Last Night, I Couldn’t Win

“One, two princes kneel before you.”
-Spin Doctors, “Two Princes

I’m a spoiled college football fan, and my two favorite schools, Alabama and Ohio State faced off in the National Championship Monday night. It was bound to happen. The Crimson Tide defeated the Buckeyes 52-24, giving unbiased fans an unfulfilled but predictable ending to a tumultuous year, and me some pretty impractical anxiety.

The what-ifs leading up to contest actually started at the beginning of the season. First, I was worried if there would even be a season, but when the first pigskin was kicked off the tee in the Southeastern Conference, there was hope. The Big 10 finally obliged to the fan and financial pressures and allowed games to be played, and the possibility of the Tide and Buckeyes meeting in January became real.

Of course, there were plenty of speed bumps and stop signs along the way. Cancellations, postponements and some sketchy conference rule changes stretched that hope and reality until the end of the regular season.

Though there were a scarce amount of fans dotting the aqua seats of Hard Rock Stadium for the College Football Playoff title match, the feel before kickoff was as if the camera was hiding a sell-out crowd. After the ball sailed through the air for a touchback, I forgot how anti-climactic kickoffs are. And then one play later, OSU running back Trey Sermon got injured, and that set the tone for the night.

O-H-I-O!

In 1988, we moved to Dublin, Ohio. Just outside Columbus, we were in the shadow of a mammoth horseshoe that was speckled with scarlet every Saturday in fall. With Georgetown and Southern Connecticut State roots, we had a college football void to fill. Ohio State University became that program.

The state of Ohio has always been perplexing, and I’m not speaking of the strange reliance politicians have with its population. No matter where you go, somehow you’re going to meet someone from the small Midwestern state, and chances are they will be OSU supporters. With over half a million living alumni already, the university’s enrollment ranked third in the 2019-20 academic year with 61,391 students—and I didn’t go to school there.

Still, Ohio is a community not just confined to each big or rural city, and one that welcomed my family. I grasped the culture at a very young age, and though short and broken, our new roots were planted, nonetheless. And adopted and experienced memories are engrained.

The impact of Sermon’s injury was eerily similar to Ted Ginn Jr.’s in the 2006 BCS National Championship against Florida. The Gators routed the Buckeyes 41-14. Ginn returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown (obviously kickoffs were much more climatic back then), but sprained his left foot during the celebration. He didn’t play the rest of the game. That changed the dynamic of the game greatly. Monday night, Sermon injured his shoulder and was taken to the hospital shortly after. The good news is that Sermon is doing well, the bad news is that his injury was seemingly not as significant as Ginn’s 2006 debacle.

Alabama was just too good this season, and it was proven early and often—most notably, by their three-headed monster: Mac Jones, Najee Harris and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith.

Smith is the first wide receiver to win the Heisman since Desmond Howard did for Michigan in 1991. The quick and uncoverable wideout proved why he was worthy of the honor. In the first half alone he set a College Football Playoff record by snatching 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns. He got injured early in the second half and did not return.

Smith also can be remembered for his game-winning catch in the 2017 National Championship as a freshman. The great thing about memories is that new ones can always be created.

Roll Tide!

Nearly three decades removed from Ohio, with my loyalty challenged via an acceptance letter, I decided to attend the University of Alabama. Oh, how I used to loath those crimson tops and white pants, but I soon became accustomed to the classic look and unmatchable passion of storied tradition. We visited Tuscaloosa when the Crimson Tide hosted the New Mexico State Aggies in September of 2019. My support was solidified when the crowd erupted and the band boomed after Alabama scored on their first offensive play of the game. We were also happy the Aggies beat the massive spread.

Though I earned my master’s degree via Alabama’s online platform, our visit to the state was special. Birmingham is an amazing city with important history, and Tuscaloosa is a beautiful gem among an eclectic landscape. People said “hello” on city streets instead of their face buried in a small screen; they waved, offered assistance and smiled.

On game day, the Communications department hosted my family at their tailgate. We gathered on the veranda that overlooked the quad and immersed ourselves in tradition and expected greatness. Southern hospitality on both sides of our shoulders, and below, the Million Dollar Band strutted toward the stadium in perfect formation and tone. They grasped the attention of all, and then students and fans followed the ensemble to the stadium, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, except with a less-offensive and creepy paraphrase. It was extraordinary—also engrained. It wasn’t just fandom I generously paid for through tuition.     

On Monday, The program showed why they are storied, and Nick Saban added to his argument as the greatest college football coach to ever pace the sidelines. The decorated general has now won seven national titles, six at Alabama—the most by a coach in NCAA and university history. It wasn’t just Smith’s legendary performance, or Jones throwing for 464 yards and five touchdowns, or Harris rushing for 79 yards and two touchdowns—doubling his yards from scrimmage and accounting for another score receiving. No, the game didn’t come down to the dominance on the offense and defense, it was the first Alabama drive of the second half that was an interlude to the fat lady’s solo.

The Crimson Tide were up by 18 at halftime, a lead that could have easily vanished with OSU’s offensive firepower. For example, the Buckeyes went 75 yards on three plays in just 1:02 for their first drive of the second half, which ended in a touchdown. Alabama scored a measly 20-yard field goal after receiving the second-half kickoff. It was one of just three series that didn’t end with an Alabama star crossing the goal line, but it took 7:13 off the clock, and allowed for anxiety to trump the hope of a momentum shift. That drive was a great example of well-executed strategy—one that a fan comes to expect in Tuscaloosa.

The Ending We Anticipated

It was a year of disruption and uncertainty, one that is still lingering even after we tossed our 2020 calendars out of our homes and into a fire as if they were cursed. Though there were plenty of arguments of why OSU shouldn’t have been in the playoff, or the field needs to be expanded, or a G5 school should be given an opportunity to compete, they really didn’t matter. Alabama was going to win this championship whether you liked it or not.

Maybe we needed this, though. It could be argued that it was oddly satisfying to have a little normalcy right now. Nothing is more normal than Alabama competing for a national championship. And OSU, for that matter.        

I was hoping for this day, but didn’t know what to expect. Even though it could be claimed that I couldn’t lose, I actually couldn’t win. Either way, there would be a sense of disappointment. Maybe that’s the pessimistic narrative the pandemic created. Or maybe it’s just the delusional reasoning of an obsessed fan.

Or maybe we all needed this win. Roll Tide! And, still, Go Bucks!

Foxy Shazam Returns with “Burn”

“Dancing on the ceiling, tonight we’re going out.”
-Foxy Shazam, “Dreamer”

We broke from the hot early-summer dusk for a moment. Inside the hazy bar we ordered a beer and waited for the shade to cover the last open spots of the sidewalk patio. A publication usually used as a vagrant’s blanket printed an article that brought us to the small venue—that, and the desire for whimsical randomness to fill our lives of little responsibility. What we witnessed the evening of May 1, 2010 will never be forgotten.

