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Friday, February 15, 2013

Spintunes #6 Round 2 Review: Paul Potts

This was no doubt a very frustrating challenge. In fact, this one made me quite glad that I was judging, and not participating. It wouldn't be fair to say that all music geeks are all anti-sports or have no interest in sports, but a lot of us are. But the same reasons that a challenge is frustrating also serves to make it valuable -- you should be able to get out of your comfort zone and do it anyway.

There were disqualifications, and the judges had to hash this out. First -- Minecraft? We just couldn't see our way clear, by any stretch of the rules, to consider it a sport. The challenge was to "write a fight song for your favorite sports team." As far as I understand it, Minecraft doesn't even have an in-game team play mode the way World of Warcraft does, although people might sort of create their own team by communicating outside the game. I'm not sure if we might have been convinced to accept a song about a Warcraft guild, but I think a stronger case could be made there. In any case -- Minecraft -- not a sport even by a pretty loose definition. Sorry, guys.

A song that we could not manage to interpret as "fight songs" in lyric or style was disqualified. That would be Army Defense. Sorry, guys.

The judges debated whether to consider chess a sport for the purpose of the challenge. I wound up supporting the idea that it is a sport, but I was not really happy about it. If the challenge had said "team sport" instead of "sports team" I would have voted against chess. Chess is not a team sport per se -- it's not played by a whole team at once. This makes it sort of like wrestling. And yes, I've heard about chess in the Olympics.

Anyway, here we go.

1. Steve Durand - Put Your Mettle To The Pedals: Steve, your lyrics are hilarious, your political relevance impeccable. The song is RIPPED FROM TODAY'S HEADLINES! The instrumentation is perfect. This is a team sport, and a nerdy one at that. I might have even been a fan of it once; my road bike is a LeMond. The song feels genuinely enthusiastic even with just the right dose of cynical snark, which is fully appropriate given the circumstances. Nice work!

2. Kevin Savino-Riker - The 12th Man: is this some kind of joke? Wait... no, it's not? What? He's... serious? Not ironic at all? I don't even know how to judge this... what... how... ummm... well, very nicely done! Congrats on actually meeting the challenge head-on, no squirming or ironic evasion! This was one of the most convincing, as far as evoking a real fight song, although your voice sounds just a little stuffed-up and the performance is maybe a little restrained.

3. MC Ohm - Let's Go Mets: a rap fight song. Interesting choice. I'd say that it would be hard to actually get the fans to perform this at a game, except they kept it nice and simple and rhythmic, with a sung chorus. So it seems like it could work in real life. Instrumentation is fantastic.

4. Ross Durand - Bigger In Texas: very Texas-sounding. I can really hear this being led as a chant in the stands -- I'm imagining the on-field band would stop and get the fans to sing the chorus over and over.

5. Edric Haleen - A Father's Fight Song: Damn you, Edric. Damn you, you evil, cruel, mean, magnificent, beautiful man! I hate you! I love this! You nailed the challenge, while also taking it and turning it into something more. As I often feel about your songs, I hardly know where to rank this, because it's like you're playing on a different playing field. I didn't rank it as the best fight song per se, because it kind of... over-delivers? But it's wonderful. And I've got something in my eye...

6. TurboShandy - Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch: hilarious and
impossible to sing. Nice simple instrumentation. I'm imagining this is one of the few team names that might actually get _easier_ to chant the more you drink?

7. The Middle Relievers - Here's To Joe: nice atmosphere, strong lyrics, really sounds like a bunch of half-drunk guys in a pub. So, very convincing. Not a lot more to it than that, and there doesn't really need to be more; challenge nailed.

8. Jerry Skids - Psyche 'Em Out! (The Beers Fight Song): I vaguely remember Baseketball from some movie but it doesn't matter that much, this pretty much sounds like a fight song (although I'm not sure a bunch of drunken fans in the bleachers would be able to hit the high notes and harmonies). Extra credit for being SHORT and ENTHUSIASTIC!

9. Josh Holober-Ward - Let's Go Ravens!: I love the concept -- a fight song by a guy (like me) who knows nothing about football but still insists on cheering for the team he doesn't know a whole lot about. Still sounds mostly like a viable fight song, while the lyrics... mock the very concept of football fandom. "Nobody footballs like you" -- LOL.

10. Dr. Lindyke - Cock Fight: Dear G-d. Why? All right. Very well. Fine. FINE! Instrumentation and melody and _style_ is dead-on, although it failed to really elicit a guffaw, I'm sad to say. If that's what you're into... not that there's anything wrong with that... and a rape joke! I love those! Oh, wait... no I don't. Marked down a bit because if this is the fight song it's definitely an UN-official one that the fans sing at the tailgate party.

11. The Chocolate Chips - Indian Cricket Team Fight Song (Win For India​!​): in comedy, if I'm working "ping-pong," That's when you take the most obvious stereotypes about a culture and reference them as a sort of shorthand. Like, you have a Chinese character, and you make that character say "ping-pong, ching-dong, ahhh sooo." It's a sort of shorthand for comedy and it can be considered distasteful or even racist. This strikes me as being just a _little_ on the ping-pong side. But I love the idea of a Cricket fight song, the instruments are right, and so I choose to imagine this as something I'd come across in a Bollywood movie -- that is, Indians making fun of themselves -- rather than a distasteful American comedy routine making fun of Indians in a possibly-offensive way. I'm not sure if everyone would see it that way, though. And it's not all that fight-song-ish... at least not that American fight-song-ish. So I'm having a little trouble imagining people in the stands actually singing it. Like, are sitars and tabla really usable as marching band instruments?

12. Glen Raphael - Gunn High Chess Team Fight: sounds like a fight song. Sort of. More of a chant. Clever lyrics. Chess fight song -- well, a little unconvincing. Credit for the chorused and harmony singing, but the recording is too quiet, and a total lack of instrumentation does not really serve the song well (not even pieces clicking on the board or some such -- that seems like an opportunity missed).

13. RC - We Will Bury You: the premise is hilarious, but I think if you're going to write a song about a nonexistent sports team for a real institution, it needs some kind of detail so I have an image in my head of what the sport is. This song doesn't say. Is it soccer? Competitive embalming? The gags are funny, but... what's going on? No image to hold in my head = weak storytelling = weak song. Also, the music is really well-done but to me it does not do a good job of evoking the usual instrumentation of a fight song.

14. Brian Gray - Fei Gong: the lyrics are hilarious, and I like the concept and the music, but it gets marked down quite a bit because it's too abstract, same as RC's song. It's a team of some sort, but vague; what sport are they actually playing? It seems like you are imagining a fictional team of some kind for a real historic school of Chinese thought, but it's not clear from what little I read about Mohism that they ever engaged in any kind of sport, even something like archery competitions, so there's not much to imagine going on that we'd be cheering for.

15. "BucketHat" Bobby - YTCWGWCT: a song about curling! Lyrics are excellent, nice performance, short and sweet. However, not all that fight-song-ish. More short-pop-song-ish, and so it sadly gets lowered to below the songs that struck me as something I might really hear at a game.

16. Jenny Katz - Load The Cannon, Light The Fuse: this sounds very good, and I get that it's about the Arsenal Football Club, but I found it a little confusing. It doesn't sound like a fight song to me. The imagery is of a battlefield. I guess it's making an artistic statement about a football (soccer) match as a battle, but with references to cannons and all that I have to say it doesn't seem to me that it meets the challenge very well.

17. Blimp Exhaust - Checkmate!: ummmm. Well, the lyrics are kind of like a fight song, but the music? Not at _all_. And so although I really quite like this as a pop song, it gets marked down lower because it's not very fight-song-ish.


Steven Wesley Guiles - Minecraft Fight Song:
I like the chiptunes music and the vocal performance, but the lyrics themselves undermine the whole idea that this is a sports team fight song.

Army Defense - 72Dolphins: strange distorted/slowed vocals over punk-ish music is interesting, and weirdly dark (I kinda like dark), but this song seems to be about a historic victory and is, in no sense that the other judges and I can work out, a fight song.


Edric Haleen - ICA School Song (Shadow): it's impressive that Edric has an archive of this kind of stuff. It makes me wonder what else is in his archive! Sounds like a real fight song.

The Boffo Yux Dudes - Go, Trenton Wolverines! (Shadow): Oh, I wish this had been a valid entry. The sentiment is... well, kind of mean and cruel actually, by which of course I mean that as a sports-hating person, I FREAKING LOVE IT. Glory days, my butt...


  1. Thanks for the reviews Paul! Much appreciated.

    And, since you ASKED... the answer to "why?" is painstakingly explained in both the short bio on the lyrics page and the more in-depth one at http://music.cratchit.org/2013/02/cock-fight.html

    No, we weren't going for the guffaw, but for the actual school spirit, as you'll see if you click through the link, or if you read the lyrics page we were asked to provide. It's far more "official" than you obviously expect.

    I'll pretend that you marked it down for not liking the "rape joke", and not for it not being an "official" fight song, which is something the judges never asked for and wasn't specified in the challenge. Better yet, I'll just be satisfied with the score as given. ;)

  2. I'm not too happy that you thought my song was making fun of Indians/India in anyway, it wasn't intended. I really like Indian music (and food!) and I just wanted an excuse to use my new Indian music samples.

    I guess I should have done a song bio to make that clear ... I also guess it's somewhat a failure of my song that it could come across as racist.

  3. I would point out that We Will Bury You was written very intentionally non-sport-specific. It is a *school* fight song, and would be non-specific by definition - otherwise, a high school or college would have to have a separate fight song for every sport.

    1. I'm completely with you, RC. I did a ton of research on fight songs for this challenge, and looking at my notes now I see, "Do not identify the sport in the song. Fight songs don't do this." Even among songs that are not for schools but for only one specific team it's uncommon. Looking through the list of official NFL fight songs, fewer than half have any reference at all to "football", "touchdown", or any other word that identifies the sport being played.

  4. "not even pieces clicking on the board or some such -- that seems like an opportunity missed"

    Hmm. Interesting idea. Pieces really don't "click" on the board - there's felt on the bottom to prevent that. So the move itself is pretty close to silent except perhaps when a piece is being taken, and often even then. But what I COULD have tried to work in would be the clicking of chess CLOCKS rather than chess pieces. The old-style mechanical chess clocks we used when I was in high school would switch with a satisfying "thunk" and some players aggressively slam that switch to emphasize the noise. It does have possibilities.

    FWIW, the reason there's no instrumentation is that I had to slap this recording together super-fast (and have it done by Thursday) so I could leave for jococruisecrazy that weekend. Ideally, this song would be arranged for a full marching band, but I didn't have the bandwidth to attempt anything of the sort.

  5. It's an interesting experience being in the position of judge, because as a judge I try my best to be fair and "objective," while at the same time realizing that there really isn't such a thing as an objective response to a piece of music. I've at least tried to be as objective as I can about reporting and recording my subjective response, if that makes sense. I've done this by listening over and over, over the course of several days, and making rough notes to start with, without any rankings, then putting in rankings, and revising the notes and the rankings repeatedly.

    As I read and revise my reviews and rankings I keep thinking "that's too harsh," and the songs go up and down, and I try to review as I'd like to be reviewed, compassionately, but yet they still have to go in a ranking. I've been trying not to make my rangings arrogant or punitive in any way. I've been recalling my own experience of what I liked and didn't like about being judged myself and so trying to make constructive suggestions. My suggestions may not actually be very valuable, or valuable at all; I don't always know how to fix or improve something (even my own work -- if I did my own work would be better).

    I did read all the song bios that were posted, a couple of times actually, but ultimately it came down to how I felt about the song and an explanation didn't necessarily improve my experience of listening to the song, if that makes sense.

    I realize that's maybe not comforting or may not seem like adequate justification in any way for a harsh review or poor ranking.

    So Dave -- yes, I did read your song bio. I think what I was getting at is that I assumed gags like "my cock is smelley" on a t-shirt are not official school merchandise. But... maybe they are? Dear G-d. You know, I'm getting old... raising a bunch of kids kind of makes me think differently about the things I would sing in front of them. And yeah... hinting at a rape joke is kind of a turn off.

    Chocolate Chips, you know, that may just be my bias. I might have a little excess of politically correctness. You could be Indian for all I know, which would give an interesting twist to me claiming that it hints at being patronizing to Indians. In any case, I don't think that idea affected my ranking. What affected my ranking was trying to picture it as a real fight song.

    RC and Brian -- well, OK. I think it's a fair point. I realize that the rules didn't demand that the sport get named. When judging for this round, I marked up the ones that evoked imagery of a real game or match of some kind for me, like I was in the stands watching the marching band, or evoked the experience of being at a pep rally. I had to attend those in high school. My memory of that experience is pretty hazy, because I've blocked out almost everything that happened to me in high school. Maybe some of the songs at the pep rally were just generically about the school and not the sport. I remember "Way to go, Huskies, Way to Go" repeated endlessly... and "Yes, yes, yes we do, we've got spirit, how 'bout you?" But maybe those aren't really fight songs, but just chants they practiced in the pep rally to pull out during the game. Perhaps it's unfair that this is how I ranked them, but that's kind of my personal internal definition of experiencing a fight song. If it's any consolation I thought both your songs were very funny.

    Glen, OK, I get it that the pieces don't really click. I just had this idea in my head that if this song was in a musical or something, they'd do a little rhythmic bit with that. I thought I remembered clicking pieces being part of the finale Chess, the musical. I've seen that live twice and I've got 3 different versions of the soundtrack album, but when I go to listen now I can't find clicking pieces. Hope you had fun on the cruise -- at least more fun than the people who were stuck on that disabled ship!

  6. The jococruise was AMAZING. The shows were all fantastic. My set with Nicole went really well - including some lovely harmony lines she helped me work out the day before - before an audience of ~200 people (some of whom were recording it to post later on youtube). I got to play a Paul & Storm cover with Paul there to hear it - and he liked it. Zoe Keating (who gave a gorgeous cello performance and has over a million twitter followers) liked my performance and is now following ME on twitter. And so on. I'm still kind of giddy about the whole thing. :-)

  7. Glen, congrats! I will watch the videos. It sounds like the sort of thing I would have loved to get involved with, although one of the reasons I hesitated on booking the cruises is that I was afraid it _wouldn't_ be any real opportunity to do something like this. And now... well, I've got a bunch of kids, and yet my paycheck is still the same size... and so this kind of thing is pretty much out of the question for other reasons... still, I do what I can to try to make some progress on my music stuff, when I can...