Younge took the Fresh Air route, and I can’t resist taking a quick detour to say that there’s something phenomenal about the way Fresh Air host and executive producer Terry Gross interacts with people.
An Open Letter to the Escaped Ferret that Walked Into the Propped-Open Door of Deep Groove Records About 10 Minutes After I Did on Sunday Afternoon
We never had a chance to meet formally, so I understand if you don’t remember me. I was the one standing near the back of the store in flip-flops. I know — flip-flops in early March? It seemed crazy to me too, but the weather was so nice on Sunday, I guess it was my way of celebrating. I would have taken advantage by spending time outside like you, but my allergies were a holy terror that afternoon, and sandals were about as adventurous as I was gonna get. Little did I know how adventurous my choice of footwear would turn out to be.
Has it been a rough week? Did someone call you out for having a case of the Mondays? Did you accidentally wear two different shoes to work on Tuesday? Did you spend Wednesday afternoon cleaning up vomit because one of your kids puked on your other kid, who then puked on you? Did your dog get expelled from doggie daycare on Thursday for trying to have sex with absolutely everything? OK, so (almost) none of those things happened to me in the past 5 days, but this week was far from a cakewalk. Thankfully, today is Friday, and no matter which flavor of indignity you were forced to choke down this week, I have just the thing to help you turn your brain off and forget.
I know what you’ve been doing for the last two days. You’ve been acting casual — going to work, doing laundry, eating meals, pretending everything is normal — and all the while, just under the surface, you’ve been desperately jonesing for another Cher cover. Don’t try to deny it. It’s been eating you alive inside. I can tell.
Today’s comes courtesy of the great Etta James, and unlike the “Believe” cover I shared on Tuesday, this take on “I Got You Babe” is almost as old as the original, having been released just 3 years after Sonny Bono wrote and recorded his 1965 version (with the help of his boo, Cher, of course).
There are some really good reasons to hate Cher’s “Believe.”
For starters, it’s everywhere. It’s about as “pop” as pop music gets, nestled just a few spots above the “Macarena” and a few below “Y.M.C.A.” on the list of best selling singles of all time. These are songs that people living in the mountainous provinces of Kyrgyzstan probably know (hate) just as well (passionately) as the rest of us. You simply can’t escape them. I heard “Believe” at Kroger this past Sunday after having already decided to write this post. I’m not kidding.
There’s also the whole “ringing in the era of autotune” thing. To those who consider the effect to be a plague upon the musical landscape, “Believe” is patient zero. The parent of pitch correction. The regent of robotic singing. The viceroy of the vocoder. (Sorry, I couldn’t stop myself.) As the first popular song to autotune the life out of a human voice, it’s not unreasonable to pin a degree of responsibility for the broader phenomenon on “Believe.” In fact, Cher fought her record company to keep the effect in the final version of her song. I wonder if she had any clue how sweeping the effects of that decision would be.
So it’s ubiquitous and notorious… are you ready for one last swig of Haterade? Just look at how the song came into existence. Six people contributed to the writing of “Believe.” A half dozen people. And that doesn’t even count the song’s two producers, the executive producer, the executive cat herder and the partridge in a pear tree. OK, so those last two were made up but the first 9 weren’t. Nothing kills an aural appetite faster than writing credits that are nearly as long as the lyrics of the song itself. Gross.
Alright. Now that we’ve established that “Believe” is thoroughly detestable, I have an important question to ask you…
Until now, I’ve associated Youth Lagoon with time.
One of the first things I learned about Trevor Powers was that he was young — 22 when I started listening to him in September of 2011. There was also his debut album’s title — The Year of Hibernation. And then there was the fact that, despite his youngness (sorry, I can’t type “youth” and let you all think I’m the kind of person who would make that pun), it was clear that Powers’ songs looked backward in time, with nostalgic glances toward “fireworks on the 4th of July” and his ’96 Buick. In fact, “nostalgia” became something of a buzzword for the album. A sticky descriptor. A consensus adjective. Here was this 22-year-old pining for the past, while so many of us sit around pining for our early 20’s. (The idea certainly drew me in.)
I don’t mean to suggest that this analysis wasn’t/isn’t apt. Powers himself has said that the name of his project is based on feelings of nostalgia. But I wonder if his years, or relative lack of them, caused this one quality to loom overly large in people’s minds. There was more to The Year of Hibernation than longing for the past. There were brilliant dynamic relationships… memorable melodies… uplifting builds… Besides, nostalgia, by nature, isn’t totally positive. It’s unavoidable — enjoyable on some levels — but it’s also passive. It’s ineffectual. You can’t travel back in time, and there’s nothing sadder than people who are incapable of coming to terms with that reality.