Wednesday, July 28, 2010

California Girls (Gurls) by The Beach Boys (Katy Perry)

“California Girls” by The Beach Boys is an important benchmark for the band providing a glimpse into the genius they would reveal the next year in 1966 with their album Pet Sounds. This song may not have featured the most progressive of lyrics but demonstrated a wide array of tone colors and a remarkable musical depth that inspired band like the Beatles to think outside of the box.

“California Gurls” is a song recorded by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg inspired by Jay-Z’s tribute to New York, “Empire State Of Mind.” Released in late May of this year, this song has gone on to become one of the most popular songs of this summer. Katy’s song is a throwback musically and lyrically with 1980s influenced synthesized sounds and cultural references (“Daisy-Dukes”?!? How old do you have to be to get that reference?). Oh, and the music video features Perry transforming her swim suit into a whip cream canon giving the illusions of lactating whip cream out of her mammary glands . . . yeah. . . not so hot.

One of my friends suggested I look at the Katy Perry song but I couldn't help but think about The Beach Boys song that basically has the same name. Does it make sense to compare songs that were recorded 44 years apart? They are from completely different times with completely different musical sensibilities but they do share a spiritual connection.

Both of these songs are tributes to the California from different perspectives. The Beach Boys claim they have traveled the world and while all these other girls they have met are great they don’t match California girls. Katy takes the perspective of an insider talking about how great her girls are and how they will “melt your Popsicle” (man, I don’t even know where to take this one).

What’s stands out to me after listening to these two songs is how progressive the Beach Boys were in their production of their song. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Katy Perry (one of my earlier posts was about “Hot N Cold”), but my God, really listen to what The Beach Boys were doing.

They open “California Girls” with a slow guitar sparkling like the reflection of a sunrise in the ocean. Through the first verse, the Beach Boys add layers of instruments but it’s the second verse where the music gets blown wide open. It’s like someone coming around a corner and suddenly seeing a beach full of people partying and surfing in the sun. The back-up singing, the saxophones, the shining vibraphone and the booming percussion create a Cathedral of soun.

Pointing this out is not a knock against Katy Perry. She has again demonstrated her ability to create catchy tunes, perfect to dance too, exuding her quirky and infectious personality through her vocal performance.

For me, "California Gurls" doesn't quite work for me, some of it is the weird imagery from the video, but most of it comes from comparing it The Beach Boys song which I can't help with song titles so similar.

If you love Katy's song, party on!!  More power to you, every summer needs a song to dance to and Katy's given us a great one.  I'll be here listening to music that's older than I am wondering how The Beach Boys captured the innocence and wonder of summer in music . . . disturbed by the imagery of a girl angrily shooting whip cream out of her bikini top.

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