Diversity Training with Drewpreme: The Music Edition

30 Apr
The master himself

The master himself

Drew is black and I am white. I am female and Drew is male. I am tall and Drew is EVEN TALLER. We’re both from the suburbs, but we’ll ignore that. The point is, Drew and I are about as different as two people can get without one of us being a pedophile or a foreigner or something. And when it comes to music, we run in very different circles. Drew’s iPod deals heavily in R&B, hip-hop, rap and soul; mine jumps between art school drop-outs and people my parents used to like. So for this week’s Diversity Training, we decided to swap songs.

The players: Claire. Drew. The entire history of music.

The rules: We each pick three songs and send them to each other without explaining our selections. Then we listen and critique accordingly. After the initial review, the song’s original selector will offer a final defense.

Song #1: “Young Americans” by David Bowie (selected by Claire)

bowieDrew’s review: So I will admit of the songs presented, Bowie was the name I knew the most. “Lets Dance” is my shillz-nillz and I love dropping that at a party, however this seems to be from his earlier days. There’s an interesting feel to this record; it’s like Bowie is attempting to stretch into different genres from his Ziggy Stardust persona, and “Young Americans” takes a shot at American Soul. The record sounds like it was made by someone who has had American influences, but has never actually been to America making a record for America. The wonky sax sounds coupled with the background singers make it seem like the predecessor of the “Blue Eyed Soul” sound made popular by The Doobie Bros, Chicago and fellow Temple University Alums – Hall and Oates. What drew you to such a record? It sounds like something you just kind of absorbed while riding in car seat around the greater Chi-Town ‘burbs, while Janice was making a run to Marshall Fields

Claire’s defense: Janice hates David Bowie, she thinks he’s a nancy. However, this song does remind me of a certain time in my life. It captures that brief period during adolescence when you want to be sophisticated and cool but still have no idea what it really means to be growing up. “Young Americans” is the way it feels to when you have your parents’ car for the night—nothing to do, nowhere to be, and no one to stop you from just taking off. So you roll down the minivan windows and speed through the subdivision and the biggest problem plaguing your timid little mind is whether or not he’s going to ask you to prom. He does, of course. If he didn’t, the song wouldn’t mean anything anymore and you’d probably pick something else.

Song #2: “Never Give You Up” by Raphael Saadiq feat. CJ Hilton & Stevie Wonder (selected by Drew)
Claire’s review: I saw this title and thought for a moment that I had been Rickrolled.

I don’t like songs that involve the word “girl.” Except, of course, the Beatles song that’s literally called “Girl,” but that’s only because the background vocals sound like the word “tit” repeated over and over again (no, really—listen again and check it out). I don’t find the term offensive or anything, it just makes me feel like I’m in an All-4-One video.

I like R&B and gospel, but stuff that falls into the “sexy soul” category — what I like to call foreplay music— makes me think of poorly lit living rooms and men who keep refilling your wine glass despite protests to the contrary. Do guys really listen to this kind of music on their own? Or is it just to get some? Mostly it sounds like something I’d hear played over the speaker system at Bloomingdales.

Drew’s defense: Duly noted on the aversion to the word “girl” in songs (along with your beef with high boots). Raphael Saadiq (Tony! Toni! Toné! fame) went completely true school on this album and recorded it all analog Motown style. I love the timeless soul element of this song. I know when that has been landed because my old man will dig the record, for I get my soul swagger from him. An already great song gets luxuriously audible when Stevie drops in a bangs out some sick harmonica action. Awesome record to me. To answer your question Clairington – yes, men do listen to this on their own. It’s a great alternative to the “bang bang hustle drug kill” material that dominates most rap music. Also every grown-ass man needs a good “cool out” soundtrack.

Song #3: “Shine A Light” by Wolf Parade (selected by Claire)
Drew’s review: I feel like I’m in college at some keg party where I’m the lone spade at the place but I came there with people I trust and usually have a good time with. Often those situations expose my ears to new types of music, and listening to this for the first time brought me back to that same exact feeling. Not something I’d personally listen to, but it wouldn’t ruin my stay at the party if the beer was flowing and the folks were cool. I can smell the damp concrete by the keg, trying not to get too much foam in the cup, looking around at other mellow revelers to see if I can find some chick to bridge the gap with, and if I do get lucky this song will come up again. All that to say, this definitely sounds like something of your actual age group and time period. You probably had some sort of experience(s) with this particular song and I’d love to hear them. It could be something as innocuous as just having a really good time at a party or concert, or could go all the way to someone you met while this was on…

Claire’s defense: Wolf Parade’s Apologies to the Queen Mary is probably my favorite album of the last five years. Every single song on it is good, and not in the way that, like, TV on the Radio or My Morning Jacket or Wilco are good. These songs aren’t the most complicated or innovative out there, they’re just dirty and raw and imperfect and that was how I felt when I first heard them. “Shine A Light” was the first song off the album that really struck me. I heard it in 2006 when I had a cute home and a cute boyfriend and a cute job and a cute puppy and everything was cute and perfect and adorable but I didn’t want it, I wanted something more. The song is stark and bleak and bare and honest and I really like the line about not sleeping ‘til it’s light. Our hearts beat time out very slowly. They’re waiting for something that never arrives. (I kept the puppy.)

