Thursday 30 April 2015

Z is for Zedd

Zedd is a Russian DJ and music producer who rose to fame for his remixes of songs such as Lady Gaga's Marry the Night and Skrillex's Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. Born as Anton Zaslavski, he grew up in Germany where he was classically trained. He developed an interest in electronic music after listening to by French electronic duo Justice. His debut album, Clarity, was released in 2012.

While the album itself was met with mixed reviews, its title track would help bring his music into the limelight, peaking at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earning him a Grammy for Best Dance Recording. A deluxe edition was later released, and it contained the song, Stay the Night, a collaboration with Hayley Williams that served as the reissue's lead single. His other production credits include Justin Bieber's Beauty and the Beat, Ariana Grande's Break Free, as well as the Lady Gaga songs, G.U.Y., Aura and Donatella.

His second album, True Colors, is slated for release on the 19th of May. Its lead single is a collaboration with Selena Gomez, his rumored girlfriend. The song, titled I Want You to Know, was co-written by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic. Its video was inspired by 70s disco and music videos from that era, like ABBA's Dancing Queen which I'd highlighted at the start of the 2015 Blogging from A to Z Challenge, and as such it serves as a perfect close to my month-long, music-themed posts.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Y is for Yeasayer

Yeasayer is an American rock band made up of Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton, Anand Wilder and Cale Parks. They are known for the experimental nature of their music, which showcases worldbeat and psychedelic pop influences. Their debut album, All Hour Cymbals, was released in 2007. It was met with critical acclaim, with Pitchfork placing it at #197 on their list of top 200 albums of the 2000s.

Their second album, Odd Blood, was released in 2010. It contained the singles, Ambling Alp, O.N.E, Madder Red and I Remember. It was also met with critical acclaim, placing high on many year-end lists, including a number one placement on MySpace Music's list. Their third album, Fragrant World, was released in 2012. It contained the singles Henrietta, Longevity and Reagan's Skeleton.

While they are yet to score the kind of breakthrough success they surely deserve, Yeasayer continues to record new music, with their as-yet-untitled fourth album expected to drop sometime this year. Their second album remains one of my favorite records, after more than four years since its release. And of the ten songs featured on the album, I have chosen to highlight Madder Red, whose odd yet powerful video features Kristen Bell of House of Lies and Veronica Mars fame.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

X is for Xzibit

Xzibit is an American rapper best known as the host of the MTV television show, Pimp My Ride. His debut album, At the Speed of Life, was released in 1996. This was followed by 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz in 1998. Both albums were well received by critics, but his breakthrough didn't come until his third album, Restless, was released in 2000. It contained the singles, Front 2 Back, X, and Get Your Walk On.

Since then, Xzibit has branched out into other fields of entertainment like movies and video games. He has starred in films such as 8 Mile and xXx: State of the Union, as well as lent his voice and likeness to characters in video games such as Def Jam: Fight for NY and Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. But his most well-known venture remains Pimp My Ride, a TV show in which cars that are in a deep state of disrepair are fixed up and customized to fit the tastes of their owners. The show was cancelled in 2007, after a 6-season run.

Xzibit continues to split his talent between multiple ventures, with his most recent release being the 2012 album, Napalm. But none of his recent albums have been able to capture the same level of success as 2000's Restless, despite a boost in his overall popularity. So it is there that I have chosen to highlight his music, with the song Get Your Walk On, whose video is noted for featuring the popular hip-hop dance move, the Crip Walk.

Monday 27 April 2015

W is for White Lies

White Lies is a British indie rock band comprised of Harry McVeigh on lead vocals and guitar, Charles Cave on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Jack Lawrence-Brown on drums. Their music is a blend of indie rock and post-punk revival. Their debut album, To Lose My Life..., was released in 2009, debuting at #1 on the UK album chart. It contained the singles, Death, Unfinished Business, To Lose My Life, and Farewell to the Fairground.

They released their second album, Ritual, in 2011, and it was accompanied by the release of a short film of the same name, which featured three songs from the album, Bad Love, Holy Ghost, and the lead single, Bigger Than Us. Their third album, Big TV, was released in 2013. It debuted at #4 on the UK album chart, and it produced the singles, There Goes Our Love Again and First Time Caller.

They released a 5 track EP titled Small TV in late 2013, in support of their 2013 tour. It featured reworked versions of their own songs, as well as covers of songs by Lana Del Rey and Prince. They also contributed vocals to the track Embrace by electronic music duo, Chase & Status. But of all the songs in their catalog, my favorite remains the title track from their debut album, To Lose My Life.

