Thursday, February 20, 2020

The evolution will not be televised - Bryan Adams and AllMusic

If you poke around on the Internet, you can find this odd FAQ:

Why can't I find Bryan Adams on AllMusic?

Due to the request of Mr. Adams, we are no longer permitted to display his information on AllMusic.

Not that musicians haven't requested removal of Internet information before. They obviously have, especially when money is involved. And musicians can take legal action when something is defamatory or libelous.

But, to be honest, we really don't know why Adams made his request to AllMusic. Everything2 even looked at cached versions of the deleted AllMusic pages and couldn't find anything out of the ordinary.

What becomes obvious quickly is that AMG did not slag off Bryan Adam's entire catalog (see appendix) - the first few albums actually received positive reviews. His mid-80's releases, with 4.5 out of 5 stars each, even get close to the top rating.....Further AMG reviews generally claim that Adams did nothing new after the 1980s and that his more recent albums sounded simply like rehashes of his old style. But, again, this is not an unusual claim at all if a music journalist tries to look at a longer career, it's one of the most common criticisms in the field.

Oddly enough, in a 2018 interview Adams claimed indifference to his image:

Q. Many recording artists today are more conscious of their image that their music. You’ve always placed your music before your public image. It’s kind of take it or leave it.

A. To be honest, I’m not really conscious of even that much. I am that way, but only because I don’t know any better (laughs). It’s what pleases me the most and it’s the easiest thing to do. It stems from the early days when I tried different things clothing wise and I just felt like a total pratt. I felt uncomfortable so I just decided that I’d go out with what I’d wear everyday onstage and it just made much more sense.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The so-called "worst songs" are actually pretty good - it's just the context that makes them bad

I encountered the results of a 2011 Rolling Stone readers' poll of the worst songs of the 1980s. In a sense the songs that made the list aren't that surprising; some of them include "Never Gonna Give You Up," "The Final Countdown," and "We Built This City."

Some of you are turning up your noses already.

A common denominator among these songs is that they were extremely popular at the time. This makes sense; since this was a reader poll, more popular songs are of necessity going to get more votes.

But what if you had just awoken from a 40-year nap and, absent any context, were played a little ditty by Rick Astley? In that case, you would be forced to admit that the song is actually pretty good. Constructed well, performed well, and actually pretty catchy.

The reason that these songs are considered to be the worst songs has nothing to do with the songs themselves, but of the context in which the songs were played - and, in many cases, replayed and replayed and replayed.

The Astley song, of course, is a prime example of this. During its initial chart run, it was played a lot, and all of us tend to get sick of a song after too many plays. And of course, once rickrolling became a thing, the song was literally played ad nauseum.

Now take another song on the list. Let's say that you received a particular song without a label identifying the performing artist (or the lyricist). That "we built this city on rock and roll" chorus is pretty catchy, right? OK, perhaps you'll get tired of the song after a while, but you won't detest it...

...until someone drops the fact that the lyricist is Bernie Taupin. Far removed from creating classics with Elton John, now he's contributing lyrics to schlock rock. And that schlock rock is performed by...

...Starship, the third incantation of a band that was originally featured to Rolling Stone readers as the San Francisco counter-culture band Jefferson Airplane (feed your head), then moved into a second phase as Jefferson Starship. (Tangent: "Miracles" is one of the best moody songs ever.) And then...this. Rolling Stone's audience, including at least a few in 2011 who remembered the original days of the magazine, probably griped "sellout" many, many times.

OK, eliminate the "probably" qualifier:

This could be the biggest blow-out victory in the history of the Rolling Stone Readers Poll. You really, really, really hate "We Built This City" by Starship. It crushed the competition.

Rolling Stone went on to note the band's aforementioned history, and then said:

They came back in the 1980s as this sleek, corporate band named Starship with some guy named Mickey Thomas as one of their singers....To the Woodstock generation, their success in the 1980s just seemed like the final nail in the coffin of their youth.

And somehow this "betrayal" stung more than the related betrayals when the lead singer of the New York Dolls, the (first) lead singer of Van Halen, and the lead singer of the Faces all started crooning standards.


P.S. Happy birthday Elvis.