On Repeat: “I Have Nothing” Whitney Houston

https://verzweigung.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/5de77-whitney-houston-i-have-nothing-lyrics.jpg?w=410&h=215This song is HARD. I don’t mean a fun challenge. I mean it is a belter masterpiece. I have been intensely studying it for about 3 or 4 months and I have ONCE hit the belted high notes. For you non-singy people this is a different ball game from just singing “high” notes at a normal level. For example go try to sing the hook for “Only Girl (In the World)” by Rihanna at full force…kinda hard, huh? This is higher…

When I was pre-gaming for this post I wanted to rewatch this segment of The Bodyguard (the movie this song came from, in case you weren’t alive or live under a rock) and I noticed that the lip-sync performance in the movie does not imitate belting at all, which is utterly bizarre to watch. This prompted me to go watch some live performances on the YouTube to see just how much power she was actually using to sing this song. The answer is a fucking lot.

Which almost satiated my curiosity, and frankly my need for validation that this song is fucking hard…but. Video after video…after video…after video. Even the incredibly talented goddess of melisma HERSELF does not attempt to sing it as recorded for the studio album. In every live performance I’ve watched so far, they drop the key. This results in the song not sounding that much different, and to the average pop listener maybe not noticeable at all, but makes it much easier on the vocal chords because she doesn’t have to leap up to that incredible note on “close” of “don’t make me close one more door” while still leaping to a slightly more manageable note and sounding incredible (because she is). It’s a musical illusion that saves voices and embarrassment. (And by the way Rihanna does the same thing in her live performances of “Only Girl.”)

I bring this up not to disparage the approach, but rather to reinforce that these studio vocal gymnastics are HARD. We have no idea how many times it took these professionals to reach up there and make it happen for the record, so it’s kind of foolish to say “oh I’m no (insert Diva here)” –you might be!! Even they don’t hit those spectacular notes on most days, or reliably enough to bet on it in a live setting.

This is why “I Have Nothing” is such a demanding song that I obsess over. The crown jewel of The Bodyguard, her cover of “I Will Always Love You,” is beautiful and challenging in its own way; but “I Have Nothing” is the more stunning of the two. The gentle piano harmonies, the punching horns, all just caress the roller coaster of emotions. But to be honest, the musical accompaniment could be a dump truck pouring trash and I wouldn’t give a fuck–that voice is all I hear.

If you’ve never had the privilege, check out some of these live performances–she is brilliant.

5/5

Black Girl Magic: We go to 11.

On Repeat: “I Have Nothing” Whitney Houston

On Repeat: “12 Black Rainbows” Type O Negative

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This is one of my fav songs and occasionally I get re-addicted. For “12 Black Rainbows” this is sometimes more than once a year.

I first get hooked with the chugging guitars and “oh”s in the intro. The music itself, although good, is nothing especially unique to goth-metal. Almost every Type O song that I love is like 95% Peter Steele being an amazingly seductive vocalist and lyricist. To me, this is the gothy equivalent of “let’s get fucked up.” By the time I hit the wind up of the bridge’s “cause I’m already dead,” it’s just like pass me the bottle, let’s thrash. Elephants are a nice touch.

I don’t really have much deeper thoughts than that. Just go fucking listen to it on YouTube or something; or hell, go buy it! You won’t regret it. Even if you “don’t like metal;” just do it.

Here is a funny thing about bass singers for the road. Also can we just take a moment to appreciate the Peter Steele was 6′ motherfucking 8″ ??? Lawd. https://images.gr-assets.com/hostedimages/1380222758ra/584615.gif

5/5 always and forever

On Repeat: “12 Black Rainbows” Type O Negative

On Repeat: “Peacebone” Animal Collective

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Bonefish.

This may have actually been the “on repeat” from August…or September…or October. Who fucking knows; life has been wild lately.

On the surface, this track has a lot of the acid-dripping markers of a typical Animal Collective scream-tinged song BUT there is actually a coherent storyline, or rather, picture being painted. If you cruise YouTube for live versions of Avey Tare, he is clearly behind most of the manic-anxious-obsessive/nostalgic themes (and it’s really obvious that album production involves a lot of taking his wild roars down a notch or five). Incidentally his lyrics are usually the ones that make any fucking sense at all. *heart*

There is a lot of juxtaposition happening between the bright electronic loops and steel drum parts and the very tangible bitter surrender to the current-of-life in lines like “you find out you can’t ask a baby to cry.” Deep harmonizing chords fall just a split second before each measure’s downbeat which give the whole song a sort of sticky feeling; like your brain is trudging through honey. So while one part of you is trying to be all drowning-in-sunshine, the other half is being carried non-stop by the interplay of the vocal melody and the bright counter melody. All of this comes with a light sprinkle of baroque-esque keyboard licks. By the time you get to the screamy “ya-dah, ya-dahs,” it feels like this cathartic release to the endless tide pushing you through the song.

Not unlike what I imagine it would feel like to wake up one day, 33, making decisions based on money rather than interest, feeling kinda achy, and exasperated that little Timmy has once again woken you up at 6am on a Saturday.

Bonefish.

4/5

On Repeat: “Peacebone” Animal Collective

On Repeat: “My Desire” Interpol

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For starters I have listened to this track roughly 80 times prior to this writing and will probably listen another 10-15 by the time I’m done. It’s clearly not getting old anytime soon. On that alone, I would recommend giving the track a whirl.

The solo lilting guitar lick at beginning used to bother me a lot…why are you so off-beat sounding? why does your guitar sound drunk??  but it has become so addicting–much like the piano plinking in “Try It On” from Interpol.

This song has so many elements that pull you deeper under its spell, much in theme with the story the lyrics seem to be spinning. Paul Banks’ half question, half command “come on baby” beckons you (his lover, obviously *sigh*) to hear him out. The alternating closed hi hat and claps force pauses into the melody and lull you further into the track. Sharply accented guitar bleats that slide into nothingness plead for attention and are the musical equivalent of the chest pangs of the lovesick.

The true gem of this song, though, is the bridge. Working up to it, Sam Fogarino plays this beautiful cymbal riff that has an almost cowboy-western feel to it, which melts right into the crescendo. The bass line goes from a chugging slew of repeated 8th notes and blossoms into a plucky riff with an almost Latin underlying pattern, which is subtle but thrilling nonetheless. All which follows the somewhat conciliatory “you won’t find no scars on me” from Banks. That, coupled with the transition into a brighter mode leaves a feeling of “I will defeat you by embracing my flaws.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Sam Fogarino is the heartbeat of this group. Many of their artful chord progressions would fall completely flat without the immense texture of his rhythm section. The more I try to master his beats, the more I am astounded by his skills.

The lyrics are so contested for this song (and rightfully so…Paul Banks makes Zach Condon of Beirut sound like an enunciator) that I have a hard time diving into them. But I will say that the parts that can be understood have reached into me and will not let go. And honestly, not being able to clearly hear words can allow you to just hear what you want–other people be damned.

Here’s to another 80 listens! Enjoy!

Easter Egg

 

On Repeat: “My Desire” Interpol

Vic Mensa, “Down On My Luck”

This track is so sexy smooth.

The music doesn’t really elicit any poignant observations or connections, but it definitely makes me want to move my body. Plus the little breaks of “fuck that/get down” really just speak to my daily attitude.

This song is good for: shelving books, cleaning the bathroom, cooking a meal, making art & cruising the internet.

Enjoy!

Vic Mensa, “Down On My Luck”