Saturday 25 April 2015

V is for Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend is an indie rock band made up of lead vocalist Ezra Koenig, guitarist/keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij, drummer Chris Tomson and bassist Chris Baio. They are renowned for their unique blend of punk rock and African music. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2008, and it contained the singles A-Punk, Mansard Roof, Oxford Comma, Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa and The Kids Don't Stand a Chance. Its release was met with critical acclaim.

Their second album, Contra, was released in 2010. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, and was also met with critical acclaim. It contained the singles Horchata, Cousins, Giving Up the Gun, Holiday, White Sky and Run. It was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards, but lost to Brothers by The Black Keys. They would eventually win in that same category with their third album, Modern Vampires of the City.

Released in 2013, their third album also debuted at the top of the Billboard 200, marking the first time that an independent rock band has managed to score two back-to-back #1 debuts on the chart. The album was ranked #1 for the year by several publications including Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. It produced four singles, Diane Young, Ya Hey, Unbelievers, and my personal favorite, Step.

Friday 24 April 2015

U is for Usher

Usher is an R&B singer who is perhaps as famous for his good looks as he is for his dance moves. His self-titled debut album was released in 1994, but his breakthrough didn't come until his second album, My Way. Released in 1997, the album contained his first song to peak at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Nice & Slow. The album also contained two further singles, You Make Me Wanna and My Way, both of which peaked at #2.

His third album, 8701, was released in 2001. It contained the hit singles, You Remind Me and U Got It Bad, both of which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, with the former also netting him a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance Male in 2002, his first ever win. He would win again the following year in that same category, for his song, U Don't Have To Call, the third single from the 8701 album.

His fourth album, Confessions, was released in 2004. It sold more than 1 million copies in its first week of release, and would go on to sell more than 8 million copies that year. Often considered his most endearing work, the album produced four singles that all peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Yeah!, Burn, Confessions Part II and My Boo. It also received eight nominations at the 47th Grammy Awards, including one for Album of the Year, but only won three awards, Best Contemporary R&B Album, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.

His fifth album, Here I Stand, was released in 2008. It contained the hit single, Love in This Club, which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. His sixth album, Raymond v. Raymond, was released in 2010. It produced the #1 hit, OMG, marking Usher's ninth #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as making him the first artist to achieve that peak from releases between five consecutive albums. He released a follow-up EP called Versus that same year, and it contained the top five hit, DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love.

His seventh album, Looking 4 Myself, was released in 2012, and it marked a significant shift from previous albums, making it his most experimental. It included contributions from the likes of Empire of the Sun and Swedish House Mafia, and he managed to incorporate their sound into his music without losing sight of his R&B foundation. This is most evident in the album's first single, Climax, a song that scored him his most recent Grammy for Best R&B Performance at the 2013 ceremony.

Thursday 23 April 2015

T is for Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is an American country singer who shot to fame following the release of her self-titled debut album in 2006. The album contained the crossover hit, Teardrops on My Guitar, which peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also produced three further singles, Tim McGraw, Our Song, and Should've Said No, the last two of which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

Her second album, Fearless, was released in 2008. It produced the crossover hits, Love Story and You Belong to Me, the former remaining her bestselling single till date with more than 8 million copies sold. The album itself was a commercial success, and it became the bestselling album of 2009 with 5.2 million copies sold. It would go on to win four Grammy awards that same year, including one for Album of the Year, making Taylor Swift the youngest person to do so at age 20.

Her third album, Speak Now, was released in 2010 and it debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 with more than 1 million copies sold within its first week of release. It earned her two further Grammys for its single, Mean, one for Best Country Song and the other for Best Country Solo Perormance. Her fourth album, Red, would also debut at #1 in 2012 with sales exceeding 1 million in its first week. Its lead single, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, gave Taylor Swift her first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

For her fifth album, 1989, Taylor Swift decided to look beyond her country roots, choosing to draw inspiration from some of the pop songs released during the decade of her birth instead. The album was not only well received, it also became the fastest selling album in the US within the past 12 years, selling 1.27  million copies within its first week. Its first two singles, Shake It Off and Blank Space, have both peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The third single, Style, is presently one of my favorite songs in her entire catalog.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

S is for Swedish House Mafia

Swedish House Mafia was a supergroup composed of DJs Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello. Their first official single was released in 2010, even though they had released several collaborations between themselves prior to that. The song, One, was a purely instrumental track that attained international success. A version with vocals provided by Pharrell Williams was subsequently released as One (Your Name).

Their next single was a collaboration with British rapper, Tinie Tempah, titled Miami 2 Ibiza. The song would feature on both artists debut albums, with the Swedish House Mafia album also consisting of a continuous mix of remixed recordings by the group, as well as some material from their individual/solo projects. The album (Until One) was released in 2010, and it was accompanied by a documentary (Take One) showcasing their live performances.

