Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I Remember You (1993) – Björk (Johnny Mercer/Victor Schertzinger)

(The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – An Anachronistic Remembrance)

How often does a modern day artist render inferior the vintage performances of a classic song? Presumably, only once in a blue moon. In that case, then, cerulean lunar luminescence bathed Björk when she recorded “I Remember You,” accompanied simply by a sole harpist, an angel at her shoulder. Despite the wistfulness in her voice—at times fragile and soothing, at times powerful and anguished—the song is actually about a nascent romance forged “a few kisses ago.” She is looking ahead to the afterlife, writing her history in advance, certain that when she is allowed to reflect back, the one thing that she will recall as the most precious gift was the thrill of the moment when she fell in love. It is a poignant testament to the infatuation in which she is immersed, and a glowing endorsement of the optimism her future holds.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • See also "New World" (2000) - Björk
  • He Stopped Loving Her Today (1980) – George Jones (Bobby Braddock/Curly Putman)

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – A Tragic Obsession)

    Take undying devotion to its logical extreme and it becomes a tale of lifelong fixation that ceases only upon death. Add in the country drawl of George Jones and the deliberate pace of a funeral procession, and you have the pathetic irony of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Although she left him all those years ago, this gentleman was unable to get over the love of his life, clinging to mementos that prolonged his hope that she’d return. He had vowed to love her till he died. On the day that she finally came to see him one last time, that vow can no longer be broken.

  • Listen to "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Try Again (1983) – Champaign (Michael Day/Rocky Maffitt/Dana Walden)

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – A Second Chance)

    “Try Again” voices the regret of a man who took his woman for granted. Instead of expressing his appreciation through romantic gestures and tender moments, he told her he needed space. But her absence has exposed his foolish neglect; now he understands the intimacy for which she yearned, and he intends to apply his lesson learned. Fortunately for him, the momentary key change at the second “try” in the chorus causes the heart to swoon, increasing the chances that his overtures will be met with little resistance tonight.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • The Heart Remains A Child (1996) – Everything But The Girl

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – Stuck In Love’s Sandbox)

    Tracy Thorn explores the psyche of a woman who still dreams of her ex from time to time. Although she is occasionally tempted to try and contact him, she isn’t sure that she wants to hear that he has since moved on. Instead, a part of her hopes that he is fairly miserable and misses her. Despite this selfishness, she hints that she is disappointed at how begrudgingly she accepts the idea that he might be happy, that her ego prevents her from wishing him the best. Ben Watt’s cadenced loop-based arrangement evokes a metropolitan walk among the skyscrapers downtown, where Thorn, her alto warm and soothing, can sort through her conflicted feelings. But, like a child who pouts when things don’t go her way, her heart is unable to overcome her feelings of inadequacy and rejection, her unfulfilled need to feel loved, and the likelihood that he is better off without her.

  • Listen to "The Heart Remains A Child" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Kim (2000) – Eminem

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – Caught In The Grip Of A Jealous Rage a.k.a. The O.J. Syndrome)

    If one gets past the bloodcurdling misogynistic violence depicted in “Kim” (which is really of the variety one would expect to see in a Wes Craven movie), what emerges is Marshall Mathers’ songwriting talent. His conversational delivery flows naturally like movie script dialogue written in rhyme, blending the distinction between rapping and speaking (well, in this case, screaming) by infusing histrionics into well-crafted meter. After cooing over his toddler daughter, Eminem resumes the abduction of his ex-wife. He murdered her new husband and his four-year old son, but is going to make it appear that she was responsible and committed suicide. All the while he rants like a lunatic, portraying both the raging assailant and his whimpering victim, avowing that if he can’t have her, he must kill her—which he ultimately does by slitting her throat. The venom with which Eminem expectorates his vituperation is enough to repulse the average listener, and even the most seasoned rap fan is apt to be a little uncomfortable. Yet, despite this graphic homicidal fantasy preserved for posterity, the rumor is that Kim and Marshall are engaged for a third time. Looks like they really want to give that “’till death do us part” vow one more shot.

  • Listen to "Kim" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • See also "Who Knew" (2000) - Eminem
  • Smile (2007) – Lily Allen

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – The Passive Vindictive)

    To see an ex wallow in misery and then spurn his efforts to reconcile is probably the dream of every woman who has been cheated on. Lily Allen lives out this fantasy with the faux-reggae/ska rollick of “Smile,” her schadenfreude evident in the gleeful way her drawn out “cry-y-y,” “smi-i-ile” and “whi-i-le” plummet as if his belongings are being tossed out from a third-story window. Armed with the playfulness of Nelly Furtado, the melodic soprano of Corinne Bailey Rae, and the gumption of Gwen Stefani, Allen’s gloating comes off with enough charm to make us forget that her callousness was forged from heartache.

