When you come from the New York area, you grow up learning a certain disdain of tourists. So it was distinctly weird to be staying in a hotel in the city for an honest-to-god vacation. It really hadn’t sunk in for me that we’d be playing tourist in what was, really, kind of our hometown. Well, mine anyway. But there we were, like something from a Christmas movie, waltzing in and out of a lavishly decorated lobby on our way to and from leisure activities like seeing the tree and the windows at Macy’s.
The tree. You all know about “the tree”? Every year they cut down a huge pine tree somewhere, three or four stories tall, and set it up in Rockefeller Center and decorate it with lights. This is the tree that Sarah Rogue had wanted to be photographed holding my hand in front of. Going to see the tree was a regular tradition of sorts for my family back when we still did things as a family. What’s odd about it is that it’s just this tree, you know? It’s just a really big Christmas tree. It doesn’t really look different from year to year. You’d think once you’d seen it, you wouldn’t necessarily need to see it again.
But lots of people make a yearly pilgrimage to see it. It’s just A Thing To Do. Even if you’re a New Yorker and trying to act like you’re not a tourist.
I said something like this to Courtney while we were standing in a throng looking at it. “It’s just a big tree, you know? Why is it such a big deal?”
“I think it’s excellent,” she said with a grin. “World’s biggest pagan symbol.”
“Christmas trees and wreaths? Oh yeah. It’s a whole pagan thing.”
That made me feel a lot more charitable toward the tree.
A large number of us also went to see a Broadway show. The debate around the table at lunch one day in the hotel restaurant went something like this:
“Well, the show that is getting the best reviews is this new one, City of Angels,” Remo said, doing that patriarch thing of talking while reading the paper and drinking coffee.
“No, no, Gypsy,” said Alan. “Tyne Daly was born for this role.”
“Eh, I heard her singing is kind of inconsistent,” his brother said.
“Inconsistent incon-shmistent.” Alan waved his hand. “It’s the winner this season.”
“You know what show isn’t doing so hot?” Martin said, while spreading jam on a piece of toast. “Threepenny Opera.”
“Oh, is that the one Sting is in?” I asked, snagging a piece of toast. We were done eating, but someone had gotten a pile of toast with whatever they had ordered and hadn’t eaten it and Martin and I were good at being sure nothing went to waste.
“Yup,” Martin said, taking a vicious bite and then licking his lips. “Sting finally proves he can fail.”
“Eh. Maybe it was just a matter of time before the critics shredded him for something,” Remo said with a shrug.
“Could we see Phantom of the Opera? Or Cats?” Courtney asked.
She was unprepared for the universal derision from all quarters toward all things Andrew Lloyd Weber. I didn’t even have to say anything, because everyone else there said it for me. I’m sure you’ve heard the criticisms of Weber’s music: formulaic, cliche-ridden, overly bombastic, plus he rips off Brahms. Honestly, thinking back on it now, though, isn’t that basically what a Broadway musical is supposed to be? Opera for the people? If so, what were we complaining about exactly? Maybe it’s that same mentality. Weber was for tourists. People who knew music, knew better.
A couple other musicals and a few plays were discussed, too. Then Remo put down the paper. “I don’t know what you all are debating,” he said. “I bought tickets for City of Angels already.”
“Well, why didn’t you say that in the beginning?” Alan threw a balled up napkin in Remo’s direction.
“I was going to but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise on the Broadway Critics Circle here,” Remo said drily.
So we went to see City of Angels. It was a comedy that had a kind of meta-story, a kind of noir mystery plot but then also the making of a movie about it? Something like that? I walked out feeling like it had been nice to sit in the dark and watch other people perform for a change, but I was pretty much unmoved. How much was that I really wasn’t into Broadway musicals, how much was I couldn’t just sit and take in a show without thinking about everything that went into putting it on, and how much was that Andrew Lloyd Weber was right? It takes some simplistic bombast to make your heart soar or break?
I said as much to Jordan a couple nights later. He came over to hang out at the hotel, where we had a steady stream of people in and out the whole week. Family, friends, industry-friends, et cetera. We were sitting in the suite, drinking, at the time.
“Well of course,” Jordan said, when I tried on my Weber epiphany for size. “You remember what you told me about your lyric writing process?”
I thought it over. “No. What did I tell you?”
“You said you sometimes write the words out in idea form, i.e. the concept for the sentence or the image or whatever, and then you go back through and replace all the multi-syllable words with single- or at least fewer-syllable words.”