In 2011, they released their first of two collaborations with Swedish singer, John Martin. The song, Save the World, received a nomination for Best Dance Recording at the 54th Grammy Awards. Its release was followed by that of two further singles, Antidote and Greyhound, the latter featuring an interpolation of Hans Zimmer's score from the 2010 science-fiction movie, Inception.

Their second collaboration with John Martin was released in 2012. The song, titled Don't You Worry Child, was their final single as a group. It was included on their second compilation album, Until Now. It earned them a second Grammy nomination in the Best Dance Recording category, as well as becoming their most successful single with more than 5.5 million copies sold worldwide.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

R is for Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American rock band whose current lineup comprises of lead singer Anthony Kiedis, bass guitarist Michael "Flea" Balzary, drummer Chad Smith and lead guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. They are renowned for their rap-driven, funk-inspired songs and their energetic live performances. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, in honor of their career spanning more than three decades.

Their self-titled debut album was released in 1984. This was followed by Freaky Styley in 1985, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan in 1987, and Mother's Milk in 1989. But their breakthrough didn't come until 1991, when they released their fifth album, Blood Sex Sugar Magik. It contained the hit singles, Under the Bridge and Give It Away, the latter of which would earn them a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Unable to cope with their newfound fame, the band's then guitarist, John Frusciante, decided to leave in the middle of a world tour. He was replaced by Jane's Addiction guitarist, Dave Navarro, for their 1995 album, One Hot Minute. He would later return in 1998, following a string of drug-related problems. And in 1999, the band released its bestselling album Californication to critical acclaim. It contained their hit single Scar Tissue, which earned them another Grammy, this time for Best Rock Song.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers released their eight studio album in 2002, By the Way. Its music and melodies were largely composed by John Frusciante, and it contained the singles, By the Way, Can't Stop, The Zephyr Song, and Universally Speaking. The band released a Greatest Hits album in 2003, which also contained two previously unreleased songs, Fortune Faded and Save the Population.

In 2006, the band released the double album, Stadium Arcadium, which debut at #1 on the Billboard 200, their first album to do so. The album would go on to earn them seven nominations at the 49th Grammy Awards, including one for Album of the Year. They took home five awards at that particular ceremony, including two for their song, Dani California, whose video is noted for paying homage to the evolution of rock music.

Monday 20 April 2015

Q is for Queen

Queen is an English rock band that consisted of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. They rose to fame after the release of their self-titled debut in 1973. This was followed by Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack in 1974. Their fourth album, A Night at the Opera, was released in 1975, and it contained one of their biggest hit singles, Bohemian Rhapsody, which topped the UK singles chart for nine weeks.

They released their sixth album, News of the World, in 1977, and it contained two of their most recognizable hits, We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions. In 1981, the band released the album Greatest Hits, a compilation of hits from 1974 - 1981; it remains the bestselling album in UK chart history with more than 6 million copies sold.

Queen enjoyed additional success for the rest of the 80s with singles like Radio Gaga. But by the end of the decade, rumors had started to circulate that its lead singer, Freddie Mercury, was suffering from AIDS. The singer would eventually confirm those rumors in 1991, in an official statement written on his deathbed. He died barely 24 hours after the statement was released, from bronchial pneumonia brought on by his illness.

Queen remains one of the most successful rock bands of all time. Their album sales are believed to be in excess of 300 millions copies. Their biggest hit is the song Another One Bites the Dust, which was featured on their 1980 studio album, The Game. The song, which also happens to be one of my favorites, has sold more than 7 million copies.

Saturday 18 April 2015

P is for P!nk

P!nk is one of the most talented women to emerge out of the music industry in the past decade and a half. She is also one of the most successful, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide. Born in 1979 as Alecia Beth Moore, she started out as a member of a girl group called Choice. The group disbanded in 1998, and their debut album was never released, prompting P!nk to pursue a solo career.

Her debut album, Can't Take Me Home, was released in 2000. It contained the singles, There You Go, Most Girls and You Make Me Sick. It was also around this time that she did a collaboration with Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim and Mýa, recording a cover version of the popular classic, Lady Marmalade, for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack. The song, which topped the US singles chart after its release, would earn them a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

For her second studio album, P!nk decided to make a shift from the R&B/urban sound of her debut to the pop/rock sound for which she is better known today. The shift proved successful, as the album, Missundaztood, remains her bestselling till date, with more than 13 million copies sold. It was released in 2001, and contained the hit singles, Get the Party Started, Don't Let Me Get Me and Just Like A Pill.