It was early in the night. As we waited for our order, one that shouldn’t have taken as long as it did judging by the audience-capacity ratio, a rumbling stumble descended from the upper level. The staircase’s carpet was as thin and delicate as a stale wafer, and it was shocking the shadowy figure between two other silhouettes made it down walking on different portions of each foot.

The pair placed their inebriated third party on open sticky dark plastic. The man stretched his legs out and rested his back against the chip paneling, his top hat tilting over his eyes, but not far enough to cover his wide grin and accompanying chortle. One man, the one with the drooping frizzy curls, waited with his mate. The other approached us.

He was a squirrely fellow with a baseball tee, tight and faded black jeans, and uneven bangs. His straight black strands dropped just below the back of his neck, and he sported a long moustache with an unintentional gap underneath his apex. He acknowledged our presence with the softest timbre.

It was a brief cliché conversation, one in which minor details of the encounter were remembered while the dialogue was easily forgotten. Perhaps it was because of the thin man’s mousy voice.

We toasted our fresh beers to our new concert acquaintance and exited to the patio. The sun had traveled farther west and dropped behind the building, at least. A group of young men laughed and worked on their pints. They took up a majority of the space, so my friend and I joined in on their harmless antics and banter before we would all reenter the venue for what was hoped to be a good show. We had no idea.

“Waiting, waiting, waiting for something, I don’t know what.”

The venue manager jutted his aging face outside, grasping onto the frame of the open sliding door. He summoned our new pals, “Guys, you were supposed to be on 10 minutes ago.”

The band, Bad Rabbits, consumed what was left of their drinks, and casually entered the building in direct route to the stage. There was barely a body for them to navigate around, so as polite and friendly as they were to us, we figured we should reciprocate the mood and check out their performance. We wouldn’t be let down.

My friend and I ascended the stairs that survived the gangling gait of a drunk moments before—and countless times before and after that. The three scalawags had disappeared from the booth we last saw them. Perhaps they were asked to leave. Perhaps they found a quieter locale to sober up.

We moseyed to the front of the loft and rested our forearms on the rail. There were just a few more bodies upstairs, but they allowed us the best view of the unknown act below. The boys from Bad Rabbits finished tuning their instruments and adjusting their amps and mics. The show began; we were immediately drawn into the catchy basslines, soulful vocals and funky rhythm. Their music was a blended cadence of rhythm and blues, rock, pop and punk. It was hard not to gently bob our heads and tap our heels against the stained deck above as we watched a small, increasingly-loyal crowd gather in front of the band. Our movements became more rhythmic with each passing song and beer. Bad Rabbits was a well-suited opener who could have headlined—if it wasn’t for the next act, of course.

“Always knew there was something special about that boy.”

Foxy Shazam was once compared to Queen, and also the likes of Meat Loaf and The Darkness, due to the theatrics of the band and operatic lyrics and vocal range of lead singer Eric Nally. Though there are similarities to an extent, the band wasn’t exactly like any predecessor, nor will they be replicated in the future. Foxy Shazam can be compared to no one other than Foxy Shazam.

The Cincinnati outfit formed in 2004, and self-released their first album, The Flamingo Trigger. Their sound was bellicose and maniacal in a way, different from what was to follow and their current style, but it still landed them a record deal.

Introducing Foxy Shazam was released in 2008 by Ferret Music. The album created a media buzz about their potential arrival into mainstream rock, and they were slated onto bills that included The Strokes, Portugal, The Man and Panic! At the Disco. Foxy Shazam was being talked about, but yet, they were still trapped in the shadow of past great acts and casually compared to bands on lineups they supported.   

Foxy Shazam’s uniqueness reminds me—and this is not a comparison at all—to the band Zebrahead. When the Orange County group became mainstream, there was really nothing like them on the airwaves. And, having seen them twice live, their stage presence was also slightly different than bands in their genre—which was difficult enough to firmly label. They incorporated so many styles and traits that they made their own sound, which is fascinating.

Foxy Shazam did the same, whether through inspiration or progressive innovation. In 2010, as their name appeared in more music publications and they booked stage slots on festivals like Lollapalooza, the band changed labels and released their self-titled album. Foxy Shazam is, and always will be, one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. The tracks are structured brilliantly; each song has a distinctive tempo and timbre, as well as a defining lyric. Keyboardist Schuyler White’s composition is versatile. He shifts between traditional pop rock piano to sultry jazz at times, and all styles mesh with the standard rock distortion and Nally’s powerful, occasionally high-pitched vocals. In addition, Alex Nauth bringing brass into rock music without other ska elements completely supplementing the rest of the record is something difficult to accomplish—almost as difficult as fashioning a perfect horn solo in a drunken state.

“For you I wear this mask, At home I tear it off.”

Foxy Shazam took the stage. We still weren’t sure what to expect, especially when the squirrely fellow with the mouse voice stood behind the microphone. How could a man with such a soft tone be able to lead the vocal charge of a rock act? Then, to our left and his right, his intoxicated comrade stood with a horn dangling to his side, the spotlight reflecting off the well-used yellow coating. The last of the trio we earlier met lifted his axe on the opposite side of the stage, and joined by an additional three mates, the show began as the third member of our party arrived just in time.

It was powerful, glamorous, exhilarating. Nally belted his deep words without a crack in any tenor he chose, and Nauth played his instrument flawlessly as if his earlier intoxication was merely part of the act. The drum beat and bassline were pulsing, the guitar riffs crisp, and White tickled a captivating melody over the black and white keys in front of his waist. Soon after, he would play the notes upside down, with his feet, and then lift the keyboard off its stand while maintaining his fortissimo dynamic throughout.

The musical talent of the members of Foxy Shazam was incredible, and their stage presence matched their level of melodious aptitude. Nally would twirl the microphone wire, pedal and shift the stand with the balls of his feet, tell convincing fibs as filler between songs, and jump on the shoulders of his bandmates—each musician staying in precise form during any antic. 

Toward the end of the performance a mishap almost hampered the whole show. Nauth, during a horn solo, tumbled over a large amp. Perhaps the drunkenness wasn’t part of the act. While on his back with his legs resting atop the tipped-over device, he continued to hit each note. After his section of the movement completed, he vigorously tried to lift the large amp, but instead stretched his torso across it and jokingly pretended it was his faux lover. At some point during the joyous debauchery, the frizzy-haired man who partook in the preshow festivities, Loren Turner, had his guitar damaged. A flipped amp, a broken guitar and a raucous back-and-forth between members on stage didn’t serve as a hindrance. In fact, the imperfections only strengthened the experience as if it was part of the show. As if this was Foxy Shazam, and we weren’t ready for it, but gladly adapted to and accepted their brilliance.      

“Perfectly crafted, that’s why it’s lasted.”

The key to a great album is balance and changeability. In other words, not every song should sound the same, but still contain a band’s distinctive sound. It needs a strong opening track to set the tone, “hits” staggered throughout, some power, some clandestine catchiness, something cool, and, of course, some emotional and meaningful ballads. Foxy Shazam accomplished that with The Church of Rock and Roll in 2012, just like they did with Foxy Shazam. The album, a compilation of music to blast with your windows down, did produce the first single I heard on the radio in my town, “I Like It.”

