of Love and there is no voice bigger than say Celine Dion's to deliver it in such rousing and immaculate fashion, as she does here. As the power ballad wears on, she ups the ante, and with that, it granted Celine her first U.S #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart when it was released in 1994.

''....sometimes I am frightened but I'm ready to learn of the power of love''

7. Dreamin' of You (1995) - Falling Into You; this was released as a promo single in Mexico, but otherwise, it remained an album-only track. Dreamin' of You was penned by Aldo Nova, who was also responsible for the chart-topper, A New Day Has Come. It is without question, one of her finest, as well as musically & lyrically sweeping songs, ever and is yet another highlight from the brilliant, Falling Into You LP.

''you're the one I'm dreaming of, I can't live without your love, tonight, and it's you that I adore, you're the one I live for, inside, of you, I'm dreamin' of you''

8. Think Twice (1993) - The Colour of my Love; This was Celine's biggest ballad hit, years before My Heart Will Go On took over that mantle. When Think Twice spent several weeks at #1 in the UK, I got sick of listening to it. But these days, over the last 2 decades, it appears that the latter (IMO) was overrated, whilst the former was and still is underrated one should think twice (see what I did there) before ignoring this one. Part soft-rock, part- adult contemporary pop, I'll take this song over 1997's (virtually insufferable) classic that was on the soundtrack to the movie, Titanic.

''don't say what you're about to say, look back before you leave my life, be sure before you closed that door, before you roll those dice, baby think twice''

9. Somebody Loves Somebody (2013) - Loved Me Back To Life; taken from her 11th English studio album, it sounds very modern & in line with the current, or be it then-current music scene, it deserved a music video, as well as a single release. By evoking such raw emotion, it sounds radically different from the stuff she has put out in the 1990s and early 2000s. But in the snappy, fresh & curious -yet unwavering, Somebody Love Somebody, it just shows that Celine can produce a song, and one with a catchy chorus to boot, that can attract and appeal towards both younger and older fans.

''when somebody loves somebody, that's the way it's supposed to be, 'cause you know nobody else would put up with your games, oh, I don't believe you, lover, you don't wanna go, no, that's not the way it is when somebody loves somebody''


10. Did You Give Enough Love (1992) - Celine Dion; Another early 1990s Celine R&B jam but also a very rare one too, before she became the big star that she is today, with the singer trying something different to what we usually expect from her. It is very unexpected - and still, it majestically works. The music video is a little reminiscent of Madonna's Erotica with Celine looking demure and its Black & White footage. This is a gem of a bop for sure. 

''did you give enough love, did you show that you cared? when I needed understanding were you really there? Whenever I was down, did you try to pick me up? Maybe you should ask yourself, did you give enough love? Did you give enough love?''

*Honourable Mentions: Destin, Misled, Because You Loved Me, Little Bit of Love, I'm Your Angel, Treat Her Like A Lady (feat. Diana King & Brownstone), A New Day Has Come (Radio remix), Where Does My Heart Beat Now, Only One Road, Next Plane Out, Real Emotion, Love Doesn't Ask Why, Lovin' Proof, Love Can Move Mountains, Water From The Moon, River Deep Mountain High, Falling Into You, It's All Coming Back To Me Now, Miles to Go (Before I Sleep), Where is the Love?, Makes You Happy, Right In Front of Me, Rain, Tax (It's Inevitable), Super Love, Aun existe amor, Love Is All We Need, Your Light, On ne change pas, I'm Alive, If You Asked Me To, Coulda Woulda Shoulda, Goodbye's The Saddest Word, Des mots qui sonnet, Cherche Encore, Have a Heart

Sunday, 19 January 2020

10 Favourite Britney Spears Songs

By Waiching 

Back in the late 1990s, a pop star going by the name of Britney Jean Spears, a former Mouseketeer of The Mickey Mouse Club TV show, alongside NSYNC's Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez, Christina Aguilera and future Hollywood actor, Ryan Gosling, made her chart breakthrough at just 16 years old with the debut hit, 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' and through that, she became the poster girl of pop, singing about things about young love and stuff like that. Britney would go on to achieve further fame and fortune and of whom is still revered by many of her fans and fellow peers in the music business for reviving and being one of the originators of teen pop. Being the same age as Britney myself and with her being born in 1981, during the mid to late 1990s in my teens, I grew up with the Max Martin/Cheiron periods of Britney Spears (and arguably are still the most defining eras of her pop success to this date). 