2003 saw the release of her third album, Try This, whose first single, Trouble, earned her another Grammy, this time for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. She released her fourth album, I'm Not Dead, in 2006, and her fifth, Funhouse, in 2008, the latter of which contained her second US #1 single, So What. In 2010, she released her first compilation album, Greatest Hits...So Far. The album was promoted by the single, Raise Your Glass, which marked her third #1 single in the US.

Her sixth studio album, The Truth About Love, was released in 2012. It contained the singles, Blow Me (One Last Kiss), Try, and her fourth US #1 single, Just Give Me a Reason, a collaboration with fun. lead singer, Nate Ruess. In 2014, she released a collaborative album with Dallas Green of City and Colour fame, under the moniker You+Me. The album, titled rose ave., was recorded within the span of a week.

P!nk is renowned for the theatrical nature of her recent live shows, most of which have her dangling from a wire high above her audience. She is also a supporter of the animal rights organization, PETA, as well as the LGBT community, and she typically expresses that support through her music and videos, as can be seen in the video for one of my favorite songs in her catalog, Raise Your Glass.

Friday 17 April 2015

O is for Oasis

Oasis were a British rock band made up of brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher, Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs, Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan, and Tony McCarroll. Their debut album, Definitely Maybe, was released in 1994. It was met with rave reviews, garnering praise for its departure from the stylistic trappings of the then-dominant grunge movement. It debuted at #1 on the UK album chart, breaking the record for fastest-selling album.

Their second album, (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, was released in 1995. It contained the hit singles, Some Might Say, Roll with It, Wonderwall and Don't Look Back in Anger. The album was a bigger success than their first, although it scored comparatively weaker reviews. It remains their most successful album till date, with more than 22 million copies sold.

Their third album, Be Here Now, became the fastest-selling album in the UK in 1997, even though it didn't match the sales of their previous album. That trend would continue with their subsequent albums, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (2000), Heathen Chemistry (2002), Don't Believe the Truth (2005) and Dig Out Your Soul (2008), all of which debuted at #1 on the UK album chart.

The Gallagher brothers are known for their long-standing feud. This has led to either brother dropping out of numerous shows and tours, and would eventually lead to the band's dissolution in 2009. But their music continues to be recognized as some of the finest to come out of the UK. This includes one of their biggest hits, Don't Look Back in Anger, which was ranked #1 by NME on their list of 50 Most Explosive Choruses.

Thursday 16 April 2015

N is for Nirvana

Nirvana was an alternative rock band that consisted of lead singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain, bassist Krist Novoselic, and drummer Dave Grohl. They rose to fame following the unexpected success of their breakout single, Smells Like Teen Spirit. The song would propel their second album, Nevermind, to sell over 30 million copies worldwide, making them one of the most successful bands of all time.

The band was formed in 1987, and their first album, Bleach, was released independently in 1989. The album was critically acclaimed, but failed to make any impact on the charts. During this time, the band went through a number of drummers, before finally settling upon Dave Grohl in 1990. The trio set off to record a follow-up album, and Nevermind was released by their new record label in 1991.

The first single off their second album was the album opener, Smells Like Teen Spirit. The song quickly became a hit after its music video was placed on heavy rotation by MTV. It remains their most recognizable song, with more than 10 million copies sold. The album also produced three further singles, Come as You Are, Lithium and In Bloom. Its success is often credited for bringing alternative rock into the limelight.

Their third album, In Utero, was released in 1993. It produced the singles Heart-Shaped Box, All Apologies/Rape Me and Pennyroyal Tea. It carried over the band's success from their previous album, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200. But the band itself was not fated to last much longer. In 1994, following several years of living with a drug problem, lead singer Kurt Cobain was found dead in his home from what was believed to be a self-inflicted shotgun wound.

Nirvana is still considered one of the most influential rock bands of all time. Their legacy lives on in the form of their music, and the many bands they have undoubtedly inspired over the years. So in honor of that legacy, I have chosen to highlight their song, Smells Like Teen Spirit, since it was here that they went from being unknown to being considered the flagship band of an entire generation.

Wednesday 15 April 2015

M is for Madonna

Madonna is beyond a reasonable doubt the undisputed Queen of Pop. This is especially true when you examine her career spanning more than three decades, and the fact that she has managed to stay relevant by not being afraid to reinvent herself in a constantly-evolving music industry. She holds the current record of most records sold by a female artist, with over 300 million till date.

Her rise to fame can be traced back to the early 80s, after leaving the band Breakfast Club to pursue a solo career. Her first major hit was the song Holiday, which was featured on her self-titled debut album. This was followed by the 1984 release of her second album, Like A Virgin, which was met with critical acclaim. Its title track would become her first #1 single in the US, topping the charts for six consecutive weeks.

