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Teen Music Reviews and Essays

Teens and MusicEvery generation has its own music, songs, bands and songwriters that define their coming of age.  As Jimi Hendrix once said, "Music doesn't lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music."  Or maybe you feel more like Friedrich Nietzsche who wrote, "Without music, life would be a mistake." 

With one of the recent StageofLife.com teen writing contests centering on music and several others revealing interesting statistics about teenagers and music, we asked on of our Teen Editors, Savannah, to start interviewing bands and songwriters as a way to connect what we love, writing, with what many teens love...music.

Below you'll find our collection of teen music blogs and band reviews.

But we also want to hear from you.  If you are a student passionate about music (AND writing), and would like to submit a song or band essay to us, please follow the our teen music blog guidelines below and submit your music essay to Stage of Life.  These essays will appear in the life stage you select during the upload process.



Guidelines:
  • Make sure to be clear about the name of the song (and album title if known) and the name of the band, singer or performer of who sang and/or wrote the song.
  • Interview the band, if possible, through either email or by phone to get some inspiration from them about where they are at in their lives.  Again, Stage of Life is about finding inspiration from various periods of our lives...so ask the band for theirs.
  • As the reviewer, tell us why is this song or band or performer important to you at this moment in your life?  What effect did it have on you?  Why is the music special? Is this music an important part of a special memory from your life?
  • Quote lyrics that stand out or impact you.  If your song doesn't have lyrics, that's okay.
  • After you've shared your music blog entry using the "Share Your Story Now" button above, send us the StageofLife.com url/link to your music essay and we'll review to see about giving it an extra feature placement here on our Teens Music Blogs page.
We look forward to reading your teen music blog posts on StageofLife.com!  Your essay about your favorite band or song may just inspire someone to discover new music!

Teen Music Review: MERK

By Maura, StageofLife.com intern


When I was first told the band MERK was a group of kids ranging from 14-15 years old, the idea of interviewing/reviewing the
m was not exactly a “fun time” in my mind. Growing up with a sister who is currently that age, I immediately began to compare and judge them based off of a biased opinion, having a mindset that they would be immature kids with raw talent and an arrogant attitude. Let me just say… I was extremely mistaken. 

Based out of Columbus, New Jersey, MERK (each letter representing the first initial of each band member) is a band of four very gifted, determined, incredible kids on the path to success. With three siblings Evan, Ryan, and Kristen Kreutzberg and very good friend Michael Visalli, they play, sing, and even help write their own music! For a little background, the three siblings were originally inspired to play music because of the movie “School of Rock”. Their father th
en taught them guitar and bass, and soon, Michael joined them to create the full band! With natural talent and excellent musical ears, they also play keyboards, drums, as well as sing their own vocals to songs. As their parents began to notice the talent, they started to book some small gigs for the band at local venues – the band exploded! People were absolutely shocked at their age and wanted to hear more! Soon, the band released their first single, “I Don’t Need Nobody” as well as doing many covers of songs ranging from the Hall and Oates to One Direction! 

As a musician myself, I was very impressed with their music for the age they are at. But to be honest, what really struck me was the way the kids presented themselves and how articulate they were as we spoke. As said before, I was going into this interview with a biased opinion, but that was out the window almost immediately. Every question was responded with not only modesty, but also cultivated maturity. When asking them questions about their favorite types of music, the ranged from Alternative Rock, Classic Rock, Indie, Blues, and the modern day Pop/Hip-Hop. For young kids, I thought that was an extremely eclectic collection. 

Another quality that stuck out to me with the band MERK is the fact that they are very goal oriented. With a huge chunk of their time taken up by the band, one would think that would be enough – not for these kids! They also play sports, maintain straight A’s in school, and are already thinking about college! Obviously they have plenty of time to make a final decision, but the current plan is to continue to study music farther into their education. They basically have ultimate success in mind for the band, and honestly, an attitude like that is going to get them far. MERK even made the comment that they are “shooting for the top” and they want to be idols for other kids out there. In order to do that, they are focusing on music that they know that kids their age are currently listening too. The songs they currently co-write with their producer have a Justin Beiber to One Direction feel to them, which is basically what they were going for. 