Whilst she is still going strong and still actively making music today, she's been in the game for as long as three decades and for any pop artist who has been making pop music for as long as she has, and has had obtained the level of success that they have, be it Britney, Kylie, Madonna likewise, they pretty much deserve to be lauded as the true pop icons and legends of all-time. Okay, they might have had songwriters penning their songs and thus, they played a central role in their success, but there is no taking away that some of Britney's classic hits and anthems are timeless and some of today's artists and singers, particularly female pop stars, have either cited or voiced their appreciation of and for Brit as a musical influence or inspiration to themselves, as well as in advancing their own careers. Notable performers include Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Ava Max and Lady Gaga. 

It wasn't so much that Britney's shift from teeny-bopper bubblegum pop singer to a more grown-up, sensuous and experienced Britney was to be expected; at the time of 2003 it felt sort of, sudden perhaps and unforeseen, but it was also a period through which pop music was heading into a different direction: 2007's Blackout was and still is hailed by many as her best effort to date and released at a time when Britney had a bit of a tough spell in her private life - yet in listening to it today, it felt like to me as if it lacked the energy and sought after pure pop anthems and tunes of her earlier outings that helped define her as a colossal star. And but for Toxic, as much as I tried, I just couldn't get into that album.  

Songs and albums-wise, consistently, but for perhaps say after, In The Zone, Britney had some of the best material on the trio in Baby, One More Time, Oops!, I Did It Again and Britney. She has a very extensive and quintessential discography going as far back as to the LP, Baby, One More Time and the success of that album, not to mention debut single, launched her to superstardom, it was challenging enough to select just 10 songs (as she has so many great ones to choose from, both released and unreleased-wise) and in determining what are the key attributes that make for a great Britney Spears pop record: catchy, memorable and great melodies, great vocal work, just songs that you want to rewind and listen to over and over again. 


1. I Will Be There (1999) - Baby, One More Time; this should have been released as the final single in place of From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart, which was good for a ballad, but it just wasn't single material. Whereas the feel-good acoustic number, 'I Will Be There' had all the trimmings of a great chart-topper. With credits by Max Martin and production values from the hit factory in Sweden's Cheiron and Britney's vocals & impressive backing vocal work, this reigns supreme as my ultimate favourite Britney song: not overly produced, not too uptempo but also not too low tempo either and she doesn't overdo it with her singing efforts here, the balance, both lyrically and musically as a whole, was just right and so perfect.

''when you need someone you just turn around, & I will be there. When your feeling low, baby, let me know, &  I will be there''

2. Born To Make You Happy (1999) - Baby, One More Time; a breakup song, and arguably the best Britney Spears ballad, by far. Terrific melodies, was a bit surprised to learn it received mixed reviews from critics and that this mid-tempo-ish song wasn't released as a single in the U.S in favour of From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart. As number one singles go for her, Born To Make You Happy is often overlooked. 

''I don't know how to live without your love, I was born to make you happy. 'Cause you're the only one up in my heart, I was born to make you happy''

3. (You Drive Me) Crazy (1999) - Baby, One More Time; as infectious as the debut, Baby, One More Time, my favourite version is the album version over the 'Stop' remix, I love the pop-rock vibes in this one, and the bridge is great and plus, it sounds less 'mechanical' if that is the right word, or be it processed. Song-wise, it has a similar structure to Oops!... I Did It Again, although (You Drive Me) Crazy is more upbeat and danceable. The third single off Baby, One More Time, this is still a choon, despite it featuring in the rom-com movie flop titled, You Drive Me Crazy starring Melissa Joan Hart of Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

''You drive me crazy I just can't sleep, I'm so excited I'm in too deep. Ohhh... crazy, but it feels alright, baby, thinkin' of you keeps me up all night''

