Posts Tagged ‘black kids’

I’ve been putting my music “out there” for many years now and I’ll be honest – I have no fans (insert heavy sigh here).  Well, I do have some very supportive friends who assure me my music is good and I once had a person contact me after I played a show on Second Life and ask for mp3’s of my songs, which I gladly obliged, but beyond that I have yet to find an audience.  Sometimes when I’m in the car listening to Top 40 radio I compare  my music to what’s getting a lot of airplay.  Then I try to quantify what makes music good music. 

The strange thing is you can listen to a song objectively, evaluate all the pieces, declare it pretty good, and then have no desire to hear it ever again. That’s the big mystery.  What’s the special secret ingredient that makes a “pretty good” song into the song you have on repeat for two days straight and still gets you excited when it comes on the radio at work?

For a little while I had formulated a quick and dirty response to this question.  If it makes me want to dance, fight or f**k, it’s good.

Makes me wanna dance:

Makes me wanna fight:

Makes me wanna  f**k :

Makes me wanna dance, fight and f**k, but only if it’s 1994:

But my simple little checklist of music appreciation doesn’t even begin to cover the rest of my music collection.  Mozart’s Requiem, Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Satie’s Gymnopedies, all come to mind.  Obviously there is music that is technically beyond reproach, and I won’t even attempt to address that aspect of music.  Whatever I learned in my three semesters of college as a music major has been all but forgotten, and most pop music isn’t attempting to compete on that playing field.  

Still the emotional response elicited from a piece like Barber’s Adagio for Strings is undeniable; it puts you in touch with the human condition in such a way that you feel both humbled and elevated by the experience.  Popular music can do this too.  Peter Gabriel, Arcade Fire and Death Cab for Cutie have all created music that is emotionally charged and cathartic for me.

So obviously there’s an emotional component to good music beyond the fighting and . . . that other thing I mentioned.    Sometimes the emotion comes through solely in the delivery.  Perhaps it’s the singer and not the song, as the old adage goes.  Certainly there are performers whose voices are so evocative and/or unique that they could sing their weekly grocery list and have the audience hanging on every word.

But sometimes it’s in the lyrics.  A strong message that can be applied liberally, like a musical disinfectant, to many situations seems to work well, as evidenced in pop standards like “Wind Beneath My Wings”, “Greatest Love of All”, and “Unchained Melody”.  However, I think some of the best tunes have messages that are vague or difficult to decode, and by connecting the dots as a listener the song becomes very personal.

“I never listen to the lyrics,” many folks will tell you.  For these music fans, it’s all about groove and energy.  They don’t really care what’s being said; they let the rhythm do the talking.  I guess this brings us back to “makes you want to dance,” but sometimes popular songs work because you’ll be hearing them on the radio in your office, a place where  you can’t or shouldn’t dance, so there’s this mid-tempo upbeat tune that raises your energy without getting your groove on.

For the record, “I’m bluffin’ with my muffin” isn’t too far removed from “Yesterday was Thursday, today is Friday, We so excited . . .” in my book.  And yes, I am just bitter, thanks for asking.

If you’ve made it this far, I would love to hear about your favorite song or what you think makes a good song tick.  Heck, I could really go for a guest blogger on this subject right about now, so don’t be shy.    Drop me a line if you’re interested – paula@phaseslikethemoon.com