Saturday, July 15, 2017

ST13R1 Reviews - Brian Gray


I’m not going to make any friends with this intro, but I had a very specific bit of prejudice coming into this round. You see, I judged a round in a previous competition about video games, and noticed a pattern. So many entries simply recited the plot of the game, and I was like, “What was the point of writing this song? What are you adding to the world?”

So now we have a challenge to write a tribute to a dead star, and before a note is written I’m thinking, “Will there be anything more to these songs than ‘Here’s a person, here’s what they did, and I’m sad they’re gone’?”. I tried to be very lenient here and remind myself that no one knows what anyone else is writing. What if you thought you were the only one to write a simple song while everyone else is going to be unnecessarily complicated? But of course then I think about how “Candle in the Wind” wasn’t about how it sucks that Marilyn is dead, but about how she lacked agency over her own life. Now that’s the kind of added perspective I’m looking for; so all you had to do was be Bernie Taupin and all would be good, except as noted you’d have been disqualified for mentioning her name.

I organized my reviews in three sections for production, music, and lyrics, but 2 things. First, I tried not to be influenced by production; tried to keep the rankings limited to songwriting. Second, I lumped thematic assessment into the lyrics section, which I’ll probably break out in future rounds. Good luck.


Sara Parsons: Crikey! (Steve Irwin)
    Production:
        A little hot on the vocals, but generally quite good. It was a good decision to include that bass (or what passes for bass in a ukulele song) line on the left to anchor the chords. Even when the uke hangs out on mostly syncopated beats we still feel locked into each measure
    Music:
        Musically I feel like this song could easily fit into a TV show like Steve’s, or perhaps Zoboomafoo if I’m being honest. That unexpected bVII near the end of the chorus (on “smile”) serves as an excellent preparation for the bridge, which feels different but like it naturally belongs in the song. If I had one reservation musically, it would be the transition from verse to chorus, where you hang out on the IV and don’t signal very strongly that anything special is happening. I love the way you start the chorus on the IV, so if it were me I’d look for a way to end the verse somewhere else. Maybe somewhere weaker like iv.
    Lyrics:
        Expertly crafted. I really could feel how the words just slot into their time and space naturally. Even the first time through (after the listening party that is), I was able to read ahead and where I expected a syllable to fit in, it did. It was as comfortable as Steve made us all feel. And the ironic twist of hoping there are crocodiles in heaven was exactly the kind of thing I was hoping people would come up with in response to the challenge. Yay!

Jerkatorium: Center Square (Paul Lynde)
    Production:
        From the bouncy feel to the use of brass for punctuation, this really sets an example for a song that aims to keep things light. And the layering of multiple instruments on syncopated beats fill up the space.
    Music:
        Is it possible I hear some Mark Aaron James (of “Aquaman’s Lament” fame) influence? Your melody and vocal harmonies made me look him up to compare. Anyway, the chorus chords stand out, with that bVII acting as a IV/IV resolving to IV when most songs would have just taken it up to the I. Kept me on my toes and matched the very slightly off-kilter feel.
    Lyrics:
        “Watchin’ me”/”scotch in me”. Nice. Your subject is deliciously off-the-wall, and the decision to go 1st person was welcome. I’m writing reviews before ranking, but I bet this one ends up very high up.

Melissa Phillips - Never the Fool (Gene Wilder)
    Production:
        Very well done.  The guitar is delicate and bright, the balance is good, and you did a great job of getting rid of background noise. The vocals may have a touch too much of something in the high mids, can’t quite put my finger on it. Overall very appropriate to the content, and sells it well.
    Music:
        I like how your chords dance around the tonic, using it as a kind of treat or reward when you finally allow yourself to go there. Lots of minors, but always resolving to major leans the listener against an optimistic feel that matches the positive message of the lyrics.
    Lyrics:
        I think this was a good one in which to break out the near rhymes. They help it flow naturally, kind of swaying in a relaxed way that makes a person want to launch the Zippo app on their phone and wave it around. And bringing it home with “You were all of us sometimes” was a great take.

