Archive for January, 2010
Three entries into this site’s new format, I’m going for the guts here. I’m reaching into an album that defies almost everything I like as a music listener, a style I’d usually roll my eyes at, but I’m going to go for it anyway. I want to try to see how objective I can be in critiquing something I’d usually despise.
Lady Gaga, and her albums, The Fame and The Fame Monster.
What would I, the listener, have against her? Well, her sound is not all that groundbreaking, it’s not much of a new take on anything, and it sounds about as dated as Amber (remember her? ‘One More Night’?) when you’re not actually seeing Lady Gaga perform it. “Bad Romance” sounds like something you’d hear played between Ace of Base and C&C Music Factory, groups we generally laugh at now. “Just Dance” sounds like something I’d hear on a Disney kids compilation. It just has the manufactured sound of a general and vague display of pop performance.
However, I respect that she came up through the club scene, working her way up to fame, which is what she’s all about. And I salute her taste of music, in people like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, who I worship alongside her. As a listener, I’m glad she found inspiration from them more than she might have in, say, Technotronic. She’s not a particularly good looking woman, nothing exciting, and could have been nothing more than just another performer in New York. But that’s like saying Madonna could have been just another flash in the pan from Detroit.
The difference is, Lady Gaga looks like an epic drag queen, loves the glamour and fashion, and brings thoughts of fame and fortune to every household. She’s a lot for the eye to enjoy with her wildly designed outfits and makeup, who clearly enjoys working her ass off to get our attention. And boy, does she get it. She steps up the mystique and appeal pop stars need to be taken seriously and relevant, and is still just 23 years old. When she performs her ordinary songs, she does it in an extraordinary way, just like KISS has for four decades. They’re easily her best comparison.
I will say that “Speechless” is a tremendous ballad that really brings out her voice, and completes her as a musician. That’s one that every household should give a listen to.
Lady Gaga brings fun and excitement, and a whole amazing show, to a world where people no longer care about album covers or collections, and can rarely afford concert tickets. She brings the show to them; you can’t miss her, and if you do, you’re missing out on some amazing performances. It’s almost like you love the songs because you love and appreciate her. To me, that’s the height of what a pop performer can do, and I respect her for that. “Paparazzi”, “Bad Romance”, and “Eh, eh” are songs I can imagine being played at my old high school dances, but her idea of bringing the idea of fame and stardom to her fans in a day where our stars are only a tweet away absolutely works for her. She brings her songs to life with her style and larger-than-life performances, and makes herself a superstar in an otherwise bland showcase of new music in this millennium.
You’re not blowing me away with your generally bland music, Gaga, but you’re certainly needed in what I call a darker era for music.
In an age of advanced electronic music, that stems from techno to house to jungle, it’s all too easy to get caught up in gadgets and vocoders, and miss out on the whole purpose of music, which is of course to reflect emotion, thought and personality. Key word; person.
Owl City’s ‘Ocean Eyes’ is a remarkable and respectable take on emotional electronic music. “Fireflies” is their biggest hit, discussing the rotation of our world, the colorful symphony of millions of fireflies and how he’s kept them before. Its music video and lyrics combined paint the image of the imagination of what used to thrill us as children. I will argue that it is damn hard to bring a refreshing take to nostalgia in a song, but they pulled it off this time.
To me, that’s just one of the many peaks of this album. The album continues to show an exciting, visual take on the world that we take for granted, and again one that hasn’t been done over and over again. You would think these guys lay under a skyline all night every night, and let their minds explode. “I am floating away in a silent ballet” is one of the several brilliant lyrics on the album that just provide an excellent summation of the scenery they show such passion for. Meteors, stars, the whole non-luminescence we all take for granted. They connect such nature to love in one of my favorites, “Vanilla Twilight”, as well as on “If My Heart Was A House”, where he dances and embraces under a sun held from a string. Adam Young, the sole member, makes his voice almost as visual as the words sung out of it, as he allows it to travel and echo and carry with the many harmonies he creates on each song, in a perfect order.
I won’t dissect albums track-by-track, because it makes an album all to microscopic. The best albums are defined as a whole scope, and this album fits that bill when it comes to electronic music. Again, what makes Own City so unique and outstanding is that they take the largest departure from ‘natural’ sounds in my opinion, that being synthesizers/keyboards, and combine that with the most natural things in the world; our sky, daisies, islands, and insecurity coming down like a tidal wave that myself and many others understand all too well.
It’s music that has very much to do with personal taste more than the quality of the music, so I could see how Owl City could be hated; the bizarreness of their band name, the whole electronic sound, the lack of machismo. Who knows. But in my opinion, the album creates a scene that envisions a combat to my anxiety, and brings me to a place where I actually feel relaxed.
I, too, got lost in this silent ballet.