Saturday, March 16, 2013

SpinTunes 6 Round 4 Reviews

I'm not a judge. I have no standing. But I'm going to review this round anyway, and reveal my preferences, too; because that's the kind of jackass I am.

OK, this is tough, because I like all these guys, but I'm going to do it anyway. I'm being as critical as possible here, which is quite likely to mask the fact that I like all of these entries. If it sounds as if I'm worst possible take on things, that's probably true, but only because cheerleading is a little less interesting to me today.

First, let's look at what the challenge really says. "Write a protest song in which you try to convince your listeners about something you strongly believe" (that's from Round 3). Round 4 constrains the contestants to the same topic they used in Round 3.

Here they are, ranked in order of my preference, top to bottom.

Ross Durand - Someone's

A few things put Ross' entry on top for me, though Edric's is undeniably more emotional and RC's is smoother production. This, like Ross' previous entry, is the quintessential War Protest. This could easily have been a bad thing, since Ross is supposed to be trying to convince someone of his point, and Hawks are notoriously difficult to sway. But Ross grabs you with a strong, strong beat and an intensely listenable hook that keeps you there for the message. Of all of these songs, This one is the one I would listen to, by choice, most often, while paying attention to the lyrics. These are lyrics and a message that can't be ignored. Then Ross drops napalm in the form of Sierra Durand for the penultimate chorus. "Someone" is an impersonal pronoun: Sierra makes it personal. We can send "someone" to war, but this little girl's dad needs to stay safe at home. By extension I start thinking about the other little girls with dads of their own. This was exactly the right string to pull. The production has a definite "live" feel to it... I could hear this played down at Shady's on a Saturday night with beer, peanuts and a whole lot of whoopin' and hollerin'. I'm a sucker for songs with the human factor.

RC - Get Out Of My Way

I thought that RC's lyrics lacked some subtlety last time. He definitely corrects that here. The shift to first person is always a good choice. RC's no longer telling me about these problems, he's showing them to me, and that makes the difference between preaching and persuading. My quibble is that it may be a bit too subtle here... RC almost misses his own challenge by focusing on general problems rather than inequities (he left himself a really narrow challenge), but this is tenuously rescued by one line: "I hear the schools across town are so much better". Solid production, smoothly listenable and good replay value means that people will hang around for the message. It's possible that the production works slightly against it as a protest, in that it's easy to just sit back and let this tune wash over you without paying much attention to what it says.

Edric Haleen - On The Matter Of Bullying (Part 2)

At first you'd think, yup, Edric poured everything into that and it's a shoo-in... and it may very well be. I know *I* love this song. I was indeed the stereotypical chess-club nerd in the locker. I actually carried a slide rule in a holster... this is the universal bully-sign for "give me a swirly". This song should be punching every emotional button I have. But my logic wouldn't let me be until I understood what was bothering me about it.  Who's Edric convincing, and of what? At first it seemed to me like preaching to the choir... the message is just one that doesn't require a lot of convincing. Who disagrees with the statement that bullying is bad? That's when I did an about-face and realized that it's a good thing he put in the talking points at the end, or one could easily driven to despair if one were pre-disposed to that mindset by bullying. That kind of suicidal reinforcement obviously isn't the intended message. On the other hand, "You're special, and don't let those bullies destroy that" would be a great message to convince your listeners of, but unfortunately it's not in the actual song*. This is a song for healthy people who already agree with you. For that group, I think it's very effective as a protest in that it would move those healthy people (especially those who have overcome abuse) into offering help that they might not otherwise, but it's not something that I would recommend be played for someone who is actually suffering from abuse at the present time.

* I know it's possible to have a healthy discussion about whether being on the recording makes it technically part of the song or not, but in my mind, stepping away from the piano and dropping character signals the end of the song, and the beginning of a serious talk that's not part of the song.

MC Ohm-i - If You Were Gay

I'm going to sound like the world's biggest curmudgeon here, which is really sad, because I really, really like MC Ohm-i's stuff. His first stab at gay marriage didn't get me because it had no emotion. This is more of that. Ohm-i is definitely focused on that "convince your listeners" bit, but he's going about it like that annoying guy on the bus who keeps quoting facts and figures at you who you'd really like to steer into a discussion about baseball or sneakers or what kind of onion is best on hot dogs but you can't because you can't get a word in edgewise and why did you have to miss that earlier bus and OH MY GOD you've eighteen more blocks to go and is it possible to cut yourself with a ballpoint pen?  OK, I'm exaggerating. My point is that I think this subject goes over a lot better with a first person perspective and a little heart. Between that and the audible "seams" in the sample, I'm left wishing I could justify placing this higher. 

(Just an observation: there were a boatload of "gay marriage" songs in the last two rounds. We might have done one ourselves in Round 3 if we hadn't already done the topic, and as a protest song, too. I think I may go ahead and produce it better now.)

And that's all the songs. Yup. Every blessed one.

UPDATE: Someone has pointed out to me that there were shadows this round. OK, many people have pointed that out. And they noticed that there were no reviews of those shadows here. In my defense, I've already posted reviews of every blessed song, which is all I promised. That said here are...


Again, a reminder... we were tasked to do another protest song, using the same topic as last time. Since the BYD gave us an anti-PC rant and one against Big Software, that's the target. I think I know what's going to happen here...

