Friday, June 24, 2011

My SpinTunes 3 Round 1 Favorites

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Ask me my favorite SpinTunes 3 Round 1 song and I'll tell you "Wake Me When It's Over" by Dr. Lindyke (this is a competition... did you expect something else?). But OTHER than that, here are my (Dave's) top picks for the round:

(I created the graphic on the right as the album cover for the round. Of course, it's the Grim Reaper with a tambourine. I imagine he's dancing in a funeral procession in New Orleans. Click through vote and to download the album.)

Before I list them, let's take another look at the challenge: "Write a happy song about death".  This is pretty much the inverse of a previous SpinTunes challenge, "write a sad song about birth," and my approach here is the same.  There are two legs to stand on... it has to be happy, and it has to be about death. For instance, our song is about a terminal patient awaiting his imminent demise with sincere joy and expectation, so I'd say we met the challenge pretty well, and an unusual, spiritually satisfying approach.

Here's a sampling of the competitors I think best met the challenge:

Byron Blocker and the Offbeats - She's Dead

This song isn't a narrative, and it doesn't need to be. It's a simple expression of joy. Sure it's joy over someone's death, but that's the challenge, isn't it?  What makes this song stand out is that Byron's not causing the death. It just happens, and it's a windfall to the singer. Too many of the other contestants went for some sort of vengeance of the "I'm going to kill her" variety. I'd argue that vengeance may bring satisfaction, but you've got an uphill climb to show that it brings happiness. Byron avoids the trap by avoiding the narrative detail and focusing on the emotion... a great choice for this challenge.

Byron himself sounds like the Boogieman from "Nightmare Before Christmas", which just makes this really fun to listen to. I LIKE IT.

Edric Haleen - I Hope You Die

Edric takes a different approach in this manic bit of novelty. The singer is unquestionably miserable... most of the time... and it's due to his cheating, cold, wife. He can't bring himself to leave her. At the end of the song we get a taste of exactly how frigid and devoid of love his everyday existence is. But he has one thought that keeps him going, and what a thought! What keeps this in the "happy" category and well away from the visciousness of some other entries is that Edric's character never once considers killing her himself. This guy is a veritable saint, and he spends his day praying to be delivered from his suffering by some random act of God (or Nature, or a passing mugger, or...) The astounding part is that he manages to do this, not immersed in desperation, but basking in the joy of his imagination.

Edric, as usual, walks the slenderest of tightropes and manages to make it sound easy.

Charlie McCarron - Grandma and Grandpa

Wow. "Happy" covers a lot of ground, and with this song, Charlie McCarron treads where no other contestant dare. The story itself is tragic... Grandma and Grandpa go out in a canoe to watch the stars and see the sunrise. Having rowed too far, and being lost in the fog, they die. But the happiness of this song isn't in the narrative... it's in the moment, and it's in their contentment with each other and their acceptance of their fate. Viewed from their perspective, there is nothing tragic about this song in the slightest. The tears it brings are cleansing in a very good way. This song is truly creative and unique, setting it apart from the crowd.

Godz Poodlz - Wake At The Sunnyside

Leave it to Godz Poodlz to turn this challenge into a sales pitch! It's got it all... the party, the puns... this song manages to be happy through the simple expedient of flatly denying that death is a sad thing. When I die, I want Sunnyside Funeral Home to handle the arrangements. And I want the full treatment, including pony rides to the graveside and funnel cakes. How can I possibly go wrong... Sunnyside offers a lifetime guarantee!



So there are my favorites. If you're not on the list, it's not because I didn't like your song... I probably did. A lot. This was an awesome field of competitors. These folks are here because they managed to nail the spirit of the challenge with unique interpretations that relied on pure happiness unadulterated by a dark cloud; and they did it with really entertaining presentation.

WELL DONE!


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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wake Me When It's Over


UPDATE: I added some notes about the title after the lyrics.
UPDATE2: I finished the song bio with "The Rest of the Story"
This is our entry for SpinTunes 3, round 1 (click here to vote for it!). The challenge: Write a happy song about death. This begs for a novelty song, but Sammy Kablam challenged us to write an un-funny happy song. So we started thinking about all the different kinds of "happy" there are, and we hope we came up with a very pure, almost tearful bittersweet happy.

Here we're imagining a terminal patient telling his wife not to grieve for him, as he's genuinely and sincerely happy to die and go to heaven.

On a technical note... yep, we're aware that once again we switched genres halfway through the song. It goes from borderline gospel to a rumba. I like mixed genres... sue me. In this case, though, there's a practical reason. This challenge is really the inverted form of an earlier challenge (SpinTunes 1, Round 3: "Happy to Sad in 4 Seconds: Write a sad song about birth"), so here we're attempting to take you from sad to happy. Hence the bait-and-switch.

