April 11, 2006

Just for your information

BTW, the other boyband song I liked (note past tense) was N'sync's 'Bye bye bye'. Complete trash, I know. A friend of mine took to calling it 'Seeya seeya seeya', which I always thought was great.

posted by Andrew

April 10, 2006

The touch of good lyrics

For the second time in 4 years I’ve found a boy band song that I like. I heard this one at work, and on the way home afterwards I was joking with Michael that I’d found a new pop trash song to compete with his Beyoncé; remixes and mid-80’s remakes. It’s actually much worse than that: It’s Incomplete by the Backstreet Boys.

Michael detests it.

I didn’t pick the boyband connection; there’s one vocal line, repeat use of the word ‘baby’ is at a minimum, and it’s got a rock’ish backing track instead of pop synthesizer effects.

Apparently the band’s re-formed (reformed?) after they broke up a while back (they broke up? News to me. I don’t pay much attention to bands. The last break-up I was worried about involved Evanescence). Now I feel trapped between not supporting manufactured music and the fact that it’s actually quite a good song, even with a few iffy lyrics.

Me liking this song is an exception to the rule that includes Nickelback’s Far Away and Figured you out even though the rest of Nickelback’s songs sound identical. I feel like a hypocrite after singing

this is how you remind me
of all your other songs

so many times in the car, but am I still a hypocrite if they make a unique-sounding song and I like it? I acknowledge that Nickelback’s singer has a great voice. I just doubted the band’s ability to escape the same four tones. It’s a pity that Far Away had to be more pop than rock to do it, though. I’d like to hear an acoustic version that’s more rock, in a darker tone like A Perfect Circle’s live Philadelphia performance of 3 Libras.

Incomplete’ has its problems, but it’s the lyrics in this case. The opening line

empty spaces
fill me up with holes

made me laugh when I first read the lyrics. But in the same breath I can say that I like

But I am swimming
in an ocean all alone

for some vague, undefined reason.

The track still exploits a lot of pop techniques that I find marginally abhorrent. I have a hobby in collecting these kinds of things. My favourite is the “raise-octave” technique, used post-second-chorus, usually about two-thirds through a song. It involves moving the entire track (including vocal) up one octave, to make it sound fresh and emotionally amplified even though you’ve been hearing the same chorus for two minutes already, like a debater yelling his previous argument.

Although the author of Against Pop rambles on seemingly forever, I agree with most of the statements therein. Music is terribly simplified in our mainstream culture. Although it may not be an example that the author would consider, it’s what defines for me the difference between Tool’s Third Eye as music and Evanescence’s Bring me to life as a song. There’s a whole level of sophistication missing in the latter. Something like Black Eyed Peas’ My humps I would classify as the lowest common denominator, a track. It uses voice and some kind of instrument.

Maybe the biggest difference between music and songs is the emotional connection. A good peice of music takes the listener through a series of emotional highs and lows, whereas songs tend to take aim at a target long before we hit the chorus. People cry at classical music for its compositional beauty, the way it carries them from one emotional landscape to the next. Those who cry to Bon Jovie or Shania Twain do so because they amplify one emotion — usually loss, love, heartache, need. That’s a pretty monstrous simplification.

But on the upside of this, sometimes people don’t feel like investing their entire soul. Sometimes I don’t want to be affected, just have something to sing along to. You have to cater to those people driving to the beach on a sunny day. Classical music isn’t “fun” in that sense. Not everyone wants to be on the emotional rollercoaster all the time. Techno is a great example of that. On the whole, it’s the grossest simplification of bass and exciting heartbeat modification. Top-of-the-field remixers like DJ Tiesto attempt to build a bigger picture from pop, but it’s not granular enough to match something composed from scratch.

I have to run — I’ve got a meeting at 3pm.

posted by Andrew