Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chart update - 10 Nov. "Bad Romance" (Lady Gaga) and "Tik Tok" (Ke$ha)

Yay! Two new songs at the top of the charts to examine this week.

Lady Gaga - Bad Romance

Here she comes with a new single not from her album "The Fame", but I'm not detecting any great leap forward. It's dance pop with big synths - sounds very 1990s housey to me. Rest assured the 90s revival is beginning, and it's not grunge that's going to be replayed, unless the GFC comes back to haunt us with hyperinflation. I'm struck by how many words are in this song - it's huge - 462 of them.

The form is ABABCB.

The long verses ('A' section) consist a few subsections. The first section is "Rah rah ah-ah-ah! Ro mah ro-mah-mah. Gaga Oo-la-la!". These work pretty well for me...meaningless but fun to say. The middle section is the content of the verse, and the last is a pre-chorus. The verse is typical of Lady Gaga's previous hits - this is where she tells us what she wants in detail - which is summed up as "your love". In the prechorus she tells us that she wants "you" rather than "your love", an important shift which then changes again in the chorus.

So we get to the nursery-rhyme melody chorus and find that she doesn't really want "your love" or even "you" but "your loving". The fact that there are no concrete images anywhere in the songs suggests that this desire is 100% selfish, ego-satisfying stuff. It's here where she tells us that she wants "your revenge" and that "all your love is revenge". I have no idea what she means by this. Is it a reference to S&M? Or is it an attempt to provide some literary context to the title "bad romance"? I can't be certain.

The bridge:
"Walk, walk, fashion baby,
work it move that bitch c-razy.
Walk, walk, passion baby,
I'm a freak bitch baby.".....followed by a variation on the chorus.

This of course says absolutely nothing, and has no obvious connection the what has been said elsewhere. Lady Gaga isn't really in the mood for conversation, which is a shame. Poker Face was a quite clever explanation of a girl's mating strategy using a gambling metaphor, Paparazzi was a mating strategy using a press-photographer metaphor. I think this one is trying to use the bad romance novel as the metaphor for the mating strategy, but it really doesn't come off because while there's specific action inherent in gambling and press photography there isn't in bad romance.

It's a fun enough dance tune that the meat in the market will enjoy for a short while, but it leaves me cold.

Ke$ha - Tik Tok

With lines like "I'm talking - pedicure on our toes, toes", you know right away this is a chick song. The chorus really kicks and it's got me wanting to move. The basic theme is girl going out on the town.

The form is ABABCB. Verse 1 is about getting ready to go, the chorus is all about how good it is to dance, verse 2 is what happens when out, bridge is feelings directed towards the music maker. As I pointed out a few weeks ago in my post on Evacuate the Dancefloor, this theme is a favourite with punters and it keeps coming up over and over. On to the nitty gritty.

The first verse introduces you to the character. She's a party girl, does crazy things like brushing her teeth with Jack Daniels' whiskey, and goes out on the town with the intention of not coming back....I wonder where she'll be spending the night? Not. Then there's all the girly stuff about choosing clothes and doing toenails, and the anticipating the evening ahead. No prechorus, but an interesting stopping the music effect like a finger slowing down a record.

The whole song works on three chords - C, Bb and Dm and Gm, which makes it C mixolydian, these are I, bVII, IIm and Vm respectively. but you only get the Gm in the chorus. Full cadence in mixolydian is the bVII to I, which we hear lots of throughout the song. In the verses, this happens in the middle of verse lines for the first half, but not in the second half. This prepares us for the chorus.

The chorus contrasts with the verse by using shorter phrases, internal rhymes make it punchier. Phrases end sharply on beats 2 and 4 every time, making it punchier still. It really jumps! The end of the chorus is the Gm, the only time we hear that chord, resolving to C, differentiating the chorus further.

Verse 2
Is about the boys...it's cute. This girl comes across as unpretentious and fun. The lines about the police are a bit gratuitous, but totally forgivable.

Not that remarkable in itself, but holds the interest by contrasting to the other sections by being much slower, more introspective, and it gets us looking forward to the chorus. There a line at the end (No, the party dont stop until I walk in) which is 2 measure phrase which follows four 4-measure phrases. The fourth of the four 4-measure phrases is different from the previous three, and she could have gone straight in to the chorus from there, but adding that 2 bar phrase builds the tension even further, making that final chorus all the more exciting.