4. Stronger (2000) - Oops! ... I Did It Again; Kelly Clarkson's Stronger is great, but Britney's Stronger is an even greater song and the production is first-class throughout. Empowering, energetic and impressive, thanks to Max Martin's arrangement and penned lyrics, that, along with Britney's vocal style, helps elevate the song to a whole different level

''Now I'm stronger than yesterday, now it's nothing but my way, my loneliness ain't killing me no more, I, I'm stronger''

5. What U See (Is What U Get) (2000) - Oops! ... I Did It Again; the sheer volume of potential and could-have-been and should-have-been Britney tracks, both album wise and unreleased that would have made for great singles is enormous, and being in the vein of StrongerWhat U See... would have made for yet another hit chart record in the making.

''What you see is what you get, this is me, hey you, if you want me, don't forget, you should take me as I am, 'cause I can promise you, baby what you see is what you get''

6. Lucky (2000) - Oops!... I Did It Again; I noticed that the bassline of this song kind of plays out similarly to Ben E. King's Stand By Me; still, this is very melodic and infectious about a star named Lucky who has everything, money, fame but happiness. 

''She's so lucky, she's a star, but she cry, crym cries in her lonely heart, thinking if there's nothing missing in my life, then why do these tears come at night''

7. Lonely (2001) - Britney; I Love Rock'n'Roll wouldn't have been my single choice from her LP, Britney.... and I am not the only one who echoes this sentiment and the fact that then- Britney's label, Jive opted for that song over say, Lonely which is far more legit and superior by comparison, is puzzling. With production by Rodney 'Darkchild' Jerkins, it sounds edgier, meatier and with beats that hit and land hard, like something that Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson or early Pink in her R&B days (& before she went down the pop route) would have recorded themselves. 

''think of all the time that I wasted, think of all the times that I took you back, ain't no way I'll be lonely, I don't wanna let you back in, let's just face it (face it) better off alone and I won't turn back, thought that I would be lonely, I don't wanna let you back in''

8. Anticipating (2001) - Britney; has that shimmering, summery vibe that is part-bubblegum pop, part- Janet Jackson; speaking of which it sounds rather similar to Janet's All For You and is very '70s disco-ish also. It's groovy as hell. 

''I'll be anticipating, this is our song they're playing, I wanna ride with you, you're feeling this right, let's do this tonight''

9. Sometimes (1999) - Baby One More Time; one of her more grown-up tracks, this mid-tempo ballad is one of her most memorable ballads alongside Born To Make You Happy. The Soul Solution Mid-Tempo mix is my favourite remix, it takes the original and turns it up several notches with its upbeat, poppier feel that it gives off.

''Sometimes I run, sometimes I hide, sometimes I'm scared of you. But all I really want is to hold you tight, treat you right, be with you day and night. Baby, all I need is time''

10. Shadow (2003) - In The Zone tied with I'll Never Stop Loving You - Baby One More Time (1999); I wasn't keen on Britney's covers, but I'll Never Stop Loving You was brilliant and a perfect choice for her vocals. This was a cover of an R&B single that was originally sung by J-Son in 1995, which I loved but it didn't light up the charts. It was given a pop twist, a few years later back in 1998/1999 by Britney and Max Martin, and her rendition here was great, and in listening to it, her vocals sound amazing, especially when she hits all the high notes. Shadow was probably the highlight of the R&B-imbued In The Zone that I enjoyed, but it didn't have more songs that I loved that her previous three albums produced. This is a slow song, but a perfect one, which is unfortunately slept on. For me anyway, Shadow is the superior Britney ballad from In The Zone and one I'd take this over Everytime, which received a single release but it was pretty blase. Shadow is virtuously beautiful & swaying; I just couldn't choose out of these two Britney ballads. 