Song #4: “Balmy Night” by Department of Eagles (selected by Drew)
Claire’s review: I’ve heard Department of Eagles before (I keep wanting them to be Flight of the Conchords knock-offs, but they’re not), but only because I used to work at a college radio station and this freak-folk is the kind of stuff the indie DJs used to play. Also, one of the members is in Grizzly Bear. The instrumentals drive this track (is that a banjo?) and although the warbling, go-nowhere voices give it a coll melancholy vibe, they don’t add much. There’s a lot going on here and I want them to shut up so I can listen to it. I feel as though it’s produced by a bunch of Brooklyn kids who have never actually been to the South but think they know what it’s like. This is one of those songs that I’d put on my iPod and then forget about until one day when it came up on shuffle and then I’d be pleasantly surprised to hear it again.

Drew’s defense: My man Tony Bones put me on to this one. Mr. Marrow is a dashing chap originally from England and has probably one of the most eclectic ears for music I know. Sometimes he loses me, and other times he gives me what I think is a true gem. This is truly an instrument-driven track, because I still don’t know twatdefuck the vocalist is saying. However this is some hauntingly beautiful music to me. The best usage of a banjo I’ve ever heard, an instrument which usually has adverse affects on me, ever since I saw “Deliverance” as a kid. Then they go into this classic reggae bass lilt towards the end but still keeps the hillbilly banjo angle, and they’re all from Brooklyn… I was drawn to it thinking about all the different possible genre influences on this song.

Song #5: “The Real Me” by The Who (selected by Claire)
Drew’s review: My man Ronzoni loved The Who as a kid, and since Hip-Hop wasn’t the dominant pop music form that it is today I got mildly exposed to a lot of these groups through friends who had older brothers. Alas, I don’t have much retention of it other than the names of the bands. This has a very retro feel, like something you listen to while riding around tripping off of something in a shag upholstered rape van with a fish shaped window in the back. I get the feeling this song is about some sort of inner conflict within the subject’s self about who he is. Looking for help from his doctor, his moms, and anyone else who would listen. Is this your cry for help song, Claire? Considering you prahlee weren’t even born when this song dropped I hope you weren’t relating to split personalities while scarfing zwieback in your playpen. If so I am troubled, your life is prahlee harder than Mazall’s, and all the hugs in the world can’t help that.

Claire’s defense: When I was a freshman in high school, I forwent my first major house party—with senior boys who would have talked to flirted with spiked my drink — to go see the Who. That is how much I loved them then, and how much I love them now. Sure, there was another house party the following weekend, with the same people and the same crap beer, but this was like 3 weeks into 9th grade, the very first high school party, and I got into a huge fight with my then-best friend who was furious at my social betrayal. This song is from the Quadrophenia album, which is a rock opera about the mods vs. rockers in 1960s England—not exactly a relatable topic, but the music is so profoundly awesome that it doesn’t matter. This isn’t my favorite Who song and Quadrophenia isn’t my favorite Who album (that would be Tommy), but last weekend I pulled a box of old CDs out from under my bed and this was one of the things that I transferred onto my laptop. I hadn’t heard it in about 5 years and it’s just as shazam! blammo! as I remember. And I love Zwieback, excellent reference.

Sidenote for our international viewers: a Quadrophenia stage show is opening in London

Song #6: “Compared To What (Live At Montreux)” by Les McCann & Eddie Harris (selected by Drew)
Claire’s review: So I have a really good friend named Tyler who is into jazz. He is so into jazz that he became a professional sax player and is currently the youngest board member of the Duke Ellington Society or something like that. Tyler is continually frustrated by the fact that when it comes to jazz, my ears don’t work. I can’t really tell one song from the other and although I enjoy live jazz, I don’t really sit around at home and listen to it just for kicks. That said, this song was exceedingly fun and I’m going to play it a lot in the next few days. Maybe cause it’s not strictly jazz. It seems a little funky. I’m not really sure who Les McCann and Eddie Harris are, but they’re okay by me. If this song were playing at a dinner party, I would put down my napkin of mini-quiches and goose liver paté long enough to listen. And if I heard it live, I’d go out and buy the record. Figuratively speaking, of course. No one buys records anymore, they just take stuff from the Internets.