Boffo Yux Dudes - Wireless Head (SHADOW)
I immediately like the rhythm and the instrumentation. I also like the song a lot... easily my second favorite BYD song ever (after "FOOT!"). It doesn't meet this challenge, though.

Boffo Yux Dudes - Tear it Down, Build It Up Again (SHADOW)
Err... uhm.... I'm going to argue that this meets the challenge, because it expresses the same sentiment as "Eliminate the upper class / Along with the lower and middle" from Eat the Whales. There. I said it.

Cherry Pi (w/ Boffo Yux Dudes) - Octo Pi (SHADOW)
Err... uhm.... See, it's like this... "Occupy SpinTunes" -> "Occupy" -> "Ocu Pie" -> "Ocu Pi" ("Pi" from "Cherry Pi") -> "Octopus Pie" -> "Octo Pi". That's a long way to go for a misspelled pun, but it's not a protest and doesn't meet the challenge. But it does have Cherry Pi in it, which is something.

Boffo Yux Dudes - Operating System (SHADOW)
HEY! How did THIS get in here?!? It clearly meets the challenge, taking up the same lament as "The Ballad of the Last of the Hackers" from Round 3. I don't know how to handle that.


Edric Haleen said...

Thanks for your review of "(Part 2)"! Just thought I'd answer one point. You asked the question, "Who's Edric convincing, and of what?" Here's the best answer I can give...

When Travis asked us if we'd define what we were protesting in Round Three, here's what I sent...

Sure. Bullying.

(Slightly more broadly than that?
As I'm protesting bullying in ALL
of its many forms, it is an anti-
bullying song -- but one that tries
to get the listener to understand
and concede that "schoolyard-bullying"
is just the tip of a very large, very
insidious, very ubiquitous iceberg...)



Then -- when Round Four came around, I sent the following e-mail to Travis, with the subject line, "And -- just in case it's necessary..."

My topic? Again? Bullying.

(Slightly more broadly than that?
As I'm protesting bullying in one
of its many forms, it is an anti-
bullying song -- but one that tries
to get the listener to understand
and concede that the bullying that
occurs at the schoolyard is sometimes
just the tip of a very large, very
insidious, very deleterious iceberg...)



This, then, is my answer to the question you posed. You're right -- the song isn't written for the bullied. It's written to the bulliers and the witnesses. If it can make people think twice about the things they say (thinking they're "just kidding around" or "it's no big deal"), or think twice about just standing by and letting it occur without taking a stand against it, then I've accomplished something. I've made a small difference. I've had a positive impact.

I agree with you -- the spoken message attached AFTER the song is crucial. And you're right -- IT'S NOT PART OF THE SONG. But the grey area creeps in (and you know how I DO so like grey areas!) when you factor in that I absolutely would NOT release the RECORDING of this song without the spoken bit accompanying it. WOULD NOT.

So does that make it more a "part" of the song than -- say -- the spoken intro to "Extreme Mad-Libs," which I certainly would have been okay with jettisoning? It's weird to contemplate -- as you addressed in your review. And it cost me a couple of spots in your rankings. (shrug) Oh well! (You know me -- I'm not going to waste a moment worrying or boo-hooing over that -- I wrote the song I wanted to write; I'm exquisitely proud of it; and rankings and points and standings and titles are naught but an amusing diversion in comparison to that.)

However, there is one SMALL part of what you wrote that I might correct. You wrote, "This is a song for healthy people who already agree with you." I'm not certain THAT'S 100% true. I really hope that my song might change the minds of some people who think that their teasing is really "no big deal." I really hope that my song might change the minds of some people who think that the bullying that happens at school is just "part of life" and just something that kids "need to learn to deal with." I really hope that my song might get people to think deeper about what being a kid is actually like -- not just how we remember the highlights of our own childhoods being like through the fog of nostesia and through the filter of our adult perspectives. (Particularly if it's grownups -- say, in legislative positions -- whose thoughts on homosexuality or gender issues go no deeper than revulsion and prejudiced disdain ...) So in THAT sense, I'm not sure this song is simply "preaching to the choir"...

Anyway -- that's it. Thank you for your thoughts, and for your support, and for helping SpinTunes reach another finish line. Can't wait for the big reveals tonight!



RC said...

I have a lot of thoughts on Edric's song, too. Which is why it's so impressive. Well, part of why.

But I'll keep it down to a few related to the above. The "preaching to the choir" business is true to an extent, but not completely to the point. Few people would come out in favor of bullying, but to me, the song exists to point out not bullying in particular, but the true absolute *horror* of the effect it can have on the bullied. It puts you in their shoes - heck, inside their brain - in a way no song I've ever heard before has gotten close to.

There may even be members of the choir who "poke a little fun" from time to time, and this song might just hit them square between the eyes, too.

On the other hand, the speech at the end... I understand *why* you did it, and why you think it's crucial. But to me... well, I wouldn't have done it. It feels like you're trying to explain something that needs no explanation, and it blunts the message just a bit.

Fortunately, the message is an atomic powered sledgehammer of devastation, so a little blunting isn't a problem. Stunning performance vocally - and every time you start to hope that things might take a turn for the better, those cunning little dissonances in the piano remind you that this will NOT end well. I think I've betrayed my vote...

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