I'm on my fourth week of songfight contests now, and I have concluded that I have none of the DNA which permits one to create pop songs. This usually does not concern me, because (a) I love my day job and have no illusions I need to dislodge; and (b) I enjoy creating ambient pieces more than actual pop songs anyway. Yet I enjoy Songfight, because it causes me to stretch into things I do not know how to do.
The Songfight idea is simple. The website gives one a song title, and then one has a week or ten days to compose, create and record a song with that title. The members on the board there then write scathing reviews of one another's work, often humorous, and then vote for a winner. It's all a bit caustic in an acceptable way and all a bit of good fun. There are in each week a goodish selection of witty and workable pop songs.
Then there's people like me.
My first three songs, "That's What She Said", "Ottoman", and "So Weird", were all earnest efforts. "That's What She Said" had a killer little chill synth line, accompanied by a spoken word track of me in my 22 year old persoa, describing the loss of a female friend through that form of attrition known to science as "I just like him a whole lot better than you". Its pathetic moanings won a very very few compliments for the filtering on the vocals (actually, a Radio Shack voice recorder rather than a proper microphone) but a chorus of disapproval that it was not really a song but a spoken word piece.
My second song, "Ottoman", began its life as a song, with a harpsichord-like keyboard line and my vocals. However, mid-way into its creation, I came to see it as quite inferior. I decided to try to add lots of comic samples, including a few poking fun at songfight, to add humour. This time the reviews were scathing about the samples and attempts to poke fun (not surprising, actually, something about newbies and websites), but a goodish few were kinder about the actual song part, leading me to think I should have just bit the bullet and played it relatively straight.
My third song, "So Weird", caused me to do something so weird. I actually put down my array of freeware synths and samplers, pulled out my autoharp and mountain dulcimer, and
sing a simple song about how some things happening today are "so weird". I rather like the song, though I suspect it will not be a mass approval winner, because the vocals may not achieve the Jonathan Richman simplicity for which I aimed, but instead may just be a little bit "so weird". The review phase has not begun on this song yet, and I am interested to hear if anyone likes it. Even if someone does like it, it's not what I would call a straight-ahead song, but instead it's, once again, "so weird".
This week's contest is "Anomaly". In my head, this jaunty bit of conventional pop, well-suited to my vocals, appeared. Sadly, though, what kept appearing on my synthesizer was
odd melodies that don't really work out very well. My pop song never would quite pop.
It was like a crescent roll that never quite crests.
I tried to layer in an ambient melody. I tried a verse and refrain uptempo song. Nothing worked. My "anomaly" was going anomalously badly. Actually, not anomalously at all. It was going as badly as usual.
My mottos include three simple phrases:
1. try hard
2. don't worry if you don't fit in; and
3. it's okay to be weird if you are.
Last night I found myself putting faith in action.
I loaded into my synthesizer the following wave forms:
a. a 3 second recording of a cheap dollar store plastic recorder;
b. a brief recording of a cheap dollar store xylophone
c. a recording of a two dollar "egg shaker" , a plastic egg flled with sand (a great percussion instrument, by the way)
d. a recording of small ceramic bell I got at a thrift store.
I then wrote and recorded "Anomaly". It sounds like a kiddie carnival tune played by glockenspiels. I multi-tracked it, and played with the pitch a bit.
Then I took one duplicated track, and applied to it a sound effect called an xciter.
This xciter effect causes sound waves to get all "excited", and to sound kinda weird.
When I applied it to my melody, it made the xylophone sections become extremely dissonant. I loved the dissonance, like a kid's piano out of tune, so I left it in.
I then recorded simple love song vocals, in my usual "near pitch but not nearly good enough" voice, and finalized the song.
I listen sometimes to radio station 770 sometimes, which plays all these old big band and crooner and 50s/60s novelty songs. My song would be at home on that station, if not for the dissonant part.
"Anomaly" has been good for me. It's not that I'm going to get great reviews or scads of votes. The board seems to like 1980s well-produced garage Britpop, and the site produces a handful of artists who do that genre very, very well. Indeed, it's fun to listen to and critique each songfight because one can hear at least 3 to 7 great pop songs each time, and 20something bits of odd fun. But my song will not win over the board.
Yet "Anomaly" wins me over, because it sounds like something in ny creative "voice". It's jaunty and it's weird and it's fun and it's silly. That's pretty much who I am when I am doing creative writing/composing/photographing/speaking.
I was dreading finishing song 4, because I am not Cole Porter. Now I am looking forward to the 5th song title, because I am not Cole Porter.