Alex Valentine: Adolescent Minds (Kurt Cobain)
    Production:
        Nice stereo spectrum use. Doubling and harmonies are a bit loose, makes it harder to hear lyrics. I get it, Nirvana was not about slick production, more punk influenced, and did not produce to pop levels, but they did keep it (especially the doubling) tighter than this and edited out redundant consonants to clean up clarity. I wouldn’t even point this out if the rest had not been so well crafted, I’d just assume you’re a normal songwriter who doesn’t necessarily have the capabilities to line stuff up. I suspect though that’s not the case and you have the software to pull the timing together.
    Music:
        Ack, this being the first song, I started with a harmonic analysis before deciding that was totally unrealistic if I’m to get reviews in on time. Suffice to say, I very much agree with leaving your power chords’ modalities ambiguous until resolved (as minor) by the melody. Very Nirvana, which of course is what you intended.
    Lyrics:
        The narrative, read literally, appears to suggest that Cobain’s career, songs, musical legacy were “such a waste”. I’m pretty sure you mean “such a waste” in the way a person would say in a different narrative context to refer to all the future art that could have been created had Cobain not destroyed himself. But this is not clear from the lyrics; the pronoun “it” is used directly after talking about how influential his songs were. Unless that is the point and I’m totally missing it: that I have the entire song backwards and it’s critical of his music? That the musical legacy itself is the “waste”, and has done damage to art created by his posterity?

Boy on the Wall: Bail Me Out (Robin Williams)
    Production:
        Strong. Harsh guitars are beneficial to the theme, and the manic tempo sets an undercurrent of energy that matches that of Mr. Williams.
    Music:
        I’m not sold on the verse melody. They start off well with that generally falling melody over the rising bass line. It’s mostly that tonic you hit on “explode” layered over the V chord, if you raised it a full step not only would it make for a stronger statement (on a strong-statement word), but it would lead you up naturally to the next note in your song. The choruses are another matter though. I really love the jump to falsetto there, a compositional practice Brian Wilson used to great effect and very clearly delineating the break from verse to chorus.
    Lyrics:
        Good imagery from a unique perspective. Since the song comes from a friend we can trust that the insight is more intimate than that of any old fan. And even then you admit in the final verse that it could be wrong. A lot of songs present their perspective as if it’s the undoubtedly correct one, but there’s something to be said about admitting doubt. I don’t know why I keep going back to “Candle in the Wind” in my brain, but it too starts each chorus with “and it seems to me…”, allowing for the possibility of being wrong. I like it.

Micah Sommersmith: The Sisters of Mercy Again (Leonard Cohen)
    Production:
        It’s not unskilled; you’ve obviously recorded before. I might suggest the arrangement is inappropriate for this song as composed. It’s a good song, and I can absolutely hear someone going “Mad World” on it to squeeze out more of the pathos the lyrics aim to convey.
    Music:
        Simple chords, no surprises. The ¾ time is pretty rare, but matches the feel of the titular reference song, so I bet that’s what you were going for.
    Lyrics:
        “You did”/”Muted” - nice

Matt Walton: The Coming of Enlightenment (Hildegard of Bingen)
    Production:
        I like the sparseness and style, and of course it connects quite well to the subject matter. Any attempt to do 2-3 lines of vocals in so intimate harmony will depend greatly on intonation, and yours is off in quite a few places. But I can see where you’re going. An engineer with a polyphonic pitch correcter could clean this up (or spend all day in the studio doing 47,000 takes and comp them), so I’m not going to get on your case about such a thing in a songwriting competition.
    Music:
        Obviously evoking the monophonic chant that Hildegard wrote, you updated it with not just harmony, but seconds and other intervals that came into common usage more recently than the more mathematically pleasant perfect 5ths and 4ths. Along with a polyphony that almost sounds like you’re doing a round, you just kind of ease the feel into a more modern age without losing its essence.
    Lyrics:
        I’m going back and forth as to whether or not I like the break in the middle that makes this feel like two separate songs. On one hand, I’d like to feel like everything fits into a consistent arc, delivering a single message. On the other, perhaps it is. If “write what you see and hear” were to be followed by a colon, perhaps the second half reflects what Hildegard now can see and hear from the heavens. You could have had the best of both worlds though had you written some way of connecting the two halves of the story.

