A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

[MUSIC] Madonna, “The Power of Good-Bye”

“The Power of Good-Bye”, a stand-out song on a rather strong Ray of Light that became a lovely gentle classic as soon as it was first heard. This song is a good way–a mature way, a pensive way–to say good-bye to a partner who is no longer.

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Written by Randy McDonald

March 1, 2018 at 11:59 pm

[MUSIC] Kate Bush, “Moments of Pleasure” (@katebushmusic)

If I have one regret about my visit to New York City last month, it was that I was not able to witness the truth of a lyric from Kate Bush’s 1993 song “Moments of Pleasure”, “The buildings of New York/Look just like mountains through the snow”. It just happened to be too warm for snow, that’s all.

“Moments of Pleasure” is one of the songs off of her The Red Shoes, Bush’s last album for twelve years. It’s quieter than some of the other songs on that album, certainly quieter than her higher-profile hits of the 1980s like “Running Up That Hill.” It’s a song about Kate, the person, remembering the time she spends with the people she loves including the people who have passed. I love the first four lines.

I think about us lying
Lying on a beach somewhere
I think about us diving
Diving off a rock, into another moment

The line about New York City comes at the end of a longer verse, of an imagined encounter with someone dear who is doing poorly in a New York winter. He’s beloved, he’s doing badly and nearing death, it’s cold out, but still, this is a precious moment spent with someone cherished.

On a balcony in New York
It’s just started to snow
He meets us at the lift
Like Douglas Fairbanks
Waving his walking stick
But he isn’t well at all
The buildings of New York
Look just like mountains through the snow

Just being alive
It can really hurt
And these moments given
Are a gift from time
Just let us try
To give these moments back
To those we love
To those who will survive

“Moments of Pleasure” ends on this sadly nostalgic note, Bush remembering the people she lost starting first with her mother. (Hannah Bush had not died when the song was written, but she was ill and was approaching death.)

And I can hear my mother saying
“Every old sock meets an old shoe”
Isn’t that a great saying?
“Every old sock meets an old shoe”
Here come the Hills of Time

Hey there Maureen,

Hey there Bubba,
Dancing down the aisle of a plane,

‘S Murph, playing his guitar refrain,

Hey there Teddy,
Spinning in the chair at Abbey Road,

Hey there Michael,
Do you really love me?

Hey there Bill,
Could you turn the lights up?</blockquote.

I love the intent behind this song. The idea of the critical importance of preserving something of the things of the people we've loved and lost has been in my head ever since I encountered the photographic works of Nan Goldin. This song tries to carry out that vision in musical form, and does so superbly. Kudos, Kate.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 8, 2018 at 11:59 pm

[MUSIC] Azealia Banks, “212”

The Azealia Banks song “212” is as fantastic a song now as it was at the end of 2011 when it was released. It’s fresh, sonically complex, and does a brilliant job of portraying Banks’ skills as a lyricist and as a vocal performer both singing and rapping.

Back in October 2012, I was in rhapsodies about Banks and her song. I predicted big things for this defiantly energetic, decidedly out queer star. I wanted them.

And then, well, we didn’t get those particular big things, of a stardom to rival Nicki Minaj. Her Wikipedia article contains an extended multi-paragraph passage about the various controversies she has been involved in, some involving people outside of the music world like Sarah Palin (!), almost all dealing with Twitter and Instagram. Four of the first ten links pulled up Google search relate to the various scandals. Billboard examined her most notable fights on Twitter recently, but Banks has even gotten into fights on her Instagram account. (That last baffles me. I don’t know how you get into flamewars on Instagram.) I ended up unfollowing her account on YouTube after she came out with statements encouraging the election of Donald Trump.

I don’t know what happened. Is this a case of an excessively familiar–excessively uninhibited–use of social networking technologies undoing a nascent star, making someone on the brink of becoming big poisonous? Does this reflect deeper issues, mental illness perhaps or racism in American society? (Banks’ support of Trump apparently does reflect an apocalyptic tinge in African-American society, a hostility towards a structurally racist society that remains so despite everything.) Am I actually well-positioned, as a cisgender gay white man, to ask these questions? I don’t know.