In 2014, the band released Gonzo. Their sound shifted a tad for this self-release. It became softer, more experimental and seemed to reach decades into the past for inspiration. Soon after, Foxy Shazam announced their breakup.      

The band members each took on different projects, most notably Nally’s inclusion on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ hit “Downtown” in 2015. Though he brought his distinctive flare and range to a broader audience, the pop world may not have been completely prepared for his unique genius. In 2020, the like-minded musical minds of Foxy Shazam got back together and released their sixth album.

“‘Cause it’s been so long, We’ve been moving on.”

Burn was released on Dec. 11, 2020. There is a cosmic feel to the album in its entirety—similar to Gonzo. It’s hard to depict if the band is reaching into the past or giving the music world some sort of post-modern sound.

The opening title track presents not only the anticipation of power, but also a darker shift in Foxy’s sound. Yet, “Dreamer” changes tone and slows the tempo which is unexpected for the second track of an album. With that in mind, the song’s goal doesn’t seem to want to keep the musical momentum at first, but rather state a message as the character of the album—until about two minutes in when the pace increases and the volume strengthens, and continues on through “Doomed.”

“Dreamscape 2020” is the song that won’t be a hit, but will be a favorite. White’s piano is intoxicating, the dynamics of the track will make you tap your foot and bob your head in whatever direction you choose, the structure flows without fail (until the abrupt last ten seconds), and Nally’s lyrics and story are relatable and worthy of sharing.

“Never Ever” falls a little short if compared to “Forever Together” from The Church of Rock And Roll and “Evil Thoughts” off Foxy Shazam. “In My Mind” and “S.Y.A.A.F.” have infectious beats to keep the album rolling along. Unfortunately, “Into the Wild” is severely out of place, but could become a cult favorite among Foxy’s listeners, as is the case with “Never Ever” I suppose.

The album ends with two strong tracks. “Suffering” is a solid rock song, and “The Rose” was already popular before Burn’s release. Something was missing, however. The album just kind of ends, and though each song contained a good structure for the most part, the track listing didn’t possess a very solid flow.

I will forever be a Foxy Shazam supporter and listener—I even pre-ordered Burn (and it still hasn’t arrived). The album, however, is to own solely for the nostalgia of their collection. It’s an average grouping of tracks that may not be appreciated beyond the circle of Foxy supporters, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are definitely a few songs that are catchy and deep enough to have on repeat, but as a whole, the album needed something more, but it’s tough to say what that is. It needed closure, in a way.  

Lastly, though the thematic elements of the songs may focus on relationship issues, perhaps they’re not directed toward the standard. There’s a battle going on throughout Nally’s stories, and this ultimate conflict could serve as a bigger interpretation than just a simple courtship between two people. It could be the fight that is the journey of life and our respective struggles not only with love, but with industry and societal censorship.

Overall, the music and lyrics are good, and Foxy fans won’t be hugely disappointed. However, this is just a return and not necessarily a step forward for the band. I will always support Foxy Shazam no matter which way they move. I gladly bought the album, and I will certainly see them live once again.    

“Life is a bitch but she’s totally doable.”

The show had ended and the small crowd made their way to the bar or out the door—all smiles and immediate recollections. We stayed a bit longer. I bought an album and a shirt one size too small. We noticed Foxy Shazam packing up their instruments and equipment. The candid moment of docile labor exemplified the trials and dedication of a band on the road.

We approached, not to bring up our earlier encounter, but to show our appreciation and wish the band luck. As a pianist and amateur composer, I spoke to White. It was the second to last stop on their tour and he was ready to return home. He explained how he had broken fingers due to the intensity of his performance as if it was just a casual occurrence.

We laughed and chatted and expressed our gratitude for them coming to Albuquerque. Our friend then asked one of the band members, I can’t quite remember if it was Nally or Nauth, to sign the album he purchased. He asked them to write their favorite lyric on the CD jacket.

The band shuffled out the back door of the Launchpad, tired and toting their heavy gear. We reminded ourselves of how great the night had been, and agreed it couldn’t end quite yet. Our friend opened his CD as we meandered toward the bar counter. It read:

“Life is a bitch but she’s totally doable.”

She sure is. And Foxy Shazam, even after a breakup and subsequent reunion, continues to prove that to be true. You should, too.

Rock on, friends.

Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster Merge

“Come on, come on, listen to the moneytalk.”
-AC/DC, “Moneytalks

German company Bertelsmann has agreed to acquire Simon & Schuster for $2.175 billion from ViacomCBS. This is a massive deal in the book industry, and one that could either help or hurt indie publishers and amateur authors.

Bertelsmann is the parent company of Penguin Random House, and this agreement turns the media giant into a complete publishing conglomerate. Both Penguin and S&S are two of the five brand leaders in book publishing. The deal took eight months to close, and is set to become official next year.

Markus Dohle, Penguin’s CEO, told Publishers Weekly that the deal was a, “good day for books, book publishing and reading.”

HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group and Macmillan still remain strong outlets in the publishing world, but it will be hard to compete against Bertelsmann’s combination of houses.

Bertelsmann Chairman & CEO, Thomas Rabe, said in the company’s press release, “This purchase marks another strategic milestone in strengthening our global content businesses. The book business has been part of Bertelsmann’s identity since the founding of C. Bertelsmann Verlag more than 185 years ago and has lost none of its appeal to this day.”

On the contrary, the book business needs competition, and this transaction may reduce the possibility for deals and only present lower advance offers for authors. ViacomCBS explained that both Penguin and S&S would be managed as separate publishing units, just under the same umbrella. Though that resonates an assurance of market rivalry, the revenue is still filtered into the same ownership. 

CEO Robert Thomson of News Corp, parent company of HarperCollins, told Fox Business of the deal, “This literary leviathan would have 70% of the U.S. literary and general fiction market.”

HarperCollins was also bidding for S&S, but the house couldn’t outdo the substantial, almost desperate offer from Bertelsmann. If News Corp was able to land the deal for their publishing unit, it would have helped HarperCollins catch up to Penguin’s sales. The U.S. sales for both are estimated at $1.1 and $2.2 billion respectively.

Thomson added, “There is clearly no market logic to a bid that size. Bertelsmann is not just buying a book publisher, but buying market dominance.”

Despite the fierce challenge that lies ahead for HarperCollins, Hachette and Macmillan, this is the business of the industry. With that in mind, there needs to be less business and more diversity.

Independent Publishers   

Bellevue Literary Press is a non-profit publisher. The press was founded in 2005 as part of the New York University School of Medicine, and was stationed within Bellevue hospital. In 2010, the house made a mark in the literary world by publishing a Pulitzer Prize winner, Paul Harding’s Tinkers.

