Saturday, August 16, 2014

SpinTunes #9 Round 3 Reviews: Dr. Lindyke

By now you know all about this stuff:


Summarizing:
  1. Did you give us what we asked for? (hit the intent of the challenge)
  2. Composition over production (but for heaven's sake, please try)
  3. Production still counts,
  4. Genre doesn't matter, and
  5. Song bios help.
So let's go straight to the challenge:
SCORE! - Finally! Your favorite book is being made into a decent movie! The producers need a title song to promote the film and hopefully win an Academy Award. You're hired. The song must have the same title as the book.
As it so happens I know exactly what I want to hear out of this challenge (and as usual, I'm writing this header about a week before I hear the songs). As usual, every word in the challenge counts, but the most challenging thing, technically, about this challenge is parsing it. Basically,
  1. We want a song inspired by a book (remember, they're going to make a movie. It's not made yet, so you're working from source material)
  2. The song should be of the sort that could be used in a movie soundtrack, but more importantly, it's to be used to promote the movie, so should have broad appeal for radio play.
  3. It should be really, really good. Subjective, emotional punch is a major factor here, or at least a great hook.
  4. It must be titled the same as the book.
In other words, write a damned good song with the title of a book, and you even get to pick the book. You pretty much have carte blanche after that. Just make us want it.

So my personal judging criteria is pretty much going be seeing whether you jumped that tiny hurdle of title, and then how well do I like the song. Simple, right? On paper, yeah. But everyone has biases, so here are mine:
  1. The song really shouldn't be "meta" (self-aware). For instance, it shouldn't be about writing a song for a movie. That wouldn't get you an Oscar.
  2. I'm not looking for a synopsis of the book. I can get that from the dust jacket. Most of the time this would be boring, but there are occasions where it will work. For instance, Will Smith's MIB rap would work, if MIB had been a book. I think rap's got a lot more leeway here... I don't see it working well for another genre, but you might surprise me.
  3. It doesn't even need to be overtly about the book, but if I can tell that it's written from the POV of a character from the book, you're hitting the sweet spot.
  4. A POV song highlighting the emotions of a character, as he or she felt them in a very specific scene depicted in the book, would ring my bell and blow my whistle.
  5. I'm open to surprises.
I did write a shadow illustrating my biases, and I'll tell you about that below. And with all that stated above, I will be reading the lyrics and song bios, and probably the Cliff's Notes for the books in question (the ones I haven't read), to help me more thoroughly understand what you've written.


AND THE NOMINEES ARE:

Brian Gray - Maus
(Graphic Novel by Art Spiegelman)
Your lyrics had me absolutely hooked by "Arrive by train, depart by chimney". For those unaware, this is told as a narrative by Art's father Vladek, a Polish Jew, and his first-person experiences in World War II. Throughout the story, Art illustrates the meta-story of his relationship with his father. The lyrics here acknowledge and honor that family history, both of the recent and distant past ("reaching through the fog"). To be perfectly honest, I don't hear this as an end-credits song. If it were my movie, I'd place it after the opening flashback, during 1980s-style extended opening credits, possibly with Artie en route to Vladek's house. The movie picks up with Artie being greeted by his dad. I can see this. I'm not sure I'm satisfied with the mix. I don't think it's the best produced or best sung entry on the list; the production sounds a little rushed and the vocals waver here and there. In the end, I don't care, because you're hitting the sweet spot in all other areas, and it does get the point across. It's the only song here that made me actually shed a tear. Anyway, now that the studio has bought it, we're arranging it for the orchestra. Never underestimate the importance and power of your source material. You picked something with gravitas, and in so doing have a real shot at that Oscar. With a song like this, someday you could be famous, like what's-his-name!

James Young - The Shadow of the Wind
(Book by Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n)
If you'll pardon the coincidental pun, this is a bit literal. But that doesn't matter because it sounds mahvelous, dahling. Mahvelous! Good choice of source material, and a very nice intro. Very smooth transitions between your velvet verses and the more energetic chorus. You didn't overdo it on the chorus, and that's nice, too. And omg that guitar in the bridge is smooth! Very cool trailing strings. I have nothing constructive to say about this except great job, and it's going in the movie. See the secretary on your way out to sign the proper release forms.

TurboShandy - Ready Player One
(Book by Ernest Cline)
Such a lovely song bio! You even provided us with a linked synopsis of the book. That's what I'm talkin' about... you're making this easy! And I have to say that your reading of the challenge is impeccable. And I like the source material... so many 80's pop-culture references! And I lived it, so I can relate! I'd watch that movie. I like the way you flirted with an arcade sound without sacrificing the guitars... the song we're looking for should be radio-worthy, and this is. You called it right...  it wasn't necessary to bring book details into the song. It stands on its own, but knowing the context enhances the meaning of the lyrics. You did get the pop references and the references to virtual reality in there to tie it to the story. And the lyrical hook in the chorus gets our nascent movie's name drilled into the heads of the public. Well done.

