Monday, March 19, 2007

Random Orphaned Song Reviews

Not much time for posting, so random dump of song reviews now. Upcoming post on Scatman John.

I couldn't fit these in any other post:

2gether - "The Hardest Part of Breaking Up"; 2gether - "U + Me = Us (Calculus)"
Review: 2-gether was the "fake" boy band produced by MTV. They starred in a TV movie that was all the rage when I was in high school. It was funny, or at least it seemed so at the time. In any event, they released two songs that were hits on MTV, in an example of blatant and shameless cross-promotion that far precedes the Disney Channel's exploitation of the same. Anyways, since they were in a movie that's a parody of boy bands, I guess that makes them a fake or parody boy band, but these both sound like pretty awesome boy band songs to me. The lyrics are just a bit sillier, but these would both fit pretty well in the Backstreet Boys catalogue, for example. Anyways, "U + Me = Us" is their ballad and "The Hardest Part of Breaking Up" is their uptempo tune, and both are good songs with funny lyrics! In any event, I can't think of another song about an ex-girlfriend stealing all of your stuff when she leaves, and it's a pretty good conceit that's handled in a funny way. They've got the boy band look and dance moves and looks down so pat, and they play it so straight faced that it begs the question of where the line between reality and parody is crossed. I guess they are a parody, but they had substantially the same audience as the actual boy bands, and it was pretty genius of MTV. Boybands dominated MTV to an almost nauseating degree at this time, and they capitalized on it. They made their own boy band, but they couched it in "parodying" or "making fun of" boybands, like they were too good for that whole boy band thing. That's a gesture I find inherently distateful, but when it works it works. [8] and [7] respectively

Roxette - "Fading Like a Flower"
Well Roxette is only like, what, the best pop band from 88-92? That's an absolutely fantastic run of 8 singles or so spanning 2 albums, maybe the best set of singles from 2 consecutive albums of any band. Well Madonna or Prince or Michael Jackson or somebody would probably be ahead of them, but anyways it's still excellent. They really deserve their whole post and maybe they'll get it someday, but for now this will suffice. Roxette particularly excelled at writing absolutely massive ballads like "Listen to Your Heart" (my favorite) or "Spending My Time", but this one is uptempo and awesome. There is, of course, the famous dance versions and what not of this track, but I love this song in it's original form with the cheesy 80's pianos and guitar and drums, but it all works. Roxette is all about the spectacle and this is their most spectacular: it's all over the top and crazy and great. And one hell of a catchy chorus. Song starts out with piano, crashing into guitars and piano. Leading to a verse bubbling with tension, waiting to bust out. It breaks out into the big chorus with a sense of great freedom and triumph, and then it just fades out. One of those truly soaring and triumphant choruses like "Breaking Free" and it doesn't even need to be that massive to achieve it! It just soars by contrast to the tension set up in the chorus. Then it just fades away, too soon. Like a flower. [10]

Garth Brooks - "Papa Loved Mama" (not online as far as I can tell)
What can even be said about Garth Brooks? I decided this year that I wanted to start listening to some of the big modern country artists, and Garth was the obvious starting point. So I picked up the hits collection. I already knew only two of the songs, due to my complete ignorance of country until 2005-ish, those two songs being "Friends in Low Places" (clearly the best karaoke song of all time) and "The Thunder Rolls", both of which I love. None of the other songs on his greatest hits really hit the level of those two, but this rollicking and rolling honky tonk type number about a husband killing his wife grabbed my attention on first listen. It's weird to listen to the hits collection though, stripped of all the GARTH-ness of it all. He was massive and great, and he knew he was massive and great and he was a phenomenon and he was the man. But listening to a nicely crafted little fun tune like this, it's impossible to hear any of that. In fact, it's impossible, listening to this greatest hits collection free of context and free of swagger and free of boasting, to fathom just how he became as massive as he did (wasn't until I listened to the live album that I understood that). It just sounds like a good little disposable country number, albeit one that makes an immediate and long-lasting impression. The music to this stands in very stark contrast to the lyrics. Compare to another popular country song about domestic abuse, "Independence Day". That one soars and flies and stays low and sad and just conveys importance from the first listen. The song sticks with you from one listen, and the lyrics match the soaring and the crying and the sadness and the massiveness perfectly. This one sounds throwaway and silly. It sounds like a song that should be about fishin' or drinkin' with the good ol' boys or something. It sounds like a karaoke number, like all Garth's songs do. I sure as hell ain't gonna do karaoke to a song about killing your cheating wife. Upon further listens, it doesn't really stand up as one of the better songs on Garth's greatest hits collection, and it doesn't stick as well as it should, but it's interesting to consider. [6] ---Note to Stylus writers: Somebody do "On Second Thought: Garth Brooks - Double Live." Ripe for the picking.

Toby Keith - "I Love This Bar"
By contrast, this is a song that sounds like it should be about drinkin' with the good ol' boys and it really is about drinkin' with the good ol boys. Another all-time great karaoke song, due to the lyrics being about drinking and bars and the naturally singalong chorus. It's slow and it rolls along, and it's easy to sing and it's laughably simple musically. But Toby's a great singer and he's just got a natural charm to his voice, even his recorded voice. The lyrics are kinda silly, about how much he loves his local bar, but damnit, they're right for the song! It's big and it's massive and it's got natural swagger and charm and it does all of that with no outside context at all. It does all that without even seeming like it's trying to do it. It's the type of song I assumed Garth's catalogue would be filled with, but it really wasn't. It's nothing revolutionary, and it's not nearly as good as the extremely similar "Friends in Low Places", but it'd slide right into Garth's greatest hits collection with great ease. [8]