W8 What: Wake Up! (George Michael)
    Production:
        Love love love this production! So dynamic, weaving the 80’s style synthesizers with some more contemporary balances and vocal effects.
    Music:
        Very cool with the random major popping up out of nowhere for variety. I’d have liked to hear the chorus in a higher register though. The way you have it, there’s not much if any musical change between verse and chorus and the song just kind of continues on, never reaching the impact suggested by our first exposure to the intro groove. It occurred to me that perhaps your vocal range wouldn’t allow for it, but you do get into exactly that register on some of the vocal fills, so it was an option.
    Lyrics:
        It’s a tricky thing, trying to write a new sentiment out of someone else’s words. The effect you achieved works from the point of view of a listener recognizing each phrase and linking it with nostalgia, but it doesn’t really weave a coherent narrative. What would you say was your primary message here? He impacted your life positively and you miss him feels about right from listening. Then was “I do not belong to you, you don’t belong to me.” just pasted in because it’s his lyrics from a popular song? And what’s with that jab at Andrew? Sounded pretty harsh, and kind of out of place.

Ominous Ride: Line After Line (Wired) (John Belushi)
    Production:
        A little noise is the first thing we hear, at least on studio headphones. I don’t know if it comes through on earbuds. Other than that, everything is well balanced. I’d have gone with less reverb on the vocals, but if I recall that reverb is part of your signature sound, right? So that wouldn’t be a knock on your production.
    Music:
        Very interesting layering of manic, crazy, distorted guitars over a very sober bass and drum beat. The combination adds to the message that there’s something else below the more obvious “wired” facade.
    Lyrics:
        First thing I noticed was the way the words tumble over each other like a verse from “We Will Rock You”; really makes the rhymes feel alive and unique when their timing remains unpredictable. At a higher level, the basic conceit of Belushi being “wired” -- and all the different meanings that can take on -- was a really nice take. Odd how I imagined how this could have been another one of the Robin Williams songs, and then reflected on just how many comics feel so much pressure to be “on” at all times. Must be quite a stressful life.

Governing Dynamics: Final Flight of the Electra (Amelia Earhart)
    Production:
        Man if any song in this round would benefit from being recorded in a professional studio, this is the one. The vocal recording itself was better than most, but picture this: you do a whole bunch of takes until you can comp together all of it with dead-on pitch. Add harmonies to “could have been a castaway” and hit everything hard. But the instruments cut out completely before “could have been” and then smash down on “castaway” with a snare much, much brighter than the one you’ve got (and maybe double hits on all of the first 3 quarter notes?). This could be huge.
    Music:
        No complaints here. Bouncing around on that muted low guitar between iv, I, ii, etc. really keeps things moving, and the drop into the chorus is so natural it has to happen right where it does. I’d prefer something more melodically engaging either entering the chorus or when you get there. Like maybe the harmonies I mention above, placed above the melody to give it something extra.
    Lyrics:
        There are quite a few places where I’m not hearing a natural flow to the syllabic patterns. The first example I hear is a strong accent on “for the whole world”. Other examples pepper themselves throughout the song, and I think just a little cleanup and shuffling around of lyrics (or even just the performance itself) could solve this. Otherwise, the concept is great, exploring all the theories and possibilities of what happened to Ms. Earhart.

