Thursday, September 6th, 2012
I often get overly defensive about pop music (just ask me what I think about Nickelback). I have a soft spot for perceived dumb songs with a fun heart and danceable beat. I figure that if I love Weird Al’s “Party in the C.I.A.”, then some part of me also has to love the Miley Cyrus song he’s parodying. My secret to feeling this kind of love is not really paying attention to the lyrics.
I mean sure, if I listen to a Ben Folds song enough times I’m going to gain something from the words of the song. And Ani DiFranco demands that I listen to her lyrics by singing the way she does.
But I couldn’t begin to tell you what A Long December is about even though I’ve listen to that song over a hundred times. I do know that it never fails to make me sad or melancholy if I haven’t heard it in a while. I’m perfectly capable if analyzing words that are meant to tell a story or have metaphorical meaning beyond their physical presence. It’s just not my main concern when I’m listening to music.
I’m more interested in the way long comes out of Adam Duritz’s being, making it sound like the longingest long in the history of longs. I’m hypnotized by the second sung note in “At Last” by Etta James, forcing me to feel something powerful every time I hear it. And I love that the greatest note the Temptations ever sang has to be sung out of key or it would have been wrong. The words are important in each of these instances, but it has more to do with the sounds they produce and less to do with the message they project.
In high school choir, we had a student director from Austin Peay teach us for about a month. He tried to get us to learn this spoken word arrangement called “Geographical Fugue” that I initially found pretty silly (I found a rendition of this piece on the internet…performed by Italians!). At one point the basses (go basses!) had to repeat the word Titicaca more times than any 16-year old should be expected to say that word with a straight face. But when the song was working and every one had the rhythm of the piece down it could be mesmerizing. If you’re like me and you find yourself constantly rapping in the shower, you’ll notice that sometimes the only way to remember the next word in a verse is to say the word right before it out loud.
I guess I’m trying to say that, at least in my world, rhythm has a language all to itself. I’ve written about music in various forms on my last three days off, but when I read sophisticated music criticism, I have to admit that I’m intimidated. I read things like this song is catchy but lacks the dynamic propulsion to make it great or the rhyme scheme is primitive at best and I’m baffled. The part of me that likes understanding everything wants to be able to decipher their code and see the patterns that make this song brilliant and that song marginal, but I honestly, and possibly stupidly, have no idea what they’re talking about.
I do know that music is meaningful to me in a way that nothing else really can be. Music allows me to escape my thoughts and immediately emote. It’s a shortcut to feeling something different from the feelings I felt seconds earlier. I know the words to a lot of songs, but I think I only understand the context of their sounds.
Friday, August 31st, 2012
I’m a sucker for a quirky girl with a cute voice who plays the ukelele. Not saying that this is my type. You can put down your “Mel Bay Learn to Play Fingerstyle Solos for Ukelele” book, ladies. My tastes are broader than that. But there is something about mixing sweetness with additional doses of sweetness that will hook me every time. Undercutting it with bluntness and eventual psychopathy only serves to shock and make you laugh. But what drew me in was the sweetness. What keeps me coming back is the beautiful fear.
This song is fantastic at capturing the hesitation and fear that begins every butterfly phase of (even one-sided….okay, especially one-sided) relationships. Whenever I find myself feeling happy beyond reason, I immediately brace for a hard fall. Infatuation is exactly like this, except on rare horrible, wonderful occasions you’re being encouraged by another person to ignore that future pain and embrace the moment. But that doesn’t stop me, and I think most people, from over analyzing something as reflexively simple as sneezes or battling through painful bouts of self-doubt.
My favorite lyric is when Riki Lindholme sings “and I’ll try to be less of a loser.” Sometimes if I’m being too introspective and self indulgence it’ll make me forget that I’m human, or to be more precise, that everybody else is too. Quirky pretty ukelele girls are capable of crippling anxiety just like me, and for odd, possibly masochistic reasons this makes me feel closer to the world.
And I love the ending too, or at least like-like it. Crude things coming from unexpected places are my favorite! The best thing about the ending is that if you do find that person who encourages you, and you ignore the scarier aspects of their being, you can find that compromise and satisfy the instinct that prompted you to explore that person in the first place.
Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
I’ve lately been trying to figure out why LMFAO feels different from their predecessors. Dumb dance music is a known quantity in our culture. Tag Team and Lou Bega made songs that everyone danced to once upon a time. But for reasons that I think have a lot to do with the era of their popularity, it feels (to me at least) that LMFAO isn’t going to go the way of Coolio.
Comparing the brilliance of any lyrics among typical dumb dance songs would lead ponderers to nothing but headaches. Their collective words are more about the consonant and vowel sounds they make rather than their meaning. These types of songs ignore your neocortex completely, preferring to take aim at your hips. Most of these songs feel like lightning in a bottle though. If you can name off the top of your head (without cheating) another song by Bega or Tag Team, I’ll give you my whole collection of old McDonalds Monopoly pieces.
LMFAO songs feel lived in. It may have more to do with the era in which they gained popularity, but I think the duo project authenticity, as silly as that sounds. They remind me of those two, often funny, sometimes obnoxious guys who show up to a party and can make it or bury it depending on their mood. They sound like a bit of our pop music past, even though the industry as a capitalistic juggernaut seems to be crumbling, but more unpredictable.
Now, according to my fifteen minutes of research, these guys are somehow related to the founder of Motown record, Berry Gordy. I don’t know if this means that they have a natural talent for knowing what the masses want or if they have access to resources that pushed them on the public. My hips want to believe the former.
Any music that gains popularity during this time of industry change has to possess a smidgen of democratic integrity. I’m not sure what LMFAO’s lowbrow message says about the virtues of democracy, but with the stakes this low I’m fine with it. If people want a whiff of the past, then the youtube counter has spoken. Thus it must be.