Like its fellow contender for the title of quintessential stalker song of all time, “Every Breath You Take”, this song is often oddly misinterpreted as a love song, but in this case that is almost entirely due to the fact that cover versions almost invariably soften the original recording’s sound. In what is possibly the most terrifying Blues performance ever, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins delivers this song in a grotesque yowl that could never be mistaken for anything but an expression of twisted obsession. Granted, there have been some pretty good cover versions of the song over the years (like the one by the Animals), but there’s no replacing the original, so it’s worth seeking out as the definitive version of this classic song.
Archives for March 2015
Of the three CD bonus tracks from Swift’s landmark album 1989, which were subsequently re-released as promotional singles on Itunes, this seems to be the least remembered, but it really deserves more attention. It does a surprisingly clever job of running with the Wonderland lyrical concept, featuring some pithy twists on Carrollian imagery. In fact, she honestly does a much better job of bringing out the psychological implications of Lewis Carroll in this four-minute song than Frank Wildhorn or Elizabeth Swados did in their entire musicals on the subject.
Imagine Dragons’ second album, Smoke and Mirrors, in spite of one or two valid items, vastly failed to live up to their debut, and this song, very poorly chosen as the lead single, is one of the most embarrassing things on it. A potentially effective lyric on the verses in ruined by the grotesque chorus, which sounds like a bad parody of Indie Folk written by someone who equates Indie Folk with a stereotypical hillbilly hootenanny.
As with West’s last collaboration with the legendary Rock giant, this song bears the strong stamp of McCartney’s influence, but while “Only One” drew more on McCartney’s later Soft Rock and Soul ballad efforts, this one owes more to the bluesy rockers he wrote in his Beatles era. It honestly sounds uncannily like a Classic Rock song in both music and lyric (West, of course, puts his lyrical stamp on his verses, but the conceit of the chorus just screams Classic Rock), and for that reason, it is both a unique item in West’s body of work and one of the best things he’s ever done.
This song, with its combination of pretty female vocals and an imitation-DJ Mustard beat, is far from unlistenable, and certainly the best charting hit Jeremih had appeared on up to that point. But frankly, we already had a Pop song sampled from Whitney Houston’s “Dance With Somebody”, that came out a year earlier and deserved to be a hit far more than this one: it was called “Somebody Loves You” by Indie Pop singer Betty Who. So this song basically lives in the shadow of two vastly better songs, and frankly that’s more than its moderately pleasant frame can really support.
Verdict: Not exactly bad, just kind of redundant.
When it comes to the children of great musicians having embarrassingly bad music careers, Nancy Sinatra is right down there with David Cassidy; and frankly, at least David Cassidy could sing. In addition to being extremely poorly written (sample line: ‘You keep lyin’ when you outta be truthin’), this song has a spectacularly uninteresting melody. In the days before auto-tune, they compensated for singers with tin ears or nonexistent ranges by writing two-note wonders like this one, and while a few of them have held up (e.g. “Just In Time”, written for Sydney Chaplin), most of them sound pretty uninteresting to the modern ear.
We rarely get serious, socially conscious political rap that actually makes it into the mainstream consciousness these days, and when we do, it’s usually tainted by the standard Glam Rap conventions, as on Young Jeezy’s “My President Is Black” or the attempted Michael Brown tribute “Don’t Shoot”. That’s what makes this song so special. A few minor singles by acts like Lupe Fiasco still attempt this kind of social commentary, but for a song like this to win an Academy Award for Best Song…well, I don’t know how much effect it will have politically, but I’m betting it will certainly have an immense positive influence on genre of rap music, because it shows these kinds of song can, in fact, still succeed without compromising their honesty and integrity.
Eminem and Pink aren’t exactly an obvious combination: their worldviews wouldn’t seem to be particularly compatible at first glance. But they do have one quality in common: their defiant rage against the world. And this song is entirely built on that emotional state, so it seems to have found a suitable common ground for the two. To be honest, Pink doesn’t really distinguish herself as a rap chorus singer, but Eminem provides an endless string of clever wordplay, and both singers project sufficiently intense anger to carry through the song’s sentiment.