musical arranger

The New Sugar List: 47 Songs to Inspire You

I created the sugar list out of need. I needed to songs to get ready to, to boost my confidence to, to remember why I had decided to go pro in the first place. Once I started the list, I found myself listening to and discovering new songs to add to the list. It’s an ever growing monster that I hope you enjoy. There are some songs that would be perfect on this playlist that I avoided because I had exhausted their appeal to me and others because I didn’t like the artist or the message they were providing. This list is just a jumping off point. Tweak it to your hearts content. 

  1. Whatever You Like- T.I.- Perhaps one of the first songs I ever heard that talked about sugaring. It’s still a dream. A man that will look me in the eye and say I can have whatever I like? Please, sugar gods, please. 
  2. 6 Inch- Beyonce- Walk in the club like nobody’s business….
  3. Pay Me- Miguel- …and tell them to pay you. 
  4. Normally I Get It-Lola Wolf- This song is SO me as a newbie. Improvising, taking advice I should have ignored, wondering how it all went wrong. It’s an excellent reminder of how far I’ve come and an opportunity to laugh at the past. 
  5. Lemme Get That- Rihanna- Her Excellency appears on this list five or six times. There’s a reason for that. This song in particular has always warmed my heart. There was a time when I was breaking up and making up over furniture.
  6. Bandz a Make Her Dance- Juicy J- Because, yes, bandz will make me do things that I wouldn’t do otherwise. Like pay attention to you. 
  7. Can’t Tell Me Nothing- Kanye West- This is my reminder that I’m not sugaring for accessories. I’m trying to better myself. To get certain things that will advance me towards my goal. To build a business that will get my money so right, I’ll only have men around for giggles. 
  8. Money Make Her Smile- Bruno Mars- Well, this isn’t a lie. 
  9. Work B**ch- Britney Spears- It’s my alarm to get up in the morning. It’s my reminder that this life isn’t easy
  10. Pour It Up- Rihanna- A reminder not to be afraid to get what I want. He could leave me tomorrow but I’ve still got these gifts and I know I can find someone to get me more.
  11. Glamorous- Fergie- If you aint got no money take your broke ass home. Thanks
  12. Maneater- Nelly Furtado- Because after some time spent fumbling, I’ve figured out what type of seducer I am. Men beware. 
  13. Raining Men- Rihanna- I could dwell on my failures or I could recognize that there’s more than one rich man out there and get another.
  14. Murder- Justin Timberlake- The self esteem boost I need when I can’t get my eyebrows right.
  15. Luxurious- Gwen Stefani- You worked so hard to get an SD and now you have. You worked so hard on your profile and gathered the courage to go on a POT date. Celebrate
  16. Love ‘Em All- K. Michelle- When my vanilla friends ask how I can go from man to man so quickly, this is the song that starts playing in my head
  17. Faithful- Drake- This song doesn’t really belong on this list but when I heard Amber Rose saying that she just liked really expensive shit, well I had to add it. 
  18. She Knows- Ne-Yo- I didn’t quite understand the concept of owning your sex appeal, of never apologizing for it. I get it now. 
  19. Throw Sum Mo- Rae Sremmurd- If you’ve got cash who or what should you be spending it on besides me? Throw some mo.
  20. Shawty is Da Sh*!- The- Dream- Yes, actually, I am. 
  21. All N My Grill- Missy Elliott- To the men who want to text and email and date the women they met on SD sites but don’t want to do the one thing that the site says they should be doing. Why aren’t they paying bills?
  22. She Wants to Move- N.E.R.D. - When it’s time for me to leave you, when it’s time for me to dance, you don’t need to come with me, daddy.
  23. Paper Planes- M.I.A. - All I want to do is take your money? Sounds accurate
  24. Got It- Marian Hill- My reminder that the things I have, the things I bring to the table can’t be bought or stolen by any man. There isn’t enough money in the world
  25. My Love is Like…Wo- Mya- This is not a lie. I will change your life. You will crawl back to me over and over again because of what I provided.
  26. Feeling Myself- Nicki Minaj- Because I am, I am feeling myself. It’s hard work but I’m successfully doing what I said I was going to do. 
  27. Bitch Better Have My Money- Rihanna- Does this honestly need an explanation? While I’ll never be posting allowance shots, I want what I was told I could have when I was told I would have it. 
  28. Plastic Bag- Drake & Future- I do deserve it, yes. 
  29. About the Money- T.I.- His second feature on this list and perhaps one of the more obvious songs. If it aint about the money, why are we speaking? What else could you possibly offer?
  30. Mascara- Jazmine Sullivan- Perhaps the song that speaks the most blatantly about life as a sugar baby on this list and the song that I think should be the sugar baby anthem, it’s a reminder to always stay well dressed, always stay ready for more. 
  31. The Boys- Nicki Minaj and Cassie- They’ll always spend money when they think there is love. 
  32. Guap- Big Sean- If you’ve ever gotten anon hate, dirty looks when you’re out in public, or patronizing conversations with friends that couldn’t begin to do what you do: I need you to blast this song. 
  33. Conceited (There’s Something About Remy)- Remy Ma- The attitude you need to have when they say you aren’t good enough and walk away, announce they don’t desire you, or try to lowball you. 
  34. Afford My Love-Dreezy-  The truth is, salty salts, you can’t afford me. This is not my problem.
  35. Money Over Love- Bilal- Money over love cause the best things in life aint free. 
  36. The Morning- The Weeknd- The money is the motive
  37. Spoiled- Wale- The song opens with Wale affectionately saying “with your spoiled ass”. I laughed. I am spoiled. Why shouldn’t I be?
  38. Anaconda- Nicki Minaj- A reminder that a man can want you for your body. Do you know what you want him for? Cause he buys you Balmain?
  39. Ex’s & Oh’s-Elle King- They always want to cum but they never want to leave (or pay).
  40. Sally-Bibi Bourelly- They don’t understand us. Hate, jealousy, and fear are better. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance. Let me see you rock little Sally.
  41. Back Up-Dej Loaf- Yeah, I made you feel good but…why are you blowing up my phone? Is there money? No? Back up off me. 
  42. Nun for Free-Zonnique- We don’t do nothing for free. Amen, amen.
  43. Nothing is Promised- Mike Will Made-It & Rihanna- You can lose it as quickly as you got it. Be smart
  44. Rich-K. Michelle- The only way to solve rich people problems? Get richer. Grind ladies
  45. Sex With Me- Rihanna- If I could play this song every time I’m asked if I’m a sexual person…the time I could save.
  46. No Scrubs-TLC- No explanation needed. They knew.
  47. Buy the World- Mike Will Made-It- What you think we out here hustling for? We’re just trying to buy the world and do the impossible.

