Monday, January 30, 2006

Pop Songs I Have Known

I love a great pop song. Regardless of who it's recorded by. As snobbish as I pretend to be, I sometimes can't help but be snared by a brilliant hook, vocal line, or chorus. Here are a few I've succumbed to...

Beach Boys "Sail On Sailor": The 70's were not very kind to the boys. I'll be the first to admit that they released a lot of crap during this, and subsequent, eras. But this nugget is a shining jewel affixed to their otherwise off white leisure suit. Carl Wilson, having not been satisfied with lead vocal performances by brother Dennis and himself, asked then band member Blondie Chaplin to step up to the mike. What's delivered is a soul powered performance that propels this song from beginning to end. The organ line buzzes like a chainsaw while the magnificent chorus will have you lifting your palm to the clear blue sky. I even saw Darius Rucker(aka Hootie) deliver a power house version during the Tribute To Brian Wilson a few years back. Hootie can sing. He just chose to sing crap with the Blowfish.

Sheryl Crow "Soak Up The Sun": With a driving bass drum that even this white boy can twist his chicken neck to, Sheryl brings a smoky vocal line filled with acrobatics and a candy-coated chorus with help on harmonies from Liz Phair. Wonderfully produced with a lush vocal arrangement and a bouncy guitar riff that puts you right on the sandy beach of some tropical paradise wishing you had one or both of the singers by your side.

Level 42 "Something About You": Who the fuck are these guys? They're huge in Europe, from what I can tell. Another pulsating disco bass drum(I sense a pattern!) with what appears to be a white guy playing a sort of slapping bass line. Without a doubt, the thing that catches my attention is the soaring falsetto vocal hook. Chock full of bubbly 80's keyboards and 10cc type backing vocal "ooooh's" and "aaaah's".

The Outfield "Your Love": This was the first of their two hits(the other being "Say It Isn't So"). A perfect pop song if ever I've heard one. With its McCartneyesque vocals and infectious melody it never outstays its welcome. By that, I mean, it doesn't have any extra slapped on verses or bits that disappoint. It moves quickly and brilliantly from verse to chorus to middle eight with little effort or even a guitar solo to get in the way. This has probably my favorite middle eight of any pop song I've heard by any artist. OK, I'll admit that the middle section of Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" is in a neck and neck race with this one.

Naked Eyes "Always Something There To Remind Me": Electronic drums and a keyboard effect that sounds like a million wedding chapel bells ringing at the same time. Very appropriate considering the songs theme. The vocal line of the chorus wonderfully conveys the feeling of desire/yearning expressed by the singer. Man, the drum beats on this thing are outta this world! Very electronicy sounding(I just made that word up) with lots of "metallic" bits in the background for added effect. An excellent vocal performance to boot.

Carly Simon "Nobody Does It Better": A magnificent piano ballad with swirling violins and harp used to maximum effect. This was one of the very first singles I can remember being truly mesmerized by as a kid. I can recall sitting at my cousins turntable relaying the song countless times while never tiring of it. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Carly's timeless vocal on this one. The songs builds to a final crescendo that layers horns, strings, and a nearly hidden backing track("You're the best.") by Ms. Simon that is truly intoxicating.

Michael Jackson "Human Nature": Perhaps the only unmined treasure from his blockbuster Thriller album(It reached #7 on the charts, but could have easily been #1). The keyboards sound like they're high on Quaaludes and they take you to that place right along with them. It's like floating on a big satiny marshmallow with Michael voice as your pillow. The production on this is nothing short of genius. With the guitar neck high in a chorus effect and layer upon layer of Michael's gentle vocals leading the way, I could almost be convinced to follow him in to bedroom.

Sixpence None The Richer "Kiss Me": So sugary sweet you're bound to get a cavity on that molar at the back of your brain. Without a doubt the most addictive agents present are the jangling ever present 12 stringed guitar, the wispy vocals of Leigh Nash, and (believe it or not) the alliteration used throughout the lyric. I think you would be hard pressed to find a Billboard single in the last 30 years that had a squeeze box amongst its ingredients.

Missing Persons "Destination Unknown": A pulsating beat with production that sounds like it came right out of the computer box. Was the bass line lifted straight off the Buggles "Video Killed The Radio Star" multi-track tape? Dale Bozzio's mousy vocals and stoners mantra, "Life is so strange!" make this irresistible electrofunkpop. Lots of high hat and cymbal splashes throughout add to the synthetic feel of the song.

The Faces "Stay With Me": Awwww, yeah! Funkinfuzzed-out geetar and a Rhodes piano played with all the machismo the band could steal from the Rolling Stones bag 'o mojo. This is party 'til the liquor and coke are all gone kinda music. Dueling guitars(one slide, one plucked). Rod's vocals are all sex and slime. The descending instrumental lines all lead to the same place...a bed with red satin sheets and pink champagne on ice.

Rod Stewart "Young Turks": What I find most appealing about this song is the fantastic universal story it manages to tell with its lyrics. I know it sounds crazy, doesn't it! Young, crazy love turned loose in a world that couldn't give a rats ass about them or their ten pound baby boy. Rod's exclamation at the conclusion of the story still gives me goose bumps to this day. The sincerity in his voice as he proclaims, "Don't let 'em put you down. Don't let 'em push you 'round. Don't let 'em ever change your point of view." is, well...inspiring.

Huey Lewis & The News "Do You Believe In Love": An early hit for the band, you can almost see ole Huey pumping his fist as he sings, "Oh, you can bet I believe it too!" The master stroke of this song are the "reply" backing vocals provided by the band and the chorus that sounds like its got about a million vocal tracks laid on top of one another. A bass driven tune where the other instruments do a kind of see-saw trade off in between pounding drum beats.

Climax Blues Band "I Love You": Another piano/Rhodes driven love ballad with amazing production that utilizes every trick in the book to its advantage. With a lush string arrangement and slide guitar solo that sounds so much like George Harrison, you'd swear it was the real thing. The lead vocals sound like they've come right off a mid-seventies Wings album. The lyrical hook at the end of the chorus changes each time to reflect the status of the relationship(i.e. "I want you", "I got you", "I love you"). Brilliant. I love the final proclamation of the song, "If ever a man had it all it would have to be me!" What's most interesting, about the band, is that this was a TOTAL departure from their normal "rock-oriented sound". They never made another song that even remotely came close to the sound they found here. The song is placed perfectly over the credits of the indie film "Cherish".

Geezus, I could go on all night. This was FUN! I'll do this again soon.


Post a Comment

<< Home