Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club — Revisited & Reimagined

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The quality of this new 2017 remastering moved me to tears: dancing; thinking; reflecting; astral projecting.  From the album’s opening to the end of “Getting Better” is intensive feel-good optimism proceeded by intensive introspection (which ultimately climaxes back into dancing anyways (“Within You Without You”).   At one point we astral project into the minds of our parents (“She’s Leaving Home”) only to hover over a future image of ourselves, wondering if we’ll always be taken care of (“When I’m Sixty-Four”).

This stereo remaster takes what was already extremely lucid to a downright four-dimensional place.  Any fan of the mono originals of each album, such as myself, would be proud to stand beside this hyper-actualized vision that only The Beatles could bring to life.  It just feels like hearing their original ideas, as they were inside-their-heads (without any limitations of 1960’s technology).

A large portion of how the band feels about being The Beatles is directly addressed in the finale — “A Day In The Life”. John Lennon reveals that the narrative is not being told based upon first-hand experience — he saw a photograph of a dead man at a traffic light in a stopped car, just as the light had turned green (“He didn’t notice that the lights had changed”).   Lennon tells the narrative in such a way that it sounds as if he is living a day in the life of that photograph (only to reveal at the end, that he’s just talking about a photograph).

This is proceeded by another verse where he simply describes wanting to see a film that’s gotten bad reviews (‘the crowds of people turned away’) since he had “read the book”.   It’s interesting that on both verses, Lennon’s narrative is based around escapism into another’s perspective — whether the photograph or a film.  This escapism is where I feel Sgt. Pepper’s resonates with today’s culture.

“A Day In The Life” blasts off once again into an instrumental crescendo — this time in 2017-remastered-glory, at full volume it’s almost as intense as a DMT trip.  Paul McCartney snaps us back with a very literal, day-in-the-life: He wakes up; gets ready; has a smoke and spaces out a bit.  Both narratives suggest that there is nothing all that special about the men behind the Beatles moniker — what’s clearly important to both us and them is making something special for to listen to.

The Beatles turn dense sound and vibes into easy-going and carefree sing-alongs. This is in-part due to lyrics like those described above in “A Day In The Life”, but the sentiment is found all throughout the album — there’s a resilient levity which never subsides.  They sometimes sing light because the music is heavy — as is the life it was drawn from.

The album title references those who, prior to listening, felt alone in some capacity.  Maybe you just needed levity in the background; to break the tension; to kickstart ambition (petty and great). Are you feeling alone? Join the club. Because The Lonely Hearts Club has its own band that performs a world-famous, all-inclusive show — and the Beatles directed the soundtrack.  The new remastering feels like it’s happening for the very first time.

Stereo Version available here.

THE BLOOD OF LIL UZI VERT

Push me to the edge
All my friends are dead

As this song continues and he must repeat these somber, horrible words, Uzi sounds as if he is falling apart, hardly able to finish as they roll around for the 8th time.  Immediately what follows is a verse with sharp resilience — yet still self-aware of immense loss.  Within the context of art and as a listener, one can still perceive these lyrics metaphorically; because what we relate to is the loss of friends and family, something that everyone experiences.

As a listener and as lyrics in the context of pop music, we connect to that loss in our own ways.  There are degrees to loss and that’s why this connects to something within us all, even those only in proximity to the feeling.

However you look at it, black kids are dying from violence in America and here’s someone who is young, musically inclined and black.  What’s one of his best songs?  A song about how fucking alone it feels to have every one of your friends die.  He’s an artist and as such he is at liberty to choose how real his personal lyrical narrative becomes.  With this considered, the chorus blurs the line between whether or not it’s his girlfriend or himself talking — or both.  This is a particularly genius touch on what was already a song that went miles-deep.

As dark as this song is, it’s triumphant and glorious at its core — even life-affirming.  Vocally, possibly intentionally, Woods [Uzi Vert] has a similar vocal and existential vibe to Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 [just imagine Blink-182 with Uzi Vert as the lead].  In the early 00’s the angst of 182 was largely introspective, but in 2017 Lil Uzi Vert is channeling an angst based on external, environmental circumstances.

Uzi Vert is 100% okay as he reassures us on the opening (“Are you alright? I’m alright, I’m quite alright…”); but hearing him fall to pieces over the song (and keeping the hype of the song going) it’s just one of the best things you can hear right now.

