Wednesday, December 24, 2014

December Playlist

December Playlist

Merry Christmas Eve! Okay everyone, so 2014 only has one week left, which means only one thing--time for my December playlist! ;) Here are the songs I couldn't stop listening to this month.

1. "Dark Coffee" - 5:00
ALBUM: N/A
ARTIST: Daniela Andrade

2. "Elysium" - 3:26
ALBUM: Islands
ARTIST: Bear's Den

3. "Still (Live)" - 4:14
ALBUM: Back to You - EP
ARTIST: Jake Isaac

4. "Free Fallin' (Live)" - 4:23
ALBUM: Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles
ARTIST: John Mayer

5. "Unwind" - 4:47
ALBUM: Fractures
ARTIST: Fractures

6. "Ran Before the Storm" - 6:39
ALBUM: Little Giant
ARTIST: Roo Panes

7. "Is There Somewhere" - 3:31
ALBUM: Room 93 - EP
ARTIST: Halsey

8. "Return to Me" - 3:18
ALBUM: Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain
ARTIST: Sparklehorse

9. "We Don't Eat" - 4:53
ALBUM: Early In The Morning
ARTIST: James Vincent McMorrow

10. "With You" - 4:26
ALBUM: Out to Sea - EP
ARTIST: Tom Misch & Carmody

11. "Illume" - 4:05
ALBUM: Blood EP
ARTIST: Osca

12. "Holding On" - 3:53
ALBUM: Holding On - Single
ARTIST: Fyfe

13. "505" - 4:13
ALBUM: Favourite Worst Nightmare
ARTIST: Arctic Monkeys

14. "You're Not the One" - 2:45
ALBUM: Confluence
ARTIST: Zane Carney

15. "Jackie and Wilson" - 3:43
ALBUM: Hozier
ARTIST: Hozier

16. "Something From Nothing" - 4:48
ALBUM: Sonic Highways
ARTIST: Foo Fighters

17. "Love Robbery" - 3:03
ALBUM: Chase Dreams
ARTIST: Kalin and Myles

18. "Wassiye" - 4:46
ALBUM: Ma Ya
ARTIST: Habib Koité & Kélétigui Diabaté

19. "Papaoutai" - 3:52
ALBUM: Racine carrée
ARTIST: Stromae

20. "In Your Atmosphere (Live)" - 5:45
ALBUM: Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles
ARTIST: John Mayer

I hope you enjoy these twenty tunes as we coast into 2015. I've had an unforgettable, incredible year, and I'm looking forward to an even better one come January. My senior year is almost half over, so in a few months I'll decide where I'm going to college…that's nuts. But there you have it. I watched "Boyhood" last night, and the movie ends on two characters discussing the old adage "seize the moment," and how in fact, the moment seizes us. There's something to that. It seems like the people around me are constantly seized by their own moments. God knows I am.

Happy holidays. xo

Monday, November 24, 2014

November Playlist

November Playlist

Hey all! I kinda promised myself I'd post to this thing more, but you know how it is…
In any event, it's time for my November playlist. I only have one more day of school this week, and then it's blessedly Thanksgiving break. You wanna know what I'm thankful for? Being done with my apps. #praise

Enjoy these autumnal tunes. Some of these songs literally brought me to tears on first listen. They're really beautiful, so I hope you like 'em.

1. "Universe Electric" - 3:08
ALBUM: Weathered - EP
ARTIST: Angie Miller

2. "Sober" - 3:47
ALBUM: Bad Intentions - EP
ARTIST: Niykee Heaton

3. "It's Alright" - 4:10
ALBUM: Fractures
ARTIST: Fractures

4. "Milk Carton Kid" - 4:05
ALBUM: Prologue
ARTIST: The Milk Carton Kids

5. "Medicine" - 4:19
ALBUM: Wild Youth - EP
ARTIST: Daughter

6. "On My Way" - 3:51
ALBUM: All We Have Left
ARTIST: Boyce Avenue

7. "The Only Reason" - 3:38
ALBUM: Ep2 - EP
ARTIST: JP Cooper

8. "Concrete Wall" - 3:35
ALBUM: Ghostbird
ARTIST: Zee Avi

9. "Dollhouse" - 3:51
ALBUM: Dollhouse - EP
ARTIST: Melanie Martinez

10. "Fantasy" - 3:39
ALBUM: Fantasy - Single
ARTIST: Alina Baraz & Galimatias

11. "Helplessly" - 3:05
ALBUM: Helplessly - Single
ARTIST: Tatiana Manaois

12. "Changing of the Seasons" - 3:42
ALBUM: Changing of the Seasons - EP
ARTIST: Two Door Cinema Club

13. "Everybody Loves You" - 4:19
ALBUM: The Fight
ARTIST: Curtis Peoples

14. "Title" - 2:54
ALBUM: Title (Deluxe)
ARTIST: Meghan Trainor

15. "Tous les mêmes" - 3:33
ALBUM: Racine car ée
ARTIST: Stromae

So those are the songs I've been listening to this November. I hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving, and that if you're a senior, you're finishing up those college applications. And I also hope you know that you are loved, and that romantic love isn't the be-all end-all of life. There is so much fulfillment to be found in love from your family and friends, and the love you feel for your passions and ambitions. God knows I love my music. Stay strong, kiddos. Whatever it is, you're probably in the home stretch. xo

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Effective Feminism, Justified Rage, & Why It's Okay When Things Suck

This post is going to contain a lot of dirty words and phrases. "Anger." "Insensitivity." "Race issues." "Feminism." Chances are, especially if you are a cisgender straight white male, you do not want to talk about these things. You do not want to read what I have to write on these issues, because you have the words "not all men" tattooed on your forehead and, because you have never in your life experienced discrimination based on your race, gender, or sexual orientation, you cannot comprehend that those things have ever presented an issue for anyone else.

(Read: if you just whined--aloud or in your head--that you are totally sensitive to minority issues and gender inequality, you completely missed the point.)


Feminism has become demonized and distorted by those who don't understand it. Men who feel it attacks their rights in some way refer to feminists as "feminazis" - a term so troubling I couldn't possibly delve into its significance in this post. Even some women have begun to campaign on a "why I don't need feminism" ticket, demonstrating a basic of ignorance of what feminism is.


Allow me to explain it for you. The definition, verbatim, is "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men." If you are a man and you feel threatened by feminism, you are a misogynist, and you need to figure out what screwed you up so bad that you don't think women deserve basic human rights. If you are a women and you think you don't need feminism, then I suppose you're satisfied with lacking equality with--not superiority to, we're not trying to get a matriarchy on our hands--men.


However, feminism, while its definition is bright and shiny, is deeply flawed as a movement. Over the course of its storied development--which, again, too much to get into on this post--there have been major issues with its exclusion of ethnic minorities, trans women, and lesbian women. But I'm not here to talk about misandry (the opposite of misogyny, i.e. the dislike of and prejudice against the male sex) or any other perversion of the doctrine that gives us all a bad name. I'm here to advocate for intersectional feminism, or as I like to call it, effective feminism.


Intersectional feminism essentially calls for equal rights across the board--women of color, trans women, lesbians, and, yes, cisgender straight white women too. Feminism is SUCH a great idea, as equality always is. But in order for it to work, it requires everyone, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation, to be equal. It's sort of in the term. Equality. For everybody. Okay, moving on.


A lot of people like to throw around the word "angry" as a means of belittling or attacking feminists. They claim that they are blinded by irrational rage and are blowing "small" things out of proportion. To anybody who says that, let me learn you a couple things:

  1. What you call rage, others might call passion. Learn the difference. And more importantly…
  2. Sometimes, we have a right to be angry.
Not to get too political, but when the government tries to legislate what women can and cannot do with our bodies (ESPECIALLY when that government is predominately male), or when women still make less money than men do for the same job (pretty please don't show me laws, because spoiler alert, people do illegal things all the time, including discriminating against women financially and socially in the workplace), or when women are ever considered less than solely based on sex, it's okay to get angry. This is directed at everyone. Men, don't you dare criticize a woman for being angry about something that is rage-inducing. And women, don't be afraid to express your outrage over injustice when it is seriously affecting your quality of life. It's all part of the patriarchal tradition of suppressing women's emotions; when they laugh at you, or they call you a feminazi, or make jokes about burning your bra, or tell you to stop overreacting--don't listen. Keep your head high. Be logical and be rational, but if you're angry, then be angry. You don't have to be "nice." You don't have to be "polite." Not when your rights are being compromised.