''It's only your shadow, never yourself, it's only your shadow, nobody else. It's only your shadow, filling the room, arriving too late and leaving too soon, and leaving too soon'' - Shadow  

''From now until forever, that's how long I'll be true, I will make you this vow & promise you now until forever, I'll never stop (never stop), never stop loving you'' - I'll Never Stop Loving You

*Honourable Mentions: From The Bottom of My Broken Heart, Deep In My Heart, Overprotected, Cinderella, I'm Not A Girl Not Yet A Woman, Can't Make You Love Me, Circus, I Wanna Go, (Drop Dead) Beautiful, I'm So Curious, You Got It All, She'll Never Be Me, Tell Me (Am I A Sinner?), Criminal, When I Say So, Guilty (alternative version), Instant Dejavu, Rockstar, Pull Out, Quicksand (featuring Lady Gaga), All That She Wants, Burning Up (Madonna cover), Kiss You All Over, Walk On By, 3, Piece of Me, Criminal, Don't Go Knocking On My Door, Oops! I Did It Again, When I Say So, Let Me Be, That's Where You Take Me, Showdown, Intimidated 

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

10 Favourite Kylie Minogue Songs

By Waiching

It's unreal to think that Kylie Minogue has taken the UK, as well as native Australia and Europe by storm (with the U.S to follow later on in the 2000s) and her back catalogue goes as far back as the late 1980s to even this day, spanning 30 years and 4 decades. I Should Be So Lucky was played constantly on the radio as a young girl in 1988 and that was my first introduction to Kylie.

She has released 14 studio albums and - wait for it - 74 chart singles, which is staggering, since she disembarked on a solo pop career, after leaving the soap opera, Neighbours

From her humble beginnings as Charlene to her debut in the shape of the cover version, The Locomotion to becoming a product of the Stock Aitken and Waterman factory assembly line, and one where they were labelled as 'The Hit Factory' to her post-PWL recordings, Kylie has evolved over the years and in doing so, she has established herself as one of the all-time bonafide pop queens. With each decade, she manages to reinvent herself and remain relevant in the music scene, and all despite a few blemishes along the way. 

Often described as a rival to Madonna in the late 1980s to 1990s, when the two singers were pitted against each other by the press and media, Kylie went on a trailblaze of glory and did her own thing and Madonna did hers, and with that, they each became successful on their individual terms, career-wise. In an industry ruled and dominated by American and British acts, it makes Kylie's success even more remarkable. My favourite Kylie era is still the PWL/SAW period, whereby upon until 1992/93, the material she had churned out, ranged from very good to great, she did no wrong in my eyes. From a young teen pop princess to an adult pop queen, I see parallels with yet another then- young pop star who has over the years evolved, namely in Britney Spears.      

Kylie Minogue has released and recorded so many songs, both singles and albums-wise to select 10 was no easy feat for me, yet in these offerings, these tracks represent my personal soundtrack to one of Melbourne music's finest:

1. Got To Be Certain (1988) - originally recorded by Mandy Smith, thankfully, PWL withdrew her rendition in favour of Kylie's as a single release. It's carefree, cheesy, poppy, and oh so unbelievably catchy, but it is also a cracking pop record. The second single after the hugely massive debut, I Should Be So Lucky, I could listen to this one so many times and not get bored of it at all.

''I've got to be, got to be certain, I've got to be so sure, I've had my share of hearts broken, and I don't wanna take that any more''

2. Wouldn't Change A Thing (1989) - this song is nothing short of a pop masterpiece and it still is brilliant, 30+ years on. Taken from the LP Enjoy Yourself, it debuted at #2 and remained on the UK chart for 9 weeks. Much like with her Stock Aitken & Waterman output, Wouldn't Change A Thing is a superb little pop number. 

''If I had to do it all again, I wouldn't change a single thing, there's no questioning in my heart, when it comes to our love, I wouldn't change a thing''

3. Hand on Your Heart (1989) - disguised with an uplifting instrumental, the lyrics are rather sad and these are masked along with a signature dance routine. It was praised by many as being a strong single for Kylie, and it is with its sing-a-long & memorable lyrics. And it became and is one of her biggest pop hits, ever.  

