Sunday, August 16, 2015

Spintunes Champions vs. Shadows: Showdown

OK, it's the final round of this mini-contest, and we get to  rank the finalists, with a real live counting vote, since we were eliminated in the first round.  Here are all the songs of the round:



As usual, we're ranking based on how well a song meets the challenge, and while we ranked them together, Dave is writing the critiques (hence the apparent schizophrenia in the writing), so let's review the four conditions of this challenge:

1. Write a song in which you're counting down to something.
This is a lyrical imperative. It doesn't ask you to imply counting, and it doesn't say the song must be about  counting. It says plainly that you must be counting in the song, and to me that means discrete units in finite quantity. The more discrete, the more it feels like a countdown to me. Seconds, minutes, hours, years... yeah. Sand in an hourglass, less so. I don't care if there are all sorts of lyrics in-between the counts, but they should be there. Just saying you're counting down might get you through on a technicality, but very weakly. Showing beats telling, so I'm giving a lot of weight to showing us, in some way, that the person in the song is counting down to a distinct goal.
2. Musically the song should imply that time is getting nearer to whatever you're counting down to as well.
This is a perfect opportunity for rubato, accelerando, ritardando, key change, or some sort of building or decreasing of tension. I don't care what it is... the song should sound qualitatively different as the event approaches, and in a way that indicates that approach. And personally, I would prefer if it happens during the song as it progresses. Here's an example of a technique not mentioned above: in a song in which a person is counting the years to his death, the number of voices in the chorus diminishes each iteration until he's alone.
3. Once again...avoid going meta.
Easy, don't write a song about the song.
4. As an added challenge, you need to collaborate with someone else on your team
Also easy, and well defined.
 So those were our thoughts prior to hearing the songs.


GENERAL THOUGHTS:

Everybody left something important out.

I feel terrible for saying this, but if Dr. Lindyke were an official judge and went just by listening we would have to consider carefully whether to DQ the entire lot. But every bit as much as I feel terrible for saying that, I feel a disappointed, because you're all top contenders and champions, and any of you could have nailed it.

But since we're not official judges, and because that would be a terrible buzz-kill anyway, and because nobody's realistically going to get DQ'ed, we're pretending that the requirements are optional, and rank these in the order of those that we felt best met them. As usual for, this doesn't necessarily reflect our enjoyment of the songs, and whatever portion of the challenge that remains trumps execution. In weight, lyrics come first, then musical depiction of counting down, then personal preference.


THE RESULTS
In order, winner first:

1. Zoe Gray - 4-3-2-1
Collaborator: Brian Gray
To us, this didn't sound as though the music were getting closer to the event. Nevertheless, this one wins on the strength of the lyrics, which are closest to the challenge of all the official entries. And as the countdown is integral to the "plot", this gets the top spot.
2. Bubba and The Amiable Kraken - Tired Of Counting Down
Collaborator: The Boffo Yux Dudes
It's about counting down, it contains counting down, so it strongly meets that portion of the challenge.  It still doesn't sound to me as though it's getting nearer to the event. To us, the fade out makes it sound a bit like the opposite is happening,
3. Governing Dynamics - The Dream is Winding Down (Lucid)
Collaborator: Jenny Katz
Grammar Nazi strikes: "you've gone" or "you went". Pick one. Lyrically, this squeaks by on a technicality in the last line of the chorus. Other than that it doesn't really sound to me like it's counting down to anything. Also, doesn't feel like it's getting closer to the event to us. 
I should mention that the technical challenge is something we judged before reading any song bios, because it's very important that the songs effectively communicate that countdown musically. I've read your song bio, and while I respect your interpretation, we still have to rank it for effectiveness. Your descending motif is a bit too ornate for us to have interpreted it as an approach to consciousness, and I think it goes in the wrong direction. Most people would describe a descent into sleep. We didn't catch its purpose on multiple listens.
That said, this is among my favorite Governing Dynamics songs now. 
4. Jenny Katz - Goodbye For Now
Collaborator: Travis Norris
Of all the entries, this alone does feel like it's getting closer to something, so that portion of the challenge is well met. However, though it does lyrically depict progression or anticipation it doesn't feel like a countdown in that the anticipation isn't quantified. You may be counting down, but it's not really depicted in a way we understood to be a countdown. So... I feel that if I have to choose between this approach and another, I've got to pick somebody who went straight for it. I feel like a heel for putting it here, because I love this song. It has a permanent place on my phone now. But we're not ranking based on simply which is our favorite (in case you missed it, it's this one), but on the challenge first.

SHADOWS

Rob From Amersfoort - Countdown To Nothing (Shadow)
No collaboration, so a DQ, of course. I like the ticking clock. There's a sort of nihilistic ambiguity about "countdown to nothing" that lets me imagine a singular event such as a nuclear blast or financial or political collapse. I like it better than I like it.
Brian Gray - Off the Grid (Shadow)
No collaboration, so another DQ, of course. If you had collaborated... one shake of a tambourine or "YOPP!" from Zoe would have done it... and were an official entry, you'd have won our top spot with this. To me, this is the go-to example of how to depict a character who's counting down without saying it or just doing it explicitly. " 'Cause the digits flip at twelve o'clock" is a perfectly sound lyrical description of someone who is plainly staring at the clock counting down the discrete (and digital!) minutes to a well-defined target: midnight, January 1, 2000.
And top marks for "Time to never do the things I never did". That's possibly the very best phrasing of "time to die" I've ever heard. And Grammar Nazi doesn't mind that you split the infinitive because poetic license. Time to boldly go into my phone's mp3 directory.

COVERS

The Porter Draw - Today's the Day (Cover)
Have they actually heard the song?