Monday, August 30, 2010

Rocks Off by The Rolling Stones

What is the greatest opening song on an album?

My long-standing answer was “Second Hand News” by Fleetwood Mac from their masterpiece Rumours.



Even though it’s not my favorite song on the albums, “Second Hand News” perfectly introduces the musical landscape as well as complex emotional themes of the whole album. It’s the perfect opening chapter.  However, now my answer has changed. I got to give this one to “Rocks Off” the opening song of the Rolling Stones’ album, Exile on Main St..



Exile On Main St. is a double album the Stones released in 1972. Avoding paying taxes they owed the British government the Stones rented a villa in France near Nice and recording in legendary sessions what many consider the Stones’ masterpiece.

“Rocks Off” from a technical standpoint is a mess. The balance of instruments shifts unintentionally, Jagger’s singing is makes the lyrics even harder to understand than usual. However like my favorite Stone’s song “Tumblin’ Dice” (which I discussed on this earlier post) which is also from this album, what you need to do is focus on the single transcendent factor that makes this song rock SO hard: the feel.

It's in Keith Richard’s drunk sounding laid back guitar playing that seems to barely fit in the beat working against Bill Wyman’s steady bass line and Charlie Watts driving beat. It’s the nasty sounding horns that add colors of harmony in loud brash colors and of course it’s Jagger’s bluesy delivery of a man who still can’t find satisfaction.

At the end of the chorus (1:15, 3:07) my favorite parts of this song, we hear the most beautiful mess. Overdubs of back-up singers and Jagger make an incomprehensible mix covered up by brassy interjections, random sounding piano fills and the rest of the band playing with abandons seeming to be completely unaware of whatever else is going on in the band. For a moment it feels like that the band will actually fall apart during this but they don't.  It’s awesome, it’s musically astounding and one of the finest examples of what is Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The rest of Exile On Main St. follows a similar vein, diving deep into blues adding rock attitude and sensibility. What the Stones’ remind us that this idea of the Rock musician’s lifestyle including drugs and debauchery is about freedom and what makes this meaningful is not the fact that the Stones’ lived this lifestyle. Rather, it’s the fact that the created music that captured this feeling of youth, depravity but most of all freedom that makes it so feel good to be alive.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Buffy, My "Original Sin"

[Buffy-B, Me-K]
B-DUCKY?

K-Sigh, not right now Buffy I need to finish this work.

B-FISHY??

K-Really, I know you just want to play, but I got this meeting I need to prepare for.

B-PIGGY?!?

K-Give me a second girly, hang on . . .

B-UM . . . SQUIRREL . . . ?

As Buffy looked at me with her squirrel toy hanging out of her mouth, I noticed all of the toys she had brought over to me. I still had a lot of work to do to prepare for a meeting the next morning but as I looked into her eyes, I put my papers down, sat down on the floor, exhaled and let the stress I carried slide off.

Reaching out to grab the toy she presented to me I noticed that the iTunes program my computer had randomly selected “Original Sin” by Elton John.  As I listened to the soft and loving contours of this song I decided that the work could wait and it was time to go for a walk with my puppy.

Buffy really is my “original sin.”



“Original Sin” is from Elton John’s comeback album “Songs From The West Coast” which featured the song “I Want Love” which I discussed in this earlier post. Continuing the theme of using other people to star in his videos, Elton John chose Mandy Moore as a Cinderella-like character in love with Elton John who is shunned by her mother and father (played by Elton John).

Bernie Taupin, John’s lyricist takes the idea of the “original sin” away from its Biblical roots and describes an irresistible relationship. Romantic clichés, “I can’t eat, can’t sleep,” describe the feeling of longing for love but what got to me when I looked at Buffy was the chorus, “Tell me how, you know now, the ways and means of getting in underneath my skin.”

Buffy is not an aggressive dog. She has a quiet way about her and an earnestness that is heartwarming. I think this is why she’s gotten so many people who aren’t “dog people” to like her. It helps that she’s a cute-looking puppy but what makes her special is how much she simply wants to be with you.

