A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘music video

[MUSIC[ Kygo and Whitney Houston, “Higher Love”

I have recently found last year’s version of this Steve Winwood classic song, and I am caught by how suited this critical but hopeful song is for this year.

“Things look so bad everywhere
In this whole world, what is fair
We will walk the line
And try to see
Falling behind in what could be

Written by Randy McDonald

September 10, 2020 at 11:59 pm

[MUSIC] Martha and the Muffins, “Echo Beach”

I first blogged about the Martha and the Muffins 1980 hit “Echo Beach” back in May 2005, noting how the song resonated with me. The narrator, dreaming of an escape to an idyll beyond in the mid of a boring conventional job, speaks to me.

On a silent summer evening
The sky’s alive with lights
A building in the distance
Surrealistic sight
On Echo Beach
Waves make the only sound
On Echo Beach
There’s not a soul around

I was also amused to learn in 2011 that the song was going to give its name to a new performance space down at Ontario Place.

I heard the song again, sitting on my lunch break at patio of the Church and Wellesley Second Cup coffee shop when the song came on the speakers. Again, it resonated deeply: Who would not prefer a summer rather different from this one?

As I noted back in 2005, the song is a classic. It lasts; it not merely endures the decades, it thrives.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 31, 2020 at 12:00 am

[MUSIC] Eurythmics, “Would I Lie To You?”

The Eurythmics song “Would I Lie To You?” is a perennial joy, a sound of self-assertion told with Annie’s imitable voice with joy and (among other instrumentation) a great horn section. The song and its album, Be Yourself Tonight, might be a break from the Eurythmics’ more experimental synthpop and New Wave material on earlier albums, but they carried it off.

Would I lie to you?
Would I lie to you honey? (oh honey, would I lie to you?)
Now would I say something that wasn’t true?
I’m asking you sugar, would I lie to you?

Written by Randy McDonald

June 11, 2020 at 11:59 pm

[PHOTO] Leonard Cohen, “Happens to the Heart”

Pitchfork, among others, notes the release of a video for a new Leonard Cohen song, “Happens to the Heart” off of the posthumous album Thanks for the Dance. Both song and video are beautiful; recommended.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 25, 2019 at 11:01 am

[MUSIC] Madonna, “Express Yourself” (live)

The live version of “Express Yourself” performed in 1993 by Madonna in Sydney and released to video on The Girlie Show: Live Down Under is a joy, an energetic disco reworking that is one of my early-morning energy songs.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 19, 2019 at 11:30 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait links to a beautiful music video showing highlights of the Moon.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes about failure as a learning experience.
  • Centauri Dreams writes about sensory associations, of how memories unite films and planets with things here on Earth.
  • D-Brief notes that Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe is looking for a place to land on asteroid Ryugu.
  • Hornet Stories notes the plans of Russell T. Davies to launch a new dramatic series looking at the impact of AIDS in the UK in the 1980s.
  • JSTOR Daily links to a paper suggesting Adam Smith would be unhappy with modern inequality, for the disincentives it provides the wealthy to be productive and not rentiers.
  • The Planetary Society Blog explores what India has to do to meet its goal of launch an astronaut into space by 2022.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel notes that not many worlds–not outer-system moons, not even the Kuiper belt–will survive the sun’s red giant phase intact.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on a rebellion of ethnic Russians in Grozny in 1958, protesting the return of the Chechens from Stalinist deportation.

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

The 1998 Madonna song “The Power of Good-Bye” , all shimmering electronica with subtle lyrics soulfully sung, bears consideration as perhaps the best song Madonna has ever had. Ray of Light is a really good album.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 16, 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

[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