Why Cool For the Summer Bothers Me

Demi Lovato - Cool For the Summer artwork

Another summer, another banging pop song winds up inescapable. Over the past month, Demi Lovato released and went on promotional appearances for her latest single, “Cool For the Summer”. I think Demi Lovato is a talented young singer, and enjoy some of her past work. I own two of her albums, Demi and Unbroken, so I expected a fun little song suitable for summer dancing or workouts.

After a few listens, however, “Cool For the Summer” doesn’t sit well, and I can’t shake it. Written by a team of five, including Lovato, Max Martin, Ali Payami, Alexander Erik Kronlund, and Savan Kotecha, the lyrics aren’t pronoun-specific, but suggest a bi-curious summer fling. While there’s nothing wrong with exploring your sexuality, the tone of the lyrics point to tired old beliefs that might also be among some of the reasons more bisexual people haven’t come out, despite making up the largest slice of the LGBTQIA+ population.

The lyrics include such lines as:

I’m a little curious, too

Tell me if it’s wrong

If it’s right

I don’t care

I can keep a secret, can you?

Sure, some people might consider a fling in general as something adventurous and maybe not talk about it as much, but the other implication here is that exploring sexuality in this manner, or a bicurious experience, is something that is potentially wrong or needs to be kept secret. These sentiments simply feel stale. Our culture is far from perfect when it comes to acceptance, but I’d like to think we’ve come at least a little further than wink wink I’ve got a secret bisexual exploration. The implication continues in the rest of the song.

Don’t tell your mother

Kiss one another

Die for each other

We’re cool for the summer

Again with the whole hush hush down low thing. The rest of the song is a hooky pop craft of fun, no-strings attraction, which is a fine choice if that’s what you’re into. But I simply can’t get past the bad taste these lyrics leave in my mouth.

Band Hero Features More Female Vocalists

When reading through gaming news on Monday afternoon, I read that the whole setlist of the tracks in the upcoming Band Hero game had been released. I went to take a look to see what songs had made the cut, and was pleasantly surprised to see names of female singers or bands with female vocalists over and over throughout the list.

About one third of the songs in the game are sung by women, and they represent a variety of musical styles. Corinne Bailey Rae is there, as are Janet Jackson, No Doubt, Pat Benatar, and Taylor Swift, among others. While I enjoy playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band, most of the default songs in the game have always been from bands with male vocalists. But in the past few years, these titles have been at the forefront of social gaming, and found fans among both genders. Yet it wasn’t until now that there was a respectable number of songs there from female vocalists. Before, it felt a bit like tokenism. Perhaps seven or eight tracks out of fifty or sixty would feature women. It made it more difficult to find something in one’s vocal range if singing that round.

Maybe they realized the game appeals across gender lines. Maybe it was developers realizing that adding more songs by women wouldn’t alienate or weird out the male players. Maybe licensing came more easily this time around. Whatever the reason, I consider it progress and look forward to playing the game.

Keeps Gettin’ Better: A Decade of Hits – a Review

It was at the movies in 1998 that I first discovered Christina Aguilera. The film was, of course, Mulan, and the song was Reflection, a ballad about struggling to remain true to yourself. Now, ten years later, Christina Aguilera has released Keeps Getting’ Better: A Decade of Hits, her first greatest-hits package.

 The debut single, title track Keeps Gettin’ Better is an energetic electropop tale of a Catwomanesque temptress superheroine who just can’t stop straddling the line between good and naughty:

Some days I’m a super bitch
Up to my old tricks
But it won’t last forever.
Next day, I’m your supergirl
out to save the world
And it keeps getting’ better

The track leaked in early September, followed a few days later by a sexy performance (along with a preview of another track on the album, “Genie 2.0”) on the MTV Video Music Awards. The other new song, “Dynamite”, is a light, splashy dance track you’d expect more from the likes of Gwen Stefani. There’s no social commentary in here, no long-stored pain, it’s about feeling free. One can imagine two bodies together in a club enjoying each other and the moment.