  • Listen to "Smile" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • I Confess (1982) – The English Beat

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – The Adulterer Who Knows No Contrition)

    What otherwise seems like a breezy calypso on a sunny tropical island is really the account of a man who reveals his infidelity to his wife. However, rather than feeling contrition, he turns a bit vindictive. Dave Wakeling admits that this declaration of apathy is done “out of spite,” that he is indifferent to the fact that the marriage is over because it has been dead for a while. In fact, he wouldn’t even care about who he hurt with his indiscretions were it not for the fact that it will affect him (alimony, child support, loss of custody). The romanticist within him was always “searching for paradise” with new women, even though he risked ruining three lives: his, his wife’s, and, presumably, his child’s. Although he acknowledges that he was wrong for his philandering ways, he is numb to the aftermath. His confession, then, is threefold: he’s guilty of adultery, he feels no remorse, and he doesn’t care what happens next. In doing so, he neutralizes any emotional vengeance she might attempt to inflict upon him, selfish to the end.

  • Listen to "I Confess" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • When You Live Life Alone (2002) – Sarah Shannon

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – The Unlikely Resignation To Table For One Reservations)

    The sparse piano plinks, melodramatic strings and guileless vocals which adorn “When You Live Life Alone” brought criticism upon Sarah Shannon for exhibiting Barbra Streisand tendencies. Damn, that’s harsh. No, no. Instead, let’s entertain the notion that a woman of Sarah’s obvious charms could somehow find herself alone with no willing suitors. Once we suspend disbelief, we can indulge her tale of patiently waiting for a whirlwind romance that ends with an untimely parting and consequent somberness in solitude. Sure, the song plays like a musical adaptation of a Lifetime channel movie—I’m seeing Kelly Preston and Tim Daly, or if you want to go a little younger, maybe Chyler Leigh and Chad Michael Murray—but, so what? It’s a showcase for Shannon’s exceptional soprano, technically perfect and rich with feeling. She finds her notes and sustains them to fill the spaciousness of the uncluttered arrangement, instead of trying to abuse the opportunity with recklessly ostentatious vocal runs.

    It was daring of Shannon to record a song pregnant with such pathos, having come from indie noise pop darlings Velocity Girl. And, while she may have alienated those who became detractors, others appreciate the risk she took in her willingness to expose a more sensitive Sarah in pursuit of new musical directions that stir the empathies of the tragic romantic within.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • Once I Smiled (1968) – Leonard Nimoy (Charles R. Grean/Leonard Nimoy)

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – Wistfulness On Other Worlds)

    A heavenly backdrop of pastoral orchestration wafts in to lay down the lilting ambiance for Spock to get sentimental. As if hearing Nimoy reminisce in his wavering baritone about a childhood romance with a golden-haired lass wasn’t rewarding enough, the fact that he co-wrote this song makes it that much more appealing. When, in describing the giddiness of love, he recalls days he “swung from trees like a monkey pup,” there’s a burst of innate joy that accompanies the reflexive guffaw. And the concise Spock narrative/croon about his resolve to never love again makes it official: all the elements of “awesome” are present and accounted for.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • See also "Amphibious Assault" (1968) - Leonard Nimoy.
  • It’s Too Late (1971) – Carole King

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – The Disillusioned And The Discarded)

    Set to a gentle saunter befitting coffeehouse bohemianism, “It’s Too Late” offers a rational assessment of the realities that spell the imminent dissolution of a deflated relationship. The listlessness that hangs heavily throughout the day precedes the emptiness of night. Knowing that attempts to resurrect the romance would be futile—or at least not worth the effort—Carole King decides to call it a day with a chorus that strikes a chord of resignation. She confirms that there’s no animosity, no acrimonious parting, only a nod of gratitude as she chalks this one up to experience and moves on.

  • Listen to "It's Too Late" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Do You Love Me (1976) – KISS

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – Insecurity Amid Indulgence)

    Paul Stanley has all the trappings of rock ‘n roll stardom: inexhaustible wealth, the jet-setting ways, the fast-living groupies. Yet, for all the extravagance he enjoys, he still wonders whether his girl’s affections are sincere or a sham. Would she split if he could no longer provide this profligate lifestyle? The earnestness of Stanley’s inquisition is reflected in the rhythm section’s unyielding stomp and power chords that ring out with enough intensity to fill an arena. Despite basking in the glamour of rock stardom, at the end of the day he still craves something more than just superficial debauchery. To be sure, though, legions of young men would gladly take his place without any such misgivings.

