Artists and Thought Processes

I have a few friends who are musicians, one of them who actually busts his ass to make a living from it (and it doing quite well thank you very much). One of the things that I have always respected about musicians is their ability to recognize what works with them and what doesn’t. I guess you could say I like the artists who know where their boundaries are, but at the same time aren’t afraid to push them a bit or challenge themselves to do new things.

Let’s start with a couple of good examples. Tom Jones (or Sir Tom Jones…aka Thomas Jones Woodward). Most of us know him for his swinging 60’s style, tight pants/puffy shirt combo and songs like “What’s New Pussycat”, “Green Green Grass of Home” and the theme to the James Bond “Thunderball” movie. Say what you want about the guy, but he can sing. So while I have heard him sing a bunch of things (one of my favourites is hearing him sing “Sunny” with Ella Fitzgerald…one of my favourite all time songs covered by two great artists…and just about every other artist you can think of…you can hear it here…to hear a great Jay Kay/Jools Holland version, click here…and the original ultimate sexy version from Bobby Hebb here ) I was completely blown away when I heard him sing “Love Letters” with Jeff Beck on Martin Scorcese’s “Red, White and Blues” series of DVDs.  Do yourself a favour and listen to him knock it out of the park here or even better, listen to him hammer “Going Down Slow” here. Tom Jones is smart enough to know his voice and how it will work in different settings and he uses that well.

Okay, one more.  Damon Albarn.  The musical journey that Damon Albarn has taken throughout his career has been, well, amazing.  Going from early Blur to late Blur was enough of a journey in styles.  For example, consider when they released “She’s So High” (and were of course compared to the Stone Roses) compared to what can be considered the early middle part of Damon’s musical change with songs like “Death of a Party” to the late middle part with songs like “Tender” to the end (?) of Blur with songs like “Brothers and Sisters”. But what has to be remembered is that in between, Damon started doing all of the Gorillaz work, which was not only the songs, but the whole concept behind the band.  We also had the fortune to see him perform with a one off band he created called The Good, The Bad & The Queen (which was an amazing concert I attended), make an album “Mali Music” which raised money for Oxfam, and do some soundtracks too.  The list goes on.  We have lately seen him delve into Monkey: Journey to the West, which was an opera he developed in conjunction with Chen Shi-zheng, based on the old Chinese legend.  We have seen him choose his spots wisely and it has benefitted him (and really us all) over the years.

So when you have an artist like Prince develop a song like his fight song for the Minnesota Vikings, which he was compelled to write after going to a game and being so moved by the team, you have to wonder, “What the hell were you thinking?”.  Prince has been around a long time and has managed to remain relevant.  He also put on what I consider to be the best Superbowl halftime show ever in 2007.  If you haven’t heard this atrocity, check it out here. The first time I heard this, I thought it was a joke.  I mean, this could be one of the worst songs I have ever heard…and I am including Le Boyfriend and his collection in there too (for those of you who have never experienced Quebec culture, watch this video from him and them come talk to me about distinct society).  I can’t believe that Prince went home after the game, sat down and wrote this song and said, “Yep, that’s what would make me want to go out and kick some football ass.”  I mean, this is the anti-fight song.  If you had any fight in you at all that day, this would absolutely take it out of you and replace it with pure and utter confusion.  I’m all for people making mistakes, God knows I have made some, but this is inexcusable.

So here’s the album that actually made me write this post.  It’s Lil’ Wayne’s new album “Rebirth” which in one word is craptastic.  Lil’ Wayne all of a sudden thinks that he is a rock artist and that the world needs to hear him spew all over a track with guitars in the background.  The funny thing is that with some of his lyrics on past albums, I was never offended, but hearing him attempt to fool the world into thinking this was a good idea?  Yep, it’s very insulting.  If he wanted to take a tip from a hip-hop artist who recently branched out, maybe he should have looked at Ghostface, whose latest album had a more R&B tip to it.  As I mentioned a little over a month ago, I was skeptical of that album, but it worked.  This thing Lil’Wayne has released is a mess.  At least I think I know why he did it…because he is so on top of the hip-hop world right now that he figured he could do no wrong.  It’s like going to a bar a couple of nights and actually picking up on back to back nights and all of a sudden you think that you are Alfie.  I also blame his posse.  What Lil’Wayne has proven with this release is that he doesn’t have a single real friend in his posse (or he just chooses to ignore them) because a friend wouldn’t let a friend make a mistake like this.  Somewhere Le Boyfriend is saying, “Rebirth?  C’est rien que de la merde.”  Yep.

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