Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Have a Cigar, Jimmy Iovine": Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Pink Floyd

Songs: Have a Cigar / Jimmy Iovine
Albums: Wish You Were Here / The Heist
Artists: Pink Floyd / Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Genres: Rock, Classic Rock / Hip-Hop, Rap
Karaoke Difficulty: 
    • Have a Cigar - Not difficult. You can do this drunk and still sound like you fit with the original recording (mostly). Unfortunately, you won't get much applause from a room of strangers because this song packs its punch right in your third eye (cerebrally) and is not a stadium anthem that would punch you in the gut and leave you asking for more (ie. anything from Boston's first album, "Boston"). Scratch everything I said if you're at a Pink Floyd theme'd karaoke, then you might be a king, or something close to that, like a Duke, or influential Magistrate... definitely higher than city water council ombudsman. 
    • Jimmy Iovine - Slightly difficult. Just sound aggressive and angry, but then you have to transition to resignedly introspective - which is not easy. Also, you'll need two male backup singers (you're drunk friends with shades in a bar at night), in the baritone range, to bark on the beat at certain points in the song. When not barking, they should stand and jump like your hype men.

In Depth Analysis


Doing anything to get a record deal and then getting chewed up by the record industry. Which thematically, breaks down further into these categories: disillusion, abuse, ambition, unfulfilled expectations, thwarted intentions


It's hard to draw a line of commonality between these two songs, which is why I decided to write this post when I did find one. On their own, their both good songs. One of these similarities exists in their approach to lyrics. Both Pink Floyd's, 'The Wall," and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' songs are self referential. Pink Floyd sings about their fallen band mate, Syd Barret, and M&RL sing, ostensibly, about themselves, but even in this line of thought the similarities seem to end because


The dissimilarities are greater than their counterparts. I'm enjoying writing this article because there is one central idea that bridges these two songs (described above), but a deeper listen and deeper thoughts expand the numerable differences so that it becomes difficult to even classify these two songs, or groups, together; and that's one of the powers of creativity: two groups, two distinct backgrounds, two styles and two generations, with almost nothing in common, can find common ground in some central themes. 

Thematically, the biggest difference is that, in "Have a Cigar," the character of Pink is swallowed up by 'The Machine.' Whereas the ambiguous narrator-character in "Jimmy Iovine" decides in the end to rebuke the dismal offer and make his own way in the music industry.

Additionally, the two groups had different styles of self-referential lyrics. Pink Floyd chose a distilled dramatization to represent pieces of they story where Macklemore and Lewis left behind self-immolation and martyrdom while singing about their stories (and yes, I know that Macklemore sings the tracks and Lewis lays the beats, but it is still appropriate to credit both artists when referencing the album because they both put their names on it). The most immediate example of this is how Pink Floyd sings of The Machine, an omni-present grindhouse separating souls from meat.
I'd say the biggest difference between these two songs (and a difference that continues throughout the albums) is one of point of view. In both albums, the subject matter is heavy stuff: drug addiction, depression, falling short of dreams. But, there is a major point of divergence between how both bands see, or deal with, these heavy issues in their lyrics (please note: I have no idea how these bands have dealt with heavy life issues outside of their lyrics so any analysis present applies only to their lyrics. I've not met any members of Pink Floyd nor M&RL), and perhaps no two songs illustrate this divergence better than "Have a Cigar" and "Jimmy Iovine."

"Jimmy Iovine"
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have made it clear that though they bought into 'the game' of the record industry, by the song's end they were out. is almost entirely from songwriter, completely absent of victimization. M&RL even state: "They ain't given it, I'm takin it..." and closing with "...I'd rather be a starving artist then succeed in getting fucked."
Musically speaking, I can't say that I really enjoy this aspect of the song. In fact, I sometimes skip this song when listening to the album. For me, the lyrics and intent make this a powerful song and worth recommending.

Interesting fact: M&RL break down a sample contract with terms and actual payout to artist, and it is abysmal and a little depressing.

"Have a Cigar"
Pink Floyd create an elaborate realm in which the setting takes place; each song is crafted in this universe and the effect is one of a brilliant moment in music. This was created at a time in music history when albums were created, not just collections of singles. The entire album slides together, thematically, lyrically and in story. As per the song, the point of view is entirely from the the corporate record executive screwing over the character of Pink. In this sense there's a level of victimization present in the storytelling - which is absent from M&RL's song.
Musically, the song is a great piece for the whole album, it sets you up for "Wish You Were Here" and this is where the album really lands. It's heard often on classic rock stations, so you know a lot of other people like it. By itself though, I tend to skip this song on the album and prefer "Wish You Were Here" and "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" (both parts).

Interesting Facts: There's such a long jazz/rock opening that the lyrics don't start until almost a minute and 30 seconds in. Also, this song (and album) are about one of the original members of the band: Syd Barrett, and his fall from the band and success.

Final Thoughts:

The relationship that each band has to the recording industry is very interesting considering the lyrics of these two songs. M&RL wrote lyrics that eschewed the recording industry and the unfair treatment. These lyrics are supported by the indie release of their own album. By contrast, Pink Floyd, have relied heavily on the record industry to generate revenue. In fact, the brand 'Pink Floyd' is one that generates revenue and name recognition on its own. So, I guess the question is: "Could Pink Floyd have enjoyed the same degree of success, back then, by relying entirely on independent distribution and sales? Further, was the band forced under the same type of pitiful contract that M&RL sing about in "Jimmy Iovine?"
 The internet has provided new artists a way to publish their music and to do it cheap, no more: publishing costs, distribution costs, just send it to YouTube. The internet doesn't guarantee success, but then neither did having a record contract. The internet however does allow for a greater diversification in published music which allows for a globally crowdsourced census of what the population wants to listen to; it evens the playing field so every artist has a chance at success.*  If the album 'The Wall' is about the rise and decline of Syd Barret, and if (as the music claims) that Syd Barret was a crazy diamond that was chewed up by the machine, how different would the album 'The Wall,' have been were the internet present in the 70's?


* This allowance for anyone to self publish and possibly make it big is one of the MOST important aspects of an open internet. The open internet allows for every electronic storefront to have the same access, regardless of the size of the company; indie productions can took root in the same public that the hit machine (backed by corporate sized finances) vies for. Please, support a truly open internet. It's the greatest engine for free commerce and rapid innovation that the world has ever seen.

No comments:

Post a Comment