Archive for music

sixty seconds make all the difference

five, four, three, two, one… and we’re back.  yes, it’s been a bit of a while since i’ve participated in the so-called “blogging” experience.  but all is well, and here we are once more.  you reading as the reader.  me writing as the writer.  thank goodness.  in honor of this (oh so) special occasion, our friends at wordle.net have provided us (even though they probably aren’t exactly aware of it, as it’s simply what they’re fun little website is designed to do) with an incredible visual representation of the blog consisting of all the words of all the titles of all the posts that have been written here.  that visual wonder looks roughly as follows:

i will admit, it’s not all the words.  i removed the “the”s and “and”s and “of”s and things of that sort.  with the words being sized according to use, those “common words” (as wordle refers to them) monopolized the scene in a rather grand way (and evan o’dorney was not pleased about it).  
 

now that we’ve passed through the niceties, on to business (please note, however, how eerily similar the word “niceties” is to the phrase “nice ties”.  coincidence?  i think not).  apparently, from what i’m told, sixty seconds make all the difference.  that’s what the title says at least, so i guess i’ll have to make something up that’s goes along with it (i’ll admit here and now before the world that the title “sixty seconds make all the difference” is not as random as i have implied.  in fact, it was quiet unrandom and i chose it myself.  that concept would be quite interesting, though.  making a blogger [“writer of a blog and/or blogs” for all the laymen in attendance] write something based on pre-determined or randomized titles could create some rather fascinating [and hopefully humorous] cyberspace literature.  it’s certainly something to ponder for the future).  let’s see what we can come up with.

 

well, i suppose this will do.  four minutes.  not very long at all.  but compared to say three minutes, it’s quite a long time (with three minutes being only about three quarters of four minutes.  roughly).  that in itself gives four quite the advantage over three.  so it makes sense then that four would be so much more popular than three is (just to throw in a side note here to make you all the more confused before i begin to actually get to my point, the number two-thousand is reported [by the secret lives of numbers] to be the most popular of all numbers.  sadly, both three and four are so unpopular that proper statistics are not given for either). what i’m talking about (of course) are songs.  specifically, two songs that happen to be named “four minutes” and “three minute song“.  conveniently (and definitely not intentionally) they run (approximately) the length of their titles.  one of these songs has well-crafted lyrics, a catchy melody, rocking guitar, and an inspired message.  the other, a synthesized beat and lyrics that talk about… something.    one of these songs was a hit.  the other note so much.  well-crafted, catchy, rocking, inspired… sounds like a hit to me. but as you (being the uber-intuitive reader that you are) may (or may not) have guessed, that’s not the case.  the hit:  four minutes, as performed by madonna (featuring justin timberlake and timbaland).  the not-so-hit:  three minute song, as performed by that guy you’ve never heard of, also known as josh wilson.

 

now the interesting part of this sixty second song difference is certainly not length.  if that were the case and that was the best thing i could come up with to write about, we would certainly all be rather doomed. the interesting part, in my opinion, is that on the most basic of levels, these two songs are pretty much the same.  i’ll offer you these snippets.  the chorus in the tune by madonna and mr. timberlake states “time is waiting / we only got four minutes to save the world / no hesitating / grab a boy, grab a girl / time is waiting / we only got four minutes to save the world / no hesitating / we only got four minutes, four minutes”.  your basic claim here seems to imply that with the song only being four minutes long, they only have four minutes to make whatever hugely important point it is that they’re trying to make.  mr. wilson counters with “i just don’t have the words to say, cause words only get in my way /i must apologize, i have the hardest time / finding something to define a god that i can’t define / and even if i could, it would take way too long / if all i’ve got’s a three minute song”.  explaining god is quite the task.  especially since there are so many around.  for the sake of ease, i’ll let you in on the little hint that josh wilson is one of those christians.  now, there are approximately 2,039,000,000 christians in the world (according to the wonderful people over at religioustolerance.org), probably about zero of them could give you a full and complete explanation of god and all his workings.  that being said, an explanation of god (which is akin to “trying to fit the ocean in a cup”, as josh puts it), if someone had one, would be a hugely important thing.  and that’s what josh’s song is getting at.  and there it is.  these two songs are both about the same thing: trying to say it all in no time at all.

