There are three things you should know about me:
- First, I like and enjoy listening to most kinds of music. Tune me into a rock, top 40, 80s, easy listening, alternative, classical, or dance radio station and I’ll be happy. That said, the the stuff I listen to most comes from the rock, pop, alternative, and electronica genres (in their broadest definitions).
- Second, I am a musician (mainly drums and backing vocals) and music producer so, compared to most other people, when I listen to music I hear and pick up on more than they do. This is because I have trained my ear to do so.
- Third, while I do consider myself to be an audiophile, I do not consider myself to be a music critic/journalist (in the best possible use of that term) or a music snob (in the worst possible use of that term).
These things are important to know because, while I listen to a great deal of music – a lot of which I enjoy – there aren’t that many artists who make me stop and say, “wow…now that’s impressive.”
The few who have made me say that – that is, the artists I have been most impressed by – over the last two years are as follows.
The Presets really kick ass. The musicality, energy, and raw-but-brilliantly-produced music whacks you across the face and makes you want to…well, get up and stomp.
Beyoncé blew me away with some of the songs from her 2008 album, I Am…Sasha Fierce.
The powerful simplicity, strong groove, and highly-charged emptiness in her music are fantastic. With so many musicians trying to squeeze more and more into each of their songs it was great to see a powerful musician like her going the other way. Of course, she couldn’t have done this if she wasn’t as talented or as capable.
And, being who she is, Beyoncé took this up a notch and made two fabulous videos that were as simple and powerful as the songs they were based on (i.e. ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’).
The Black Eyed Peas
The Black Eyed Peas have their own version of simple, groovy, and powerful music (though they do say their latest album was partly influenced by The Presets).
In fact, they’ve done stuff on their their 2009 album, The E.N.D., that I don’t think anyone else in the music industry would dare to do.
For starters, they really stripped down what they put into their songs. Like Beyoncé, they added more space and more silence. This, in turn, made the rest of their music much more powerful. Quality over quantity. Take, for example, their hugely popular song ‘I Gotta Feeling’ which is quite empty musically but it still highly enjoyable and danceable. (It even got its own flash mob live video version thanks to Oprah.)
Importantly, though, in their desire to make a futurist album, they did all sorts of fun things with their music and vocals. For example, they raised the pitch of Fergie vocals on ‘Rock That Body’ so she sounds like a chipmunk and they lowered the pitch of apl.de.ap vocals on ‘Meet Me Halfway’ so he sounds like…er, a deep-voiced robot or something.
Despite all this, their music is fantastic though, admittedly, their lyrics won’t win any literary awards :)
[Continued in Part 2]