Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sue singer-songwriters!

It was one of those occasions that music really gets to you. A pleasant location - a quiet pool - and the music on the sound system was not of the unobtrusive elevator style music you can’t remember anymore when the next song starts. It was good solid 1970s style pop music. And it triggered a discussion about music. Well, it was not much of a discussion, because we agreed. Music was better when we were young. So there’s the proof. I’m getting old.

I’m probably too old for today’s popular music. There is so little that interest me. Today’s artists and producers are only reaching back to old familiar songs and use ‘m as samples in a techno beat. And then there is so much superficial commercial dance music that I ask myself: where has the music gone? Surely, Lady Gaga, the much hyped darling of the music industry, somehow fails to connect to my musical taste. In my days – the high school years that are so important in our memory – we listened to rock music. And with the years came the appreciation of all kinds of popular artists and performers. Yes, I started to like classical music as well. But as far as popular music goes, artists should make an effort. We are music consumers, we absorb lyrics and notes, we have a right to be entertained with songs, or if you like, a musical concept that is the result of a joined creative process between writer, artist and producer. Listen to the Stones’ great Miss You – that instrumental downbeat just melts together with passionate way Jagger treats us to the lyrics. I am thrilled when I listen to the 1940s style big band music, how thoroughly produced a complete array of brass instruments can join together in a fascinating piece of music that really illustrates what the word ‘swing’ means. Do not get me started about Frank Sinatra – there has never been greater performer, a singer who can hypnotize his audience. Because he does not sing, no, he acts the lyrics with his voice and timbre.


There are far too many artists and bands I like, and I can’t list ‘m all here. My absolute favorite song is You’re so vain by that great singer Carly Simon. And no rock band can beat Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy – and truly, there has never been a greater music video. And why do I show here a link to Robbie Williams and the lovely Jane Horrocks? Only for the sheer joy you witness when these people perform and the conductor’s enthusiasm… Now that is music.


So why all this? Listening to that 1970s hit song Shout, by The Trammps, we concluded that the music we know as the Philly sound was so good, and that is such a shame that there is so little original worthwhile music today. And we concluded that the utmost uninteresting artists that are so popular today, are the so called singer-songwriters. There is no music that triggers an acute allergy as these thin and shallow songs with me. A shocking level of musical nihilism, that is primarily embraced by the sub intellectual crowd can only be listened too while drinking huge amounts of alcohol. What we would regard as a promising debut by a 17 year old high school kid with a guitar on a school concert, is nothing more as pretentious, but pathetic attempt to bring us amateur style poetry accompanied by an adult with a guitar. Who act as if their audience is their therapy. “Amazing that many of these guys have to perform in bars in their home country, and are only popular around,” a friend once said. Go figure. Today’s singer-songwriters are an insult to legacy of the real great singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Luka Bloom, an apparently popular singer-songwriter, is responsible for this impressive lyric, of which I shall only give you a few lines:

Everyday is the rainy season
Every night is a full moon
Whenever I’m with you darling
Love is a monsoon
Goosebumps all around my skin
Whenever you come into the room
Fresh wild smell of jasmine
Love is a monsoon

I won’t continue, this kind of kindergarten poetry is enough to sue the writer. And we bring evidence. This is what the great Leonard Cohen wrote:

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she's half crazy
But that's why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you've always been her lover

And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you've touched her perfect body with your mind.

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you'll trust him
For he's touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbor
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror

And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she's touched your perfect body with her mind

I rest my case.

Leonard Cohen

1 comment:

  1. Cornelius KoelewijnJanuary 18, 2011 at 9:40 PM

    Was music really better in the past, or am I just getting old? I'm afraid both are true...
    Personally I like British new wave from the early eighties. Sparkling, vibrant, creative and musically sound. That's what I hear listening to The Specials, Madness, The Cure, Fisher Z, New Order, The Jam, The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees and and many other bands from that time. And it was all DIY... Amazing. Even after all those years.

    To me much of the modern pop music has lost it's appeal. It's either boring (techno, dance) or just too commercial (Lady Gaga) - invented to fill just another void in the market.
    And singer-songwriters? I ignore 'm - not my cup of tea.

    May I add a lyric too? This was written in the eighties, at the time the UK was terrorized by Mrs. Thatcher.

    Walls come tumbling down - The Style Council


    You don't have to take this crap
    You don't have to sit back and relax
    You can actually try changing it
    I know we've always been taught to rely
    Upon those in authority -
    But you never know until you try
    How things just might be -
    If we came together so strongly

    Are you gonna try to make this work
    Or spend your days down in the dirt
    You see things can change -
    YES an' walls can come tumbling down!

    Governments crack and systems fall
    'cause Unity is powerful -
    Lights go out - walls come tumbling down!

    The competition is a colour TV
    We're on still pause with the video machine
    That keep you slave to the H.P.

    Until the Unity is threatend by
    Those who have and who have not -
    Those who are with and those who are without
    And dangle jobs like a donkey's carrot -
    Until you don't know where you are

    Are you gonna realize
    The class war's real and not mythologized
    And like Jericho - You see walls can come tumbling down!

    Are you gonna be threatend by
    The public enemies No. 10 -
    Those who play the power game
    They take the profits - you take the blame -
    When they tell you there's no rise in pay

    Are you gonna try an' make this work
    Or spend your days down in the dirt -
    You see things CAN change -
    YES an' walls can come tumbling down!

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