“Genie 2.0” is one of two remakes on this hits set. “Genie in a Bottle” is redone with a slow purr as electronic dance beats swirl in the background. The other remake, “You Are What You Are (Beautiful)” takes a song already full of emotional power and makes it damp and moody. It’s faintly reminiscent of some John Lennon with a touch of Radiohead’s occasional weird sonic distortion. While the original version is still best, this is a highlight from an artist who prides herself on reinvention and usually includes new arrangements of older tracks during her concerts. Both “Keeps Gettin’ Better” and “Dynamite”, along with the two remakes are, according to Aguilera, a taste of what’s to come on her new album, scheduled for next summer.

 As for the rest of the album, there are some glaring omissions. The first is “Reflection”, the song that actually started Aguilera’s career and the track that would have officially made this set a complete decade’s worth of hits. As it stands now, all the songs are from 1999-2008. I wonder if it was her choice to leave it off or issues with using the song from Disney. Two other songs that should’ve made the cut are “Lady Marmalade”, which was a worldwide #1 hit, and “Nobody Wants to Be Lonely”, her duet with Ricky Martin that charted in the top 10 in many countries. These tracks are both on the international versions of the album, but “Reflection” is nowhere to be found. Another hit, “The Voice Within”, has been left off all but the British and Japanese editions.


The included tracks on Keeps Gettin’ Better showcase an artist who challenges herself to try different things. The earlier material is often poppier and less personal (“Genie in a Bottle”, “What a Girl Wants”), but songs taken from her albums Stripped (“Fighter”, “Beautiful”) and Back to Basics (“Ain’t No Other Man”, “Hurt”) hint at the growth personally, professionally, and in her ability to successfully tackle many musical genres that is even more blatant in the rest of those albums (on such songs as “Walk Away” and “Save Me From Myself”). Aguilera’s take on reinvention and of challenging herself will be familiar to any fan, but this is a collection that won’t disappoint the casual listener or someone who wants most of her hits in one slick Pop Art-inspired package. Even for a longtime fan with all her albums like myself, songs like Keeps Gettin’ Better and the remakes make this a must-own.

Four Cover Songs to Check Out

I was reading up on Morcheeba earlier, and was feeling inspired to write about music. I heard the first song here on my list earlier and the idea for this blog popped into my head. So here goes:

Skye Edwards – Feel Good Inc

Skye Edwards is the former lead singer of the British band Morcheeba. I don't remember where I discovered Morcheeba. It may have been through one of their songs being played in a movie. Skye left in 2003 to pursue a solo career. One of the songs she's recorded is this soulful, breathy version of the Gorillaz hit. Her take on the song is fresh and she definitely makes it her own.

Dame Shirley Bassey – Get This Party Started

Dame Shirley Bassey, the Welsh singer most notable for her soulful belting and having recorded two James bond theme songs, decided to cover a pop song by Pink. However odd that sounds, she pulls it off marvelously. Her rendition is fun, airy, and she even gets to show off her lovely, strong voice. She looks gorgeous in the video as well as like she's having a really good time. An unexpected cover, but definitely one to seek out.

El Lele de Los Van Van featuring Radiohead – High and Dry

This cover is also partly a reinterpretation, as often happens when translating lyrics into another language. Radiohead is sampled here in this Spanish version of their song "High and Dry" by El Lele of the group Los Van Van. In crafting this version, the orchestrated rhythms capture the melancholy of the original song, while the lyrics and vocal performance make it almost even more heartwrenching and moody. You don't even have to speak Spanish to appreciate the beauty of this cover.

The Corrs – Everybody Hurts

This one is several years old, but it's still one of my favorites. I'm a big fan of The Corrs, and I was able to pick up their MTV Unplugged album when I was studying abroad (it was never released in the US). This is one of the tracks featured in the performance, and one of two covers (the other being Little Wing). I think that Andrea Corr's voice is perfect for this fluid, emotional song, and it's one of my favorite cover songs. Since it never got a US release, I've decided to feature it in the hopes more people hear this version of the REM hit.

A Few Thoughts

I caught part of American Idol last night, and saw Jennifer Lopez perform. In a way, it was a proud moment, seeing one of the biggest shows on television feature a huge star singing in Spanish on national television. Regardless of anyone's personal opinion of Lopez' musical career, the fact that this milestone was achieved is pretty important. It's a good demonstration of how Latinos are ever more out there, and how pieces of our culture are shown to be completely at home among all the other diversity America has to offer. At the same time, nobody made a big deal out of it being a sort of milestone. It was just a seamless blend with the rest of the show. That's important, because it normalizes such a performance and the occasional Spanglish and Spanish-language advertising I see on a regular basis.

