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Archive for the ‘Pop’ Category

David Cassidy

Posted by purplemary54 on November 22, 2017

I really don’t have a lot to say about David Cassidy, except that he made a lot of people really happy.  That seems like a pretty awesome thing to leave behind in this world.

This clip, however, reinforces some rather nasty sexist notions.  So ignore the scene in front of the song and just enjoy the bubblegum goodness.

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“We Built This City”

Posted by purplemary54 on November 9, 2017

I was channel flipping the other day, and stopped for a moment to indulge both my love of music videos and love of really bad music.  The 80s were a great time for both.

This song really doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, which is sort of its appeal.  I think.  It is catchy.  I’m also pretty sure Grace Slick was probably high on something at the time.  It seems to want to be a protest against the ever-increasing corporatization of rock music, but comes out as incomprehensible pop glop. There’s a very tiny trace of the rebellion that once made the band that Slick sang for one of the symbols of rebellion and counterculturalism in the 60s.

Of course by the time “We Built This City” was released in 1985 that band had long since mutated into pop glop and had virtually disappeared.  The Jefferson Airplane was one of the leading bands of psychedelic rock–the aforementioned symbol of rebellion and counterculturalism.  They were also one of the few commercially successful psychedelic bands, so I guess pop glop was always in their veins.  In the 70s, they made their first major transition into the Jefferson Starship and became even more poppy and gloppy.  Marty Balin and Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen escaped, but Grace Slick and Mickey Thomas (Balin’s replacement on vocals) hung around. “Jefferson” was dropped, and the band just became Starship in the 1980s.  And the rest is pop glop history.

Really, most of Starship’s output is gloriously awful.  (Have you ever heard the song they did for the 80s “classic” Mannequin?  Well, you’re in for a pop treat that so sugary and gloppy, it might as well be the filling inside a pecan pie.  Not even the utterly adorable Andrew McCarthy at the height of his adorableness could save that movie.)  None of their music has aged especially well.  Which is too bad, I guess.  It really is quite catchy.

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“The Hustle”

Posted by purplemary54 on July 16, 2017

From Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco by Peter Shapiro

“At first blush, ‘The Hustle’ is hardly the kind of record that you normally associate with a dance craze.  After its great, almost mysterious intro, it devolves into the strangely rhythmless, inane, singing, prim and prissy instrumental equivalent of Starland Vocal Band’s ‘Afternoon Delight’–not exactly the fire and blood or latent, unrepentant hucksterism that marks a great dance craze disc.  But thanks to that infernal flute line boring into your skill with the savage ferocity that only elevator music can muster, ‘The Hustle’ was inescapable and inevitable, the kind of record that crawls under your skin, subliminally taking root to the point where you find yourself whistling it while masturbating.”

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Al Jarreau

Posted by purplemary54 on February 12, 2017

You might only remember Al Jarreau if you are a person of a certain age or if you were a huge Moonlighting fan.  A consummate singer and performer, Jarreau had pretty much dropped out of the spotlight in the last couple of decades.  In fact, I think the last pop culture hit he had was the theme to Moonlighting.  At 76, Mr. Jarreau has moved on to the next plane of existence.

Take a minute to familiarize yourself with Mr. Jarreau if you don’t already know his work.  He was originally a Jazz singer, but he crossed into so many genres that he was impossible to pigeonhole.  And wow, was he smooth.  No.  Not just smooth.  Al Jarreau was smooooooooooth.  His voice was silky and pure and clean.  There were no missed notes, no extraneous flourishes, no gratuitous posturing. There was just music, and it was good.

Now all the smooth leaves no room for rough edges, which means Jarreau was never quite to my taste.  But this, singing his 1981 hit “We’re in This Love Together” is how I will always remember him.  Another great voice is just a memory, but it’s a pretty fine one.

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John Wetton

Posted by purplemary54 on February 9, 2017

Real life has been a little hectic, and I neglected to note the passing of Asia frontman John Wetton last week.

Asia was always one of those reliably catchy bands that I listened to on the radio, but never really thought too much about.  I’ve got a few of their songs on the iPod, and I’ll sing along when I hear them.  I guess my relationship with this band can be described as casual, an acquaintance I’m generally happy to bump into but not someone I seek out for anything special.  But they were responsible for one of those songs that is inexplicably special to me: The 3 AM Song.

So thanks for that, John Wetton.  I’m so glad you shared that little bit of musical serendipity with me.  Considering the state of my life right now, I can use the inspirational boost I get every time I hear “Days Like These” more than ever.

“What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.  And today I am strong enough, and anyway I love the rain.”

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“A Whole New World”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 29, 2017

Some years ago (at least three, but probably more) the Disney behemoth began advertising its Hawaiian resort Aulani with this utterly enchanting version of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.  Even in the little bit they played in the commercial, I was in love with it.

I’ll be the first one to admit I don’t know much about Yuna, the singer who created this song (anyone who does can click here).  But she gives me the general impression of being quite charming.  I also believe she is a Muslim, which means she is persona non grata in Trump’s worldview; all Muslims are terrorists to him.  Even the one’s who sing songs as wholesomely American as Disney songs.  Of course, this particular Disney movie is now suspect in Trump’s vision of the world.  It is, after all, set in an Arab country and features brown people as characters.

I didn’t mean to make this one political at all.  The song is just an innocent romp meant to further the Disney-fied romance between Aladdin and Princess Jasmine.  And this cover is, as I stated earlier, utterly enchanting.  I just wanted to share it with you.  And to remind you that not all Muslims are out to get Westerners.  Some of them just want to create music.

 

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George Michael

Posted by purplemary54 on December 25, 2016

I shouldn’t be posting this after so much wine, but goddammit, I’m just so tired.

