Turn the Page – Metallica

I am re-obsessed with this Metallica cover which I first heard a few years after the release of Garage Inc. ‘Turn the Page’ is originally a track by Bob Seger so I am actually writing about two separate artists in this one post. Bob Seger’s brilliant and heartfelt writing makes this a behind the scenes account of a rock star’s life. Metallica’s aggressive take adds the metal edge making it a completely new sound and a much stronger feeling.

The most distinct feature of this track is its vivid and empathy evoking lyrics that powerfully depict the other side of a rock star’s life, the off-stage time when they are vulnerable, affected and human. It throws light on the moments experienced by a rock star, the many women he meets to never meet again, living in vans and driving miles to play his music, encountering judgment and fearing getting ostracized for his appearance. It juxtaposes the two opposite realities- the highs of being on stage, million miles away from the real world, with the lows of that empty space in the van or bed when thoughts and contemplation sneak in. I like how it is written from the rock star’s perspective and switches the narrative from second person to first.

Kirk Hammett’s slide guitar makes the sound much harder than the sax in Seger’s original, making you pay more attention to what’s really going. It also sonically expresses the agonies and the drudgeries along with the highs of being a performer. James Hetfield pours in heaps of passion, anger and strength to the overall emotion of the song transporting the listener then and there, into the body of this rock musician. He adds so much more drama and emphasis as he goes softer in the bridge- for the pause, as he lies in bed with the amplifiers echoing into his head, only to let Kirk Hammett pick it up again in a breathtaking solo. Lars Ulrich’s drums are perfect just as Jason Newsted’s bass: with Metallica it all adds up so perfectly, it’s really hard to say much. It’s really no wonder that they are one of the greatest heavy metal bands to walk on this planet. They are true gods and I can’t now believe my luck to have watched them live in September.

Goosebumps.

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The Whats and Hows # 1

The past three and a half months of writing this blog have been enriching and exciting. I have learnt a few things about myself and some about art/creativity which is what this post is about.

The What

Selecting a song to write about has sometimes been a challenge. I learnt that not every song I like is always compelling enough to make me want to write about it. If I have thought about a song before I began the process of writing, I have destroyed the chance to have it appear here. No amount of prior notes helped and if I have at all forced myself to write about it, the experience has been bland, unsatisfying and just not right. I have noticed that each of the songs that have been written about have had elements beyond the noticeably likeable (for me) and that I have been patient and intentional to find them and then articulate them. The experience of writing about these have been enjoyable and exciting, something that has kept me going.

This makes me think that maybe this is true for all art and artists, creative thought does come from a space of nothing, when active strategy or planning is not being applied and when someone surrenders completely to their feelings and finds a way to capture it.

The How

I play the song on loop and keep noting points that occur to me. It’s meditative, there’s just the selected musical creation and me and my mind just races in all directions. I let myself feel and record whatever comes to me. Once I feel I have enough material, I then package it a cohesive way, sequence the thoughts to make the piece into a whole. I never intended to have a fixed process but I learnt through the course of 18 posts, that this is the only way it works for me.

Team – Lorde

 

This song came into my life in the winter of 2013 and I instantly liked it. On a side note, Lorde was probably 17 years old when this song came out, which in hindsight is immensely inspiring.

This song documents the dismantling of the superficiality of the world that teenagers perceive, as they begin to see beneath the glitzy surface. That first jolt of reality and the inescapable bit of disappointment is felt as the singer’s beliefs get rattled as she begins her ascent from the abyss of teenage.

The writing is so vivid with lovely metaphors of typical teenage experiences like ‘jewels between teeth’ (braces), ‘skin in craters like the moon’ (pimples). I especially like ‘kind of over gettin’ told to throw my hands up in the air’ – it makes you empathize with the real person who’s emerging, who does not want to be a mere body filling up the crowds in music concerts. This teenager can now see how everyone’s chasing after a love (or appreciation) that doesn’t really exist out there and competing for  it is perhaps futile. She is a bystander and an observer now and no longer party to a lot of what she did in the past.

Lorde’s mature voice creates a beautiful contrast to the naivety and self realization, it’s firmness contradicts the almost there-ness of it (kind of over gettin’ told). The electropop music, especially the drums perfectly capture the energy and restlessness of teenage. The synth notes are more contemplative and reflective of the newfound awareness. Great songwriting by a teenager!

King- Years & Years

This track came into my life through the British radio, in mid 2015, during the epic dissertation writing period. I instantly fell in love with its addictive synth notes and the pure energy it oozes. This song gave me the much needed electronic high to plough through writing marathons in the wee hours of the night. Also, the danceability of ‘King’ is so high that me and a friend (Jane this is you) always made sure we played it during our kitchen parties because we both loved singing along and dancing on it.