What would you add to this list? Do you have any favorite songs that you get ready to take over the world (or a wallet) to?

The Music of "When You Believe"

One of the most powerful songs I ever have heard comes from “The Prince of Egypt”. It has brought me to tears on far more than one occasion (such as now, oops), and no matter how often I listen to it, the song maintains an incredible force that makes it, to my eyes as a working music composer myself, one of the greatest songs throughout animation.

The strength of this song comes from the combination of well-written lyrics plus the musical choices accompanying those lyrics. The composers (Stephen Schwartz and Hans Zimmer) very intentionally, very successfully aligned the deep emotions of the words with equally powerful music. By exploiting the effects of instrumentation, the shape of the melody line, musical key, and the lyrics, listeners are taken through a deep, emotion-wrought narrative of the Hebrews beginning the Exodus.

In Darkness

The start of “When You Believe” is very dark, moaning deep in the cellos and other low voices of the orchestra. For indeed, while Moses has just learned the Hebrews have been freed of their slavery from Egypt, it comes at an enormous price: the death of many Egyptians including his nephew, as well as a break in the bond between himself and his brother. There thus is a darkness to the music and the animation on the screen to match that dark event which is occurring in Moses’ life.

But even when Miriam begins to sing, the cityscape is still dark and the music retains its rich, dark ambiance. The instrumentation is mostly strings, especially the lower to mid-range. All is thick and solemn. On top of that, the melody is within the minor mode, a musical scale that is known for sounding more somber and sad than the major scale. This use of minor adds a weight and sadness to her words, continuing on that sense of darkness.

There’s a symbolic reason to cast that sense of aural shadow. Miriam’s words in the first verse sing of a darkness, too, within the Hebrews’ lives. “Many nights we prayed, with no proof anyone could hear,” she begins. There is a sense of hopelessness and darkness in her words, and the music likewise provides the sense that the lives of the slaves were cast in psychological powerlessness. The melody even drifts downward over the first line of the verse, the pitches descending with the line, metaphorically depicting downcast spirits.

If the music had been brighter and more upbeat, it would have emphasized the fact the Hebrews prayed vigilantly; however, with the deep strings and minor descending melody, audiences understand the oppressive hopelessness that crushed the peoples’ existence.