George Michael has passed at 53, presumably from heart failure.  Carrie Fisher had a massive heart attack at 60 just a couple days ago, although she is still hanging on (and will hopefully recover).

No one should die at Christmas.  I know that there is a statistical increase in deaths this time of year, but my heart tells me that no one should die during a time of celebration.  Logically, that would mean no one would ever die anywhere because there is always a celebration of something happening somewhere on the globe, but the heart wants what the heart wants.  In this case, the heart wants no one to suffer or feel pain during a time of joy in my world.  Self-centered maybe, but there it is.

I was never a Wham! fan, and had little patience for most of Michael’s solo work.  I did like “Faith,” though.  It was one of those perfect little Pop songs that burrowed into your consciousness and never let go.  It is a relentlessly catchy song, with an irresistible hook.  And Michael delivers it with the ease and charisma of a true Pop star (in spite of the fact that he used a butt double at the beginning of the video).  I always thought his pussyfooting around his sexuality was kind of wimpy.  (It took him a very long time to confirm the fact that he was homosexual, something everyone already knew–and no one is ever going to convince me that Wham! didn’t break up because he and Andrew Ridgely ended their affair.  Facts be damned!)  But he had style and popularity, and he could sing with the best of them.

It’s just been so bad that it’s hard to follow the dictum of George Michael’s song and have faith.  There have been some small victories and minor miracles on the personal front in recent days.  I have hope that there are better times, a light at the end of this really long dark tunnel, etc, etc.  I do still have faith in the Universe.  I try to be accepting of the pain that seems to be unending these days, because I know in my head that you cannot have yin without yang, dark without light, enlightenment without suffering.  But my heart still says that all of this is wrong, that the balance of good and bad is desperately out of whack.  Like the song says, I need a little time to pick my heart up off the floor.

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R.I.P.

Posted by purplemary54 on October 24, 2016

I’ve spent an awful lot of time this year memorializing people in popular culture.  I am really sick of it.  There’s still a couple of months left in the year, and I’m kind of still waiting for the other shoe to drop; I’ve had this terrible feeling that as bad as it’s been for music and other arts, it’s just gonna get worse somehow.  I really, really, really hope I’m wrong.

Sadly, I’m not wrong today.  The news has come out that music has lost two very different sorts of Pop singers.

First up is Bobby Vee, who passed as a result of Alzheimer’s complications.  Vee was a teen idol in the early 60s, when the music industry had, temporarily at least, managed to sanitize and contain Rock & Roll into safe, marketable, bland Pop stars.  It didn’t take, thank goodness, but during this more gentle time in music history, Bobby Vee and his clean-cut ilk ruled the airwaves.  His music isn’t to my taste, but that doesn’t mean it’s less entertaining than anything else.  His music has a nice doc-wop quality that makes it quite listenable.

The other Pop singer we lost today is, visually and stylistically at least, on the opposite end of the spectrum.  Dead or Alive had a big hit in the 80s with “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” and singer Pete Burns made the most of it.  His flamboyant style was perfect for the big hair, big money, big gloss decade of my adolescence.  This song happens to be a favorite of mine.  Bouncy and dancey with just enough sex and menace to make people nervous.

Neither one of these performers was currently on the cultural radar, but then again, not much else is right now besides the election.  But for their brief times on top, they both shone like stars.

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“I Quit”

Posted by purplemary54 on July 19, 2016

No, I’m not really quitting anything.  I’m just feeling kind of frustrated and cranky.

This song is from a soundtrack of music used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, most of which was pretty good.  I don’t know much about Hepburn, aside from the fact that they’re obviously English (“The situation’s vacant for me” is a dead giveaway).  I didn’t even know they were an all-female band; this is the first time I’ve seen the video.  Given that this song is close to twenty years old now (yeah, it’s been that long), it’s aged well.  But then again, a well-crafted Pop/Rock song is always a thing of eternal beauty.

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I’m Not in Denial About the State of Things. . .

Posted by purplemary54 on July 18, 2016

The world kind of sucks right now.  My personal world hasn’t been a bed of roses lately, either.  (I’m assuming the phrase “bed of roses” refers to the soft petals and not the thorny bush.  And my choice of metaphors will make sense in a moment.)  I’m not denying any of it, and I’ll probably post something about it soon.  I just don’t want to be sad and angry right now.  Which is why I’m posting this song.

“Love is Rose” is a Neil Young song, but Linda Ronstadt owns it.  I’ve always preferred her version anyway.  Like Neil, his version of the song tends to be kind of prickly; his focus seems to be on the thorns and not the flowers.  “Love is a rose, but you better not pick it” seems to be sound advice as far as he’s concerned.  Fool around to your heart’s content, but don’t fall in love; it’ll only end in tears when you gash your hand open and bleed all over the place while screaming in pain.

In Ronstadt’s version, that line is also a warning but the emphasis is different.  Let’s do it.  Let’s fall in love, but don’t try to own me.  Don’t  imprison me in your world.  Let me grow and thrive in my own environment.  If you do try to cut me off from the things that made you want me in the first place, I will cut you.  Her version is more joyful somehow, more about the cooperation a relationship requires.  “Give me a lift, and I’ll hay your wagon” is mostly a metaphor for sex, but it’s also an idea about how two people can work together to make something good happen.

Since Neil Young wrote the words, the interpretation of the songs could be exactly the same.  But the slower pacing gives Young’s version a more cautious, unhappy feel.  Ronstadt’s delivery and choice of arrangement makes “Love is Rose” softer and more buoyant.  I know part of the reason I like her version better is because I heard it first.  But I also enjoy the carefree tone.  There’s an edge, but you aren’t going to hurt yourself too badly on it.  At least, you won’t as long as you give her a little breathing room, enough to drink, and lots of sunshine.

 

 

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