Just recently, MERK had the opportunity to show off their talents at Six Flags Adventure Park in New Jersey. There, they opened for Connor Maynard; a “big-name” artist from England making his way to the United States. The band MERK played successfully and was actually surprised at the amount of people and the positive response from the crowd! Of course they also went back stage to meet Maynard himself. 

They also just had the opportunity to play at 94.5 PST’s Popfest at the Sun National Bank Center in Philadelphia on May 30th. This event included some huge artists such as Jason Derulo, Hot Chelle Rae, Carly Rae Jepson, and Cher Lloyd! MERK was given a 45 minute set outside the venue as people were entering the concert. 

Gigs like this are exactly what the band needs to keep doing. They never know who might be watching. They have a great sound for their age, and it is only going to develop and improve as the get older and get more experience under their belts. It’s not always the music though as much as it is the right attitude and personality, and this band definitely has it. It’s a tough journey to make it to the top, but MERK is definitely heading down the right path. 

If you want to know more about the band, below is a link to their website, as well as their new single, “You’re Gonna Like It (Dance With Me)” on iTunes. Check them out! 

http://merkmusic.com/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/your-gonna-like-it-dance-me/id610016655

Teen Music Review: "Safe and Sound" Capital Cities

Capital Citiesby Savannah Thorpe, StageofLife.com teen music intern

You know someone’s music is special when the melody and message manage to turn the world into a community of happy, dancing people.  That’s the magic of Capital Cities, a quirky electro-hipster band out of California. The band consists of five people, the two founders and voices of the band being Sebu Simonian, a music major, and Ryan Merchant, an English major with a strong musical bent, who most serendipitously found each other on Craigslist. “I was looking for a collaborator,” said Sebu. And from there, the dynamic duo started their careers as jingle writers. Most of what they do on a day-to-day basis is background music for companies such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Honda. “It’s kind of a fun way to build our craft in different genres,” said Sebu. “At the end of the day, it’s all just music.”

Though the two maintain their full-time jingle writing gig, they started following a new passion in their band, Capital Cities, about two years back. To assemble the rest of their band, Ryan and Sebu turned once again to Craigslist – because after the luck of finding each other, why not try again? There, they found their bassist. They snagged their guitarist from a festival, and their drummer/ tap dancer was an old friend. Initially, the band’s sound was significantly more rock inclined, but it shifted to a more electronic sound because “it was easier to do shows,” said Ryan. Though that was part of the reason for the migration, the real reason was the dancability factor. “We love to make people dance and have fun,” said Sebu, who secretly hopes that one day, one of his own dance moves will sweep the nation as the Cap Cities Shuffle.  Since song writing is Ryan and Sebu’s full-time job, putting music together for their new band was not far outside their comfort range. “There’s no real answer [to how we develop our songs]; it’s very organic,” said Ryan after some thought about their methods for music making. “Our songs go through a lot of versions,” he added. Before the guys decide a song is complete, it generally bounces back and forth between the two of them for a while – up to months. And then arises another problem: the song that was never meant to be. Even after lots of work and many versions, sometimes songs just don’t work. “You have to be willing to part ways and start fresh and not get caught in the spiral,” said Ryan. Sebu mentioned that sometimes, they have to put ideas, sounds, or even entire songs on the shelf until they find the missing piece or the right application for the song. “In the commercial world, there’s such a fast turnaround,” said Sebu. Through all this, the musicians always keep first things first; they make it a goal to keep their music fun, positive, and danceable.