There are only slight hints of hope in the within the first verse, especially at the start. The first twinkle of hope within the darkness comes in the second line, “In our hearts a hopeful song we barely understood." 

Notice that the music rises before sinking downward again. The words peak on the word "hopeful,” in fact, with a dramatic leap up to the final syllable. There’s a sound of a song in that peaking interval (a fourth) which is associated with many types of folk musics from around the world, and that jump upward is a notable spark of hope to the ears. The song might still be cast in a dark minor melody, and that “hopeful song” might fall again to lower musical pitches in the rest of the musical line, but that little spark nonetheless is very aurally noticeable and depicts that little spark the Hebrews clung to themselves.

Increasing Brightness

There is an increasing brightness as the verse continues. It aligns with the growing hope in the lyrics as well as the brightening colors animated on the screen. The third line of the melody is the same as the first, but it’s orchestrated differently. The clarinet and the flute enter, warming up the texture of the music in the accompaniment, corresponding to the much more optimistic lyric, “Now we are not afraid.” This time, when the pitches fall at the end of the line, “even though there’s much to fear,” it gives a sense of determination rather than hopelessness.

And then the fourth and final line of the verse pulls forward an even greater transformation.

We have another symbolic rise - through a technique called “text painting” - in which the word “mountains” is musically described through the upward jump of pitches. The word “mountains” is a peak in the musical line, just as a mountain is a peak in the landscape. Corresponding visually, the viewers see pyramids and other grand Egyptian structures. These might not be mountains, but the enormity of those monuments is indeed something incredible to move. Suddenly, then, the Hebrews’ lives of slavery are not just torment and despair, but a demonstration of the strength of the people.

And look above at that final note in the verse. It moves upward, leading to the chorus, and showing an enormous growth of hope.

There Can be Miracles

Suddenly, there is sunrise. And Miriam is smiling. And people are coming together. And hope blossoms. And the music in the chorus sings it all: “There can be miracles when you believe. Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill. Who knows what miracles you can achieve? When you believe, somehow you will. You will when you believe.”

The song changes keys to equate that shift in mood. The verse is in e minor, a very dark key orchestrationally that makes the music sound incredibly weighty and somber and allows composers to frequently use some of the lowest pitches the instruments can play. But then this song shifts to G major in the chorus. This is one of the brightest keys an orchestra can play (There are lots of “open strings” in this key, meaning that the strings in the violins, violas, cellos, and basses reverberate a lot more and sound very bright and rich). G major and e minor all use the same pitches, but to very different effects. In the same way, there is a shift from the content of the verse to the chorus, even though the material Miriam discusses is similar. It is a shift from unactualized hope to the experience of a miracle. And thus a shift from darkness to lightness occurs both within her words, within the sunrise of the animation, and within the change of mood in the music.  

The melody itself is very hopeful. Every single line of the melody, beginning with, “There can be miracles,” moves upward. The pitches always rise from start to end, showing enormous optimism.

Text painting also happens again; that is, the music shapes itself in ways to symbolically correlate to the meaning of the lyrics. The word “miracles” has an enormous rise in it, just like the words “hopeful” and “mountains." 

The word "believe” similarly receives a climactic high pitch, showing its greatness and importance.

The word “frail,” by contrast, is sung with an enormous drop downward in pitch, aurally creating a sense of weakness.

Even when the syllables occur in the music is very well placed and gives a sense of optimism and determination.

There is a sense of pulse in music. Some pulses are a lot heavier than others, and these are called “downbeats.” If you look at the pictures of musical notation I have, the “downbeats” happen with the first and third black notes of every measure (a measure is a chunk of music that is separated by those vertical lines). Every time you hit a downbeat, then, there is a sense of more power. And notice what words hit the downbeats in this music. Words like “can” and “hope”. In the line, “it’s hard to kill,” both “hard” and “kill” receive the musical metrical emphasis. What does this do? It emphasizes the greatest of what happened, shows that miracles can and in fact just have happened. It brings confidence to the lyrics.

The dotted rhythms create even more confidence within the melody line.

Altogether, then, the entirety of the chorus screams hope.

Continuation of Narrative

The second verse returns to the dark minor key that audiences heard in the first verse. Zipporah is speaking of the Hebrews’ experience of slavery in the lyrical narrative, thus requiring a thicker atmosphere to the music. We hear a little bit of song again in the rise of pitch with the words “summer bird,” as well as that fall of hope when subsequently she sings “too swiftly flown away.”