 

Congratulations to Quavo & Post-Malone

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I think this song has solidified Quavo in the ‘best of all time’-status for me.  I mean dude has Versace and has basically given life to a wasteland… and he continues to do so.  It shouldn’t be surprising (as most fans know of migos’ talent from early singles, particularly ones showcased on their monolithic-NO LABEL 2), but it is.  I’m not alone in the feeling that we’re overexposed to an under-abundance of new ideas, but there are definitely great, exciting things happening.

Congratulations is one of them.  And in its way, the song is largely echoing what I just spoke of above — resilience and optimism, maybe a little melancholy (but only because you’re so happy you don’t know how to process the feeling), but overall a song focusing on looking at what’s bright, rather than what’s faded(/ing). The exciting sounds and ideas happening in music, which echo what is ultimately occurring across our planet together.

Read these lyrics (not from this song but)

STIILL BE PLAYIN
WITH POTS AND PANS
CALL ME QUAVO
RATATOUILLE

Dude I’m listening to every lyric of every f**ing song I hear — really taking it in… but time after time, I always miss some sort of greatness.  & here’s this line i must’ve heard 30 times before ever really listening to it.  That’s from BAD AND BOUJEE a song that actually came back around for me, rather than burning out (like most songs) under the attention and exposure.

In those lyrics you read, it’s not about the literal — it’s about the feeling.  When you hear him reference that idea in the context of Quavo’s rapid-fire annunciation, it’s breezy.  It’s exciting; fun+ny.  It’s what rapping is all about — catching you off guard with something inspired.  That level of rapping is getting harder to hear because everyone’s giving everything they’ve got (all at the same time).

…All that means, is… you have more choice.  We’re in a time period where you can look up how to do anything you want to do.  There is no longer an excuse to not live your destiny and even with limitations the ability to transcend circumstance has never been more possible —

— and that is an immense pressure.  Songs like “Congratulations” keep you chill on the razor-sharp journey.  Post-Malone does a fine job but Quavo practically sounds four-dimensional (and i think Post-Malone would be the first one to tell you that — and proudly).

Post-Malone / Quavo – Congratulations

Lyrical Analysis: “Paranoid Android” by Radiohead

The lyrics can be found here.  You can listen to the song below:

“Paranoid Android”, by Radiohead, is a rather straight-forward song about isolation.  However, because the song uses abstract imagery and manages to tell two, overlapping narratives with only one set of lyrics, the song is ripe for lyrical analysis.  Literally, this is a classic tale of insanity.  Figuratively, and the meaning you’re more likely to connect with, “Android” is a requiem for the outcast; for the leftfield perspective.

The notion of wanting to get some rest in a noisy environment is something we all can relate with, but the outcast of “Paranoid Android” is pleading; begging to fall asleep, because his head is filled with “unborn chicken voices”. This can seem confusing until the line is read literally – imagine that there are actually chickens inside this man’s head.  “Unborn,” in this context, is a clever way of saying “non-existent”; not actually real.  He simply hears noises in his head, and the syncopated call of a chicken is a perfect image to express the chaos of auditory hallucination.

In another sense, these voices in his head are not in his head at all, but actually the sounds of the world around him (with which he feels such disconnect).  The outcast cannot view society as a screaming success because his senses are overwhelmed with the literal screaming of the oppressed; the crack of the metaphoric whip, keeping everyone at work (“the crackle of pigskin”); overwhelming gluttony (“the crackle of pigskin” i.e. bacon); the panic of the chased; the vomit from those who witness it all and of course, those too busy making money to care (“the yuppies networking”).  The outcast begs it all to stop, because he’s simply trying to get some rest.

As if a nagging reminder to his insanity and his disconnect, the promise of a peaceful sleep is lost; replaced by literal paranoia (“What’s that?”).  Already so broken-down, the only way this outcast can cope is to escape to a dreamlike state; to imagine an alternate reality where he is in command, persecuting everyone who has ever wronged him (“When I am King, you will be first against the wall — where your opinion is of no consequence at all”).

Unfortunately, due to what’s been bubbling under the surface, what should be a pleasant daydream turns into a manic episode.  Rather playful, optimistic longing is replaced with aggressive force.  As if he’s shaking the collar of society itself, he screams, “You don’t remember!  You don’t remember my name!”  Now, he’s in control and is using his power to get back at his enemies – “Off with his head now; off with his head!!”