Governing Dynamics - Blackbirds
(Book by Chuck Wendig)
I haven't read this one, so I searched for some in-depth reviews and found this one. OK, precog tries to avert a murder. Between this round and the last one and an earlier song based on The Dresden Files, I'm learning a bit about Travis' reading habits, and they're a lot like my mother's, and I'd probably like it, too. But that's neither here nor there. On to the song. Out comes the ebow! Obviously your voice wasn't 100% for the recording, but you knew that, and I'm going to completely ignore it in my ranking. I like it. A lot. It's consistent throughout, and from what I've read it pretty well describes Miriam Black's character. And here's the thing... even though the studio's going to hire another singer for the final mix, I can hear this as a "movie song".

Steven Wesley Guiles - Eyes of the Dragon
(Book by Stephen King)
The chorus has a nice hook. I'm not as sold on the verses, though. This placement is purely subjective, as I'm not exactly what to say about this one. Interesting choice of source material, as it's a rare non-horror story by Stephen King.

Zoe Gray - The Tell-Tale Heart
(Short Story by Edgar Allen Poe)
As this is a short story, I checked to make sure that it was available in book form, and it is. Well played, Young One. Lyrically, this is spot-on. Musically, I have mixed feelings, so take this in the most constructive "this is a good song, but I think it can be great" sense... the opening verses are killer good... just that right amount of Poe-ness with a flavoring of "Creepy Doll". The transition from the opening verses to into the Rock chorus kind of works, but I'm not as convinced on the transition back. Personally, I don't think you should change the tempo, and I'd go with the slower tempo. Slowing it down and keeping your voice measured and soft would really creep everybody the hell out. Try it. You get enough energy from the added instruments in the chorus to differentiate it from the verses without a tempo change. Also not convinced that the triplets in the drums work... it seems to be standing in for the heartbeat, which is another reason for not changing the tempo, unless it were very gradual. Perhaps you were avoiding the cliche, but remember that they become cliches for a reason. A really great cliche gets renamed to "stylistic convention". I'd like to know the reason for stopping the beating in the bridge. The natural inclination here would be to make it more insistent and persistent until the end of the song, never letting the energy that you pumped into it in the chorus fall back to zero until the end. Even though the lyrics don't need to follow the narrative, it might be useful for the music to stick more closely to that structure when you're dealing with such iconic material. Kudos for including movie rights in your mini-bio. And kudos on making me listen to this a lot. I usually reserve this much criticism for Edric Haleen, and you can take that as a huge compliment.

MC Ohm-I - Merriam-Webster's Dictionary and Thesaurus
(Reference book)
I feel like a heel for putting what's arguably the best-produced song on the album at the end. I wouldn't be surprised if I were the odd man out and you got kudos and praises from other quarters, as this is very well executed. But here's the bottom line. While I appreciate the attempt at thinking waaaay outside the box ... after listening to it, I still have no interest at all in seeing a movie based on Merriam-Webster's Dictionary and Thesaurus. And making me want to see it is pretty much what the song is for. You seem to be hamstrung by a concept that doesn't really have a lot of narrative value and would make a pretty poor movie. I think you could have turned it around by inventing a narrative that has a little more to it than just looking up words... and with your smart, rapid-fire style I think you had the time and tools to do it. But I'm just not feelin' it. Sorry.


SHADOWS:

Jailhouse Payback - 7 Habits
(Book by Stephen Covey)
Well, it's a shadow, where anything goes. If it were an entry I'd give you a hard time about focusing on the challenge. Instead of being a song about the book (as in the literary content) that is written for the movie, this feels more like a song about the fact that the book (in the meta sense of a collection of pages) is being made into a movie. I'm not a fan of "meta" for this challenge. But as always the instrumentation and groove are extremely well done.

Megalodon - Ready Player One
(Book by Ernest Cline)
TWO songs about Ready Player One? What are the odds? I think maybe what this one is missing is a gunter's 1980s pop-culture obsession.

Dr. Lindyke: The God of All Small Boys
(Book by Joseph Lamb)
This blatant advertisement was actually written concurrently with the proofreading of the book. The book is authored by SpinTuner and Master of Song Fu Joe 'Covenant' Lamb. The book reached completion at about the same time as you were writing your songs. Joe provided me with an advance draft, which this song is specifically written. It's a tale about a group of pre-teen boys; a coming of age story set in Dundee, Scotland during the Great War (WWI). The lyrics depict a scene in a "den" constructed by the boys on a grassy hillside. Joe was then kind enough to write the song back into the book, thus it is quite literally a scene from the book. The book is being submitted to a writing competition, and will be released shortly after that. Now all that's needed is a movie producer. Having read it, I can tell you that it is a movie I'd like to see. I highly recommend it. This version of the song itself is intended to be used in the end-credits song, with a bit of voiceover harking back to dialogue the audience would have heard in the movie.