And now for my last point. Everything I've said so far is about when gender, sexual orientation, and race interfere with one's quality of life. But when I say that, I do really and truly mean quality of life. If a guy cracks a joke about women making sandwiches, he's an idiot, not a criminal. Just laugh it off.

Don't laugh off the big things. When it's clear that a culture of discrimination is surrounding you, you should feel comfortable taking a stand and trying to change things. If you feel that what you do or who you are is not being taken seriously, you can speak up. But pick your battles. If you scream at everyone who screws up with you, you'll lose your voice.

I am a black woman. Being a black woman, people say insensitive things to me literally every day. When someone tells me I'm "too white" or "too black," it used to really piss me off. Now, it gets an eye roll. Whenever I hear the phrase "not all men" in response to a comment I've made about male privilege, I feel the urge to berate the guy for his insensitivity (and sometimes, I succumb and I do). But we all need to learn to be less sensitive to things like this.

Sometimes people are mean. But remember what they taught us in preschool about sticks and stones?

Most of the time, words cannot hurt you. We all get so caught up in "skinny shaming" and "reverse racism" and even fat-shaming and "regular" racism that we forget about bigger issues. Someone telling me I don't act black is annoying. Michael Brown getting shot to death is a heartbreaking, unjust crime. Someone making a joke about women in the kitchen is dumb. Dozens of women getting shot to death because of a sexually-repressed misogynist is also a heartbreaking, unjust crime.

Discrimination due to things beyond our control happens every day and to varying severity. So if nothing else, here are your takeaways:

  • Feminism, and all equality movements, only work if they are intersectional. Promote effective feminism. Promote effective social justice.
  • If someone is doing you wrong and preventing you from living a fulfilling, happy life based on your gender, race, or sexual orientation, you are totally allowed to get angry.
  • Choose your battles and choose them well. You must fight. But make sure you know what you're fighting for, and why.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October Playlist


October Playlist

Heyo! October is in its final days, which means it's time for my…drumroll, please…October playlist! I went to Cambridge to visit my brother at college last week, so I was listening to this playlist loads on the plane, in the library at his school, etc; let's just say these songs got a lot of mileage. Enjoy!

1. "Drowning" - 4:09
ALBUM: Goddess
ARTIST: Banks

2. "Let It Go" - 4:21
ALBUM: Let It Go - EP
ARTIST: James Bay

3. "I'll Be Good" - 4:08
ALBUM: Habits of My Heart - EP
ARTIST: Jaymes Young

4. "Run" - 4:07
ALBUM: Smother - Single
ARTIST: Daughter

5. "Lying to You" - 5:19
ALBUM: Birthdays (Deluxe Edition)
ARTIST: Keaton Henson

6. "Sideways" - 5:22
ALBUM: The Clarence Greenwood Recordings
ARTIST: Citizen Cope

7. "Watching" - 5:52
ALBUM: Ep1 - EP
ARTIST: JP Cooper

8. "Say You Love Me" - 4:17
ALBUM: Tough Love (Deluxe Version)
ARTIST: Jessie Ware

9. "Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene" - 3:39
ALBUM: Hozier
ARTIST: Hozier

10. "Girls Chase Boys" - 3:41
ALBUM: Lights Out
ARTIST: Ingrid Michaelson

11. "Tighten Up" - 3:31
ALBUM: Brothers
ARTIST: The Black Keys

12. "Undisclosed Desires" - 3:56
ALBUM: The Resistance
ARTIST: Muse

13. "Let It Be" - 3:06
ALBUM: Let It Be - Single
ARTIST: Labrinth

14. "Unbelievers" - 3:22
ALBUM: Modern Vampires of the City
ARTIST: Vampire Weekend

And that'll just about do it for my October playlist! Hope you're enjoying the fall, wherever you are; Massachusetts in October is absolutely gorgeous and autumnal, and LA…well, it's always sunny here, isn't it? :) Expect more music (and life) posts from me in the near future, and keep an eye on my YouTube channel (youtube.com/jensenmcraeofficial), my Twitter (@mcraejensen) and my official site (jensenmcrae.com) for more updates about MY music! Talk soon. xo

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Apply: A Definition (or 5)

Apply, v.

1. To make a formal application or request.

Gee, thanks, Google, for that utterly thrilling definition that is at once concise and provides no new information. Really?! To apply is to make an application?!
I digress.
The most applicable *cough* definition of the word "apply" right now is 'to college.' As in, I am sitting at my kitchen table, as I have been for the last two hours, waiting for my art supplement to upload to SlideRoom so I can finish off my application to my dream school. As in, since August 1st--the day the Common App launched--the bulk of my life and mind has been overtaken by the before, during, and after of applying to college. As in, on May 1st, I will finally know for sure where I am going, but until then, I will be experiencing such a huge range of emotions that I likely will have several (more) mental breakdowns. The first worldiest of first world problems. Oh, college. You silly, demonic little beast.
If you're in my shoes…first of all, I'm sorry. Second of all, we've got this! Only a few more months to go and then all of this is behind us!
Dear colleges: I am formally requesting that you admit me. Yrs, Jensen.

2. To be applicable or relevant.

Google's done it again. To be applicable?!
How does one manage it, in the year 2014? We live in the digital age. Every day we are inundated with more information than our feeble human brains can possibly process. Advertisements for shampoo that will make your hair salon-fresh after every wash, television shows about Kerry Washington saving the country from catastrophe, YouTube clips of a cat dialing 911, Yahoo! homepage articles about how ebola is SO TOTALLY IN YOUR HOUSE RIGHT NOW. We're used to it now, so everything gets swept under the rug. So how do we stay remembered?
I used to think that was the most important question in the world. How can I be applicable? How do I become relevant? Then I read The Fault In Our Stars, and I was still convinced it was the most important question, even after Hazel Grace tries to teach Augustus that being remembered is about quality, not quantity, of memory. Now, as I figure out where I'm gonna spend the next four years of my life, I realize that even though the stress, anxiety, fear, hope, and excitement I am feeling is amplified and overwhelming now, in a year and a half, when I'm well into my freshman year of college, I'll barely remember it. I'll be at some incredible school, swamped with work and music and activities, and I won't give a second thought to the arduous months that brought me there.
So if I won't remember this, what is arguably the most formative time in my life so far, how can I expect other people to remember me? When I can't even remember myself?

3. To put (or spread) something on a surface.

Finally, a definition that does not contain some iteration of the word 'apply' in it.
I just spent a whole paragraph convincing you that you can't expect other people to remember you. But…you should still try. You don't have to be remembered by everyone, or remembered forever. But you should strive to have an impact, to matter, in a small way or a big way. Not everyone is going to walk on the moon. Not everyone is going to win a Grammy (although I sincerely hope to myself). Not everyone is going to be the President or cure cancer or write the next great American novel. But maybe you'll be a second grade teacher, and you'll make some lonely little boy fall in love with learning. Maybe you'll get married to the love of your life and have four beautiful children. Maybe you'll give a homeless man five dollars every day and be the reason that he survives, or gets back on his feet. Maybe you'll buy someone a cup of coffee when they're having a rough day.
So spread yourself on this blue-green surface. Put yourself out there. Life is a lottery and every ticket wins. Throw yours in and see what you get.