The band put out their first EP about a year after they first formed, and their title track “Safe and Sound” has already captured the hearts of many with its happy beat and encouraging message. “It’s actually one of our oldest songs,” said Ryan. “I think it went through about ten different incarnations before we got to the final version,” added Sebu. “It was a lot of trial and error for the right sounds and riffs.” The guys talked for a moment about the trumpet tune in the background and how much personality it added to the song. “At first it was a synth sound,” said Sebu, “but we kind of got sick of it. We wanted something stronger and more powerful.” He admitted it was a risk, but in the end, it was a good one, he decided. Ryan then talked about the message and theme of the song. “You know, every generation thinks that it’s the worst and that everything is going to shit. Everyone thinks it’s the worst time yet,” he said, “but it never seems that bad. There’s too much doomsday thinking.” In reference to the music video, he notes that the juxtaposition isn’t to downplay the horrors of the world. “It’s about moving beyond the horrors,” he said.

And as if this band wasn’t phenomenal enough already, their mission and reach make the bearded band of brothers is one of reaching every generation where it is. “We’ve gotten calls from parents saying that their two-year-olds know the song, and from grandparents saying that they love it,” said Sebu. Though it wasn’t calculated, their reach to the various stages of life has made their work all the more fun. People love their music because it’s “accessible, but intelligent and quirky,” said Ryan. “We’re kind of like Shrek that way. People get our music at different levels depending on where they are.” Even their name reflects their universal reach. Sebu and Ryan explained that in coming up with names via a google chat session, Capital Cities stuck out because everyone has one, and that phrase means something to everyone. So, if what you’re looking for is positive, high-energy, ode to the power of music, I present to you Capital Cities...


"Safe and Sound" by Capital Cities

I could lift you up I could show you what you want to see and take you where you want to be You could be my luck Even if the sky is falling down I know that we'll be safe and sound I could fill your cup You know my river won't evaporate This world we still appreciate You could be my luck Even in a hurricane of frowns I know that we'll be safe and sound I could show you love In a tidal wave of mystery You'll still be standing next to me You could be my luck Even if we're six feet underground I know that we'll be safe and sound

Check out the music video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKipkFfxYQ8
And check out the band’s website here: http://capitalcitiesmusic.com/

Teen Music Review: "We Will Overcome" by Divine Air

Divine Airby Savannah Thorpe, StageofLife.com teen music critic

If the world today is lacking one thing, it’s hope. And it’s Divine Air’s personal mission to help change that by restoring hope to a hopeless world. Meet Dave, Gordie, Ethan, and Tim, the four members of the Christian alternative rock band. Dave explained the serendipitous fashion in which the guys found each other. After moving to Lancaster County a few years ago, Dave got involved with his church band, where he found Ethan, his guitar player. Ethan had a drummer friend named Tim, who they also roped in to play. Then, after they found Gordie, they decided they were ready to pursue their musical dreams. The band takes a lot of their music sound from other alternative rock bands. “There’s really no main band we take our inspiration from,” Ethan said, “We listen to a lot of Foo Fighters and Kings of Leon, but we get stuff from all over the place.” In discussing the driven rock sound the band has developed, Tim noted, “[all of us] just throw ideas and sounds in the blender, and it always sounds good. That’s why we’re called alternative rock – we’re not even sure what it is!”

As for their motivation, though, the band has an enormous heart for the cause of Human Trafficking. Even though the band was not assembled for this goal specifically, “The Lord really put this one on our heart,” said Gordie. Dave recalled a trip he and his wife took to Thailand, where he saw the horrors first-hand. “You saw kids getting ripped out of their homes and forced to do terrible things,” he remembered. A growing problem in the world, human trafficking, or modern-day slavery generally for sexual exploitation, is an issue affecting 161 nations and millions of people per day. Divine Air joined up with a non-profit in Germany called The Justice Project (the organization from which the band took the name for their EP). “We met with them, and we felt like this was where we really needed to help out,” said Ethan.

Though their compassion for the victims of human trafficking comes through in all they do, their song “We Will Overcome” is truly the anthem for this cause. As Dave said, “this was something we needed to help people understand.” With graphic, heart-breaking diction, the song tells of the terrifying life a child victim of human trafficking and the abominable things she must do. Though she herself may seem powerless and hopeless, the song takes a turn after the first two verses. With a blast of energy and shift in tone, the song goes on to provide hope for such victims. “No one can do anything by ourselves,” Dave noted of the song, “but together and with His help, there’s always hope.”  Tim then added, “The things we sing about can be very depressing, but it doesn’t have to go that way.” And that is why I became a Divine Air fan. In a world where hope has taken a back seat and making a difference is an increasingly daunting task,  people like the guys of Divine Air remind us that with a little love and a little help, there is hope and we can make a difference. A band with a heart and a purpose, I present to you Divine Air and their song “We Will Overcome.”


