Thursday, 10 June 2010

Day 9: a song I can dance to

Alternate title: Why I love Lady Gaga

I haven't stepped onto a dance floor in the last two years without having this song playing.

It's a great song to make up awkward dance steps for as you go along. (Those are the best kind, no?) And I have nothing but the fondest of memories of friends in different states of sobriety doing so.

But there's so much more to this song, and indeed to Lady Gaga as a contemporary artist.

I'm a huge fan of Gaga, and I have nothing but respect for her as an artist, because I think she's one of the few mainstream artist doing it smart and doing it right.

Most importantly, Lady Gaga's songs, are perfect examples of music - I'd call it an art form - that has made way for shared experiences and has inspired further creativity.

Many of those who've contributed to her over one billion views on YouTube and put two of her songs in the top 10 iTunes downloads until February 2010 - and these are only two of the innumerable music outlets today - have gone on to do creative things (amazing/ odd/ funny) on their own.

Like these guys:

Or this really cool video+cover by The Morning Pages

Or any of these ones for that matter. Make up videos, karaoke, credible covers, tributes to friends, just a bit of fun - but all about people creating shared experiences with the song.

Loads of people seem to love dancing to Gaga. Just like I did with my friends.

I also think that her sexually ambiguous and arty videos which tell weirdly fascinating stories, stripped down+over the top live performances and of course, her Madonna 2.0 bras, make her an extremely talented, passionate and astute artist, perfectly suited for multiple media platforms.

But that's for another day, another argument.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

30 days of music - Day 8: a song I know all the words to

Oh I give up on Day 7, which must be day 17 by now.

Day 8 however, brings back memories of a diary I kept for song lyrics. (No need to go looking, I burnt it once I stopped getting high on scented markers.)

There were four songs in there, which remain the songs I know all the words to. The ignominy of naming said songs would be too much, and hence, I decline to do so except under duress.

What is, however, in both our interests, is this alternate for Day 8. A song I'd LIKE to know all the words to. 

Chart music, unfortunately, is not one to experiment with lyrics. Conventional ideas and subjects - love, loss, sex, hot girls, partying, giving-peace-a-chance - and worse, conventional treatments and metaphors are only expected.

Then occasionally, you have a Tom Lehrer or Jonathan Coulton turn up to talk about real stuff:
  • In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics - PLAGIARIZE / Let no one else's work evade your eyes/ Remember why the good Lord made your eyes - Lobachevsky
  • Hey Tom, it's Bob from the office down the hall...Things have been okay for me, except that I'm a zombie now...I don't want to nitpick Tom, but is this really your plan/ Spend your whole life locked in a mall - re: your brains
Yes, those are real songs, and brilliantly smart ones at that. 

Because a great song is entertaining - and that's not something you can do simply with "virtuosic playing" or "being loud".

That's not my idea - Ben Walker says it best in a post from last year  - and he should know - he writes some of the best words I've heard put to tune. 

Song I'd like to know the words to: Ben Walker's Putting Your Hand in the Blender Again. It's song #3 but the whole album is awesomeness. 

<a href="">Box Junction Heart by Ben Walker</a>

Monday, 7 June 2010

Licence to write nice things

If you're allowed poetic license, USE IT, methinks.

I just finished wiping my tears after watching this week's episode of Doctor Who (Vincent and the Doctor).

It was great - touching, good pace, fine acting, entertaining. And it was also exactly what I'd like a 'story' to be.

The episode was - bear with me for a minute - one of those historical episodes where the Doctor and Amy travel back in time to Vincent Van Gogh's period. There they meet a troubled genius, unappreciated, unknown, broke and suffering from depression, about a year before he kills himself. 

So far so accurate.

Then, however, the story goes on to appropriate fact to fiction. It builds endearing tales around the artist's character and his individual art pieces, providing reasons for behaviour and creations we can now only speculate, or at the most hazard educated guesses about.

Because it's a story, it can take these liberties. 

So now, the Starry Night, the Sunflowers,  Van Gogh's self portraits, the stunning cafe one, are all, in my mind, inextricably linked in lovely little fully fictitious stories of their own, with the Doctor.

In further sentimentality, the story takes a shitty reality (old boy Van G.'s anonymity in his time) and changes it in a sweet, positive, touching prerogative of imagination (he travels to 2010 to see what a super star he is). I guarantee you can't watch without tearing up.

I - and this is a VERY personal choice/ opinion - think this is what a story should do: make rubbish realities better.

Am I suggesting that stories should be escapist? - To an extent, yes. Never exceeding narrative frameworks of plausibility or inconsistency, but definitely heading to an ending that is happy.

Or at least, taking a chance to tie up loose ends.

I believe that killing off a main character, or bringing in a shocking twist - a popular narrative technique on tele these days - is not the most enjoyable way to tell stories.

A good story is one that plays with my emotions. A great story, in my books, is one that does all that but leaves me happy, satisfied.

I have pleaded guilty to favouring happyendificiation before. And this won't be the end of it. 
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