4. To give one's full attention to a task; to work hard.

Every teenager in the world has heard the phrase "apply yourself" at least once. Or twice. Or a million times. It's late April, in the horrible end-of-year-slump we all face, and you've got a precalc problem set to tackle and APUSH reading to annotate (or, y'know, skim) and an English essay to rewrite, but when you get home, you drop your six-ton backpack angrily on the ground and lay facedown on your bed. And one or both of your parents come in your room and they ask what's wrong, and you say you don't want to do your work. And they say, come on, honey. Just apply yourself.
Well, I hate to break it to you; they're not wrong. You should apply yourself, when you've got lots of work to do and you don't want to do it, or you don't understand a difficult concept, or you're holding yourself back from a great opportunity that seems hard or scary now but will pay off later. But that's not all you should work hard for. Apply yourself to getting a good night's sleep, to taking a hot bath, to eating a delicious and healthy meal, to going for a jog, to listening to some really good music. Work hard at taking care of yourself and making yourself happy. The world expects a lot of you, and trust me, you CAN rise to the challenge. But it's not just about what the world wants. It's about what you want. Apply yourself to you, kid. It's your body and it's your life. You've got only got one of each. (That was almost YOLO…almost.)

5. To bring or put into operation or practical use.

Unless you're a solipsist, you know the world mostly exists outside your own mind. It's a rat race, a dog-eat-dog kinda game, and if you don't step outside your bubble, the world will keep spinning without you. Chances are, you've got a lot of interesting thoughts in your head, but unless you take them from the intangible to the tangible, they won't get you anywhere. Bring yourself and your great ideas down from the clouds and onto the ground and you'll be surprised where they'll take you.
It's scary. Rejection and failure are scary. But I heard this great quote once, about how life is a series of decisions that narrow down your options. And not making the decisions? That's a decision, too. So whether or not you decide, your options keep narrowing.
Which is it going to be? Are you going to choose? Or are you going to let the world choose for you?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Artist Recs 4 U! (Vol. I)

Hey, all! So I've decided I want to post on this little number quite a bit more than I currently do and thought I'd do a little "if this, then that" for ya. If you're confused, don't worry, it'll make sense soon. Here are a few artist recommendations for you!

Below are ten artists with varying degrees of mainstream and critical success that span a few genres. I included 4 recommendations that I perceive as pretty close in vibe to the original artist, and then 1 'out of bounds' rec that might get you slightly out of your musical comfort zone while still staying true to your tastes. Check it out!

1. If you like Sam Smith, you should listen to…

  • Allen Stone
  • James Blake
  • JP Cooper
  • Daniel Bedingfield
  • Out of Bounds: Derran Day
2. If you like Bon Iver, you should listen to…
  • Benjamin Francis Leftwich
  • Sam Morrow
  • City and Colour
  • Jump Little Children
  • Out of Bounds: Hozier
3. If you like Ed Sheeran, you should listen to…
  • Jason Reeves
  • Nina Nesbitt
  • Natalie Holmes
  • Jay Loftus
  • Out of Bounds: Shannon Saunders
4. If you like Maroon 5, you should listen to…
  • Marianas Trench
  • Goldspot
  • Fitz & The Tantrums
  • Taylor Mathews
  • Out of Bounds: Jack's Mannequin
5. If you like The White Stripes, you should listen to…
  • Shakey Graves
  • Foxy Shazam
  • Dr. Dog
  • The Mountain Goats
  • Out of Bounds: Nana Grizol
6. If you like Charli XCX, you should listen to…
  • Echosmith
  • Ryn Weaver
  • Meghan Trainor
  • Kate Nash
  • Out of Bounds: Dresses
7. If you like Sara Bareilles, you should listen to…
  • Daughter
  • David Choi
  • Broken Fences
  • Matt Corby
  • Out of Bounds: Wet
8. If you like John Mayer, you should listen to…
  • Justin Nozuka
  • Jaymes Young
  • Charlie Simpson
  • Rufus Wainright
  • Out of Bounds: Front Porch Step
9. If you like Vampire Weekend, you should listen to…
  • The Oh Hello's
  • Peace
  • Walk the Moon
  • Josh Woodward
  • Out of Bounds: Sam Brookes
10. If you like Arctic Monkeys, you should listen to…
  • The Perishers
  • Imelda May
  • Hospitality
  • First Aid Kit
  • Out of Bounds: Gin Wigmore
That'll do it for now! I might post more of these if I think of others but this is a pretty lengthy list! Stay tuned for another installation of 'Artist Recs 4 U,' my artist and album reviews, my random musings on life, and of course, my monthly playlist. October began today, and I've already got a couple great tracks lined up to play ad nauseam for the next 30 days… ;)

See ya soon! xo

Monday, September 22, 2014

September Playlist

September Playlist

Hey dudes! So…senior year is a thing. (As is illness, which I am currently overcoming. Cough.) I've got some Middle East reading to do, but quite frankly, I'm not in the mood at the present moment. So instead I decided to deliver my September tunes unto you. This month is in its last leg, and today is technically the first day of autumn, even though the 90º+ forecast for this week would have you believing otherwise. Oh, silly Los Angeles. Where are your seasons? (Honestly, I love the sun. I love sweater weather too, of course, but I really do dig summer time). I don't know seasonally appropriate these songs are, but I've been listening to them a lot, and they're pretty great. So check them out! Also, I'm having trouble dealing with October's imminence. OCTOBER?! No, my internal clock still feels like it's August. Maybe once the leaves start changing, I'll get out of the weird mood I've been in. Oh, and finishing college apps. That'll really set me back on track. Which reminds me…once I get over this sickness thing, I've gotta refilm my songwriting auditions! Gah! Deadline is November 1st! Be proactive, future me!

In any event. The songs, as promised…

1. "Stick" - 3:35
ALBUM: Lights Out
ARTIST: Ingrid Michaelson

2. "Maps" - 3:10
ALBUM: V
ARTIST: Maroon 5

3. "All About That Bass" - 3:08
ALBUM: All About That Bass - Single
ARTIST: Meghan Trainor

4. "OctaHate" - 3:26
ALBUM: Promises - EP
ARTIST: Ryn Weaver

5. "Striking Distance" - 2:13
ALBUM: Siren
ARTIST: Young Summer

6. "Celestial" - 3:24
ALBUM: Handmade Songs By Tori Kelly - EP
ARTIST: Tori Kelly

7. "Touch" - 3:35
ALBUM: TRXYE - EP
ARTIST: Troye Sivan

8. "Winter Is All Over You" - 3:39
ALBUM: The Big Black and the Blue
ARTIST: First Aid Kit

9. "Don't Know You" - 4:13
ALBUM: Don't Know You - Single
ARTIST: Tall Tales

10. "Missing the War" - 4:18
ALBUM: Whatever and Ever Amen
ARTIST: Ben Folds Five

11. "You've Got Her In Your Pocket" - 3:39
ALBUM: Elephant
ARTIST: The White Stripes

12. "Kentish Town Waltz" - 4:50
ALBUM: Mayhem
ARTIST: Imelda May

13. "Slow Dancing In a Burning Room" - 4:02
ALBUM: Continuum
ARTIST: John Mayer

14. "Darling" - 2:56
ALBUM: The Say Max - EP
ARTIST: MAX

15. "From Eden" - 4:43
ALBUM: Hozier
ARTIST: Hozier

16. "In the Cold, Cold Night" - 2:58
ALBUM: Elephant
ARTIST: The White Stripes

17. "The Only Way to My Heart…"
ALBUM: Foxy Shazam
ARTIST: Foxy Shazam

That'll wrap it up for my September playlist! Yes, there ARE two songs off 'Elephant' in this one, but only because it is maybe one of the best albums of all time and if you disagree, then ????!!!!! But yeah, I still have a lot of White Stripes to get through; I started listening to 'White Blood Cells' and couldn't get into it, but who knows? Anyway, this is what I've been listening to, I hope you give these 17 songs a chance, and I hope you even like 'em! Next time we talk will probably be October, but the only thing spooky about my month will be the Common App, and therefore, my future…*ghoulish laughter*

See ya soon! xo

Monday, September 1, 2014

Why Music?

It is very late, and I am up because in 30 hours, my senior year commences in earnest. So naturally, instead of getting rest or working on college apps, I wrote this unrelated essay. Enjoy.