Her third album, True Blue, was released in 1986. It contained the hits, Live to Tell, Open Your Heart and Papa Don't Preach, and one of my personal favorites, La Isla Bonita. Her fourth album, Like a Prayer, followed in 1989, and it sparked some level of controversy with its title track, whose video featured numerous Catholic symbolism that was condemned by the Vatican.

Having dominated the charts for most of the 80s, Madonna spent the 90s breaking new ground by exploring different musical styles. This was most apparent on her 1998 album, Ray of Light, which netted her four Grammy awards out of six nominations. It remains one of her most critically acclaimed albums, and is noted for helping make electronic music mainstream.

Madonna has such an impressive collection of hits that listening to any one of her greatest hits compilations is always a joyous occasion. So you should understand why singling out any single song of hers for praise is a daunting task. But of all her studio albums, my favorite remains her 2005 love letter to dance music, Confessions on the Dance Floor, which is why I have chosen to highlight the album's opener, Hung Up.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

L is for Linkin Park

Linkin Park is a nu metal band that rose to prominence during the genre's heyday in the early 2000s. They are considered one of the decades most successful bands, having sold more than 60 million albums. Their lineup includes Mike Shinoda, Chester Bennington, Joseph Hahn, Rob Bourdon, Dave Farrell and Brad Delson.

Their first album, Hybrid Theory, was released in 2000. It contained the hit singles, In the End and Crawling, the latter of which won them a Grammy award for Best Hard Rock Performance. The album was named the bestselling album of 2001, for selling close to 5 million copies during its first year of release. It has since been certified Diamond for shipping over 10 million copies.

The band released a compilation of remixes in 2002, titled Reanimation. It featured contributions from the likes of Korn frontman, Jonathan Davis, as well as Aaron Lewis of the band, Staind. Their second studio album, Meteora, was released in 2003. It continued the success they had found with Hybrid Theory, producing the hit singles Somewhere I Belong, Faint, Breaking The Habit and Numb.

A live album, Live in Texas, was released by the band in late 2003, featuring performances of songs from their previous three albums. They also released a collaborative album, Collison Course, with rapper Jay Z, which was a mashup of preexisting songs between them. The project spawned the hit single, Numb/Encore, which earned both of them a Grammy in the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration category.

For their 2007 album, Minutes to Midnight, the band decided to drop their heavier nu metal sound in favor of a stripped down alternative rock sound, a move that would alienate a significant portion of their existing fanbase. But the album itself proved relatively successful, producing the hit single, What I've Done, which was featured on the Transformers movie soundtrack. They would go on to contribute songs to the next two Transformers sequels, even helping to score the second one.

The band has released three more albums since outgrowing their nu metal sound, A Thousand Suns (2010), Living Things (2012), and The Hunting Party (2014), and a second remix album, Recharged (2013), none of which has managed to capture the same level of success as they had with their first two studio albums. Regardless, the band continues to be recognized for their contribution to the genre, as well as the experimental nature of their recent material.

Linkin Park is perhaps best known for the creativity behind their music videos, most of which typically showcase their love for science fiction and the otherworldly. A prime example of this would be their video for Somewhere I Belong, a song that helped cement their position as one of my all-time favorite rock bands.

Monday 13 April 2015

K is for Kanye West

Say what you will about his award-show rants and other out-of-studio theatrics, but there is no denying the fact that Kanye West is one of the most talented musicians alive today. He has amassed more than 20 Grammys in a relatively short period of time, as well as recorded some of the most iconic hip-hop songs and albums of the past decade.

Kanye West started out as a producer, gaining some recognition for his work on the critically-acclaimed Jay Z album, The Blueprint. But his breakthrough wouldn't come until 2002, when he released Through the Wire, a song that was recorded while his jaw was wired shut shortly after a car accident. The song would later feature on his debut album, The College Dropout, which was released in 2004.

The album was met with rave reviews, gaining an Album of the Year nomination at the 2005 Grammy Awards, his first of three back-to-back albums to score a nomination in that category, the other two being The Late Registration (2005) and Graduation (2007). All three albums would also earn him awards in the Best Rap Album category, with the third one producing his Daft Punk-sampling hit single, Stronger.

For his fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak, Mr. West decided to switch styles by swapping his raps for autotuned vocals, a decision which many argue had led to his absence in the Best Rap Album category of the following year's Grammy Awards. But the album and its experimental nature would help pave the way for his 2010 follow up, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Easily one of the greatest hip-hop albums released in years, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was named Best Album of 2010 by Time Magazine and several other publications. So it is here that I have chosen to highlight the brilliance of Kanye West, or more importantly his music. And there is no better way to do that than through his musical short film, Runaway.

Sunday 12 April 2015

The Liebster Award

It's been a while since I was nominated for any kind of blogger award, so I was a bit surprised to receive this one from Mithila Menezes, whose blog I recently discovered during the ongoing Blogging from A to Z Challenge. You should totally check her out, especially if you share a love for Harry Potter.

