Thursday, May 30, 2013

Where's the Love in "My Immortal"?

Dear Muse,

Maybe I'm missing something. Or maybe I'm making mountains out of molehills. Either way, the video for Evanescence's "My Immortal" frustrates me.

This was another component of the music mix Band3 sent me. Ironically, I've heard this song many times before, and always liked it. But I'd never seen the video for it before. And when I did, I found much to immediately dislike about it.

One problem with the video is how the imagery connects to the lyrics. The song is about a woman (played by Amy Lee) whose former lover left her, and now she can't get him out of her head. How does she show it?

  • By hardly expressing any emotions. 
To be fair, some people who go through depression reach a point where they can't emote, because their emotions become numbed or deadened. (No one better expresses this emotionless-ness than Allie Brosh of hyperboleandahalf - just read her "Depression Part Two" post.) If this seemed like the case for Lee's character, then I could let the issue go. But her emotionless-ness doesn't seem like a depression issue - it's more like she's acting emotionless to make the video darker and edgier, and add more emo undertones to her character. Which is partly why the video doesn't work. Instead of making her character sympathetic, Lee's emotionless acting results in a performance that's both robotic and melodramatic.

In any case, whether a character overacts or underacts (and Lee seems to be doing both), they have to convey some sort of feeling I can identify with. If Lee was depressed and I could clearly sense that, the video might communicate its message of loss and lingering over the past successfully. But she doesn't communicate it clearly enough to me. Lee's failure to really emote here thus impairs the message she wants to get across.
  • By NOT daydreaming about him, following him, glimpsing him in a cafe in passing, portraying montages of their past romance together, or doing anything that would better indicate Lee and her lover actually had any connection before this video. 
Throughout the video, the man and woman are in two different places, doing completely different things. Neither one looks particularly put out about being alone and doing his/her own thing. For that matter, since the two are so alienated, you could replace the man with any other guy and the lack of connection wouldn't be any different. Face it: there is no palpable connection between these two. (Which begs the question, how plausible is it that this guy is "your immortal" if you two are so distant?)
  • By talking about how she wiped away his tears, fought all his fears, and held his hand over the years. 
I don't see any evidence in the video to suggest that the man was ever prone to crying, or that the woman was capable of providing such support. To provide that kind of support, you'd need to be a tough type or a matronly type; and either way, you'd need to be a strong woman. Given how Lee dresses, moves and acts, she doesn't communicate "strong woman." More like a fragile femme on the verge of collapse - that is, when she's not acting all emo.

I guess the bright side of this is that, even if I find Evanescence's music video egregious, there are plenty of good AMVs of "My Immortal" on Youtube to keep me liking the song.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Love Train": O' Jays vs. Wolfmother

Dear Muse,

Over a month ago, I gave my friend Band3 an advance mix CD for his birthday (since I couldn't be there for his actual birthday two weeks later). Band3 liked it so much that he responded several weeks later with a music mix of his own. If this becomes a back-and-forth pattern where each person periodically sends the other a music mix, I'm going to have to do some serious digging through Youtube and iTunes. (Or my town's CD stores. If we still have those.)

Anyway, because of his mix I learned about the short-lived hard rock Australian band, Wolfmother. Although I've added their hit "Joker & the Thief" to my ipod playlist, I take issue with another of their songs: "Love Train."

At first I thought, "didn't that play during one of J.D.'s fantasies in Scrubs?" Then I realized that the song I was thinking of was the other "Love Train," sung by the O' Jays in 1973. Now that I'm fully aware there are two "Love Trains," I can't help but compare them.

So, after watching, which do I think is better? The O' Jays, of course.

To be fair, each one could be satisfying to different people. The Wolfmother version just doesn't satisfy me because it's basically hard rock without any real sense to it. I don't have anything against hard rock in general, and granted, most of Wolfmother's songs don't make sense, but as long as the tune or guitar riffs are catchy I give them a pass. Wolfmother's "Love Train" isn't catchy, however; it's unpleasantly ear-splitting.

Despite this, the lyrics might save the song if there were any subtle or deep meaning to them. But what's the main gist of Wolfmother's "Love Train"?

What'd you see, girl on the love train?
I said different luck is with no name
You're tellin' me all things are the same
I said, I gotta get back, girl on the love train

I saw different faces and different places
I gotta get back, girl on the love train, oh

(Full lyrics can be found here.)

The song basically repeats these same lyrics throughout. Profound? No.

The O' Jays song, on the other hand, is more interesting because its lyrics encourage global unity - both by mentioning countries like England, Russia, Israel and Egypt, and by voicing a simple call for acceptance and love:

People all over the world (all the world, now)
Join hands (love ride)
Start a love train (love ride), love train
The next stop that we make will be soon
Tell all the folks in Russia, and China, too
Don't you know that it's time to get on board
And let this train keep on riding, riding on through

(Full lyrics found here.)