“Oh. Yeah. I do, but kind of because you can do more with shorter words, be more flexible with them.”
“And they have more impact.”
“Like that one. You could have said ‘exactly.’ But you didn’t.”
“It’s a great knack, actually. English has so many levels, so many flavors: you get it right down to the bone.”
“Hear what you just said?” I sat up straighter on the couch. “‘Right down to the bone.’ That’s a great example of it.”
Jordan swirled his beer around in the bottle. “True.” We clinked our bottles together.
Christian came in then and got himself a bottle of water and sat down next to me. “How’s it hangin’?”
“Loose as a goose,” I said. “How about you?”
“Glad I made it. For a while there I thought I wasn’t going to make it out of Massachusetts.”
“No no, just my family being crazy.”
“Yeah. Nothing new, really. My father’s sister keeps trying to get him and my mother back together.”
“Like it’s any of her business?”
“Does that keep your sister out of your business? No.”
“Point. But this would be your abusive father and the woman he battered, right?”
“Right. But my aunt’s convinced that my mom is good for him, and she’s more loyal to her own blood than to a fellow woman. Which leaves me the only one defending my mom, sometimes.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Chris took a sip of his water and sighed. “Tell me something cheery.”
“Did I tell you what the lawyer said?”
“This is going to be cheery?”
“Feinbaum said it’s a bluff and I should not stress about it.”
“Okay, but what about the fact no one’s got any money yet?”
“That is somewhat concerning. But at least let’s not freak out over a lawsuit. Sorry, that’s as cheery as I got.”
Chris shook his head slowly. “Well, good thing we agreed not to exchange gifts this year.”
“Can I say something corny? Every day you’re sober and clean and alive here with us with all your limbs intact is a gift. Okay?”
Chris laughed a little and hugged me as he said, “Ah, fuck you,” because I kind of almost made him cry a little bit with that.
Simplistic bombast, huh? Lesson learned.
(As Daron reminded me in the comments for last post, it’s about to be 1991 in the story. Anyone got favorite songs from 1991? List them below! They might get turned into chapter titles! And don’t forget to add yourselves to the Thunderclap campaign please please please here: http://thndr.it/1G7l4bZ -ctan)
Omg! That song! Memories!
And they never really had another one like it.
I know. Typical one hit wonders.
1991 was a GREAT year for music! (Total Grunge girl here):
Nirvana – Nevermind
Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
Smashing Pumpkins – Gish
Pixies – Trompe Le Monde
Screaming Trees – Uncle Anesthesia
Pearl Jam – Ten
Alice in Chains – Facelift (ok, that was 1990)
Those are all albums, let me know if you need me to narrow it down to songs!
I included about half of Ten on my list, and threw in Temple Of The Dog. Right there with you in being a grunge girl.
Temple of the Dog! How could I forget that one? I was pressed for time, that is my only excuse. I’m sure ctan will be able to find a chapter that fit ‘Say Hello to Heaven’.
Either “Say Hello to Heaven” or “Hunger Strike” is on the alt-rock station on Sirius half the time when I get in the car these days, and the rest of the time, I immediately switch to the all Pearl Jam, all the time station. I miss the mid-90s.
The grunge playlist on my ipod is 20 hours long. It gets me from one end of the state to the other.
I’m forbidding Daron to comment about grunge in the comments because he’ll have a lot to say in the narrative of the story, I think. So you’ll have to wait to hear from him. 🙂
His favorite Seattle grunge band was Mother Love Bone, who never got big like the others.
It kind of doesn’t surprise me that he’d prefer the band that kind of ended before they really got started in the industry. I’d be interested to see what Daron thinks about the culture of drug use that came with grunge and alt-metal. It likely wasn’t any more prevalent than in metal bands in the 80s, but it seems like so many more bands were broken by it as they were hitting a level of success.
I’ll look at the charts to pick out the singles people are most likely to know.
ctan says I’m not allowed to tell you what I think of Nirvana and Alice in Chains yet because it would kind of a spoiler. Not plot-wise, just I’m sure I’m going to expound on them plenty in the story.
Fair enough. It looks like sanders and I will have plenty to say when you do pipe up.
I’m guessing we’re all about the same age to feel so strongly about this particular type of music.
I just turned 35, so I had grunge as the soundtrack for all of my teen angst, and I’m on that funky line between Gen X and Gen Y/hipsters (god, I have ~~feelings~~ about hipsters and tossing them into volcanoes). I basically define ages 12-19 as starting with Pearl Jam’s “Why Go” and wrapping up with Tori Amos’ “Spark”. Coincidentally, both songs have been my ringtones at various points.