This song is retrospective of a man who has been controlled by his lover just like a chess piece, and has somehow mustered the courage to ask for the freedom he now desires. The lyric shifts between an external conversation with his lover and an internal one that he is having with himself. It is ironical that he might be a king in his own little square yet has no power in the larger board of life and is at the mercy of the one who controls him. The self realization finally culminates in his urge to fight for himself and his emotional liberation.

The electronic synth-pop music is the soul of this track. Olly Alexander’s voice still retains the restlessness and innocence of a teenager’s and does full justice to the introspective & ‘waking up’ nature of the song. The backing track sounds semi human and semi synthetic which lends a very special sonic quality and is the track’s most recognizable feature.

I used to think that all dance songs can be used for running or exercising but not this one.

 

Daylight – Maroon 5 (Playing for Change)

Daylight is one of my favourite songs from the Maroon 5 stable and I really love this version they did for the non profit, Playing for Change. The melody and lyrics of this song talk about the internal conflict of a man as he prepares to leave his lover, knowing well that minutes are passing by too quickly and he will have to make do with left time and experience his partner’s warmth and company as much as he can.

The lyrics articulate the dilemma and irony of his situation, while he well knows that he wants to fully be in the moment, yet the sheer awareness of the inevitability of ‘Daylight’ keeps him from just that. He is contented and heartbroken at the same time.

The opening tabla beats, the beautiful and varied voices of the singers all recorded on the street, truly create a diverse yet a uniform melodic experience. The range and quality of the many voices, instruments and the slower tempo than the original, make this version so refreshing, unique and even raw. I particularly like the wobble of the Didgeridoo as it adds a whole new rustic quality to the song.

It’s delightful to have the music move from street to stage with Adam Levine himself anchoring the spirit of the original. His voice sounds even better in chorus with the female singers. The ‘Oh-woah’ bit is so honest that it makes me want to join them in anticipated mourning every time it plays.

 

Little Talks – Of Monsters and Men

I have chosen to write about this very interesting & catchy song by Icelandic band ‘Of Mosters and Men’ because it’s unique in more than one way. True to their name, the song ties the real world (men) to the other world (monsters) with ample cryptic phrases and mentions in the conversational lyric. I love how this theme flows through all their work.

‘Little Talks’ makes the listener privy to a private conversation between a man and a woman who probably shared a loving past and a house, but are now bereaved and still trying to communicate with each other. They see each other in their dreams but can’t always hear what the other is saying (going by how they talk about different things at the same time). It’s fascinating to hear both of them say “all that’s left is a ghost of you”- symbolizing how the person who’s alive is also a ghost for the one who’s not, since they can’t be with each other in the same space eitherway.

The cheerful music dominated by trumpets and energeric drums, gives an interesting creative contrast to the overall sense of the song. Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s delightful voice is wispy enough to be from another world or time. She beautifully brings out the confused, lost, self doubting and confessional tone of the female character. Ragnar Þórhallsson perfectly balances her anxiety in terms voice quality and the observational, concerned and assuring nature of his words. Yet, it’s not that they can really get the other person, but one says what he/ she must to the other.

I really like the ambiguity of this song. What it is about and means is a mystery in itself and its futile to try and comprehend the sense of everything that’s been said. It’s an adventure that I recommend taking nevertheless, both musically, lyrically and emotionally.

 

Fun (feat. Tove Lo) – Coldplay

Colplay’s music has stayed in my life since 2002 and is by far my most consistent musical love. For my first post on their music, I am picking one from their most recent album ‘A Head Full of Dreams’. This is a collaboration with Swedish singer Tove Lo.

What I find really interesting and clever is that both the singers don’t start off at the same time in this refreshing duet. Tove Lo’s vocals kick in or rather almost sneak into the song after a good 2 minutes. It’s as if Chris Martin could convince Tove Lo to join in the inquiry after some persuasion. She agrees that it is a question worth asking so that they part on the note of it all being worth something in the end, “Didn’t we have fun?”

The writing moves through different spaces that one experiences during a breakup/ divorce: From accepting the inevitable, to seeking consolation to urging for reconsideration to finally a somewhat hopeful “maybe we could again?”

It’s a pleasant sound, both the voices blend in so well while retaining their individual yet common stance. This song is a proof that the best thing to do when someone you love walks out of your life, is to write and sing a  song about it and hope that they will come back one day.

(Only for sometime until you move on).

P.S.: The audio is not available on youtube due to Coldplay’s rights. Hence sharing the itunes link here.