"We Will Overcome" by David Smith

Stolen in the night, given such a fright, a bird locked in a cage no more flight
A child of 13, such a bad dream oh this can’t go on we must fight

Ohhh

From her village to the city, such a pity, a life she’ll never know already lost
She’s told to close her eyes, open up her thighs, and think of a love she’s never known

Ohhh

Well we thought slavery was dead, but it’s all in our head,  a crisis on a scale we’ve never  seen
It’s time to wake up from this dream, hear the cries hear the screams, oh God please show us how to fight

Ohhh

We will stand we will lift up our hands, we’ve got no arms to bear but with Justice we don’t care
We will stand we will lift up our hands, we can’t take it anymore, free the broken free the broken free the poor
We will Overcome, not at the point of a gun, no bullets, we will win with love
We will Overcome, not at the point of a gun, no bullets, we will win with love
With Your Love

We will overcome, overcome, overcome(x2)
With Your Love we’ll overcome, overcome with the passion of a thousand burning suns
With Your  Love we’ll overcome, overcome all together now we sing we’ll overcome
Opens her eyes now she hears the sound, a song of hope it’s the sound of freedom

Check out the song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBIFTvC2W7s
Check out the band’s website here: http://www.divineairmusic.com/_/Welcome.html

Teen Music Review: "Stardust" by Nick Vayenas

Nick Vayenasby Savannah Thorpe, StageofLife.com teen music critic

If you’ve ever looked up after scanning through all the pop radio stations your car picks up and asked yourself, “What’s happened to music?” this is the guy for you. Meet Nick Vayenas, a singer, trumpeter, and trombonist with a passion for old-school jazz and storytelling. Oh yeah, and he’s the guy who plays brass for Michael Buble.

Nick got started playing the trombone and piano in the sixth grade. Though his dad was a staunch Elvis Presley devotee, Nick found a love of jazz music while in high school. “I listened to a lot of Miles Davis and Sinatra,” he said. “I just felt such a strong connection with that genre. I was hypnotized.” From there, Nick attended a high school summer music program at Berkley, where he would later complete his undergraduate degree in music. Though he knew that his life goals would definitely involve music and recording, nothing was yet set in stone. He then moved out to L.A. to get his master’s degree, where everything started to fall into place. Because of connections he had in the music world, he “was told to audition for this Michael Buble guy,” he said, and as luck would have it, he made the cut. “We started playing at local clubs, and then BAM!” As of this moment, Nick has traveled with Michael Buble all over the United States and to every continent except for Antarctica....and has loved the whole experience. “I loved Australia because it was always like a party,” he said, “And I really liked Italy for the food, the history, and the over-all vibe.” Now, back in his home city NYC, Nick is working on his own music and preparing to go back on tour.

While he has thoroughly enjoyed his time behind the modern-day crooner and plans on going on tour with him again come Christmas time, he’s been looking to do this solo project for five years now. For most of his career, Nick has stuck to trumpet and trombone, but now that he’s started out with a solo deal, he has a whole new medium to work with – words. “It’s a whole new challenge to sing and put meaning behind the words,” he said. “It’s a different animal.” The most important thing to him in taming this new beast was telling a story though the lyrics, and really putting meaning behind what he says. He mentioned how much he loves the old values of music. “Nowadays, you turn on the radio and all you hear is ‘oh, baby, you so sexy,’ and that’s not what music is about” he said. Rather, Nick’s passion is storytelling through jazz music. And thus came his love for his song “Stardust,” which relates the thoughts of someone remembering feelings for a long-gone lover and wishing for the romance to return.  In arranging the song, Nick aimed for a slightly Brazilian feel to compliment the sultry diction and nostalgic mood. Highly in tune with the need for sincerity in his singing, Nick really appreciated just how universal the message of this song was. “It’s one of those things everyone can relate to. Everyone knows what that’s like.” That, my friends, is what I came to love about his music...and why I have his CD on loop as I blog at midnight. Singers like Nick, whose passion is to relate a story or emotion through meaningful family-friendly lyrics and good old fashioned jazz music, are the reason I have not yet lost faith in the current music world. I fully recommend him to anyone who still has a heart for feel-good jazz music and quality, heart-felt singing.

