High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

My Photo
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

This is fiber optic cable, which is the future. This is culture, which is delicious.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Songwriter's Navel: Week 17, Which Cribs from JoCo and JoWhe


So I had 48 hours to turn around the assignment following the "sincere love song.". For this one, the main criterion was a "one-line chorus" (e.g., "Keep On Rockin' Me, Baby," "Band On the Run," etc.). I say "main criterion," because as it turned out, I was not supposed to use the I chord until I got to the chorus (if I were following the Tuesday class's rubric) OR I was supposed to employ root motion in fourths (if I were following the Sunday class's rubric): I didn't know about the Tuesday criterion, and I plain old forgot about the Sunday criterion. Also, I cheated slightly on the chorus.

I started on this one by going through my songwriting notebook from the beginning (this one is very nearly spent) and pulling out lines and concepts that I liked but that hadn't made it into songs yet. I was about to say that none of those made it into the song, but I see that at least a couple have close cousins in what I eventually wrote. But the real jumping off point was the song that I had started on and abandoned a few weeks ago. (Ha, in dredging up that link I see that I felt that I abandoned it because "it's TRYING to be a sardonic, tongue-in-cheek song, and it was just getting more and more labored at every turn"—I kind of didn't solve that problem before writing this song.)

The line for my chorus became "It's all about you," and I'm not exactly sure why. I mean, certainly everyone has someone in their lives who constantly sucks the air and will to live from everyone. Behold! One of my very very very very favorite Jonathan Coulton songs that he did NOT play on JoCo Cruise Crazy: "Someone Is Crazy" (Come on: "Is Bitter there?/I'd rather talk to her than Disappointed/Though she's not quite as fun as Good and Mad" is a fucking. brilliant. opening lyric.) But there was no one incident or person at that time prompting this song, so who knows?

I did actually write the chorus first, which was bad news for me, because the chorus looked me in the eye and said, "Yeah, that's right, it's another song FILLED with barre chords, bitch."


And it’s [D] all a- [C#m] bout you
It’s [A] all [D] a- [D] bout [E] you
Yes, it’s [D] all a- [C#m] bout you
It is [A] all, it is all [C#m], it is [D] all
About you [A]

So, little box of barre chords down there at the 5th fret, we meet again.

The first two lines of verse 1 were exactly what I wrote a few weeks ago. The second two lines are a tortured attempt to get my original idea of "You're nothing but a heart, and everywhere you look is a sleeve." Oh, ouch! Awkward even when I try to translate for my inside-my-head voice. Not improved by being made into a lyric:

[A] You are made of [A] buttons, I am
[E] Nothing but a [D] fingertip, it seems [A]
You’re [A] all made up of [A] aching heart and
[E] Every time you [D] look at me you
[Bm] See nothing [D] more than a [E] sleeve

The phrasing ends up giving that extra bonus image of your friendly neighborhood narcissist actually using you as a Kleenex. So there's that. Ew.

In an earlier draft of verse 2, I actually had on paper for a while the line "tragedy of being you" and genuinely did not realize that it was a direct rip off from "Someone's Crazy." It just goes to show you that no matter how paranoid a songwriter is about inadvertently plagiarizing, it's not paranoid enough. On that note, "must be Tuesday," in verse 3 is ripped off directly from Joss Whedon. I did not recall until this very moment that it is actually ripped off from the musical episode "Once More, With Feeling." Too bad, Whedon! It's not a lyric, you can spare it, so you can suck it! The rest of verse three was pretty much lifted from the abandoned song from a few weeks ago.

Now you’re [A] up in arms, we’re [A] up in smoke
[E] Up in flames [D] again, it must be Tuesday [A]
It’s the [A] matter-of-fact [A] tragedy of
[E] Histrionic [D] games you like to
[Bm] Play, but I’m [D] pushing back [D] from the [E] table

Raise your hand if you're not tired of the awkward chunka-chunka in A major to disguise my terrible guitar playing. No hands? I thought so. Here, have a bridge that is also lousy with barre chords. E didn't know what a klaxon was. The class was confused by "It's all bat signals with you." My gift for unintentional obfuscation is legend.

It’s all [F#m] bat signals [F#m] klaxons with [D] you
It’s all [C#m] guns blazing, [C#m] shoot first [D] and I’m through

And then verse 3 into the final, slightly altered chorus (will the cheating NEVER END?):

I might [A] miss the bells and [A] whistles, but
[E] Not the Chicken [D] Little midnight [A] scenes
When you [A] hear that busy [A] signal buzz
[E] Humming down the [D] line will you
[Bm] Get the picture [D] then, will you [E] see?

It’s not [D] all a- [C#m] bout you
It is [A] not [D] all [D] about [E] you
It’s not [D] all a- [C#m] bout you
It is [A] not, it is not [C#m], it is [D] not
All about you [A]

The Kernel suggested that I go with "It's NOT all about you" for all of the choruses; having recorded it, I suspect he's probably right. Speaking of the recording, it's got ridiculous Garage Band filtering on both guitar and vocals. Haven't had a good day and I was not up for beating my head against it any longer, so heavy, inappropriate processing!

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home