Often when I’m trying to do work, she comes up to me with toys wanting to play. Sometimes I get a little annoyed but when I look at her, really look at her I’m reminded that all she wants to do in interact with me, to make a connection.

I know, Buffy is a dog and maybe she’s just being single-minded, selfish and just wants attention and wants to play. But maybe she’s just loves me just as much as I love her and she’s simply trying to take care of me the only way she knows how to.

I don’t know how Buffy got under my skin, but like most things in life, it's the mystery, the magic that makes a relationship, a look in an eye and a moment so special.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How To Suceed At A Job Interview! (even if you don't get the job)

Everyone has advice about job interviews. Even your grandmother who has never held a job in her entire life seems to have something to offer on this subject. The best in when people tell you contradictory advice: “make sure that you prepare ahead of time for any question they answer but you want to make sure that when you answer their questions you sound spontaneous.”

Really?
REALLY?!?

How spontaneous can you sound when you are reciting a memorized paragraph. Unless “acting” is part of the job description, being able to pretend that you are answering in a way that in not genuine doesn’t really seem like a great plan (I’m not saying don’t prepare questions, just don’t memorize speeches).

What do I got for you after going through about ten job interviews in my life?  Well, some advice, of course, where did you think this was going?

However this is different kind of job interview advice, this will help you get through the interview and accomplish the most important thing about the experience.  NO it’s not getting the job, but feeling after the interview that you have no regrets.  Isn’t the point of a job interview to get a job? No, the point of a job interview is to find the right job.

If you go into a job interview and answer all of the questions trying to please the interviewer pretending to be something you are not and you get the job, than you’ll probably have a miserable time at the job. The interviewer will expect you to be the person during that job interview that wasn’t really you and you might get fired because of this.

Instead, be yourself. Go into a job interview and lay it all out there: This is who I am, this is the way I feel about life, this is my experience and this is why I want this job. Once you get yourself out there, they can take it or leave it. If they see who you really are, and don’t want you, it’s better they find out now and not two months into a job,  If they like what they see, awesome.  What they see is you and being yourself on daily basis is no problem.

Remember, you are awesome.

Be proud of what you got, even if that means you have limited experience in a field. Never apologize for who you are and what you’ve done with your life. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know,” especially if you really don’t know what the interviewer is talking about. Take a second to think before you speak; there’s nothing wrong with a thoughtful silence.  And most of all, don’t answer with the question you think they want to hear, respond to the question with what you truly believe.

If you do these things, you will walk about from a job interview feeling proud and will have no regrets regardless of the outcome.  It’s a hard thing looking for a job, but have faith.  Things have a way of working out themselves out for the best as long as you true to yourself.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bui-Doi (from Miss Saigon)

[A conversation between myself (T) and one of my fourth grade student (J)]

J: Mr. Tang, are you married?
T: Yes I am
J: What’s your wife’s name?
T: Diana
J: Is she Asian?
T: No, actually she’s Caucasian, white like you
J: hmm . . . so when you have kids are they going to be Asian or normal?
T: [sigh], no actually. . . well, our kids aren't going to be either, they will be a mix of Asian and Caucasian
J: ohhhhhhh . . .

Most people are mixed race. My wife for example is 1/4 British, 1/4 Polish and 1/2 um. . . white. Keep in mind that once upon a time Polish, Jewish as well as Italians were perceived to be a different race and not "white."

As American culture has developed being "white" has taken on many groups that used to be minorities with the influx of other minorities including, Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans. The only difference between a mixed-race person who is Polish, English and Jewish and someone who is African-American and Asian is that the latter person is visually more apparent to be a mixed race because of the fact that there simply are fewer of that "mixture" in our country.

Diana and I are going to have children that are mixed and I'm glad that we live in a society that in general speaks highly of mixed race kids. Many people both Asian and Caucasian have commented that kids who are half-Asian and half-white are very attractive (i.e. Keanu Reeves, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Jennifer Tilly).  In a way, our children represent the American dream of racial harmony however that’s not necessarily the case for all children of mixed race.