Unfortunately, the mania subsides and is replaced with a calming, static depression.  He’s back to the real world and his fantasy is just that – a fantasy.  The difference is, there’s no going back.  Perhaps in the intensity of his manic episode, he has broken a law or two, for now passersby are scorning and ridiculing him for his insanity.  “Off with his head now!!” is both a mantra yelled at society and the actual response of society to the outcast’s madness.

A crowd draws and he’s told, “That’s it now — you’re leaving,” but he refuses to give-in; instead fighting back and running away (“the dust and the screaming”). The police presumably catch him, but not before he is beaten (“the crackle of pigskin”), shrieking in terror as the walls of his world cave-in (“the screaming”).  All the while, this is taking place in public, with businessmen and women rushing past, far too busy making phone calls to stop and observe (“yuppies networking”).

It is here where Yorke sings with a cruel jest, “God loves his children.”  It is here where the literal story of a man going crazy and the casual observations of the modern cynic merge.  In the literal narrative, this line is a delusional self-assurance, muttered by the outcast as he’s hauled away.   In the figurative narrative, the cynical observer is mocking the idea of “God” with a bitter sarcasm: “God loves his children,” as if to say, why would anyone Godly waste their attention on this hellish world?  Regardless atheistic implications, this line is important because it shows how both the outcast and the observer have lost all hope.

In the chaos of literal arrest (or the figurative personal disconnect felt towards society), the outcast gives in.  The reason we know the outcast is too tired to fight is because the song starts off with “I’m trying to get some rest,” as if to imply should our protagonist not recover soon, there will be no will to continue.  With no hope in sight, the outcast proclaims, “let it all rain down on me — let it pour from a great height, far up in the sky.”  As if lithium had entered, intravenously, into his bloodstream, our lonesome friend finds peace (even if in defeat).

As if to justify the abstract nature of this song, we hear a robotic voice chanting, “I may be paranoid, but I’m not an android.” In other words, the outcast might have been seen as eccentric; perhaps even paranoid for no reason, but at least he was feeling something.  The beauty of this song is that once you understand the general narrative, all the abstract imagery can be applied to a multitude of concepts, all seen from the observer / the outcast’d perspective.  This outcast is holding up a mirror to our world, but before he can even ask if we’re okay with the resultant image, he loses his mind.

Lyrical Analysis: “Remember The Time?” by Michael Jackson

*Remixed by Girl Talk to use Daft Punk’s production on “Get Lucky” as the backing track:

Loved this when I first heard it and immediately ran to grab the speakers out of my car.  When I got back I looped it on-repeat, even though I knew the neighbors would hate me.  I played the one minute clip for about 5-6 minutes, on loop.  Then I realized I needed to listen to it louder, so I grabbed my Senns and looped it for about half an hour.

I was absolutely in love with the song, then realized how beautiful it was to hear Michael Jackson in what sounded like brand-new material.  Daft Punk’s new “Get Lucky”, which is itself an attempt to preserve the spirit of MJ-era (and earlier) music, seems meant for Micheal Jackson’s SUBLIME vocal talent.

I thought how he had passed, but more importantly how hard of a life he had despite unconditional love for the world.  “Do you remember when we fell in love?”  Do you remember how bright the radio shined when you first heard Michael Jackson?  Do you remember how perfect his songwriting was and the colossal amount of talent he had?  Even if you don’t, here’s a chance to hear it again.

I started tearing up in my right eye, very naturally, until I caught myself.  I didn’t want to stop though, because I was crying from sheer inspiration; hearing an otherworldly, godlike presence sounding so beautifully and in accord with Daft Punk’s immaculate production.

It had been a long time since music had really hit me in this way.  I remember how this used to happen all the time, even just last year.  I missed this.  The lyrics continued: “We were young and innocent then.”  I missed music.  I wanted to fall in love again, but all new music I heard wasn’t resonating with me. I wanted to fall in love with music again, and there, while listening, it was finally happening.

This, of course, just brought on a full-blown stream of tears under each eye.  As if achieving lucidity in a dream-state, I realized this was happening: “See?  Love is real.  All is infinite, overwhelming love.  You’re listening to it.  This is it; it can happen again and again.”

Fate is merciful and sounds like Michael Jackson, singing in a voice that is post-gender; post-identity: embodying perfection in a state which transcends physicality and description.  “Do you remember the time when we fell in love?”  Yes, now I do.  Thank you for reminding me, Michael.

