When my friend Tanner let me make my first ever MIX CD using Kazaa, I thought it was just about the greatest thing in the world. I prepared what was, in my mind, the ultimate party mix, and indeed, it did end up getting played at my 16th birthday party (treating guests to such party favorites as Papa Roach’s “Between Angels and Insects ,” “Yesterday” by the Beatles, and a Cheech and Chong sketch about Mexican-Americans). The overwhelming majorly of the songs I chose were awful, yet I listened to them incessantly, because that was about the only CD I had.
Now I have 9,198 songs on my computer, and access to virtually any recorded song in the world somewhere on the internets. But that’s not all good news. I know firsthand what a tremendous amount work goes into writing, arranging and recording a song, yet it’s hard for me to scrape up much excitement for my iTunes library. I think part of that is how much music is available…as the supply skyrockets, a recorded song seems less special.
So today, I’m seeing what is actually on my computer. My suspicion is that there’s a whole ton I haven’t listened to and probably an even bigger ton (metric ton) that is really pretty terrible. Perhaps embarrassingly terrible. But I’ll report the dirty, ugly truth, as much as it may pain me; I’ll only skip songs if I feel they’re too similar. ITunes gods, be gentle.
1. Bach: Mass In B Minor – Gloria: Qui Sedes Ad Dexteram Patris by the Berlin Philharmonic, dir. Karajan
See, this is why I should do this more often. This piece is so beautiful that it would make a Botoxed, jaded Terminator cry like a little baby, yet there’s no way it would have occurred to me to play it this evening. It begins with the most gorgeous oboe in the entire world leading the orchestra in a plaintive andante introduction. When the soprano begins singing – “He who sits at the right hand of the Father, show us mercy”– it is in a halting melody filled with regret. Man, you sing that song, ain’t nobody gonna be showering you with wrath.
This isn’t as good as Karajan’s version…it’s rushed and a little too playful, but it should give you an idea.
2. Lovers in Japan – Coldplay
Like most college students, I reached a definite point where not only did I turn my back on Coldplay, but denied that I had ever really liked them all that much. Chris Martin, the lead singer, was too square, his lyrics too cliched. The band was too drowsy and calculated, their songs so far from challenging that they were insulting.
So I didn’t give their latest album, Vida La Vida, much of a listen. Yet it still ended up on my computer somehow, and now, listening to “Lovers in Japan,” I have to admit that it’s, overall, a pretty good song. After a bland synthy intro that could be any track from X and Y, we get an energetic kickdrum beat and a fun, if minimal, honky-tonk piano groove. Of course, we still have Chris Martin singing such gems as “sometimes even right is wrong,” (did your mind just get BLOWN?) but what are you gonna do.
The song gets muddled and a bit boring as more synth pads are added and Martin keeps singing, but before it gets too repetitive, there’s an about-face, and the track becomes “Reign of Love.” “Reign of Love” is a wonderfully simple, engaging piano song…the type of earnest feel-goodery that Coldplay does best. It’s a little echoey for my taste, but it knows to keep it short before we choke on the sweetness. Since this track is really two songs, I’ll split the difference between the first and second halves and give it:
3. A Boy Like That –West Side Story
Ever wonder what a furious diatribe sounds like in musical form? Leonard Bernstein does! In this piece, Anita rants at her friend Maria about her taste in men, a perhaps valid complaint given that Maria’s suitor just completely stabbed Anita’s boyfriend. The woman who plays Anita does a suburb communicating Ultimate Wrath, and the brassy, syncopated score brings out the fury perfectly.
However, Maria’s response (in a nutshell, “Anita, dang, you need to chill out about the whole stabbing thing, cause I love this guy and can’t help it”) never seemed very appropriate to me. Yes, we know you love him; we saw the first act. You don’t need to tell us in yet another swelling emotional song. And Anita, dear, don’t encourage her. Stay on your high horse and don’t rescind the spotlight.
4. Things Have Changed – Bob Dylan
There are people who are passionate about Bob Dylan, who have followed his various stages and progressions and experimentations, and any of them would be far more qualified to comment on his relatively recent single “Things Have Changed” (only ten years old) than I. For my part, I hear a fun, folky song that nonetheless can’t quite escape the sense of being an homage to a classic Dylan song rather than a new entry. The melody isn’t nearly as interesting as Dylan songs past, and the repeated refrain that Things Have Changed invites some unflattering comparisons to the iconic “The Times They Are A-Changin.’” And the whole thing has more post-production shine than really befits its genre, lyrics, or general energy. Still, there are some good lines in here, especially
“I’ve been walking forty miles of bad road
If the Bible is right, the world will explode”
5. Mouth Cradle – Bjork
Bjork, you crazy! But crazy good, too, as this song demonstrates. Using just human voices, Bjork makes a song that is equal part trippy, beautiful, and danceable. As I listened, I wished I could understand what she was saying, but looking up the lyrics wasn’t any more revealing. I don’t think we’re supposed to understand Bjork, but this song shows us what type of pounding beats get played at the clubs on her dystopic home planet. It’s probably the least accessible of any of the music shuffle provided for me, but I for one am grateful for the vacation to crazy-land.
Composite Grade: B+
Not bad, iTunes library. Maybe I’ll shuffle you up more often.