Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Music Musings

Someone told me recently that I look like Ben Folds. I know he's a musician, but other than that I know nothing about him. So I googled him.

Separated at birth?

I think he looks both more nerdy and cooler than me. And better looking. But I'll leave that to the blogosphere to decide.


Since I've been on a quest to find new music lately, I figured being told I look like Ben Folds was as good a reason as any to pick up one of his CD's from the library.

The music's not bad, and the more I hear it the more it grows on me. It got me thinking about the nature of music celebrity. What is it that makes someone like Ben Folds famous? He's no rock superstar, but he seems to have a niche following-- enough to make a living of it, anyway. I'm sure for every Ben Folds, there are hundreds, even thousands, of others who are just as talented but haven't broken through.

I used to think that there were certain musicians whose music was okay, but I couldn't imagine anyone thinking, "Wow, he's my favorite!" I thought they were famous merely by being pretty good. But that's not really possible, is it? I mean, you don't get to be famous without someone, somewhere, thinking you are totally awesome.

The other issue is, I don't know if I'm supposed to like Ben Folds' music. I mean, is it cool to like him? What's the demographic of his fans? I don't know enough about music in general to tell if he's a really talented jazzy nerd or just some pop poser. Is he closer to Randy Newman, Jackson Browne, or Michael Bolton?


When I first saw this video on a friend's blog, I didn't care whether it was cool to like it or not:

I fell instantly in love with Ingrid Michaelson. I love the simple beauty of this song. I love her voice, her look, her expressions, her gestures. She's totally my type. Everything about this song and video makes me feel giddy.

Isn't she adorable?

So, after watching a few other versions of this song and a few other videos of hers on Youtube, I went out and bought two CD's of hers.

What a disappointment.

The CD with "The Way I Am" on it, called Girls and Boys, is just awful. That one song is the only thing on it that's worth listening to. Ironically, there's a secret bonus track at the end that's in the same style as "The Way I Am" and is also really good. But the rest of it is just totally uninspiring.

I really don't understand how someone can make a song that is so incredibly good, and then surround it with such fluff. "The Way I Am" is the shortest song on there, at only two minutes and 12 seconds long. All the other, crappy songs are like four and five minutes long.

I'm not a musician or trained musicologist, so I don't have enough technical knowledge to explain what's wrong with this album. But it feels to me like all the other songs are overproduced. Too many instruments are drowning out the sound of her beautiful voice. Like she's trying too hard. They don't have the catchy tune and artful simplicity of the song that attracted me in the first place. I feel like I've been duped. (Although, to be fair, the price of that CD was worth just that one song.)

The other CD of hers that I bought, Everybody, was on the whole better than Girls and Boys, but it suffers from the same problem. There's maybe four songs there that are any good, and the rest are just completely not interesting (to me.) I don't understand how one musician can be so uneven, so varied. (Although maybe my blog posts have a similar level of eclecticism.)

Still, isn't she adorable?

How about here?


Adding to my discovery of Ben Folds and Ingrid Michaelson is a German a capella band called The Wise Guys. I discovered them through a Facebook friend.

Their songs are in German, but English speakers might understand much of this one by the end. It's a lamentation of how English words are infiltrating the German language:

The best line?
Lord, please...
...make it so that "Microsoft"
will soon be called "small soft" again.

The best thing about all these recent musical discoveries is that they have no old associations for me. They come with no baggage.

Here's to new music.


Jolene said...

Gotta admit, you kinda DO look like Ben! It's the smile I think ;)

Sarah said...

I love when I come to blogs and have things to say about things.

#1. Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five. I think everything he/they have ever done sounds EXACTLY the same, but Ben Folds is from here in North Carolina (Charlotte, I think), so everyone's like OMG! BEN FOLDS!!! There's an awesome song they did called "Song For the Dumped," that I think you could get into.

#2. Ingrid Michaelson. My fiance is (was) pretty much in love with her for the same reason it sounds you are. Because she's "adorable." I bought him tickets to her show when she was here a few months back, and the show was AWESOME, but we met her afterward, and she was about the biggest bitch I've ever had the misfortune of meeting. She was only interested in the (female) fans that were fawning all over her, and not so much in the people that just wanted to say hi.

I think she's into girls, though, so that could have had something to do with it.

Either way, he fell out of love with her (and took her off his List of Five) in a similar way it sounds like you did, listening to things other than her couple of good songs.

Mom said...

I think you are MUCH better looking than Ben Folds!


Dan S said...

I think art is probably like a bell curve. Most of what someone produces is going to be in whatever range they are normally in. Sometimes a particularily good or bad inspiration comes along to push a particular piece away from the norm.

Or, maybe the great artists just produce a lot more stuff, and have the luxury of throwing away all the bad stuff.

Tim said...

Jolene, yeah, I can see the resemblance.

Sarah, I'm not under any delusions that Ingrid is sweet and wonderful in real life. It's just the pics and videos I've seen that I'm in love with. As for her being into girls, well maybe that's why I like her. :) But according to Wikipedia, she's engaged to a dude, so I don't know what to make of that.

So, Dan, what you're saying is that Ingrid's norm is the crappy stuff, but every once in a while she stumbles on something good?