 

that’s quite a valiant quest, if you ask me.  the problem is that when you take a closer look at the songs, the valiance ends quite quickly.  well, for one at least (bet you can’t guess which).  “three minute song” is the catchy, inspiring one, and the message is fantastic.  it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than exactly what it is: an confession that you really can’t define god, especially in only three minutes on the radio.  “four minutes” on the other hand is all about smoke and mirrors (which in actuality is somewhat impressive considering it’s in an audio format that makes the visual aspects of both the smoke and the mirrors completely null and void).  the chorus (as we’ve seen) is cute.  it makes a nice point.  the rest of the song, though, has absolutely nothing to do with that.  in fact, it doesn’t really have much to do with anything.  it’s kind of about madonna and justin wanting to have sex.  maybe.  or maybe not.  it’s hard to tell.  madonna made the following statement about it: “if you’re paying attention to what’s going on in the world – the middle east, the u.s. election, the environment, there’s so much chaos and turmoil everywhere. are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution? but people also need to be cheered up. we also need to have fun and be given a sense of hope.”  in my opinion, that thought was going so well.  and then she realized the song had nothing to do with any of those important things and had to throw some “fun” (yippee!) in there at the end.  personally the grand and wise master “seewa” on songmeanings.net gets it perfectly at the end of his comment on the song’s meaning: “hard to explain it all but I know what I’m talking about”.

 

the situation that we have encountered is certainly not a rare one.  there are plenty of hit songs released year after year that talk about absolutely nothing at all.  so why pick on madonna (and justin [and timbaland])?  basically, she (and/or they) was (and/or were) in the wrong place at the wrong time.  i came across these two songs around the same time, and their similarities struck a chord in my mind.  a closer inspection then created the opinions we’ve encountered.  in my mind, though, it’s definitely a problematic situation that goes far beyond a single artist (or two [or three]).  this madonna tune is a hit song that has gone platinum in australia, canada, denmark, norway spain, and the united states (thanks for the help mr. wikipedia).  josh wilson?  well, his myspace page clocks “three minute song” at 22,189 clicks at the moment.  does that qualify for platinum?  not exactly.

 

so the good song will never be heard by most everyone around.  and the not nearly as good song has been heard by just about everyone.  fair?  not quite.  normal?  most certainly.  i will admit that madonna has paid her dues.  radio stations will probably play just about anything someone records after they’ve been pumping out hit records for over twenty years.  sadly, josh wilson has yet to climb to that height in the industry.  in fact, he might still be looking at his map, trying to figure out where exactly the mountain is.  but we can have hope.  both for mr. wilson’s future (by the way, he has an absurdly cool rendition of “amazing grace” that you really need to check out) and that the music business will someday be a fair and just place to make art (yeah, that’s it).  if anything at all can be taken from our discussion, however, it’s this:  don’t ever challenge madonna to a song length competition.  she’s a professional.  and she’ll take you down.

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peeves, of the pet variety

peeves are unfortunate. pet peeves especially. actually, i don’t know if there are really any non-pet peeves. according to the ubiquitous scholars at thefreedictionary.com, a “peeve” (referring to the noun-esque version of the word) can be simply defined as a “vexation”, “grievance”, or “resentful mood.” a “pet peeve” on the other hand is an informal noun defined as “something about which one frequently complains” or a “particular personal vexation”. so i suppose that they are slightly different in theory. but personally, i’ve never heard someone talk about a “peeve” without using the word “pet” directly before it. by the way, our friends at wikipedia refer to a “pet peeve” alternately as a “pet hate” (just so you know. and i know you were wondering [i always know]). so lo and behold, peeve or pet peeve, it doesn’t really matter. i’m not a fan either way.

you may be wondering why i bring this up. and rightfully so. it was a bit of a random point (not that i ever do that). and well, the short version is that i witnessed a pet peeve of mine and thusly (ladies and gentleman, i present this week’s lesson in grammar: the word “thusly” was introduced in the nineteenth century as an alternative to “thus” in sentences such as “hold it thus” or “he put it thus”. it appears to have first been used by humorists, who may have been echoing the speech of poorly educated people straining to sound stylish. the word has subsequently gained some currency in educated usage, but it is still often regarded as incorrect. a large majority of the usage panel [a scholastic panel sponsored by “the american heritage dictionary” that pursues the task of deciding which terms and phrases shall be considered correct and usable and which should not] found it unacceptable in an earlier survey. in formal writing “thus” can still be used in certain situations, but in some other styles “this way”, “like this”, and other such expressions are more natural) thought it over.

the pet peeve that i happen to be referring to is music. not just any old music, though. in fact, i rather enjoy music. one could even venture to say that i spend far too much time around music. i find it to be a neat little thing. the peeve (you see what i did there. i left the “pet” part out. wouldn’t want to get caught in old habits) that we’re talking about is music in movies. well, i actually like that too. the instrumental movie soundtrack/score happens to be one of my favorite (if not my favorite) musical genres. so we’ll move things along here and be a bit more specific. the problem at hand is as follows: when actors or actresses play roles in movies that require a scene (or scenes) in which their character sings or plays an instrument and what the viewer sees and hears is a perfectly studio mixed audio track (often from someone other than the actor or actress) on top of a cinematic fake job. yeah, that’s it.