There were many things left behind by the American military when we left at the end of the Vietnam war, devastated cities, unexploded bombs that littered the countryside and mixed raced children created by members of the American military. In no way am I implying that the American are completely at fault for this. Vietnamese woman had a role in this in many different ways but regardless of who’s to blame for these children the bottom line is that they exist as “Bui-Doi,” the dust of life, outcasts from society.

In the middle of the brilliant musical “Mrs. Saigon” a remake of the opera, Madam Butterfly, a Vietnam Veteran makes an impassionate speech to raise money to aid these children.



Starting with an a capella men’s choir coming out of the darkness, this songs unfolds into a solo voice. There is passion and desperation built into the songs which while framed as a persuasive speech making us reconsider the role that we played in these children’s lives.

I don’t think anyone would disagree with the tragedy and the sentiment in this song. These really are “all our children too.” While I’m glad that my children will not be viewed as “half-breeds” I can’t but think that we all have the potential to view children in our country as “Bui-Doi” to a degree.

No matter how much my children try to be “American” they will always be perceived byr the mainstream as a minority. Some of this may be positive stereotypes like that they are good at math, or more disturbing negative stereotypes like that they are North Koreans who want to blow up America. I’m not saying we are there right now but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture people getting there.

“Bui-Doi” is reminder not only a plea crisis that we must take responsibility for but it’s also a reminder of the danger of projecting our fears, insecurities and anger upon children punishing them for our own failures.

They are all our children too.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Experiecing The Joy Of Painting WIth Bob Ross

To know Bob Ross is to know peace, happiness and serenity.

I’m talking about the guy with the ‘fro who hosted a painting instruction show on PBS called “The Joy Of Painting.” Yes, you heard me right, I’m dedicating a post to a THAT guy.



When my brother, Ed was in high school he started watching. I was in middle school at the time and got annoyed when I found that Ed was watching a painting show. After arguing with him and eventually giving up, I begrudgingly sat down to watch this guy paint. In retrospect, simply not watching television was of course an option but at the time I felt like I had to make a stand.

After about 10 minutes I was converted.

The late Bob Ross spoke with soft and warm affect of Mr. Rogers and painted with the same spirit and abandon Julia Child cooked with. As he magically created his world on canvas he softly encouraged the audience making us believe that we could create the painting as well. Like Child, he embraced mistakes as part of the creative process inspiring the audience to explore art without trepidation.



Everything he did was done with such peaceful joy, even when he did the fan-favorite, “beat the devil” washing his brush.



I love how he chuckles EVERY time he beats his brush. I seriously laugh every time he laughs in this clip.

Everything in Bob Ross' world was happy. He paints happy tree, happy houses and even happy little glaciers.



Ross explained when asked about optimistic demeanor: “That's why I paint. It's because I can create the kind of world that I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it. Shoot, if you want bad stuff, watch the news."

Through his show Ross created a world where happy little things including all of us coexisted.  His show creating happiness and peace and inspires us all to paint the kind of world we want in my life.

Using Ross’ words that he closed each show wish: "I'd like to wish you happy painting, and God bless, my friend."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

She by Elvis Costello (from Notting Hill)

She is song of contradictions, embracing the complexities, the mystery and haunting power of a woman. Reminiscent of Billy Joel’s “She’s Always A Woman” (which I discussed in this earlier post), Costello performs a portrait that is beautiful not despite of its contradictions but because of them.



Originally recorded in 1974 by Charles Aznavour, “She” was a major hit in the United Kingdom reaching the top of the charts



Costello recorded the song for the 1999 film Notting Hill starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant.



Modernizing the orchestral background creating a richer and warmer texture, Costello sing brings his punk rock-new wave edge to the song expressing the lyrics with a complex sense of frustration and wonder that perfectly reflects the film.

Notting Hill on the surface seems like a typical romantic comedy. Charmingly befuddle William Thacker (Hugh Grant), a small time book seller meets a huge Hollywood actor, Anna Scott played by Julia Roberts and they fall in love. Like a reverse Cinderella story the Princess makes the commoners dream come true. However this film is so much more than that.

