Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Musical Differences

In listening to music there are certain elements that i've regarded as a 'no no' when it comes to writing a piece. A lot of these are heard and replicated into other artists music writing therefore enforcing its stay in the years to come of music. These elements in my opinion can never be overlooked or allowable because it fits for a certain song, to me these are always annoying and certainly gross. I commence:

In a lot of pop vocals when a word at an end of a phrase ends with the vowel sound of 'A' or 'E' and is bent in and out of vowels ex. The song ends with the word 'day', so the artist says 'day-Eee-Aye-Eee-Aye. It's gross and if you have enough time to trail off with the A & E twang then be a bit more creative and throw in some more content.

Melody lines that follow a scale note for note up and down. This is usually identified in a lot of pop vocals as well during verses. A pop song is created to get you to the chorus with no effort on the melody of a verse. Okay I recant on this, the only acceptable melody line following a scale note for note would be found in Elliott Smiths' "Everything means nothing to me", I don't know how he did it, but the minor scale note for note is so haunting and lovely, i just broke my rule of overlooked or allowable. Also when coming to an end of a lyrical line and instead of ending on the same note going down and back up on the scale back to the note, its TOO extra.

Referencing. My goodness the pain is great. Any reference to MTV in lyrics, any reference to other known famous people, any reference to current popular people. These are always gross, it removes the any possibility to timelessness, and where these elements of references are found usually will also state that it is a pop or rap sound. It also states in its recognition that somehow MTV is the pinnacle of the music world that somehow its a standard for greatness when really MTV has soured to an old age of soap opera material feeding the younger and younger adolescents because of guaranteed profit. YUCK.

Pauses. Too much of them that is. I'm all for a dynamic halt or surprise, but repeated to much in a song kills the motion of a song.

Popular phrases. These are recycled so much through the mainstream lyrics. In the 90's the most overused would have to be 'breathe in, breathe out' i lost count of how many artists used those words.

Standard chord progressions. A lot of mainstream recycles these. Taking a Key and using only the chords standard to it, no accidentals just strict key chords and especially in choruses. like the Key of C, the progression would be: Am, F, C, G. It is so overused that as soon as i hear it i turn the song, if the song is relying on such an elementary progression without spicing it up with counter melodies or accidentals i rarely will want anything to do with the song.

Length of time. Oh give me a song longer then 3 minutes! Sometimes there isn't enough time to share what your saying in 3 minutes. The other extremes are the lengthy undigestible overtures that have no unity as a whole. If it doesn't die in the middle of a lull and doesn't have abrupt changes that don't go anywhere. If you are going to sing me a song for 15 minutes or more it better be a great journey.

Predictability. This is more song structure then anything, but as a whole effects the song and most of the time defines the genre. Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Chorus, Chorus. This is mainstream to a T. Its a copy of a copy that has been cloned out long ago. Pop, Rock, Rap, Hip-hop, Country, Techno, as a majority subscribe to this predictability of song structure. It's wearysome how all mainstream music is created to earn a buck. From vocals, to musical content, chord progression, length in time. I guess my beef is how involved music industry is with the creative process of a musician. There isn't much support for supporting an artist in their musical direction.

I guess that is about it for now. I think i come across quite snobby in this, i just feel like these elements have contributed to the overall decay of music and its always lovely to see music/musicians stepping past this. for ex: The Strokes, Black Rebel Mororcycle Club, Arcade Fire, Steven Delopoulos, Karli Fairbanks


Karli Ann said...

first off I am appalled at most of your rantings. you have let too much pop music through your ears. but, at the same time, you of all people should know that any "rule" or "no no" that anyone makes for "quality music" has exceptions and can be broken tastefully by the right person. I will make it my mission to find one song for every bit of snobbery on this post. I can think of 3 songs right now that make references to popular people that have and will stand the test of time.

I will write a rebuttal blog. and I'll have you know that my music is the biggest offense to your list of "no no's". that's the part i find the most hilarious. hehehe.

Jackie said...

Wow! I think you are way too harsh! So what if a song isn't memorable after a few years, if it gets people through a difficult time, makes them happy, or is just repetitive enough that one can sing along?

What about Elton John's "Candle In the Wind" is that a bad song because it is about Marilyn Monroe? Sure, he remade the song for Princess Dianna (which I think was a bad idea), but the original song still stands the test of time.

I agree MTV has grown to be something it never should have become, but when it first came out, it was pretty cool, being able to see the artist that actually sang the songs, and in a creative way. I can see why a true musician would not like it, after all, "Video Killed the Radio Star."

Remember, not everyone is as talented as you are or has the same taste in music as you do.

Adam Deibert said...

Hazah to a fellow music snob!! Kudos on your observations, and don't let the girls get you down. There is much truth to your blog, and there even something left unsaid (which I'll get to in a moment). But just now, to Jackie: near in mind that "Candle in the Wind" is in a slightly different category than what Tommy is referring to (correct me if I'm wrong, Tommy), in that Elton John was writing the song "to" and "about" Marilyn Monroe (and later Princess Diana), which is different than casually throwing in reference to a person or pop culture fad just for the sake of it (as is evident in many songs of the day). And to Karli Ann: you're right, there are exceptions to the rule, and the right people can tastefully break the rules and have done so in times past. But (and again, I assume I'm understanding you correctly, Tommy, so please do inform me if I'm not) that doesn't mean that every musician or lyricist should, or that every one who does has done it well. In short, I agree with Tommy that there is a spate of music which has come out over the years which falls into the "wannabe" category, which tries in vain to imitate those who have successfully taken the ordinary and made it exceptional.

That being said, there is one other element which I would add as a serious "no-no": explaining the point of the song. There is an artist in the Christian music world (who shall remain nameless) whose songs were for awhile notorious for having something along the lines of "there's a point to this loony tune" (hint, hint) as part of the lyrics (and I mean for several of his songs). First of all, if you think the song needs the point explained, then re-write it or pitch it (the three songs of this particular artist which come readily to mind ought to have experienced the latter). Music is meant (at some levels) to be a subjective experience - the audience should be allowed to interpret the meaning/point of the song for themselves. And so while it's helpful to have some idea of the artist's intent when listening, to have the artist say - as part of the song, no less - "this is the point of the song" ruins the experience for the listener, for it deprives them the opportunity to consider how the song touches them personally. That, and the words "here's the point" don't make for good lyrics to begin with...

Tommy, keep up the keen observations - as harsh as they can seem at times, we need to be mindful of what we listen to. And as subjective as music can be, let's not pander to the lowest common denominator.