Saturday, July 29, 2017

ST13R2 Reviews: Daniel Prince

Others did such great intros to their judging last week that I feel inspired to give a mediocre one. I come from a radio background, so much of my judging comes from the same criteria I apply to whether or not I’ll play a certain song on the air. I put a lot of stock in singing the song right along with writing it well. Production values are important to me, but in my judging, I try not to put too much weight into that, because I don’t want this to get into a contest of the haves vs. the have-nots. I’m not terribly technical in my musical judging. I have my musical style preferences, but if what you put out differs from what I like, I try not to hold it against you as long as it’s well done. There’s a lot of guesswork and a lot of subjectivity in each of the categories, but I try my best to score each song independently of the rest. After listening through and judging each song, I try to go back and listen again to make sure I’m not being unfair to the songs I heard first. I assign points in each category, total them all up, and then quite often am surprised at the outcome. My criteria (and the order in which each is weighted):  

total points
  1. Do I want to hear it again? 
  2. Overall first impression
  3. Lyrics
  4. Creativity
  5. Music
  6. Overall second impression 
  7. Production values   
  8. bonus points (if applicable)—last round, I assigned 2 bonus points if I guessed the dead celebrity without looking it up and 1 point if I guessed it with a search or two. This round, I didn’t assign bonus points.
I enjoyed this week’s songs. Your creativity has been really good, and I can’t wait to hear what you come up with next!
Sara Parsons - Better
I'm a sucker for acoustic music anyway, but this was gorgeous. I loved the simple harmony in there, the understated percussion, and the guitar. The melody was quite nice, and the message kept me interested and listening all the way through. I knew I wondered who "he" and "she" were at the beginning, but I only fully noticed the leading pronouns in all the verses upon reading the lyrics. I thought that was a nice motif throughout. Great job!

Little Bobby Tables - Hindsight
The first thought that came to my mind: "That's the longest uptempo song I've heard in quite a while." However, it didn't seem that long. Loved the creativity in your storytelling, adding in the perspective of several "yous" in the process. As with Alex's song, I'd have to get a radio edit in order to play the song without the FCC coming to take me away, haha. Again, the f-bomb wasn't really necessary to get your message across, though it did add to the humor. Production-wise, I might punch up the vocals just slightly. I heard everything pretty well, but at times your voice was competing with the instrumentals. "Alameda" and "meet her" was my favorite rhyme. You told the story quite well.

Boy on the Wall - All the Way Up
I was a little worried about the mix upon hearing how loud the instruments were in the intro, but I needn't have been. The vocals were mixed beautifully into the piece. Loved how the lyrics were put together. "You're a musician with pernicious inhibition" was probably my favorite line. The added detail of explaining why you're repeating the chorus is appreciated. This challenge is all about being a letter, and who among us writes the exact same thing two or three times in a letter to someone? You gave the chorus purpose.

Melissa Phillips - For You
Beautiful voice--definitely a strength for this recording. With a few added instruments and polish, I could see this on country radio.  It has a solid message, and while shorter than others, it conveys everything it needs to in the time you gave it. To make it longer would be to weaken it, I think.

JoAnn Abbott and M.A.T. - Happy Birthday to We!
In the first verse, it sounded like you struggled to keep up with the music in a couple of places, but it got better the rest of the way. Very fun approach to the song, with a fun style and melody to it. I both cringe and smile at the grammatically incorrect title. I enjoyed this.

Kevin Savino-Riker - Catch-22
Another nice acoustic approach. Very nice harmonies, though at times I'm uncertain if you might not benefit from a different guitar chord behind it. I like the spin you put on the title in the very last line. A well-crafted song lyrically. I appreciate the entire approach you took to the challenge.

Jailhouse Payback - Don't Let Mom and Dad
Good creative approach to make this less about big life lessons and turning it to records, instead. Couple of possible pitch issues in the verses, but not too bad. The ending harmonies sounded slightly off-tempo from one another and from the track. The mix was pretty good on this one. Lyrically, I might have put the repeated chorus at the end rather than after the first verse, as you have to wait too long for the payoff, especially with the instrumental parts in there, too.

Glen Raphael - Dear Me
Catchy little melody and style you have in this one. Some cleverness in the lyrics with the running "buy Apple" motif and touching on chaos theory and the complexities of time travel. I like the scatting in the middle, though if you improvised a little more in the first part of it like you did in the second half, it would have been even stronger. The title lacked creativity, but overall a good job.

Governing Dynamics - To a Stubborn Young Man in the Year 1998
From a radio perspective, I appreciate a nice long intro, but just know I'm going to be talking over it. I thought the instrumentals were the strongest part of this song. There were a few pitch problems in places that I noticed. I liked the reminder of "the world does not revolve around you." It's a universal truth that we all needed at some point in our teenage journeys. I like that you didn't jump right in with the advice but wrestled with the space-time continuum a bit first. In the recording, you skipped the word "like" in the line "at 15 you know everything like most teenagers in time". Not a major thing, but that word does bring the meaning of the line home. Pretty sound advice in the song.

