I’m going to talk about something I don’t talk about very often…music. Why don’t I talk about music more often? It seems like I should. I am sort of a musician, and it is my favorite thing in the whole world. And I even have a designated category for it. But I guess it’s because I decided a long time ago that music is a very intimate subject, like religion or politics. So if I like the Beatles and you like the Beatles then by all means, let’s talk about the Beatles. But what I don’t want to do is listen to Joe the Plumber’s 45-minute spiel on why the Rolling Stones are better than the Beatles.
When I was in music theory in college, I was promised by one instructor that by the time I was done with the course, I would be able to tell other people why, specifically, I liked the music I liked. This really intrigued me. I wanted a vocabulary that let me articulately express to others, and myself, the particular magic of the music I loved so much.
The instructor lied. Lied, lied, lied. For a couple of reasons. First of all, if you would like to tell someone that you really like that inverted d minor diminished chord in the bridge of that pop song, well the person you’re facing really has to be equally well-versed in the inner workings of music theory. Second of all, despite a monumental and unprecedented complaint-free effort on my part, I’m just not that great at distinguishing music on this specific a level. Finally, even if I could say I like that inverted d minor diminished chord and you knew what that was, that still doesn’t really explain why I like it, does it? Just because you can analyze it doesn’t mean you can explain it, does it? If music could be explained away in words and mathmatical expressions it wouldn’t be so great.
When the song Single Ladies came out, I heard Beyonce perform it on Saturday Night Live and remarkably, I didn’t hate it. I liked the rhythm and some of the harmonies. I thought that if they got rid of what could only be described as that digital squeal in the background, they might have something. Then she got to the bridge which made absolutely no musical sense in the context of the song, and I wrote it off. A kernel of an idea that was wasted. Single Ladies and its accompanying video with the funky dancing was a HUGE hit.
Fast forward and my husband, perennial YouTube watcher, had become a fan of this group called Pomplamoose (which means Grapefruit in French, only would be spelled pamplemousse) . It’s just a guy and a gal making music out of their San Francisco apartment and posting videos on YouTube. Shaun showed me their cover version of Single Ladies. All of the rhythm and harmony without all of the overproduced digital garbage. Plus some improvements and a great solution to that troubling bridge.
Everything about this song is inspired, from the “deluxe memory man” to the drum fill after the line “we’re going to skip ahead to the single ladies part instead.” (Why I love that drum fill so – I just don’t know.) So I listened to some of their other stuff and it was pretty good. I don’t like everything, but I like both cover songs and their original stuff and even the stuff I don’t like I find harmonically intriguing. (They are so going into my final paper this quarter as an example of what people can do without being signed to a record label. Their version of Single Ladies has nearly 2.5 million hits.)
I happened to share both those videos with my father, as he is one person I always talk to about music because we have such similar tastes. First I showed him the video of Beyonce in her skimpy leotard, then the video of Pomplamoose. I explained that I was very happy with Pomplamoose for taking that kernel and making it into something good. A few days later, when I was visiting for Thanksgiving, my dad told me that he couldn’t get that girl out of his head. “The one in the leotard?” I asked. “No the other one” he answered. Apparently all that staring into the camera she does hypnotized him. Now he’s in love with the music and Nataly Dawn.
So do with this information whatever you will. It’s just me sharing, and if you’re not a registered Pomplamoose, that’s fine by me. We can talk about other things at the next block party, like the weather.