Anna Nalick - "Breathe (2AM)"
This is acoustic, piano based girl pop, like Sarah McLachlan or Dido or Vanessa Carlton or something. It's not a world away from something like Natalie Imbruglia or Natasha Bedingfield, but somehow I feel oddly disconnected to it and oddly cold towards it and, it's ironic for me to say this, I feel like it doesn't speak to me because I'm not the target for it. (Ironic because it's not like I'm the target for teenpop either). It just feels like sophisticated music for sophisticated people, the type of music that has no dialogue with pop at all and would be offended by being called pop. The genre that just has nothing in it that speaks or appeals to me. But there it sits, on my list of the top 10 singles of 2005, sticking out like a sore thumb amidst the peppy pop songs ("I Said Never Again (But Here We Are)", "Wake Up", "LaLa") and the country ("As Good As I Once Was", "Kerosene"). "Unwritten" stands on the list as well, but that's about 100x sunnier and poppier than this one. To be honest, in fact, I've listened to the whole Anna Nalick album and didn't really care for the other songs. But this song is perfect. It find a genre and sticks to it to the letter and just perfects it, just like that. The lyrics provide insight without being big or cliched or uplifting. I remember when I first heard this song, in mid 2005 on the local top 40 station. I instantly filed it away in the Dido category. But as the song went on, and I heard that amazing, soothing, catchy as hell chorus, I started to get worried. "Hey," I though, "this is a really good song". I learned to embrace it. OK, but WHY is it good?

Anna's voice is nice and kinda generic and forgettable, but she's a good singer and she's got great phrasing. The verse rolls along with a nice little groove to it, into the pre-chorus, which feels like it's leading to something BIG and TRIUMPHANT. Something like "White Flag", some declaration of freedom or some kind of big catchy melody. It leads instead, in a nice bit of misdirection, to a flowing, fading harmony. Friend calls her having troubles. She details all the crap she's going through. Anna tells her, well you've gotta live life, there's nothing you can do about it. So cradle your head in your hands, and...do what, go out? Solve your problems and be proactive and have fun and make the best of it? No, just BREATHE. Just sit down and take stock of the situation. And there's a light at the end of the tunnel and you'll keep making mistakes so what's the point in getting so upset. And it flows through and fades away from the building melody, dropping into a beautiful breathy harmony. A relaxing, soothing harmony. Something that just makes me smile. It doesn't have to be so bad. [10]

Avril Lavigne - "Losing Grip"
The song encapsulates all the problems I have about Avril and all I love about Avril. It's bratty but vulnerable and it's got a melody that's simultaneously catchy and annoying. It's angsty. It's sung with Avril's trademark thin voice that's not strong at all, but instantly conveys the angst and tension that's inherent in most of her lyrics. It sounds like a "real person"s voice. The song is overdramatic about 10 times over, with its huge bombastic melody and it's breakup song lyrics. Dig the lyrics: "Why should I care/Because you weren't there/when I was scared/I was so alone/You, you need to listen/I'm starting to trip/I'm losing my grip/and I'm in this thing alone". Losing grip on what? Her sanity? Her emotions? It's all left vague, and I have no clue what's going on in this song, other than that the dude emotionally devestated her. It's not Avril's best songs, it's probably not one of her 5 or 10 best singles, but it's interesting, and it's probably the single song that best encapsulates her career. [7]

Blink 182 - "All The Small Things"
I don't have much to say about the song here, which hit huge when I was a senior in high school. It was seens as the "antidote" or "alternative" to all the "processed pop" that was out there, though this song shared much of its audience with the fans of those processed pop singers. It's an OK pop-punk song, but not nearly as good as "Dammit" or "What's My Age Again" (or for that matter "The Middle" or "Basket Case" or "Don't Call Me White", etc.). What upset me though was that after remembering the song and seeking out the video, I can't remember what videos it's parodying! I thought I was fairly knowledgeable on this, but clearly my memory is fading. At the start, they are on a plane runway then dancing in front of a group of adoring fans. This is clearly a parody of "I Want It That Way". Then they are in a brick room with combat gear. What the hell? Presumably some boyband video but my memory has faded. It cuts back and forth between these barely distinguishable boy band parodies (maybe they are not parodies of specific videos but just the style?) Then at about 0:30 they are in colored silk pajamas in front of a colored blue silk sheet, which is apparently a parody of "Creep" by why would you parody that??? Boyband and "Creep" parodies continue, then they are on a beach in black and white (at about 0:50). I initially thought this was a parody of the "Survivor" video, but since this video predates that one it can't be the case. That bothers me because I was certain it was a parody of "Survivor". Cutting around, then at 1:10, he looks through a telescope to see a dog biting a man at a beach? This cannot possibly be a parody of a music video, can it? Next new scene is at 1:24, a parody of "Genie in a Bottle" that I could identify in my sleep. Then, one of the band members dresses up as a blonde and runs on a beach holding a red ball? They run naked on a beach next, in a callback presumably to their "What's My Age Again" video. Obvious parody of "Living La Vida Loca" at 1:50 when the girl dumps candle wax on the frontman. At 2:00 we get a brief clip of the singer in a white shirt and a big gold necklace with water dumping on him, that I don't recognize at all. Then is a scene of him dancing in front of a tour bus being washed, which is I think a parody of a Limp Bizkit video though this seems like it predates them too. That's the last new parody in the video. Please provide help if possible. [4]

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1 Comments:

Blogger Patrick said...

The scene involving the beach telescope is a parody of "Sometimes I Run", Britney Spears' much-forgotten follow-up to "...Baby, One More Time". The fact that I remember that fills me with a strange sense of pride and shame.

3:02 AM  

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