Director Robert Mitchell creates a deliberately passes this film, has Julia Roberts have shockingly little dialogues and steers clear of the conventions that have made the Romantic Comedy the bane of the male movie going population.

William while at odds by the Hollywood lifestyle isn’t impressed by it. He has a sense of security and predictability in his life that Anna doesn’t.  Anna is insecure and venerable who is simply “just a girl standing in front of a boy asking her to love her” as Anna tells William in the end.

The trailers does a horrible job expressing the mood of the film. Rather check out this amazing scene which shows the passage of time simply through the changing weather as William walks down the street.



“She” bookends Notting Hill serving as both the introduction of the Anna Scott and closes the film celebrating the love the William and Anna find (yes, I spoiled the ending for you, two characters in a romantic comedy fall in love in the end)

The amazing part is how the song transforms through the course of the film as we take the journey with characters and resonates with us long after the film is over.  This is a rare example of when two art forms complement each other, trying them together in our memory creating an experience that makes us willing to a watch a Romantic Comedy. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nuestro Himno (Spanish language version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”)

Does the thought of the English language not doing being the majority spoken language make you uncomfortable? Does the idea of Caucasians in America being a minority seem wrong? Do you think America be an inferior country if the majority of citizens were Muslim and Buddhist as opposed to Christian?

There is something weird in the air. Controversy about allowing Muslim to build their house of worship, illegal immigration suspicions in Arizona, Senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle trying to play with the Latino vote.  Let those thoughts simmer and we’ll come back to that. We’ll take a look at music as a way to examines some of our feelings about America.

During the 2006 United States immigration reform protest a group of Spanish speaking musicians to show support for Hispanic immigration. This song featured a modernized beat and a departure from the traditional musical setting of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”



There is a Code, approved by Congress that defines the way that our national anthem should always be performed.  This code outlines the appropriate times to perform this song, the key and the specific tempo in which to perform this song.

According to the code very few people every perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” the “correct” way. If you want to make a stand that this Spanish language version is not appropriate, that’s fine just make sure you include other variations as being inappropriate including:

Jimi Hendrix-incorrect instrumentation



Whitney Houston-incorrect meter



And my personal favorites: Igor Stravinsky-incorrect harmony (which led to a police seizure of the music)



I revel in this multiple interpretations of the national anthem. Like the beautiful multiplicity of American culture, these version reflect the people and experiences that constantly redefine what it means to be American.

I believe that the way that we react to art is a reflection of the way that we react to other things in our lives and the way we feel about “The Star-Spangled Banner” reflects the way we feel about America.

Before you start arguing for an English speaking, Christian and Caucasian ideal of America please consider the beauty in the variations in our beautiful National Anthem.  If you think that people should perform this song one way and that Americans all should be Caucasian and Christian that's fine.  You have the right to create that community, but you don't need everyone in America to be that way for you to have that experience.  

America is not defined by a language, a religion or a race, it's defined by the idea that we have the freedom to chose the way we want to live whether it's in a all prodminantly African-American community or a going to a church filed with interracial couples.  It's in embracing this freedom that we find our greatest strengths, our truest spirit and our love for America.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Buffy's On A Plane!!

The prospect of putting a dog a plane is an scary one. There are many stories online of dogs getting sick, traumatized and even dying on plane flights. So, when we decided to fly to Seattle from Chicago with Buffy, it was an intimidating idea.

K, IM ALL PACKD AN READY 2 GO!!!!

When you take dogs on planes there are two choices: checking the dog right under the cockpit in a temperature controlled but checked luggage situation or taking the dog on board as a carry-on bag and stick the dog under the seat in front of you  Almost all of the really scary “dog dying on the plane stories” are a result of checking the dog under the cockpit, so we felt a little better knowing that Buffy would be on board with us.

OMG!!! SECURITY IZ REDIKULUS!!!!  GRRR. . .

The weight limit for dogs on plane is usually about 20 pounds but the thing is about Buffy is that even though she is only 12 pounds she is a tall dog for her weight. It was tough to find a carrier tall enough for her to sit, stand, and lie down comfortably. What we found to help accommodate this is the Sturdibag brand dog carriers.

