Showing posts with label Neil Young. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Neil Young. Show all posts

Monday, May 21, 2018

What Makes A Good Song?

As one who has toiled and sweated over songs, I know how hard it is to come up with a good one. I know what constitutes a good one; it's just that I don't know how to create it.

While there are time-tested elements that go into their construction, good songs, too, are subjective. I thought about that while my husband and I were watching a documentary about Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. CSNY are revered, yet I don't get it. They maybe have one song that I semi-like. As the documentary tripped along, clips of the various incarnations of the four guys splashed across the screen. Crosby and Nash at one point formed a duo, and as the commentator stammered that these two guys "were so...were so...", I blurted out, "boring?"

Granted, I don't see the point of acoustic music. I like a good beat. And if I'm looking for introspection, shoot, I can do that on my own dime.The early seventies were like that. Because music fans were lame. "You just call out my name...and you know wherever I am...I'll come runnin'". Okay, thanks. Old dudes like John Kerry think this kind of bad poetry is revelatory. And don't even get me started on Joni Mitchell ~ another "icon" whose songs are like fingernails on a chalkboard. My cat warbles better tunes than Joni ever did.

While I'm primarily a lyricist, I don't put a lot of stock in lyrics. Few songs have ever compelled me to really hear the words. And those that did, just said what they needed to say. They didn't tie them with a baby blue bow and proffer them to me like bewildering puzzles.

Here are two that touched me:

I don't ascribe to the theory that "if you don't understand it, that means it's deep". No, that just means it's self-indulgent.

As far as CSNY goes, here is the (indisputably) best song any of the four guys ever did. And I don't give a rip about the lyrics:

Music is feel. That's why it's music and not poetry. Feelings are non-verbal. 

Figure out that formula and you've roped me in.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Everything's Been Said

My husband told me to write a protest song.  So I did.  I don't like it.  But at least I can say I wrote one song in 2012.

The trouble is, the songs I write when I'm pissed off are ugly to me.  I want to write something pretty.  If I write something.

Everything has been said.  It's been said the same way, with minor variations, ten zillion times.

Thus, the old axiom comes into play.  PLEASE YOURSELF.

This whole music thing is just a scam; a delusion.  Everybody wants to get rich off their music.  Nobody's getting rich.  Nobody is making one thin dime.

Neil Young is recording old folk tunes.  Just like Springsteen did awhile back.  "This Land Is Your Land"?  I sang that in my third grade music recital.  And just as good as Neil does it.  Maybe better.

Even Neil Young has forgone his Harvest Moon days.  If Roy Orbison was alive today, he'd be recording Diane Warren songs.

Because it's all been done.

I think maybe music has an expiration date.  After, say, sometime in the late nineteen eighties, music expired.  Like sour milk.

Why do we all keep going back to the trough of "oldies music"?  Because that's the last time music was good.

I was reading an article in Entertainment Weekly (which is becoming increasingly irrelevant to me), about this HUGE hit song, "Call Me Maybe".  It's supposedly one of the best songs ever created, in the annals of all mankind.

So, curiosity got the best of me, and I checked out the song on YouTube.  I'm always on the lookout for good new music.

What the hell?  

The article went on and on about how this song got wedged into everyone's brain, and they couldn't shake it, no matter how hard they tried.

I couldn't recite one line of that song to you now, if my life depended on it.

This is what passes for genius nowadays?

You be the judge:

I take it, one just has to come up with a three-word hook, and the world will beat a path to their door.

I could probably cobble something together like that, but geez, I just don't want to.

I want to say something, not necessarily profound, but meaningful.  At least to me.

That's where the "please yourself" mantra comes into play. 

If I was to write a song, it would be something pleasing to my ear.  It would be personal.  Not universal, because what is universality nowadays, but another word for crap?

I prefer something like:

I have seen the morning burning
Golden on the mountain in the sky
Achin' with the feelin' of the freedom
Of an eagle when she flies

Neil may have abandoned his Harvest Moon days for oddly-construed renditions of Oh Susanna, but not me. 

The next song I write will be something nice; something that makes me happy to sing it.

And I will make millions of dollars.  In my imagination.  But that's okay. 

I'm going to go old school.  When people wrote songs for the love of music.  Not for the love of riches.

When all bets are off, that's the time when inspiration soars.

I've got no one to let down, except myself.  I don't intend to do that.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pop Songs Are Getting Sadder

Maybe this is what's wrong with the world today.....

