Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Listening: My Approach to Songwriting (Part 1)

So as I pursue songwriting with being a critic always on the frontburner, I have come across a couple albums that are shaping my ideas of what kind of songwriter I want to be. I have always struggled between writing simply, and writing to impress other writers. When I was in high school, my poetry was so complex that I remember blanks stares answering in class, where the other kids were writing about eating lunch and football games. When I began to hang with writers, I felt like I was lower on the totem pole; partly because of my botched public education and partly because I had yet embraced the privilege of my urbaness. An editor once told me my style was too colloquial. A writing coach told me I needed to write how I talked.

With the songwriters I admire, there is a blend between real speech and the fanciness of written language. Our writing teachers damaged us all, making us stretch completed essays and meet time restrictions. So below are a couple albums that are helping in my transition from paper to song.

Room For Squares, John Mayer
Even though I fashion my self a trendsetter, I come upon a lot of things really late. My favorite song for July: Drop It Like It’s Hot by Snoop. So I just bought John Mayer’s first CD as a birthday present last month, and I love it. It’s a mix of 20-year-old-angst and 20-year-old-freedom. It is poetic without trying. And he strums like an old blues pro.

The Love Below, Outkast
As far as concept albums go, this is the best in the last couple years (I hear Green Day’s new one is hot, but I haven’t gotten around to that yet). As a sidenote, heads are always heated that Big Boi’s Speakerboxx never gets as much ink as Andre’s CD. Well, when I bought the CD, I gave that album to my then boyfriend who never gave it back. So I’ve only heard it once. So I wash my hands from that criticism.

No Angel and Life For Rent by Dido
She’s so simple with her delivery and word play, you may miss all the beautiful language if you don’t listen carefully. For those who only know Dido through her collab with Eminem, you are missing an excellent songwriter.

The Vault 1.5 by Eric Roberson
Aside from the fact that this man is one of the most personable people I’ve ever interviewed, he puts words and concepts in songs that are diabolically opposed to what should work. But it does so wonderfully that his words are so sing-songy and poetic at the same time. It’s a shame he’s not bigger than what he is.

Innervisions by Stevie Wonder
I have always been a fan of Stevie, but he has a tendency to give it to you 100 percent with the music, arrangements and lyrics. It can be a little much. But this CD is subdued, and the focus is really on the words. In the stand out, Visions, the break down almost serves as a moment to give the listeners time to think. Good technique.

The Black Album by Jay-Z
Jay is vulnerable, complex, yet confident on his last full-length. And as he never slacks on the machismo, he is more poetic than ever. It’s not just the single metaphors that make this CD extra special, it’s the attention to concepts that make him one of the greatest emcees ever.

Jagged Little Pill (Acoustic) by Alanis Morisette
Some people don’t like heavy guitar, I’m one of them. But I’ve always loved the first version of JLP, so I’ve never owned the CD. But the recently released acoustic version is an unorthodoxed remix to the beautiful bitchfest the first CD was. It’s good to be able to take a song that is intense, and totally flip the intensity level and make it another song.

Live at the House of Blues by Raphael Saadiq
I have always admired his writing skills, as he stays true to his speech. The live CD shows the depth and urban eloquence of Saadiq’s catalogue, starting with Tony Toni Tone and journeying through his own career of bangers. Appearances by D’Angelo, Joi and his brother D’Wayne Wiggins show his ability to collab with diverse artists for excellent results.


At 1:31 PM, Anonymous BellaDawn said...

I have some music that may inspire you to write as well, these are some in my playlist.

Purple Rain-Prince

Lover's Rock-Sade

The Best of Teena Marie-Teena Marie

The Rza as Bobby Digital-RZA

just in case you run out of music...
let me know how ur writing goes!

At 5:23 PM, Blogger tray_princess said...

I dabble in writing songs as well, I don't know what type of music you are trying to create, but two songwriters rocked my world and changed my concept of what and how I can say something in lyrics. Tori Amos... Check out Little Earthquakes
Ani Difranco... Check out Dilate and Educated Guess


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