Friday, December 15, 2006

The Single

A couple of months back Salon held a song contest from their music blog. Thinking there would never be a better demographic upon which to inflict my music than Salon readers, I took Mrs. Transient Gadfly's favorite song of mine and produced the living crap out of it. I was, at the time I entered it, quite proud of my creation and full of, you know, whatever it is that people who are rock stars in their own minds are full of. Then the contest actually happened, and I neither made the finals, nor the honorable mentions, nor was there any acknowledgment that I existed on the earth or produced music from its surface--and, to make the implied rejection all the more clear, Salon featured some fairly terrible songs along the way (most of them were great, but some of them really weren't). It turned out I had produced a song that was, as far as the music bloggers at Salon were concerned, neither particularly good, nor particularly bad, nor in any way notable. It was apparently just not worthy of mention.

I understand being a professional musician to be an incredibly hard, crappy way to make your living--record labels want to screw you, promoters don't want to pay you, you live in hotel rooms, generally don't make very much money (with, obviously, a handful of very famous exceptions), and have to live in the perpetual hope that the next song or next album is going to be the one that puts you over the top. That doesn't mean I haven't lived my entire adolescent-to-adult life secretly longing to be one. It just means that I haven't ever gone after it with any amount of fervor that I couldn't later dismiss with a shrug of the shoulders saying, "oh well, I didn't really want that anyway."

I did kind of want it. A little bit.

Men Of Luggage (4:12)
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Next: Man's inhumanity to Man!


Sam said...

Well, I know nothing and have no power, but I liked the single a lot and firmly believe you should be a rock star.

It's got a serious hook, so it proves you know how to write a single.

Were I to make a criticism (and as a groupie, how could I possibly criticise?), it might be that the vocals were a tad overproduced.

Transient Gadfly said...

The vocals are a bit über-pop (though that's more a function of the style in which I sang them, rather than anything I added).

Listening to the entries that made it somewhere in the contest I got the sense that, for the audience that is Salon music bloggers, I was writing untimely music (for some definition of untimely that you yourself wouldn't ever use). I'm writing songs with four line rhyming verses and a chorus and a stadium rock guitar solo that end with the chorus repeated, and maybe that just doesn't cut it anymore.

In my own self-critique comparing music I write and other people's music that I like, this what always strikes me. I feel like I'm writing in a formula and that formula is staid or trite or whatever, and the music I like is flying about playing with the definition of what it means to be a pop song. Or something like that.

Sam said...

To repeat myself: I don't know anything. But, when you say, 'I'm writing songs with four line rhyming verses and a chorus and a stadium rock guitar solo that end with the chorus repeated', I have to ask: really? You're exaggerating severely, right?

Your songs don't sound formulaic to me at all. Few songs on your first album sound anything like one another. And while this track does sound 'hookier' (if that's a word) then your other stuff, it doesn't sound like anything I've heard - except maybe you. Indeed, Rebecca is notorious for her inability to identify musical groups. I put your track on in the lounge and she was in the kitchen where she could barely hear it. I asked her who it was, and she said 'it sounds like Paul', but then went on to 'give up' and say she didn't know who it was.

p.s. It is NOT 9:21am! Damn PST hegemony; doesn't Greenwich Mean Time count for something?

Transient Gadfly said...

I wasn't exaggerating, or at least I didn't think I was. Which I'm sure is telling in some sort of you-are-a-bad-judge-of-your-own-work kind of way.

dan said...

Congratulations! This is very cool!

I'm a big music fan and have no musical ability, so I'm always amazed that someone can make music. I have no sense of the process. It always just seems to happen magically, and I'm certain that I listen to music differently for that reason compared to someone who is a musician him or herself. But anyway, I'm impressed!

When I read these lyrics when you posted them on your blog whenever-ago, I gathered that they were song lyrics, but I thought they were quite dark and would accompany a very moody or similarly dark sonic arrangement. The song sounded downright peppy. That was obviously a purposeful choice -- do you think that you intended a contrast or was my reading not the same as yours?

I imagine that your band is fun to see live.

If you really want to make it big, forget Salon. All the indie bands are coming from MySpace these days. ;)

Screw those Pitchfork-wannabe Salon interns that pre-screened you out of the pile. I bet Miho and Chris Walla would have loved it. Glad you shared.

Lingual Mania(h) said...

As the wife of another constantly recording, would really love to shuffle of this work-a-day coil and be a "rock" star, extremely talented yet unrecognized guy, I feel your disappointment. As a long-time fan of yours, I would have to say (agreeing with Sam) there is a big difference between having a formula and being formulaic. Everybody has a "formula," if we take formula to mean specific structure to which one gravitates, even those people who write, like Ben Folds, lyrics that are narrative in the extreme. If by formula we mean standard plan for writing a song, everyone has one of those, too.

But enough consoling, because it's not necessary: it's a really great song. Enough said.

Transient Gadfly said...

I thank you humbly for your kind words and support. I think there might be some kind of future in the online distribution of music. Somebody should look into that.

Dan, I must disabuse you of the notion that there's a band out there in the world that sounds like this song. It's me and some guitars and some effects (I cannot, unfortunately, play the steel drums). I was just using our band's MacIdol account to host the song. I plan to some day re-brand said solo project and give it some identity, but I haven't yet.