3am eternal, klf! I touch myself, divinyls.
What’s funny is I picked a couple of earlier Divinyls songs to use for chapter titles and somehow never got around to them. “Fine Line Between Pleasure and Pain” you’d think I’d have used by now.
I just don’t enjoy suffering like some people do, I guess.
Rescue Me – Madonna
Good Vibrations – Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch
I Wanna Sex You Up – Color Me Bad
(Everything I Do) I Do It for You – Bryan Adams
More Than Words – Extreme
Wind of Change – Scorpions
Rhythm of My Heart – Rod Stewart
Time, Love and Tenderness – Michael Bolton
Now That We Found Love – Heavy D & The Boyz
Crazy – Seal
Marky Mark for the WIN. God, he’s an example of how someone can reinvent themselves over time. Who’d have ever thought he’d be a serious(ish) actor with a legit career?
It’s weird, isn’t it? He made himself over as a kind of adorkable hero-ish nice guy in action films and did some great wounded and vulnerable leading man turns, like in Boogie Nights, and kinda both in ROCK STAR.
Apparently he has a new film coming out sometime after Christmas, Gambler. It involves John Goodman, so I may have to actually venture out to see it.
Seal. I love Seal. Such a breakthrough. Such a breath of fresh air.
Same here. That man’s voice….
Now there’s an example of something in 1990 that really was different from the dreck. There’s no way to hear that song and not want to get up and dance, even now. The funny thing, to me, is that it does exactly what I touched on in the last post’s comments, takes funk and presents it to white audiences in a marketable and safe form. It does it without stripping out the soul, though, which might be part of why it holds up to time.
The only Weber musical I can handle is JC Superstar. Still formulaic as hell, but given it’s an interpretation of one of the early archetypical stories, that can’t exactly be avoided. It’s part of the rise of rock musicals, which makes it significant and a stand-out. I could actually see Ziggy having a blast in either of the male lead roles, especially with the homoerotic not-subtext to the production. The revival version Songquake and I saw in New York even had some blatant BDSM implications and costuming largely consisting of black leather and colorful vinyl. It was a bit like club kids had wandered out of a rave and ended up as Jesus’s crew, while being chased down by a group of cranky leather daddies. It was beautiful.
I really was aiming for something thoughtful in my analysis, but, really, that particular choice of costuming changed *everything* and threw the doors for slashing Jesus and Judas wiiiiiide open for me.
And songs of 1991, otherwise known as the list that made me realize 90% of my personal top 10 albums came out that year, which is not to say everything here is on that list because I do have some taste:
Pearl Jam: “Alive”, “Why Go”, “Garden”, “Oceans”, basically everything on Ten
Jodeci: “Come and Talk to Me”
Guns n’ Roses: “Don’t Cry”—either version, “November Rain”, “Estranged”, “My World”, “Right Next Door to Hell”, “Bad Obsession”, “Perfect Crime”, “Dead Horse”, “Don’t Damn Me”, “You Could Be Mine”
Mariah Carey: “Emotions”
Roxette: “Fading Like a Flower”
Bette Midler: “From a Distance”
Oleta Adams: “Get Here”
Red Hot Chili Peppers: “Give It Away”, “Under the Bridge”, “Suck My Kiss”, “I Could Have Lied”, “If You Have To Ask”, “Power of Equality”
Bonnie Raitt: “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, “One Part Be My Lover”, “Something to Talk About”, “Luck of the Draw”—Eh, just the whole album of Luck of the Draw, everything on it is good
REM: “Losing My Religion”, “Half A World Away”, “Radio Song”, “Shiny Happy People”
LL Cool J: “Mama Said Knock You Out”
Alice in Chains: “Man in the Box”
Genesis: “No Son of Mine”
PM Dawn: “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”
The Clash: “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, “Train in Vain”
C+C Music Factory: “Things That Make You Go Hmm”
Marc Cohn: “Walking In Memphis,” “29 Ways”, “Dig Down Deep”, “True Companion”
Gloria Estefan: “Coming Out of the Dark”
Mr. Big: “Just Take My Heart”, “Voodoo Kiss”
Lenny Kravitz: “It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over”
Temple of the Dog: “Hunger Strike”
Luther Vandross: “I Who Have Nothing”, “Don’t Want to Be a Fool”, “Power of Love/Love Power”
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: “Learning to Fly”, “The Dark of the Sun”, “You and I Will Meet Again”, “Built to Last”
Metallica: “Sad But True”, “Wherever I May Roam,” “Nothing Else Matters”
Spin Doctors: “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”, “How Could You Want Him (When You Know You Could Have Me?)”, “What Time Is It?”