Ke$ha is fun, unpretentious and groovy. Lady Gaga is full of overt sex and little else, she grooves but has a heavy feel. I'm not surprised that Ke$ha is number one, and Gaga is number 3. I saw a comment on the internet about Gaga not taking a break from work after her tour and album...maybe she should. My vote goes to Kesha.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Vanessa Amarossi and Robbie Williams

No comment last week since there was no change in the top 3, however, this week Vanessa Amarossi is at number 1.

First of all I want to comment on Robbie Williams because I've long been fascinated with his character and I've enjoyed his songs in the past. Robbie Williams reached number 4 last week with 'bodies', but this week he's dropped to number 10, so clearly, this song doesn't have the staying power of David Guetta's 'Sexy Bitch' or The Black Eyed Peas. The song has a solid groove, and I've always liked the way Robbie William makes his lyrics groove and his melodies. However, this time I think his words let him down. This song simply doesn't make sense. His main thesis is this:
"All we've ever wanted
Is to look good naked
Hope that someone can take it
God save me rejection
From my reflection,
I want perfection"
Everything else is a confused mish mash of images and phrases. He has obviously lost the plot. I feel sorry for him. Hope he gets it together soon though. Maybe it's time for a career change.

Onto Vanessa Amarossi's ' This is who I am'. Musically it's fine - grooves along, well produced, etc. etc. Nothing extraordinary - save to note the ongoing popularity of synth based night club inflections, despite this being essentially a pop-rock song. The music is full of cliches though - big guitars in the chorus, yada yada yada. Her singing is mighty though she seems to keep it fairly low, except at the end where she shows us her range. This song is a winner, because of its styling, is passable, the singing is good, and because of its content. It's positive and feels genuine, a song about learning to accept oneself, and it follows all the verse-chorus song rules. The bridge really stands out as do the joining sections (a-a-a-a). One can't help but wonder what she has been through....dropping out from the public eye from 2003-2008 (more or less). Anyway, she's on good form, but it's not art, and it won't be remembered 10 years from now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chart update - 13 October

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the top 3 has had some movement for the second week running. The bad news is that the Black Eyed Peas are back in the top 3, so my hope for variety is forlorn. The song they're in with is called "meet me halfway". The other good news is that this is a good song. I don't think it's a classic though.

The structure is ABABCB ... but it's cleverly tweaked. The first verse stands out because of the repeated words at the end of each line, this effect is duplicated in the second verse, but not exactly, in verse 2, the repeated words occur in the middle of the line rather than at the end. Verse 2 is somewhat weakened by the opening line about 'seven seas' - a cliche if ever there was. The chorus works well enough, but it's not as striking as the verse. The second time we hear it, the last two lines are repeated which leads us nicely into the bridge, which starts with the line 'let's walk the bridge' - and you can bet that they used the word 'bridge' because it was in the bridge. I really like their use of the vocoder, sparing and effective. The usual black eyed peas arrangement of male verse vocal and female chorus works well, but isn't sonically striking because it's been done by so many rap and hip hop artists.

Lyrical content:
This song is about a girl who really likes a guy but who needs him to 'meet her half way'(choruses). The guy meanwhile also really likes the girl - he talks about missing her, being prepared to meet her anywhere she'd like (verses and bridge). You'd think from the verses that he was willing to do anything necessary, but the chorus keeps on insisting that she can't go any further. You can imagine all kinds of possibilities for this little drama, and I guess having that unresolved element helps keep the song interesting, and also tinged with melancholy.

The chords aren't particularly remarkable - but they're solid and follow the rules. The verse and chorus melodies contrast nicely, but not startlingly so - fast, low words in the verse with longer, slower, higher words in the chorus. I suspect that the chorus melody floats over a wider range than the verse melody, but I'm not 100% sure - I'd have to see it written down. The production and arrangement is, of course, very effective. Nice quiet sweeping synth, basic drums, filtered and pitch shifted vocals in parts of verse 1, harmonies in parts of verse 2 and vocoded vocals in the bridge, but nothing over done. Comments I saw on youtube reckoned it had an 80s feel. I'd agree.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

FINALLY! A new song in the top 3

EVACUATE THE DANCEFLOOR  by  Cascada is now at number 3. Finally I have something new to write about. This song has been floating around the charts for a while, so it's good that it's finally made it up there. I'm sure there are songs that never reach the top 3 that chart longer so end up selling more. I wish ARIA would release the actual sales figures.This song has already been a UK number one (says wikipedia).

