The GFM “Bridging The Gap” Year-End Matchups
Intro: A generation can be defined as: “A group of persons living contemporaneously”. In this state of contemporary living there are many factors that serve as “Signs O’ The Times” (pun intended). Economics, politics, religion, the media etc., all play an integral part in influencing the music of every generation. Often, there is a disconnect between the music and the messengers of different generations which often pits members of different generations on opposing sides of the musical landscape. Interestingly enough, if we delve deeply enough into the subject matter of songs from purportedly opposing generations, often there is more that unites us on a human level than divides us.
In the spirit of the season we would encourage members of different generations to get together to discover and discuss the music of a different generation. This should be a time to put away the bias divides us and create an environment whereby each generation might learn from the other. As different as 1979 is from 2009 there are many similarities in how we relate to one another that should unite us.
Over the next few weeks we will compare and contrast songs from different eras that fall under a similar subject matter heading. We will examine topics ranging from relationships to materialism to simply having a good time. This is not a best of list or a popularity contest list but really it is a tool to spark some meaningful conversations, full of constructive debate that should lead to some “teachable moments”.
With declarations like “Cause she walk like a boss talk like a boss manicured nails to set the pedicure off” from Ne-Yo to “Silky, milky her smile is like sunshine that’s why I had to dedicate at least one rhyme” from LL Cool J, these songs reside in the infatuation aisle at “I’d like to get to know you better” Mart. Yet, at the same time these songs serve as an ode to the independent woman.
Laid-back is the tie that binds both of these tracks. You may be able to cut a little two-step to either one of these, but this music is better suited for ridin’ and reflectin’. The music is not overly complex which allows it to leave ample room for the message to be conveyed. Both songs are structured around a main 4 measure “loop” section the difference being, how the “hook” is used to differentiate the different sections. In “Miss Independent” the emphasis is more on a few musical hooks that differentiate the verse from the chorus, whereas “Around The Way Girl” uses two vocal hooks one sung and one sampled to emphasis the change between chorus and verse. “Miss Independent” also utilizes a bridge section which is the only musical element that would place the underlying track in the R&B category as opposed to Hip Hop. This illustrates the enormous influence that Hip Hop has had on R&B over the last three decades and especially over the last decade and a half where often on a musical level the lines can be completely blurred.
That Was Then…
At the dawn of the 1990′s as Uncle L was proclaiming himself the “future of the funk” a gallon of gas was hovering at $1.33 which probably made it easier to ride out in your second generation Toyota 4Runner. The country was on the brink of war in the Persian Gulf and the “Cosby” hour still reigned supreme on Thursday nights. This smooth laid-back track ruled the airwaves at a time when the paradigm in Hip Hop had begun a major shift from the New York dominated sounds of the genre’s first recorded decade to the ascendancy of other regional sounds most notably the West Coast.
This Is Now…
In the age of Obama where now we have websites dedicated to finding you the cheapest gas per gallon in your area, mpg has become as sexy a feature as the sound system in your ride. We are fighting two “wars” half a world a way and the thought that a sitcom featuring a predominately Afican American cast could top the TV ratings is a long faded memory (let alone two sitcoms). In this era of just add auto-tune and guest appearances “Miss Independent” is a welcome change in the sense that it employs neither.
“It gets lonely in this business, need a homie who’s the realist” from Trey Songz and “I remember the very first time, you the picture of love in my heart” from Bobby Brown moves us from infatuation to actually filling out the profile on match.com. Has the need changed from era to era or just the way that the need is expressed? I guess your girl can be your “lady” and your “homie”!?!?
Both of these songs while not completely produced at the slowest of tempos are far more suited to the slow dance than the aforementioned two step. At the core of these two confessions are a sense of promise through the use of major keys as opposed to the often contemplative minor keys. “I Need A Girl” relies on the use of a prominent synthesized guitar sound as a lead in to the chorus. “Girlfriend” relies on a classic arrangement format that owes as much to 50′s doo wop as it does to 70′s staples from Billy Paul “Me and Mrs. Jones” and Switch “I Wanna Be Closer”. The use of the saxophone obbligato as used in “Girlfriend” and countless other tunes often sets up an interesting dialog between singer and instrumentalist. The big sound of the 808 kick drum as used in “I Need A Girl” could be considered another influence that Hip Hop has had on R&B but the 808 has been a longtime staple of R&B especially in the early work of Jam and Lewis.
That Was Then…
“Girlfriend” was released in a year that saw the Chicago Bears doing the “Super Bowl Shuffle”, the first Space Shuttle disaster, the debut of the “fourth” network Fox, the first generation Nintendo and the national debut of a talk show by someone named Oprah? “Girlfriend” was the lead single from Bobby Brown’s solo debut album (after being asked to leave New Edition) King of Stage which had a few people scratching their heads at the title. Little did we know what was around the corner in the Spring of 1988.