I’m left with Banks’ music. I still love “212”; I still hope she can be a star. Can she? I can only hope so. “212” is so good that it simply cannot stand alone in any artist’s songbook.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 25, 2018 at 11:59 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Centauri Dreams notes how disk patterns in young planetary systems, like that of HD 141569A, can mimic planets.
  • Drew Ex Machina examines Apollo 5, the first flight of the United States’ lunar module.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog uses the infamous Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” incident at Superbowl to examine the important concept of “misogynoir”.
  • Hornet Stories tells of Sipps, a gay bar in Mississippi, where a bartender took an urgent phone call from a mother wondering how to respond to her newly out son.
  • JSTOR Daily tells of the 19th century French writer Chateaubriand, a man whose hugely influential book looking at the young United States turns out to have been mostly fake and substantially plagiarized.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a debate over whether Google and Facebook are monopolies.
  • Roads and Kingdoms celebrates the Caesar, that Canadian mixed drink.
  • Drew Rowsome tells/u> of David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts, a documentary about two exhibitions of the man’s work there. (I saw the retrospective at the Met. So good!)
  • Towleroad goes into greater detail about explicitly gay K-Pop idol Holland, featuring the video for his first single “Neverland”.

[MUSIC] The Cranberries, “Linger”

I was getting ready to leave Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge early Monday afternoon when the news broke on Facebook that Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries had died. I was taken aback; The Cranberries is one of those bands that defines my mid-1990s experience of watching music television, Canada’s MuchMusic, and to have yet another star gone prematurely … Sharing their breakthrough song “Linger” was the only response I could think of as I walked those chill street.

Oh, I thought the world of you
I thought nothing could go wrong
But I was wrong, I was wrong
If you, if you could get by
Trying not to lie
Things wouldn’t be so confused
And I wouldn’t feel so used
But you always really knew
I just want to be with you

The Independent has a nice feature explaining the genesis of the song, how the young O’Riordan took a song written by Noel Hogan and introduced her own lyrics, talking about her own teenage heartbreak at a nightclub.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote at Pitchfork about this song, more evidence of O’Riordan’s “flinty open heart”.

It was one of the first songs the band completed after O’Riordan joined, when they were just in their late teens. It’s a tale of love, deceit and the lingering feelings of desire for an impossible relationship, an impossible situation, and an impossible partner who broke the contract of love. “It’s ruining every day / For me I swore I would be true / And fellow, so did you / So why were you holding her hand? / Is that the way we stand?” asks O’Riordan. “Were you lying all the time? / Was it just a game to you?…” Yeah, you don’t want to be on O’Riordan’s emotional hit list.

Then the fireworks come. The twinkling guitars and staccato strings rise with her oh-so-recognizable voice and she nails the unforgettable lyrics thousands of fans have sang back to her at festivals and concerts across the globe these past 25 years: “But I’m in so deep / You know I’m such a fool for you / You’ve got me wrapped around your finger / Do you have to let it linger? Do you have to, do you have to, do have to let it linger?” [Shakes head. Places palm over heart.]

(Erlewine goes on to write about how the marketing practices of the music industry in the 1990s helped make “Linger”, along with “Dreams” and “Zombie”, such memorable songs, appearing on soundtracks and being associated with iconic moments of pop culture. Recommended.)

It was iconic, was a song that mattered to me even before (almost a decade before) I could actually get the feelings involved. “Linger” is a profoundly honest song, and Dolores O’Riordan felt like an honest person, the sort of person I’d like to know. I wasn’t alone in connecting, or buying that song’s album and is successors; O’Riordan’s strongly Irish voice connected globally.

William Goodman at Billboard also wrote movingly about O’Riordan, how her voice was not just distinctive but distinctly Irish, perhaps symbolizing dynamic Ireland’s moving forth in the world as modern but still itself.