Anyway, it looks like night club music is definitely back in fashion - 'Sexy Bitch' is still number one, and 'boom boom pow' is still there at number 20. This is strongly reminiscent of Lady Gaga, featuring big synths, very solid drum grooves and punchy lyrics. I can't help being reminded of 2-unlimited circa 1992. Then again, these guys are German, although the singer is an English girl raisedin Germany. In the video, she looks gorgeous, but move the dancing is left to the professionals.

The form is ABCABCDC, where A is the verse, B is the prechorus, C chorus and D bridge. The prechorus is the stand out in my view, reminiscent of the bridge from 'just dance'. It consists of a descending line repeated 3 times and it contrasts nicely with the verse melody which is more up and down. It also links to the chorus which is another repeated descending line, but slower. 

The lyrics are nothing amazing, but they do the job of carrying the melody. Your typical dance song all about how the singer wants and needs the music (verse), and how great it is when she's finally dancing (chorus),  with the bridge serving as the voice of the DJ to the crowd. At least it's not a song about how good some girl looks while she's dancing and all that goes with that persepective (listen to 'sexy bitch' if that's your cup tea). This is a good solid dance track, and you'll certainly enjoy moving to it, but my favourite 'just gotta dance' song remains Natasha Bedingfields 'I'm a bomb' (2005) followed closely by Dee-lite's 'Groove is in the heart' (1990). I have a sneaking suspicion that this type of song will keep getting rewritten for some time yet. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No change AGAIN!

For another week it's Guy Sebastian, David Guetta and Kate Miller-Heidke in the top 3. Maybe the entire music buying public has shrunk to musicians who just buy the top 3 to see what's selling. Geez.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Top 3 Aria Singles 15/9/09

Well, the charts were updated yesterday...allegedly. No change since last week. Boooorrrring.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

No new songs to review this week

Well, no change in the top 3 this week....well, no new songs anyway. Guy Sebastian made number 1, Kate Miller-Heidke is back in the top 3, and the Black Eyed Peas dropped to number 4. Sexy Bitch is number 2. I don't quite get how the sentiments of Guy Sebastian and Sexy Bitch fit together in the same mind...I wonder how many people have bought both songs.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Kate Miller-Heidke's album "Curioser"

"The Last Day on Earth" has been growing on me this week. I met Kate in 2002 when she was still at university singing opera, we hit it off at a Golden Keys networking evening. I remember talking about what made a hit song a hit. Looks like she figured it out before me. Anyway, the fact that our meeting stuck in my head all these years with no further contact tells you something about the impression she left on me. She was beautiful, charming, confident, and geniune. The songs on this album on the whole reflect that person, and it's always the writing that comes from ourselves that's the most compelling, not the writing that's just an exercise. "Caught in the crowd" and "The Last Day on Earth" are the most personal. songs on the record, and the hits so far. "Our Song" is also very personal, and the only acoustic track. "I Like You Better When You're Not Around" is a low point on the record, where she stoops to petty condemnation and character assassination. "God's Gift to Women" isn't much better, but has a bit of humour in it to offset the negativity. "No truck" almost falls into the same trap, but doesn't, and the best bit is the end of the song where the band all rock out. "Motorscooter" and "The End of School" are good, clean fun. Nice. "Can't Shake It" is about being rubbish at dancing and is also heaps of fun. "The One Thing I Know" is a love song with oomph. Not a bad choice for the first track, but I think I'd have preferred one of the fun tracks. The biggest problem with this collection of songs is that they're all so different stylisticly. Also, the record as a whole, like most, never develops any bigger themes, or refers to itself. I've told you what I think's good and what's not. Listen to the previews and read the lyrics on the internet....then cherry pick the songs you like.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Aria top 3 31/08/2009 - "Like it like that"

"I gotta feeling" and "Sexy Bitch" are still in the top 3, so this week, I only have to comment on Guy Sebastian's "Like It Like That".