I've actually been nominated for this award twice before, by A Creative Exercise and Shreds & Shards, but I never got around to putting up an acceptance post for some reason. Better late than never I guess. To accept this award, recipients are required to answer 11 questions provided by the person who nominated them, as well as nominate 11 people and provide them with 11 questions of their own. And so, without further ado, here are my answers to Mithila's questions:

1. Give me one word which describes you.
Answer: Clown

2. Which is your favourite blog post till date? Provide a link to that one (A blog post that you have written)
Answer: The Origin of a Storyteller.

3. What is the one thing that you have to do every day?
Answer:  Check my email.

4. Which is your favourite quote?
Answer: "Don't judge a book by its cover."

5. What is the one thing that you would love to do before you die?
Answer: Take over the world. [insert evil laughter here]

6. Which do you prefer - Chocolate or cheese?
Answer: Chocolate. I never for once was a fan of cheese.

7. Give me one word in the dictionary that you would love to remove and the reason why.
Answer: OMG. Simply because it's been used to death by teenage girls.

8. If you had a choice between- love, riches, fame, intelligence, which one would you select and why?
Answer: I'd go with riches, because of all the options, it is the only one that can actually pay the bills. :P

9. If you had the opportunity to change your blog name, what would you change it to?
Answer: FlyGuy_EvilOverlord666. Just Kidding. I think I like the current name as is.

10. Name your favourite blogger till date. (A blogger whose posts you love to read)
Answer: It's a three-way tie between Alex J. Cavanaugh, S. L. Hennessy and Tony Laplume. These are the people whose posts I tend to read before anybody else's.

11. Which do you prefer: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn? Why?
Answer: Facebook. It is my all-round, go-to social hub, where I connect with friends, family, and stay up-to-date with the things that I like. Twitter is a distant second. Instagram is a bit too restrictive for my liking. I never did quite manage to get a hang of Pinterest, and I use LinkedIn solely for work-related purposes.

And there you have them, my answers to Mithila's questions. Which means this is the part where I have to nominate 11 recipients. As stipulated by the rules, the nominees should be chosen from a pool of blogs with fewer than 200 followers, since the purpose of the award is to encourage recipients to connect with more blogs, or something like that, I'm not really sure at this point. Anyhoo, here is my list of nominees:

Tony Laplume @ Scouring Monk
Keren Amaechi @ Kays Fittings
Abati Adewale @ Kyd Evolution
Edward Hall @ Empire's 5-Star 500
Ayodeji Otuyelu @ Ripped Diaries
Luana Krause @ Skating Buffalo
Brandon Ax @ Writer's Storm
Mary Okeke @ Mary Okeke Reviews
Ayden K. Morgen @ Ayden K. Morgen
David List @ Regarding Silexare
Nana Prah @ Nana Prah

Phew. It wasn't easy coming up with this awesome bunch of 11 recipients, mainly because most of the bloggers in my circle already have more than 200 followers. And since I am not in the habit of handing out awards to total strangers in the name of meeting a quota, I had to really comb through the blogs in my feed reader. Right. Moving on, the questions for my nominees are as follows:

1. What inspired you to start blogging?
2. What is your greatest accomplishment since then?
3. Have you ever been trolled on the internet before?
4. When was the last time you cried because of something you saw in a movie?
5. Do you believe in magic?
6. Who's your daddy!?
7. No, really, tell me something about your father...?
8. While we're on the topic of parents, it wouldn't hurt for you to put in a word or two about your dear, old ma...?
9. Okay, I realize that wasn't technically a question, but how is any of that my fault?
10. Would you believe it if I told you that I've ran out of questions to ask?
11. How many fingers am I holding behind my back?

And that's all for now, folks. My thanks go out to Mithila Menezes once again for nominating me for this award. Don't forget to link back to my blog, for those of you who choose to accept the award, and to notify all your nominees through their blogs. And for those of you hopping over from the A to Z Challenge participants list, they'll be more A to Z goodness tomorrow, promise.

Saturday 11 April 2015

J is for Jamiroquai

Acid Jazz was one of those musical genres that was considered mainstream in the late 80s and early 90s. Itself a fusion of jazz, funk, soul and disco, the genre was made popular by groups like the Brand New Heavies, A Tribe called Quest, and one of my personal favorites, Jamiroquai.

Jamiroquai was fronted by British singer Jay Kay, who is often considered synonymous with the entire band and their music. Their first album, Emergency on Planet Earth, was released in 1993. This was followed by The Return of the Space Cowboy in 1994. While both albums were well received in the UK, the band wouldn't gain international recognition until the release of their third album, Travelling Without Moving, in 1996.

