“You mean well, but you make this hard for me…”

July 9, 2009

Hawthorne Farmer's Market - "Cash or Barter"

Hawthorne Farmer's Market - "Cash or Barter"

As we’ve stumbled into the 21st Century, I’ve noticed an odd preoccupation with getting in touch with our Earthy, 20th & 19th century roots. I assume this is just a silly phase we need to go through before cars start flying, but I’m willing to go with it. Case in point, America has gotten preoccupied with open markets again, and we sure know how to make a stink about it. Anachronism is in, man. It’s been in for a while actually. Granted, I’m not saying this is a bad thing. It’s a bit odd, but not bad. You know, about as odd as seeing a vendor peddling the herbs he grew in his back yard while sipping an iced cappuccino from Peet’s Coffee. We just need to be honest with ourselves and accept that we are, indeed, in the future. We’re in a future run by the past with the “neo” prefix attached to it.

I won’t wear the highbrow musician mask and say that I can’t stand pop music. I can stand pop music, I just don’t typically listen to it. I am, however, a fan of the more acoustic end of the spectrum. Today, “acoustic” is the musical counterpart to “organic” food: plenty of technology guiding the process, it’s just not over-manufactured–and it might cost a little more (vocal harmonizers, looping pedals, and the irony-laden Acoustic Image amplifiers). It’s difficult enough already to justify my preference the acoustic genre without sounding pretentious. I thought about including the label “independent” but I’m not even sure what that means anymore. Saying I’m way into “Indie,” well, that would just make me a card carrying blowhole.

So yes, I bring this up because of Sara Bareilles.

Oh yeah, I said it. Sara Bareilles. I know, I know: The Grammy nominee? That goofy ditty about not writing a love song ? “Dude,” you say, “she is soooooooo last year.” You might even follow that up with, “Man, you may as well go get yourself a passport that says ‘Table Saw’ because you’ve just entered the land of the tools.”

Fair enough. Dual citizenship is hardly a bad thing to have these days.

Bareilles comes on the heels of my recent K.T. Tunstall kick. Where I had come across Tunstall playing solo on Leno one night, I overheard Bareilles’ single “Love Song,” on my lunch break over the sound system in the school store. Now I imagine that the song had appeared in everything from movie soundtracks to advertisements for tampons before I heard it, but it was new to me and I kind of dug it. Being the professional Googlesmith that I am, I pulled up some info and was…conflicted when I pulled up this trippy video (Embedding disabled by request. Just click on the damned video).

My first impression was, “Wow, that’s a strikingly attractive (or adeptly photoshopped) person overdressed in inside a giant analog karaoke machine.” My second impression was that she appeared to be playing the piano. Intrigued by the possibility of genuine talent, I decided to investigate further, and pulled up this video.

No, it’s not the acoustic version of “Love Song.” It’s Peter Gabriel’s “Your Eyes,” and not a bad version of it if I may say so. The girl’s no Harry Connick Jr., but she’s an able pianist and a respectable vocalist. Her songwriting isn’t particularly ground-breaking, but overall she’s a solid artist capable of passing the intimate-live-setting-with-limited-EQ test. Fair play to you, Sara. As it turns out, you can actually get this and four “stripped” versions of songs from her album, but only if you buy the whole, non-stripped album as well. I haven’t checked out iTunes yet, but I’m just not a fan of the purely digital realm.

It’s fascinating because I wonder how many pop songs I would love if they didn’t carry the stigma label of being top 40 hits. A friend of mine “admitted” to purchasing a Colbie Calliat album because he knew that “if she were playing around the corner at the coffee shop, [he]’d totally go see her.” Yeah, “Bubbly” did kind of lose its luster when I saw it in an ad for…what was it? Allergy medicine? Genital herpes treatment? You know what I mean. It’s often difficult, in this day and age, to determine whether we are enjoying something because we like it or because it’s being marketed specifically to us.

I guess if someone’s doing their job right, there’s no difference.

“Is that why you wanted a love song?”

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One Response to ““You mean well, but you make this hard for me…””

  1. Tim Says:

    Talented people doing things for younger or less experienced audiences is always fascinating. I agree with your most recent kick, Julio – it’s good to know what you’d say if you ever need to name your favorite scottish female pop singer. While I’m told it’s a fallacy of authority to like the lesser poppy stuff just because it’s done by someone you otherwise respect, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to respect the converse. Have you found examples in other fields? For example, I’m having the opportunity to use a famous mathematician’s elementary textbook, and it’s so much cooler than any other elementary book (Niven’s _Mathematics of Choice_).


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