Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Spintunes: And the Winner Is....

Kevin Savino-Riker

That's right. In the grand tradition of journalistic election coverage, I'm calling this one before the polls close.

Just as a reminder, here was the challenge for the final round of SpinTunes 1, expressed in full:
Musical Road Trip - Write a song using at least three different ethnic styles. The music from each of the three parts of the song should give the listeners a mental image of a place or group of people from a certain area. (at least 30 seconds each style) (3 minute minimum)
As difficult as would have liked this to have been (and Ross turned in a very good song), it wasn't. Not at all. Kevin's entry, "Lovers, Fighters, Survivors", was 3 minutes and 59 seconds long. It contained three styles -- Eastern European, Italian, and Irish -- each of which was at least 30 seconds long. It was held together with some very nice soft-rock "glue". It met the challenge.

Ross Durand's entry, "That Sweet Smile", contained 20 seconds of Bluegrass, 20 seconds of Zydeco, and 30 seconds of Mariachi, all held together with Ross' excellent folk style. The overall length of the song was 2 minutes, 57 seconds. It failed the challenge on three counts: overall length, and the length of 2 of the three segments.

Without even discussing the relative strengths of the songs themselves, I have to hand Ross the disqualification. If it was just the overall length, he might have squeaked by with the three-second deficit. But it was a clear failure to meet the challenge (even though I like the song a lot). So, Kevin Savino-Riker wins the first SpinTunes challenge in my book, regardless of how the actual voting turns out. It matters not, folks... I'm still a fan of both of these guys.

And as Baretta used to say, "Dat's da name o' dat tune."

Later I'll post reviews.


The Offhand Band said...

I can obviously get behind the concern about potential disqualification. See my comments at !!! :)

Those comments, though, explain why I'm willing to overlook those elements. To me, qualifying is separate from judging, and it should come first and not be the judges' job. I disagree with the way things are working and believe Ross' song should not be qualified to contend. A song that should be rejected out of hand based on objective requirements shouldn't be merely voted against, it should simply not enter contention in the first place. SpinTunes sees it differently (at least for SpinTunes 1), and given that, I feel my job as a judge is to subjectively assess the songs handed to us for consideration, and on the basis of things that are ambiguous and subjective. I leave objective requirements for qualification, not judgment.

Maybe it's unseemly for (me) a judge who wasn't just shadowing the contest to say anything more about this, or to say even what I've already said, and especially since my Round 3 placement meant I'd have something to gain from Kevin or Ross getting bumped. But since I already noted in those comments that I voted for Ross, your post here seems like a good excuse to say a bit about why -- about just what I took into consideration subjectively.

When it comes down to it, I'd rather take 20 seconds of a few styles and a song that's three seconds short than a song whose ethnic styles all involve a spoken prose narration from a songwriter who we *know* is capable of writing solid lyrics. To me, Kevin's Round 4 entry is a real disappointment for a songwriting contest. With lyrics, his concept for the round could have been totally charming. Without them, when it comes down to it, very little of Kevin's song is actually song. It feels to me instead like a documentary with a background score.

Even so, I suspect that most people won't see it this way and that you're probably prescient in calling the round for Kevin.

Mark a.k.a. OHB

Dave Leigh said...

Mark, I agree 100% that a song that objectively doesn't meet the criteria should not be considered for contention AT ALL, just as a football team with too few players would not be allowed to take the field. However, just as a game in progress would be called when this were was brought to the referee's attention, I have no problem as a judge saying, "This didn't meet the challenge, case closed."

I have refrained from saying which song I prefer because it flatly does not matter. If I had my "druthers" I'd rather have seen Ross' rejected for failure to qualify and yours have been offered for a vote, as it is the next highest ranked shadow that DID qualify.

But that didn't happen. We had a choice between these two songs, and even if SpinTunes couldn't make the hard call, I CAN. Of those two songs, there is one and only one qualifying entry. I feel no remorse in pointing that out.

The Offhand Band said...

You definitely *shouldn't* feel any remorse. But neither should I. I think both of us have entirely valid, justified reasons for voting as we are under the current circumstances.

Also interesting/strange that, beyond those two different notions about what a judge's role should be, both of us also have not said what song we prefer. We both used a process of elimination only. Yes, yours was based on the objective level of qualification where mine was based on something more subjective, but even so.

All this, to me, just underscores the problem with the current setup -- it leaves so much in the judges' court that there can end up being a lot of inconsistency across the judges that makes their votes apples and oranges, leading to the final aggregate results being not necessarily so meaningful. Ah, well! Live and learn :)

Mark a.k.a. OHB

Rikertron said...

Dammit. I had a nice response penned, then an erroneous key press navigated me away from the page. I'll try to sum it up quickly:

Ross and I made it to the finals because of the system in place for SpinTunes. In my opinion, the system, nonideal as it may be, did not fail. Ross and I earned our spot in the finals.

I don't believe the challenge criteria were ever meant to carry as much weight as submission deadlines. They're in place to serve as a tool to help the judges apply a merit-based rank to songs.

My first round submission is a perfect example of this. I wrote a song about two superheroes who were based on the lives of two people who are not superheroes. Some people said my song didn't meet the challenge because of this. I insist that it did. But if my song were not to be admitted in on those grounds, then that undercuts the entire judging process. The judging process is there to place me accordingly, and I did not come out on top because of this. The time requirement is the exact same issue. Some people will say that a song that is 98.3% of a three-minute song meets that criterion, while others will not. The votes will sort the issue out.

Dave, you don't need Ross' song to be disqualified before judging, because your vote serves that purpose. You are a voter for whom adherence to the criteria is the more important aspect, and you voted for me. Mark is a voter for whom overall song quality is more important than how well the song met the challenges, and he voted for Ross. The system is doing what it was designed to do.

I suspect that a lot of this comes from the unfortunate ambiguity inherent in the contest documentation. that's a pitfall of this being a first-run contest, and there's definitely room for improvement. I'm pretty sure a lot of the recent discussions will end up imparting significant changes to the system next time around.

I actually have a suggestion in regard to this issue here. Maybe instead of saying, "minimum 3 minutes", Travis should've said "target length: 3 minutes". The minimum length specifications are just there to make sure that people don't think they can get away with a ten second song. Granted, one wouldn't make it very far if that's all they did, but it was to ensure that all the judges and entrants had enough of a song to listen to. These are going onto a compilation album, after all.

I think time targets serve this purpose well, and had that language been used, I imagine neither of you would have much trouble accepting the finals as they happened, and it probably wouldn't have required you to change who you voted for.


The Offhand Band said...

I'm with you down the line here, Kevin, as you'll see even more clearly in my response comment to yours over at SpinTunes. The "target" language is an excellent idea.

Mark a.k.a. OHB

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