Fifth Harmony had one solid single in “Sledgehammer” (mostly thanks to Meghan Trainor’s songwriting contribution), but this is just garbage. The production is another blatant attempt to copy the saxophone-based World Music sounds of “Talk Dirty”, the chorus is another of those ‘repeat a simple vocal fragment over and over’ hooks that should have died out years ago, and the attempt to sell the song as a feminist anthem is just absurd, especially given that it was initially intended for guest rapper Kid Ink to perform on his own, and thus was originally written from a male perspective.
Archives for September 2015
Since I have always been an advocate of the value of interpretational singing in a world that seems to increasingly venerate the singer-songwriter, I am thrilled to see the success of Indie giant Ryan Adams’ full album of reinterpreted covers of Taylor Swift’s 1989 songs. Here he offers a fascinating new take on the ferocious “Bad Blood”, making it less an expression of anger and more of sorrow at the loss of former closeness caused by the betrayal. It’s so completely different from the original version that it’s hard to compare them, but in its own quiet way, it might have even more emotional impact than the stunning original.
This song is an absolutely terrific piece of music, with a melody reminiscent of “At the Beginning” by Flaherty and Ahrens, and one of the best girl-group songs to come out of England since the heyday of Girls Aloud. The only reason anything about its quality is in doubt is that some people have raised objections to it because they somehow took the singers’ chosen metaphor for their sexuality as an allusion to date-rape drugs. I don’t know if I’m more disgusted by these people’s apparent determination to get offended by every piece of media in existence, or their inability to grasp the basic concept of metaphor, especially a metaphor that’s been around at least since Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer used it in “That Old Black Magic” back in the Forties.
Al Stewart might just be the classiest Soft Rocker of all time. He started out as a Progressive Folk-Rocker with College radio hits like “Roads To Moscow”, and he retained the ambition and intellectual qualities he displayed there even after moving into radio-friendly Soft Rock. This song features an impossibly lush arrangement, with an elegant keyboard lead-in and a saxophone part giving it a kind of jazz-folk quality. This, combined with the sophisticated and richly romantic imagery of the lyrics (‘she comes out of the sun in a silk dress running like a watercolor in the rain’), gives the piece a feeling of world-weary continental elegance. This song has a handful of people who still scorn it simply because it was a Soft Rock radio hit that was a bit overexposed when it came out, but I have always maintained that Soft Rock can be a perfectly legitimate genre, and it just doesn’t get better or more legitimate than this.
Verdict: This song is a true classic.
New Age Music gets a bad rep, which may be partly due to people not comprehending the difference between the Ambient music genres and Muzak and thus automatically dismissing it based on the fact that it’s designed as a form of background music, but I think the larger problem is that this bozo has been the public face of it for the last thirty years. In reality, there are plenty of legit artists in the New Age field (granted, the only one that most mainstream listeners would recognize is Enya, but within the genre there are other respectable big names like Stephen Halpern, Jean Michel Jarre, David Lanz, Kitaro, and Symbiosis), but unfortunately none of them has penetrated the pop consciousness as much as Yanni. In effect, he plays the homogenized pop version of New Age Music…his music is all cheesy, overblown bombast, with none of the subtle atmospheric beauty of the good New Age musicians. Granted, bombast can have its pleasures under the right circumstances, but it’s best when combined with memorable melody, and this guy’s total lack of melodic inspiration keeps him from taking his bombast to the level where it would have any actual sweep or power. On top of that, he’s just not a particularly talented piano player, a pretty damning indictment for a guy who makes his living at that instrument. Just how ungifted he is can be illustrated by comparing him to his direct predecessor, because in the previous generation, we also had an Easy Listening pseudo-Classical pianist for basically the same market…his name was Liberace. Now, Liberace wasn’t on the level of Classical piano giants like Glenn Gould, but he did have often dazzling virtuosic skill at his instrument and an extremely distinctive playing style, two things that Yanni will never achieve. I’ve been told this particular piece has the same positive effects on the human brain as a certain famous Mozart concerto because its basic musical structure is similar to (read: ripped off from) that piece, and while I’m not qualified to disprove that statement, it seems extremely far-fetched given the actual quality of the piece…I’ve heard Diane Warren compositions that were closer to being Mozartian than this garbage.
Verdict: Bad, but if you want to see what the New Age Music genre is really like, check out some of the more legit acts I mentioned above. They’re a hundred times better than this idiot.
Here it is…the show that gave Broadway the shot in the arm it so desperately needed. Because this show has been imitated by countless lesser shows for the past decade, and because of the mediocre movie they made of it, it’s now hard for some people to remember how brilliant this show is when seen with fresh eyes. The book draws from one of Mel Brooks’ best movies, but it actually improves upon it, softening the blackly comic edges and making the characters far more likable while retaining one of the great comic plots of the last century.
The score is outstanding, with delightful numbers that echo the styles of old-fashioned, classic Broadway, from Fred and Ginger (the uptempo love song “That Face”), to Show Boat (the hilarious intro to “I Wanna Be a Producer”), to Fiddler on the Roof (the outrageously beleaguered “King of Broadway”), to West Side Story (the howlingly funny “Keep It Gay”), to Rodgers and Hammerstein (the hilarious but genuinely touching climactic song, “Til Him”). Almost every number is a showstopper, and the two biggest, the “Springtime For Hitler” sequence (which Brooks turns into a massive star salute in the vein of “Hello Dolly”) and “Betrayed” (a comedic version of “Rose’s Turn”, complete with fragmentary reprises of earlier songs), are a class of showstopper hardly ever seen on Broadway.
Some have accused the lyrics of being heavy-handed, but Mel Brooks had spent his entire career doing this kind of low comedy, so one might ask what they expected the show’s lyrics to sound like. Besides, despite the frequent use of blunt but utterly on-the-money shock humor, there are actually several genuinely clever moments in the score, from the dazzling string of rhymes at the climax of “The King of Broadway” to the risque wit of “If You Got It, Flaunt It”.
The conventional wisdom says that the show depended entirely on its original leading men, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, to make it work, but I saw the show twice with the replacement casts, and it works just fine without its stars. The story, score and staging are what really make it hilarious. I might go so far as to call this the greatest musical comedy of the decade. It certainly sparked a Broadway renaissance that would last for several years to come, and it deserved every bit of its acclaim.
This song is essentially a deconstruction of the standard Country jealousy ballad (like Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Loretta Lynn’s “Woman of the World”) from a modern perspective. It’s a slow, steamy ballad, featuring an absolutely scorching vocal performance, built around the acknowledgment that the characters singing these songs of jealousy are showing an implicit fascination and even attraction to the ‘other woman’. This is certainly true of “Woman of the World”, which, when listened to from a modern perspective, is almost Freudian in its expressions of sexual jealousy of this free-spirited, powerfully sexual sophisticate. This is a fairly obvious fact that somehow no-one seems to have noticed until now, and Little Big Town does a fine job of bringing that subtextual element to the surface in a song that could hold its own with the classic examples of the style. This song was mostly controversial with Country music Conservatives because of the provocative title, but if they’d realized what the song was really about and what it was revealing about their old-school Country classics, they probably would have been even more horrified.
This was the first song the general public was exposed to from Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion album, which turned out to be something of a modern masterpiece. This particular track from the album has merit, with a pretty melody and a superb production, but it suffers from one rather serious flaw, an absurdly over-repetitive chorus that almost sounds like an attempted parody of her earlier hit, “Call Me Maybe”. It might not have raised eyebrows as an album track, but it was a poor choice for a lead single, since that chorus draws the lion’s share of immediate attention and thus largely obscures the song’s good qualities on a first listen.