Riker's Mailbox

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Biography of a Song - "Lovers, Fighters, Survivors"

Well this is it, kids.

I've made it all the way to the finals of SpinTunes #1. I'm not gonna lie, Marge: I feel like this is my weakest submission thus far. I don't think it's a bad song, but I feel like I owe the contest better than what I ended up with. Then again, according to what I hear from the others who decided to tackle the round #4 challenge, this task beat up on the lot of us.

I spent the vast majority of the songwriting period dwelling on how demanding and obtuse the "three distinct ethnic styles" challenge was. Don't get me wrong; I think the judges came up with a fantastic challenge - if this were the final boss of your typical videogame, it'd be a giant radioactive grizzly bear who shoots tornadoes out his nostrils and can only take damage under his left foot - but, there's seemingly no way to write a song that jumps genres while maintaining internal coherency, that would also stand alone as a decent song outside the scope of this challenge. I suspect nobody in their right mind would write a song like this without being told to.

But anyway, I came up with a solution, and I went back to my old habits from rounds #1 and #2 - I did something risky. Instead of trying to sing three verses in completely different potentially incompatible styles, I decided to treat each ethnic segment as a vignette featuring a spoken narrative. I spend most of this song not singing. On one hand, I'm worried people will consider this a cop-out, but on the other hand, I think I solved the problem of "why the hell would someone repeatedly change the song type so drastically?"

This is a song written entirely in my American acoustic pop music style, but it's a song about flipping through a photo album and looking at old pictures of my parents and grandparents. I take the time to tell a brief story about each of them, and in the background the proper style of music swells in to harken back to their lineages. After I finish telling my little anecdotes, I resume in my style to conclude the story. In effect, I've done everything I could to buy pardon for the fact that the song is so disjointed, and I think my particular solution did so in the least distracting way possible.

The only thing left to worry about is, after it's all said and done, is it still enjoyable and listenable? I think it is. It wouldn't get heavy play in my ipod, but I wouldn't skip past it either.

All that's left now is the excitement to hear how the other contenders attacked this same problem. While I'm sure I exhausted every potential idea and proceeded with the best one I could think of, I expect that the other entrants will have come up against these roadblocks differently, or may have come up against different roadblocks altogether. What may have been my biggest challenge may have been the easiest thing for Caleb or Dave to address, and vice versa. So, I'm eagerly awaiting tomorrow's listening party.

I find myself compelled to write something as a bit of an epilogue to my entire time in this contest, but it probably deserves its own post. I'm excited to say that I'm proud of myself for meeting each challenge with versatility; I had a personal goal that each of my submissions would sound distinct from one another, and I ended up exceeding my own expectations of my ability to do so. I surprised myself a handful of times, and it makes me curious to see what I do next with songwriting, because I honestly can't guess what'll happen. Being in this challenge has made me much better at what I do.

If you were on the fence about signing up this time, do not hesitate to sign up for the next one. It's one of those rare things in the world that is fun and good for you.

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