Monday, August 24, 2009

James Reviews Two Brits

To whom it may concern, I'm sorry about taking so long to post this week's review. Just one week in, and I've already broken many of the cardinal rules, but I hadn't anticipated being this busy when the rules were formed. I've been in the process of moving to a new college, and I've had about twenty seconds of free time over the last week. Well, I'm back now. I must admit, I was quite concerned coming into this week because Madonna really did a job on me last week. On the other hand, since last week was so bad, there's only one direction that this week's artists could go. And they did.

Like most people, my only experience with Amy Winehouse coming into this week was all the horror stories I've heard about her abusing drugs, having relationship problems, and generally ruining her life. There can be no doubt that she's not right mentally, and much like Elvis, she should serve as a warning beacon for anyone who desires fame and fortune. A lot of people might laugh at her and her troubles, but they would be better served to have pity and compassion for a person who made a bet with the Devil and lost.

Where Amy Winehouse is about tragedy and sickness, Adele is quite the opposite. A teenage sensation a la Taylor Swift, Adele's music is lovestruck and simple -- both in its lyrics and music. She's an up-and-comer with the world in front of her and amazing potential. But let us not forget how easy it is for a good person to fall.

--The Two Brits Top 10--

1: Just Friends (Back to Black)
I had pretty high hopes for this song when it started with that kind of blue-jazzy feel. The mellow touch created by the jazz organ and guitars really seems fitting for the lyrical content (which is, by the way, about two thousand orders of magnitude better than Madonna). To my chagrin, however, Amy fails to develop this into a discernible melody, and instead pretty much gets rid of the feel altogether by adding something that sounds like a brass instrument. Not my favorite, but not unlistenable.

2: Daydreamer (19)
Simple music is not a bad thing if it's done right, and I would say Daydreamer is not an example of how to do it. While I understand that the monotony of the song actually has artistic purpose, to me it's pretty darn boring. In a lot of ways, I think the lyrics are intelligent and relatable, but it's hard to even pay attention to them. I would like to see some more musical creativity and depth.

3: Tears Dry on Their Own (Back to Black)
Amy Winehouse is not at her best when her songs rely heavily on her singing ability, of which there is little. She is clearly able to create some pretty melodies, but she does not play that card in either of these first two songs. Ostensibly, her vocal failures can be attributed to her drug problem, but I'm not sure that's the case, although I'm sure it doesn't help.

4: First Love (19)
Once again, I have no complaints about Adele's lyrics, which are noteworthy and admirable. Musically, though, I just have to think that Adele is nothing to write home about. The music's simple, yes, and if that were its only purpose it would achieve it extremely well. I said earlier that simple music is not necessarily a bad thing, but it bears noting that simple music isn't necessarily a good thing either. If there's less going on in a song, the scale of individual errors increases dramatically, so you have to make what you have count. I don't think this song does that satisfactorily.

5: Wake Up Alone (Back to Black)
I like this song in a lot of ways. It comes a lot closer to accomplishing that upbeat-yet-sad bluesy feel that I felt got overlooked in "Just Friends." The chord progressions are pleasant and surprising at first -- my only complaint being that after being repeated ad-infinitum, they lose their charm. Still, the feel remains and blends well with the lyrical and thematic content. Now I find it necessary to bring out one of my biggest beefs with Amy Winehouse to date: her singing. I touched on this earlier. I'm not buying that her singing deficiencies come from a drug problem. Her singing deficiencies come from her trying to be something that she is not: a black singer. Every syllable is pronounced and enunciated exactly the way you would expect from Beyonce. I keep getting uncomfortable images in my head of K-Fed, which I believe to be the proper analogy in so many ways.

6: Crazy for You (19)
Pretty much, ditto everything I just said about Amy Winehouse. This is my number one problem with Adele, more than musical depth, more than anything. She tries to sound like a black woman. This is important for two reasons: 1) She doesn't do it as well as an actual black woman, and 2) it's impossible to gauge whether or not she'd be a good singer without this masquerade. As it stands, her singing feels forced and out of place compared to the actual music she's singing with. It doesn't fit her simple music style at all.

7: You Know I'm No Good (Back to Black)
Overall, I find this to be a somewhat catchy tune, and I like the craziness that it brings out in Amy. The lyrics make no sense at all; they're like the psychotic ramblings of an asylum patient. Intriguing.

8: Hometown Glory (19)
The first 15 seconds of instrumental piano almost made me jump out of my seat. Earlier I was complaining about a lack of musical depth, and for a second there I thought she had finally broken out from the sea through the icy and frozen shelf. But as I continued to listen, I found that sense of joy gradually fading. There is no development whatsoever of the musical portion. I almost feel that Adele really just doesn't give a damn; like she's not even trying. There's a part where the music is literally begging to resolve in a different contrasting direction, and she blanketly refuses to grant its wish.

9: Back to Black (Back to Black)
Why this song is not higher on the list, I truly do not know. This is by FAR, my favorite of this week's 10-for-10. The music is stunning and chilling, and although it's repetitive, it does indeed develop the way you would hope. The way the chorus brings in the strings to complement with the higher frequency ranges is simply fantastic, and exactly what the music is asking to have done. The lyrics, while not on par with, say, Eminem, do enough to get the job done. Even Amy's crazy singing style seems to fit.This is one of those songs I could put on repeat and listen to for a while.

10: Chasing Pavements (19)
I have to say, I had the highest hopes for this song, what with it winning all those Grammys and all. Disappointing. Everything I've already talked about comes together to form a big cluster of music that seems like it should be good but somehow isn't.

That's all for this week, folks. Stay tuned!

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