Night Time, My Time

Sky Ferreira’s 2013 album Night Time, My Time is one of the few pop records I have returned to consistently since it came out. Major props for referencing David Lynch’s Fire Walk With Me

About a year and a half I was in Kyoto, Japan.  I was walking back to the hotel solo and I started to take a shortcut through a mall.  Ferreira has a song called Omanko in which she sings about a Japanese Christmas.  I will never forget coming up an elevator and seeing a giant Japanese Christmas display while that song played.  It was one of those times when the music you happen to be listening to and your surroundings find complete synchronicity.  The snow and costumes were the same as ours.  However, most of the characters in those costumes looked like they were from The Legend of Zelda.  I often wonder if other countries are as befuddled with our Holiday characters, as I was with theirs?  Who knows such things…

Why Shouldn’t I Love Cyndi Lauper?

I have listened to more Cyndi Lauper than probably any straight male should admit to.  But alas, I love her so.  She has a voice that could carry through the din of a Biblical storm.  Blessed with a four octave range, she makes you think she can sing anything.

There are certain kinds of songs of hers that I prefer.  I like when she has a great melody and sings either one of her rock/pop confections or one of her stirringly sad ballads.  I have no use for her blues renderings, her take on classical pop tunes, or some of the stranger numbers in her career.  Her recording career is no doubt dodgy and the great is heavily weighted towards her first three records.

That’s not to say that she hasn’t made great music in recent years.  The song Shine off her Shine-Ep is fantastic.  There are several songs that I love off her dance pop album Bring Ya to the Brink.  Although she can sing anything, several albums just feel like marketing attempts, even if the intentions behind their creation probably ring true.  It’s not her voice that brings them down, which is always exceptional, but the production is often too adult contemporary and the song choices uninspired.

She is one of those artists I wish could find a producer for, who would help her find the right material and treatment for her unique and tremendous talents.  But there is absolutely no doubt that she is a tremendous talent.  Listen to her voice at the end of Money Changes Everything.  She is hitting notes that other singers could only dream of.

A great deal of her music is pop music, but it is pop music of the greatest kind.  It is the kind of stuff infused with emotion.  I have a soft spot for female sung pop music dating back to the 60’s girl groups.  Lauper often carries on that tradition.  Her songs of joy make you want to dance around the living room.  Her ballads often can’t help but connect.  No one should cover her classic hits.  Any attempts pail in comparison to the originals.

I once found myself listening to Girls Just Want to Have Fun with the young girl (She is now a teenager and I don’t want to put her name here for fear of embarrassing her!) that I helped raise.  It was like one of those scenes in a chick flick where the characters play guitar with mops and bounce around their home.  That song is just ecstatic joy.  I have always wanted to take the stage to that song to play with an audiences expectations.  The idea always makes me smile.  Maybe someday I will.

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures.  There are only things you like and things you don’t.  I have always loved Lauper.  If it ruins my credibility on other matters, then so be it.  Watch the above video of I Drove All Night, a song originally written for Roy Orbison, and pay attention to when she hits the big vocal part while laying down.  If you tell me she can’t sing, I’ll tell you you are fucking crazy!

Regional Music and Political Differences

One of the reasons that America has had such a great musical tradition was that it is such a vast country with so many different kinds of people.  In the past you truly had a lot of regional music.  You would have different kinds of folk or blues music in different parts of the country.  The music in Tennessee would be very different than the music in Pennsylvania or Texas.  Many rural parts of the country were artistically somewhat cut off from the world at large so music was allowed to mutate differently in different regions.  Then on top of it these different styles would come to cities and each city would develop its own style based on the way styles combined. 

This is still true in different ways.  There are still regional differences, although they aren’t as pronounced.  Definitely different regions prefer certain types of music.  But I am talking about true regional music, and not just stylistic differences.  I am talking about how blues created in Mississippi differed greatly from Chicago blues, and not blues vs. country or whatever.

One reason you don’t see as much regional music is people have more access to other parts of the world.  You are only a YouTube video away from seeing what is going on in another city, for example.  In the past music traveled a much slower and less direct route. 

However, I am noticing that a lot of conservative areas feature the same bland corporate music that every other area does.  Corporate country is the most typical.  This is some of the worst stuff ever.  Music that is country in name only.  It is basically corporate pop music with a slight accent and maybe a fiddle in the background. 

I can’t help but feel that large national and multinational corporations are bleeding our culture dry.  This is the opposite of what I talked about in the last post.  I said we need to think outside of our own tribes and cultures.  In terms of making political decisions I think this is true.  But while large corporations are praying upon our cultural differences to divide and conquer, they are also crushing the differences that are worth keeping. 

We end up with a culture that is homogenized,  bland, and uninteresting, while at the same time we are divided politically where we can least afford to be.  Yes, both are possible, and both are happening.  Instead of the two canceling each other out, as one would suspect, the two compliment each other.  They reinforce the fear that people have of their traditions and culture being threatened, while shifting the blame for this from the large corporations to the “outsiders”. 

At least that is my take on it, for what it is worth.  Our country is turning into one giant strip mall, and we are being taught to kill each other over what store someone likes to shop in.

