Stu On Songs

Long winded & unnecessary explanations of why I do or do not like songs

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16 Plays
Randy Newman
My Life Is Good

There’s a lot of really terrible people out there. Luckily for us, Randy Newman has their number. There’s never been an artist who knows exactly how to take what it is about someone that makes them awful (or at least, ignorant) and turn it into a song with more bite than anything. His music is the perfect combination of sardonic wit mixed with lush arrangements that fit whatever style or mood he’s going for.

"My Life is Good" is not dry at all. It’s pretty clear that the subject of the tune is a joke and an entitled piece of shit from the get-go. Still, it’s essential to note that one of the things Newman does best is lend a voice to these people even if they don’t need or deserve it. The characters in his songs are so vivid that you can just picture them in the room with you, making your life worse by the moment just by existing.

You can clearly picture the man in “My Life is Good” telling you all about every single instance that he’s better than you, past, present, and future. There’s the time he brought a young woman back from Mexico specifically for the purposes of doing all of his chores for him. He’s so proud of himself, thinking he’s doing her a favor. The time he told off a teacher for politely informing him that his child is physically hurting the other children. How he plans to give one of his young associates’ wives a “poke or two” when they come into town. You can almost feel the spit coming out of his mouth and hitting you in the face as he pounds the table in the middle of his story.

The best part of the tune is when he recounts the time he met Mr. Bruce Springsteen. Whether or not he actually met him is up for debate, but he tells it with so much a sneering bravado that you can’t help but hate him. The music in this section starts out with this repeating bassline from the piano which builds the tension until the thirteenth bar when it changes to a repeated figure in the upper register that almost sounds like the laughter of someone who just won’t shut up. By the time he ends the ridiculous story about the time Springsteen told him “Rand, I’m tired. How would you like to be the boss for a while?” he’s already in the middle of his own fantasy where he’s the one telling Clarence Clemons “blow, big man!

All of the songs on Trouble in Paradise seem to have a pretty big emphasis on the and of four. This tune is no different. Listen for the open high hat hits and heavy guitar power chords on the and of four throughout.

Filed under Randy Newman My Life is Good Trouble in Paradise Pop Rock Singer Songwriter Singer-songwriter Synth Piano Bassline Good Music Bruce Springsteen Clarence Clemons

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Found Star: New Radicals' Gregg Alexander Grants First Interview in 15 Years (Exclusive)

Gregg Alexander is the greatest pop songwriter of my lifetime. This is a rare and completely unexpected interview with the man who I’ve written about and praised many, many times.

Filed under Gregg Alexander Lost Stars Begin Again Hollywoodreporter Carly Hennessy Danielle Brisebois Dave Holmes New Radicals

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fromsafetytohere asked: Tell me about Weezer!

Weezer was the first modern band that I remember liking on my own. I was 11 when The Blue Album came out and I saw the “Buddy Holly” video on MTV and thought the song was incredibly catchy and the video was amazing. The next year, it was included on the Windows 95 disc as a special feature and, since we had it, I played the video pretty regularly. Still, that was the only song I knew by them for a long time.

Then, sometime in early 2000, I started hanging out with some guys in my high school concert/pep band who loved Weezer. So I have to give a special thanks to Mark Thompson and Chip Burgess for their integral role in my love for the band. I have a specific memory of learning how to play “Buddy Holly” right when I started playing guitar, then one day, started playing it during some downtime in band. Mark asked me if I knew how to play “Say It Ain’t So” and, to their disappointment, I didn’t know the tune. Their enthusiasm for the band alone got me to purchase both The Blue Album and Pinkerton within a few weeks of each other. I played those albums constantly for about a year until The Green Album came out in 2001 when we all went to the Target in south Everett together to buy it after school. We listened to it almost the whole way through before we got back to our cars at school because the album is less than 30 minutes long. I played the hell out of that album, too, even though I didn’t like it as much as the first two.

And by that point, I had pretty much committed to loving Weezer for the rest of my life no matter what they do. They’ll always hold a special place in my heart and I don’t imagine I’ll ever stop listening to them.

Filed under Weezer Response Game The Blue Album Pinkerton The Green Album fromsafetytohere Buddy Holly Say It Ain't So Target Everett Memories Special Thanks to Cassie for the Question MTV Windows 95

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31 Plays
Maze
We Are One

When it comes to funky soul music, there are few artists who do it better than Maze. Frankie Beverly’s voice sounds so smooth over everything the band lays down. There’s always this undeniable groove at the base of their tunes and “We Are One” is no exception. The tune peaked at #47 on the R&B charts.

That groove is created by every instrument doing something simple, yet perfectly intricate in just the right place. No nonsense. The bassline isn’t incredibly complex but it sounds so fat against the kick drum. The guitar plays that repeated riff and has some of the simple muted stuff going on but it compliments the bass perfectly. The drums are light but driving due to some nice hi-hat work. The synth/organ pad fills out the harmonic structure during the verses (Gm7 - Bb13 - Am7(b5) - D7) which is so smooth. The chorus finally has us arriving on a new chord, Ebmaj7, which sounds aurally fresh. The last chord in the chorus freshens things up further, hitting a D7(#9#5) to really send us back to that Gm7 in the verse with some flavor.