            By now, my answer to “why music?” is a well-choreographed dance; I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, I started musical theater at six, piano at seven, songwriting at twelve. I’ve written over 200 songs, but not all of them are good. And so on. It’s almost gotten so that I don’t like answering the question, almost avoid it, because I can’t stand to hear the parade of words marching from my mouth, my tongue a conveyor belt leading to an uninteresting final product.
            The first time I said something that caught my own interest was in my video essay for GRAMMY Camp LA 2014. I recorded it on a camera with a dying battery, uploaded it, and didn’t look at it again until long after camp had ended, a late night in August when the nostalgia had overtaken me and I longed to remember who I had been before I was irrevocably changed by those 10 days. I heard myself say, “not all my songs are good, sometimes they’re bad, but I think it’s important to keep writing anyway.” Those last three words caused my sleepy head to snap to attention. What a motto to have for myself. Keep writing anyway.
            That sticks out to me because it’s not just about music. It’s about everything, about life. Work by perspiration, not inspiration, the whole bit. Keep writing anyway, even when you’re out of good ideas and everything you generate is subpar. Keep writing anyway, because once you push through the crap, you can get to the good stuff. Write a hundred terrible songs, and then the hundred and first will win you a Grammy. As Chuckie Sullivan said in Good Will Hunting said, “keep your ears to the grindstone.” Keep writing anyway.
            Now, I am setting out to answer “why music?” in a more compelling way than “because it’s always been music.” Admittedly, that’s still a compelling answer, but I’m a songwriter, gosh darn it, so there is certainly a better way to say it.
            So, why music? When I force myself to sit and think about it right now, there are a million reasons. One, because it’s two in the morning and, in a desperate attempt to expand my music knowledge, I’m starting an expedition into jazz greats, beginning with Jelly Roll Morton. As the first track in his Library of Congress sessions begins—“Alabama Bound” and the story thereof—I feel an instant connection to my heritage, musically and ethnically. The strains of the South, the voice of an aging black man singing and speaking over gentle jazz piano, and I am reminded of where I came from. Just the sound of his voice—a man I never met and have no relation to—makes me smile. Why music? It gives shape to an identity I never even knew I had.
            Two, because while at GRAMMY Camp this past summer, I formed relationships faster than I ever have in my life, and those relationships are more meaningful than any I’ve ever forged. Music brought us all together in a way I could only have dreamed about before. Everybody at camp understands what it means to share music, be it music that you’ve written or a song you love by someone else; to show someone a song that matters to you is to give a little piece of yourself, to uncover a secret tile in the mosaic of your soul. And at camp, when I wrote with the other songwriters or played them something of my own, I swept the dust from my own stained glass windows and exposed the colors I was so desperate to show. The tingly, heart-stopping fear of revelation was dulled in the face of their acceptance. We were all on one team there. And if they felt anything that I did, I can only hope that I did the same, that I made full disclosure feel safe. Why music? It breeds love and compassion for people I didn’t even know I needed.
            Three, because, long story short, there have been dark times in my life. Everyone experiences ups and downs, and I’ve been up and down with the best and worst of them. I have written and heard songs that I truly believe saved my life. Music is catharsis, it is therapy, and it is a friend that listens when no one else will or could possibly understand. Music always understands. There is an infinite library of music about an infinite set of subjects. I can always finds a song that gets me. And when I can’t, I write one. Why music? It rescues me when I am at my most unlovable, or celebrates me when I am at my most triumphant.

            I wrote all this because I don’t want my answer to “why music?” to be mechanical or automatic. I want my explanation to be grounded, but ever-changing. I want to be inundated by reasons to love music, to have a wealth of examples of how music made me smile or laugh or cry, of how it divulged the dark secrets of a seemingly beneficent universe or shed light on something I never thought could shine. I wrote this because music matters, and I want to do it justice. I want my answer to “why music?” to be as poetic as the lyrics I admire and attempt to write. Why music? Because. Because everything.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August Playlist

August Playlist

Hello again. August is entering its last week and so too is my summer (I start school in a week). So much happened this summer. June brought Vidcon, and with it performing in a wildly under-attended open mic, meeting a few of my favorite YouTubers (and missing out on many more to insane signing lines…), and observing, from afar, just how crazy fangirls can get. In July, I went to Grammy camp (in case you somehow didn't know, which of course you did) and I had the most educational, musical, unforgettable 10 days of my life so far. August I chilled, rehearsed for a show I'm doing this Friday with a good friend, and spent a weekend in Palm Springs to get ready for a jam-packed year of student government (yes, for some reason, my classmates elected me as one of four senior class officers. Still convinced it didn't really happen). And now it's all almost over. Summer 2014--and 2014 in general--has been very good to me. Come to think of it, this calendar year is more than half over, which means you can count on my ramblings about time and how it passes and how so much changes and so little stays the same. Especially now that college is a Thing that is Actually Happening (I may or may not have already written most of my applications). Whatever. This pre-playlist spiel has gone on too long. Enjoy 20 August tunes, many of which I stole from the Grammy camp Spotify playlist again. :)

1. "One Last Time" - 3:19
ALBUM: Dark Star - EP
ARTIST: Jaymes Young

2. "Human" - 3:31
ALBUM: If You Leave
ARTIST: Daughter

3. "Mexico" - 4:33
ALBUM: Wish I Was Here (Music from the Motion Picture)
ARTIST: Jump Little Children

4. "Shuck" - 2:09
ALBUM: Shrines
ARTIST: Purity Ring

5. "Gotta Get Thru This (Acoustic Version)" - 3:55
ALBUM: Gotta Get Thru This
ARTIST: Daniel Bedingfield

6. "Like I Can" - 2:47
ALBUM: In The Lonely Hour
ARTIST: Sam Smith

7. "Take Me to Church" - 4:01
ALBUM: Hozier
ARTIST: Hozier

8. "Runaway" - 3:25
ALBUM: x
ARTIST: Ed Sheeran

9. "Anna Sun" - 5:21
ALBUM: WALK THE MOON
ARTIST: Walk the Moon

10. "I Won't Say That I'm Okay" - 5:30
ALBUM: Aware
ARTIST: Front Porch Step

11. "Breathe In Breathe Out" - 3:42
ALBUM: Nothing Left to Lose
ARTIST: Mat Kearney

12. "Bright" - 3:40
ALBUM: Talking Dreams
ARTIST: Echosmith

13. "Dearly Departed (feat. Esmé Patterson)" - 3:32
ALBUM: And the War Came
ARTIST: Shakey Graves

14. "Teen Idle" - 4:14
ALBUM: Electra Heart
ARTIST: Marina and The Diamonds

15. "Never Let It Die" - 5:06
ALBUM: All You Can Do
ARTIST: Watsky

16. "I Just Dont Know What to Do With Myself" - 2:46
ALBUM: Elephant
ARTIST: The White Stripes

17. "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" - 3:22
ALBUM: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
ARTIST: Neutral Milk Hotel

18. "Despair in the Departure Lounge" - 3:21
ALBUM: Who the F*** Are Arctic Monkeys?
ARTIST: Arctic Monkeys

19. "Satisfaction" - 4:54
ALBUM: Allen Stone
ARTIST: Allen Stone

20. "Smoke" - 4:52
ALBUM: Whatever and Ever Amen
ARTIST: Ben Folds Five

Also, must recommend another Shakey Graves song not available for purchase on iTunes (nor can I find it on Spotify). It's called "Georgia Moon," recommended to me by the same person who insisted I give Ben Folds a fair shake (if you've ever suggested music to me and it's ended up on my monthly playlist, THANK YOU). Here's a link to "Georgia Moon" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lhrJNRkfhE It's such a beautiful song. Check out the rest of the album too, if you have time.

Thanks for reading, if you bothered. Get ready for autumn, ladies and gentlemen. And after autumn, winter. And with winter, yet another year drawing to a close…

I need to stop getting so ahead of myself! For now, I will enjoy my last few days of summer and then, come senior year, keep slayin 'em. See ya soon. xo

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"Nine Harmonies - 3 A.M. (feat. Jensen McRae)"

https://soundcloud.com/nine-harmonies/3-am-feat-jensen-mcrae

Hey guys! Hope your August is going well! I start school in 17 days…which seems kind of crazy. Summer has gone by so fast. I'm ready for senior year, though. Class of 2015 represent!