Bellevue has been dedicated to providing quality work that engages readers and creates conversations and debates. They have several award-winning titles in their catalog. Now fully at independent status and located in lower Manhattan, the press has become one of the more consistent and sustainable names not only in the non-profit world, but across the independent publishing landscape as well.    

Publisher and Editorial Director Erika Goldman said of Bellevue’s goals, “We simply wish to continue publishing great books at the same rate as we have been so far.”

Independent publishers have grown tremendously of recent, and more boutiques and presses open yearly. Due to the modern form of self-publishing and a variety of smaller outlets, major houses have seen a drop in market shares. Penguin and S&S combine for just 18.2% percent of the book market—and the giants rank first and third respectively.

“Consolidation of the commercial corporate publishing world has been going on for decades now,” explained Goldman. “Independent and small press publishers represent true diversity in the publishing industry and great alternatives for authors. I believe that authors and agents will understand that they may be better served by independent presses.”

Smaller houses tend to focus on producing a handful of excellent titles per year while corporations simply seek to increase revenue to benefit their shareholders. Quality over quantity should prevail, but that unfortunately isn’t always the case.    

Self-Published Authors

The plight of a self-published author is a difficult one to combat. The market has become over-saturated due to free platforms such as Amazon and a plethora of author services companies. There are some sub-par works being produced and made available to the public, but there are also great novels by undiscovered writers.

Scott Kujawa, author of four trilogies and a variety of novels and short stories, not only has had to battle in order to get noticed among the crowd, he also writes in a niche-romance genre. There is hope, however.

“My income is growing,” Kujawa said. “However, indie/selfpub is a different mindset compared to trade pub. I’ve heard many trade pub’s say they have to work to market their books. They don’t help the way they used to when it comes to selling certain authors. The help they receive depends on who the author is.”

Advertising and marketing rule the world. Many self-published authors and independent presses know how to expertly navigate social media. Their strategies have put the pressure on major brands. Even though Penguin’s and S&S’s market share percentages seem low, book sales are up in 2020 so far. Print sales have increased 3.6% and ebooks are up 4% from last year.

Yet, the merger may hurt self-published authors in the long run. “Many authors might struggle with finding anyone willing to contract their stories,” Kujawa predicts.

Looking Ahead

Smaller presses must be more select with the work they choose in order to strengthen their brand, and independent authors must increase their presence on social media. Bertelsmann’s acquisition promotes a strange forecast for the publishing industry next year. The independent sector could continue to grow, helping the industry overall with quality works and diversity within authors and trends, but authors may still struggle financially. Penguin and S&S can both expand their sales through synchronized rival marketing and taking advantage of famous author names and well-known brands. However, the merger could limit the scope of opportunity for unestablished writers, swaying them toward independent houses and platforms.

It’s still beneficial for an author to be traditionally published because of editing services, promotional strategies and media exposure. On the other hand, less opportunity at the highest publishing level may saturate the industry even more below. Dohle mentioned that the market was highly fragmented, but that doesn’t mean this merger is going to fix anything. We will wait and see.

Good luck, authors.

Jo Won it for Joe

“These hearts are wireless, This ain’t no crowd control.”
-Nothing But Thieves, “Wake Up Call

Before the results of the 2020 presidential election, or whatever our definition of “results” is, I wrote an article expressing the disappointment and ignorance of some people who believe supporting a third party is a selfish, wasted vote. With that in mind, Libertarian Jo Jorgensen may have won the election for Joe Biden—even though it was primarily Democrats claiming the choice would be a waste.

A Libertarian strongly believes in individual liberties, free markets and less government among other varying principles. It’s generally a middle-of-the-road party being fiscally conservative and socially liberal, but philosophical priorities widens the gap of which political side a person is more likely to risk abandoning their major party.

Though Libertarianism would seemingly fit the ideology of liberals on the surface, it’s not a system that completely parallels with democratic thought. However, the aforementioned basic assumption created uneasy paranoia within some registered Democrats. It should have been worrying loyal republican supporters, and the argument had already been in place from past presidential elections.

A Libertarian has been on the ballot since 1972. Of those 13 elections there were 11 nominees, four of them being Republican transplants from their respective past seats in public office (Roger MacBride, 1976; Ron Paul, 1988, Bob Barr, 2008; Gary Johnson, 2012 and 2016). The other seven nominees always held or ran for office as Libertarians. The first Libertarian candidate, John Hospers, believed in Objectivism, the system developed by Russian philosopher and radical capitalist Ayn Rand. Hospers was the only Libertarian candidate to ever earn an electoral vote—coincidently, the tally was given by Virginia then-Republican representative Roger MacBride, the subsequent party nominee as noted above.

With this in mind, republican voters were more likely to stray than democratic voters in 2020.     

One important factor to consider of the pending results is voter differential in major battlegrounds. Here’s the rundown of the votes that separated Biden and Donald Trump and the votes Jorgensen received in key swing states Biden claimed, as reported by the Associated Press.

Wisconsin: Difference= 20,547/Jorgensen= 38,492
Pennsylvania: Difference= 68,558/Jorgensen= 78,893
Georgia: Difference= 14,122/Jorgensen= 62,056
Arizona: Difference= 10,377/Jorgensen= 51,465

Those four states combined for 57 electoral votes. If the current totals had swung in the other direction, Trump would have earned 289 electoral votes and a second term. There’s no concrete proof that the votes Jorgensen received were solely from fleeing Republicans, but it promotes an argument beyond the numbers just being coincidental.

Also, some Democrats have claimed that Jorgensen may have taken votes away from Biden, and the polls wouldn’t have been as tight if it wasn’t for her “selfish” supporters. On the contrary, Democrats wouldn’t have been as willing to “waste” a vote in the most unprecedented vital election in history—as advertised by the media. The skeptic desperation and compulsive negativity will never fully be vanquished. A win still isn’t good enough, but just accept it for the time being as the country suffers through the petty legal disputes, childish impracticality and delusional conspiracies of a certain incumbent.

That’s something to think about, however. Is voting for the “lesser of two evils” as some claimed settling for good enough? In an election where it seemed many were voting for a candidate to lose rather than another to win, maybe “good enough” isn’t actually good enough.

As reported in USA Today, Jorgensen said that the election was a wake-up call for both major parties, claiming that if she could get both sides to start acting on their respective platforms and following through on their promises, then she would be very pleased.

Maybe that’s improbable at the moment, unfortunately. Maybe it’s time to actually start taking third-parties, especially Libertarians seriously. They may have cost someone an election in 2020, and if enough voters become more informed, the trend will grow stronger in the future, showcasing our diversity and strengthening our democracy.

Some people may actually like what they discover, and stray from settling for stale conformity.

Jo for President

“Changes, Turn and face the strange.”
-David Bowie, “Changes

I’m not a political person, and don’t like talking about it, but sadly, I have to explain myself, which is a problem in itself.

I’ve been told to vote for Joe Biden just to take away a vote from President Trump, and also that supporting a third party is throwing away a vote. That’s not what voting is about, and the country should be ashamed at their retrograde idea of democracy. That’s why I’m voting for Libertarian candidate Dr. Jo Jorgensen.