Glen Raphael: One More Thing (Steve Jobs)
    Production:
        There’s something strange going on where it doesn’t sound like you and the uke are in the same room. Did you record both at the same time, or separately? Maybe one thing was farther from the mic than the other, or different reverb was applied to each? I don’t know. Anyway, on to why we’re here: songwriting…
    Music:
        I really like some of your choices with the fingerpicking, like leaning on suspended notes without feeling the need to resolve, or not shying away from 2nds, even minor ones. There are times when this may have gone a bit far and I had trouble feeling out the function of a passage and where it was headed, usually leading to weak transitions. But it all cleans up when you hit “One more thing”, which is of course the best place for that to happen. It’s possible the only thing holding this song back from being ranked higher was my inability to hear proplerly some of the changes lost in the uke, that would have been more apparent in a different arrangement. I was hoping to judge based on pure songwriting (emotion, chords, melody, lyrics), but I can’t rule out the possibility of your arrangement having hidden something important.
    Lyrics:
        Starting with the title, “One more thing” is a great phrase to lock onto to sum up any discussion about Steve Jobs, and the kind of hook I hoped more of these songs would find in their subject matter.

Little Bobby Tables: Star Man (Carl Sagan)
    Production:
        Very clean and clear. For a simple song with a simple arrangement like this, you do everything right. Low noise floor (some background bumps/scrapes/noises, but very litle hiss/hum), good balance between guitar and voice, and a playing style that combines colorful strum patterns without neglecting to hit a downbeat to keep us grounded. You might do something my own guitar teacher chastises me for, neglecting your bass notes from time to time.
    Music:
        Simple, straightforward. When you do introduce an off-note though, like that 2nd in the intro, I’d like to hear it emphasized a bit more, explore it a bit. The beginning of the chorus is great, creating contrast in both rhythm and register, making it all the more disappointing when the end of the chorus just kind of trails off, energy-wise. Was that intentional? I could see it being that you love the Star Man and so the music is enthusiastic, but then on “how you tried”, are you trying to switch to sad? Bring us down, so we only got teased with a temporary remembrance of the good times?
    Lyrics:
        I like how your story progresses thematically verse to verse; not many songs do that effectively. While doing that though, you might consider deciding on a chorus that means something central to all verses, rather than changing it up each time. I’ve heard (and written) songs that vary the chorus, and that can be effective in keeping the listener interested, but your chorus only has two lines of verse, so I don’t think that’s a concern. You could find a common message and drive it home.

James Young: Singularity (Chris Cornell)
    Production:
        Separates the verses from the choruses nicely. Drop out the distortion, double (an octave down?). I like it. Great balance among all the guitars; and the guitar performance is astounding
    Music:
        Simple chords, appropriate to the grunge style. Love the melody; good choices where you leave the mode to hit the sharp 5 but resolve quickly. Not a fan of the tonic resolution before the chorus; something weak about it I can’t put my finger on. I think it loses energy at exactly the time you want to get us ready for the chorus. The chorus is great. Classic IV/IV - IV - I; powerful
    Lyrics:
        So this song reads like it was written on opposite day, but that can work. The reference to “Black Hole Sun” is obvious, but in that song the sun was the only thing that could burn away the rain of his depression and act as a salve; it was hoped to be a good thing. Here it’s not a savior but just a judgmentless state of being. It just is. Even the light that can’t escape, is that good or bad? He’s in there with the light, but we’re all out here unable to receive it.
        Additionally, there appears to be a posthumous change of heart, reflecting on the damage he’s caused his surviving family he “left […] playing with the hand [he] dealt”. This reads less like the typical suicide convinced the world is better off without him, and more like a survivor putting words into his mouth. Could be the narrator is actually his wife singing as if she were him, singing to her? As if hoping his surviving consciousness thinks differently now that it’s unburdened?

