ONLINE - ISSUE 26
In Search of
a Perfect Song
I'm going to start off today with a lesson that I go over with my fourth graders every year, the difference between a fact and an opinion. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a fact is "knowledge or information based on real occurrences," while an opinion is "a belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated." Children generally grasp these definitions by using the simple example; "Mrs. Clark is wearing a blue sweater today." There's no disputing that; it can be proven because I'm standing right in front of them with a sweater that can only be described as blue. If we augment the sentence by saying, "Mrs. Clark is wearing a pretty blue sweater today," I can usually get them to acknowledge that the word "pretty" is an opinion.
You may be wondering why I have even bothered to mention this. The reason is simple. When I state my opinions, they are not wrong, they are simply opinions. Facts can be proven wrong, but opinions can not. Opinions can be disagreed with, but only a petty and rather small person ridicules another for beliefs they hold. I feel the need to clear that up at the outset of this article because the entire thing is me waxing over an opinion. In no way am I clambering up on a soapbox to spout ideals that I expect everyone to embrace.
People often ask me why I don't write more articles. I can explain it by drawing an analogy to pro-wrestling. Anyone who has read my articles with any regularity knows that I am an avid fan of World Wrestling Entertainment. Within the confines of the squared circle there are enemies and heroes, or heels and faces. It has always been my goal to be a face, and yet in the audio world I usually end up squarely as a heel. People love to hate me for some reason. It seems that recently all my articles are met with ridicule and held up to scorn. Being that I am a sensitive person, this hurts me greatly, and yet it follows the function of a heel. Make people hate you, revel in their hatred. They will keep tuning in to see what you're going to do next. My favorite WWE heel is Triple-H. Oh how I hate him. I hate him so much that now I love to hate him. He is the epitome of a perfect heel.
While I hope this article will be met with interest, I fear all I will end up doing is generating more heel-heat. This is the main reason it has been languishing on my desktop since January. We shall see how it plays out.
So, what is a perfect song? In my opinion, a perfect song touches you on many different levels. It goes beyond simply how it sounds into the more ethereal boundaries of how it makes you feel. It is a melding of music, lyrics, vocals, and that something extra. A perfect song does not have to sound golden on my system, but in many cases it does. As long as it evokes the emotion every single time, it is perfect in my book. Usually the songs come courtesy of my favorite bands, but many times my favorite bands fail to deliver.
Over the years there have been many songs that fall into this category. One example from my archives is a rare live recording of "Play For Today" by The Cure. The song is only available on cassette tape, and I have only heard it via a Sony Walkman, but it is indeed a perfect song. The disconsolate quality of Robert Smith's voice, coupled with the dark overtones of the recording is simply divine. Add to that the response from the live audience and the song is perfect. Each and every time I listen to it I have the same shivery feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Another example of perfection comes on Godsmack's acoustic The Other Side EP. Even though this CD is offered in an SACD version I have never been satisfied with the way it sounds on our system. I am relegated to listening to it in the car. The final track is the acoustic version of the song "Awake" appropriately re-titled here as "Asleep." One of the things I like the most about Godsmack is Sully Erna's whiskey-smooth vocals. On this particular track there is a little hitch in his voice as he sings the chorus, and even on a day when it's 95 degrees outside I get goosebumps.
I was going to say "Recently I added a new perfect song to my list," but then I realized that since I have been thinking about writing this article for so long now I could not use the word recently anymore. I encountered this song more than a year ago! In any case, as much as I love this band, I never expected to find a perfect song from them. Oddly enough, this band is a melding of two of my passions, wrestling and music. My former favorite wrestler, who excelled as both a face and a heel, has retired to pursue a combination of acting and fronting a rock band. Chris Jericho has delivered a perfect song in the title track of his band Fozzy's All That Remains.
Fozzy's first CD debuted in 2000. It consisted mostly of covers of seminal heavy-metal classics, with a handful of original material thrown in. They were somewhat of a concept band with an elaborate history that was all made up. It was a nod to 1984's This is Spinal Tap. In 2002 the band released their second CD Happenstance and it also contained a mixture of covers and original material. Typically, I enjoyed the original songs more than the covers on both releases mainly due to the fact that I'm not much of a metal head.
This brings us to 2005, All That Remains, and my perfect song. By this time the band had shed its "recockulous" cover story and had established themselves as a straightforward heavy metal band. All the songs on this release are originals.
Strangely enough, this CD sounds relatively good on our main system as long as the volume is not cranked up too high. Of course, keeping the volume low defeats the purpose of a heavy-metal recording so typically I listen to it within the confines of my car, usually at an elevated volume. Although I enjoy many of the songs, the title track makes the all time soundtrack of "Carol's Perfect Songs".
All That Remains starts off with just the soft sound of brush on cymbal, continues with strong bass and heavy guitar leading immediately to the vocal. Chris' voice has a soft plaintive quality as he sings about things gone wrong, and times he almost whispers the words. In the middle of the song is a searing guitar solo, and at the end a bass solo. The music is tight, the vocals are mesmerizing, the lyrics speak to me, and the solos deliver that something extra.
I never pretend to know what a song is all about, or determine what the artist means by the lyrics. In most cases I assign my own meaning to the song, and thus can react to it on a deeper level. The lyrics in this song touch me on that deeper level even though I do not really know what they mean, and can not even describe what they mean to me. The lyrics and the vocals together boost this song into the perfect song category, and since I'm a sucker for bass that solo at the end cements it.
Fozzy is not everyone's cup of tea, but on the other hand most of the bands I prefer are not. A perfect song in the end is a personal thing. Even listening to the song now via Windows Media Player and low-budget Sony headphones produced the desired shiver down my spine. This song never fails to deliver.
So there you have my opinion on what makes a perfect song. At this point I will close out by reminding you that this is all opinion. If you have an open mind, perhaps you can examine the songs you find yourself returning to time after time. Perhaps those songs are your own "perfect songs".