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How The Songwriters Behind One Direction Secretly Control Your Mind

One DirectionAbout a month ago, after One Direction dropped their latest release, Midnight Memories, most reviewers couldn’t help but point out the album’s shameless knock-offs of some of the biggest pop hits of the ’80s including “Jessie’s Girl,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” and pretty much any song by Asia, just to name a few. And, yes, while the songwriters behind the squeaky clean boy band’s smash singles make their musical points of reference pretty obvious to any listener older than 12, they also manage to pull off some patently ingenious lyrical references that slipped by most recaps of the album “ mostly because that was precisely what they were designed to do.

Upon a first listen, the first verse of “Better Than Words” sounds like pretty standard fare for a One Direction song: a just-generic-enough description of crazy, undeniable love that sweeps you up in its whirlwind of affection and excitement.

Better than words
But more than a feeling
Crazy in love
Dancing on the ceiling

But, if you haven’t noticed it already, each line is also a song in its own right. The second line. The third line. And, you guessed it. These aren’t just lyrics in a One Direction song, they’re built-in references to seminal pop hits. And they’re placed directly next to the title of the One Direction song, itself the very first line of the song.
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Exclusive Q and A: Free Energy Talk Irony, Romance, Rebellion

Philly-based indie rock outfit Free Energy have been bringing classic rock riffs back since the mid 2000s, when three-fifths of their members were part of Minnesota hometown heroes Hockey Night. With Love Sign, the band’s follow-up to their 2010 release Stuck on Nothing, Free Energy is channeling a whole new decade to expand on their ’70s sound. We talked to lead singer Paul Sprangers about the ’80s influences on the new album, his affinity for certain recurring phrases in his lyrics, and what makes the idea of rebellion so appealing.

OS:  How did the band approach writing the new material compared to Stuck on Nothing?

Paul Sprangers: Scott and I demoed songs together, like the last record, but this time we were able to bring the songs to the band, work on arrangements, then re-demo, sometimes repeating and refining the process many times. Then the songs would undergo more arranging with John Agnello so we were able to spend more time refining the songs and letting them ferment. We also had a clearer vision of the production aesthetic going in, partly because of our experience working with James, and also because we had been listening to so much mid-80s music in the last 5 years. INXS, Def Leppard, Peter Gabriel, AC/DC, The Bangles, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Ocean. John Agnello worked on the first Outfield record, and a Cyndi Lauper record, so those were two huge sonic reference points. (more…)

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Repeat 'Em! – Bands Forge Own Tracks To Spite Record Labels

Classic bands like Def Leppard, Aerosmith, and Squeeze seem to have found a clever way to get back some of that royalty money they’ve been missing out on for all these years. While many of these bands’ record companies still own the master recordings that made the bands famous, most of the labels do not own the music itself. This means that a band like Def Leppard could decide to, let’s say, re-record their entire catalog of songs down to every last production detail to the point where the tracks are completely indistinguishable from the originals. We’ll call this the golden loophole. (more…)

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Sound And Vision: Six Artists I Love Although I Know I'm Not Supposed To

Most of us probably would be loathe to admit it out loud, but we all have them: Singers and bands we love in spite of everybody else. They create music to our ears, while to those who consider themselves highbrow connoisseurs of cool, they’re incurably uncool. I’d call these acts “guilty pleasures,” but when it comes to the music I listen to, I don’t believe in shame.

Jennifer Lopez Don’t judge. And don’t write off Love?, Lopez’s 2011 pop comeback. It’s a lot better than the title. All these months after she debuted the video from her judge’s perch on American Idol, “On the Floor” still never fails to take me there, and “I’m Into You,” the follow-up single, deserved so much more than a No. 41 peak on Billboard’s Hot 100. The other day, my iPod landed on Lopez’s first hit, “If You Had My Love” (No. 1 in 1999), and I didn’t press skip. In fact, I hit repeat. Twice. Carp about her thin vocals all you want, but if you’re a pop fan and you say you haven’t gotten swept up in her groove at least once”most likely thanks to the aforementioned “On the Floor,” or  “Jenny from the Block,” perhaps her greatest hit”I’d say you’re probably lying.

Enya Back in college I worked in a record store, and one day I faced an angry customer who had requested something similar to Enya and was recommended Kate Bush by one of my colleagues. She bought it, tried it, hated it. If only my clueless co-worker had known that nothing compares to Enya. She’s lumped into the new-age category”home of Yanni (yikes!)”and her songs often are dismissed as music for insomniacs because of it. But stay awake and listen: Her potpourri of Irish folk, choral music and gospel, with occasional flourishes of tribal and world music, sometimes tense, sometimes soothing, is so much more than anodyne pop.

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