Monday, December 12, 2005

Beautiful music

Honestly, to get rich and get laid. And any rock star who tells you different is lying. - Kiss bassist-tongueman Gene Simmons, explaining why he got into the business.

I like Gene Simmons' frankness, which added a lot to American Idol last season. But this quote has always bothered me. Sure, the adoration of a crowd is good, and it's better to be steadily employed than starving. But aren't some musicians in it for the music?

Chris Martin, despite the fact that getting Gwyneth Paltrow to settle down is a more impressive accomplishment than the sheer numbers of Simmons' sex life, surely is looking for something other than a bit of fun and financial success. His band (Coldplay, for those who don't follow such things) is charitable to a fault, and they seem at least as interested in creating a beautiful experience onstage as they are in having one backstage.

That's why the first video I've downloaded at iTunes is Coldplay's Fix You. And that's created some debate in the MMM household.

Mrs. MMM and I agree on a lot of music, and we shrug off a lot of our differences as matters of taste rather than aesthetic deficiencies. Aside from my Rush fixation, for which she has absolutely no tolerance, the only major disagreement I can remember was over the Dave Matthews song Crash. She liked it. I thought it was a skeezy frat-boy song, particularly by the time he got to the line "hike up your skirt a little more and show your world to me."

The difference may have been all about context. The song sounds sweet, no matter what the lyrics may say. That's important. If Fred Durst were yelling "hike up your skirt a little more" over some rap-metal cacophony, Mrs. MMM and her like-minded female friends might have been a little less thrilled to hear it.

I think something similar might be affecting our opinions of Fix You. I see a couple of lyrical shortcomings -- for one thing, I wouldn't want the lights guiding me home to also "ignite my bones." But Mrs. MMM's main reservation is the whole concept of "fixing" someone else. I can see that, especially if it's a song from a man to his significant other. Suppose, though, that it's from a father to his daughter? Would that make a difference? It does to me. Toward the end, they sing "I promise you I will learn from my mistakes," which is a little cheesy in a romantic relationship but a beautiful sentiment for a parent.

In any case, this is one of those songs in which the music says far more than the lyrics ever could. It's a song of moving from darkness to light, as reinforced by the lighting effects in the video. It's one of the rare rock songs that is perfectly orchestrated, like Tears for Fears' Shout or Woman in Chains. There's no point in doing a cover version of the song because the song is nothing without the sum of its parts -- the quiet verses, the guitar entrance, the subtle drum fills, everything. Perhaps jaded rock critics don't get goosebumps by the time by the chorus kicks in, but I do.

It's not a perfect song, no, and you could argue that the video is a little heavy-handed. But it's beautiful. Trust me. And I'm sure Coldplay would've recorded even if it wouldn't have made them wealthy objects of groupie lust.


Neel Mehta said...

I thought it was a skeezy frat-boy song, particularly by the time he got to the line "hike up your skirt a little more and show your world to me."

I'm glad someone else is listening. I liked that song a great deal back then because it was simultaneously pretty and grotesque. And the video (by Dean Karr, I think) was the same, with its gritty photo animation of Helena Bonham Carter geisha wannabes.

Anonymous said...

Hey, at least I'm not one of those airheads who thinks that Extreme's "More Than Words" is, gosh, sooooooooo romaaaaaaaaaaantic. Puke.

But DMB proved that a song about, well, sex can be pretty and romantic and angsty and all those other good things.

-Mrs. MMM