sex is cool but have you ever heard a really good bass line
sex is cool but have you ever heard a really good bass line
My idea for an ad about a fictitious Beach Boys tour.
In 1986, Bobby Brown was voted out of New Edition and left to go solo, leaving New Edition as a quartet. They released an album without Brown’s help called Under the Blue Moon which was just a bunch of covers of ’50s doo-wop tunes. While it was moderately successful, the group knew they needed to mature and release something different. Lead singer Ralph Tresvant was considering leaving the group as well, which prompted the others to recruit Washington D.C. native Johnny Gill to join the group. Tresvant changed his mind, and thus New Edition became a quintet again.
While Gill’s vocals mostly took the back seat on the album, on the song “Boys to Men,” he gets to shine. The song was penned by the classic team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis who just the year before had helped Janet Jackson break out of her teenybopper phase by writing and producing the Control album. Heart Break is now considered by most to be New Edition’s best album thanks to the production of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, a renewed focus on strong live performances, and Gill’s powerful vocal prowess.
"Boys to Men" became one of the group’s signature tunes despite Gill initially disliking the song, stating that its content was too juvenile. The song has a classic Roland TR-808 drum sound which was the backbone of 80s pop. The 808 continues to be popular even today. By the end of the song, Gill is giving it all on the vocal melismas and it sounds incredible over the smooth vocal pad provided by the rest of the group.
The song made a huge impression on four guys from Philly who wanted to sing that they named their group after it.
I am still in the process of my recent solo Paul McCartney/Wings binge. The tune that finally broke me and made me want to listen to it all is “Heart of the Country” from the Ram album, McCartney’s second solo record. It came up randomly on shuffle a few weeks ago and I was lost in the easy folk groove.
While the album is credited as by Paul & Linda McCartney, Linda was limited to mostly background vocals. Also, “Heart of the Country” sounds extraordinarily loose and mellow, a sound which was achieved by tuning the guitar down a whole step.
The melody in the A section is so incredibly free-flowing and easy. It truly showcases what McCartney is capable of when it comes to melodic writing. The B section is a bit more bluesy, adding some 9th chords and a low end-heavy walking bassline. The real highlight of the whole tune is the acoustic guitar solo lick that’s doubled nonchalantly by McCartney’s voice. Rhythmically, it’s pretty out there, but it’s held in and made palatable through the regular soft toe tapping and country/folk leanings of the lick itself. This is why McCartney has always been my favorite Beatle: His ability to take something harmonically or rhythmically challenging and make it catchy enough for anyone to enjoy.
That kind of writing is so incredibly difficult no matter how effortless it seems while listening. There’s a very big difference between a song that’s easy and a song that sounds easy.
WHY WOULD YOU DENY YOURSELF THE HARRISON SOLO ERA? All Things Must Pass is a great record.
For you, Seth, I will listen to All Things Must Pass. That’s the one I’ve been told to check out. I hope to hear the greatness that I never knew existed.
I’m starting to study songwriting (with the help of your blog, too!) and I’m revisiting The Beatles’ catalog after burning out almost 20 years ago. Learning to appreciate their talent and skill.
Thank you! As cliche as it is, I feel like you need look no further than The Beatles when it comes to the study of great pop/rock music done right. The more I analyze them, the more I recognize that each of them brought out the best in the others by curbing their respective eccentricities. I love McCartney’s “I Will" but I don’t want to listen to a whole album that sounds like it. I love Lennon’s "Tomorrow Never Knows" but I don’t want to listen to a whole record like that either.
When McCartney would get too poppy and silly, Lennon would add some cynicism with a touch of roots rock. When Lennon would get too preachy and self-indulgent, McCartney would be there to add an easy pop hook that was still harmonically challenging.
When they parted ways, they each went to their respective extremes. Paul McCartney wrote a bunch of unchecked shitty pop songs. John Lennon wrote a bunch of shitty indulgent, self-righteous protest songs. George Harrison wrote a bunch of shitty religious folk rock songs. Ringo Starrr wrote some shit, I dunno.
