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