Nirvana: “Come As You Are”, “Something in the Way”
Ugly Kid Joe: “Everything About You”
U2: “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”, “Even Better Than The Real Thing”, “Mysterious Ways”
Live: “Good Pain”, “Negation”, “Heaven Wore A Shirt”
Madonna: “Rescue Me”
Didn’t The Clash “Train in Vain” come out in the seventies? (Was there a re-release I’m spacing out about?)
My favorite version of “Nothing Else Matters”, from one of my favorite albums of all time, which I’ll probably use AGAIN later but I’m going to put here now anyway in case I don’t:
There were several reissues. I didn’t check the initial release; I admit I pulled my list largely by looking at Wikipedia because going through my own library would have made me stop and listen to every single song from that year and finally stagger away from the computer sometime next week.
I’ve seen this version before and it’s incredible. I love covers that jump genre like this, especially when it’s to instruments more often seen in classical orchestras. Have you and Cecilia seen–and I’m ashamed a little to ask this–Sir Mixalot’s performance with the Seattle orchestra? It’s both hilarious and an example of how genres can blend and bend together.
YES> In fact I’m kinda surprised I didn’t put the Sir-Mix-A-Lot video into a liner note already. I saw it on Youtube so I know it’s out there…
The Seattle Symphony is a really interesting organization because they kind of figured out okay so many orchestras who try to appeal to “younger” people have missed the fact that they’re barking up the wrong tree. Orchestras are expensive and seeing an orchestra or supporting one is expensive, and younger folks just don’t have the money… unless they’re Seattle-area GenX or GenY tech millionaires, that is. They kinda figured out their “demographic” isn’t defined by age so much as the correlation with accumulated wealth. So they basically are trying (and, I think, succeeding) to make themselves relevant to the artsy rich folks of today, who relate to music through video game scores and rap, for example. I think it’s awesome.
Also, this is a spoiler, but we’re coming to the part of the story where I will be seen wearing a T-shirt that says FUCK GENRE on it. So yeah. Right on. And the performance is righteous:
I think I’ve never managed to actually see Jesus Christ Superstar, but you’re making me think maybe I should. (Instead I think I saw Godspell twice and was in the cast once…!) I think I’ve been slashing Jesus and Judas since all the way back in C.C.D. (Catholic Catechismic Doctrine, for those not in the know, aka as “Sunday School” except it was on a Tuesday for my age group…)
There are two film versions on YouTube. One is from 1973, and, uh… well. It’s from 1973. Just look for “Herod’s Song” and you’ll understand all you need to know about it being from the seventies. Then watch the rest because the cheesy earnestness about the whole thing is worth it. I haven’t watched all of the version from 2000, but the clips I have seen tell me it’s on the same lines as the revival we saw. “What’s The Buzz” can be summed up as “Jesus walked into a gay club and everyone followed him out in worship.” For Ziggy’s sake, any version of “Damned for All Time” would probably have him wanting to play Judas.
If memory serves, there’s also a recording somewhere with Amy Ray and Emiliy Saliers of the Indigo Girls in two of the roles. All I remember about it is Amy Ray was maybe singing Judas. I’ll have to see if I can find it and get back to you.
I would be all over an Indigo Girls genderrole swap kind of thing. Even if it is a musical and I know I diss musicals (and Weber in particular) hard. Actually JC Superstar might count as part of the last wave of Broadway musicals before the form ossified into the dead musical language it is now…?
It’s Jesus Christ Superstar: A Resurrection, which sounds a lot like it should be an apocalyptic biblical video game. It’s listed on Amazon and it looks like Amy Ray was singing as Jesus with Emily as Mary Magdalene. There’s also film of them performing it as a straight up rock show on YouTube. Fair warning, it was filmed in Austin, so has all the attendant weirdness you’d expect of any show in Austin, including a guy in a viking helmet. It makes the BDSM/raver revival look normal in comparison.
I wouldn’t call Broadway a dead musical language, but, again, let’s just call that one a draw.