  • Listen to "Do You Love Me" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • The Only One (1983) – Lionel Richie (David Foster/Lionel Ritchie)

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – A Formulaic Devotion)

    There’s only one reason why anyone even gives a crap about Nicole Richie: her daddy’s success as a songwriter enabled her to befriend the similarly useless-without-money Paris Hilton, which they parlayed into The Simple Life and a notorious beef before making-up again as BFFs. While “All Night Long” and “Brick House” were big hits, most of daddy’s money flowed from his ballads. And although a ballad is a ballad is a ballad, “The Only One” was co-written with the master of all balladeers, David Foster. Together, Foster and Richie crafted a song of soul mate affirmation which wields a chorus capable of so stirring one’s embrace of monogamy that, in a moment of weakness, one is apt to forgive Richie his transgressions in raising a spoiled socialite.

  • Listen to "The Only One" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Make Out Club (1993) – Unrest

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – Props To Puppy Love)

    In “Make Out Club,” TeenBeat proprietor Mark Robinson brings all the earnestness of a young Shaun Cassidy to the meeting, his jittery guitar clips commingling with the skittish rhythm laid down by bassist Bridget Cross and drummer Phil Krauth to incite a frenzy among pledges eager to undertake the rites of initiation. Decoder rings are distributed, secret handshakes are exchanged and passwords recited to gain admittance to the clubhouse, where Robinson shares an innocent tribute to a first love. By the time he smears his suave crooning harmonies over the chorus, the kids are swooning, anxious to validate their memberships.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • I Must Be In Love (1978) – The Rutles

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – A Fabulous Infatuation)

    The Rutles were much more than a parody of The Beatles. While there is humor and wit in their lyrics, the true ingenuity is reflected in Neil Innes’ songwriting ability to distill the characteristics of Beatles songs into an amalgam that sounds very familiar, yet completely original. “I Must Be In Love” evokes the head-wagging arrangement of ”A Hard Day’s Night,” borrows the guitar jangle of “You Can’t Do That,” and slips in the “ooooh” from “I Saw Her Standing There.” Emulating the simplicity of early Beatles hits, the elementary lyrics portray the discombobulating nature of love that causes one to vacillate between extremes. Melodically, Innes captures the halcyon days of infectious pop with a teenager’s verve. Cry “blasphemy” if you will, but “I Must Be In Love” would rank among the best McCartney/Lennon compositions of their early years.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • He’s So Strange (1982) – The Go Go’s

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – The Stalking Victim . . . and Zombies)

    In B-movie horror story fashion, “He’s So Strange” depicts the plight of any girl or woman who has been friendly to a socially inept classmate or co-worker only to find herself the object (or target) of his obsessive affections. The lovable loser has gone all creepy, haunting Belinda Carlisle’s living nightmare as a stalker. The band revives the watusi and the frug with the intrigue of a beatnik detective’s theme, authenticated by Charlotte Caffey’s B-52’s Farfisa organ kitsch. It appears that the freak of whom Thom Yorke sang on Radiohead’s breakout hit has resorted to the time-honored practices of car stakeouts, obscene phone calls, and burning candles at photographic shrines.

  • Listen to "He's So Strange" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Somebody Hurt You (2004) – A Girl Called Eddy

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – Pining For Something More Than Just Platonic)

    Channeling the melancholy muse that informs Cat Power’s Chan Marshall, Erin Moran (not the one who loves Chachi), reveals a languishing crush. Her fragile voice seeps with tenderness over a gorgeously sedate arrangement that lingers in a diaphanous blue haze; in her quavering upper register, her compassion becomes evident. His eyes betray a sadness he carries with him, the remnant of a broken heart. She hopes to show him that she understands his misgivings, that their past heartbreaks are shards of history which cast them along similar paths to where they now stand: apart, yet two jagged halves of a weary whole.

  • Listen to "Somebody Hurt You" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Stories Of Old (1984) – Depeche Mode

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – The Uncompromising Bachelor)

    As the mouthpiece for Martin Gore’s lyrics, Dave Gahan remains resolute in his refusal to compromise for the sake of the relationship, decrying the downfall of men throughout history who have changed for a woman. He is equally as forthright about his lustful intentions as he is about his steadfastness in nonaccommodation. A moody synthesized clarinet/accordion phrase slinks with Parisian adventiousness through the synth-pop streets of a bazaar in Bangladesh. With all the indicia of adamancy in his warnings, let there be no misunderstanding—there are no strings attached when gallivanting with Gahan or Gore.

