Sunday, March 31, 2013

A tale of two songs

I could probably find something to bitch about in the news, but frankly, it's been a rough couple of weeks at work, and with the coming of Spring (and unlike some parts of the country, we've been getting springlike weather here for a while), my allergies have just gone insane. Essentially, I'm exhaustipated (too tired to give a shit).

So, instead, let's talk about pop music.

I've complained about the music of Bruno Mars before. He has this habit of creating phrases that no ordinary person would ever say: "throw my hand on a blade" being a fine example. But despite him taking some license with the English language, I really like this song.

And he does take a few. He decides to use "shoulda gave you all my hours," which is not only clumsy phrasing, but not even remotely correct grammatically. The same line, phrased as "should have talked to you for hours" would have fit the rhythm, and wouldn't make English teacher wince.

He also has a habit of adding random syllables: he opens each chorus with "It all just sounds like 'ooo-oo-oo-oo-ooo'," which, if you think about it, is completely useless. What use is "it all just sounds like" in that sentence? He could drop it completely, and no portion of the message would be lost.

But those are just minor quibbles, overall. He manages to use very evocative language, and even has a nice lyrical structure: first verse establishes the loss of his relationship, second verse says that it's all his fault, the bridge says that he knows he can't apologize, and then he repeats the chorus, but saying that these are the things that her new man should do.

Technically, "bridge" is a misnomer here, since he doesn't have a third verse waiting for you on the other side, but he gets around that by reworking the chorus. (Admittedly, he also bludgeons the lyrical structure a little here: "'cause all you wanted to do was dance" becomes "'cause I remember how much you loved to dance" - dropping the word "much" would have fit a little better. But, again, quibbles.)

Even the arrangement is perfect: a complete lack of orchestration, no percussion, nothing but the piano and his voice, which captures the sense of loss and emptiness more than adding strings or a horn line could have managed.

Overall, it's a really nice little song. But there's a similar song that's come out in recent months that takes many of the same musical efforts, but somehow fails to get anything right.

Let me start off by saying that a song about a woman who can't stand to lose her man, coming from Rihanna (who got back together with Chris Brown after he almost put her in the hospital) is somewhat ironic. If by "ironic," you mean "evidence of mental incapacity." Particularly in light of the lyric "Funny you're the broken one but I'm the only one who needed saving."

You should probably thank the paramedics for that rescue, Rihanna.

But let's put real life aside for a moment. Consider the lyrics.
Not really sure how to feel about it.
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can't live without you.
It takes me all the way.
I want you to stay
I suspect that the speed of George Harrison's rotation is increasing with each replay of this song.

Listen to the piano part for a while. It's almost a percussion part: repetitive and boring. Listen to it. Now, try to listen to the rest of the song without noticing the piano.

I'm going to ignore the second person in this duet. I don't know what Mikky Ekko has done before this, and I don't care enough to find out. I'll just say that he sings better than she does. But that's a pretty low bar.

So, two remarkably similar songs, but one was done right. The other... let's just say that it was a good effort.

Misguided, maybe. But at least she made the effort.

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