I’m curious, though, as to what you make of The Who’s Tommy. I’ve never seen it on stage, only the film version with Tina Turner and Elton John involved, and I’m biased toward Tina Turner making everything she touches a million times better.
I think the Broadway musical could possibly be revived for real but one of the reasons it’s dead is instead it’s an endless parade of zombies, where either they bring back the actual shows from past decades or they just keep making more that sound EXACTLY LIKE THEM. It’s not moving forward. I think experimental music and dance theater has moved ahead just fine but the divide between that and Broadway just keeps getting wider and wider. The last big jump forward was with the first staging of The Lion King and the arrival of post-modern stuff like Blue Man Group — both of which happened in the 90s. The fact that they’re still considered “new and different” two decades later shows how since then Broadway really hasn’t moved forward at all since then. The problem isn’t music or theater: it’s Broadway.
I haven’t see Tommy on stage either, and I was on drugs the time I saw in on video so my impressions of it might not be all that coherent. But I agree everything Tina Turner is gold. You know I worship a pantheon of powerful female singers and she is right up there.
Your worship of Tina Turner makes it even weirder that you haven’t used “What’s Love Got to Do With It” as a title yet!
It’s been on the list. Just never find the right spot to use it.
Yeah, Dee-Lite sort of waltzed out of a kind of multi-ethnic club scene but just didn’t have the staying power. Even some of the other Dj-produced club groups of the time, even non-white ones, managed to have small handfuls of hits. I’m thinking of C+C Music Factory, and even Technotronic before them, there are a couple more like them I’m spacing on the names of now.
Your list btw only convinces me even more that 1990 was the nadir, only these couple of exceptions making it through, while by 1991 some real breaths of fresh air were finally starting to blow.
C+C Music Factory had some controversy attached to them in casting their videos, wanting a slender woman rather than the actual vocalist. I will never forgive them for that. Technotronic was great, though. Dee-Lite stands apart from them in my mind because of the clear line from George Clinton and P-Funk to what they were doing, even up to Bootsie Collins being involved. For me, that tied the things on my CD player to the things on my mom’s record player, and made me think about how even new things have old(er) influences. They changed the way I listened to the LPs around my house, and made me listen for the sort of genealogy of music to trace who was influencing whom. (Keep in mind I was eleven at the time, so it was a revolutionary idea.)
I could probably make you a list as long for 1990. 1991 was definitely bolstered by RHCP, GnR, and REM all having releases at the same time that garnered a lot of pop attention. A few of the things on my list, though, didn’t cross genres to mainstream audiences until years later. Luther Vandross and Oleta Adams are two exmples of that, and Bette Midler’s “From a Distance” largely made an impact because it was a bit of commentary on the first time we invaded Iraq.
You’re not going to win this one, D. At best, we’re going to have to call it a draw.
Yeah, OK, a draw, or your universe was brightening faster than mine at the very least. Then again look where I was.
I follow Bootsy Collins on twitter. Bootsy is still out there, still mixing it up. My absolute favorite Bootsy Collins thing ever though is the first Praxis album with Buckethead and Brain and Bill Laswell. if you haven’t heard it, it’s called Transmutation and is in my top ten albums of ALL TIME. It doesn’t hit until 1992 but the guitar oh fuck, the guitar. Okay clearer I have to take all these comments and make a new liner note. Soon.
Have you given us your list of top ten of ALL TIME? I can’t remember if it’s been a liner note or not, but it should be. I’d love to see what other readers put on their lists, too.
I don’t know if my universe was brightening faster, or if it’s a product of just living in very different versions of this universe. I suspect the things I was hearing around the house weren’t at all like what you guys were playing at yours.
Um, no, I haven’t given you my all time list. I might work on it, though. There might only be seven things on it, not ten, because three things that awesome haven’t come along to join them yet. See, I really do need to turn all these comments into a future liner note. Hm.
If I recall C+C Music Factory had worse problems than just misrepresentation in the video: after that the skinny singer tried to claim she actually sang the part on the record. And then I think the group had a couple of other feuds after that which led to their breakup.
The funk being made safe for the masses thing is happening all over again now with Nile Rodgers funking up white folks’ albums left and right: Daft Punk, Adam Lambert, etc. it’s interesting that the music industry has been doing it so long that it can recede and come back… and Nile Rodgers and Bootsy Collins and some other guys have lived long enough that they are still the go-to guys for it! (And 20 years from now Pharrell will probably still be carrying that torch.)