''Put your hand on your heart and tell me it's all over, I won't believe it 'til you, put your hand on your heart and tell me, that we're through, ooh''

4. Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi (I Still Love You) (1988) - a mid-tempo ballad -type song with contrasting lyrics & a French theme going for it as well. The song features a variety of instruments used that include a drum machine, a few guitar riffs and synthesizers. It sounds great and the melody that is produced by PWL is spot-on. 

''I, I I'm wondering why, I still love you, Je ne sais pas pourquoi, I still want you, Je ne sais pas pourquoi''

5. I Should Be So Lucky (1988) - the one that started it off all for her pop career and a global smash for Kylie as it reached #1 in 4 countries, including the UK and her native Australia. I Should Be Lucky was recorded in less than an hour and interestingly features on the soundtrack of the 1989 film, 'Cookie'. Undeniably, this is Kylie's landmark record; the Bicentennial remix is my favourite version of the song. I realise a lot of people aren't fans of this song, but this still does it for me, 30+ years on.

''I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, I should be so lucky in love''

6. Better The Devil You Know (1990) - after two girl-next-door efforts, Kylie decided to switch things up by trading the girl next door innocent look for one that was bold, confident and sexy and to reinvent herself; that and she and also made a sexually- charged video to go with the record. The song was later covered by Steps, 9 years after its original release, but now, even 4 decades later, Better The Devil You Know still reigns as a classic signature Kylie pop anthem. 

''I'll forgive and forget, if you say you'll never go, 'cos it's true, what they say, better the devil you know''

7. Nothing To Lose (1992) - a track off the Enjoy Yourself LP, and one that ought to have been released as a single. Whilst SAW were the producers and creators, songs such as Nothing To Lose required a singer in Kylie to help bring them to life, which she did. It also exudes a fun feel-good factor to go with it. This is and ought to have been the successor to Wouldn't Change A Thing. 

''Gotta take a chance, gotta make a move, got everything to gain, and nothing to lose, ah, nothing to lose, everything to gain, and nothing to lose''

8. Fever (2002) - from the self-titled 7th album (and even better than the previous Light Years), this too should have been released as a single, whilst dance-wise, its electro -track beat and style are radically different to her PWL productions, there are still hints of their infectious melodies and chorus brimming through it. Lyrically, it's suggestive & saucy and musically, it's hip, it's danceable and unquestionably catchy.  

''Fever sure has got me good, what you do when fever takes hold, I can't help but need this drug, don't you feel the fever like I do, feel the fever''

9. Obsession (2005) - Yet another terrific non-single record, it's a song about wanting or be it needing love for the wrong reasons. Taken from Body Language, that album wasn't as well-received as Fever and Light Years but it still had some good gems lurking in that one. Obsession is heavily influenced by R&B; it's bouncy, slick and stylish too. When it comes to her non-PWL stuff, Body Language is, for me anyway, her most overlooked and understated effort that, with great tracks in the likes of Obsession, deserves more than a few listens.

''You don't need love, it's a question of obsession, so drawn to your own reflection, you want someone, like a personal possession, to shine, light on, your perfection''   

10. Love At First Sight (2002) - Kylie co-wrote this song that was released as a third single off the Fever LP, this is one of several great tracks from it. Whilst More More More is the opener, Love At First Sight is when things start to kick in with a funky '70s-ish beat. A song that could easily rival Better The Devil You Know. This is a disco - type song given a 2000s flavour, and it's bloody brill! 

''and everything went from wrong to right, and the stars came out and filled the sky, the music you were playing really blew my mind, it was love at first sight''

*Honourable Mentions: Sexy Love, Dancing, Stop Me From Falling, Golden, Please Stay, I'm Over Dreaming (Over You), All I Wanna Do Is Make You Mine feat. Jason Donovan, Secrets, Put Yourself In My Place, Spinning Around, Never Too Late, Keep on Pumpin' It, Some Kind of Bliss, Always Find The Time, What Do I Have To Do?, What Kind of Fool? (Heard All That Before), One Boy Girl, Spinning Around, Red Blooded Woman, Rhythm of Love, Burning Up, Secret (Take You Home), Celebration (Have A Party Mix), Still Standing, Sweet Music, All I See feat. Mims, Wow, Put Your Hands Up (Pete Hammond Remix), On A Night Like This, Let's Get To It, Live & Learn, Right Here Right Now, Word Is Out, Too Much of a Good Thing, Just Wanna Love You

