Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Beautiful vs Interesting

I feel like I’m getting back to my roots. This blog was made for ranting, and I’m going to fulfill that purpose today.

The only worthwhile thing Josh Groban has ever done in his life is this:

That’s it. I don’t think I can think of a musician more boring than Josh Groban. I’m not really a good judge at such things, but I think he’s very proficient at his craft. Unfortunately, his craft is pitch perfect boredom. It doesn’t matter how grandly or operatically he sings; it’s just dull. Because just because something is beautiful, doesn’t make it interesting. Often the opposite is true.

Certainly humans are drawn to symmetry, order and perfection. But those things, while beautiful, aren’t necessarily very good at evoking an emotional response. There are nothing like flaws to get us involved with a piece. The flaws help us relate, throw off our expectations and make us think and feel more deeply about the subject.

I remember the first time I heard Placebo and I thought to myself that Brian Molko had such an irritating voice. And while Placebo still doesn’t crack my top 50, I’m very fond of some of their songs, most notably their Running Up That Hill cover. The flaws in his voice just work for me. I’ve had similar experiences with Bright Eyes, the Pogues etc. I hate the vocals at first, but then grow to really connect with them.

I don’t think I can connect with Josh Groban, nor do I want to. It’s not the he sounds robotic, because he doesn’t. He just sounds lifeless to me. The singing is just too pristine to be alive.

Chompers lovers her some Groban, so I decided to make her a Better Than Josh Groban playlist. I mentioned it to a friend, and his response was “Wouldn’t that just be every band ever?” so I know my feelings are shared by some. And admittedly, it takes almost no provocation for me to drop my studying and assemble a playlist, but I still felt this was a worthwhile venture. There’s very little these songs have in common (male vocalist, minimal accompaniment), but as my friend said, really any song deserves a spot on the Better Than Josh Groban Playlist.

BTJG Playlist
1. Landed – Ben Folds – I wouldn’t qualify Ben’s vocals as exceptionally good or bad. But I kind of feel like he’s the male vocal equivalent of the girl-next-door concept.
2. Catch My Disease – Ben Lee – a lesser Ben, but an enjoyable one. With jangly, loose lyrics, it begs for a sing-along.
3. Tender – Blur – not exactly fitting with the rest of the songs on the playlist, but it’s Blur, so they can be on whatever playlist they want.
4. Waiting for My Real Life to Begin – Colin Hay – a great song, whether sung by Colin Hay, or the cast of Scrubs.
5. 9 Crimes – Damien Rice – the closest thing to Josh Groban that I find acceptable. And yes, he’s not very similar to Josh Groban.
6. Eli, The Barrow Boy – The Decemberists – I sometimes feel the band devolves into a novelty act (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but sometimes they rock my socks.
7. The Last Cigarette – Ed Harcourt – lots of these artists have appeared in past Chrismixes, but that’s just because they’re awesome.
8. Needle in the Hay – Elliot Smith – everyone should listen to a little bit of Elliot Smith. If you listen to a lot you probably have problems.
9. Wicked Little Town – Hedwig and the Angry Inch – I tried to think of operatic singing that I liked, and glam rock opera was about the closest I could do.
10. Flightless Bird, American Mouth – Iron & Wine – excellent vocals, but not JUST excellent vocals.
11. Laid – James – I’m biased because I like songs that mention therapy. But it would probably help Josh is he had some songs about therapy, fighting, stalking, screaming and loving.
12. Tears and Rain – James Blunt – the closest thing to a pop vocalist on the list. Pop can be good sometimes.
13. High & Dry – Jamie Cullum – there’s no way this cover could live up to Radiohead, but Jamie shows that some simple vocals can put an interesting spin on a classic.
14. Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley – voted the best Hallelujah by Hallelujah experts.
15. I’m Wrong About Everything – John Wesley Harding – provides some variety to the playlist, as it is heavily produced, but still stays interesting.
16. Tremendous Brunettes – Mike Doughty – this partly made the list because Chompers is brunette, but also because Mike Doughty is amazing, and also because he’s better than Josh Groban.
17. Love Love Love – The Mountain Goats – my song of the year in 2008, and still amazing. Perfect not in execution, but in honesty.
18. These Colors Red – Nathan Duprey – Yes, Nate is relying on that vibrato a bit, but dang is it a good song.
19. Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk – Rufus Wainwright – Really any Wainwright will do, but Rufus is the most accessible.
20. Humpty Dumpty Love Song – Travis – by far my favorite Travis song. He whispers, he mumbles, but he succeeds.

1 comment:

anna. said...

1. do you watch glee??
2. love running up that hill.
3. ditto with laid (probably the easiest drumming section in any song ever)
4. i like rufus wainwright's "hallelujah" better, but "cigarettes and chocolate milk" is also very good.
5. that's all.