Lyrical Analysis: “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk

The lyrics can be found here. You can listen to the song below:

When Daft Punk wasn’t bringing France’s touch on Electronic music to the masses, they were putting their own touch on vocal takes. Daft Punk’s singles have a character to them which feels human. The hooks are sung clear and coherent; nurtured by a funky kick you’d hear once and latch onto. But just how did robots connect into the hearts of red-blooded humanity?

While Daft Punk is made up of the humans Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, their albums are presented as music made by machines. As a robot, there is no sense pretending to be human, for one can see right through the perfection of it all. A machine designed to be flawless in calculation will never err, which is why electronic music sometimes turns people off — it’s too “repetitive” i.e. where’s the human-touch? Where is the flaw that I can relate to, as a fellow human?

The perfect response to this is found in their classic single, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. “Perfect” may seem like too strong of a word, but any dance song which lasts beyond a decade deserves the acclaim. Indeed, the song maintains particular relevance, having been heard by most of the United States after Kanye West sampled the song in his 2007 #1-charting single, “Stronger”. This is a song which repeats four lines for four minutes and by the end, it’s just as much Soul music as it is House. The song gets so heartfelt, but why? What is it that makes it so appealing?

In the beginning of the song, the lyrics are sung crystal-clear — you, as a listener, can make out every word. By the end of the song, however, the track has elevated in pitch and the robots are no longer reciting a programmed phrase — they are singing. Yes, they are singing, because they are making mistakes. There are pauses between phrases — some phrases are not even sung during “Harder, Better…”‘s frantic peak. Those four lines which the song had repeated with reassuring consistence now fade. It’s difficult to make out what’s being said; to decipher it, one has to rely on memory rather than the music itself.

Removing fractions of vocals to give the impression that this “robot singer” is flawed is, in itself, a robotic approach to making soulful music. This is the Daft Punk aesthetic: Music made not just by robots, but by well-intentioned robots; robots aware of, and trying to transcend, their robotic limitations.

So by the end, you’re in awe. What had been promised and laid before you is now gone. You long for when the song’s vocals were simple and robotic, all the while amazed at how these guys might just be humans after all. The last second of the song are two words from the line “Our work is never over” — “Never Over”. These words are sung in the same vocal style which built the song’s groove. It leaves a reminder: This feeling is never over.

Amongst the background noise, the search for something real will rarely yield anything beyond a glimpse. These robots, in all their perfection, found their voice only as the song was coming to an end. What their “voice” translated to was distortion of perfection. The more chopped-up the vocals became, the more it seemed like these robots were capable of empathy. In addition to impeccable production, this is a major reason the song sounds fresh even eleven years after its initial release (March 2001).

Lyrical Analysis: “DLZ” by TV on the Radio

The lyrics can be found here.  You can listen to the song below:

“DLZ” (‘Deals’) by TV on the Radio is a song that deals with “evil” and how it spreads.  The first half of the song describes how a loathsome protagonist rises in power; the second focuses on his impact.  Right away, the song hits you with a massive scale of sound, a crooning arriving from the highest dimensions of the cosmic sphere – the song is profound long before learning what’s being sung.  This elaborates the scale of the protagonist’s misdeeds, as if to suggest this is a dictator, high-end arms dealer or Walter White from Breaking Bad.  When the song closes, all that’s left is a quiet chanting: “This is beginning to feel like the dawn of a loser forever”.  While every human is mortal, one’s impact lives on longer than their life – good and bad.  If we take up “loser” characteristics, they may be passed on, forever.

Indirect metaphor is painted over “DLZ”’s lyrics like a coating.  Taken as a whole, however, all these symbols paint but one color – an angry crimson.  Furthermore, the paint is being thrown in frustration against the canvas, as if the painter has been remaking the same painting over and over, growing weary in the process.  Indeed, the first line of the song, “Congratulations on the mess you made of things,” is sung with condescension and jest, summing up the song’s tone in half a sentence.

“To reconstruct the air” is impossible and the protagonist fails in his attempted reconstruction (making “a mess of things”).  Oxidation is a process in which electrons are lost – this may seem out of place until making the connection that the song is describing the loss of the soul in three sentences.  For going against what’s natural (“reconstructing the air”), you’ve dug yourself into a hole from which you cannot escape (the “mess you’ve made” / “compromise you owe”) and now you’ve lost your soul (the soul representing the electrons lost in oxidation).  Ironically, it’s beginning to feel like the dog (the loathsome protagonist) wants a bone (is starting to feel guilty / wants a break).