We got the large size and it was the perfect size for Buffy. Flexible rods in the bag could easily be bent so the bag could be put into a smaller space—in this case, the low height of the seat in front. The bag has great ventilation, easy–to-carry shoulder straps, and a really cute hole on the top that Buffy could stick her head out of to see what was going on. Also, Buffy amazingly figured out how to climb out of the bag out of that hole, to our surprise.

I'S ON PLANE!!!!

The thing is that even after doing research, finding the dog areas at each airport, getting Buffy on a schedule that lined up with the plane flights, and thoroughly tiring Buffy out with play dates, I was still nervous about taking Buffy on a plane.

We’ve been through a lot with Buffy and she’s proved herself a resilient, strong and a really “good dog” but it still really worried me what would happen on the plane. I mean what if she needed to go to the bathroom or just started to whine for no reason? What would we do?

SIGH . . . K IM STILL ON PLANE . . .

The thing is that you can’t make decision in life according to worst-case scenarios. Am I never going to drive my car because sometimes people die? No, of course not.

WE LANDD!!! AN I SNUCK OUT OV TEH BAG!!!! HEEHEE
 
So we took a chance got Buffy to the airport, through security, and on the plane. After a temporary escape from the bag, Buffy sat in her bag for three hours and forty minute and didn’t make a sound. She reminded us that she’s a sturdy and even-tempered little trooper.

GIT ME OFF DA PLANE!!!

Yes, it cost an extra $100 to take Buffy onto the plane and the stress of the whole process was indeed palpable but it was definitely worth it to travel as a whole family and watch my mom run around the house in delight playing with my little angel.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Strong Enough by Sheryl Crow

“Are you strong enough to be my man?



With one question, Sheryl Crow redefines what it truly means to be not only with a woman that you care about but for a woman that you love.  When men consider whether or not they should be in a relationship with a woman they more often questions their attraction to their partner, how they feel about them or whether or not that person is enriching their lives. While all of those things are important what Crow asking is completely different may be the most important questions of all?

Now it may not seem a flattering to propose that guys need to be “strong enough” to be with a woman. In this song, Crow displays a strong and independent spirit juxtaposed with a more desperate chorus “lie to me, I promise I’ll believe, but please don’t leave.” On surface, it seems that Crow is asking “are you strong enough to deal with my crazy mood swings?”

What Crow is actually expressing is the spectrum of our reactions to life and showing us what it truly means to be strong. Do you know how to react to a woman who is saying “you can’t change the way I am,” who later asks you to lie to her? Do you understand when not to take it personally or when the song is actually about you?

When you share a life with somebody you share in everything, the good and the bad. This means that your life has twice the triumphs but also twice the challenges. While the insecurities of your partner may not be ones that you have, it takes a remarkable amount of strength to empathize and be there with them in these moments.

My wife and I have been very blessed. We’ve been lucky enough to have not gone through any extraordinary challenges or tragedies in our time together. However there is a lot that life throws at us and it’s not always easy to keep plugging ahead. It seems that every time that I’m at a loss, Diana has the strength to encourage me to keep going and at times when Diana feels lost I’m there to show her the way. That doesn’t mean that I get to be less strong but rather that Diana’s spirit brings out the strength deep inside of me that sometimes gets lost in the turmoil of the storm.

Next time you are deciding whether to be with someone ask yourself if you are strong enough not only to deal with the challenges of your life but also the struggles of someone else’s. But don’t fear if you have doubt because sometimes it’s in the eyes of a woman that you love that you find that strength inside of you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I Want Love by Elton John

Robert Downey Jr. is back.

This Academy Award nominated actor proved himself one the best actors of his generation but in the late 1990s was getting more press for his frequent drug-related arrests than his acting. After multiple drug rehabilitation programs he started focusing on his career again. In 2007, Downey made a critical and commercial comeback playing Tony Stark in the blockbuster Iron Man. Downey’s road back to stardom began a lot earlier than this comic book movie with the first acting job he got out of his final stint in rehab, an Elton John music video.