One last thing... this is under 3 minutes long as a gesture of mercy toward the judges. There are 60 contestants in round 1. If every song was only as long as this one, it would take them three hours just to listen to each song once.

WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER
-----------------------------------------

Babe, you know I’m leaving
I’m going home
I can hear my name called in the light
I don’t want you grieving
There’s no need for tears
Everything will turn out right

Celebrate the moments of our lives
Celebrate the memories that you keep
The answers to your questions
Surely lie above
Now it’s time for me to sleep

Wake me when it’s over
Have a party while I’m growin’ colder
And maybe cry into your beer
Because you think that I’m not there

But...
I’ve got a first-class ticket into Paradise
And if you love me you will see me, just close your eyes
And we will spend eternity
In love so endlessly
And when the living ends you’ll see
It’s never over

[instrumental]

I’ve got a first-class ticket to the afterlife
And we’ll forever be together when it comes your time
And we will spend eternity
Bathed in love so endlessly
‘Cause when your life is done you’ll see
It’s never over


ABOUT THE TITLE:

I've heard feedback from several people that the name of this song should be "It's Never Over". Generally the reason given is the same reasoning you'd use to argue that "Camptown Races" should have been named "Doo-Dah". I don't find such arguments terribly compelling; but the sentiment is prevalent enough that I'm going to take a moment to defend and explain the name.

The song starts sadly, on purpose. Death is a sad thing for most people. The aim of the song is to take you FROM that sadness TO the happiness of life after death. The song is not a snapshot of the mood of happiness: it's a transition into that mood. It's a realization that death isn't sad ending at all; rather, it's a new beginning. You can't communicate that if you give away the denoument in the title. It would be like writing a murder "mystery" and entitling it, "The Butler Did It". So,
whatever the best title for this piece should be, "It's Never Over" certainly isn't it.

"Wake Me When It's Over" appears once in the song, but it's not incidental. It is
the pivotal moment at which the song turns from sad to happy. Through the inclusion of the pun on "Wake", it hints at happiness without giving away the ending; and it implies there's a continuation -- a new awakening -- after it's "over". In other words, it communicates that "over" doesn't mean the end. "It's Never Over" in the title would imply that there is no death, and that's not the song's message. The real message, and that which is communicated by "Wake Me When It's Over", is that there is a new beginning.

So, while I appreciate the feedback, I'm keeping my title because it's quite honestly better.


There's a little more to this story which I'll add later today. 

and now, THE REST OF THE STORY:

As I mentioned at the top of this post, Sammy Kablam challenged us to make this an un-funny song. That, however, didn't happen before we had come up with several alternative ideas. Among them...
  • A man dies and goes to Hell, but it's better than the Hell-on-Earth that his wife is putting him through. This is an inversion of the "I'm glad she's dead" theme that turned out to be so very popular in the competion.
  • A happy song about Death. This idea would have the Grim Reaper take a holiday. The only plots we could think of for this idea were funny, but not happy (and there is a difference, although I'm apparently in a minority of people who recognize it. Many of the SpinTunes entries are funny, but cruel or vindictive rather than happy). 
  • A bolt of lightning strikes an Irish wake, killing all of the participants. That doesn't slow them down, though: they continue the party on the other side, and you can join them when you die.
 The last is what we were planning to do before accepting Sammy's challenge (which was possibly a very bad move on our part... there will be eleven eliminations and we're competing with a lot of hilarity). It would have been drunken and exhuberant. The title was a deliberate pun on the word "Wake", and really did describe the story in that the wake occurs after their deaths. Then we switched gears, and the title is all that remains of that idea.

You could fairly conclude that my earlier explanation was simply a retcon if not for the fact that the title did shape the song that we wound up creating, and was the first line of the song that was written. The song actually grew in two directions from that line. The "happy" second part (after the line) was written first. The reassuring first part of the song was written last, when we realized that for narrative reasons we needed to say why the singer is imparting this message. The intent was as described above, and the sentiment was inspired by my own mother's demeanor as she approached her death. She filled the air with expectation and excitement.

If you look closely at the two choruses (if you can call them that), you'll see that they differ as well. In the first, the singer is singing about his loved ones' life without him; in the second, he's singing about their deaths.


So, while my previous explanation of the title is accurate, it was incomplete. The title is also an appendix left over from a previous idea, a bit of evolution in amber which may yet see renewed life... after all, it's never over. 

And that's the rest of the story.