This Is Now…
Hard to believe but after taking that big 46-10 L from the Bears in 1986 who would have thought that at one point the New England Patriots would have been probably the most dominate team in the first decade of the new millennium. Unfortunately, in 2003 we witnessed yet another Space Shuttle disaster and Fox sure has come a long way since 21 Jump Street . Who would have thought that Oprah would be announcing that 2011 will be the last season of her show and that she would be a gabillionaire or whatever she is…this is part of the landscape in which Trey Songz released the lead single from his third album Ready. Would it be cruel to ask whether or not Trey is the heir apparent King of Stage?
Well I guess all relationships can’t be “rainbows and moonbeams”…”We both know that it’s wrong, But it’s much too strong to let it go now”-Billy Paul” “Can’t escape the way you’ve got me locked out baby I’ve gotta break from you, break from you, break from you”-Maxwell. Both these lines sound like dialog befitting the Spike Lee classic She’s Gotta Have It. I guess you just have to go there and both of these great songs go there.
Sultry is the best adjective that I could come up with to describe both of these songs. The way that the sultriness manifests itself in these songs is quite different. While the songs occupy a similar space they are certainly different sides of the same coin musically. “Me & Mrs. Jones” has an underlying rhythmic bounce which contributes to the almost coy nature of the track. This is Philly Soul at its finest and with Philly Soul you can always count on a sophisticated, lush, musical arrangement. “Bad Habits” musically gets down to the heart of the matter. The arrangement is sparse and centered around Hammond organ, acoustic guitar and bass with the horn section for added emphasis. The sound of the track is dark owing to the manner of which the instruments are scored and the key. Even though these songs occupy different sides of the same coin one thing is strikingly similar: In this era of I played all the instruments (real meaning: I sequenced them) there is an undeniable sound of live instrumentation and musicianship, that’s one habit that we should really try hard not to break.
That Was Then…
In 1972 somehow the Lakers won the NBA championship (I guess much hasn’t changed). Richard Nixon was elected to his 2nd term (no comment), a new experiment called HBO was introduced (people will never pay for TV), Atari, the arcade version of Pong and the developers over at RCA introduced the compact disk. After the release of “Me & Mrs. Jones” Billy Paul became the first major breakout star of Philly International, the label that would define urban music for the decade of the 70′s as in many ways Motown the 1960′s.
This Is Now…
The Lakers somehow won again. Barack Obama was inaugurated the 44th President of the United States. I believe that HBO thingy kinda worked out. Although Pong has long been replaced with games with graphics that border on reality the fact remains of the importance of Pong as the beginning of the Video game era. In 2009 we continued to see the decrease in CD sales, the long held cash cow for the major labels. Sadly, 2009 marked the passing of Michael Jackson, who ironically enough was just as much a musical force in 2009 as he was in 1972. 2009 also saw the reemergence of Maxwell in a very big way. After an over seven year hiatus, BLACKsummers’night was released in July and the lead single “Pretty Wings” hit the top of the charts within three weeks.
ifuleave-Mary J. Blige & Musiq Soulchild/On My Own-Patti Labelle & Michael McDonald
I guess the lesson that could be learned is sometimes if you go there, you might not be able to come back here. “You think I’m so full of it, full of it, but I think I’m just fed up baby”-Musiq Soulchild. “So many promises never should be spoken. Now I know what loving you cost. Now we’re up to talking divorce and we weren’t even married”-Michael McDonald. Sometimes the tension gets so thick you probably can’t even cut it with a knife, but fortunately you may have these in your collection to cut it for you.
Pensive best describes the mood of these songs. These are the type of songs well suited for a long drive or a few moments of introspection on the couch with your drink of choice(I’ll take another Red Koolaid with lots ‘o sugar). “ifuleave” utilizes triple meter which has become a staple of the Musiq Soulchild sound check out “Half Crazy” and “Teach Me” as well as a simple and sparse accompaniment of piano, bass, drums and strings which leaves plenty of space for the story to be told. “On My Own” employs a similar concept for its production. The track is driven by an ensemble of piano, bass, drums (Linn), guitar and the Yamaha DX7 which was on just about every tune in music after its release in the early 80′s. The song is pushed along by a surprisingly intense rhythm track that almost sounds like a blues shuffle taken at half the original tempo. What unites these pieces is that at the very center a space has been carved out for the vocals, they compete with nothing and that’s the way it should be for great storytelling.
That Was Then…
This is our second visit to 1986 although this one is much earlier in the year. The cost of a stamp in 1986 was $0.22, “We Are The World” won the Grammy for the Record of the Year also, a little album entitled Control was released that year by the youngest Jackson, Louisville beat Duke to win the NCAA Basketball Championship and the unemployment rate was at 7.0%
This Is Now…
The price of a stamp is currently at $0.42, The Grammy for Record of the Year went to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss for “Please Read the Letter”, as a tribute to his artistry and wide reaching influence Michael Jackson sets numerous sales records after his untimely death, UNC won the NCAA Basketball Tournament, and the unemployment rate stands at a 15 year high of 10.2% hmm…
We would love to hear from you! Please comment and let us know what you think about our matchups and don’t forget to tune in next week when we will have some songs that are simply meant to help you “Get Your Groove On” matched up.