Anyway, the link above is to a song I wrote with Tyler Talmadge of Nine Harmonies. He's a producer in New Mexico (the link will take you to his Soundcloud so you can check out all his stuff there) and he went GRAMMY Camp in 2012 and 2013. The track was super fun and way out of my comfort zone. Enjoy! :-)

As always, expect a playlist in a couple weeks to send you out of August on a high note. After that, it's September, school starting…and a fresh start, I guess.

See ya soon. <3

Monday, July 28, 2014

LISTEN TO THIS SONG!

Hi there hi there ho there! I've just been posting up a storm this month, haven't I?!

Anyway, urgent musical discovery! This song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJkItLf3XqE

It's called "Colour Me In Gold" and it's by this guy JP Cooper and I CAN'T FIND IT ANYWHERE ELSE OTHER THAN THIS YOUTUBE VIDEO. I tried to buy it on iTunes and find it on Spotify and it simply wasn't there! I really want to pay for this song because I like financially supporting talented artists but alas I can't, so instead I will promote this song feverishly because it is beautiful!

One of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard in a long time, lyrically and musically. It's the kind of thing that really gets to me. Please watch/listen and share! God bless the Mahogany Sessions!

Friday, July 25, 2014

July Playlist

July Playlist

You can read my post about Grammy camp here; it was my last one. Camp friends, you might recognize a couple of these songs from our Spotify playlist.

It's been quite a month. Here are some songs.

1. "The Simplest Things" - 3:01
ALBUM: The Simplest Things - EP
ARTIST: Natalie Holmes

2. "Tessellate (Bonus Track)" - 3:57
ALBUM: Halcyon Days (Deluxe Edition)
ARTIST: Ellie Goulding

3. "Drown" - 3:38
ALBUM: Aware
ARTIST: Front Porch Step

4. "Merry Happy" - 5:27
ALBUM: Made of Bricks
ARTIST: Kate Nash

5. "Only Love" - 4:09
ALBUM: Every Kingdom
ARTIST: Ben Howard

6. "Words As Weapons (US Version)" - 3:41
ALBUM: Fire Within
ARTIST: Birdy

7. "Habits (Stay High)" - 3:29
ALBUM: Truth Serum - EP
ARTIST: Tove Lo

8. "Dracula" - 2:52
ALBUM: Young Blood - EP
ARTIST: Bea Miller

9. "Famous" - 3:19
ALBUM: Famous - Single
ARTIST: Katy Tiz

There is a real possibility that I included this on an earlier playlist, but I honestly can't remember...sorry if I did! :)

10. "Rock & Roll" - 4:00
ALBUM: Sounds Like This
ARTIST: Eric Hutchinson

11. "Right By You"
ALBUM: Right By You - Single
ARTIST: Justin Nozuka

12. "The Matthew Effect" - 3:16
ALBUM: Nothing More
ARTIST: Nothing More

13. "Wth (feat. Ab-Soul)" - 3:19
ALBUM: Sail Out
ARTIST: Jhene Aiko

14. "A Case of You" - 4:25
ALBUM: Blue
ARTIST: Joni Mitchell

15. "Count Me Out" - 3:46
ALBUM: Foxy Shazam
ARTIST: Foxy Shazam

16. "Dlm" - 2:25
ALBUM: Overgrown
ARTIST: James Blake

17. "Coattails" - 3:15
ALBUM: Broods - EP
ARTIST: Broods

As July winds down, now you've got 17 new (or maybe old) tunes to listen to. Hopefully August will bring some calm. And some answers. See you guys next month.

Monday, July 21, 2014

My GRAMMY Camp 2014: Los Angeles Experience

My dorm room is unbearably hot. My mother has long since departed. My roommate is nowhere to be found. I lay a single sheet across my twin bed--I didn't bother to bring a fitted one, because I've never successfully put one on by myself. I look at the windows and don't even attempt opening them; I consider myself someone with at least a modicum of intelligence, but generally mundane tasks that require any measure of gross motor skills elude me. I sit in the hot room briefly, hoping my roommate will magically appear, and then venture back downstairs, phone and earbuds in hand. Off to a great start, I think. Sit in the lobby with earbuds in. Great way to make friends, Jensen.

Someone's father--or grandfather, I can't be sure--strikes up a conversation. I try to be as polite as possible but the relatively tame interaction stirs up my usual fears as an introvert. Soon it won't be friendly older men, sitting with their daughters biding time. It will be--gasp--kids my own age. Kids with musical talent far more vast than my own. The typical chain reaction begins. They'll all be better singers than I am. They'll all be better songwriters. They'll be better dressed. They'll be better looking. Panic washes over me, the sensation reminiscent of hot coffee being spilled over one's whole body. I am untethered.

Instead of wallowing in this predictable panic, I make conversation with the first few people I see. There's Stephanie, a keyboard player; Patrick, an audio engineering student; and Emmy Russell, who I am beyond elated to see. Other than a friend from school (who has yet to arrive), she is the only person I kind of know. When stalking researching the other people in my track, I came upon Emmy's video of her song "That Girl's Me." Being wildly impressed by her talent, I left a comment saying that I was excited to meet her at camp. She never responded, so of course my immediate assumption was that I had appalled her with my entirely-too-forward commentary. On the contrary! She too was excited to see me. We bonded immediately over our nervousness and began to socialize with more campers as they came in.

Over the rest of that day, through various icebreaker games and class orientations, I met the rest of the songwriting track. I would later learn weird facts about each and every one of them. Be it Noah's penchant for bare feet and weird back pushups or Micaiah's insane violin skills, every discovery brought us closer together. Under Chris Sampson's expert tutelage, we even learned a few things. Okay, a LOT of things. Each student of the songwriting track now has at least three songs under their belt, although many, myself included, took on additional songwriting projects with kids from other tracks. We analyzed and responded to popular music, heard from guest professionals in the industry, wrote collaboratively, practiced with various instrumental combos, and recorded in the studio with the audio engineers. I'm not sure about the other tracks, but the songwriting kids were busy from the morning knock on our doors to the bed checks late into the night. I barely had a moment to breathe during those 10 days, but I wouldn't change a minute of it. I learned so much about songwriting and about myself. It was a pivotal, downright life-changing week and a half.

The launch party was a thing bigger than itself. Sure, it was the culmination of all our hard work, which inherently is something worthy of our laudation, but it was also a sendoff. A last hurrah. I'm lucky to live in LA. Some kids were headed out to far-flung locales in the Midwest, on the East Coast, or even across the pond. As we all gathered onstage for "Inside Out," with lead vocals performed flawlessly by Jack Ingram, there was a collective surge of power through the whole camp. It was the end of something, but it was also the beginning.

After the launch party, as people began clearing out, I walked around the El Rey with my shoes off, despite the mysterious stickiness on the carpet. I tried to imprint the image on my mind--the deconstruction of the stage, the feverish flash of cameras, the choruses of praise from family and friends, the peculiar sensation of fading warmth as the hundreds of bodies reduced to a few dozen. I ate a piece of cold pizza and rejected my teetering heels in favor of my high tops without socks. I looked a bit ridiculous in a fancy dress, a black hoodie, Converse, and matted hair, but I felt euphoric. We boarded the bus. It was dark. Moonlight trickled through the few open windows. People sang and talked loudly. I had to strain to hear the person next to me speak and to talk myself, giving the words a sacred quality. We got back to campus; my voice was shot; we drank milkshakes and danced as the EMP kids DJ'd. I laughed hard, as hard as I had been throughout the week with all my friends. My milkshake got to be too sweet; I threw it out; I wished I'd had room for more.

(Excuse the pedestrian metaphor I just used. Not everything I write is a ribcage carnival. If you get that reference, you're dope.)

