dreamers of the dream
I doubt this has exactly been hotly anticipated, but here are some last notes in the general vicinty of Dreamgirls.
10) I might have been more explicit that not everything in the previous post was meant as response to jane's take on the film - or, especially, its songs. Here's a more extended instance of the view that the songs' problem is their failure to be genuine fake Motown. To wit:
Real Motown, first of all, is super tambourine heavy - which does not really match the production styles of American Idol dreck-pop. But most importantly, the melodies and rhythms of the early crossover Motown songs are masterfully simple. The beauty lies in the enormous melodies laid over accessible chord and beat structures. The DG musical composers cannot resist the sophisticated allure of Dmaj9-type over-complex jazz piano arrangements, and subsequently, couldn't write a AM radio pop song to save their lives.
9) Except the composers of the original show could write a pop song, and did. I don't know about radio play specifically, but why does everyone seem to forget that "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" was a #1 R&B/#22 pop single for Jennifer Holliday, who introduced the song on Broadway, in 1982. (I believe the hit version was a re-recording, not the version from the cast album. Seen her Tony performance?) This fact drains some force from the complaint that "a white musical guy" (I'm quoting the linked post again) wrote the show's mere representations of black pop songs. [See also: Lieber/Stoller, Dan Penn.]
[Sidebar: despite my complaints, neomarxisme is an thoughtful blog mostly devoted to very detailed and knowing comments on Japanese popular culture. I am as puzzled as "Marxy's" comment-fields visitor Momus that someone with a pronounced taste for J-Pop would be a source of the above charges.]
8) Can what I meant about the continuity between pop and show music be made any clearer? The fact that I happen to love some of the latter is probably what causes me to make this point, but I think that the claim is true, not an artifact of my biases. Allegedly popist critics had better start figuring out how to account for the fact that shows like Rent and Wicked, apparently Amazon's #39th best-selling CD, have returned the cast album to a profile that it hasn't had since, maybe, My Fair Lady. What surprising is that some of these shows are holding their own or outperforming all but a few (Mamma Mia! of the allegedly people-pleasin' "jukebox musicals." And the audience for this stuff isn't made up of dessicated mandarins: the Wicked fanbase, as I understand it, skews especially young and doesn't have any self-conscious sense of the form's traditions.
7) The other thing none of this has much to do with is the fact that I can't personally bear Wicked, or Rent, any more than the fact that, frankly, I still can't find much in some charting country than shoddy carpentry has to do with the brute fact of its appeal to a non-bohemian constituency. Speaking as a dessicated-mandarin-in-training, though, "My Revolutionary Costume" from Grey Gardens (an uneven but interesting score overall) is more my speed. (Also, this guy's.)
6) Re the Broadway influence on Smokey Robinson and contemporaries: last weekend, Bree and I went to see the cabaret singer Baby Jane Dexter, whose wide-ranging set included (along with a medley of "All I Have To Do Is Dream" and "Make Believe" from Show Boat) Smokey's "You've Really Got A Hold On Me." Having never attended closely to the lyrics before, I was struck by how tight the rhyming is, and how dependent on two-word rhymes that also serve to keep the tune and stresses precisely the same from verse to verse:
I want to leave you
Don't want to stay here
Don't want to spend
Another day here
Oh, I want to split now
I can't quit now
You've really got a hold on me
This is a device introduced into American pop by Lorenz Hart (writing to Richard Rodgers' music) in the late '20s; in many respects, including the use of a striking, then-contemporary colloquial phrase as an unrhymed hook and the overall sentiment, this song seems particularly close to "You Took Advantage of Me," from 1928's Present Arms. (Smokey's "hold me" bridge, of course, is a whole different bag.) The Supremes, of course, recorded both.
[4, 3, 2 were further comments on the specific weaknesses (and even some stengths) of songs in Dreamgirls, particularly "Move" and "Cadillac Car," (including the section of the OCR that establishes a good deal of the show's argument, which the movie attempts to make that throwaway shot of a record being manufactured do the work of), and the somewhat different problems of the new songs written for the movie, particularly Eddie/Jimmy's "People Get Ready"/"Waiting for the World to Change" bite; a discussion of the deck-stacking the movie engages in viz. the music biz; it's not at all clear why C.C. should be materially as well as "righteously" indignant at the white cover of "Cadillac Car," given that, as songwriter, he should be pulling in publishing royalties, unless he sold himself out with a stupid deal that the plot doesn't tell us about; and an expression of puzzlement that said songwriter figure, supposedly one of the fictional label's driving creative forces, is, as played by Keith Robinson, the most anodyne movie character since the heyday of "second leads." But my interest has waned over the last week, so that sketch will have to do.]
1) I am, of course, curious how some of the above plays out here. I'm inclined to hold Adam Schlessinger to a fairly high-standard, pastiche-wise, as that's supposed to be his selling point; the inclusion of a teenpop song called "Entering Bootytown" bodes ill. (But then, I've been bitter since '92, when his demo-submission for "That Thing You Do" beat out mine.] Curious enough not to wait for it to show up on a plane? Maybe not.
0) Just curious: has anyone ever made anything interesting out of the observation that musicals and animated films are of a piece in being the two long-standing film genres for which the production of the sound-track precedes that of the image-track as a matter of course?