Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.
It’s finally starting to feel like spring again. The birds are singing, the grass looks much less dead, the sky is bright and decidedly un-cloudy, and Those Dudes™️ are still wearing nothing but tank tops, shorts, and flip flops in 30 degree weather. Which, I should clarify, is an outfit choice that has not changed from a few weeks ago, when it was cold enough for ice to form in my water bottle. I wish I was kidding.
But we are filled with springtime warmth and joy this week! The sun is shining! For once! Joyous whimsy prevails!
Enjoy this week’s songs!
SUNDAY SONGS: 3/12/23
“A Little Bit of Soap” – De La Soul
Like a many other music nerds out there, I celebrated last Friday (March 3) by listening to De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising, finally back on streaming, along with their other first 5 albums, after decades of legal troubles. I’d been hearing tracks like “The Magic Number” and “Me Myself and I” from early childhood, and I got worried that I’d hyped myself up far too much, but this album is as groundbreaking is as everybody says it is. Despite the years of misinterpretation and the record label’s hippie branding of the group (and “Me Myself and I” becoming their equivalent of “Creep,” so much so that all of their non-televised performances of it are always introduced by them telling the crowd to chant “we hate this song!”), it’s been taken all the way to the Library of Congress as a pivotal piece of music history. I’m not up to date on my hip-hop history, but even without that context, it’s easy to see what a sea change this was for a genre—it’s the work of three friends, barely out of high school, with the goal of having fun and playing with samples. And it’s a masterpiece.
This spirit is something that the delightfully goofy “A Little Bit of Soap” embodies. It’s not even a minute long (part of which is still taken up by a piece of the game show skit that continues through the album), it samples an obscure 60’s pop song of the same name, and the lyrics are just about B.O. And it’s GREAT. It proves that those middle school boys who barely showered and used AXE body spray to cover up the shame have existed since time immemorial. There’s something to be said about shorter songs like this, ones that clearly exist just for fun—creativity, for me at least, is primarily to amuse myself before it turns into something else. And that seems like exactly what Posdnuos, Trugoy, and Maseo were trying to do—having fun with each other, and making something innovative in the process. Happiness and genuine joy and fun should never be dismissed as low art just because it’s not “deep”—that mentality is the enemy of creativity.
And it’s been a month now since we’ve lost Trugoy the Dove. One the one hand, it’s deeply tragic that he never got to live to see his music return to the world, but I’m comforted by the fact that he at least could rest easier knowing that the years of legal battles had come to an end, and that De La Soul would finally be able to reach the wider audience that it always deserved. You will be missed. 💗
“Mutha’uckas” – Flight of the Conchords
When Bret said “Then ************ Granny Smith ******** ******** ** an avocado ********mango ********” ? Man, I felt that. I really did. “He’s gonna wake up in a smoothie”? Never before has such an assertive display of power and dominance been made in music history. Bret McKenzie is the ultimate alpha male. Sigma, even. Take notes. Fear him. It’s gonna get vicious and malicious. (He wants his Red Delicious.)
“Captain Chicken” (feat. Del the Funky Homo Sapien) – Gorillaz
I already talked about this song briefly in my review for Cracker Island, but I can’t praise this song enough. Never in my very brief years of Earth would I predict that I would have a song with looped chicken clucking sound effects on repeat, but life is full of surprises, and Gorillaz is here to deliver. I thought the days of Gorillaz collaborating with Del the Funky Homo Sapien (as Del the Ghost Rapper) were gone before my time, and whether or not this is a nostalgia grab, the 20+ years of waiting has paid off. Just like every track they made together on Gorillaz, Albarn and Del have created another pop masterpiece, just under two minutes but packing a punch than most of Cracker Island itself. Some songs are too long or too short for their own good, but like “A Little Bit of Soap,” “Captain Chicken” is the perfect, short-and-sweet time capsule of two exceptional musicians sounding like they’re both having the time of their lives. This is the fun, pure Gorillaz spark that most of Cracker Island was missing for me, but this song is out now, and I don’t think it’s a reach to say that we’re all grateful for this little gem.
I’ve got a confession—I love all of the Beatles in their own way to some extent, but I’d put John Lennon as my least favorite, as much as I love his voice. Probably heresy, and who wouldn’t love his message of peace, but after watching Get Back recently, he just seemed kind of insufferable? There’s no denying his musical genius, but every joke he made there just felt more like trying to be funny than actually being funny. And I haven’t even gotten to the wife-beating aspect. Yech. Don’t go deep-diving into 50% of singers from the 50’s to the 90’s, kids. Disappointment awaits.
None of that is excused, but it’s songs like this that make me go back on the obvious musical prowess of people like John Lennon. I think Rubber Soul is the only Beatles album left on my list that I want to listen to, and it’s songs like “Girl” that make me want to listen to it. In this day and age, it’s hard to see how groundbreaking it was, but at the time, it was rare for a pop band as big as they were in 1966 to make a love song quite like this. It’s not the (undoubtedly catchy) sunshine and rainbows of their first few albums; it’s more than a little folksy, and it starts to dig into a melancholia that the genre had barely touched with a ten-foot pole at that point. Every detail makes it such a strange, wonderful pop song—John Lennon’s hissing inhalations in the chorus, the eerily beautiful harmonies of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison (which I can never praise enough), and the guitar work, which was apparently played with the capo extra high on the neck to make the sound resemble a bouzouki. From what I’ve heard, Rubber Soul served as the Beatles’ gateway into their truly innovative work, delving into pure psychedelia on Revolver, which came out later that same year, and to this day, “Girl” and many of the album’s other track are a time capsule to the Beatles just before they leapt off the precipice and into the musical unknown.
“Life’s a Happy Song” (from The Muppets) – Amy Adams, Jason Segel, & Walter
Nothing like the realization that Amy Adams was in this movie hitting you like a train directly on the heels of ugly crying to Arrival, amirite? That’s some whiplash. Needless to say, that’s some impressive range.
And if you take one thing away from both this song and this post, it’s that Bret McKenzie did NOT have to go that hard with the Muppets soundtrack. I’m just picturing the guy just coming into the studio with a notepad, eyes glowing red and levitating, and laying the lyrics to this and/or “Man Or Muppet” down on the table, and everybody just refusing to question it. I can still remember having this as the first song on a scratchy CD, and only ending up hearing it and “Eight Days a Week” because it conked out on me after track 2. I have many fond memories of sunny afternoons listening to this song while organizing the Calico Critters house that I got for my birthday that year. The voice of a generation. What can I say? Life’s a fillet of fish.
Since this post consists of all songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.
That’s it for this week’s Sunday Songs! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!