Inflatable Vegetables: Another Blackstar Fallen (David Bowie)
    Production:
        I really like how this sounds. You do a good job of choosing your sounds to fill the dynamic range with simple low frequencies matched with distorted overtones. If I had to nitpick (and actually that’s in my contract), I’d call out a bass line that could do with some variance and syncopation rather than continually alternating between quarter and 16th notes. Also at the very beginning, you could perhaps do with one or two measures before the lead guitar comes in with its riff. Something about the way you did it feels abrupt, but not intentionally abrupt like if you’d brought the guitar in on beat 1.
    Music:
        The initial progression is simple and repetitive, but you put it to good use. Starting on the minor subdominant weakens every cadence until you get to the chorus and hit us (finally) with a strong resolution to the tonic. We really know we’ve arrived at a your primary focus, and that energy pays off with the lyrics evoking a literally explosive image.
    Lyrics:
        I’m running hot and cold on this. I love the choruses, highlighting in poetic terms how Bowie was able to transform himself continually and keep pushing the edges. The verses kind of felt like you’re just listing out things he did, albeit occasionally in an artistic way. Only in the final verse where you delve into his lasting legacy do I feel like the transition from chorus to verse does not lose its way.
        Now after another listen, I think I know what bothered me about the first couple verses. It’s still the direct narrative nature, but specifically coupled with a lack of consistent rhythm or rhyme that makes it feel like just a prose lecture on the topic of David Bowie’s life. I think if you were to chose a verse pattern, the lyrics could kind of sink into the music and I wouldn’t feel that way.

Jailhouse Payback featuring John Sievers - The Greatest Bond (Roger Moore)
    Production:
        Sounds great. Only issue is that the intro was longer than required. Your point was made and the theme established in the first 6 seconds. Even doubling that up you’ve got a full intro in 13 seconds that includes the low guitar line and everyone’s ready for the song to start. But you go on for 27 seconds before the verse. Didn’t need to hear the entire Bond theme.
    Music:
        Very catchy, and with so much movement beat to beat! That’s not easy, and can easily start to sound like it’s wandering, but you pull it off. The first time through I felt your chorus as a prechorus and was ready to launch up to a strong cadence after “Cannonball Run”; kind of felt let down. By the second chorus though I felt it and accepted that it was a complete chorus on its own. I think maybe the initial confusion leaned on your starting it with the V where the rest of the song made me expect a I.
    Lyrics:
        I’m not going to touch the “which Bond is best Bond” argument; it would be unjudgely of me to allow my opinions to color my review or rankings. Well crafted, natural sounding, very pleasant. Based on your bio though, I must say it doesn’t make much of an argument with respect to his rendering of the character (another thing that probably shouldn’t affect my rankings), mostly just references to the movies. Was he instrumental in convincing Duran Duran to write “View to a Kill”, or did they coincidentally happen to want to do a Bond song at that time? Also, the blaxploitation line kind of seems shoehorned in, unless you mean to connect it (and it is connected grammatically) to the next line about the generation. Still, if you’re going to talk about it, talk about it rather than simply driving-by a lampshading mention or excusing it as a generational byproduct.

Kevin Savino​-​Riker - Ode to the Sportsman (Andre the Giant)
    Production:
        I really love the intimacy you add via the percussion on the guitar; it sets the mood before any vocals come in. The vocals themselves may be a bit forward and could be set back somewhat without losing any clarity.
    Music:
        I go on sometimes about liking experimental, complex harmony, key changes, wrong notes, etc. I hope you’re not reading my other notes and dreading my comments on your song, because I say it’s just right. Oh sure had it been mine I may have changed to a IV or V here or there to emphasize an impending resolution, but you do you. It was a bold decision and I like how it sounds.
    Lyrics:
        I do have some issues with your lyrics, and I worry I won’t be able to communicate them well because it’s hard to explain. It sounds like sung prose, despite some impressive rhymes like “trusted”/”just did”. It’s the timing of the syllable, the random length of the lines, and to some extent I think the actual words chosen felt awkward to me. That said, “you did something right” evokes such deep catharsis from anyone who’s seen that part of that film, and everyone has seen it a minimum of 47 times.

Lucky Witch & the Righteous Ghost: Sour Boy (Scott Weiland)
    Production:
        So much of your production caused me to be of two minds. The rhythm guitar over synth pad worked well, but needs to change at least a little between verse and chorus. The doubled/tripled vocals are a good idea but should be tighter to keep the lyrics legible, and maybe converge at the chorus to bring the sound forward. I guess maybe most of my issue with the production is how it failed to differentiate verse from chorus, when the rest of the composition set you up for exactly that.
    Music:
        Following on the above, I really like the off-mode chords you throw in; you could possibly have taken this a step further with a key change going into the chorus since you already set us up to expect something unusual. The compositional contrast between fast and slow, and low and high between verse and chorus works well.
    Lyrics:
        Very nice weaving of STP concept and lyrics into the template of a coherent story. Many lyricists here attempted something like this and you pulled it off better than most.