It's good enough. It's bouncy, has a confident air about it, nice sentiments, nothing out of place really - bog standard ABABCB. But, it's totally unremarkable and leaves me unaffected. Obviously Australia's teenage girls are buying this record, so that's a sign that we are a community looking for loving relationships. Guy is basically a nice guy. However, I just don't need to listen to this more than once. I need a bit more drama.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Will anyone ever read my blog

Self-doubt time! If you do find your way here, pity me and post a comment. Please!

Review of "The Duckworth Lewis Method'

Great record. Neil Hannon is a fantastic musician - I just love his harmony (I liked him in Divine Comedy too). I'm also a sucker for people who display a bit of imagination and wit, both present on this record. This album peaked at #40 on the UK chart, and really, I can see why. There's alot of people out there buying chart hits that communicate nothing or take themselves too seriously. I think they are teenagers. I feel sorry for them, and I'm so glad that these guys have the courage to think differently.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Number 3: THE LAST DAY ON EARTH Kate Miller-Heidke

Kate has a nice voice, she reminds me a bit of Angie Hart from Frente. She almost disappears into kooky girl land, but stays on the right side of 'wierdo'. The form of the song is familiar verse-chorus stuff. The song seems to be a word painting of a scene from a tragic alien invasion movie. The two lovers hold each other tight while the alien death rays blow up the world around them. If it were Star Trek, of course they'd be beamed up in the nick of time. Then we find out in the bridge section that it was all a dream and really it's a girl in the suburbs missing some guy. However, the line "I ache, I ache, I ache inside" really works for me. Its direct simplicity cuts through all the metaphorical haze of the verses and choruses, and is genuinely touching. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the rest of the song is setting you up to feel that one line. The music is nice, but unremarkable.

Number 2: I GOTTA FEELING The Black Eyed Peas

This track is no verse-chorus song, yet if you look at the form it is. Curious ain't it? It's definitely ABABCBA, but instead of the B section being the chorus, they've made the A section the chorus, and instead of closing with B, they repeat A again. Simple idea. Damn I wish I'd thought of it. Never mind, it's abstract enough to re-use. Full marks to the Black Eyed Peas for producing a track that's fun and fresh.

Number 1: David Guetta's "Sexy Bitch"

We've being hearing tracks like this since the 90s in clubs. There's nothing here that's really fresh musically, but it'll be fun to dance to.

In the verse, the protagonist tells how he wants to meet this particular hot chick. He's trying hard to control himself, to speak to her without being 'disrespectful' but, he gives up and launches into the chorus of 'Dam you'se a sexy bitch'. This works well, because any bloke with half a brain knows that the type of being respectable he's referring to will never get you anywhere, so we're all relieved when he finds words that are to the point. I've known numerous women who've ended up with guys who told them exactly this sort of thing while out on the town.

It'll be forgotten in 6 months time.

My take on the critics: Brian Wilson's SMiLE

I've been toying with the buying SMiLE for a while...it has a 97% on Metacritic and is one of the highest rated albums of the decade. It's interesting to compare the critic's views to the users' views. The users give SMiLE 79%. So who is right? The users or the critics? Is the best work one that polarises people, or one that everyone likes? A business oriented person would surely say that the only thing that matters is who is actually buying. On that ground, SMiLE is certainly not the greatest album of the decade. It certainly did sell, but was easily outsold by many other records.

I found SMiLE a refreshing change from my usual listening. The attention to detail in the harmonies is amazing, as it always was with the Beach Boys. The opening track has more in common with Thomas Tallis or John Taverner than 21st Century pop music. However, nothing has really stuck after one listen. There are no words or melodies I want to repeat again and again, except 'good vibrations', but that was a hit for the Beach Boys already. As a whole, I'd say that there are too many short sections of music, ideas are not sustained and developed for long enough for me to get comfortable. It's as if Mr Wilson is trying to cram too many ideas into too few minutes. Something I've been guilty of in the past, but not something I'd have expected from him, however, many of those sections are awesome.

