Parsing the Lyrics of “Love Comes Walking In”

Poetic license is a powerful tool that enables writers to paint with a broad brush, to use words like an impressionist rather than a realist. It’s armor against the literalists who expect every I to be dotted and T to be crossed, yet it’s also a handy defense for mediocrity for those who can’t be bothered to self-edit. Personally, I view poetic license the same way I view a driver’s license – just as a driver’s license gives you the right to drive, but not the right to drive on the sidewalk, Read more [...]

Singing in my sleep (again)

I awoke this morning with Poison’s "Something to believe in" in my head. Perhaps needless to say, this makes me uncomfortable. Sure, I went to high school in the 1980’s, so my brain is littered with fragments of hair-band anthems and images of red-zebra-striped spandex, so I can’t be surprised that one of those soundtrack-to-wine-coolers-chugged-in-Bernie’s-Chevy-Malibu would float up to consciousness again---but there are a lot of songs from that era that I would like to hear again, if Read more [...]

The worst song ever (runner up) – Feel Like Making Love

I'm sure this assertion will seem heretical to fans of classic rock radio, where Paul Rodgers' popularity continues to defy plausible explanation, but it's time someone spoke up about the bloated emperor's lack of clothes. If there is a less romantic romance song than Bad Company's "Feel like making love", I've been blessed to have escaped its sonic dispersal. The opening lyric, "Baby, when I think about you, I think about love" is a fumbling overture, articulated with the charm of a drunken bar Read more [...]

Singing in my sleep

Last night in a dream, I sang “Thunder Road”, the song by Bruce Springsteen. I have no idea if I imagined myself singing it in my sleep-induced alternate reality or if I was regaling my dozing wife with an actual rendition (she didn't wake me up to shut me down, so I assume it's the former), but I awoke reminded anew of the stunning poetics of that song, a lyric sheet that contends for “Most American Song” in our nation's history. The song is 33 years old now, but it's resonance is just Read more [...]

The worst song ever (runner up) – More Than Words

There are a variety of ways you can make a song horrible---flat singing, sappy arrangements, or even having it performed by David Sanborn (whose comically emotive saxophone performances look like a scatological SNL skit writ large.) But these are performance issues, stylistic decisions that limit a song's appeal without damning the song itself---after all, David Sanborn could ham an Elliott Smith song well past ridiculousness, and the song would be as much of a victim as the listener. In other words, Read more [...]

The worst song ever (runner up): Kokomo

Now and then, a song wriggles its way through the music industry process despite defying all tenons of good taste and artistic quality and gets its 15 minutes of fame with the general public. What these sporadic occurrences demonstrate is that while the means of getting discovered is constantly evolving (Mtv, MySpace, YouTube, et al), Robert Johnson’s ages-old road to success is still a well-trodden path, and the devil is still willing to load the scale with a hit on one side and a soul on the Read more [...]

The worst song ever (runner up): Signs

"Signs", by the one-hit wonder Five Man Electrical Band (with a clever name like that, who could have imagined a future of obscurity?) is nothing short of dangerous when it comes on the car radio: I immediately stab at the dashboard in order to change the station, moments later finding myself with the defrost blowing at full storm, the hazard signals blinking inexplicably to the drivers behind me, and, on the bright side, something else (anything else) playing on the car stereo. It is a song that Read more [...]

The Eternal Jukebox

Creating one's "Top five desert island discs" is common fodder for music fans. The concept is a bit absurd---name your five must-have discs should you find yourself faced with only five---yet the exercise offers insights. Do you opt for variety? Perhaps you choose the discs by virtue of time spent in the player? These are important considerations, as no one would want to get to that fictional island and find themselves stranded with a John Mayer album, doomed to a daily self-inquisition of "What Read more [...]

There Ought to Be a Law

As the father of a two-year old daughter, I have a great interest in what kind of world she grows up in. This election season galvanized my concerns---our culture is at precarious moment in its history, yet throughout the entire campaign, all I heard from the candidates was lip service on fringe issues like terrorism, unemployment, and how the rest of the world can be leveraged for our own purposes. All supposedly important items, but things I could not concentrate on because my mind is focused on Read more [...]

A Literalist Deconstruction of Bon Jovi

We are a nation of embellishment and hyperbole: If we try three times to get someone on the phone, it will be recounted as "I tried to reach them a dozen times"; if we enjoy a delicious meal, we proclaim it to be "the greatest meal we have ever eaten"; if we are eager to attend a particular event, we claim to be willing to "give my right arm to be able to go." All of these things are confusing to a literalist, especially if the answering machine has only 3 messages, the meal in question is from McDonalds Read more [...]