Gorbzilla - Drowned in Moonlight (Carrie Fisher)
    Production:
        Something feels missing, and it may be as simple as bass (or raising up the guitar bass notes you already have). Or take what you have to start, then at some point, when it feels right, bring in bass and drums. The reverb makes it sound like a cowboy song, vocals bouncing off the mesa.
    Music:
        Simple but effective. I particularly like the drop within “moonlight” and the temporary dissonance it creates. Matches with the absurdity of the lyrics very well.
    Lyrics:
        Some places feel a awkward “just along for the ride”, which contrasts with some really impressive internal rhymes, so I don’t know where to come in on average. Mostly my issue lies with a perceived lack of anything to raise the topic up above Ms. Fisher’s work and accomplishments. The refrain is great, and it seems to me her requested obituary reflects a quirky and adventurous part of her personality that the song could have explored in place of some of the references to her movies.

Rob From Amersfoort: The Blonde Bombshell (Jean Harlow)
    Production:
        Wow, you really put a lot of variety into this! Does the bass move in the stereo spectrum, or is that just in relation to other things? The vocals all have different parts of the frequency range cut out, differentiating the sections and keeping things interesting.
    Music:
        Wild! I dig where you went with this musicaly, with all the chromatics featured so prominently and unapologetically.
    Lyrics:
        So you’re 3 for 3. All three categories could have started with the word “weird”. I’m typically not a fan of singing words with the stresses in the wrong place just to fit a lyric (mag-nate), and I’m still not sold on when it happens in your verses. But the chorus is a different matter. When you repeatedly sing “blonde bomb-shell”, it ceases to be the wrong way to say it. “Bombshell” now has a new official pronunciation, congratulations! And “dinner at 8”? Weird.

Megalodon: The Quiet One (George Harrison)
    Production:
        A little garage band-y, but that’s kind of the feel of George, be it with the Beatles or his solo stuff.
    Music:
        This composition is wild, and I respect the adventurousness! Changing keys for the chorus but going to instrumentals instead of lyrics? And then when you do get to lyrics changing the key signature? Wow! I do think some of the melodies could have been composed more strongly (something off about “brothers with the sun and the moon”), but now I’m picking at nits.
    Lyrics:
        The message comes through loud and clear, and you present a good case for a man who fit in with a pair of stars (or the sun and the moon I suppose) by mostly allowing his guitar to sing out in his stead. Honestly I was too busy listening to the music to notice any flaws in the lyrics, which in a way matches the above sentiment to a T.

Jordan Carroll - Trickle Down (Ronald Reagan)
    Production:
        I like this production. The ‘80s were all over synths like fonts in newly-invented desktop publishing software.
    Music:
        Well there’s not much space between the production and lyrics to talk about. A cycled descending baseline during the verses and pedaled (4th?) note in the chorus. It’s effective, and with no melody it’s all about the feel and lyrics, so on to those…
    Lyrics:
        This is a hard one. As ‘80s rap, this is relatively appropriate, but rap has come so far. Do I judge the lyrics by contemporary standards, or by the setting in which you’re placing them? Nowadays you’re lost without some feminine rhymes, multi-layered internal rhymes, and rolling rhythms that don’t always land on the same beat each measure. They’re more complex. For what it is, it’s not bad, though you do speed up and slow down to make some of it fit, rather than rewriting it to fit naturally, conversationally. But my main critique is that it could use quite a bit higher quantity of lyrics, as even rap conteporary to President Reagan had.