The lobby of Trojan Hall was a sad place last night, and it was a sad place this morning. We all filtered out eventually, and now most of us are back to where we started--sitting in our bedrooms, obsessively refreshing our social media, this time hoping someone else will have posted in the Facebook group or posted a new round of photos from camp. I personally have been replaying the videos my mom took of my performances, though admittedly the sound and video quality aren't exactly Spielbergian (sorry, Mama). I miss eating in the mediocre cafeteria. I miss lining up and getting counted obsessively by the counselors (love you guys, though). I miss calling people by weird nicknames. I miss Chris giving us words of wisdom that at first seem funny but we quickly realize are utterly invaluable. I miss stressing in the practice rooms that our songs won't be done in time. I miss writing with Rushmore, the dynamic trio that brought you such classics as "Signs" and "Beautiful Obstacle." (In all honesty, writing with you two defied description. But you knew that already.) I miss our obscure inside jokes. I miss constant selfies. I miss my thoroughly developed Snapchat story--seriously, every day was a work of art. There was rise and fall, allegory, sophisticated use of tropes...

I'll stop.

In case you couldn't tell, I miss everything about Grammy camp, especially the unforgettable friends I made there. We'll try to keep in touch, but some promises will fade and fall by the wayside. Is that fair, though? Do we even have the right to be upset about friendships formed under strange circumstances, a cliche camp movie scored by a dozen student guitarists and punctuated by montage-level scenes of sleepy delirium? Why do we feel entitled to ownership? Why are all of us still holding on to our crappy Grammy camp water bottles--the ones that still aren't broken, anyway--and stowing our hats and ID cards in safe places?

Because it mattered. There's no way around it.

One night I had a song circle with Mackin, Emmy, and Renato. All four of us played original songs. Other people were in the room, but it was something different for us. After each song, there was at least a few seconds of loaded silence. No single song could fully release the tension. It was a continuous drum roll. Naturally, I cried, because the songs were beautiful and I'm a crier. But each song also contained a moment of mutual understanding. It was confirmation of what we already knew--that it's not just music to us. Nothing about what we did is background noise or a soundtrack. It is water. It is oxygen. It is sustenance and salvation. It is light and darkness. It is sunrise and sunset. Music is our survival. And not just for the four of us, but for all 75 of us.

If you like to sing, you won't get much out of Grammy camp. If you dabble in a couple instruments, you won't get much out of Grammy camp. If you think it might be cool to "do something in music," I do not think you will get much out of Grammy camp. But if music fills you up and makes you whole; if it unzips you and never fully seals you back up again; if it gives you something more than a noteless life has to offer; if you have a passion for something about this industry that keeps you up nights or keeps you doing during the day, then you will come here. You will live and breathe and love. And you will never be the same.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Cool Remix You Should Check Out!

Hey gang! Happy post-Independence Day for my American readers! (Said as if I have readers...)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FaBe5Up1_I
The above link is to an awesome remix of a cover. :) It's Melanie Martinez from The Voice singing Toxic, and it's been remixed by another artist. It's pretty cool. Check it out if you're interested, it's really cool! :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June Playlist

June Playlist

Yooooooo! I'm living it up this summer, which for me means reading, writing poetry and songs, and listening to music in the air-conditioned solitude of my room! Oh...and I'm leaving for Vidcon tomorrow. !!!! Plus I leave for Grammy camp in like two and a half weeks. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So, it's casual.

Anyhow, it's time for my June playlist, so you can finish off this first glorious summer month with some sweet tunes! Although, my music isn't your typical summer playlist fodder...enjoy! :)

1. "Digital 60s" - 5:14
ALBUM: Broken Fences
ARTIST: Broken Fences

2. "Leave Your Lover" - 3:08
ALBUM: In the Lonely Hour
ARTIST: Sam Smith

3. "Atlas" - 3:37
ALBUM: Atlas - Single
ARTIST: Shannon Saunders

4. "Sunburn" - 4:35
ALBUM: + (Deluxe Edition)
ARTIST: Ed Sheeran

5. "Robbers" - 4:14
ALBUM: The 1975
ARTIST: The 1975

6. "Over You (feat. A Great Big World)" - 4:43
ALBUM: Lights Out
ARTIST: Ingrid Michaelson

7. "Little Dancer" - 3:55
ALBUM: Little Dancer - Single
ARTIST: Leroy Sanchez

8. "Rather Be feat. Jess Glynne" - 3:47
ALBUM: New Eyes
ARTIST: Clean Bandit

9. "Untitled" - 5:11
ALBUM: Into the Flame - EP
ARTIST: Matt Corby

10. "One For the Road" - 3:26
ALBUM: AM
ARTIST: Arctic Monkeys

11. "Skeleton Key" - 4:03
ALBUM: Skeleton Key - EP
ARTIST: Kenzie May

12. "Contact High" - 3:06
ALBUM: Allen Stone
ARTIST: Allen Stone

13. "Bloodstream" - 5:00
ALBUM: x (Deluxe Edition)
ARTIST: Ed Sheeran

14. "Am I Wrong" - 4:07
ALBUM: Am I Wrong - Single
ARTIST: Nico & Vinz

15. "Cool Kids" - 3:57
ALBUM: Talking Dreams
ARTIST: Echosmith

So that'll do it for my June playlist! Hope everyone is having an exciting but restful summer vacation so far. Hit me up on Twitter (@mcraejensen) with more music recommendations and check out my YouTube channel for new covers and originals (youtube.com/jensenmcraeofficial). If you see me at Vidcon, SAY HI! And...that's all! Love y'all!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

General Updates!

Sup friends!

FIRST OF ALL HAPPY SUMMER! :) I've been on break for about two weeks and I'm loving it. I've already read two books (Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini) and am roughly three pages into Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. It mildly terrifies me, with its unjustly small print and mixed reviews from my peers (ranging from "impossible to get through" to "the most important book I've ever read.")

In other news...

Expect a June playlist EITHER sometime next week or like the last day of June. Not sure yet. Also, there quite possibly will be an album review of 'x' from Ed Sheeran, due out in the U.S. on Monday! I'm literally losing my mind waiting for it. To be honest, thus far I've felt pretty disappointed with the quality of singles coming off the album, but as we speak I'm listening to "Bloodstream" and the INSTANT it came on I was in love. It's exactly the kind of sophomore album maturation I was expecting from Sheeran, with a delightful but familiar veer into a more sophisticated direction. But I'll save most of my opinions for next week, when I get to hear the whole thing! :)

I've posted a new cover on my channel--I made my cover of "She Will Be Loved" by Maroon 5 public after I found out I got into Grammy camp (!). Here's a link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtAhmmAjVhY

As usual, watch my other videos, like, subscribe, etc. Follow me on social media. LOVE ME!

*coughs*

But...yeah. If you have more book recommendations for me, let me know. After Catch-22, I plan to read The Virgin Suicides, The Kite Runner, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Bell Jar, and as much Vonnegut and Fitzgerald as I can get my hands on (because I think they are my two favorite authors right now). For reference, I'm into dystopias and anything with lyrical/emotional prose. Think a real-life An Imperial Affliction. ;) (Speaking of which...that movie destroyed me, although the 12-year-old girls in the theater screaming every time Ansel came onscreen sort of ruined things...)

That's all for now. If anyone reads this, leave a comment saying so! SO much love! I'm feeling magnanimous now that I am free from the shackles of compulsory education. Talk soon. xo

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May Playlist

May Playlist

Miraculously, I have one week of school left. Tomorrow is my first day of finals (precalc...ugh.) and next Wednesday at 10:15 a.m., I will be done with this insane year and I will officially be a senior.

What better way to spend the night before a final than to write up my playlist for this beautiful spring month?! (Studying, you say? Pfft.)

1. "Rude" - 3:44
ALBUM: Rude - Single
ARTIST: MAGIC!