As a kid, this was one of my first introductions to wistful alt-rock drama. In an era of male-dominated guitar rock, I discovered the Cranberries by sneaking into my older sisters’ rooms and listening to their CDs. The cover of the Cranberries’ debut, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, released at the height of the grunge era in March 1993, showed the band cloaked in black, perched on a couch (as would their next release… they liked couches). It was easy to sit in awe of a vocalist commanding so much emotional power, and so in control of her dynamic, unique instrument. It’s a voice that left deep and lasting marks.

“Linger,” along with the LP’s other single “Dreams,” would launch the band’s career — and go on to sell five million copies worldwide. The group would ultimately sell over 40 million records across the globe. The grittier rocker “Zombie” would become perhaps their most recognizable song, but it’s always their dreamy side that stunned the most—the gliding choruses and lyrics that were like a swan dive off the Cliffs of Moher.

And now O’Riordan is gone. The police say it wasn’t a suspicious death; the suspicion seems to be that, in the context of her openness about abuse she had suffered, that this was an accidental overdose or something intentional. I am so sorry for that: we all need more musicians like her. All I can do, from my vantage point as a distant fan, is to be thankful we had her for as long as we did, and that she gave us songs like “Linger.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 18, 2018 at 12:02 am

[MUSIC] Wham!, “Last Christmas”

I largely agree with Noisey’s Josh Baines: The Wham! song “Last Christmas” is one of the top contemporary Christmas songs out there.

Loss, of course, is what powers “Last Christmas.” In itself, that isn’t unusual: pop music is an extended treatise on a topic that’s troubled mankind since we emerged from the swamps, our mouths glued shut with primordial ooze. As a feeling, loss is eminently relatable; it is an indivisible inevitability of life itself, something each and every one of us experiences to varying degrees of seriousness day in, day out.

What makes “Last Christmas” a truly incredible evocation of loss, however, is that it shows rather than tells. By that I mean that anyone can sing about a break up, and a lot of people do, but crafting something that sounds almost analogous to the feeling of weightless vertigo that comes with accepting something is over when, in fact, that’s the very last thing in the world you want, is nigh on impossible. But George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley managed to do it.

It is there in that galloping bassline, a juddering thud that sounds like a lost lover desperately trying to backtrack their way into the good books. It is there in the droopy, weak, drippy synth that plinks and plonks its toytown melody over and over again, sounding brokenly childish in the way that all of us can when romantic fantasy meets adult reality. Even the oddly inert drums manage to evoke a sort of curdled stagnancy reminiscent of a post-breakup hangover where you’re convinced you’re hurtling towards an irreparable regression.

The words that “Last Christmas” uses are fine, perfunctory. They are completely adequate, as most lyrics are. You could, and I have, engender the same emotional response—firing up those same sad synapses that only light up at the sight of a half-crushed minced pie in a drain and the sound of dogs crying with cold on the beach after an ill-advised Boxing Day dip in the sea, all in the name of charity of course—with a German europop version, or a cover from Greece.

But even without the words, without George Michael’s utterly extraordinary vocal performance—and rarely has a singer demonstrated such understated mastery of phrasing, intonation, and delivery—”Last Christmas” drips with feeling. Like Leyland Kirby’s work as The Caretaker, the instrumental version “Last Christmas” manages to summon the ghosts of everyone you’ve ever loved, of everyone who’s ever lived and been loved and been left and been left unloved. The presence of something that once was and will never be again—however many stars we wish upon, however many bones we crack—haunts the song.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 21, 2017 at 11:59 pm

[MUSIC] Robbie Robertson, “Ghost Dance”

The song “Ghost Dance”, by Robbie Robertson, is the third track on his 1994 soundtrack album Music for the Native Americans. I first heard the song on MuchMusic, when I saw the video, and was caught by it. This song is as powerful now as it is when I first heard it more than two decades ago, in its promise of survival and rebirth.

You can kill my body
You can damn my soul
for not believing in your god
and some world down below

You don’t stand a chance
against my prayers
You don’t stand a chance
against my love
They outlawed the Ghost Dance
but we shall live again,
we shall live again

Written by Randy McDonald

November 23, 2017 at 11:59 pm