The Rule

I have one rule when it comes to a song that, when violated, instantly dictates that I will not like it. No matter the artist. No matter the genre. I call it my Thee Thee Thee rule. Yes, that’s a literary reference to a series and writer I loved as a teen, that did not survive my college education.  It’s not about love. It’s about a trinary or greater repetition of words. Songwriters, Lyrcists, heed me please. Do not write repeating lyrics. I am not talking about a chorus repeating a stanza or verse. I am talking about a phrase, repeated, consecutively, more than twice, particularly without change in meaning by inflection or change in dynamics. Every time I hear it done, and it happens too frequently, I get really irritated. I feel a contempt for the writer. Is he or she so lazy they can’t fill their song with unique combinations of words that deliver the message, enhance the story, or complete the feeling? Do they think that their audience is so daft that they won’t get the message if it’s not repeated ad nauseam?

Why I Hate the Grammys

The Grammys are the most corrupt and misjudged award show in the national spotlight. I don’t have inside information. I don’t know anyone involved and I’ve never read the rules. But I have ears, and eyes, and an understanding of music deeply rooted enough to recognize a talented artist and/or next level song even if it’s one I don’t like, for whatever reason. Back in ‘89, I remember sitting in my little apartment in Brockport, a broke college student, and I watched the show from start to finish while really paying attention for the first time. Though my drums were packed away in my parent’s basement at the time, I was totally into the music scene. As I watched Alice Cooper accept the Grammy for Jethro Tull in best hard rock/metal performance (that was the year before they separated Hard Rock and Metal) all I could do was shake my head. Better than Metallica? I could have easily listed twenty artists ahead of JT. Exasperated. Tull was already many years past their prime and had no place on that “stage.”  That wasn’t my only disagreement. I didn’t get a single category right that night.

I attempted to treat the Grammy’s in the way I did the Oscars. Even as a young man, I got more Oscars right than wrong, and I rarely got a Grammy right.  Was it me? Was my existing contempt for country music, and growing dislike of all things “pop” affecting even my analysis of Rock and Metal? After the ’94 show, I gave up with this conclusion: Many of the awards appear to be purchased. When comparing a song or album to its field of competitors, the winner is often blatantly inferior to others nominated, and almost always to some that didn’t make it into the nominated category. Some of the choices were so awful it exceeded my ability to comprehend. Does. Not. Compute! The other tendency is that if a well-established band is present with new music, no matter how quality irrelevant it has become, it almost always wins out against a little known new-comer no matter how much better the newer music is. Again, I believe this is financially based. In ‘94 I stopped watching, permanently.

Until 2014. I don’t know what got into me, but I found myself thinking that things may have changed in twenty years. I wasn’t nearly as into the music scene as I was in my youth, but I stay with what’s new, both in my favorite genre’s as well as what’s playing on the radio. I might argue that I’ve mellowed over the years. When my daughters play Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars or Sia or Adele, I don’t cringe. I don’t like it, but I recognize how talented these performers are. They can sing, they can write, each of them seem exceptional in their own domain. When I watched the 2014 show, and a talent like Bruno was shining, the choice seemed easy. Who won then? Two douche-bag robots (Daft Punk) who violated Rule Number One in the worst way possible. The line “We’re up all night to get lucky” was repeated 21 times! 9 times in a row to finish the song! These two unoriginal asshats are so lame that one line is pretty much all they can come up with for an entire song? And it won!?? I can’t fail to mention the other horrifying win. A seventeen-year-old (Lorde) who cannot carry a tune to save her life. Her “music” is so annoying that it had become completely forbidden to play in my vehicle. The sound of Styrofoam on Styrofoam is more welcome. I learned my lesson, no more Grammys, ever.

A (Too) Long List

Even my favorite artists have, on occasion, crossed the line. It might be a stretch to call the Goo Goo Dolls rock, but I’ve followed them since I saw them open for The Great Train Robbery in a bar in Rochester in the early 90’s. When they were announced (“hey, we’re the Goo Goo Dolls”) I thought geez, what a stupid name. When they were done playing I didn’t care, they were much better than the headliner. In the world of “the six degrees of Kevin Bacon”, I have a lot of connections to them. My cousin is married to Robby’s cousin. I went to Brockport with Joe Rzeznik – related to Johnny.  One of my early professional jobs was at Country Club Systems, where I worked with Julie Rzeznik, also related to Johnny. I digress again.

Fast forward to 2016.  Goo releases the album Boxes. On it, Johnny sings a duet with Sydney Sierota called “Flood.” In it, the chorus is the same line repeated over and over. “You’re the flood, you’re the flood, you’re the flood that opened my heart.” This one’s a double whammy. In the one line, the same phrase is repeated three times. Then the line is repeated four times. Arrrrrgggghhhh! Just to stick it to us listeners, the song ends with a seeming infinite repeat of the line. C’mon guys, you can do better. Be creative and write! You have a long history of doing so. In case one of you reads this, don’t get mad! See you in November at House of Blues San Diego.

Dipping in to the well of the past, I always loved the Police, and Sting. However, the one word repeat of “Roxanne” always had me skipping ahead when listening to Outlandos d’Amour. Even the all-time greats have done it. The next room in Hartwell Hall at SUNY Oswego housed a Beatles nut. To this day I would swear it’s the only music Craig ever played. “Let it Be” and “Hey Jude” played over and over both made me want to jump out of my 8th floor window. The Red Hot Chili Peppers gave it away way to many times. Robert Plant put me out of the mood. I tried to explain to my daughter why Taylor’s “Shake It Off” sucks. I’m writing another blog post about Journey and Stranger Things and memory triggers, but no more “Na na na na na…” for me please.  At least each “na” is a different note. Shamefully, there are so many. I rather have NO lyrics than have my unprotected ears dragged across the cheese grater of repetition.

Being Creative

What started this need to expunge my philosophical distaste? One of my favorite bands, Shinedown, has released “Human Radio”, a new song from an upcoming album. I am disappointed that Brent has stooped to useless repetition. The music is great. The variation of singing and the overall structure of the song is great. What the hell happened with the lyrics? Look at this stanza:

Keep moving subject, matter around
Keep your eye on the prize and your feet on the ground
Keep moving subject, matter around
Keep your eye on the prize and your feet on the ground
Keep your eye on the prize and your feet on the ground
Keep your eye on the prize and your feet on the ground

What if it was something like this?

Keep moving subject, matter around
Keep your eye on the prize and your feet on the ground
Find your place knowing words are profound
Reach your hands to the sky, move your head in the sound
Keep a grip on the wheel, turn your body around
Keep your eye on the prize and your feet on the ground

See? One repeat to slam your message home, and it’s non-consecutive.

Then, he does it again in the same song:

I’m reaching out to the human radio
Taking a chop on ’em, I reach hard on ’em
Get the money, throw the tantrum
The human radio is playing your anthem
The human radio is playing your anthem
The human radio is playing your anthem
The human radio is

This one isn’t quite as offensive, but it could be so much better! Example?

I’m reaching out to the human radio
Taking a chop on ’em, I reach hard on ’em
Get the money, throw the tantrum
The human radio is hanging the wrong one

The human radio is raising the dead some
The human radio is playing your anthem
The human radio is

Make fun of that if you like, apparently last night’s The Walking Dead episode is still rattling around in my brain. Pick it up, pick it up, pick it up, pick up the challenge Brent, and do it better. You are better. I am holding you to a higher standard. In case one of you reads this, don’t get mad. See you in August at Five Point Amphitheater in Irvine Ca. No San Diego date?

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