Saturday, February 4, 2012

On Song Bios

Concerning Spintunes, in my last post I mentioned I love "song bios". What are they and how do I use them when evaluating a song?

Well, a song biography is just a blurb about what the song means, why you chose certain lyrical or musical structures over another, etc.. It's like the "making of" video in a DVD boxed set. There's no set format for one, nor any set info that must be included. I love to see the creative process, and so do the other competitors... we're all songwriters, and it's fun to compare methods.

When judging, the song bio is what I look at last.
  • First is the listening party. I don't take any notes then, I just listen for the overall feel. 
  • After the LP I download the album and listen to them in order. As I listen the first time through I jot down some rough observations, and take a first pass at ranking... where do I think the song stands in relation to the ones that I've already heard?
  • Then I listen again, reading the lyrics, and re-order them as I go.
  • Then it's a whole lot of listening. In the car, at my desk, on speakers, on earbuds. I get sick of some of them and can't get enough of others. I re-order accordingly. All that time I try to figure out what the composer was going for... how the challenge was met. I normally don't listen to any other music at all during judging week.
  • Then I read the song bios, if they exist. I get to find out if I missed something that the composer was trying to communicate... basically, did your execution live up to your intentions? Often I've come pretty close to guessing the composer's intent (that's a good thing, because it means the song was successful as a communication medium), but sometimes I learn something new. Sometimes it's TMI. Sometimes I get more out of the song than was intended. If I need to I'll adjust the rankings... usually upwards. I don't recall ever having adjusted a song's rank downward after having read a bio.

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