The album is noted for producing the hit single, Virtual Insanity, which was itself noted for its music video directed by British director, Jonathan Glazer. The song would eventually earn the band their first and only Grammy Award, for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group, as well as a Video of the Year award at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.

Friday 10 April 2015

I is for Imagine Dragons

Imagine Dragons is an alternative rock band famous for their 2012 sleeper hit, Radioactive. The song, like their debut album, Night Visions, was produced by British hip-hop producer, Alex da Kid. It has sold more than 9 million copies, also earning them the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance in 2014.

The band is made up of lead vocalist Dan Reynolds, guitarist Wayne "Wing" Sermon, bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman. Their debut album was released in 2012, following a string of EPs released between 2010 and 2012. The album was a commercial success, helped by the release of three successful singles, It's Time, Radioactive and Demons.

Their second album, Smoke + Mirrors, was released in February 2015. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart with 195,000 copies sold in its first week, and it has produced three singles thus far, I Bet My Life, Gold and Shots.

Thursday 9 April 2015

H is for Hoobastank

Hoobastank is an American rock band that rose to fame in the early 2000s. The band is currently made up of Doug Robb on lead vocals, Dan Estrin on guitar, Chris Hesse on drums and Jesse Charland on bass. They released their self-titled debut album in 2001, which contained the hit singles, Crawling in the Dark and Running Away.

Their second studio album, The Reason, was released in 2003. Its title track would become the biggest hit of their career, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and earning them a Song of the Year nomination at the 48th Grammy Awards. It was also featured in the final episode of the long-running television show, Friends.

The band has released three more studio albums since then, Every Man for Himself (2006), Fornever (2009), and Fight or Flight (2012). They've also released one live album, Live from the Wiltern (2009), and three compilation albums, including 2010's purely acoustic Is This The Day? But I'll be ending today's post with the biggest hit from their 2001 breakthrough album instead, Running Away.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

G is for Gorillaz

Gorillaz are a virtual band created by Damon Albarn (frontman of the Britpop band, Blur) and Jamie Hewlett (a comic book artist famous for his work on the Tank Girl comics). The band itself is comprised of four cartoon characters, namely 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel. Their music is a blend of hip-hop, alternative rock, reggae and pop.

The band released their self-titled debut album in 2001. It contained their breakout single, Clint Eastwood, which peaked at #4 on the UK singles chart. The album would go on to sell more than 7 million copies, as well as producing further singles, 19-2000, Rock The House and Tomorrow Comes Today.

Their second studio album, Demon Days, was released in 2005. It received even more critical acclaim, with most of that praise being directed at its first single, Feel Good Inc. The song was given a Record of the Year nomination at the 2006 Grammys, but lost to Green Day's Boulevard of Broken Dreams. It still managed to earn them their first and only Grammy till date, in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category.

Gorillaz is very much a visual project as it is a musically-oriented one, and as such, their videos tend to showcase the sort of production values you'd expect to find in a big-budget animated film. And nowhere else does that fact become apparent than in their video for Clint Eastwood, with visuals that hold up surprisingly well despite its age.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

F is for Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters is easily one of the biggest names in rock music today, with a combined sales of more than 11 million spread across eight studio albums. The band was formed in 1994 by former Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl. Originally envisioned as a one-man band, their current line up includes Pat Smear, Nate Mendel, Taylor Hawkins and Chris Shiflett.

Dave Grohl played and recorded all instruments on their self-titled 1995 debut album, which would earn him a Best Alternative Album nomination at the 1996 Grammy Awards. Coincidentally, he lost the award to his former band, Nirvana, for their album, MTV Unplugged in New York. His first win would come in 2000, when he took home Best Rock Album for There is Nothing Left to Lose.

The band has won 11 Grammys in total, including four Best Rock Album awards, two split between the two Best Music Video categories, one for Best Rock Song, one for Best Rock Performance, and three for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance. That final group of awards includes the one they took home for their 2002 song, All My Life.

Monday 6 April 2015

E is for Eminem

In my honest opinion, Eminem is arguably the greatest rapper of all time. There, I said it. And not only does he have the sales and accolades to prove it, he also has one of the most instantly recognizable rap styles in the entire rap game. His aggressive flows are matched with lyrics that have been the subject of much controversy over the years.

Born as Marshal Bruce Matters III, the Detroit rapper rose to fame after the release of his 1999 album, The Slim Shady LP. The album featured his rapping alter ego, Slim Shady, an antisocial drug dealer with violent tendencies. It became a commercial success and was met with critical acclaim, eventually going on to win the Grammy for Best Rap Album, his first of several albums to receive that honor.