Stardust by Nick Vayenas And now the purple dusk of twilight time Steals across the meadows of my heart High up in the sky the little stars climb Always reminding me that were apart You wander down the lane and far away Leaving me a song that will not die Love is now the stardust Of yesterday The music Of the years Gone by Sometimes I wonder why I spend The lonely nights Dreaming of a song. The melody haunts my reverie And I am once again with you. When our love was new, and each kiss an inspiration. But that was long ago, and now my consolation Is in the stardust of a song. Beside the garden wall, when stars are bright You are in my arms The nightingale tells his fairy tale Of paradise where roses grew. Though I dream in vain, in my heart you will remain My stardust melody The memory of loves refrain.

Listen to the song here: http://soundcloud.com/whirlwind-recordings/05-stardust-mp3

And check out his website here: http://www.nickvayenas.com/

Teen Music Review: "Pencil Frame" by Connor Garvey

by Savannah Thorpe

Connor Garvey albumsIf there were a better guy to feature on a blog called Stage of Life, I’d have to question my own existence.  Connor Garvey is guitar-toting folk singer-songwriter with one mission in life: to encourage what he calls “intentional living.” Between the people he’s met and the places he’s been, Connor has spent his life building up a repertoire of stories and life experiences that he incorporates into his very personal, touching songs. Now that he’s been singing stories and poems for a few years, he’s found that he find the most joy in writing and performing songs with meaning that encourage people to live intentionally. He noted that many of his songs deal with doing what you can in the here-and-now, and then moving on to wherever life takes you, be it a move, a loss, or the discovery of a new passion. “It’s all about transitions,” he said. “Life doesn’t last forever, so you’ve got to just keep moving through it.”

Though Connor himself is currently in more of a “Living on your own” stage, he continues to remember and draw on his past stages of life. After spending his high school years in New England, his parents moved down to Arizona, and he went off to College in Oregon. “I come from a family of travelers,” he said, “so going all over the country never bothered me.” Having come to know people from the East, West, North, and South, he has discovered something he’s come to love about northerners. “Because they have to deal with more inclement weather, the people [of the north] really have to rely on each other more and be better neighbors.”

Pencil Frame by Connor GarveyI stumbled across his song “Pencil Frame” on a free sampler, and what caught my attention was the simple story of life and love it tells. I asked Connor how he came up with this tale of a couple who found a run-down house and made it into a home full of love and memories. He giggled a bit and recalled some friends of his in Summerville, Massachusetts on whom he based the song. His friends, a young couple at the time, bought a house in need of some love and prepared to turn it into a home fit for a family. The song spends time moving through the various stages of this couple’s life, from “living on their own” to “raising children” to “empty nesting,” as well as tracing the transitions the house goes through with them.

A special song with a heart-warming story, I present to you “Pencil Frame” by Connor Garvey.