 I bet most of the audience didn't understand the song and yet they seemed to get into it anyway, simply enjoying the music and the performance for all it was worth. That's where the pride comes in, knowing that enjoyment and music are things that cross cultural and language barriers.

On a related note, I saw this headline via E! News the other day: "Salma's Spicy Studio Deal" which was referring to the recent production deal signed between Salma Hayek and MGM,  to form Ventanazul, a company to develop and distrubute Latino themed film projects. "Spicy"? Way to stereotype. Now, I know most of us are very proud of being a passionate people, but these terms only serve to marginalize and give people a certain impression of us, especially of us Latinas. We're "spicy", "spitfires", "feisty", "hot tamales", etc. But wait – I'm geeky, nerdy, calm, passionate, yes, but whatever happened to celebrating the whole of a person instead of attempting to water them down to an adjective or two? Ventanazul is actually trying to do just that, says Salma, saying that the projects will be involved in "telling uniquely Latin stories like that of Frida Kahlo, to creating unforgettable characters—who just happen to be Latin—like Ugly Betty." Then why such a ridiculously stereotypical headline from the E! writer?

Not that I necessarily disagree that "spicy" may truly describe some people, but it's a tired adjective when attached to stories involving Latinos, and it's about time someone gave these writers a new thesaurus. In the end, I'm happy to hear of the Ventanazul production company and look forward to what kinds of projects will come out of it.

Vox Hunt: This One Goes Out To…

Audio: It's dedication time.  What song are you sending out, and who is it dedicated to?

Several years ago, when Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head came out, I gradually started listening to it a lot. What strikes me as funny now was that on the album, as with most, there were two or three songs that I liked least and would remove from the rotation much of the time. After I met my boyfriend, before we were together and were first getting to know one another, I realized that I started listening to one of these least-liked tracks more and more often. It became a sort of shy little secret, since it reminded me of him in certain ways (before I even knew what he looked like aside from black hair and green eyes). At the time he had not yet quite come to embody the lyrics in the song, he most certainly does now.

So Michael, this is for you:

A Romantic Song – What does that mean to you?

Recently, I was on a message board that I frequent, and someone asked about a few songs and whether we found them romantic, and what other suggestions we might have for such songs. I didn't contribute any new ones to the thread at the time, but the following day, I heard a song that I'd liked for years and whose lyrics I loved. The song was "Desnuda", by Ricardo Arjona.


No es ninguna aberración sexual

Pero me gusta verte andar en cueros

El compás de tus pechos aventureros

Victimas de la gravedad

Será porque no me gusta la tapicería

Que creo que tu desnudez

Es tu mejor lenceria

Por eso es que me gustas tal y como eres

Incluso ese par de libras de mas

Si te viese tu jefe desnuda y detras

No dudaria en promover tu cintura

Deja llenarme de tu desnudez

Para afrontar los dizfraces de afuera

De una mejor manera


Que no habra diseño que te quede mejor

Que el de tu piel ajustada a tu figura


Que no hay un ingenuo que vista una flor

Seria como taparle la hermosura


Que la naturaleza no se equivoca

Y si te hubiese querido con ropa

Con ropa hubieses nacido

Deja llenarme de tu desnudez

Para vestirme por dentro

Aunque sea un momento

Now the message here is clear – 'I love you, and you're so beautiful as you are that I love watching you naked as you were born. Even though I've noticed your little flaws, I don't care, and they only enhance your beauty to me'.

To me, these lyrics are incredibly romantic and beautiful, even though they're not describing typical romance or the general goings on of a relationship. Face it, there are many of those songs, with many more veering toward the saccharine than not. Granted, I love sweet and sometimes cheesy love songs too (Your Body is a Wonderland, anyone?), but there's something about songs whose writers and performers rise to a certain poetic level.

Here's the video:

Desnuda-Ricardo Arjona

Lyrics courtesy of Ricardo Arjona Online