Monday, 13 January 2020

10 Favourite Rihanna Songs

By Waiching

Over the past two decades, Barbadian Robyn Rihanna Fenty burst onto the global pop scene back in 2005 with the dancehall flavoured, 'Pon De Replay', who has also turned her attentions to acting and starring in movies, as well as dabbling in fashion. Her hits not only have dominated radio airwaves over the past 2 decades, but her music videos and performances have garnered millions, or be it billions of views on YouTube. In contrast to her other Caribbean musical counterparts of whom are primarily in the reggae field, Rihanna's work spans a mixture of diverse musical influences and genres. By incorporating pop, rock, R&B, rap, dancehall, she has a total of 8 albums and 52 singles under her belt as of today. 

Yet it was the 2007 smash hit, 'Umbrella' with a little help from Jay Z - which was turned down by Britney Spears - that truly opened doors for her pop career to blossom. Though if Umbrella was the 'lift-off' for Ri-Ri, then most certainly 2009's Rated R was and still is the most significant chapter of her pop career, along with being a game-changer; displaying the bold, fearlessness of Rihanna (not to mention a comeback of huge proportions in the wake of the Chris Brown incident), whilst it didn't match the commercial and the groundbreaking success of Good Girl Gone Bad, - and it's an album that I still enjoy a great deal -, creatively, musically and diversely and critically acclaimed, Rated R still ticked pretty much all the right boxes and helped cemented her position as a musical artist, not just a pop star by going out of her comfort zone and be daring. The R must have referred to 'Raw', which it was, & not just 'Rihanna'. 

I've weighed in with 10 chosen songs that I enjoy listening to the most from Rihanna:  

 1. Cold Case Love (2009) - Favourite Rihanna song, personally and one of many from her huge back catalogue, it is also the highlight of 2009's Rated R, which was written by Justin Timberlake. Vocally, Rihanna sounds inch-perfect and in hitting each note impeccably; lyrically it is excellent, though it may infer or directly refer to the Chris Brown assault, musically it is sweeping with an emphatic -yet rousing finish, and Timberlake is very good to great when it comes to penning not only the chorus and verses but also the bridge of his and other artists' songs - ''we lost our way, took this too far, now I'll never find the pieces of my heart'' -, love this part. 

''we opened up a cold case love, and it got the best of us. And now prints, pictures and white outlines, are all that's left at the scene of a crime, of a cold case love''

2. Hate That I Love You feat. Ne-Yo (2007) - a mid-tempo ballad written by Ne-Yo which drew comparisons and similarities with Beyonce's Irreplaceable: another Ne-Yo penned song in terms of composition and chord structure. The Spanish version has vocalist Bisbal in place of Ne-Yo. When it comes to modern pop duet records, Hate That I Love You, is simple but also top draw stuff.

''And I hate how much I love you, boy (yeah), I can't stand how much I need you (I need you), and I hate how much I love you boy (Oh, whoa), but I just can't let you go. And I hate that I love you so''

3. Te Amo (2009) - One of Rated R's less heavy tracks and seen by many as one of the album's weak spots, Te Amo (which is Spanish and Portuguese for 'I Love You') is still a fine- flowing, gentle song with Latin influences about the relationship of two women, with one proclaiming her love for Rihanna by saying 'Te Amo'. It is beautiful as it is pleasing. 

''Then she said 'Te amo', then she put her hand around my waist. I told her ''no'', she cried 'te amo'...''

*image by Canyon

4. Fire Bomb (2009) - a put- your- lighters- in- the- air - type of guitar ballad, it's in the soft rock reign with the theme of tortured love and act of arson being committed. Preferably, this ought to have been the send-off of Rated R, as opposed to The Last Song

''the lovers needa clear the road, ohhh, 'cause this thing is ready to blow, ohhh, I just wanna set you on fire so I won't have to burn alone, then you, then you'll know where I'm comin' from, fire bomb, fire bomb''

5. Russian Roulette (2009) - the bleak - yet brooding Russian Roulette is Rihanna at her most passionate best, vocally and listening to her sing shows. It is moving, emotional but also heartwrenching & intense. Here, lyricist Ne-Yo is economical and evocative and as ballads and slow tempo songs go, undoubtedly this is in the Rihanna top 5 easily. 