The lyrics about riding through different countries and connecting international peoples through joined hands and a collaborative "love train" fits beautifully with its music video - which is about children holding hands and smiling groups of different ages laughing and celebrating togetherness. (The only flub seems to be how non-diverse the groups of people are. Ostensibly, the video only features African-Americans - but if it's about global unity, shouldn't there be more diversity?) In any case, there's a clear sense of love and joy in the O' Jays' version, while there doesn't seem to be a clear sense of anything in Wolfmother's version. The O' Jays win this round.

Tomorrow I'll make a harsher criticism of another music video from Band3's playlist: Evanescence's "My Immortal."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How Marina & the Diamonds Brought Two Sisters Together

Dear Muse,

Thanks to my sister, I have - as of a week ago - become a HUGE fan of the pop singer Marina Diamandis (otherwise known as Marina and the Diamonds).

Source: via Ariel on Pinterest

 Still, it seems surprising that my sister and I should bond over anything, given our  - uh, complicated relationship. Let me explain what I mean by "complicated."

When we were both kids, my sister idolized me. She would follow me everywhere, cling to me, clamor to be part of my imaginary games. But, aside from reciprocating her affection every once in a while, I was often so self-absorbed that I distanced myself from her. (That is, when I wasn't trying to ignore her on purpose.)

When we were teenagers (me in mid-adolescence and her just entering it), my sister started making a lot of pop culture discoveries.  In the beginning, I scoffed at her obsessions with things like Full Metal Alchemist and Teen Titans. Only later did I realize, "Hey, I actually really like this stuff," and start becoming obsessed with it too. As my sister introduced me to more things, I decided that her judgment wasn't that bad. This realization inspired me to start trying to spend quality time with her. Unfortunately, by the time I began inviting her to hang out with me, she was going through her "rebellious teenager phase." Not only did she not want to be associated with a clueless older sister, she also had become bored with the things I was now obsessing over. Thus, my enthusiastic invitations were quickly rejected.

Although I have to admit that my sister has been the motivating factor behind a lot of what I know about pop culture today (e.g., anime, Scrubs, that sort of thing), we're almost never interested in the same things at the same time. In terms of our personalities and likes, we're basically polar opposites. While I think my sister has abysmal taste in music (like They Might Be Giants - ew), my sister believes that anything I think is cool should be given a wide berth.

For a while, I didn't think we'd be able to agree on anything simultaneously. That is, until last week, when I wandered in on her singing to Marina and the Diamonds' The Family Jewels in the kitchen.

Suddenly, I discovered that I really liked this music. Surely Annie wouldn't mind if I joined in the fun, right?

...I guess I could have worked on my entrance a bit more.

Still, due to the fact that I now LOVE Marina and the Diamonds, I can safely say that this is one thing my sister and I can enjoy at the same time. I can also say that, given how I learned about Marina through my sister, Annie still has a HUGE influence on my life. So thank you, Annie, for introducing me to a totally cool (profound) pop singer. It's a refreshing change to listen to songs that analyze and critique society - especially those in The Family Jewels, which Diamandis says is inspired by "the seduction of commercialism, modern social values, family and female sexuality."

I've included a few of my favorite Marina and the Diamonds Youtube music videos below. Hope you like them as much as my sister & I do! (About "Mowgli's Road": I would say it's like "Only My Railgun" in its surreal-ness, except that it feels somehow even more surreal.)

                                                                            'Till next time,

P.S. Does anyone else think that Marina's style is reminiscent of Lady GaGa/ Katy Perry?


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Another Hey Ocean! Post

Dear Muse,

How many live concerts does a normal person go to each year? Because I feel super lucky that I've been to two already in the last two months. One of them was the awesome Indigo Girls concert (see first March post). But I have yet to tell you about April 7's Hey Ocean! concert. Which, seeing as I love the band even more than the Indigo Girls, was even more awesome. (To better understand my gushing, see post 1 and post 2 from January.)

Why else was it awesome?

  • Because the concert was in the Twin Cities. Thus, since I was planning to drive up to Minnesota to reunite with old college friends around that time anyway, I could kill two birds with one stone: 1) hang out with friends and 2) see the concert right before I headed home. Awesome plan, right?
  • Hey Ocean!'s April concert might have been my once-in-a-lifetime chance to see them live. I say this because Hey Ocean! mainly tours throughout Canada, so their performing in the U.S. is a big deal. Also, because they're a relatively recent band and their songs aren't well known in the U.S. yet, I don't know when they'll return. At any rate, they probably won't play in any state close enough for me to see them again. 
  • I dragged my old college friend, Band3, along to watch it too. Since he's a huge music lover (and also a long-time band member - school band, not celebrity band), it was a great night for both of us. 
Granted, the venue (First Street Entry) wasn't exactly what we'd expected - more of a dusky nightclub/bar rather than a concert hall. It made us both a bit nervous (or in Band3's words, "marginally uncomfortable"), but since we were together it wasn't as intimidating as it would be alone. 