Pop music is getting sadder, slower, and more sophisticated, according to a new study published in a psychology journal. Researchers analyzed Top 40 hits in Billboard from the mid-60's through 2010 and discovered that popular tunes have increasingly been written in "minor modes"—which associate with darker emotions, reports Pacific Standard.

The top songs also have gradually become lengthier and slower in tempo, and their messages aren't as straight-forward.

“As the lyrics of popular music became more self-focused and negative over time, the music itself became sadder-sounding and more emotionally ambiguous,” say the researchers. They also pointed out a compelling similarity with the evolution of classical music, although on a much shorter scale. 

Examples abound of songs that are, as the author puts it, "self-focused".  From Taylor Swift's revenge songs about failed relationships, to Adele.  I like Adele a lot.  She's very talented.  I think this is a great song:

The author of the study contends that, as female singers/songwriters become more dominant in the pop music world, the sadder and more self-focused songs tend to prevail.

I will grant you that women tend to write retributive songs.  That's sort of just how we're made (yes, there are actually differences between men and women, contrary to the political talking points).

I've even written one myself.  It's never seen the light of day, because I am not an idiot.  Although, if I'd written one as good as Rollin' In The Deep, then all bets would be off.

Guys whine, too, though.  Just turn your radio dial to the adult contemporary station, and you will be bathed in tunes of self-pity before the next windshield replacement commercial assaults your ears.

It's generational, perhaps.  As a baby-boomer, who could be more self-absorbed than me?  And yet, the Beatles mostly did not feel sorry for themselves.  Look at Paul McCartney.  He was sunshine incarnate.  He even wrote a song about sunshine:

There's a reason, you know, why songs from the sixties live on.  They make us feel good.

I've said a million times that music is supposed to be fun.   That's why we like it!  

Maybe the difference between my generation and the generation of my kids is, they are all concentrated on getting somewhere, whereas we were just enjoying the ride.

Everything now is super-serious.

I'm not passing judgment.  If I hadn't just gone along for the ride, perhaps I would actually have money for my retirement.  But we thought we'd live forever, right?  And never get old.

Maybe there just needs to be a balance.  

The thing is, whether you're just going along for the ride, or whether you're documenting each of your accomplishments on a white board in your expensively granite-tiled kitchen, don't forget about music and love.

Now, doesn't that make you feel better?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Music Recommendation - I Report, You Decide (ha)

I picked up a new CD today. Well, I was returning two CD's that I got for Christmas, two CD's that I already had.

Luckily, I read magazines in my spare time, or I would be ignorant to new, interesting CD's.

So, my mission was to find "Goin' Home - A Tribute To Fats Domino".

Luckily, my local Borders had it in stock. Buying music is a pain, which is why I rarely buy any. Face it, most new music is a waste of money and time.

To digress for a minute, do you have a hard time finding good music in your local stores? I do. The closest store to me is Target, which carries the newest offerings by Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, et al, but would I find "The Bluegrass Sessions" by Merle Haggard there? No. I never buy CD's at Target, because they don't have anything I would want.

We do have a local, independent record store close by, but their selections are minimal in my categories. My categories being, I guess what you would call Alt Country. What used to be just "country" back in the day. Artists like Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart, Gene Watson. My other category is older rock artists who sound more country than the so-called country artists of today. Those would include The Eagles, Neil Young, John Fogerty, Tom Petty.

So, I do most of my music shopping online.

You can find anything you want online (I usually shop at Amazon). BUT what if you want music NOW? What if you don't want to wait five business days to get your music?

Oh, you can download music (again, I use Amazon. And if the song I want is unavailable on Amazon, I go to ITunes or WalMart).

That's all fine and dandy if you want just a song or two. Even if you want a whole album, unless it's an artist you cherish. If it's Dwight or George or Marty, for example, I want the actual physical CD. It's just a personal pecadillo of mine.

So, back to my shopping (returning) expedition today. I headed off to Borders, hoping that I could find "Goin' Home". I returned my two CD's (the lady was rather rude, by the way). Then I went off to flip through the CD racks. Surprisingly, I found it rather quickly. And it was worth it. This is a double CD, with artists such as Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Elton John, Randy Newman, Bonnie Raitt, Norah Jones, and many, many more. Also lots of New Orleans blues.

I am very much enjoying it.

So, here's a promotional video for the CD that I found on YouTube: