Archive for Tongue and Groove

For those who think Jung

Girls' Generation

This was SNSD, circa 2012. SNSD — So Nyeo Shi Dae, “Girls’ Generation” — is a K-pop group assembled over the last eight years. The first member, sixth in line, in the dress the color of dried ketchup, is Jessica Jung, who had signed her first contract with S. M. Entertainment in 2000 when she was eleven; S. M. named her as the first member of SNSD in 2007. And seven years later, Jung was the first member of SNSD to be sacked, apparently for having too many outside interests conflicting with group activities, starting with her appearance in a Korean production of the musical Legally Blonde. (How blonde is she? Not very, I suspect.)

Jessica Jung not brushing her hair

I have no idea what that black box is for, unless it’s to obscure a brand name that didn’t pony up for promotional money.

Jessica Jung looking vaguely domestic

There were also a number of non-SNSD singles, including this song from the TV series Dating Agency: Cyrano, which ran for 16 episodes in 2013:

Incidentally, Jessica Jung was born in San Francisco, and didn’t actually relocate to South Korea until 2000, when she and younger sister Krystal, then on a family vacation, were offered tryouts by the S. M. conglomerate. Krystal, now 20, is a member of singing group f(x), which was the first K-pop act to appear at SXSW.

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Sudden start

Percy Sledge was working as a hospital orderly in the middle 1960s, and spent his evenings singing in front of a band called the Esquires, but not these Esquires. Three of them — Calvin Lewis, Andrew Wright, and Sledge himself — came up with a doleful tune called “When a Man Loves a Woman,” which they took to local DJ and record producer Quin Ivy. A demo was cut, with Sledge but without either Wright or Lewis, which Muscle Shoals impresario Rick Hall liked enough to send upstream to the bigwigs at Atlantic Records. Reportedly, Jerry Wexler thought the horns were off key, but would be happy to hear a revision, which the guys duly cut — and which ended up in the vault, because somehow the original tape was the one issued as Atlantic 2326 in March of 1966.

So Percy Sledge was off and running, and he continued to chart as late as 1974: “I’ll Be Your Everything” made Top 15 on Billboard’s R&B chart and registered briefly on the pop chart. Still, it was that one song that made him famous, and it never left the scene, even materializing at #2 on the British pop chart — in 1987. Sledge never stopped performing; he cut a gospel album in 2013, and I’d bet he was booked for some concert appearances later this year, which, alas, won’t be happening.

And this is my favorite Percy Sledge number, live a few years ago at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, written by Muscle Shoals stalwarts Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. It’s every bit as good as “When a Man Loves a Woman,” and played so seldom on the radio that it always jumps out at you.

Oh, the spiffy Philadelphia girl group known as Sister Sledge? Real name, but no relation.

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Less bratty

Wait a minute. This can’t be Da Brat, can it?

Da Brat in VIBE, 2011

I mean, Da Brat has always looked more like this:

Da Brat in VIBE, 2011

Then again, the rapper occasionally known as Shawntae Harris sported orange jumpsuits for much of this century. First incident:

In 2001, Harris pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless conduct after she had beaten a woman with a gun during a dispute over VIP seating in an Atlanta nightclub in 2000. The victim in that incident received six stitches for a head wound. Harris ended up serving a year’s probation, performed 80 hours of community service, and paid a $1,000 fine.

Second, and fiercer, incident:

On October 31, 2007, Harris was involved in the altercation that ended in assault at a Halloween party at Studio 72 nightclub in Atlanta. Harris initially argued with a hostess, and when the hostess walked away to talk to her manager, Harris attacked her from behind, striking her in the face with a rum bottle. Harris entered a guilty plea to aggravated assault charges. She was sentenced to three years in prison, seven years of probation, and 200 hours of community service. In May 2010, she was temporarily released from prison as part of a work-release program, after serving 21 months.

Her formal release came in 2011, about the time of the Vibe photo; she later faced a civil trial by the victim of the assault.

“Is It Chu?” came out on 2013; the second part of it occasionally seems to resemble Suzanne Vega’s innocuous “Tom’s Diner.” (You might not want to play this on your work machine.)

Da Brat turns forty-one today.

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Maybe we knew

Lesley Gore’s last album, Ever Since, came out in 2005 on Blake Morgan’s Engine Company label. (I reviewed it here.) He’d known her for some time: when they first met, he was eleven years old. And she had much to teach him:

More than anything, she taught me … or rather she showed me what being a professional musician really looked like. She showed what taking a Red Eye flight back from somewhere felt like. No matter where she was coming from, she’d refer to as the Land of Cleve — as in Cleveland — even if that’s not where she was returning from.

It was being on the road. She showed me what went on there. What happened backstage at a big show as much as what it looked like at a little one. All of it. The routine. The work that went into it. Not just flashy parts, but the sweat and grime, the not-so-pretty parts of the job; the full range of what this life entailed. I love her for that. I love that she did it. The lesson was invaluable.

She had much to teach us all, I suspect.

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Iveta

Czech singer Iveta Bartošová was born on 8 April 1966, and I think we’ll begin with the song (from 1998) this time:

Three times she won the Zlatý slavík — “Golden Nightingale” — music poll, though arguably it was more for her stage presence than for her musical chops:

I would say that to a large extent, Iveta was so successful because she was an extraordinarily beautiful ordinary girl who could sing. It doesn’t mean that she had some serious flaws as a musician; but I would say, she was no genius, either. People like me still loved her songs (which was arguably due to the composers) and the way she performed them (it’s about her).

And she did photograph well, regardless of her age:

Iveta Bartosova in her younger days

Iveta Bartosova circa 2002

About the turn of the century, Bartošová somehow became fair game for the tabloids, which are as annoying in Central Europe as they are here. Coping with them became increasingly difficult for her, though apparently it didn’t affect her performance:

Around 2010, she had a concert at the (main) Republic Square here in Pilsen. I came there and saw an Iveta that was incredibly full of energy and was making fun of the younger boys, dancers etc. on the stage, who were not. Her singing was still OK. What I saw was completely incompatible with the image of a zombie that has been served by the tabloid press virtually on a daily basis (I wasn’t searching for these articles but I was still drowning in them). She was in a much better shape than a typical successful teenage and post-teenage singer who surpasses 40 years of age.

Still she despaired, and in April 2014 she threw herself under a train on the outskirts of Prague. Said her husband: “Blame it on the media hyenas.” Which I shall.

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I really like this, maybe

There’s always a good reason not to watch Saturday Night Live, but hey, it’s Carly Rae Jepsen, with a song that isn’t an earworm, so maybe:

This is actually pretty close to the single, which is now out from the usual vendors (and tucked safely into my iTunes install), and which ends nearly as abruptly.

Jepsen’s cowriter on “All That” is Dev “Blood Orange” Hynes.

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Meanwhile somewhere in Scandinavia

Two guys from Norway — Ulf Langsrud and Dag Hellem — make up the band known as Muteness, which reached out in my general direction yesterday on Twitter, presumably in the hopes of getting a mention. I figured the least I could do was punch up some of their tracks, and ultimately, the one I liked the best was “Inside the Outside,” which is compulsively danceable, especially if you don’t try to listen too hard to the words.

Newly learned from this experience: the iTunes Store in Norway charges 9 kr per track (about $1.05).

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Will trade winds

Doing nothing is one thing; doing nothing ambitiously is something quite different. Here’s a team-up of She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward) and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, almost aggressively nonaggressive:

The video is full of in-jokes, not all of which I got. And it’s only 2:16, barely longer than “I Get Around,” a length at which the Beach Boys once excelled.

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One less guitar

Billed at one point as “The Many Guitars of Jørgen Ingmann,” likely in reference to his fondness for Les Paul-ish overdubbing, the man born Jørgen Ingmann Pedersen in Denmark in 1925 had an enormous US hit in 1961 with Jerry Lordan’s “Apache,” first recorded by Bert Weedon, later turned into a worldwide smash by the Shadows — except here in the States, where Capitol Records’ relationship with then-parent EMI was decidedly rocky, giving rival Atlantic a chance to score with Ingmann’s cover.

In 1963, Ingmann and then-wife Grethe won the Eurovision Song Contest with “Dansevise” (“Dance Ballad”). In the States, his one-hit wonder status continued until his death on the 21st of March.

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Fünfundfünfzig

I probably don’t need to remind you of the Eighties classic “99 Luftballons” by Nena, which at the time was the name of a band headed by Gabriele Susanne Kerner, though she’d been using the nickname “Nena” since her teens. In the States, Epic released a single with the 1983 German version on one side and an English-language version on the other; the English lyrics are not a translation, but an interpretation, of the German original, which may or may not have had something to do with this cover.

After 1987, the band split up, and Nena reclaimed her name. Although she makes no chart noise on this side of the pond, she’s still making hits at home. Here’s a shot from a 2010 concert in Potsdam:

Nena in concert in Potsdam 2010

From her 2009 album Made in Germany, this is the lead single, “Wir sind wahr” (“We are true”):

As you may have figured, she’s 55 today.

(Photo source.)

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The corner of Hampton and Falmouth

Google Maps screenshot of southern BrooklynIn 2003, I found out this rather startling piece of news:

I knew that Michael Brown’s unrequited love was a real person — a real person named Renee, no less — but it never occurred to me that he was also thinking of a real sign that points one way.

It’s at the intersection of Falmouth Street and Hampton Avenue in Brooklyn.

Petite Powerhouse and pop princess Dawn Eden, now far better known as an advocate for Catholicism and chastity, was happy to pass on that bit of information, and I couldn’t possibly have resisted posting it here, inasmuch as Brown’s song for the Left Banke, “Walk Away Renee,” even now pouring into your head, ranks up there with the most indelible musical memories of my adolescent years, possibly even for reasons unrelated to its subject matter. I once called Michael Brown the “spiritual heir to both Johann Sebastian Bach and Brian Wilson,” and I wasn’t kidding.

So anything that happens to this man matters to me, especially his untimely passing:

Brown was sixteen when Renee walked away with his heart, and I’m pretty certain that she could still have laid claim to a piece of it when he was sixty-five. I’ve been there, and by “there” I don’t mean Brooklyn.

Addendum: A proper sendoff from Brown’s hometown paper.

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The once and future hybrid

The Telegraph sent off the late Terry Pratchett — may his soul repose with whatever God may find it — with a list of fifty first-class quotes, several of which I hadn’t heard before. This is the one that struck me hardest, though: “Personally, I think the best motto for an educational establishment is: ‘Or Would You Rather Be a Mule?'”

We turn now to an anonymous Wikipedian:

Songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen was at [Bing] Crosby’s house one evening for dinner, and to discuss a song for the movie Going My Way. During the meal one of the children began complaining about how he didn’t want to go to school the next day. The singer turned to his son and said to him, “If you don’t go to school, you might grow up to be a mule. Do you wanna do that?”

Van Heusen thought this clever rebuke would make a good song for the movie.

For “good,” read “Best Original Song” at the next Academy Awards. Bing cut it as a single, of course, and it was a hit. But “Swinging on a Star” has shown up several times since, perhaps most amusingly in a 1963 waxing by Big Dee Irwin, aided and abetted by Little Eva.

And if you don’t like that one, try the Hudson Hawk version:

Truth be told, though, if I burst into this particular song, I’m usually going into the adaptation used in the opening of Out of This World, a late-1980s TV series considered by some to be the Worst Sitcom Ever. I, of course, watched it religiously. Then again, critics reviled Hudson Hawk.

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Further illumination

The artist formerly known as Valerie Anne Poxleitner — she’s been simply “Lights” since she turned eighteen, about a decade ago — has been creeping into my playlists since I stumbled across “Second Go” a few years back.

Lights in a magazine photoshoot

Her 2014 album Little Machines won the Juno for Pop Album of the Year. This was the lead single:

And this is what she wore to pick up that Juno:

Lights at the 2015 Juno Awards

While “Up We Go” didn’t chart in the States, Little Machines did make it to #34 in Billboard, the best showing to date of any of her three albums.

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Genial in France

Even if you think, as I do, that Paris’ reputation as the City of Romance is horribly overstated — I might vote for Venice, but then I might vote for Duluth, because [reasons] — you might like this little number by a singer who’s currently putting together an EP:

I’m keeping an eye, and an ear, open for what she does next.

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Fresh from Lake Minnetonka

“That ain’t Lake Minnetonka,” said Prince, and didn’t take off on his motorcycle without the dripping-wet Apollonia Kotero, second-billed in Prince’s film Purple Rain back in 1984. She had, shall we say, a certain visual appeal:

Apollonia in the 1980s

And she could sing, kinda sorta. The ad hoc group Apollonia 6 performed a song called “Sex Shooter” in the film; a separate music video was issued to promote both the film and the one and only Apollonia 6 LP.

Apollonia 6, the album, might be more famous for the songs that were left off than for the seven that were included. (“Sex Shooter,” released as a single on Warner Bros. 29182, managed to clamber to #85 in Billboard.) All left on the cutting-room floor: “Manic Monday,” later a Bangles hit; “The Glamorous Life,” subsequently a hit for Sheila E.; and “17 Days,” cut by Prince himself and stuck on the B-side of the “When Doves Cry” single.

After leaving Prince behind, Apollonia appeared in the TV series Falcon Crest, cut a solo album, and set up a production company. She’s 55 now. And apart from a touch of the usual middle-age spread, she doesn’t seem to have changed much:

Oh, and she was nominated for a Razzie for Worst New Star, but lost to Olivia d’Abo.

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They can’t go for that

No can do, say the plaintiffs:

Hall and Oates are suing a Brooklyn-based cereal firm, claiming its granola Haulin’ Oats infringes their trademark.

The case accuses Early Bird Foods & Co of breaking the law with its “phonetic play on Daryl Hall and John Oates’ well-known brand name”.

Lawyers for the singers filed the case in Brooklyn federal court.

The duo claim the company is attempting “to trade off of the fame and notoriety associated with the artist’s and plaintiff’s well-known marks”.

This would seem to be at least slightly inconsistent with the duo’s thinking. Said John Oates a few years back:

There isn’t one album that says Hall and Oates. It’s always Daryl Hall and John Oates. From the very beginning. People never note that. The idea of “Hall and Oates,” this two-headed monster, this thing, is not anything we’ve ever wanted or liked.

Yet it’s something they’re willing to protect. I’m thinking maybe I’m just out of touch.

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No longer just a maybe

Eventually, the record industry is going to shift from dropping new titles on Tuesday to shoveling them out on Friday. (Guess who’s already done that?)

I was hanging around the iTunes Store trying to snag Charlie Puth’s song “Marvin Gaye” (which you just might have seen here), when the usual Applehype™ called my attention to a new track, only just released by, um, Carly Rae Jepsen.

Yes, the “Call Me Maybe” singer. And if you thought that was an earworm, get a whiff of this:

Already purchased. I have no shame.

Update: Actual video replaces the placeholder.

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As slowly the doctor wakes

Someone had to try it, of course:

Call me in the morning.

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Obligatory Cat pictures

“What’s a Website,” asks Francis W. Porretto, “without a few cat pictures?” As it happens, while I was reading that passage, Cat Power came up on the shuffle, and, well, I can read an omen as well as the next guy.

“Cat Power” started out as the name of Chan Mitchell’s band; when she and the band went their separate ways, she kept the name for subsequent projects. She’s been recording now for over two decades; her most recent album, Sun, came out in 2012.

Chan Mitchell not standing

Cat Power on stage

At her best, Mitchell redefines “languorous,” and there’s no more languid version of a Rolling Stones classic than this, from Cat Power’s The Covers Record of 2000:

Yet somehow she’s not lethargic. Go figure.

I mention in passing that she used to date Giovanni Ribisi, but when they broke up, she cut off most of her hair.

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Making it mo’ better

The big viral video this week has been a performance by the Louisville Leopard Percussionists of two classic Led Zeppelin songs, “Kashmir” and “Immigrant Song,” which actually drew the attention of Jimmy Page. I, of course, was curious as to what else these kids have done, and found the beginning class (second and third grade) working out on Branford Marsalis’ title theme from Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues:

This clip is identified as a rehearsal, but I have no doubt that the finished product was superb.

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You’re never supposed to hear this

“Tom’s Diner,” the a cappella song by Suzanne Vega, was used for testing the original MP3 encoding system. Says Dr. Karlheinz Brandenburg, whose idea it was:

I was ready to fine-tune my compression algorithm … somewhere down the corridor, a radio was playing “Tom’s Diner.” I was electrified. I knew it would be nearly impossible to compress this warm a cappella voice.

Brandenburg persisted. But in 2009, he reported:

I was finishing my PhD thesis, and then I was reading some hi-fi magazine and found that they had used this song to test loudspeakers. I said “OK, let’s test what this song does to my sound system, to mp3″. And the result was, at bit rates where everything else sounded quite nice, Suzanne Vega’s voice sounded horrible.

Now MP3 is a lossy compression scheme: to obtain the file-size shrinkage desired, the algorithm throws away some of the original sound, parts you presumably would not hear anyway.

So what happens if you invert the circuit, throw away the sections you’d ordinarily keep and retain the parts that would normally be thrown away? This happens. It’s fascinating — and it will make you wonder just how much you’re giving up by buying the download instead of the CD (or, heaven help us, the vinyl).

(Via Jesse Emspak.)

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An AM act?

Meet Chantal Claret, lead singer of the band Morningwood:

Chantal Claret on stage

For contrast, an offstage picture:

Chantal Claret offstage

Morningwood (seriously) released two albums. “Nth Degree” is one of the few songs I can recall in which the name of the band is repeatedly spelled out, in case you didn’t know who they were. The video, however, is wretchedly clever: I actually spent $2 to get a permanent-ish copy.

After the second album, the band split up, though they reunited briefly in 2012 for a tour with Mindless Self Indulgence. (As it happens, Chantal had married MSI’s frontman Jimmy Urine in 2008.) Her debut solo recording, “Pop Pop Bang Bang,” also appeared in 2012. Today she turns 33.

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We never owned her

What a life Lesley Gore had: a #1 hit while she was still in secondary school, production by the peerless Quincy Jones, a guest slot on the Batman TV series, an actual album for Motown, and finally true love.

“It’s My Party” was the big hit, but this was her anthem:

The fact that the song was written by a couple of guys — John Madara and David White, also composers of such tumultuous tunes as “442 Glenwood Avenue” by the Pixies Three — didn’t matter in the least; nor did the blatant patriarchy-ness of Lesley’s followup, “That’s the Way Boys Are,” by two different guys (Mark Barkan and Ben Raleigh).

Lesley’s official coming-out was about ten years ago, but before that there was Grace of My Heart, a grievously undernoticed Brill Building saga from 1996, written and directed by Allison Anders, to which Gore contributed a lyric. “My Secret Love,” sung by Miss Lily Banquette, then of Combustible Edison, is as blatant as anything in the k. d. lang songbook, and it even sounds like Gore.

I reviewed “Ever Since,” her most recent album, in 2005. I never imagined it would be her last.

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You gotta have Heart

Actress Heart Evangelista stands five foot two. I mention this because she played a dwarf on a Filipino TV series titled Dwarfina back in 2011. A promotional photo from the show:

Heart Evangelista as Dwarfina, 2011

We concede that Heart, born Love Marie Payawal Ongpauco on this very date thirty years ago, is Not Particularly Tall.

Not that this matters, really:

Heart Evangelista's 2013 Esquire cover

Back in ought-three, she cut an album called, natch, Heart. This is a track therefrom:

Very Eighties-looking video for some reason.

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What’s going on here?

Well, I’ll be doggone. If any singer deserves to be a verb, it’s Marvin Gaye, right?

How sweet it is. And it ain’t that peculiar at all, really.

(Via PopCrush.)

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Too old to rock and roll

If ever I had a reason to reject that particular description — and I’m pretty sure I did — it’s stronger, not to mention louder, now.

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Not a happy song

Apparently there exists a band called NǽnøĉÿbbŒrğ VbëřřĦōlökäävsŦ, a name I’m not about to convert to proper HTML entities, so this may look even funnier in your browser.

Discogs says about them:

Also known by the more optically-appealing and readable name of “Nanocyborg Uberholocaust”, NǽnøĉÿbbŒrğ VbëřřĦōlökäävsŦ claim to be an “ambient cosmic extreme funeral drone doom metal band” consisting of one Canadian and one British individual known as Wavanova and Dark Dude.

Legend has it that these two scientists met in 2006 at an Antarctic research station on Ross Island “while studying carnivorous Antarctic predators” where they “soon realized that they had very similar musical tastes and were both experienced bass players” and recorded “the sounds of the universe between its phases of life.”

Their 2014 album, Goodbye, Sol: A Voyage To The End Of Spacetime And Back, was released digitally only, perhaps because it runs 7:37. That’s seven hours and thirty-seven minutes. One track, “God Is A Systems Architect And The Multiverse Is An Infinitely Recursive Architectural Simulator,” is listed at 7:27:11; after looking at the other 32 tracks, I suspect this track is exactly as long as the similarly experimental “There’s a Riot Goin’ On” by Sly Stone, listed as 0:00. I don’t think I can possibly audition the whole seven-hour intravaganza at once, though I’m sure it’s up on YouTube; I did give a listen to “(The Sculptor),” from the 2009 EP (Supervoids) (parentheses as specified by the band), and it’s genuinely creepy in an inchoate sort of way.

(Provoked by this list of band names at Louder Than War.)

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I won’t back up

When word came down that Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” was sufficiently similar to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” to warrant cutting in Petty (and cowriter Jeff Lynne) on the songwriter royalties, I shrugged; it’s not like we’ve never heard this sort of thing before.

Just to aggravate the matter, consider the Nick Lowe composition “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock & Roll”), first recorded in 1977 by Dave Edmunds for his Get It album. Lowe put out his own version on The Rose of England in 1985; this video comes from Yep Roc, which issued a best-of compilation for Lowe a few years back.

Half Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” half Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” right?

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Could’ve been anticipated

You remember Tiffany, the singer, right?

This is a perfectly serviceable cover of the Tommy James hit, if maybe a tick or two behind the 2007 version by the Birthday Massacre. I bring this up because I wandered onto Tiff’s Facebook page, Tiffany (The Singer). (Extra amusement value: I got the link from Debbie Gibson.)

And I bring that up because if you start looking for Wikipedia hints and you type “Tiffany (singer)” thinking that well, it’s Tiffany (The Singer), you may well end up here:

Stephanie Young Hwang (born August 1, 1989), better known by the stage name Tiffany or by her Korean name Hwang Mi-young, is an American singer-songwriter and actress. She is a member of both the South Korean girl group, Girls’ Generation and its subgroup, TTS.

Of course, I went looking for some of her stuff, and found this solo track:

Our Tiffany, if I may be presumptuous for a moment, could sing that.

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The injured party

Paranoia has been the underpinning of many pop songs, though curiously not Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” an almost-coherent Ozzy lament about being misunderstood. Del Shannon was as good as anyone at this sort of thing: “Stranger in Town” (1965) is his masterpiece of mindfark.

This subgenre, if subgenre it be, reached some sort of azimuth in the early Eighties, following the breakup of ABBA:

Going through her divorce from [Benny] Andersson, Frida had heard Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight,” and then “listened to the album (Face Value) non-stop for eight months.” As Collins himself put it in a TV interview: “Frida and I had something in common as far as our divorces were concerned. We were both the injured party.”

Which led to this epic:

Collins produced, played drums, and sang some background vocals, but you can hear the quaver in every bar of Frida’s anguished, overprocessed vocals. (The LP track, which stretches out the fade for an extra minute and a half, still provides you no time to decompress.) How Russ Ballard (ex-Argent) came to write something like this, I’ll never know; I do know that Agnetha Fältskog, the other A in ABBA — Frida’s full given name was Anni-Frid — tapped Ballard for “Can’t Shake Loose” a year later, and it’s similarly drenched in suspicion.

And if you flipped the single of “I Know There’s Something Going On,” you found this:

Dorothy Parker, who died in 1967, would never have gotten to hear it, but I’m inclined to think she’d have liked it — after asking what the fresh hell Frida and composer Per Gessle were thinking.

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