I’m an American citizen with the right to vote. Therefore, I would like to exercise my right in the best way that represents my ideology, not by the persuasion of others who hold a desperate obsession with victory—and then anxious hope for retribution. Some interesting first-hand data collected via an accidental social experiment is that when I tell others I’m voting for Jorgensen, democrats tell me I’m wrong to do so while republicans support my decision to vote for whomever I prefer. I felt I was transported to Biazrro World, but I realized the close-minded pretentious former is nervous while the old-fashioned stale latter isn’t threatened.

As a registered Independent, I take time looking into the platforms of both main parties of our political system; I read and listen only to be left unfulfilled and uncertain, trapped in what’s just a cycle of power and bitter opposition until the next wave swallows all that was accomplished by prior administrations. Rinse and repeat.

That may have been an exaggeration, but it appears democracy has plateaued, which creates the possibility of regression. As a response, we play the blame game; no figure is safe from scrutiny from reputable media sources to a pre-teen on social media. Others live in the near and distant pasts and somehow develop a communal cry of impractical entitlement or unrealistic variations of a functioning society. Negativity leads to regression while positivity leads to progression.

Yet, the public continues to be pawns for the government and media. If you’ve studied the history of journalism, one of the constants is that of government meddling in news. However, another similarity that media ages share is that the government somehow reclaims some control of the narrative until a shift happens and power is redirected—until circulation is once again contaminated. We are handcuffed by republican and democratic candidates, and the media essentially picks a team—one side of the scale weighing much more than the other.

I hear people pleading for change all the time, but yet they are conditioned to believe that the only way the country functions is through one party or one other. The key to this is money. Ross Perot, arguably the most notable third-party presidential candidate in history, had billions and his rise had people questioning the norm. Perot received 18.9% of the popular vote in 1992. This isn’t about the money, however, it’s about the chance to be heard (which took money, ironically).

Other notable third-party candidates to gain popularity have been James B. Weaver (8.5% in 1892), Theodore Roosevelt (27.4% in 1912, after his 1904 presidential term), Eugene V. Debs (6.0% in 1912), Robert M. La Follette (16.6% 1924), George Wallace (13.5% in 1968) and John B. Anderson (6.6% in 1980). Now, of course, not all of these candidates promoted the best values (cough, cough, Wallace), but they were a popular third option nonetheless, promoting the fact that we could possibly have a diverse political system—like the first years when no one knew which labels would last quite yet. George Washington was an Independent, and swept the election–twice.

To take a page out of sports franchises, I propose a salary cap for campaigning in order to erase ballooned donations and self-funded races by uber-rich figures and organizations. This could limit respective party representatives from being plastered all over television and social media reminding us how the other guy is just so awful without actually telling us how good they are outside of a tidbit of positivity. Just like voting for someone to lose, slanderous political advertising on state and federal levels to tell us what someone is doing wrong instead of what the approver of the message will do correctly is just backward.

I saw a Facebook post that stated voting for a third party is selfish, and once again that type of ignorance came from a democrat. If I were to respond asking if it would be okay voting for President Trump then the same person would disapprove. So, essentially, the only person I should vote for is Biden? I bet they would also call someone “deplorable” (remember that fun term last election?) if they didn’t vote, think or act like them. Do people not understand the hypocrisy they create when it comes to democracy? Everything is not black and white, and we live in a diverse country with different forms of culture, expression and opinion, which means that representation is impossible to just be two-sided. People are entitled to vote for what they believe in, not what someone else does.

Each voter should agree with at least 75% of issues their favorite candidate proposes. For example, here are points on Jorgensen’s platform that I support:

-COVID-19: Reduce federal regulations on testing and treatments to quickly get to patients, almost making the FDA obsolete.
-HEALTHCARE: We shouldn’t have to shop for insurance. When I looked into Obamacare after being laid off due to COVID-19, I was hounded by over 100 phone calls trying to sell me healthcare in the span of a couple days, and it’s still going on. The irony in this is that I was laid off because of forced medical precautions, but now I’m being forced to have health insurance when I have no money, and if I don’t get the health insurance I will be fined. We should be in charge of our own health dollars and be able to shop for our own care like any other product we search for, which would decrease overall coast as a result.
-GOVERNMENT SPENDING: Block new borrowing, audit the Federal Reserve giving investors accurate market information, decrease spending by eliminating unnecessary departments and balance the government’s checkbook.
-ENVIRONMENT: I’ve been a supporter for clean and efficient nuclear energy for some time now, and also letting states decide what’s best for their landscape, limiting federal responsibilities.
-SOCIAL SECURITY: Actually preserve it instead of just saying it’s there, and allow workers to put their tax dollars (the ones supposed to be going toward Social Security) into individual retirement accounts the government can’t touch.
-TRADE: Limiting tariffs, allowing us more access to the best products, and providing goods of what we do best as a country.
-IMMIGRATION: Repeal entry quotas, shorten waiting times and expand visas. Just make the process easier to enter the country LEGALLY.
-CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Take away VICTIMLESS drug incarcerations and allow substance abuse programs and social workers to handle addiction, and also defund federal involvement (not the police) in state police issues unless requested by said state authorities.
-POVERTY: Eliminating government regulations and allow for more jobs and more affordable costs of living, and also allow more charitable organizations to offer free health clinics, among other services, to help the less fortunate. We need to create opportunities, not limit them through laws.
-TAXES: No income tax. We earned that money, and if we had it, we would spend it, boosting the economy. Also, slashing federal spending means the people will be less taxed. Lastly, make the IRS less intrusive and taxes less complex.
-EDUCATION: Dismantle the Department of Education and leave regulations in the hands of each state. Also, take the federal government out of the student loan business which would allow colleges to provide AFFORDABLE (not free) programs for everyone to pursue. Lastly, putting trades on an even playing field is important because without trade workers, all “educated” people wouldn’t be able to function in daily life.
-NEUTRALITY AND PEACE: Armed, neutral and open to trade and travel. Let’s get out of everyone’s business.    

This can all be found on Jorgensen’s website. A Libertarian won’t win the presidency, but the more votes earned perhaps creates a conversation about other options, and as the percentage of support increases, so does the possibility of getting a third-party candidate on the debate stage. They would have won the first one this year, that’s for sure.

Old white men and money rule the political landscape of this country, and we’re conditioned to believe we only have two options for leadership. Why are so many people unhappy then? Continuing to be sheep to what you’re told to believe is selfish, not thinking freely and exercising your constitutional right for a chance at change.

Instead of demeaning third parties, maybe it’s time to do research, not only on both major parties, but all the candidates, and become a fully informed voter. Many may be surprised that the views of third parties may suit their ideology the best, but it’s on the individual to explore and broaden their political horizons. We can’t advance and change if we’re stuck in an endless cycle of the “lesser of two evils.”