what brought about my thoughts on this subject was the dandy little cartoon network (which happens to be the home of a neat little cartoon that i like called “foster’s home for imaginary friends”). on this very evening, the cartoon network played the very awesome movie “school of rock” (which isn’t a cartoon, but hey, it’s a good movie [and for those wondering, my favorite explanation for why they were showing a non-cartoon movie on the cartoon network, which i found on this forum, was this: “communism”]). i like music, and i like teaching. so a movie about jack black teaching music is a pretty sweet combination. the thing that really pushes this particular film up into a whole new echelon, though, is that it’s legit. it’s a movie showing a class of prep school kids turning into a sweet rock band that plays a sweet rock song, and they actually did it. they acted. they sang. they played. the stuff you see and hear is what was actually happening in front of the camera. this is all pretty incredible considering that the kids were all between the ages of 10 and 13 when the movie was made and considering that they’re all awesome musicians. but i mean, that’s how it should be. if you’re going to make a movie about turning a random bunch of rich kids into pint-sized rock stars, you should definitely be obliged to find kids that can play the part (in all meanings of the phrase).

most movie makers, however, don’t go this far. they just don’t bother. they get some big name stars that will sell tickets and make money, regardless of how silly their musical fake jobs look and sound. this concept, not to be overshadowed by the discussion above, was most recently demonstrated to my mind by the lovely and talented hilary duff in her classic (or not so classic) film “raise your voice”. it’s a nice little teenage film about responsibility and letting go. these adorable themes are formed around a musical storyline that involves miss duff going to a top-notch music school for the summer. she’s basically the worst singer in the school, but that’s okay because she’s the main character. and the main character always wins.

i’d like to remind you, the reader, that hilary duff is not only an acclaimed actress but an acclaimed vocalist as well (not to mention the fact that she has her own clothing line ingeniously called “stuff by hilary duff” [or so wikipedia says]). in fact, all three of hilary’s albums have gone platinum (meaning they’ve each sold at least one million copies) under the standards of the riaa. with this in mind, one might think that a movie about hilary duff’s character going to a music school would involve lots of hilary singing on camera. and you would be logically reasonable to believe this. unfortunately however, you would be mighty wrong. to give her some credit, it is her voice that we hear when her character sings, and that is better than many movies can claim. but that’s where the legitimacy ends. her singing, especially in the dramatic, climatic ending song, is so studio-ized that it created (for me, at least) a great deal of frustration. apparently, the girl can sing. and apparently, she can act. so why not let her sing and act in the front of the camera at the same time? maybe then it would look and sound natural and not ruin the scene. but goodness, why would we want a good scene? a few of those might lead to a good movie. and that would be no good.

but trust me, hilary duff is not the only one committing this cinematic crime. take a look at mandy moore’s rather poor fake job in the ending wedding scene in “because i said so” if you don’t believe me. i have to admit, though, it is a step in the right direction. at least they’re singing their own parts. many (if not most) times, even that doesn’t happen. michael j. fox will certainly prove that to you in the enchantment under the sea dance scene in the original “back to the future” (which by the way is one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies. but it’s obviously not him singing or playing the song) when he’s rocking around the stage tearing up chuck berry’s classic tune “johnny b. goode” (and all you chuck berry [and/or michael j. fox] fans out there will be glad to know that in addition to being placed at number 42 in “q” magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitar tracks, “johnny b. goode” was ranked by rolling stone as the seventh greatest song ever on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time). so miss duff and miss moore do get a little bit of credit. either way though, it’s a serious pet peeve of mine. directors and producers and all those important people in hollywood spend millions and millions of dollars to make big, realistic, cgi-laden blockbuster films. and then they add cheesy fake singing. does that make any sense to you? yeah, me neither. but what can you do? if people go to see movies with fake singing and playing, they’ll keep making movies with fake singing and playing. alas.

well, i’m glad at least that we got that out in the open. just couldn’t keep that one pent up inside any longer. pet peeves. yeah, they’re just dandy. but now back to life, the world, and everything. though, if you’re ever bored or even better aren’t bored but need something interesting to check out, go take a look and a listen into joey gaydos, jr. and his band. mr. gaydos played the guitar player and songwriter zack mooneyham (yes, mooneyham) in school of rock and now has both a solo and group album out in stores. if you want to rock, give him a listen. he certainly lives by the incredible credo that we should all strive toward (as sung by mr. black in the one and only school of rock): “you’re not hardcore, unless you live hardcore (but the legend of the rent was way hardcore).”

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