Monday, July 26, 2004

and look at that - i hit the 'post' button a few times and suddenly I have things to say.

k-p on his aversion to anthemism. i'm down with that. to whit, i've been mulling over the ubiquitous "are you gonna be my girl" of jet, and why i don't like it. see, i've recently made up a (quite possibly unfounded) theory about pop songs - namely, that good songs have good bass lines (probably a bit of a skewed theory really - good songs have good everything, in which a good bass line would naturally be included).

now, said song of jet has a good bassline. empirically speaking, that 'doo-doo-doo...' riff is pretty catchy. so why is the song so bad? how come it can't receive a lift from that foundation?

i think it's because it (the bass line) is too obvious. not obvious-prominent, but obvious like an obvious joke - it doesn't lurk anywhere, so what you see (or hear) is what you get.

indeed the only enjoyable part of the song, as far as i'm concerned, is the bit at the beginning, when the bass line is joined by kick drum and snare drum - the whole thing dies as soon as the singing begins. and this is, in turn, what makes the song sound so much better when it is used for commercials - they only ever play this early part of the song and the guitar riff that goes along with it, so that the anticipation - which is, i find, all that the song has going for it - may be drawn on to maximum effect. it's definitely better in ads.

my theory is also able to account for why the white stripes ultimately fail to rock. note, in this regard, that 'seven nation army' - their most successful song - has a bass line. QED, my friends! (shhh... at this point you shouldn't point out to me that the yeah yeah yeahs are also sans bass, yet also pretty cool. i'm generalising here people, give me a break!)

of course, what this silly little notion of mine cannot account for is the power of rhythm - sean paul's "get busy" and dizzee rascal's "i luv u", to pick but two glaring examples, have little in the way of bass line, but are well-endowed in the area of 'waist winding' syncopation (with a little nod to tim there on the parlance that's not-quite-&catherine).

perhaps my theory should be qualified then: perhaps it applies only to the melody-driven verse-chorus-verse pop song, rather than to those genres in which rhythm is more central?

oh, there's so much fun to be had in trying to provide exhaustive theories and formulae for why songs give pleasure! i feel so utilitarian. even so - it's time for erasmus (ie. the homework that i am two-timing with the internet), so i shall bid you adieu.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, in reference to the White Stripes and 'Seven Nation Army', there is no bass line - it's an electric guitar, manipulated in post to sound like a bass.

Everyone loves a pedant.

9:06 am  
Blogger Catherine said...

Well... a bass line doesn't necessarily have to be originally played on a bass guitar now, does it? If it sounds bassy enough, and it functions as a bass line, then it is a bass line, as far as I'm concerned ;) There's still nothing quite like it in other White Stripes songs.

11:34 am  
Blogger Tim said...

Good bass content of "Seven Nation Army" was confirmed by Basement Jaxx turning it into a house bootleg...

Very much approve of your illustrative non-bass choices of course Catherine ("I Luv U" is kinda like a grime "Seven Nation Army" actually! Not much bass strictly but all that blaring mid-range is bass enough. Garage has always been a bit idiot-savant in the bass department - lots of 2-step tracks used to have these xylophone bass lines that were actually pitched up into treble, so it was like tuning into dance music for jamaican mice). Have you heard Nina Sky's "Move Ya Body"? You would def. love it, and it's in this vein.

8:21 pm  
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10:50 pm  

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