Monday, February 24, 2014

I Hate Myself For Loving You

OK, so hot on the heels of one emotionally negative SpinTunes challenge ("Missing You") we have another, which is this:
Disdain In The Refrain - Write a hate song about someone. (2 minute minimum) 
Simple. Clear. Not at all the way I was hoping to follow up the first challenge.

William looked at it pretty much the same way. It's not our style to deliberately hate on others, so William went off to figure out some way of writing a "hate song about someone" that wasn't hateful. In the meantime I wrote a perfectly horrid, terrible, hateful song, sung from the perspective of a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. Fortunately, William hit a home run with his lyrics and concept, so I didn't have to produce the backup plan.

Here we have "I Hate Myself For Loving You", and you'll find the song bio after the lyrics.

I Hate Myself For Loving You 
wmh 2.17.14 

I hate myself for loving you 
The way you walk and all you do 
Let’s just face it and be through 
‘cause I hate myself for loving you 

Every time that you walk by 
I pray you'll look my way 
And in some moment catch my eye 
But once again you turn away 

As time went by I saw the signs 
I’m not Ray Charles but I was blind 
Then in my heart I found a way 
But that’s old news... 

Was it love? 
I couldn't say it never was in any way 
But facts are facts, and this much is true 
I hate myself for loving you 

Come tomorrow the skies will clear 
From partly cloudy to severe 
And as the days grow longer I won't fear 
The end’s in sight... 

I bounce and crawl from day to day 
I want to drop these keys and walk away 
I try to tell you in all I do 
But it’s another lie... 

[chorus x2]

Lyrical Notes

You may notice that's not my voice on the recording. Heather Zink did the heavy lifting this time. The short story behind that is that Heather actually provided the impetus for the creation of SpinTunes. She got SpinTown to start it up, which is why the sign-up form includes a release that says anything that goes wrong is "Heather's fault".

However, Heather's never been allowed in the SpinTunes Facebook group since she's never submitted a song. After years of waiting for that to happen, we finally just said, "Hey, we could use a female vocalist, and Heather can sing," and this is the result.

Welcome to the group, Heather.

The song itself evolved over the first couple of days. The story that William gave to me was intended for me to sing. We then re-worked it when I brought in Heather. Her motivations evolved somewhat as the the ideas bounced around, but here's where they settled. Here's the mini-bio we put on the Bandcamp site for the competition:
It's an old story... she loves him; he barely knows she exists. She can't get close, but she can't leave either. That's the kind of love a person can only hate. And she's no one to blame but herself. 
The song is a rumba guaguanco. Basically, that's a Cuban storytelling song, and we unsurprisingly use it to tell a story. If you want to find out more about rumbas, there's Wikipedia. There you'll find that the kind of story usually told in the rumba has to do with the man's (usually unsuccessful) pursuit of his mate. Here we invert the whole story by putting Heather in the spotlight.

We also invert the challenge while simultaneously keeping to both the letter and the spirit. The singer here flat-out says she hates herself, and she means it. And she also says why. And it's not really because her love actually did anything wrong. It's simply because he doesn't notice her in the way she wants. Her conflict is completely internal. And yet, she still genuinely loves him, even though she's ignored and unjustifiably feels used.

The fact that she loves him has to be communicated in the song, or her hatred toward herself doesn't make sense. In that sense this is a love song. But he doesn't, and never will return that love. Nevertheless, she's caught in orbit around him, unable to get close, unable to break away, and she hates herself for allowing herself to be thus trapped. That hate is as genuine as her love for him.

The challenge never says "someone else".

Musical Notes

I play all the guitar parts here, which amount to basically two... the rhythmic strumming and the acoustic lead.

I also arranged the rhythm from several tracks done by Denise Hudson. Starting from a rather uninspired practice track, I replaced the instrumentation with Denise's, and then added some touches that I'd've never considered had it not been for her... the "froggies" and "sillly metallics", as well as the bead shaker.  In all, here's what's on the track, instrumentation-wise.

Heather's voice
Guitar (strummed)
Guitar (finger-picked)
a silver bell that I like very much

The only thing I brought to the party was the guitar and the brush. Apparently, you don't need a lot of melodic instruments in a Latin song. And as I'm writing this I'm smacking my forehead because last Christmas I gave one of my son's a cajon that would have been perfect for this challenge, and I didn't even consider using it.

Maybe next time.


This song was engineered using the "grandfather's axe" method, in which crappy tracks resembling what you want are gradually replaced with better tracks that are what you want until there's nothing of the crappy original remaining. For instance I sang the vocals for an early track for Heather to practice to. That was too low, so I transposed it up a whole step, and sang it poorly until I got a vocal track from her.That meant replacing the rhythm guitar.

Heather's track is recorded using the built-in mic from her laptop, which is what she had. I'm fine with it, as it gives us a microphone sound reminiscent of the 1930s, which is just where I imagine this story to be set. And Heather's performance is, to my mind, excellent.

Then there's the basic rhythm, which is pretty much unvarying throughout. This started as a simple practice rhythm with fake instruments. But the timing was off... at 130 bpm it was too fast, so I knocked it down to 115, but that made it sound strange.. So I created  a 115 bpm loop out of it by cutting and jostling the instruments that were on the 130 bpm track. Then I got new tracks from Denise, some of which I used as she gave me with minor adjustments. Then the loop I made contrasted poorly with the instruments, so I replaced those instruments with the ones Denise provided on the several different tracks she gave me. Whatever base drum they had became a conga played both to resonate, and then slapped; their wood block became claves, etc. The hairbrush sort of trails and subtly extends the conga.

She did say the tracks were for cut-and-paste, but I'm not sure she anticipated that I'd be doing as much cutting and pasting as I did, and for which I feel a bit guilty. The shakere is, with some minor corrections of stray notes, just what she gave me. For the rest I placed notes or phrases and built the rhythm.

The last thing I did, other than replacing the vocals, was to put in the acoustic guitar lead, a meandering bit in which I basically just stuck to the scale and the three or so motifs I'd chosen for this bit of accompaniment. It's played only to the level that my skills allow.

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