Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bor(ing)n This Way

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, it's impossible not to have heard all the hype surrounding Lady Gaga's new album. The woman's a genius. Her extra-musical activities have served to solidify that, no matter how her album sounds, it would be the next biggest thing since... well, her last album. Between her last effort The Fame Monster and her newest album, she's become the champion of the misunderstood, the bullied, the underdog. The majority of the gay community regards her as some sort of leather clad Jesus with the rallying cry "Be yourself!" With over 10 million followers on Twitter and 35 million hanging on her every word on Facebook, the album was destined to be a resounding success saleswise, especially considering the concept of the album is nearly dead. Projected album sales for the week were expected to break 800,000; I'll get a finite number once those details are released.

Good for her. There's only one problem though:


Pardon the language, but seriously. There's absolutely no redeeming qualities on here whatsoever. It's a damn shame too, since The Fame Monster was not only her best output, but one of the best pop albums released in the past 10 years. She kept her trademark weirdness and refusal to adhere to societal norms, but backed it up with music that actually had some SERIOUSLY incredible writing. Listen to "Bad Romance" or "Telephone" again and don't tell me that they're not still stuck in your head days later. They were catchy, memorable, incredibly dancy and helped propel her into the upper echelon of pop stars who weren't only popular, but GOOD too. Which is a rarity in today's day and age.

Born This Way trades in all aspects of good writing for a collection of 17 insipid, bland, generic fist pumping anthems solely written for Gaga's "little monsters". And I'm sure all of them, in their "misunderstood" lives, will find this album the greatest ever written and will sing its praises until the day they die. Or the day they grow up, at least. As for the rest of us, her more casual fans, we've been thrown to the wayside. The album sounds great, no doubt about it; the production is fat, the beats pounding and driving, the synths huge, larger than life and Gaga's voice right in front of it all.

The writing, however? Entirely unmemorable. The only tune that holds any weight as a contender for a legitimate song is second single "Judas", largely due in part to the fact it's a near carbon copy of Bad Romance with slightly dirtier synths.

Listen to this:

And then try to convince me it's not a sped up, grittier version of this:

Other tracks on the album try to replicate former successes as well. "Americano" tries and fails far too hard to be "Alejandro", leaving the listener with one of the worst tracks on the album, first single "Born This Way" has been proven time and time again to be ripped off from Madonna's "Express Yourself" and "You And I" is a poor man's version of "Speechless". The biggest problem is nothing has any personality to it. While The Fame Monster was still very much a dance-pop album, you could tell serious effort was put into making the songs stand out, if only a little bit, from the rest of the trite on the radio. Born This Way has all those 4 on the floor kicks and side chained off beat synthesizer work that's been oh so prevalent the past 2 years. It sounds like everything else.

"Hair" succeeds as a mindless dance song with a halfway catchy chorus hook and an admittedly awesome sounding second verse, even if it contains an absolutely awful intro and far too much 80s saxophone for its own good. "Government Hooker" and "Schiebe", if combined into one song, would be the best on the album; both have an underlying industrial vibe that I may be biased towards and rather amusing premises. That's what... 3 total songs that have only a little appeal? Out of seventeen?


Next time, Gaga, PLEASE remember that there's more than just the sad, misunderstood fucks out there. Us normal folk like to listen to you to. Or did, at any rate. And if you're going to take cues from the 80s, at least pull them from good artists.

I rest my case.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

And We Return

It seems I'm always apologizing for not posting enough. The past three weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, let me tell you... scoring three movies in as many weeks, if not less, takes its toll on the psyche. And then there's the fun of moving an entire apartment's worth of stuff home. Maybe I should've been an accountant. There's a lot less shit to lug around.

But this year brought some of the best memories related to composing that I've had so far. And even though I complain incessantly about everything I work on (which finally got me into trouble with a client; I should watch myself), everything I've done this year has been an absolute pleasure to do. I'm incredibly proud of the three movies I've scored, I finally got Salvation Denied to play some legitimate gigs, I started working on a musical, and I'd like to think I've grown leaps and bounds as a composer.

A lot of that growth I owe to you all. So thank you. I'm constantly bouncing ideas off of people, refining things here and there and all of the feedback I receive I genuinely take to heart. Not to mention, everything that's happened this year has had a profound impact on my life and finally let me write how I felt.

From the bottom of my heart, to everyone who's ever listened, critiqued, aided and abetted or hated my music; you guys help make me who I am. A thousand thanks.

Goals this summer: MUSICAL. Finally upgrading my computer. Aaaaaaand I think I may invest in some DJ gear and learn how to do it. So if y'all need a DJ for a party next year, hit me up.

I leave you with footage of my recital (yeah, I know, it was way back in March), finally on Youtube.

See you fairly soon. Now that I have much more free time, I can blog more.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

No Shit, I Score Movies (Now With Examples!)

I think it's finally time to let you all in on what I've been working on the past 3 or 4 weeks, and will continue to work on until my fingers and ears fall off.

A quick recap:

Merry Christmas, Eve

"Merry Christmas, Eve" Trailer from Alyssa Codamon on Vimeo.
A slice of life piece about 3 twentysomethings out of college, living their lives to the best of their abilities. The director, Alyssa, wanted something very similar to an M83 song that I'm forgetting the name of at the moment for the title sequence: big, wide, slow, dreamy synthesizers. This cue's still very much a baby and will probably get fleshed out much more once I receive a final cut of the film, but the general idea is there.
Merry Christmas, Eve (Title Sequence) by Michael Hart

Welcome To Willard

Welcome To Willard is a documentary about a mental institution and the patients it had. While the beginning and end of the film are documentary styled, with an interview with a living patient from the institution, the majority of the film is about 3 patients in the facility and their experiences. Told through voiceovers, its quite dark, really, but still wonderful. This was an early build of the music I had over the opening sequence of the film, which Nicole liked, but not in its state as it appears here. Perhaps this version will appear over the credits.
Welcome To Willard Opening by Michael Hart

And for something completely different, this is a cue I did for our fake movie for my film scoring class. My teacher wanted something sort of "elevator music" esque. Cheesy, happy, bubbly, all that shit.

I said fuck it, and produced this:
A Recipe For Tastelessness by Michael Hart
Needless to say, my teacher was shocked. But in a good way!

And now, back to work. I can't wait for next Wednesday. Everything will be done by then.