Elton John’s 2001 album “Songs From The West Coast” was a return to greatness John. After numerous albums in the 1990s which only had moderate successes (well, except for The Lion King soundtrack), Elton collaborated with his old lyricist Bernie Taupin, old members of his band and returned to the piano based music that made him famous. Reminding us all why we love Elton John, this album has been followed by two other similar albums and the musical Billy Elliot! which represent some of the best work that Elton has ever created.

In 2001, music videos were one of the most important promotional tools in music but the problem was that Elton hated making music videos. So director, Sam Taylor-Wood cast Robert Downey Jr., fresh out of rehab to star in the music video for “I Want Love,” the first single from the album.



Shot with one continuous shot, this amazing video features Robert Downey Jr. walking through an empty mansion lip-synching to Elton John’s song. The director shot 16 takes of the video and chose the last one because John felt that he was relaxed and “the way he underplays it is fantastic.”

“I Want Love” is one of Elton John’s most honest and painful songs. It’s about someone who yearns for love but feels that he can never be loved. Lines like “I can’t love, shot full of holes” describe a sense of inner turmoil and depression. Downey perfectly captures this in the video sometimes looking in the camera but more often looking away like he cannot face us as he admits his own pain.

Everything is stripped away from Downey in this video, there is no special effects, no bravado and even his voice is taken away. What Downey does with what is left is a truly masterful piece of acting, nuanced, subtle and touching.

"I Want Love" is a beautiful example of two artist coming back to themselves reminding us that even though we might find some entertainment in the drama of celebrities' personal lives it's in their that art we find even greater joy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The End Of The Internet?

Yesterday the Federal Communications Commision meeting on Net Neutrality broke down.
Earlier, The New York Times reported that Google and Verizon were working on a deal to end Net neutrality. Google and Verizon are denying this.  These two news items may be specters of doom for the Internet.

Net neutrality is a principal that states that there are no restrictions by anyone, internet service providers or government on the content of the internet. This means that over my Comcast broadband it’s just as easy for me to reach a enormous site like amazon.com as it is to reach my favorite comic book message boards on comicgeekspeak.com. If what people are speculating is true, this could all quickly end.

The idea that is that internet service provider (ISP) can offer a premium fee and get better access to websites. For example, you pay $10 more a month and cnn.com, amazon.com and apple.com are now faster websites to use on your computer. What’s bad about that?

By offering a tiered system ISPs are indirectly controlling content. Why would you use an up and coming search engine when bing.com loads faster with your premium Internet package?

The Internet has been called the greatest expression of democracy. It’s a place where a couple people with a great idea can change the world. I still remember going on youtube.com the week was launched and there were only 30 videos uploaded, facebook.com when it was limited college students and google.com back when search engines like metacrawler.com and altavista.com were still around. If an ISP gives us a faster premium for sites that are backed by large business that can afford to pay the ISP fees than what happens to the little guy?

You can argue, “well, whatever, we live in a capitalistic society, this is how business works, big companies who have more capital have an advantage because of that.” My response is “so what?” Go ahead, call me a communist or whatever, God forbid that we have something in culture, something in our society that isn’t dictated by the almighty dollar.  The paradigm that makes the internet so great explains why it's been so difficult to make money for traditional business to figure out how to make money online.  

I love how the internet puts everyone on the same playing field. I love how the access we have to information is really access to people around the world and I love how even the smallest website can bring people together.

Maybe everything will change and when my kids are using the Internet they will only be going to the “premium sites” and scoff at the idea of going to a site created by a fan. I hope not.

If that does happen I will fondly reminisce about the time when a blog written just some guy who loved music could be reached just as easily as the New York Times.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I’ll Make Love To You by Boyz II Men

Last week when I was at the dentist, I tried to turn my attention away from the oh so pleasurable experience of getting my teeth cleaned and found salvation in the music that was playing over the office speakers.

The music started out was perfectly appropriate: elaxing 1990s, non-offensive love songs “I Swear” by All 4 One. Then as the scrapping part of the cleaning began I heard the unmistakable introduction of “I’ll Make Love To You” by Boyz II Men.



This just felt wrong.