Alex Valentine - 12 Years Past
I wouldn't be able to play this version on the radio without incurring FCC fines, and I'm not so sure that dropping "F-bombs" really adds anything to the song, anyway. The music is catchy, and the message is hopeful and resonates. To me, it seems the production could be better. I enjoy the harmonies you add to the chorus, but the parts sound just slightly distorted, which obscures the words for me some. Looked up "take it on the chin" because I thought it didn't fit with what you were trying to convey in the song, but I discovered I've been defining the phrase wrong all these years. You taught me something, so extra points for you! Overall pretty enjoyable.

Jerkatorium - Steady On
I'd push the vocals forward a little more just to make sure they're standing out over  the music. Catchy song overall. Strong chorus lyrically. Solid job.

Edric Haleen - To My Fifteen Year Old Self
Wow. Don't know where to go from here. Very much reminds me of "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" for its dramatic sense of fun. Doesn't make for a great "song", but a very fun theatrical showpiece. My radio training took over halfway through and I had to go use the restroom, as our bodies are trained to do that when a song reaches 10 and a half minutes in length. If I thought the FCC would come after me for some of the other songs, they'd double down if I played this one without an edit. The title is probably the least creative part of the whole thing. I'm so torn...incredibly creative and well-produced, and you even snuck in a good message in the back half of the song (not to mention a haiku!), yet I feel like it doesn't need to land in the top half of my rankings, just because it's so different and doesn't work as a "song" as such--more of an art piece. We'll see how things shake out once they're all scored. Gotta say, I'm rooting for you!

Rob from Amersfoort - Dear 15-Year-Old Me
The musical style stands out from the rest I've heard so far, but the title is a little on the nose…it could use some creativity. Vocally solid within the style you went with. The lyrics didn't stand out, but the message is definitely there and comes through.

W8 What - To My Teen Self
Can't tell if you're exaggerating the accent or if it's natural, but it did distract me (and this coming from someone in country radio!). Slight pitch problem at the very beginning, but you settled in. The lyrics were clear and cleverly written. Wish you could have found a way to not have to stress the last syllable in "listen". A fun little song that could be even better with a few small tweaks.

Matt Walton - Hey Me You Probably Don’t Want to Hear This
Can't mistake the sound of the recorder! Interesting choice of instruments and style for the song. Production needs a little polishing--the vocal mix could have been pushed forward a little more; the addition of the hand drum partway through was a little jarring--it probably needed pushing to the back. Very practical advice throughout, with the most impactful coming at the end.

Megalodon - Mix Tape-1987
A solid song. It lacked a "wow" moment for me, but I don't have any major problems with it. A couple of pitch issues early on, but nothing too bad. The ending seemed abrupt--almost like the drums came in a beat or two too soon. I didn't get the mixtape reference until reading the lyrics, then that came home for me. The 4th verse is the most effective, both emotionally and lyrically. I might have added two more mixtape songs into the 3rd verse somehow just to keep the motif going.

Micah Sommersmith - Take Care of Yourself
Another one I can't play on the radio without an edit. Probably wouldn't get fined this time, at least. Very catchy. Interesting combination of '90s rap and accordian. I like that you keep the subject matter light--that type of styling almost demands it.

James Young - Everything Will Be Alright
Definitely need to push the instruments further to the back--it overpowers the vocals. It feels like you need more to make this a complete song--as a short song, it's not as satisfying. It could be better if restyled, or if kept in this style, it may need another verse.

Jordan Carroll - School Report
"Since we're time travelling and all, here's a review from the past: ""I laughed in spite of myself on this one. It's a lot of fun, but I think it needs one more verse. I know there's no time limit, but there's a lot more to explore on Reagan. You missed a good Star Wars/Death Star tie-in, for one."" I hope had you known that this shadow would put you back into the contest, you'd have gone in a different direction. However, I have to judge it as presented here. It's a lazy approach to the challenge. It has very little to do with your former self, and if presented as a report in high school, it is not nearly detailed enough to get you a passing grade.      


Red Watcher - As Long As They Choose
I like the musical choices and the way you subtly build on it throughout. Some nice production choices along the way--the mix works well. Biggest criticism is not chopping off the final 9-10 seconds of the track, which was pretty much silence, anyway. The lyrics do allow you room to choose and interpret--a more artistic than straightforward approach. Would have finished 9th of 22 for me.

Alpha.Beta - Stop!
The whole thing sounded off-key to me. I like the '80s approach to the song. The lyrics convey your message strongly and work quite well within the style. Would've ranked 20 of 22--a good bit higher if the music had been better.

PigFarmer, Jr. - CoMo '93
The best part of this was my hearing "Don't eat the shrew!" until I read the lyrics. This would get a DQ from me were you competing in the round. It wasn't even long enough for a :30 commercial bed, and it addressed no part of the challenge. Rank 22 of 22.