There’s an empty frame about head high
except eggshell paint there’s nothing in side
but oh, what great potential, so much can fit
in this frame of pencil once you commit

A young couple moved in a real fixer-upper
made renovations, good love and healthy supper
but oh, what great potential, so much can fit
in this frame of pencil once you commit

And once a year they’d climb the stairs to the unfinished room
they’d grab a chair and sit and stare and wonder what to do
to put a mirror or a window in their frame on the wall
or nothing at all

So they got engaged and they chose a date
for June the 4th why should they wait?
because oh, what great potential, so much could fit
in this frame of pencil once you commit

The family grew and they built new walls
and little feet ran down the halls
but oh, what great potential, so much can fit
in this frame of pencil once you commit

Chorus

Now they all grew old as all things just do
halls and walls and little shoes
kids moved out on their own
And they left the folks in the unfinished home

Now they spend their time atop the stairs
with the same sight from the same chairs
but the empty frame each day it changes
as their life slide show rearranges

And oh, what great memories, so much they fit
in this frame of pencil without touching it

Check out his website here: http://www.connorgarveysongs.com/

And listen to the song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBSIrGAmh7s


Teen Music Review: "Full Time Cutie" by Summertime Dropouts

by Savannah Thorpe

"Full Time Cutie" by Summertime Dropouts

Summertime DropoutsTalk about just a great, life-loving group of guys. Native to Minnesota, Summertime Dropouts recently released their first album with the hopes of taking its audience out of the daily grind and back to a more relaxing, carefree time in their lives. “Back to the good ol’ days,” said lead singer Dave, “back when my dad would give me five or ten dollars and I’d go blow it all on tootsie rolls.”

The fantastically-follicled boys are sometimes mistaken for the guys who just won’t grow up, but such is nowhere close to the case. Instead, the young band is driven by a goal to help people of all ages better appreciate the fun and beauty of life. More familiar to the “hard rock” world, Dave and Josh mentioned that they were happy to take up a more easy-going, punk-pop style to encourage people to slow down, take a load off, and chill out. As Dave noted, society nowadays is intent on pushing people through the stages of their lives at light speed “so you’re married and all settled down by the time you’re 23.” Their convictions drove them to make this their full-time jobs to the point where they even spend their down time writing songs and singing....or eating ravenously at the Chinese buffet.

I came across their song “Full Time Cutie” via a tweet and instantly fell in love with the story that the song told. It’s everything we independent-thinking high school outcasts felt about the drama and overall stupidity that we all associate with that stage of life. The plot of the song revolves around a girl who would rather play rock music and avoid the internet drama than try and “fit in” with the preppy girls who make fun of her. Dave and Josh came up with the idea for this song through their own experiences. Josh remarked about the song, “Some of the coolest people I knew [in high school] just didn’t care what anyone thought.” From there, inspiration came from all over. Dave remembers driving home one night and the words for the chorus popping into his head. An upbeat, spunky song, it ends with a story-book punch: the outcast girl shows up at her ten-year reunion with plenty of music awards to show. Not only is the song great, but the accompanying music video, which was shot in Josh’s Alma Mater, illustrates the narrative well. “We really wanted to keep it simple,” agreed the guys. Not interested in any drawn-out metaphors or such, they purposefully wanted to keep it close to the plot of the song.

Overall, I love these guys, and I love their music. No matter what stage of life you may find yourself in, their songs are a great way to reminisce on past stages and appreciate where you are now without all the worries of our fast-paced world. And so, without further ado, I give you “Full Time Cutie” by Summertime Dropouts.

Monday morning, here we go again
Let the five-day melodrama games begin
Gossip, boring
Scandal, snoring
Facebook statuses and made-up stories
She doesn’t care what the backstabbers say
Cuz they’re neck-deep swimming
In their insecurities
Popularity contests are overrated
And she’s not afraid to say it

Chorus:
She’ll never make the A-team
She’s got one too many tattoos and a lip ring
She won’t swim the mainstream
And it doesn’t even matter
Everybody likes her better that way
She doesn’t care what Brad Pitt is up to
She’d rather lose herself in her bright pink guitar
And so far
She’s a full-time cutie and a part-time rock star

Same old story take a look around
Mr. Rooney’s got his hands
On the school board now
Cameron, faded, Bueller, made it
Biff’s still living in his mom and dad’s basement
Try not to laugh at the end of he day
It’s an Oscar-nominated action comedy
When they meet up in ten years
And swear they’re happy
She’ll be showing off her Grammy

Check out the music video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Vm_XZ_cNBQ

Check out their website here: http://www.summertimedropouts.com/

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