Monday, January 3, 2011

It’s My Party by Leslie Gore/Quincy Jones & Amy Whinehouse

As Diana danced around the room with Buffy in her arms singing “It’s My Party,” changing the lyrics to “It’s My Buffy,” I smiled at this cute display of affection not really thinking much about the song.

“It’s My Party” by Leslie Gore is one of those 1960s pop songs that everyone knows. It’s so deeply embedded into our pop culture that we don’t really think about it. Like a single tree in a forest, what makes this song unique and special gets lost in the larger view.

Then I read in Rolling Stone that Amy Whinehouse teamed up with Mark Ronson to record this song on a tribute album to Quincy Jones. Now I absolutely love Ronson’s work with Whinehouse. Ronson’s signature as a producer is to record 1960s style background instrumentals with live instruments mixed with an dark modern sensibility. With songs like “Rehab” he created grooves that were so undeniably infectious that you can’t help but take notice.

I immediately downloaded this song from iTunes and listened to it in awe.

I personally love Amy Whinehouse’s voice. It’s a beautiful soulful disaster and I understand why her voice sounds to some as incomprehensible warbling, but it works for me. Regardless of how you feel about the vocals you got to give credit to Ronson’s brilliant production. It’s groovy, dark and mysterious.

Now you may be wondering as I was, what “It’s My Party” has to do with Quincy Jones. Well, Jones who has produced some of the most important music in popular culture (everything from Count Basie to Michael Jackson’s Thriller) started his career with “It’s My Party” as the first single he produced.

If you take a listen to Leslie Gore’s version carefully with fresh ear you realize how astounding this song is.

Quincy Jones' instrumental arrangements are impossibly intricate and tight (check out the brass hits right before Gore starts singing). The bass and drums lock in like a drum machine but groove like only live musicians can.

In front of all of this is Leslie Gore’s vocals.  Somehow  Jones pushes her voice into the foreground in the recording so her voice is right in your face. It’s impossible to ignore her voice in a texture of instruments that she could have easily gotten drowned out if not for Jones production.

Then there’s the odd but brilliantly powerfully lyrics about a girl who’s heart is being broken at her own party but exclaims that since it’s her party she can do whatever she wants, even cry.  This is a powerful embrace of emotion and through this statement, there is independence and a whole lot of soul. When she sings “you would cry to, if it happen to you” you realize she’s right.

Sometimes we take for granted for things that are always around and when you take a look a closer look at something with a fresh perspective you never know what you can find.

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