Or we can bring back the old Liberal Republican Party of 1872 and lessen the two parties into one dysfunctional collaboration. Wait, that’s kind of what Congress is at the moment. On second thought, we’re doomed for the foreseeable future.

Tracks 1-5

We’re here: the top five songs from my top 100 playlist. I’m sorry you had to sit through some songs, maybe most of them, that you didn’t like or never planned to hear again, and that may not change with these next five. My favorite song of all time will probably never be on anyone else’s entire list, but again, it’s based on individual preference.

I do hope you choose to do your own top 100 playlist. It’s a great distraction during this crazy time in history, plus you may surprise yourself.

First, a recap. If you don’t remember or you’re just now tuning in, you can click on 21-25, 16-20, 11-15 and 6-10.

Now, enjoy my top five songs of all time.

5. “Wasted Years” by Cold

Favorite Lyric: “Was it life I betrayed, for the shape that I’m in, it’s not hard to fail, it’s not easy to win.”

There were four bands from this era that were my favorite: Oleander, Disturbed, Zebrahead (Justin Mauriello days) and Cold. Cold is a band that music lovers tend to either love or hate, and I fall at the top of the former. Just like with story songs, I’m a sucker for depressing songs, whether about heartbreak or life—but probably more of the latter. “Wasted Years” is that track for me, though Cold has a plethora of choices if someone is in need of a sad song. It’s one of the best songs off maybe the best post-grunge album I’ve ever heard, Year of the Spider. The song, like many of Scooter Ward’s, helped me reminisce, relate and recover in a mere four minute span, and any track that can have that type of emotional impact is something incredible.

4. “Teenage Anarchist” by Against Me!

Favorite Lyric: “I was a teenage anarchist, but the politics were too convenient.”

Against Me! is another great punk band. The Florida outfit has been around since 1997, and they have grown and transitioned to one of the more followed acts in the punk rock world. I used the word transitioned for a reason, because in 2012, lead singer Thomas James Gabel became Laura Jane Grace. Even though the band has seen a slew of members come and go, they have provided fans with some great tracks, none more meaningful than “Teenage Anarchist.” The song isn’t necessarily about what the title implies, but rather how the punk revolution left many young rebels unfulfilled. Essentially, the revolution never came on individual levels, but the memories of the time remained. This video also is chilling, especially with what has been going on in the world, and as one of the comments points out, the punk camaraderie around 1:40 is special in a non-conformist way. You put effort into your mindset as a youth, and sometimes that ideology doesn’t pan out, but the memories make the moments worth it.

3. “Piano Man” by Billy Joel

Favorite Lyric: “Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone.”

Billy Joel is one of my favorite artists of all time, and “Piano Man” could be the perfect song. The great instrumental melody, the lyrical rhythm, the mass appeal and, of course, the story and the techniques used to tell it. Joel was able to not only talk about an evening in a lounge and the collective characters that regularly grace the establishment, but rather the varying representations of people in society—and how they can agree upon one thing: music. Also, the “oh, la la la, di da da” bridge is fitting because it’s not necessarily about the story, but rather the same old story. I’m currently learning the song on the piano, and the jazzy elements Joel adds makes its C Major 3-4 signature far from basic. A goal of mine is to see Joel at Madison Square Garden, and I heard the audience gets to sing the chorus to “Piano Man.”

2. “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King

Favorite Lyric: “Stand by me.”

This is my favorite song from the era, and that may be true for many listeners. “Stand By Me” has been a staple in not only American culture, but the world, since its 1961 release. Ben E. King’s vocals have been used when people are in need of a positive message or to honor a memory, movies or television programs need an emotional moment, companies are in need of an accompaniment for an ad, or other artists need a great cover song. Artists such as John Lennon and Tracy Chapman have recorded the track. The song contains a basic rhythm with a basic, but immensely important message, and this shows that music doesn’t need to be complex to have a massive impact. In a world that is constantly changing, and heading more and more toward division rather than progression, we need tracks like “Stand By Me” to settle our communal anxiety and uncertainty. Now, if we could just stand by each other, that would be nice, as well.

1. “Stay Young” by Strata

Favorite Lyric: “For a lifetime of paying dues and ruthless reviews, yeah, it’s hard not to end up a cynic, when everyone’s too scared to walk in your shoes, but can work up the nevre to be critics.”    

Let the comments begin. “Stay Young” may not be on a lot of top 100 lists; in fact, many general music listeners may not have ever heard the track or have never explored Strata’s version of alt metal and rock. And though it may not be the best song ever, I believe everyone should hear it at least once. Lyrically, it’s a masterpiece, and musically, it’s just as outstanding because of the growing shift in tempo and tone. The main reason this song is so important is because of the message. This world is messed up, and it continues to become more complex, and it seems the only end game, whether sooner or later, is doomsday. We must look back on our lives, embrace the moments when we were young and innocent before being exposed to the troubles of reality, and perhaps the answers to happiness lie within those moments (I’m not telling you to live in the past, though). The line, “Can you still remember your very first kiss,” can be furthered into a deeper relation to confusion. We all remember our first kiss, and perhaps how confusing it was, and how vibrant the action and the dreams to follow became. Now we deal with the confusion of real life and the hopes that fade. We need to stay young, not just with the memories of when we were youths, but to prepare our minds for the future.

Thanks for listening! Now go out and make your own list and enjoy your favorite songs of all time.        

Tracks 6-10

You’ve made it to the top ten, skipping over songs you thought were lame and revisiting classics you love. If you’ve already forgotten, tracks 21-25 are here, 16-20 here and 11-15 here. We’ve listened to classical, folk, pop, punk, singer-songwriters, swing and rock. This next grouping requires some spare time as a fair warning.

Here are songs 6-10.

10. “Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125” by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Favorite Lyric: N/A

Arguably the best symphony of all time, this was Ludwig van Beethoven’s last complete symphony, and he was almost deaf when he composed it. This work is an amazing achievement and will go down in history as one of the finest compositions in music across all genres. Again, though, classical music is the greatest and purest genre, making this symphony quite possibly the best piece of music every written. Around 17 and half minutes in, my favorite part of the choral masterpiece, molto vivace – presto, is performed for a good 13-some minutes. The intensity and transition of tempo is emotional and intoxicating, and the main portion of that movement can stay in my head all day. This is the work of a genius mind.

9. “Lightning Crashes” by Live

Favorite Lyric: “The angel opens her eyes, pale blue colored iris, presents the circle, and puts the glory out to hide.”

Despite the world’s admiration for Elton John’s Disney monster hit, “Lightning Crashes” is the better circle-of-life song. The basic 4-4 C-major riffs and rhythm complement the poetic story of a woman dying and another life being born. Death and life: it’s that simple. There is a misconception that a woman dies while giving birth, but the death and new life are two separate instances. This song is off one of the best rock albums of the ‘90s, Throwing Copper, and the growing shift in dynamics, a staple of Live, throughout makes this a very powerful track off a very significant album. Like death and life, “Lightning Crashes” is lasting.

