The heady days when “Believe” was number one, Britney wasn’t that innocent, and boy bands were all the rage.
I remember intently watching the Wanna Be a VJ contest when it was happening. I wanted Dave Holmes to win so badly. Jesse Camp won ‘cause he was a stupid stupid fucking idiot who appealed to stupid fucking idiots, but Dave was so good and so knowledgeable about music that they offered him a job anyways and lasted way longer on MTV than Jesse.
Also, I remember watching an episode of Say What? Karaoke that he hosted and someone did “You Get What You Give" by New Radicals and he talked about how it was his favorite song. How could I not love someone who appreciates Gregg Alexander like I do? I’m reading through this article and he even talks about other songs Alexander wrote that he loves. We’re basically soulmates.
For a band with so many hits, The Beach Boys are highly underrated in history’s pop music pantheon. They’re often trivialized as a group who just wrote a million songs about cars, sun, girls, the beach, and surfing and then Brian Wilson took a bunch of acid/pot, made Pet Sounds and Smile and that’s it. Oh yeah, and “Kokomo" also happened a couple decades later.
I’ve seen The Beach Boys live twice in my life. Granted, it was in 2005 and 2011 and none of the Wilson Brothers/Al Jardine were anywhere to be seen at these shows, but still, to watch the band blow through around fifty songs over the course of a concert, most of which were huge hits, is something at which to marvel. It always made me sad that they never played “Girls on the Beach,” which is one of the top tier Beach Boys songs that was never a hit.
The melody bears a slight resemblance to “Surfer Girl,” another Beach Boys classic, but the harmonic structure of “Girls on the Beach” is out of this world for how seamless it sounds. The song is so beautifully constructed that you barely even notice any of the harmonic complexities and music theory nerd progressions that are right around every turn.
For example, the verse starts with a standard I - vi - ii - V progression in Eb. No biggie. The next phrase is I - V/ii - ii - iv. Two chords out of the key: the V/ii (C7) and the iv (Abm6). The V/ii chord (known as a secondary dominant) resolves to where it should (ii) and the borrowed iv is a pretty standard move in pop music, but “Girls on the Beach” is already more complex than, say, “Say Something.”
But then when the chorus hits, the song suddenly modulates up a half step to E and yet it doesn’t sound jarring at all. Why is this? You might be surprised, but it’s not just because of the lush vocal harmony. It’s because that borrowed iv chord (Abm6) turns into a pivot chord - iii in the key of E. Because that borrowed iv chord in a major key has been used so often, it barely even registers as something out of the key, and Brian Wilson uses that knowledge to easily shift keys between the verse and the chorus several times throughout the tune. It’s masterful.
Also, that’s drummer Dennis Wilson on lead vocals during the bridge. Soulful delivery, dude.
My buddy Jordan Hensley and I wrote this song together a while back in the summer. He sent me an a cappella vocal track and wanted me to write music to it. I still question Jordan when he says that he knows nothing of music theory and harmonic progressions because I find it hard to believe he could write a melody with such obvious hints at chords outside of the key without knowing a bit about what he’s doing.
Someone help me get a job in the greater Portland metropolitan area so I can make music regularly with this man in person.
Philly Soul is one of the most celebrated genres of music on this blog. The sound differs from the classic Motown sound in that it replaces much of the funky, groove-based stuff Detroit was producing with highly polished, lush arrangements. You won’t hear a lot of thumping basslines that make you want to jump up in Philly Soul, but you’ll close your eyes and feel the silken strings, elegant woodwinds, and vibrant horns wash over you in a way that’s as refreshing as they come.
The Delfonics were one of the pioneers of this style along with artists like The O’Jays, The Spinners, and The Stylistics. “La-La (Means I Love You)” was written by lead singer William Hart and Thom Bell, a prominent songwriter, arranger, and producer for Philadelphia International Records who wrote many Philly Soul standards like “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love)" by The Delfonics and "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)" by The Stylistics.
As soon as “La-La (Means I Love You)” begins, you can hear everything that makes Philly Soul great. Those tremolo strings are haunting and give a sense of longing. The vocal harmonies are on point, especially during the chorus when the vocal lines descend over the words “La la” and end with thick harmony over “I love you.” William Hart’s over-enunciation of syllables during the verse is fantastic. The Jackson 5 did a cover of this tune and Michael Jackson was really going all-out with his best Hart impression in that way. The parts that gets me every time when I hear this tune are the quarter note triplets during the second bar of each phrase during the verses. The way everything stops to hit those marks while the vocal line stays loose over the top of it is incredible.
During the bridge, there’s an obvious modulation that happens and while it may seem at the time like it’s just to make the bridge sound different from the rest of the tune, it also makes the following pre-chorus and chorus even more powerful when Hart’s falsetto soars over the line “Listen to me.”
Is there a more laughably melodramatic song than “The Best Deceptions?”
Last name “Ever,” first name “Greatest.”
Hall & Oates put out an album of original material every year from 1972-1982. In 1983 they put out a Greatest Hits record (Which included two brand new songs that both ended up being top 10 hits). Then put out another new album in 1984.
I don’t want to live in a world where Daryl Hall and John Oates aren’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Get on it, people.
I spent most of today traveling to Arizona to visit my family for the holiday. This song came up randomly on shuffle on my iPod and I was very happy about it! Last year I dedicated quite a few posts to Christmas songs but this will be my only one this year.
As usual, Fountains of Wayne knocks out top notch power pop in what seems like an effortless fashion. For all I know, Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger spend countless hours putting together these songs that sound so easy and catchy, but I imagine they’re just so good that this kind of thing is second nature.
In standard Fountains of Wayne fashion, it tells the story of a regular guy who gets dressed up as Santa to make a little extra cash during this season.
Staying jolly is probably pretty tough when you’re putting up with crying babies who can’t keep their mall lunches down. I feel for them, and so do Fountains of Wayne.