I'm impressed with Mr Wilson's musical skills, but what's missing from these songs are compelling characters, stories and catchy lyrics. In one of the interviews I read, he said that he and the lyricist worked at this material in 2-bar sections. Perhaps that explains this disjointedness. In all, I'd probably with the user average on this - 80%, not 97%.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Songs from first person perspective

I think I remember reading an interview with Bob Dylan where he said something about his style being confessional as opposed to professional. Or something like that. Confessional is the main approach to songwriting by so many writers. It's certainly been mine for some time. Confessional, to me, doesn't mean that you necessarily are confessing as you might to a Catholic priest. That would be no guarantee of a great song at all. I'm sure any priest would be able to tell of some eye popping confessions and some boring ones. Confessional means being honestly you. There's alot of value in that. However, on my quest to write a song a week this year, I am finding that this is quite a confronting mirror to hold up. I see a man who is writing alone, to no one. I ask myself what is the point of all this. It's not exactly cathartic. Every song I write is a battle against my own negativity, which is not a place I want to be in, nor a position to write from. I have to willfully extract something positive out of my experience and ideas. That in itself is a useful thing for me personally, but what value is it to the world? Judging from the amount of money I make and the number of listens on my myspace page, or even the number of readers of my blog, it is close to zero. But that's by the by. What really bugs me is that all my songs are about individuals, mostly acting alone, not in concert with others. Much of what I think is private. I think that is true of most people. I would like to write songs featuring characters interacting with each other. Not just interacting with things and ideas.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why community music matters

Community music is incredily important, but it seems that here in Australia fewer and fewer people participate. You only have to go to an ANZAC day dawn service, or carols by candlelight, to hear how afraid people are to sing out loud and sing out strong. That's because people don't really sing anymore. Growing up in a Christian family, attending a christian school, you really take singing for granted. Outside of the church it's a different story...few sing, and when they do, they are terrible. When was the last time you heard someone singing happy birthday in tune? Does anyone even know the tune anymore? They've still just about got the rhythm, but the pitch is gone. How long before the rhythm is gone too? Sharing the singing of a song which has words everyone can believe in is a wonderful, joyous experience. That's the church's big 'secret' weapon. I see sports clubs still using it too. I think solidiers still sing songs while they're doing their training together too, at least, they do in the movies. But the general public is falling mute. It's very sad. That's why I'm starting a community group for songwriters. There's alot of people writing songs who never get heard, and if you compare them to the radio, then perhaps that seems correct. However, after years of listening to songs, I'm not so fussed about what's in the charts, though I still like to know what's current. What's really moving isn't someone trying to get me to buy their record. It's someone sharing the contents of their mind with me and striving to communicate more effectively. That person is someone I can be friends with. Maybe it's the same with blogs?

On feedback and critcism of music

There are very few good critics in the world. As someone who has been writing songs for a long time, I've gradually, and painfully, learned that not everyone has some thing to say that you need to pay attention to. These days I take postive comments about my songs with a smile, and I take negative comments critically. A person who says that your song 'needs more oomph' or 'is too flat' is not offering you useful feedback. They are just using unecessary words to tell you something you can see from their face: they didn't enjoy your song. If you try to imbue these words with meaning you are only hurting yourself and your pride in your work. Everyone who likes music wants to believe they have somthing useful to say about it. Unfortunately, that just isn't true. These days I only listen to people who can give me very specific pointers eg 'the title is in the wrong place', 'that phrase syncopates badly at bar 100', and so on. I will only accept what they say if they have some qualification to back them up - either academic or real world.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The music business

Think about how much the music business is really about what other people listen to, about what other people think is cool. It's called the herd instinct. Music seems to be, for the most part, something that humans use to *ahem* lubricate the mating game. Once the mating has happened, the mortgage, the kids, the job and the car seem to take over, and no one has time for music anymore....well a few do, but they're just loons. Fruit loops. Like me!

My mission is to celebrate the ordinary everyday emotions that people experience. What's wrong with that? I'd like to know! After all, why can't I celebrate being bored at work? Why can't I celebrate the sun at lunchtime? Why can't I celebrate the fact that as I travel on the train everyday I'm overtaking those suckers on the freeway? More importantly, why can't it be just as much fun to listen to those emotions as to hearing about someone else's love affair, which is what most songs seem to be about. I'm not going to live a soap opera just to find material for songs.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

It's all content.

Hi Reader!

Congratulations, you have arrived at the blog of a total and utter fruit loop. I'll be writing about songs and music, mostly, from my unique perspective - the total outsider. I am just the right side of normal, but I have few allegiances. Maybe that's because of my upbringing - I moved every 3 years of my life so far (now age 34) all over the world. My only allegiance is to the truth, and to writing songs.

I think I'll leave it at that for now.