Edric Haleen: In Memoriam (Robin Williams)
    Production:
        Appropriate. It sounds very intimate, matching the sincerity of the content. Just a guy and his piano singing about a man who affected his life, and of course as always your particular voice renders the sentiment earnestly. Prime candidate for an expander to clean out the room noise; that would have especially improved the beginning and end.
    Music:
        Honestly, kind of forgettable. A lot of very expected changes, some color introduced by leading notes, and a melody that even as I type this I can’t recall outside of the final “through it all… You”, and I just heard it again as I type this. I’m not convinced that has to be a bad thing, as obviously here we’re meant to focus on the emotion, not the music (or even the words per se).
    Lyrics:
        Dude. I think you caught a bad judge for this song. Have you read the preface? This song by itself out of context, and maybe I’d have been all “What a touching tribute!” But to separate yourself from 27 other competitors, I was hoping for insight. Something to add (other than the subset of Mr. Williams’ roles that meant the most to you) to the conversation. This hits me like it could easily be stripped of melody and simply narrated by Richard Dreyfuss or Morgan Freeman over a series of photos at an Oscar moment in his memory. So on one hand, a bit more production and I could absolutely hear it as a professional work, but as a song, I feel it has little replay value without photos/video and glances at a room full of teary, grieving coworkers to lend it weight.

Army Defense: The Ultimate Gift (James Garner)
    Production:
        Hell of a lot of reverb on the drums, but I guess if the Beatles can do it… Vocals not necessarily too low (maybe a little), but you probably need to carve out presence from everything else to get them to cut through. Love the guitar, especially when it rings out with minor 2nds
    Music:
        The pervasive use of iv makes a lot of it feel weak, but it does provide a contrast when you get to the V before “You made the worst place”. Also starting the chorus on V is adventuresome. I like the descending bass line. It (along with a relatively slow tempo) places a negativity underneath the mostly positive feel and lyrics, reminds us of what the situation actually is. We’re not handing out a lifetime achievement award, we’re remembering someone who had an impact on our life and is now gone.
    Lyrics:
        Not really loving it. It’s mostly just a list of Mr. Garner’s credits. Then what essentially sums up any take other than “Look! It’s James Garner!” is that his making your personal experience of the world better “is what a man is”. The most generous I can be here is to assume you mean that leaving the world better than you found it should be most people’s moral guide. So why word it like that? Am I being too pedantic here? I’ve been known to do that.

Emperor Gum: He (Roy Orbison)
    Production:
        Lead vocals are a bit forward, and something happened to decrease separation between instruments. You might want to slot some instruments into defined frequency ranges and eq out frequencies that overlap others.
    Music:
        Gotta be honest, with all the people here imitating the style of a musician, I was looking forward to Roy Orbison, in all his inventiveness. I was a little disappointed that it seems the farthest you stray from I - vi - IV - V is a couple time where you flat a third and turn a IV minor. Where’s the crazy keychange up a minor 3rd like in “Pretty Woman”, or hanging out on the V the entire bridge until you go crazy waiting for the resolution like in “You Got It”? Nothing here was bad, I don’t want you to get the idea I was holding you to a crazy standard. It was just all pretty safe.
    Lyrics:
        “There’s an angel in my blues” might be my favorite lyric of the round, and served well as your refrain. The basic story of turning to insightful music when in emotional pain is a good one. It kind of veers off and around that point at times, turning into a more straightforward admiration song. There were times I really wanted you to come out and say “at least I have Roy Orbison”, but of course you get your butt kicked out for doing such a thing.

Jubilation: The Delirious Lord Made Flesh (Jim Morrison)
    WTF?! I’m worried here that I’m ranking you way lower than you deserve to be. What it comes down to is I like your sound, your production, and I especially admire your creativity, but I can’t make heads nor tails of the song. I get some drug references and a couple other things, but I’m failing to decipher a theme. I’m prepared to look like an ass when you publish a bio and I see how I missed essentially everything you intended to say.