All I Ask For In Music

I absolutely love music.  It is not only my job, but also my hobby and religion.  Anyone that travels with me will tell you that I wear headphones around the clock.  Occasionally this is self preservation, a way to disconnect,  but mostly I just can’t listen to enough albums. 

As long as music seems authentic, I’m a fan.  I don’t care if it is Richard Wagner or Slade.  I love trashy garage rock and sophisticated jazz.  I like Frank Sinatra and Jeff “Stinky” Turner.  I love Motown love songs and Lou Reed’s Edgar Allen Poe influenced album The Raven.  In pop music I am a fan of singers first.   I need to connect in some way with the singer.  I need to feel they are singing with their soul and not just copping someone else’s bit off of the radio. 

Sometimes people think I am a music snob, because I’ll slag off this or that, but I really am open to so many different kinds of music.  I am just passionate about this stuff.  Even if civilization broke down people would still be singing something and banging out rhythms,  even if it was just on a trash can.  You can tell so much about someone just by the way they sing. 

I am reading John Lydon’s new biography, Anger is an Energy, and he is talking about how these TV shows like American Idol and X Factor are ruining singing by making it too much about singing correctly.  He says they are basically making pop stars out of cruise ship singers.  Singing really should be about nothing more than communicating some kind of strong emotion. 

I can’t listen to most of modern radio.  Autotune, unless it is used as an effect to purposely make a voice sound robotic, is killing music.  It takes some of the humanity out of people’s voices.  Life isn’t perfect.  Pain and sadness and even happiness are complicated.  Sometimes a great a singer like Sam Cooke can convey how you are feeling, and sometimes it is James McMurtry with his dry monotone delivery.  Paul Westerberg hits bum notes sometimes, but he always gets the emotion of something dead on.  There are no rules. 

I love intellectual music, but music doesn’t need to be intellectual.  It just needs to be emotional.  So much of what is out there is just vanilla emotions.  There is no pain or sadness or joy.  There is just the imitation of life, sometimes with convenient product placements in tow.  It is the song as lifestyle brand. 

Music should open doors, not close them.  As soon as music becomes too tribal, I am out.  “I am driving my truck and waving the flag because that is what a real American does.”  Fuck you!  “Look at all these things I own that you don’t.”  And fuck you too! 

Tell me how you feel and what you think.  Be complicated.  Don’t parrot someone else’s emotions or thoughts.  Be yourself.  When I plug in my headphones, that is all I ask. 

Damien Dempsey, Stockholm Pop, and Declining Record Sales

Damien Dempsey 2-2

http://mic.com/articles/95260/the-music-industry-is-literally-brainwashing-you-to-like-bad-pop-songs-here-s-how?utm_source=policymicFB&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social

That is a link that talks about how popular music is driven by how much you hear it, and not by the quality.    The more you hear something the more you are likely to like it.  This is due to the way people’s brains function.  It compares the modern pop world to the Stockholm Syndrome.  Corporations are cramming this nonsense down people’s throats.  

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/album-sales-hit-historic-low-falling-below-four-million-units-sold-20140829

This is an article about how album sales are at an all-time low.  I realize that technology has had an effect, but if one compares todays popular music with popular music in the past, one can’t help but feel quality of the things that are getting the most exposure is also at an all-time low.  

In closing, I will quote part of Damien Dempsey’s song Patience:

Well I’ve exchanged the spear and the sword
For words and melody
Oh what a felony
How the record company pushes this McDonalds music
An aural lobotomy
For those who choose it
Corporations pumpin all this money into pop
To keep the real singers far away from the top
So folks are never told what these corporations do
Fuckin up the planet, exploiting me and you

P.S.  I love the term McDonalds music!  

Book Of Love ‎- Boy

Book Of Love ‎- Boy (1985) [HQ]: http://youtu.be/WVBbIxdCNLQ

Nicolas Winding Refn, one of my favorite directors, has stated that this is one of his favorite songs. (He has directed Drive, Bronson, Valhalla Rising, and Only God Forgives amongst others.)  I must admit that this is an excellent piece of pop art.  I am a sucker for synth pop, because of the combined dance rhythms and strength of the melody.  It also has a certain inclusiveness to it.  Boy or girl, gay or straight, of whatever age, all can twitch and shake like 13 year old girls when it is on.

Video

The Ecstatic Joy of Bizarre Love Triangle

I try to keep this blog balanced, and not in the way that Fox News means. If I post too many music blogs, I try to find something politically to talk about. If my posts seem to be filled with too much despair at the state of things I try to find something fun for a change. I know that in this day and age one is supposed to niche market, but I get bored talking about the same subject over and over. If you are passionate about something and you do it well, have at it. The world does need people that are focused and knowledgeable about certain issues. It doesn’t necessarily need scatterbrained people like myself that dip their toes in a hundred different pools. But I can’t help but feel that this world is endlessly fascinating, even if it is occasionally like George Carlin said, “when you are born in this country you get two tickets to the freak show.” The last two posts were about the Koch brothers and the sad state of music reviews. I was going jet black for a moment and it is time to temporarily take another course.

I tried to think of something that made me happy. I must admit that a song that has always picked my spirits up is New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle. Although the lyrics slightly betray the music, the music and melody sound to me like pure ecstatic joy. I’ve always felt this is one of the great pop songs. Temptation might edge this out as my favorite New Order song, but this is up there.