2. "Vanishing Act" - 3:26
ALBUM: Vanishing Act
ARTIST: Early Winters

3. "Fire N Gold" - 3:31
ALBUM: Young Blood - EP
ARTIST: Beatrice Miller

4. "Pink Matter" - 4:28
ALBUM: Channel ORANGE
ARTIST: Frank Ocean

5. "Overture" - 3:34
ALBUM: Overture - Single
ARTIST: Charlie Puth

6. "Michael Myers Resplendent" - 2:53
ALBUM: Heretic Pride
ARTIST: The Mountain Goats

7. "You Set Me Free" - 3:49
ALBUM: You Set Me Free - Single
ARTIST: Angie Miller

8. "My Father's Father" - 3:20
ALBUM: Barton Hollow
ARTIST: The Civil War

9. "Nowhere" - 3:10
ALBUM: MKTO
ARTIST: MKTO

10. "All in My Head" - 3:30
ALBUM: Handmade Songs By Tori Kelly - EP
ARTIST: Tori Kelly

11. "Stay With Me" - 2:52
ALBUM: In The Lonely Hour (Deluxe Version)
ARTIST: Sam Smith

12. "Message In a Bottle (Live in Birmingham)"
ALBUM: Any Given Thursday (Live)
ARTIST: John Mayer

And that'll just about wrap it up for my May Playlist! Today was the last full day of classes, so all the seniors counted down till the end of school and then jumped in the pool, screaming and celebratory. As usual, I was lost in my own musings about the nature of time (as well as skittering to avoid being hit by a water balloon...I got hit once, but luckily was barely soaked). In any case, in these last few days of May, give these 12 songs a listen and you'll see what I was thinking and feeling this month. When I post next month's playlist, I'll be well into summer, probably about to go to VidCon (at which I'll be performing! Details at vidcon.com/open-mic) or some other adventure. May is all about spring and therefore beginnings, but also about summer and therefore endings. My junior year has been FULL of ups and downs, but this time in 2015, I'll be getting ready for college. Whoa. Here's to another successful year. Cheers.

See ya soon,
Jensen

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why You Should Start Listening to Charlie Puth Now

To call Charlie Puth an underground artist would be oversimplifying things: the 22-year-old singer/songwriter/producer and Berklee College of Music graduate has already landed himself on The Ellen Show to play for a national audience, and in fact was signed to DeGeneres' record label, eleveneleven. Unfortunately, Puth is still not getting the recognition he deserves.

As of May 2014, Puth has amassed over 350,000 YouTube subscribers and over 36,000 Twitter followers. However, these numbers, however impressive, are not in any way indicative of his talent with music or his potential as a brand. Other than a string of covers and original singles, Puth has released two albums on iTunes. The first, The Otto Tunes, was released December 2nd, 2010, and while it demonstrated promise, the album is fairly elementary in its production and song quality (it contains such memorable hits as "I Suck At Writing Lyrics" in which Puth does, comically and self-referentially, suck at writing lyrics). It is on Ego, Puth's first full-length album, where is musical prowess begins to shine.

Ego is a striking blend of pop hits, introspective ballads, and R&B tunes that showcase Puth's abilities as a vocal powerhouse and consummate professional. Released October 1st, 2013, this ten-song track list starts and finishes the same way--whimsical yet strong. The album is launched with the impossibly catchy anthem "Look At Me Now," which, with its triumphant lyrics and commanding instrumentation, proves that Puth is aware that he's hit his stride, and he is only in for more success. The next three songs show off Puth's rhythm and blues chops. "Seventeen" is gentle but percussive; "In the Dark" falls and rises from tranquil rapping (if such a thing were to exist) and smooth melody lines to electronic, record-scratching nirvana; and "Ride to Melrose (feat. Mike Ballz)" is gritty and ethereal. Charlie reminds his fans of his endearing, goofy side with "Your Name (The Ukelele)," an irresistible song about love at first sight that will have every last listener swooning and dying to play it again--also, if you have time, check out the video; it's Charlie's personal blend of absurdity and sweetness that hearkens back to his early YouTube days. "Beautiful Corruption" is a classic ballad, with such heartbreaking lyrics as "I'll try not to think of you / if you say you don't feel the same." It transitions into  "Full of It," another satisfying R&B throwback with lilting instrumentation, dry lyrics, and a stunning vocal performance, one of Puth's best on the album. "Kiss Me" is another ballad that oozes urgency and the most painful kind of love; though it has relatively simple production, it is one of the most poignant tracks on the album. That tragic tune leaps somewhat jarringly to "Lights Go Out," a delightful take on the usual "stay out late/dance all night" trope, which of course Puth delivers expertly. The final track, "Tangerine Dreams," is the auditory embodiment of an early August evening, with delicious strums of electric guitar and laid-back harmonies. Ego is not only impressively written, but also demonstrates a clear mastery of production. It is easy to track Puth's growth from his early work up to Ego, and the change is reassuring and remarkable. It is clear that he is on an upward swing with no signs of stopping.

From Ego's release to the present, Charlie has only become more skillful at singing, songwriting, and producing. Some of his recent YouTube releases include "The 90s," a brilliant, bouncing hit that's wildly fun to dance to, and "Go Round," a unique, erotic, tough single that's punctuated by robotic mellifluousness. His maturity, wit, and rhythmicity are growing exponentially from track to track, and it's clear his music education has not gone to waste. He is meticulous in his preparations and consistently successful in his execution. It would not be an overstatement to say that he is one to watch in the coming years.

Charlie Puth's popularity is only going to soar from here. His next EP is in the works, and I await it with increasing anticipation. A collaboration with him someday might be farfetched, but hey, a girl can dream, right? :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April Playlist

April Playlist

Hiya! Can it be that the month of April is near its completion, that tomorrow is the last day? I really can't believe how fast 2014 is going by. I only have a little over a month left of junior year...WOO! I started this blog back in June, and I remember when I made my August playlist, I was angsting about how this year would turn out. Well, it's been a mixed bag, just like any other. There have been some highs and lows. But I gotta say it's been memorable and I wouldn't trade this year for anything (well, maybe a Grammy or two...but those'll come later!) In any case, here is my April playlist as we head into deep spring...and quite nearly summer...

1. "Re:Stacks" - 6:41
ALBUM: For Emma, Forever Ago
ARTIST: Bon Iver

2. "Wasting My Young Years" - 3:24
ALBUM: If You Wait
ARTIST: London Grammar

3. "John Doe (feat. Priscilla)" - 3:32
ALBUM: John Doe (feat. Priscilla) - Single
ARTIST: B.o.B.

4. "Last Man Standing" - 3:41
ALBUM: Last Man Standing - Single
ARTIST: Will Champlin

5. "Breaking Blue" - 5:48
ALBUM: Kairos
ARTIST: Sam Brookes

6. "Goodbye Song" - 3:51
ALBUM: MKTO
ARTIST: MKTO

7. "Eff (Studio)" - 2:50
ALBUM: what.
ARTIST: Bo Burnham

8. "Fancy (feat. Charli XCX)" - 3:19
ALBUM: The New Classic (Deluxe Version)
ARTIST: Iggy Azalea

9. "Wings" - 4:12
ALBUM: Fire Within
ARTIST: Birdy

10. "Eros" - 4:09
ALBUM: Mind Over Matter
ARTIST: Young the Giant

11. "Farmer & His Gun"- 3:54
ALBUM: Young Pilgrim (Deluxe)
ARTIST: Charlie Simpson

12. "Painting Roses" - 3:05
ALBUM: Sun Shy
ARTIST: Dresses

So that'll do it for my April playlist. Listen to it tonight and tomorrow and get a feeling of what I heard this past month. So much happened to me this month--really in the last week or so--and I'm exhausted. There are still APs and finals to contend with, but blessedly this incredibly difficult (and admittedly rewarding) school year is over. I hope you're all coping with that end-of-the-year slump with grace, and I hope you continue to read this blog. Music gets me through my toughest times and helps me celebrate the best life has to offer. I really want it to do the same thing for you.

Much love. See ya soon. :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

March Playlist

March Playlist

Heeeeey there! Weird that it's March already, right? Sorry for lack of posting...everywhere...but I'm on spring break now! Maybe a new cover is in order? ;)

I did a show at CAP Studios in Sherman Oaks about two weeks ago (has it been that long?!) and I might put up some videos from that on my website slash my YouTube channel. So look forward to that!

Anyway, I'm on break, so spring has officially sprung! God knows it's been warm in LA...for, well, ever...sorry east coasters! But March is almost over, so it's time for my monthly playlist. Lean back and enjoy!