  • Listen to "Stories Of Old" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • I Want To Be Wanted (Per Tutta La Vita) (1960) – Brenda Lee (Kim Gannon/Giuseppe Spotti/Alberto Testa)

    (The Cupid Chronicles: Complexions of Love – The Lonely Damsel)

    With all the yearning Olivia Newton-John exuded in “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” Brenda Lee makes no bones about her desperation to find someone who desires her in the way she deserves to be loved. “I Want To Be Wanted” lays bare Lee’s longing borne of loneliness with such pangs of pining that it draws the listener into her mire, be they sympathetic or similarly situated. Strings straight out of Mantovani’s orchestra and cooing background vocals escort Lee to the 6/8 time signature sway of faint piano and guitar, brushed drums and double bass. Winding chord combinations reach a subtly surprising key shift that nudges the heart with just enough tenderness to sustain hope that each day will bring her closer to realizing her idealized romance.

  • Listen to "I Want To Be Wanted (Per Tutta La Vita)" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Monday, February 05, 2007

    Phantom Limb (2007) – The Shins

    The specters that inhabited Oh, Inverted World inform the ethereal “Phantom Limb,” a song that might bring a new level of understanding to a wider audience; the song that arguably solidifies The Shins’ place in the mainstream’s conscience, yet which will retain its appeal even after you’ve heard it appropriated for some network television show an umpteenth time. Its flowing pace gently transitions in haunting gradations, navigated by James Mercer’s Brian Wilsonesque rudders of entrancing chord progressions and melodic maneuvering over jangle-fuzz reminiscent of The Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Some Candy Talking” softer side, recorded in The Clientele’s realm of lush pensiveness. Mercer’s oblique allusions flesh out the malaise of a lesbian couple who endure a small town’s conservative prejudices by remaining inconspicuous. Their impulses to publicly display their affection never manifest; instead, their appendages meet with imaginary caresses, hoping to avoid the harassment of an illiberal society; their dreams of enlightening the community by flaunting their relationship in the face of ignorance are no more real than a phantom limb’s illusory flail to knock down a barrier.

    On the strength of “Phantom Limb” as its first single, Wincing The Night Away debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, and even the least pretentious indie kid had to have been a little conflicted. Sure, you were happy for the band. But, it also confirmed that the seeds which had been planted in Garden State when Sam shared “New Slang” with Andrew had officially germinated into the mainstream’s full-fledged embrace of The Shins. (The band even obliged by playing the song on their January 13, 2007 Saturday Night Live appearance instead of a second track off of Wincing.) Hell, if people were actually buying the album, that must mean people outside the file-sharing demographic dig The Shins. You know—old people. Thirty and forty-somethings. All those sales which set the historic mark for Sub Pop indicate a slippery slope that threatens further industry exposure and possible market oversaturation. And—not that the kids’ love of the band would cease—but everyone knows that it’s only a matter of time before your local Ryan Seacrest-affiliated radio station is spinning their disc on American Top 40 alongside The Killers. Then, the bloom is off the rose.

    So, the tempered reactions, the tepid reviews that are begrudgingly conferred, the upheaval wrought upon the indie press—whether intended or not, these act to preserve the indie cachet of Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow by denigrating Wincing The Night Away. Sorry guys, but The Shins are everyone’s band to enjoy now.

  • Listen to "Phantom Limb" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Thursday, February 01, 2007

    Born With It (1996) – Steve Azar and Brett Favre (Steve Azar/McNeel, K./Kim Venable)

    Yes, that Brett Favre. This ain’t no Super Bowl Shuffle, though. Recorded before he won his Super Bowl ring, the bluesy country-rock of “Born With It” would be equally effective in a commercial endorsing Chevy Trucks, Coors Light, Musk Fragrance or Herbal Essence Shampoo. This is kick off your boots, fling your Stetson, grab your girl and jump on the sin wagon music. The Mississippi born and bred Favre is a natural fit for the genre. He carries a tune just fine with a southern twang and country whine, and is not asked to do too much here. An up-and-coming artist at the time, Steve Azar handles the slight majority of the vocals on this ode to a beguiling gal who possess that inherent je ne sais quoi which inspires truckers, construction workers and cowboys to get up off the couch, forgo the game, and take up ballroom dancing, soak in an art show, partake of fine French cuisine, or attend the theatre. Or, maybe she’s just a glorified tramp who enjoys making ‘em horny.

    More than simply just a novelty recording, “Born With It” celebrates a time when a one-off such as this was Favre’s fanfare, the NFL’s only three-time league MVP reveling in the height of his popularity, rather than the croaking swan song of an also-ran athlete.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.