David Cassidy

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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.

“We Built This City”

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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.

“The Hustle”

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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.”

Al Jarreau

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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.

John Wetton

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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.”

“A Whole New World”

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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.

 

George Michael

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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.