1. "Ain't It Fun" - 4:56
ALBUM: Paramore
ARTIST: Paramore

2. "The Fire" - 2:51
ALBUM: The Fire - Single
ARTIST: Kina Grannis

3. "Who You Are" - 3:50
ALBUM: Who You Are
ARTIST: Jessie J

4. "Hold My Heart" - 4:32
ALBUM: Kaleidoscope Heart
ARTIST: Sara Bareilles

5. "Song of Good Hope" - 3:47
ALBUM: Rhythm and Repose (Deluxe Edition)
ARTIST: Glen Hansard

6. "The Stoop" - 2:53
ALBUM: The Stoop (Explicit)
ARTIST: Little Jackie

7. "Burning Questions" - 2:30
ALBUM: Fires
ARTIST: Ryan Dilmore

8. "Little Bird (Bonus Track)" - 3:43
ALBUM: + (Deluxe Edition)
ARTIST: Ed Sheeran

9. "Magic" - 4:45
ALBUM: Ghost Stories
ARTIST: Coldplay

10. "Paper Hearts" - 3:19
ALBUM: Foreword - EP
ARTIST: Tori Kelly

11. "The Hurry and the Harm" - 4:23
ALBUM: The Hurry and the Harm
ARTIST: City and Colour

12. "Anagram" - 4:54
ALBUM: Mind Over Matter
ARTIST: Young the Giant

13. "Art Is Dead" - 2:32
ALBUM: Words Words Words
ARTIST: Bo Burnham

14. "I Wanna Get Better" - 3:23
ALBUM: I Wanna Get Better - Single
ARTIST: Bleachers

15. "Crazy World and You" - 4:30
ALBUM: Kairos
ARTIST: Sam Brookes

16. "Channel 5 News: The Musical (Studio)" - 4:32
ALBUM: what.
ARTIST: Bo Burnham

17. "For Now" - 3:39
ALBUM: Works of Heart, Vol. 1
ARTIST: Jay Loftus

Sooo that'll do it! I go back to school April 7th (boo...) but for now I have a bit of a respite. I could use it; I'm wiped. When I do go back, I'll only have 7 more weeks of school left, which is pretty miraculous. It's a huge push, but it's the last push. I'm gonna have SO much work to do, but for now I'm trying to focus on sleeping. Which I should be doing right now; it's quite late. But I'm staying up, listening to this playlist and watching Supernatural (for the second time...), and just trying to sort through my thoughts. I think a lot. That's why I love music. It helps get some of the thoughts out of my head and into the atmosphere. I think I need it. I think we all do.

See ya soon!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

February Playlist

February Playlist

Hello guys 'n gals 'n everyone in between! It's nearly the end of the second month, meaning it's time for my monthly playlist. Love was in the air on Valentine's Day...for some people. Not for us singles. But still! I actually had a great Valentine's Day. I hung out with my friends, wrote a killer song, and ate candy. So it was pretty much ideal.

I also had a rehearsal for a charity show I'm putting on next month! Unfortunately I won't have any tickets available for most people; it's just for family and close friends. HOWEVER, the next time I do a show (maybe in June?) it will probably be at a bigger venue and I will be inviting anyone who wants to come out to the show! For now, though, I might be posting videos from the show on my YouTube channel (http://youtube.com/jensenmcraeofficial) and photos of the performers on my website (http://jensenmcrae.com). The show is in March, so I'll let you know more deets about that once it goes down.

Anyway, I have songs for y'all, so if you were looking for some tunes to finish off this winter season, here is my February playlist!

1. "Love so Hard" - 5:00
ALBUM: Love so Hard - Single
ARTIST: Derran Day

2. "Wasted" - 3:04
ALBUM: MKTO
ARTIST: MKTO

3. "Heartbreak Holiday" - 3:42
ALBUM: MKTO
ARTIST: MKTO

4. "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me (feat. Jason Mraz) [Encore]" - 2:39
ALBUM: Hunter Hayes
ARTIST: Hunter Hayes

5. "Janey" - 3:59
ALBUM: Joy of Nothing
ARTIST: Foy Vance

6. "Hannah Hunt" - 3:58
ALBUM: Modern Vampires of the City
ARTIST: Vampire Weekend

7. "Nothing Like You and I" - 3:33
ALBUM: Let There Be Morning (Bonus Track)
ARTIST: The Perishers

8. "Beautifully" - 3:14
ALBUM: In Living Cover
ARTIST: Jay Brannan

9. "The Chain" - 3:00
ALBUM: Everybody (Bonus Track Version)
ARTIST: Ingrid Michaelson

10. "Heart Sing" - 3:48
ALBUM: Heart Sing - Single
ARTIST: BigKids

11. "Acapella" - 3:18
ALBUM: Acapella - Single
ARTIST: Karmin

12. "Jimmy Iovine (feat. Ab-Soul)" - 3:53
ALBUM: The Heist
ARTIST: Macklemore

So those are my February musical picks! If you were on the hunt for some new sounds, I hope this list helped you out. These are just the songs I could NOT stop listening to or get out of my head this month. If you're reading this, THANKS! :) Hope you enjoy the rest of the month, and good luck in March! For me that means spring break...and junior year, somehow, appears to be heading towards the home stretch...

Talk to ya later! xo

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January Playlist

January Playlist

So the glorious month of January is nearly over. My midterms are (blessedly) done, so tomorrow marks the start of a new semester (though admittedly not much changes). For me, that means it's time to start thinking a little more seriously about my future. In a week I start picking courses for my senior year, and I'm going to start making more legitimate college lists...! I have 3 more semesters of high school left, and I'm going to make them count.

In other news, my cover of "Pompeii" by Bastille (which you can find here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9eotfQsik0) has passed 6,000 views! I'm really excited about how well Google AdWords has been working for me, and with the response I've been getting via word-of-mouth. Please check it out if you haven't already, and spread the word! Plus, you can tweet it to Dan Smith (@BASTILLEdan) and get him to watch it, too!

For these last few days of January, please enjoy my monthly playlist!

1. "Dreams" - 3:16
ALBUM: Wet - EP
ARTIST: Wet

2. "Happy Ever After" - 3:22
ALBUM: Gravel and Wine
ARTIST: Gin Wigmore

3. "Change" - 3:18
ALBUM: The War Within - EP
ARTIST: Churchill

4. "Lonesome" - 3:18
ALBUM: Be the Void
ARTIST: Dr. Dog

5. "Riptide" - 3:22
ALBUM: God Loves You When You're Dancing - EP
ARTIST: Vance Joy

6. "The Mixed Tape" - 3:14
ALBUM: Everything In Transit
ARTIST: Jack's Mannequin

7. "Jesus Christ" - 5:18
ALBUM: The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
ARTIST: Brand New

8. "Fail for You" - 4:16
ALBUM: Fail for You - EP
ARTIST: Luke Sital-Singh

9. "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" - 4:44
ALBUM: Poses
ARTIST: Rufus Wainright

10. "The Man" - 4:14
ALBUM: Lift Your Spirit
ARTIST: Aloe Blacc

11."Argonauts" - 5:21
ALBUM: Hospitality (Bonus Track Version)
ARTIST: Hospitality

12. "Last Lines" - 4:16
ALBUM: Last Lines - EP
ARTIST: AKW

That'll do it for my January playlist. I hope everybody's 2014 is off to a good start, that your midterms and finals went well, that your winter breaks were restful and festive. So far, my new year is living up to expectations; I'm happy and peaceful and I haven't felt much turbulence. Still, I remain prolific; this month I wrote twelve songs...the calendar might rotate but some things never change :) Love y'all, keep checking this thing (if anybody does at all) and good luck in February! Who knows? Maybe this year you'll have a Valentine (or way better than that, you'll go to the Imagine Dragons concert on February 14, to which I am forbidden from going...argh). See ya soon!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Heeeeeeeey?!

HAPPY BELATED NEW YEAR!

1 - I have so many covers up guys! (Well, 2.) Go watch them HERE: http://youtube.com/jensenmcraeofficial

2 - January Playlist coming soon!

3 - Share my links around please thanks!

tumblr - mcraejensen.tumblr.com
twitter - twitter.com/mcraejensen
insta - instagram.com/jensenmcrae
facebook - facebook.com/jensenmcraeofficial
official site - jensenmcrae.com

<3 <3 <3 much love!