I love the continuity that brings Nile Rodgers back around every few years. That’s one of the cool things about watching the awards shows, seeing guys (and gals) like him who have had clear, clear influences on music for years and tracing the links over time.
Pharrell seems like he just zoomed up out of nowhere to me. I’ve been surprised to see just how many things he’s had a hand in. Ryan Tedder, of One Republic, is the same way, and Ed Sheeran, too.
I think Pharrell busted his ass in relative obscurity until a couple of breakthroughs that sent the record companies rushing to get on his bandwagon. See also Adam Lambert, not to mention that song everyone was upset about last year, Blurred Lines. (Which I guess Robin Thicke had been credited with writing but later admitted actually Pharrell wrote? I haven’t had time to look up what that whole flap was about…)
1991… what a year. In so many ways, but musically, yeah!!
OK, I have to mention this one, because it’s a favorite, the title would be a perfect chapter title, and the band is local to me (and still going strong):
Toad the Wet Sprocket, “All I Want”
I have some Toad the Wet Sprocket in my list! I want to figure out a way to use the band’s name as a chapter title, though. Haven’t come up with one yet.
As someone who sang in a choir for many years, I am actually rather fond of Weber musicals. They’re a lot of fun to sing, at least.
Oh they’re plenty of fun. And they make audiences happy. Nothing wrong with that. They just irk me musically somehow.
Weber’s Phantom intrigues me because of the near-impossibility of the two lead roles. Ziggy, as described in DCG, could sing the male lead. Others who can do it credibly can basically be counted on the fingers of one foot. The range of notes and the range of expressions required are matched in few pieces of music, regardless of genre.
The female lead is eaier, but still demands a wide range of note and expressions. Why Della Reese was never cast in that role is a mystery. Sure, she doesn’t look like a Parisian waif. So what? Suspension of disbelief and all that. When it premiered in 1986, Reese was only fifty-five and could have performed it with half her vocal cords tied behind her larynx.
I wonder if under it all that’s part of what bugs me? Maybe it feels like under it all Weber’s music isn’t written for humans.
Then again the human voice can do some amazing things. Do you remember the opera scene in The Fifth Element? They took an aria and modified it various ways electronically to make it sound “alien” and impossible for a human to do, with jumps in the notes and so on, but then went to some actual opera singers and asked if they could make it sound like that. They could. Go humans.
Not to return to my perennial one note, but Throwing Muses’ “The Real Ramona” came out in 1991. That album happens to have my personal single favorite piece of music ever on it (“Hook In Her Head”), but it also has at least three songs that sound like DGC chapter titles to me: “Not Too Soon,” “Say Goodbye,” and (perhaps most of all) “Him Dancing.”
Nothing wrong with playing a note over and over if it comes out sweet. I’m all over Throwing Muses. Heck, even the band name could be a chapter title.
Note to self: when playing catch-up, look at next chapter name. How about Keith Sweat’s “I’ll Give All My Love to You” or Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”?
Both excellent choices as well!
Broadway musicals’ repetitiveness can be explained by money. It costs an incredible amount (tons in advance of the first ticket sale) to put on a minimalist musical. Record companies unwilling to gamble on alternative rock are a pale imitation of Broadway producers’ angst about commercialization.
Musicals might be opera for the masses, but they’re really light opera, a whole different category. Avant gard opera such as Wozzcek by Berg has no sustainability. It requires so many instrument players that the cost to stage is prohibitive. Atonal (foreshadowing the New Vienese School of Music), Wozzcek is rarely performed today, and when it is it’s before audiences that could fit in a small dive bar.
I had an epiphany about ten years ago. I’m a classically-trained opera singer, perhaps five hundred or a thousand compositions publicly performed, not a single one is “pop” in anyone’s definition. “Country and Western” had zero appeal. Until my daughter started working for a Country Label.
She introduced me to good Country. I was blown away. The crap on the radio and in small live music venues is crap. But good Country is as good as any other genre. And it, not Broadway, is America’s opera. Smaller bites, sometimes discontinuous storylines (hell, The Magic Flute is more discontinuous than an Alan Jackson album) but it tells a story through music in which the voice is but another instrument.
Yes YES. Good country is great, but that’s not what you’ll hear on country radio stations. My beef with musicals and with pop country is pretty much the same: regurgitating a formula that’s safe for the masses and takes no risks. The musical at least was a living art form once (and ok, now that it’s 2016 there’s actually some new life being breathed into the old corpse again at last) but pop country was invented to be a plastic-injected zombie right pretty much right from the get go.