''And you can see my heart beating, you can see it through my chest, said ''I'm terrified'', but I'm not leaving, I know that I must pass this test, so just pull the trigger (trigger, trigger, trigger)''

6. What's My Name? feat. Drake (2010) - Rihanna post-Rated R, but also channelling her softer side, laced with a reggae-style beat and coupled with a warm and infectious hook. Rihanna's performance once again showed signs of growth in this mid-tempo & polished track which topped the charts in both the UK and US.

''oh na-na, what's my name?, oh na-na, what's my name?, oh na-na, what's my name?''

7. Good Girl Gone Bad (2007)  - Written by Norwegian artist, Lene Martin who sang 'Sitting Down Here', this is another mid-tempo modern acoustic-based track with terrific, slick production by Stargate. 

''easy for a good girl to go bad, and once we're gone (gone), best believe we've gone forever, don't be the reason, don't be the reason, you better learn how to treat us right, 'cause once a good girl goes bad, we done forever''

8. Stupid in Love (2009) - On the first listen, I didn't like it as the chorus' lyrics are repetitive, but after several listens, it became a definite grower: another song penned by Ne-Yo, it is a traditional ballad that was dismissed by a lot of critics as being forgettable and divided some Ri-Ri fans. It was originally recorded by Brandy, but in the end, it went to Rihanna. For me, it was the bridge part that saved it for me; had it not been for that and the way it was composed, I wouldn't have given it any more than one listen. But alas, it was enjoyable and Rihanna delivered yet another impressive emotional serving of her vocal talents. People who enjoyed Unfaithful taken from A Girl Like Me may appreciate this one.

''This is stupid, I'm not stupid, don't talk to me, like I'm stupid. I still love you, but I just can't do this. I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid''

9. G4L (Gangster For Life) (2010) - a slickly produced, fast-paced electronica-style beat whereby Rihanna leads the way and expressing her bad girl attitude; If the good girl Rihanna went bad in 2006's offering, then in 2010 this good girl turned badder, as she goes for the in-yer-face darker approach. In Russian Roulette, she was the victim yet the tables are turned by Ri-Ri with G4L in full-on vengeful mode. The end result is startling, raging, bizarre perhaps but also brilliant, even though she curses several times on the track. It's offputting for some, but that didn't bother me due to the frenetic energy and tone G4L was conveying that I quite liked. 

'' know I'm down, down for life, load it, reload it and let's go, gangsta for life, 'til the day that I die, yeah, I promise I'm standing high, 'cause you know that I'm down, you know I'm down, gangsta for life''

10. Shut Up And Drive (2007) - As catchy as Umbrella and became a big- if not as bigger hit than the former, this somewhat frothy speed-driven, pop-rock song is still acutely good. Even though the song itself isn't about driving cars, well it's about, erm sex and it was featured in the animated movie, Wreck-It-Ralph. Ho-hum. Sampling New Order's Blue MondayShut Up And Drive was the first real record of the then-18-year-old Rihanna's outside the dancehall and R&B vein and shows she can easily transition into the pop-rock phase.

''...'cause I'm zero to 60 in three point five, baby you got the keys, now shut up and drive (drive, drive, drive), shut up and drive (drive, drive, drive)''

*Honourable Mentions: Talk That Talk, Roc Me Out, Sell Me Candy, Kiss It Better, Diamonds, Umbrella, Rude Boy, Wait Your Turn, Cry, Unfaithful, Hard, Take A Bow, Disturbia, The Monster (featuring Eminem), If I Never See Your Face Again (with Maroon 5), Who's That Chick?, Live Your Life, Four Five Seconds, California King Bed, Do Ya Thang, Fading, Where Have You Been, Birthday Cake 
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