Now this had nothing to do with the hygienist who was cleaning my teeth. She was friendly and professional and didn’t ask me questions when I had no way of answering them (God, I hate it when dentist do that).  It was just that getting my teeth cleaned and listening to a song about “making love” was one of the oddest juxtapositions I’ve experienced in a long time.

“I’ll Make Love To You” was huge. This song was everywhere. It topped of the charts for 14 weeks!! The music video was being played all of the time and if you listened to the radio at all when this song was out it seemed to be played on every single station.

I don’t know what was going on when this song was out. Was there simply nothing else for people to listen to? I was in middle school when this song came out and people my age loved this song, what?!? How did this song appeal to us? I guess I can understand how some lonely spinster would play into the fantasy of the song but the rest of the world?

Maybe there’s some answers in the music video.



The video opens with a man (Dwayne) who is finishing up installing a security system. He talks the woman (Ms. Sparks!!), who asks him out, he can’t go out with her so he gives her his personal phone number if she has any questions about the system. Thinking about Ms. Sparks, Dwayne sits down and tries to write her a letter. Not knowing what to say he copies down lyrics of the song in the letter and sends it to her. Reading the letter, Ms. Sparks swoons.

Boyz II Men are singing “I’ll Make Love To You” as if they are doing something for the woman that they would not normally do, something amazing that she asks for and doesn’t get. If this song was about something that would really take effort for a guy to do for a girl it would be more like “I’ll Clean Up The House For You,” “I’ll Do Grocery Shopping And Do All The Cooking For You” or “I’ll Stop Making Moves On You When You’re Clearly Not In The Mood.”

Wait a second, I think I just figured out the appeal of this song. This song isn’t a fantasy for woman, it’s a fantasy for men. Think about it. Can you imagine if telling a girl that you “would make love to them” was enough to make a girl want to be with you? God knows that most woman would be creeped out beyond belief if a guy who they just met told them that.

Boyz II Men created a song that song that sounded like it appealed to woman, so guys bought it to help them be romantic AND the songs appealed to guys misconceptions of romance.

Anyways, I don't know what's going to bother me more, the fact that when I hear "I'll Make Love To You" I'll think about being at the dentist or the fact that next time I have my teeth cleaned I'll be thinking about "I'll Make Love To You." [shudder].

Monday, August 2, 2010

Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’Connor

Two single tears falling down the face of an angel.

Sinead O’Connor in the music video for “Northing Compares 2 U” is one of the most striking, powerful and unforgettable images in popular music.



This video features a close-up of O’Conner’s face singing with only a couple interjections of her walking around Paris.  There’s no gimmicks her just Sinead. When she looks into the camera it’s like she’s looking straight at you and as the intensity builds and when she cries (4:00 in) you feel like she is in the room with you breaking down.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” was originally written by Prince and it makes perfect sense when you hear him perform it.



This song features Prince’s soulful melodies and characteristically quirky but personal lyrics. People argue about which version is better and while this debate is interesting both artists have very different approaches. Prince takes this more as gospel song and an expression of love while Sinead makes it a more personal expression of anguish.

As much as Sinead’s striking beauty attracted people to her music video, it was her voice that was truly remarkable. Everything about the production puts the focus squarely on the voice of Sinead O’Conner. While there are subtle and interesting nuances in the organic and gently progression of the harmony the washed out musical landscape never draws attention to itself.

There are bluesy notes that Sinead almost gnarls through and there are also angelic high notes that she floats up to. She does it all using different colors and shades in her tone.  While this performance was rehearsed and practiced it comes across simply as effortless expression.

Almost thirty years after it’s original release Sinead O’Connor performed “Nothing Compares 2 U” in Belgium.



O’Connor said that she didn’t want to be successful because of her beauty which is why she originally cut her hair short. Well, she was still a beauty even without hair in 1990 when released “Northing Compares 2 U.”

No longer the young girl with the angelic face and the teardrops, Sinead now gets her wish and proves to all of us what a great artist without any of those things. And while it may seems a trite way to conclude, it’s true, nothing really compares Sinead O’Connor.