If the first verse provided exposition into how the protagonist turns evil, the second describes why he remains evil.  He “forces his fire” then “falsifies his deeds” – his malicious wishes are subjected to the world and when it’s time to answer consequence, he covers up ever being involved in the first place.  The song implies not only does the protagonist avoid accusation; he becomes rich off of his misdeeds.

Unfortunately, no amount of fortune could ever fill the vacuous void of his soul; regardless, the protagonist still tries to satisfy this emptiness with further wealth and power.  This is the beginning of the end, the point of no return – when evil becomes impossible to sustain with a sane mind (“This is beginning to feel like the dog’s lost her lead”).  Again, the song is implying the protagonist has found great success, perhaps even admired by many, but has lost the spark (oxidation/soul) which made him admirable in the first place.

It is now when Tunde cries out “This is beginning to feel like the long-winded blues of the never” – this is beginning to feel like there is no going back.  There is no hope, escape or plan-B.  The protagonist is so consumed by greed that he’s essentially dying (“curling up slowly”) and now looks to bring the rest of the world down with him (“finding a throat to choke”).  He descends down this self-made spiral so fast and with such reckless abandon, it could be compared to a train running itself off the tracks (“barely controlled locomotive”).

At this point, the only thing in his future is downfall – with a tunnel-vision, he ignores all outside perspective and hope (“consuming the picture”).  Again, the song references the protagonist’s desire (“static explosion”) to pass along his disease to whomsoever gets in his way (“devoted to crushing the broken”) so that they too will suffer in the same hell (“shoving their souls to ghost”).

What’s the result?  Eternal admiration; his likeness objectified into stone (“eternalized; objectified”).  His “sights” were set powerfully upon the top and the song has revealed the extent of his success.  However, this is where he begins to face criticism, as Tunde once again observes, “This is beginning to feel like the bolt’s busted loose from the lever” – he’s gone mad with power.  Unhinged, derailed, insane – the public is catching on.

The narrator now enters the song as a second character, the antagonist in this case, and asserts how impossible it would be to ever fall victim to the protagonist’s evil nature (“Never you mind, death professor! / Your structure’s fine; my dust is better!”).  This insult about “dust” seems to say “Regardless how massive or complex these structures are (“eternalized; objectified”), there’s more substance to be found in the dust from my footprint, however small it’s impact may be.”  Additionally, in the same stanza is a jab toward those who are “weak” enough (“your victims”) to be swayed by the promise of power, to the point where they give everything to reach it (“fly so high”) only to realize that at the lowest pit of hell, there’s nothing to do but drag others down with you (“all to catch a bird’s eye-view of who’s next”).

Swept away in hatred for the protagonist, the narrator continues preaching upon his soapbox.  “Love is life!  My love is better!” Tunde declares.  It’s emancipation from any remaining connection the narrator has to this narrative of evil.  He theorizes if more people weren’t “confused with who’s next”, our “eyes could be the diamonds” – our transcendent focus would astound all, the same way a diamond’s shine would catch anyone’s attention.

He elaborates — “Your shocks are fine – my struts are better” – while power’s hypnotism is profound, the ability for the narrator to cast it aside allows him to rant (“strut”) with superior ease.  Still, there’s another reference to how many are swayed by twisted promises (“Your fiction flies so high”) and how these people are past the point of self-correction, for they are tumbling down the spiral (“Y’all could use a doctor / who’s sick? / who’s next?”)

Pen-ultimately, the narrator sings how his love is electric, crystalizing into the psyches of everyone whom experiences it.  Thus, the impact will last longer than any statue or monument.  Promising how “all could be the diamond fused with–” the narrator interrupts himself: “—who’s next?”  Does he question who is next to rise, or fall?  The song ends soon after.

Though filled with abstract metaphor, the song’s overall tone is quite simple to grasp.  From here, you can translate this general narrative into something much more specific.  It is easy to fixate on the song’s phonetic title, “Deals”, as if to say this is a song about the power structure in our society and how TV on the Radio have an antidote – musical expression (“electrified – my love is better!”).  However, the song is as applicable to trust issues in a relationship as it is to a critique on organized religion.  Regardless what you choose to read into and what you choose to exclude, the ending of the song is very much about liberation and the mentality one develops when freed.  What you are being liberated from, is up to you as a listener to decide.