Drew’s response: I’m really glad you liked this record. This is an all-time fave of mine. Growing up as a kid my dad worked two jobs so he wasn’t home as much, so I really enjoyed the time he was around because it usually involved a lot of great music blasting thru the house on a Sunday (since we didn’t go to church). I have to say my love for music (and great stereos) comes from my dad OG Big Dave. My first memory of this record is when Les McCann says “GODDAMNIT! Tryin’ to make it REAL COMPARED TO WHAT!” Hearing what was (at the time) the dirtiest word I ever heard on a song, I chuckled like any 5-year-old and my father smiled at me and said, “You liked that huh?” and I did. I lost touch with this record as I got older, but I was home from college one year and he had this bumpin’ and I was transported to that time as a kid but had a greater appreciation of this record. When I moved out of my parents’ home and was getting my domestic Sunday started, I always set it off with this song and I felt like I was home even though I was miles away. Along with its timeless message in its lyrics, this song has a timeless father-son bond as well.

Awwww. Ain’t that sweet.


20 Responses to “Diversity Training with Drewpreme: The Music Edition”

  1. Molly April 30, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    1. I want to give you both really big bear hugs.
    2. Is it bad that I know all of Drew’s songs but only 1 of Claire’s?
    3. Also, Drew I had no idea you liked dept. of eagles. Maz and I were just listening to them out on our “patio” on the “upper west side.”
    4. I had to edit the hell out of this post. GRAMMAR PEOPLE!

    • Claire April 30, 2009 at 6:58 pm #

      I doesn’t do grammers when I’m off the clock.

  2. Drewpreme April 30, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    Well thank you for your grammar checking Mollingford. We knew it needed your touch.

    Regarding “Dept. of Eagles”, thats really the only song of theirs I got into. Another part of the allure of “Balmy Night” is the tempo of the banjo strumming times perfectly with watching the trees and world go by when I’m looking out of the window on the LIRR.

  3. Molly April 30, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

    When did you turn into a chick?

    • Drewpreme April 30, 2009 at 2:44 pm #

      Age mellows even the mightiest of them…

  4. Drewpreme April 30, 2009 at 6:50 pm #

    Hey what exactly is being Rickrolled? Is that all those bogus links that leads you to Rick Astley?

    • Claire April 30, 2009 at 6:57 pm #

      yep! I wish Rick Astley could be hired out for real life rickrolling, though. That would be the best birthday surprise ever

      • Molly April 30, 2009 at 7:26 pm #

        Thought that was a clambake?

  5. Drewpreme April 30, 2009 at 8:01 pm #

    @Molly – what you and your clam do is your business.

    @Claire – an in the flesh Rickrolling would be SUPREME.

  6. Marc April 30, 2009 at 9:16 pm #

    Wow, great selections from the both of youse.

    Claire, Tyler’s frustration is warranted and very understandable. Also, I still really want to meet him, I think we’d be the best of friends.

  7. Drewpreme April 30, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    Marc – glad you mentioned this Tyler dude. I’d love to meet this guy. The best jazz convo I had was with producer extraordinaire Pete Rock who’s knollie of jazz is insane. It basically came down to me listening for most of the time. I did more learning than talking and I’d probably have the same thing happen with this guy.

    (BTW – I held back on jazz for this, I didn’t know how it would be received)

    • Marc April 30, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

      Jazz is always well received by me, it has been my main bag for a long time. I had the same sort of experience long ago with one Maynard Ferguson. When you meet someone like that who is a living encyclopedia of a genre you can only sit back and soak it in.

  8. Drewpreme April 30, 2009 at 9:46 pm #

    @ Marc – Thanks for your enjoyment of this blog drop. It was fun doing it, and it’s even more fun having it appreciated.

  9. Molly April 30, 2009 at 10:23 pm #

    blah blah blah enough with all the man love.

    Let’s talk about this: Claire: “Maybe cause it’s not strictly jazz. It seems a little funky.”



    • Claire April 30, 2009 at 10:25 pm #

      what, as opposed to other genres of music, which have very clearly defined terms that do not blend into one other?

      • Marc April 30, 2009 at 10:49 pm #

        Not to speak for Molls, but while you might think the song sounds a little funky, it’s really pretty in line with that era of jazz, snuggled comfortably between the arrival of Herbie Hancock and the advent of fusion, Weather Report, etc.
        Every genre is fluid and encompasses many parts of the musical spectrum. I think Jazz though tends to get pigeonholed into one or two types of sounds by the layman, when there’s so many lesser known styles that are part of the genre, like the aforementioned track.

      • Molly May 1, 2009 at 5:03 am #

        new project: Drew, Marc and I will each make you a jazz (soft J, pronounced yazz) cd and you will see in no time that you and jazz are meant to be. You’re too cool not to enjoy it.

      • Claire May 2, 2009 at 4:41 pm #

        Ok, I like free CDs. Jazz me up. HA! Yeah I went there.

  10. Drewpreme May 1, 2009 at 12:27 am #

    Just tryin’ to make it real compared to what!!!

    • Molly May 1, 2009 at 4:54 am #

      Marc can speak for me anytime. Unless its STL vs. Braves

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