It was also a learning experience for me. First of all, I learned that buying tickets in advance online for a nightclub concert is a ripoff, since they cost way less to buy at the door. If I had known beforehand that First Street Entry was a nightclub-type place with plenty of standing room, and not a place with legit seats in danger of being sold out (in my defense, TicketHub made it sound like it was), I wouldn't have made the mistake of spending $120 on two online tickets. Live and learn. 

Secondly, I learned that when you buy tickets for a nightclub-type concert, you get more than you bargained for. E.g, the band you pay to see doesn't play immediately; there are about 3 - 4 "guest" bands that play before them. (Why this is necessary, I have no idea.) So you need to come with a heck of a lot of patience - both for the good (West of Aldine) and god-awful (*cough* We Are the City *cough*). 
This was particularly dismaying for Band3 and me, since we both had to wake up early the next day and were only just discovering that the band I'd paid good money to see was going to play at 10:30 PM instead of 7:00. But we resigned ourselves to wait. 

Still, when Hey Ocean! finally appeared, THEY. WERE. EPIC. The place quickly turned into a rave, the dance floor teeming with pumping, jumping fans. Band3 was reluctant at first to migrate to the dance floor (unlike me, he never went to raves when we were in college), but soon joined me when I descended to get a closer view of Ashleigh Ball. We joined in the chorus for "Fish" (see post 1 again), clapped along with "Change," and danced to our own awkward beat with "Make a New Dance Up."

All in all, it was a wonderful night. Even if Band3 sort of ruined it by rephrasing the words of "Big Blue Wave" in the car on the way back to his house. But he does that because he knows I freak out about musical blasphemy, and then he can laugh at me while I squeak in outrage.

I'm attaching a Youtube video of the one song that will always remind me of that live concert: "Make a New Dance Up." The video below is just a live performance of the song (kind of like what Band3 and I saw), but Hey Ocean! is currently making an interactive music video for it. The music video will consist of clips of random contributors dancing along to the song. (To find out more about the video, visit Hey Ocean!'s official website.) I'm so looking forward to it!!

                                                                                                  - Ariel

Friday, May 3, 2013

Barbra Streisand as an ESPer = Good Musical?

Dear Muse,

It's finally May, and everything is bursting into bloom. What makes it ironic is that yesterday I checked out a musical about things bursting into bloom (in more ways than one). For the past few weeks, I've been delving into a lot of 1960s musicals (a.k.a Promises, Promises and The Apple Tree), but none have given me much material to write about. That is, until yesterday's discovery of 1965's On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

On a Clear Day is a rather obscure musical about an unusual heroine - that is, a reincarnated ESPer/clairvoyant with low self-esteem who uses her psychic powers to help plants grow. (Good luck finding other musicals with this premise.) The ESPer (Daisy Gamble) goes to a psychiatrist (Mark) who places her under hypnosis, learning that she's the reincarnation of a seductive minx named "Melinda Wells" who died on a shipwreck in the 18th century. He becomes infatuated with Melinda, while Daisy (misreading his behavior towards her) starts falling for him. And when she discovers the truth...well, how would you like it if you found out that your crush was in love with the person you "used to be"?

Despite how convoluted the story is, Daisy's musical numbers are stunners. Especially "Hurry! It's Lovely Up Here," which revolves entirely around Daisy encouraging flowers to bloom through the power of SONG. Both Barbara Harris (original cast) and Barbra Streisand (1970 movie adaptation) do an excellent job of it. Skeptical? Just watch this clip of Streisand performing the song.

Of course, since you don't actually see her making plants grow, you might deduce that it's just Streisand singing in a flower garden. Either way, I love it.

Also, after watching this, I couldn't help but think the following:

"If you combined Layla from Sky High and Giselle from Enchanted, it's only logical that Daisy Gamble would come out of it."

Source: via Ariel on Pinterest

Come on, it totally makes sense.

The most that I can say about On a Clear Day so far is that it's OK - that is, I like about 3 or 4 songs from it. Fellow blogger Ken Anderson gives a more in-depth review of the film adaptation, so I'd recommend checking out his take on it. I've also included music players of Barbara Harris' version of "Hurry! It's Lovely Up Here," as well as the title song (sung by the psychiatrist) below. Listen to these, and then decide which Barbara is the better Daisy.

                                                                   'Till next time,