8. “Runaround Sue” by Dion

Favorite Lyric: “Yeah, I should have known it from the very start, this girl will leave me with a broken heart.

My second favorite doo-wop song by possibly my favorite voice of the era. Not just because of Dion’s great range, but because of what he sang about. Guys, “Runaround Sue” is still relatable today; we’ve all experienced at least one hussy in our life. It’s more than that, though, because both sexes can relate to a disloyal lover, and how we must learn from our experiences and avoid future heartbreak created by betrayal. Plus, that beat and rhythm throughout can help you forget about your particular “Sue.” On another note, from the video, crowds were way less into concerts then, especially when Dion’s killing it.

7. “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meat Loaf

Favorite Lyric: “Some day I just pray to the god of sex and drugms and rock ‘n’ roll.”

I thoroughly enjoy “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but I have to give the edge to “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” as the most epic operatic rock ballad. Including the most famously “cryptic” lyric in rock music, this dramatic song and the theatrical video is brilliant in all aspects of composition. The structure of the song deserves admiration. The instrumental introduction lasts two minutes, then softens to Meat Loaf’s presentation of the title and chorus. The volume and melody gradually increases, and instrumentals follow the verses and chorus, along with backing vocals, and nine and a half minutes into the song (album version), a duet with Lorraine Crosby finally sums up what Meat Loaf won’t do: move on (essentially). There are other things he won’t do, however: forget the way his partner feels, forgive himself if they don’t go all the way, do it better than he does it with her and stop dreaming of her. If you wanted to know, it’s always been in the song.

6. “Prisoner of Society” by The Living End

Favorite Lyric: “Cos I’m a brat, and I know everything, and I talk back, cos I’m not listening, to anything you say.”

Let’s hear it for some Australian punk! This song plays an important role in any late-90’s teenager’s life. During your adolescent angst, your mind is ripe to discover curiosity, especially considering the way society functions—wrongfully functions, at that. The Living End was also different in a sense because mainstream punk at that time was more poppy, or “bubblegum,” and the Australian trio seemed more in tune with the attitude and sound of when the British punk revolution was prominent in the ’70s. However, they also took advantage of the short-lived rockabilly craze of the ‘90s—the Stray Cats playing a major influence in their style, most noticeably in Scott Owen’s use of the double bass. I was at the perfect age when this song came out, and I’m thankful for that.

Next Post: Songs 1-5.

Tracks 11-15

If you’ve been following, songs 16-20 started to vary from songs 21-25, and that trend is about to continue. This playlist isn’t intended to boast my tastes, but rather remind listeners and readers of tracks they have forgotten about or perhaps introduce genres and songs they would generally overlook. There’s a lot of music in the world, and I’m open to the preferences and suggestions of others. This is my list, though, so you’re stuck with these tracks for now.

Here are songs 11-15.

15. “The Mice, The Demons, And The Piggies” by Wolfgang Parker

Favorite Lyric: “Well the whiskey in front of my face keeps pour-pour-pour-pour-pouring along, makes me drunk-drunk-drunk-drunk as hell all night long.”

You won’t find much information on Wolfgang Parker, but the Ohio-based musician and writer is incredibly talented and versatile. Room Nineteen is a fantastic album showcasing Parker’s abilities in punk, rock and swing. “The Mice, The Demons, And The Piggies” contains a basic and contagious rhythm, and the piano solo mid-way transitions perfectly into the more up-tempo concluding movement. The lyrics fit the sound, and if I would have to guess, the room is the character’s mind, and the taps and voices are inner demons he’s trying to wash away with a vice—the very vice that is the cause and solution. Just a guess. Or it could just be a really cool song. On another note, Parker is also a children’s book author

14. “Joey” by Concrete Blonde

Favorite Lyric: “But if I seem to be confused, I didn’t mean to be with you, and when you said I scared you, well I guess you scared me too.”

“Joey” is about alcoholism, or addiction in general, and not just the struggle the individual faces, but the people in their life who are forced to share the pain and absorb the consequences. Johnette Napolitano has said that this was a very difficult and painful song to write because of the content and close connection she has with the lyrics. Yet, we all have a connection to addiction in a way. I’ve lost friends to alcoholism, seen futures destroyed by drugs and others I know have lost family members. Though “Joey” charted after being released, the message behind the great lyrical and musical rhythm also contributed to the song’s impact on audiences.

13. “The Way That It Seems” by Onward, Etc.

Favorite Lyric: “The more I live life in reality, I pray to go insane, if your eyes are always open it’s impossible to dream.”

This song is a great journey song about perseverance and viewing the world in a different way than it’s presented on the surface. Rosco Wuestewald is an incredibly talented singer-songwriter, but his journey is one of innovation. His home has become the road; he started touring at 17, playing with local musicians in the towns where he booked gigs. After seeing Onward, Etc. (now Aage Birch) live on a whim, I was an immediate fan, and Wuestewald’s energetic form of folk and Americana combines a great sound with poetic stories and thought. “The Way That It Seems” is a song that can last a life-long journey.

12. “I Still Believe” by Frank Turner

Favorite Lyric: “And I still believe in the need, for guitars and drums and desperate poetry.”

Frank Turner is another artist I saw on a whim, and he has since become one of my favorite singer-songwriters of all time. He’s an amazing storyteller, and backed by the Sleeping Souls, his style and words reach a broad audience. He doesn’t just offer events from his life, but a relation for many people to ponder through brilliant rhythmic scheming. “I Still Believe” may not even be Turner’s best track, but it’s the song that introduced me to his music, but also an anthem for the genre I’ve loved for so many years. In my opinion, he will go down as one of the great singer-songwriters the world has had the privilege to experience. In a strange way, this song and video always gives me chills.

11. “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman

Favorite Lyric: “You gotta make a decision, leave tonight or live and die this way.”

At some point in our life, we all feel stuck. Some people’s situations are much worse than others, and they’re constantly searching for an escape, a better life. Tracy Chapman tells a story about getting out and releasing the chains that hold someone down from being something else. A person can become stuck in a loop, and for many less fortunate it’s a difficult cycle to escape. “Fast Car” is an incredible song, and shouldn’t just be considered one of the best folk rock songs in history, but one of the best songs in history across all genres because of the perfect match of melody and message.

Next Post: Songs 6-10.

Tracks 16-20

The first five in my ranking didn’t vary far from a certain era, but as explained in the previous post, an individual’s tastes are shaped during a certain phase, and they may expand beyond that time, but it’s still a point in their life they can always revert back to. It’s their “remember when” era—which is a very vital time in development.

If you need a recap, click here. If not, let’s move on to songs 16-20.

20. “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel

Favorite Lyric: “And in the naked light I saw, ten thousand people, maybe more, people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening.”