Paralleling the first verse, a similar growth from dark to light again occurs with the lyrics and the music in the second verse. And thus we move from despair to cheer as she sings: “In this time of fear, when prayer so often proves in vain hope seems like the summer birds, too swiftly flown away. Yet now I’m standing here, my heart so full I can’t explain, seeking faith and speaking words I’d never thought I’d say.” When Miriam adds a duet, a further sense of hope grows, for the people are coming together to begin the Exodus, traveling to freedom.

The second chorus is even musically bigger than the first, the visuals brighter, the hope more powerful. We see the Exodus happening now. There are people leaving. The miracle is here, it is happening, and the growth of music augments that.

The Children’s Song

Children begin singing, showing such a sense of hope as can be equaled by nothing else. The Bible indeed speaks of a child’s faith being great - not to mention the association with children is very positive and bright. The music is still in happy G major, though it also uses some pitches like C natural that never have been used before, making the music sound even brighter. The melody dances, and so do the people.

It is even more powerful when you know what the kids are saying.

It is part of a poem actually in the Bible seen in Exodus 15: 1, 11, and 13. Not only are these Hebrew lyrics actually in the Bible, but they are recorded as the song that Miriam and Aaron themselves sang when they were leaving Egypt. This is the song, guys! The legitimate words they sang in this event.

אָשִׁירָה לַה’ כִּי-גָאֹה גָּאָה 
מִי כָמֹכָה בָּאֵלִם ה’ מִי כָּמֹכָה נֶאְדָּר בַּקֹּדֶשׁ 
נָחִיתָ בְחַסְדְּךָ עַם-זוּ גָּאָלְתָּ 

Ashira laadonay ki gao gaa 
Ashira laadonay ki gao gaa
Mi chamocha baelim adonay
Mi kamocha needar bakodesh 
Nakhita vekhasdecha am zu gaalta 
Nakhita vekhasdecha am zu gaalta 
Ashira ashira ashira

So that’s all well and good to see the text in another language, but what does it mean in English?

Check it out:

I will sing unto the Lord, for He is highly exalted 
Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the mighty? who is like unto Thee, glorious in holiness 
Thou in Thy love hast led the people that Thou hast redeemed

In another translation that sounds a bit less archaic:

I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.
Who among the gods is like you, O Lord?
Who is like you - majestic in holiness?
In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.

This song is one of being saved by God and thanking him for the miracle. And the music expands and everyone begins singing and an almost giddy happiness results when the song spins faster and faster.

The Power of Belief

The final chorus explodes in full choir. It is the voice now of the entire Hebrew people belting out faith and awe at what has happened. Not only that, but the music rises in pitch, bursting to A major. The music reaches an all-time dramatic high in terms of sheer force of musicians playing in singing, in terms of the highest pitches sung, and in terms of volume. 

The music climaxes in power - to the full power of belief. To the full glory of this miracle. What has happened has just changed millions of lives. Millions of lives are free and singing praise.

It is hard to believe now that the song began in such a dark corner, sounding so futile and depressed and hopeless. But through the incredible narration of sound and lyrics, everyone by the end of the song understand - understands full well - “There can be miracles when you believe.”

A Sax Choir version of the Novakid theme from Starbound, performed at Solo and Ensemble because why not. The arrangement is mine, and I shortened the song to make it easy to learn, as this was kind of a last minute thing. We got gold, for anyone interested.
Enjoy!

Rey's Theme piano arrangement
John Williams, tofuthebold

Finally got around to making my own piano arrangement of basically my favorite thing to come out of the sequel trilogies. There’s something swashbuckling about Rey’s Theme that I really love so I hoped to capture that.

Sheet music (pdf) here

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Petition to make a set of Yuuri!!! On Ice music boxes, like those old-fashioned ones with a spinning ballerina. Except that it’s yoi characters in their costumes, spinning to the corresponding song to the costume. Just imagine that for a second guys. Imagine Yuuri and Viktor spinning together in their beautiful matching outfits, to a music box arrangement of Stay Close To Me. Just imagine it.

Started off as a silly little doodle when I was thinking about the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra concert for the billionth time and then it turned into this. Why not celebrate one concert with the Disney concert that started it all?

Gosh, I could wax nostalgic for days about the concert. Music has been just an integral in my life as art, and the KH music is the reason why I got into arranging music in high school and beyond. To hear and see the music I’ve loved for years performed live gave me an even greater appreciation for compositional prowess of Yoko Shimomura, the dedication of the musicians (btw, most of the musicians at the concert probably learned the music about a week or two prior to the concert. AMAZING, RIGHT???), and the musical nuances of different instruments and arrangement choices. Absolutely stunning.