08 July 2009

spelling in swedish

i usually don't like it when song lyrics are prominently based around spelling words out. in general it just seems like a silly and somewhat annoying device, and sometimes just flat-out songwriting.

of course, there are some great classic instances: Aretha's "Respect" ("take out the T.C.P.!" [sic]) and Tammy Wynette's "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" spring to mind – the latter being one of the few cases i can think of where the spelling is really an essential part of the song's concept (another, sort of, would be Missy's v. cool "Spelling Bee," though with nothing like the same emotional weight.) and i do have some favorite songs that do it, which are usually pretty short words: Carla Thomas' luscious "B.A.B.Y." in particular, and also Ashlee's "L.O.V.E.," which basically turns the letters into whole new words that let her say "love" in a new, more interesting way: "Ello, ello, ello, vee-ee" (Lyle Lovett kind of does that too on "M[mm].O.N.E.Y," but I don't like it as much. See also: "H to the izzO")

On a similarly cheerleader-ish tip, there's "Washington D.C." (Magnetic Fields), "U.G.L.Y." (Daphne and Celeste) and, especially "D.A.N.C.E." (Justice), which are just having goofy fun with frivolous word games. "E.M.P.T.Y." (The Clientele) also gets a pass from me, partly because incorporates spelling into the narrative in a really evocative way (even if i don't really understand it – for some reason i always imagine the "saws and bows" as tree branches instead [boughs i guess], forming the letters, which i thought was a nice image.)

but more often – as with Pet Shop Boys' "Minimal," Arling and Cameron's "W.E.E.K.E.N.D.." "V.A.C.A.T.I.O.N." (which i know via Darren Hayman's cover), and even Old 97s' pretty decent and possibly Wynette-referencing "W-I-F-E" – i just find it cheesy and a bit obnoxious. even some of my favorite songwriters manage to annoy me with it, like when elvis costello sings "P.P.S.I.L.O.V.E.Y.O.U." in "The Loved Ones," or by far my least favorite song on the new john vanderslice album, "D.I.A.L.O." (though i can't even tell if that's a spelling-out or an acronym, have no idea what it's about.) and don't even get me started on "F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E." (Pulp) or "F.I.R.E.I.N.C.A.I.R.O." (The Cure/Digitalism)

[what am i not thinking of? can you think of any more to add to this list? you know i'm fond if y-o-u.]

HOWEVER, it just so happens that three of my very favorite songs this year are spelling songs, including possibly the two songs that have been on heaviest rotation in my mind for the past few weeks, which, i guess, makes them something like my summer jams.

here's "M.A.G.I.C." by The Sound of Arrows:

whoooosh! sounds just like an arrow flying bullseye into yr little indy twee pop heart, don't it just? been a while since i've had a really great twee-dance anthem to obsess over (i guess cloetta paris came pretty close, but this is much giddier than her stuff, and before that go back maybe to the honeydrips or else tribeca's "teenage," which surprise was also on labrador records, poptastic home to T.S.O.A., who btw have only released this and one other slightly less good single ["danger"] so far, but are supposed to have an album ready sometime.)

anyway, M.A.G.I.C. is some creamy delicious goodness (one of the remixers is named 'ice cream shout', but that seems like a better description for the song itself.) i love how it starts with how he had "the longest ever dream" ... not the strangest, or best, or even necessarily a pleasant one (q.v. labelmate pelle carlberg.) and, it's like a self-fulfulling prophecy, or something: "one should never forget that there are wonders we haven't seen yet." actually, the verses (and pre-choruses) are kind of the best part, even better than the chorus, though the moment of its arrival is pretty fantastic. the silliest thing about the spelling bit, though (which is completely unnecessary and silly in a way that actually is a little annoying, in spite of it all), is that spelling out "world" doesn't actually fit into the melody, so instead they sing that "the V.O.R.L.D. is full of M.A.G.I.C." are we supposed to pretend that they don't know better because they're svedish or something? silly scandinavies.

the other song i want to talk about is by rising star (ish?) adiam dymott, whose s/t debut is one of my favorite albums recently [check out my review here.] there's a lot of ace stuff on there, but the one that's really been sticking with me is not the killer retro-handclappy first single "miss you," or even the awesome, righteously rockin' youth rebellion burner "pizza" (named that for no apparent reason), the first song of hers to really catch my ear, wherein she sings about "connectin' with the crowd like an ayatollah," and also about dropping out of society to start a farm, but rather "mrs. dymott," a deceptively funky slow-groover, which is not on youtube but you can hear in full here.

like pretty much every spelling song, it's kinda silly. it's all about her name, which is an unusual one, and the difficulties it causes her, at the bank for instance, and then how it will be on her tombstone after she dies. she introduces the chorus with "here's a song to help pronounce my name," but actually she spells it out instead (A-D-I-A-M D-Y-M-O-T-T) and also explains where her names come from (from her mom and her husband, respectively.) she does pronounce her full name towards the beginning, but i actually didn't notice that part until now.

okay. finally, there's ryan leslie's I-R-I-N-A, which (as i've mentioned before) is my favorite song from his album even though i can't really say why (and i haven't listened to the album enough to really give the others a good chance.) but, anyway, here it is. he has to spell her name because he doesn't speak her language. but he knows she likes it when he spells her name. see, it's silly.

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