Listening through a bunch of solo Paul McCartney/Wings stuff. It’s really shocking how terrible most of it is. Like, 90% awful/mediocre and 10% great.
I’ve always been scared to dive headfirst into this part of McCartney’s catalog, afraid of what I might find. Still, he’s the only Beatle that I would do this for. Hoping to find some gems.
Not even gonna attempt listening through the Lennon/Harrison/Starr discography, though.
How many great songs came out of the British Invasion era? It was just an endless wave of great tunes from countless bands who were all getting some play because The Beatles were the biggest thing ever. “Because” by The Dave Clark Five is one of the absolute best to come from this time.
"Because" went to #3 on the US charts and was their second biggest hit behind "Over and Over" which went to #1 but it not nearly as good a song. Also, "Because" was a non-album single which is something bands did pretty regularly back then but would never even dream of doing now since no one buys singles anymore. If you make a hit, it’s going on an album (and not just a Greatest Hits record).
The beauty in the chord progression of song is in its slight chromatic movements to create harmonic tension which resolves in the best possible way. It makes great use of augmented chords which are perfect for creating tension because they clearly need to move somewhere. The bass sits on a pedal G for the first eight bars before it finally moves to an A. It creates a sense of anticipation that is necessary for a great harmonic progression. Of course, when you create that much tension, you have to pay it off and “Because” does that perfectly with its beautiful melody and vocal harmonies on every single note that sound so rich and vibrant.
The organ gives the song a very warm feeling throughout, usually just staying low in the mix and low in its register so that it creates a subliminal comfort zone. The introductory riff comes back during the solo section but this time doubled at a lower octave by the guitar before a sweet little solo lick from the organ. The turnaround during the repeat of the last line of the chorus at the end is great, too, hitting an E7 chord when we’ve been expecting it to stay on the G.
There’s something so attractive about Nina Persson’s voice. It’s sweet, girlish, and appealing. She doesn’t have an incredible range or a robust tone, but it works so well with the style of music The Cardigans were doing for their first few albums.
That style made for some of the best pop music of the last few decades. Hearing flute or bassoon is commonplace in a Cardigans record. What they lacked in a highly skilled singer, they more than made up for in rich arrangements and a plethora of instruments.
"In the Afternoon" has such a great harmonic progression which is set off by a great little intro drum fill and then outlined with a melody of bass doubled by bells (Although it’s probably a synth on the "Bells" setting). Seriously, bass and bells play the opening riff! That’s so out there for a pop song. Later, when the chorus hits, a flute plays in direct harmony with the vocal melody, which is a little bit more common, but still, it’s not too often that you get to hear flute featured prominently in a pop song. The last bar preceding the chorus and the last bar of the chorus even feature vibraphone. Also, during the chorus, I love those little ascending staccato hits during the "I put the TV on" line.
One of the best parts of the tune is the bridge when everything cuts out except for Persson’s voice and a little light piano work outlining the harmony. It sounds naked and wounded combined with the morose lyrics. The final verse is a reprise of the first one, except now stripped down to just simple drums and held notes from the bass and keyboard where they just play on beat one. There’s a slight ritard and then it ends even more sweetly than it arrived.
I still can’t really believe that Teena Marie is dead. She was 54 when she passed and that’s just far too young for someone with so much soul. It goes without saying that she is the most soulful white girl singer we’ve ever had.
"Square Biz" is one of Teena’s signature tunes and was, at the time, her biggest hit on the R&B charts, peaking at #3. The album, It Must Be Magic, also contained the titular track which I’ve written about before.
The drum and bass interplay during the pre-chorus is absolutely insane. I find myself miming along to one of those instruments every time I hear the song. I just can’t get enough of that fat slap bass sound. You can’t help but get hyped when Teena shouts “Everybody get up” at the end of the eighth bar and then the horns come in.
Then there’s that famous rap during the second half of the song that just has too many good lines to mention. Missy Elliot interpolated said rap section in Ciara’s hit “1, 2 Step.”
"I’m less than five foot one, a hundred pounds of fun, I like sophisticated funk." I need a lady like that!