I honestly spent way too long trying to figure out that progression for the purposes of analysis. It seems so simple when you casually listen to it, but it’s actually far from that. And really, that’s part of what makes Maze such a quality group. The best kinds of musicians are the ones who work so hard at making it sound simple.

Filed under Maze Frankie Beverly and Maze Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly Frankie Beverly We Are One Synth R&B Soul Funk Bassline Groove Good Music Sorry Pitbull Fans

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83 Plays
Tears for Fears
Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Over the last month or so, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to and playing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” It’s a song that I’ve loved ever since I was a child; I was about seventeen months old when it was released. My Mom was a big fan of Tears for Fears and this tune is a part of me because of that. Really, it’s hard to think of many songs that hit me in the same way or make me feel the way this song does.

There’s something childlike and nostalgic about the opening guitar/synth lick. Not just because the song is very nostalgic for me, but I feel like that’s the sound Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith were going for. The lyrics are dark but the rest of the tune is pretty upbeat. People like to say this is a sad song set to a happy tune but I don’t think the music sounds happy, necessarily. This is accomplished by using very few straightforward major triads. The two chords played during the verse are Dmaj7 and G/D. The chorus goes between Em, F#m, and Gmaj7 for the most part and then there’s an A at the end. That A chord is really the first time during the whole song that a clear major triad is heard and it only lasts for a second.

The verse and chorus repeat again before we’re led into the bridge where we finally hear three basic major triads repeated several times, G, D, and A which really solidifies the key of D as the home key after being somewhat ambiguous about it up until that point. The harmonic progression never quite goes where you might expect it to, until finally, it does. That tension that it creates, that build, pull back, build again, and release is everything that good music is made of.

There’s so much right about this song that I could go on and on about: The guitar solos both in the middle and at the end, the wonderful harmonies, the way the bass consistently lands on the off-beat during the breakdown going from D to A to G until it changes up for four bars switching between B and C (and C isn’t even in the key). There are too many great things going on in the song that I would bore you to tears (for fears) if I continued on.

What really got me on the kick of listening to this song over and over again was that I heard that Lorde cover of this song. I would hate to come off like an old fart, but holy hell, does it suck. It’s like she actively tried to take everything great about the original song and then remove it in favor of a bunch of boring, mopey, sadness. It’s what happens when someone tries to take a literal translation of the lyrics and put them to music. It’s awful. I’m all for different interpretations of well-known tunes to keep things fresh, but those interpretations are subject to the same kind of criticism as an original song and Lorde’s version would be terrible even if it were not connected in any way to the Tears for Fears classic.

Filed under Tears for Fears Everybody Wants to Rule the World Songs from the Big Chair Roland Orzabal Curt Smith Synth Pop Rock Lorde Good Music Vocal Harmonies

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princeowl:

really sick of seeing so much hate directed towards the police on here. look, we get it, you prefer sting’s solo work, i like it too alright? that doesnt mean ‘every little thing she does is magic’ and ‘can’t stand losing you’ arent awesome jams. ‘roxanne’ and ‘don’t stand so close to me’ are classic, don’t even get me started on ‘spirits in the material world’. just stop ok? 

(via 45andsingle)

Filed under The Police Comedy Jokes Sting

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77 Plays
Jackson Browne
Doctor My Eyes

All throughout Jackson Brown’s self-titled debut album, there is this lingering sense of melancholy. It’s inescapable, even in the upbeat tunes like his very first single, “Doctor My Eyes.” One of my best friends recently discovered this song and mentioned it to me over the course of the weekend. I was reminded about how much I adore the tune and was happy to find that joy I feel when I hear it also reflected in another person.

"Doctor My Eyes" is built around a really great piano part which opens the song. The idea that returns several times throughout the tune is the pedal bass F which is pounded out while the upper register is filled out with an Eb and a Bb chord. I’ve always been a big fan of having a non-chord tone in the bass. It’s ambiguous, but still functional. By the time the verse rolls around, the song is based strongly in F.

The vocal harmonies during the chorus really make this tune shine. Those background vocals were recorded by David Crosby and Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame. While the chorus progression mostly just switches between Dm and F, it does lead nicely back into the opening piano part. It’s a sign of well-constructed songwriting when you can throw in a chord that’s out of the key like Eb and have it never once sound aurally grating simply by pounding out that pedal F in the bass to constantly hint towards the actual key.

This tune was Browne’s biggest hit for an entire decade until he released “Somebody’s Baby" which was included on the Fast Times at Ridgemont High Soundtrack.

I’ve recently noticed that a number of my own songs end in guitar solos. Could this be a subconscious nod to “Doctor My Eyes”? I wouldn’t doubt it.

Filed under Jackson Browne Self-Titled Doctor My Eyes Saturate Before Using Pop Rock Piano David Crosby Graham Nash Crosby Stills Nash & Young Somebody's Baby Fast Times at Ridgemont High Melancholy Good Music