Falling Slowly in Love with the Oscars

February 27th, 2008

As I sit here in class…being a responsible student who is paying attention, of course…I started thinking about the ever entertaining, and political, Academy Awards that took place Sunday night. I love Hollywood award shows, I think they’re fantastic. Not only do I get to see some incredible fashion on the red carpet, loved Katherine Heigl’s dress by the way, but I alsoget a chance to see how movies are honored. And, of course, I get to watch more movie montages than even YouTube can offer (you know it’s bad when Jon Stewart introduces one that focuses on the use of binoculars in movies, and even worse, a one on bees, yes, those little bugs that sting…).

Even with all its flaws, the Oscars have always fascinated me. There is an air of old Hollywood glamor surrounding it that other events cannot seem to emulate. It is not just the idea that Tinseltown dresses their absolute best and is on their best behavior, there is a certain magic that is connected to the Academy Awards. Even if they are “political,” these awards are held in all regard above others, with the others serving as previews of what might possibly happen at the biggest award show of the year. Critics look to the other award shows, like the Golden Globes, to indicate what will happen at the Oscars. Every other show is just a small step along the way to the biggest night in Hollywood, and that’s what I love about the Academy Awards. I love the idea that, for a night, Hollywood stops and holds its breath as those envelopes are opened. It’s a night that brings the entire movie making business together, regardless of animosities and such; a night that allows Hollywood to really feel the excitement of the big screen.

One of my absolute favorite parts of the Oscars has got to be when they cover the music in the movies. I love seeing the nominated songs being performed live onstage. This year was no exception; with three songs from Enchanted, one of my favorites from August Rush, and the last from a small Irish Indie flick called Once. Before the night started, I had never heard of this film or the featured song, but once I heard the song, Falling Slowly, being performed, I instantly fell in love with it.

Falling Slowly, performed by the movie’s stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, caught my attention with its quirky and folksy melody and lyrics. I loved the movie Juno and this song kind of reminded of the music from that. The song instantly relaxes the mind, and soul, and within seconds I found myself swaying in time with it. It is one of those songs that has so many flaws that, in the end, it turns out to be perfect and nothing else should be done to it. No other tweeks should be made and no other artists could make it sound so gorgeous. I loved how Hansard and Irglova performed their song in a way that did not detract from the song. The songs for Enchanted and August Rush both had some type of choreography added in and felt like big musical numbers. I felt that this approach took some of the beauty away from these songs; they felt commercialized to me, almost like they had gone too far. I love that Hansard and Irglova just got up onstage and performed their song. It was just them, a grand piano (played by Irglova), a well loved acoustic guitar (played by Hansard) and the Oscar set. Their song didn’t need some big dance sequence, it spoke well enough for itself. In one word, Falling Slowly is just beautiful. No other way to describe it. Beautiful. And you know what made it even more beautiful? The fact that this little Indie song, not some big Disney number, took home the Oscar for Best Original Song. 🙂

Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

DJ Obama

February 20th, 2008

As a political science major (and junkie), it’s hard for me not to get sucked into everything that is going on in the political arena. So, I was intrigued when I learned, via YouTube, that there are songs made about the candidates and by the candidates. Some of these songs, well, aren’t so serious, hence Obama Girl’s “I’ve Got a Crush on Obama.” However, other songs aid the candidates’ campaigns, like Barack Obama’s song “Yes We Can.” I find these songs are an interesting way for music to play a role in our current presidential race. In 2004, it was popular for celebrities, like P. Diddy and Paris Hilton, to endorse candidates, especially
with the Vote or Die campaign. Going into this election, the use of music seems to be the key. Even in spoofs, like Mad TV’s “Umbrella” featuring a fake Obama and Clinton, music still has a voice in politics. I especially found Obama’s “Yes We Can” intriguing because it creates music out of an ordinary political speech. The song, mainly featuring will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and other celebrities, like John Legend and actress Scarlett Johansson, plays on one of Barack’s speeches and turns it into a folksy song, performed with acoustic guitar and raw vocals. The artists lyrically recite different lines from the speech, with the chorus basically being “Yes We Can.” The song mainly caught my attention because music isn’t typically the type of tool one uses during a campaign. Debates, television ads, interviews and public appearances are all popular methods but music typically isn’t. I think this use of music shows how candidates are evolving their campaign techniques. This is a big election year, since there is no incumbent and both nominees will be seen as challengers. It is basically an open race, so they are willing to do whatever it takes to become President of the United States, and if that means using the music industry, then so be it. Overall, it will definitely be interesting as this race progresses, and Obama comes closer to winning the Democratic nomination, to see what other musical performances and mediums appear in support of the candidates.

We Got the Beat, We Got the Beat, We Got the… Beatles?!

February 11th, 2008

Alright, so I doubt that The Beatles were influenced by The Go-Go’s, but their music was shaped by some talented and great performers. The Beatles pulled from the rich vocals, guitar sounds, piano strokes, and drumbeats of their predecessors and used them to create a new kind of rock and pop sound that changed the 1960’s.

The Beatles created a signature sound that drew from a background of blues, folk, rock and even pop. These influences appear throughout their hit, “Please Please Me.” The song’s prominent electric guitar sound can be traced to Elvis and Ray Charles, and the finger picking in the very beginning is reminiscent of Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson. In fact, The Beatles eventually did a cover of Jefferson’s “Match Box Blues.” Their expertly controlled lyrics pull from Robert Johnson, while the hint of rawness in them are like those of Son House and Jefferson. The song also has a repetitive quality like that of The Crystals’ song “Da Doo Ron Ron.” Finally, The Beatles’ “Please Please Me” has a bluesy sound mixed with flippant lyrics, which emulates the likes of Buddy Holly in “Peggy Sue” and Motown’s “Money.”

Overall, The Beatles show that even one song can represent so much and can be made up of so many components. The Beatles treat music like a five star chef treats cooking. When a chef creates something, it can seem so simple, yet without just the right combination of ingredients, and the right ingredients in general, the food would taste horrible. That is what The Beatles did with their music: they took just the right ingredients (electric guitar, bluesy sound, etc.) and used just the right amount (no one element was too overbearing) to create something…well…delicious. So, please, give me a second helping of that!

Not A Single Flaw

February 7th, 2008

Last week I mentioned that I was going to the Sparky’s Flaw concert with my friends, Meagan and Claire, and let me just say…it was AWESOME!! I have no complaints about the performance from the band and the openers were great too! One of the opening acts, Phil Bensen, was amazing. He is like a mix between Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson and is now one of my favorite artists! I especially love his song, “Not Good Enough,” which is a soulful blend of all that is good in the world of music, from a great set of strong vocals to some rocking drums and fanciful guitar work. Rock on Phil Bensen!

Sparky’s Flaw was on fire that night, too. They sang some of the old stuff, like my favorite song, “The New Year,” and some new stuff that I can’t wait to get once they record it. Their stage presence was fantastic, they always got the crowd going and there was never a dull moment. Their sound is unparalleled, filled with vocals, sax, keyboards, drums, bass and some killer guitar! The best part of the night was definitely meeting the band and finding out that they might be heading this way and playing at The Loft! If so, I will definitely be there, and I know Meagan and Claire will be right beside me!