\αlpha​.​ßeta\: Relativity (Albert Einstein)
    Production:
        Very powerful! The chords are all locked in just so and you’ve got the feel down.
    Music:
        Pretty simple. Some cool things happening where you might only feel it rather than hear it, like the v under “you shift” getting weakened by some strange notes (and no major 3rd? Is it a minor v?). There’s much more going on here, but also less. For a large part of the song it seems like what really sells it is the instrumentation, performance, and production rather than the songwriting.
    Lyrics:
        Best as I can tell, the thrust of the song is the schism between Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanical theory. It’s a bit thin on content; not that a song needs to be some kind of encyclopaedic reference, but there are a lot of aspects of Einstein’s life that could have made for more evocative material.

JoAnn Abbott & M​.​A​.​T.: Fly​.​.​. And Be (Robin Williams)
    Production:
        Pretty good. It’s layered and clean, with good separation between instruments. I can’t tell if the production is part of the message, being synthetic and upbeat as a way of conveying Mr. Williams’ happy facade, but if so it was a thoughtful decision.
    Music & lyrics:
        I’m combining these two because my thoughts are the same. I can’t really place if this is supposed to be a consistent theme throughout, a journey through themes with one leading into the next, a series of vignettes only related via the subject celebrity, or something else. The music and lyrics together don’t seem to stay true to a theme, nor do they travel together from place to place with transitions and signifiers telling the listener that something is happening. It honestly sounds at the beginning that the mood is positive and happy with no hint of irony. Then when we get to Mr. Williams’ own words they’re sincere and deep, and I don’t know how we got here or what the song is about.

Boffo Yux Dudes - What Ailes You (Roger Ailes) (Disqualified)
    Production:
        It’s louder than everything else on the album, and my first thought was that the vocals and guitar(s) are too far forward. But now it occurs to me that maybe if you gave more to the bass, it would use up energy/headroom from everything else and bring them back down when the mastering process normalizes the song. Might be worth playing with and having a style-representative commercial song playing side-by-side to match vocal level.
    Music:
        I’d say too consistent throughout. You need some variety in your energy going from section to section. One in particular that stand out as an opportunity is “where my country went”/”the common man”. You could keep the same melody, take the harmony up to the next chord that has that note in it, and hit the drums for a fill. Then drop back down and tae it easy again for the next line.
    Lyrics:
        The refrain “deliver the news” is really clever, doing that in the verses. It anchors the song and gives it a pattern of interest before you even get to the hook. “Fox in the henhouse” may have been low-hanging fruit, but I like it anyway. Overall, well-constructed lyrics. You couldn’t have come up with a legal title?

Zoe Gray - Play On (William Shakespeare) (Shadow)
    Production:
        Always with the excuses this one. “We’re out of detergent.” “I don’t have a license.” “I was at camp.”
    Music:
        You really are my kin, aren’t you? The major 7ths as part of a chromatically descending line, two different secondary dominants each resolving deceptively… brings a tear to my eye. The middle of the bridge sounds a bit weak, but I’m not sure what to do about it. You have a strong transition out at line 4, so I’m thinking something not as strong at the end of line 2 (but stronger than the iv) that can lead back in for the second couplet.
    Lyrics:
        Your rhyme scheme is precisely defined and followed. I was expecting to find a whole bunch of iambs, but you mix up the syllabic patterns in ways that are more appropriate for songwriting, and it works. Some of the rhymes are almost cliché at this point, like “makeup”/”breakup” (although the cliché involves the relationship version of both), but there’s not much I have standing to say about your lyrics, as you got a better verbal SAT score than I did. So who the hell am I?

Pigfarmer, Jr. - Cheeto Blues (Donald Trump) (Shadow)
    Production:
        Great production! The dirty low guitar chords, the improvised fills, everything. And the balance is dead on. You probably would have done well had you entered for real with an acceptable subject.
    Music:
        I guess blues are kind of a freebie, aren’t they?
    Lyrics:
        This is where the meat of the song is, and I must say it’s a bit on the nose for my taste. You could easily write the same song with more clever lyrics that say what you want in maybe more couched phrasing or with double entendres or the like, but this is the style you chose and it’s not any better or worse than “the way I’d have done it”. It’s enjoyable for what it is.