Saturday, August 26, 2017

ST13R4 Reviews: Boy on the Wall

Dave's Note: Boy on the Wall stepped it up a notch and sent in reviews of the four contestants along with his rankings. They're presented here. And if anyone else wants to write reviews, feel free to do so... I'll be happy to post them.

1. Jerkatorium

Jerkatorium absolutely knocked it out of the park. The two distinct characters' voices, the two distinct musical moods to match those voices, the seamless "eclipse" effect, the merger of message and music, phewwwww this is probably my favorite song of any round of the whole contest, just brilliant stuff. I want to hear a whole Jerkatorium stage musical after hearing this!! Maaaybe the first "song" is a little short and spare - could it truly stand alone? I think so, at least up to the same standard as the example that Dave gave us when announcing the round. There are three distinct melodies/sections there, very very efficiently. Great job, guys. 

2. Menage a Tune

Ranking this one higher almost exclusively on the strength of the interlocking melodies and music of the "eclipse" portion of the piece - I really liked how the melodies worked and how the orchestration rose up in support of them at the end. It's beautiful. I can see this on the stage as well, though definitely with different lyrics. The lyrical content didn't rise to the same level as the music for me, at least not until that last line of "happy to share the sky with you," which is great, and "I have learned that I shine best in your reflected glory." I would have loved a version that started with those images, with the sun and moon as the actual characters. In this version, the word "rebels" especially took me out of the music - both because Civil War iconography is literally headline news this week - did you mean to invoke that? I kinda hope not! - and because it was never clear how songwriting competitors are rebelling against anything. But the music just really works so well for me in the end! 

3. Sara Parsons

Sara and Jailhouse were really really close for me, but I'm giving the edge to Sara because of the cool lyrical approach of taking two different moments in the same character's development/story. Sara's melodies are both great - they really match the moods of the lyrics well (not unlike Jerkatorium). I love when that happens! Also daring to try to map 4/4 on top of 3/4 time! Or merge your v1 4/4 melody into 3/4 at the end? I think that's what you did there. But, whether because of the meter(s) or the phrasing of the lines, the eclipse portion of the song wound up a little cluttered and hard to parse for me, and it didn't quite achieve that emotional elevating effect. 

4. Jailhouse Payback

It's brutal to have to put such a great effort last, sheesh! Such a strong round overall! And this one was an attempt to actually engage with pressing issues in the country in a thoughtful way, with powerful imagery linked to the eclipse - I really appreciated that. All three of these sections really stand alone as whole, complete songs, nice job. It does become a haul to get through, though; there are stops and starts and empty measures that I would have liked to see cut, and you probably exceeded the limit for (admittedly brilliant) guitar solos in one submission. The two characters seem like nice, thoughtful people (friends? romantic partners? family?), but their perspectives weren't really different, the way Jerkatorium's and Sara's were, to good effect. I do really like how the two chorus lines land on top of each other in the final portion, though. 

Thanks for everything! Looking forward to Spintunes 14!