“The Sound of Silence” is one of the most relevant songs in history that has lasted from generation to generation. That’s incredible from a musical standpoint, but not so much when considering the message. As Paul Simon struggles for meaning in an unforgiving society, he unravels the many layers of lonely thought. We’re even more isolated now, society is getting harsher and people are feeling a stronger sense of emptiness. And as the lyric states above, people are still talking without speaking and hearing without listening. Perhaps it would be wise to view this song as a relation rather than accepting it as a constant—though, it remains a song that is needed on many levels.

19. “Qi” by Phildel

Favorite Lyric: N/A

Through my years of playing classical and ragtime piano, and the brilliant pieces I’ve heard and the rest of the world knows, this short work is one of the most beautiful piano solos I’ve come across. So much so, that I learned to play it myself. The key signature changes from Bb major to A major and so on, and in the second part of the movement, the composer subtly adds extra notes to enhance the piece as it moves along. Phildel is a talented and versatile British artist who can create pop tracks as well as compose neoclassical pieces that don’t need lyrics to move listeners. Classical music is so pure, and the best works ignite emotions without saying a word.

18. “Shed Some Light” by Shinedown

Favorite Lyric: “It’s innocence within the maze, but I have chosen the wrong way, I’m still getting over who I was, there’s no sense of trust, there’s no definition of love.”

Shinedown, like Seether, has been one of the best rock bands the last two decades, and they take time producing quality and balanced albums. Musically, they’re incredibly talented, and Brent Smith not only has one of the most powerful set of vocal chords on a lead singer in this era, he may be one of the best vocalists in the genre’s history—and that is saying A LOT. “Shed Some Light” is off Shinedown’s second studio album, Us and Them, and has always been a moving track about self-discovery, and a listener can find a relation to the words no matter which phase of life.

17.“Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum

Favorite lyric: “Bought a ticket for a runaway train, like a madman laughin’ at the rain, little out of touch, little insane, just easier than dealing with the pain.”

This famous power ballad is about depression, but Soul Asylum’s video also links the song to missing children and teens—which is also depressing. There’s a sense of emptiness and unanswered questions with both topics, and an urge for people to establish a connection for stability and survival. I have listened to “Runaway Train” many times in my life, and the emotions and message never stray, and for a song to continue to have such a lasting impact, not just on a personal level, but in the music world as well, is quite impressive.

16. “Use Me” by Bill Withers

Favorite Lyric: “You just keep on using me, until you use me up.”

Bill Withers is a legend, and the world lost him this year, unfortunately. “Use Me” is my favorite from his collection, though his career left listeners with amazing hits. His soulful voice is on full display here, especially when he repeats “baby” as if trying to convince himself the relationship will get better while masking the truth. However, the most infectious part of the song is the famous rhythm throughout. It’s simply cool, and if you’re driving with your windows down and this song is blaring, other people think you’re cool—or should at least.

Next Post: Songs 11-15.

Tracks 21-25

As many are aware, we have some spare time on our hands. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced most to stay inside, I started my own music challenge: constructing a playlist of the 100 best songs I have ever heard. The running time for the arrangement is just over seven hours—so, a workday. Feel free to partake in the challenge, and give yourself the gift of songs you wouldn’t skip to get through the day—or if you end up stranded on an island.

The key component to such a playlist is the individual’s ears, not what one is told to like or the masses have deemed amazing. With that being said, a song’s immense popularity has been taken into consideration.

Other factors included the best lyrics and rhythms as they relate to the person, and also the overall societal message shared or emotion ignited within an individual. No genre was excluded, and some of my favorite artists, ones in which I own their entire catalog, didn’t make the cut. It was surprising, it was difficult and I have a separate spillover list because nothing is concrete.

With that in mind, and the aforementioned spare time, I would like to share with you the top 25 songs I have ever heard in increments of five rankings.

DISCLAIMER: If you’re expecting Queen, The Rolling Stones, Charlie, Chuck, Claude, Elton, Ms. Gaynor or Mungo Jerry, then you can find the entire list here.

Without further ado, here are songs 21-25.

25. “Walkin’ On The Sun” by Smash Mouth

Favorite Lyric: “Twenty-five years ago, they spoke out and they broke out, of recession and oppression and together they toked, and they folked out with guitars around a bonfire, just singin’ and clappin’, man, what the hell happened.”

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, you’ve committed yourself to an eclectic list. Before Smash Mouth became major mainstream all-stars, their 1997 debut single was widely accepted in the U.S. and internationally. “Walkin’ On The Sun” discusses racial and social issues from the past, popularized a reinvention of psychedelic funk by blending it with pop rock, and you have to love that late-90’s fashion. Also, the video served as a generational musical connection and linked many Gen-Y teens to their parents’ past attitudes and tastes.

24. “Ghost” by House of Heroes

Favorite Lyric: “I’m gonna fade away, drifting out of your life, I wanna fade away, through the empty night.”

I’m a sucker for great stories, and wish a video was made for this song. Tim Skipper’s gentle timbre sets the tone for this track, and though the guitar pitch is one of happiness, the story immerses the listener into the character’s life and the additional consequences suffered from a bad decision. “Ghost” is a beautiful song, and the band’s harmony about fading away at the end—while fading away at the end—is structurally brilliant.

23. “Sympathetic” by Seether

Favorite Lyric: “And my words will be here when I’m gone.”

Seether has been one of the better post-grunge rock acts of the last two decades. The South African outfit has been recognized with double-digit awards and hit after hit, and actually have the most songs by one artist on this top-100 list—which even surprised me with the library I have. Seether’s 2002 debut album, Disclaimer, was fantastic from the first to last track, headlined by three singles, “Sympathetic” not being one. Yet, the lyrics resonated the most with me, and the cadence of Shaun Morgan’s voice has been a staple of their success in the rock world. Consistent good lyrical rhythm is difficult to come by in the genre.

22. “I Walk Alone” by Oleander

Favorite Lyric: “I can’t take this any longer, I won’t heal until I’m stronger, strong enough to not be afraid, of what anybody thinks, of what anybody says, about the way, about the way I am.”

Generally, music tastes are formed in the midst of teenage angst and discovery. Of course, they evolve over time through different phases of life, but if you’re in dire need of a memory, you can always go back to the scene when you we’re transitioning into an adult—or at least when you thought you were mature enough. Oleander is the alternative band from that era I admire the most, and still have never heard a song I didn’t enjoy by the Sacramento rockers. “I Walk Alone” helped calm a sporadic mind, and Thomas Flowers’ words, though “alone” is in the title, showed many lost souls that they weren’t actually alone.

21. “Talk About You” by Mika

Favorite Lyric: “Walk through the city like stupid people do, a million faces, but all I’m seeing is you.”

Mika is one of the most successful pop stars in the world. He has won 20 awards and been nominated for about 60 more. He’s just not that well-known in the U.S. He’s by far my favorite guilty pleasure in music. “Talk About You” is a song that is hard to get out of your head, and that’s what great singer-songwriters do: they write addictive records. The Lebanese-born artist has a knack for creating pop and glam rock tracks that are full of colorful expression, pride and rhythm. It’s hard not to move to Mika; it’s hard not to become addicted.

Next post: Songs 16-20.