Favorite Songs of 2015

“I hope the world sees the same person that you’ve always been to me / And may all your favorite bands stay together”

Here’s a list of my top songs for this year, in an order that might be surprisingly mixable. These are not necessarily from 2015; I just happened to have heard them in the last twelve months.

When We Were Young, by Adele on 25
Budapest, by George Ezra on Wanted on Voyage
Jealousy, by Pet Shop Boys on Behaviour
I Can Change, by Brandon Flowers on The Desired Effect
Clearest Blue, by Chvrches on Every Open Eye
Want to Want Me, by Jason Derulo on Everything Is 4
Fire Under My Feet, by Leona Lewis on I Am
Queen of Peace, by Florence + the Machine on How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
All Your Favorite Bands, by Dawes on All Your Favorite Bands
Karen Don’t Be Sad, by Miley Cyrus on Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz
Farmer’s Road, by Telekenisis on Ad Infinitum
Capable of Anything (8 Chamber Rock Song Featuring yMusic), by Ben Folds on So There
Superheated, by New Order on Music Complete
Talk About You, by Mika on No Place in Heaven
Just Like Me, by Betty Who on Take Me When You Go
Cradle to the Grave, by Squeeze on Cradle to the Grave
Crystals, by Of Monsters and Men on Beneath the Skin
Wherever Is Your Heart, by Brandi Carlile on The Firewatcher’s Daughter
Missing You, by All Time Low on Future Hearts
Nobody, by Selena Gomez on Revival

The snippet under the heart up there is from Dawes’ “All Your Favorite Bands,” whose lyrics seem apt to mention as my own favorite band, New Order, pretty much broke up forever this year (they put out a new album, but without one of their key founding members).  Musically, the highlight this year is Mika’s “Talk About You,” which never fails to put a smile on my face.

95.9 FM, the Fish, Driving Through Beverly Hills


I’m driving a rental in L.A.  It’s a Ford Focus, the cheapest thing I could find.  Still has way more power than my Prius, so I still feel like I’m redlining every time I press the gas pedal.  This Focus has Microsoft SYNC, which is supposed to make connections to smartphones via Bluetooth bulletproof, except my phone, for whatever reason, will not connect.

So I’ve been relegated to listening to the radio.  After clicking through the channels, the one I found I liked the best was 95.9 FM, the Fish.  I found myself liking just about every song from this station.  It might be because many of them have these soaring melodies, almost Jim Steinmanian (that’s the guy who wrote those Meatloaf sagas, plus Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” etc.).  And then the DJ came on, Delilah, and she was talking about such deep, meaningful things, about the difficulties of life, the elusiveness of salvation, how we can find ourselves in this confusing universe of ours.  Wow, was this a cool station or what?  So very different.  Must be an L.A. thing.

And then came on a commercial about a movie I’d never heard before, War Room.

On the outside, Tony and Elizabeth Jordan seem to have it all—great jobs, a beautiful daughter and their dream home. But their appearances are deceiving: Tony relishes in his professional success and flirts with temptation, while Elizabeth resigns herself to increasing bitterness. Their marriage is on the verge of crumbling until their lives take an unexpected turn. When Elizabeth meets Miss Clara, she challenges Elizabeth to create a battle plan of prayer for her family by establishing a “war room.” This new film from the Kendrick brothers is a vivid reminder that prayer is powerful weapon.

The next song that came on was Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel,” and then I finally realized I’ve been listening to a Christian Rock station.

One strange thing about me is that I hardly ever listen to the lyrics of any song.  If I like a song a lot, then I’ll eventually pick up on the lyrics, but even with those, it’s entirely possible I just learn the words on a pure sound level; i.e., my brain isn’t actually processing anything.

Even stranger?  I’m still listening to the Fish.  What can I say, I like the music.

Love Love in San Francisco Magazine (9/2015)

A hearty thank you to San Francisco Magazine for giving some love to Love Love:sanfranmag_ll

The full text:

Get lost in an oversexed San Francisco

Sung J. Woo, author of the highly lauded Everything Asian, has a new novel on a slightly different subject.  Love Love (Soft Skull Press) finds 40-year-old tennis coach Kevin Lee grappling with the discovery that not only was he adopted, but his biological parents were porn stars in ’70s San Francisco — a lot to take in for a man in the midst of a midlife crisis.

The portion of the bald head you see below my little snippet belongs to none other than Salman Rushdie!  If that wasn’t amazing enough, I’m also sharing space with Jonathan Franzen’s Purity and Billy Joel.  The entire page appears below.


KoreAm Column: Welcome to the Club


My bi-monthy column for KoreAm Journal for March/April features the music of my youth, Erasure in particular.  Enjoy!

First-World Problems: Welcome to the Club

This past New Year’s Eve, I was on the second floor of Terminal 5, a concert hall in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Leaning over the railing, I screamed, “I love to hate you!” with the rest of the frenzied crowd below me, above me, all around me. As the song reached its end, the singer segued into a countdown, and then he yelled, “Happy New Year!” Gold balloons and white confetti rained down from above, and then we all sang the next song, “I try to discover, a little something to make me sweeter …”

If you are of a certain age and Asian American, there’s a high likelihood that you know these two songs are “Love to Hate You” and “A Little Respect.” This was my first time seeing Erasure. I probably should’ve done this a quarter of a century ago, but back then, I didn’t even know who they were, and more to the point, I didn’t know who I was.