Over the course of the next fifteen years, his various songs and studio albums would go on to amass a total of 15 Grammy Awards, as well as over 150 million in sales. His crowning achievement came in 2002 though, when he released the song, Lose Yourself, from the 8 Mile movie soundtrack. The song would eventually win the Academy Award for Best Original Song, making it the first ever rap song to do so.

Saturday 4 April 2015

D is for Daft Punk

During the mid-to-late 90s, the French House electronic music subgenre was starting to make waves across Europe. And at the time, Daft Punk were at the center of that movement, a duo made up of French DJs, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. They released their debut album Homework in 1997, and it featured their breakout singles, Alive, Da Funk and Around the World.

The duo released their second studio album in 2001, which was titled Discovery. The album marked a significant shift from the house roots of their previous record, to a more 70s disco-influenced synthpop sound. This was exemplified by the album's first single, One More Time, which would eventually become one of their signature songs. An animated film titled Interstellar 5555 was subsequently released in 2003, which was set to music from the album.

Their third studio album, Human After All, was released in 2005. It contained well-received singles like Robot Rock and Technologic, but the album as a whole was not favorably received by critics. Its release was followed by that of their second of two live albums, Alive 2007, which incorporated songs from all three studio albums. It helped shed a new light on the songs from their third album, and earned the duo two Grammys.

In 2010, they helped score the movie, Tron: Legacy, a sequel to the 1982 classic science fiction movie, Tron. While the movie itself was met with mixed and average reviews, the soundtrack album proved more successful with the critics. It was praised for its blend of orchestral and electronic music elements, a trend that would be carried on by their fourth studio album, Random Access Memories.

Released in 2013, Random Access Memories can be considered the current pinnacle of Daft Punk's musical career. It produced their biggest hit single till date, Get Lucky, a song that no doubt helped introduce their music to a sizable amount of new fans. The album was not only met with critical acclaim, but also went on to win Album of the Year at the 56th Grammy Awards.

It is almost impossible for me to settle upon a single song to showcase the brilliance of Daft Punk. This isn't helped by the evolving nature of their music, with earlier tracks from the Homework era sounding almost nothing like their recent material. So I have decided to highlight one of their lesser known (but nonetheless quintessential) songs instead, Make Love, from their 2005 album, Human After All.

Friday 3 April 2015

C is for Calvin Harris

As a kid, I'd dreamt of growing up to become everything from an astronaut to a ruthless mercenary. But if I were given a choice between professions today, I'd probably choose to become a DJ. More specifically, I'd choose to make the same kind of music as Calvin Harris, and maybe somehow manage to exhibit the same level of coolness.

Born in Scotland as Adam Richard Wiles, Calvin Harris has come a long way from making music in his bedroom, to being the highest-paid DJ in the world for 2 years running. Perhaps what sets him apart from his peers is the fact that he is not afraid to get behind a microphone, his voice lending his songs a quality that makes him shine in an otherwise crowded EDM scene.

While he is perhaps best known for his production work on Rihanna's chart-topping hit, We Found Love, I wouldn't count that song as one of his best or personal favorites of mine. So I have chosen to highlight the song that made me a fan instead, his 2009 single and first solo #1 hit in the UK, I'm Not Alone.

Thursday 2 April 2015

B is for The Beatles

I know it is a statement you've heard a million times before, but without a doubt, The Beatles are the most influential rock band of all time. Formed in 1960, the band was made up of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. They found fame and success following the 1962 release of their debut single, Love Me Do.

At the center of their success was the Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership. Together, both members would go on to pen most of their entire catalogue of songs. As a band, their career spanned an entire decade, during which they released a number of critically-acclaimed albums, as well as scoring more number one singles than any other musical act in US and UK chart history.

Choosing a favorite Beatles song is a lot like picking a favorite strand of hair on your own head; you are immediately faced with the sheer number of songs to choose from. But for me, the one Beatles song that comes to mind every time I think of the band is the timeless piano ballad, Hey Jude.

Wednesday 1 April 2015

A is for ABBA

Sweden has produced a steady stream of pop music stars in recent years, with the likes of Robyn, Tove Lo, Icona Pop and the supergroup Swedish House Mafia all managing to attain international recognition. But their success would pale in comparison to that of ABBA, who are regarded as one of the best-selling music groups of all time.

The group is comprised of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, each member lending the first letter of their first name to form the acronym, ABBA. They rose to prominence in the 1970s, after winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest for their song, Waterloo. They would go on to sell more than 380 million singles and albums worldwide.

In 1999, their music was adapted into a Broadway musical called Mamma Mia!, which was in turn adapted into a 2008 film of the same name starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and others. Both adaptations featured their hit single, Dancing Queen, which is often considered their signature song.