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Saturday, August 16, 2014

SpinTunes #9 Round 3 Reviews: Scott Mercer

Right after this challenge was announced, in a Facebook post, I said that there was a certain circumstance in which I would be definitely awarding the contestants extra points for being unusually creative and thinking outside the box, while remaining within the parameters of the challenge.  What I had in mind was someone using as their inspiration some kind of non-fiction book, or even better, some kind of reference book like The Yellow Pages (“lots of interesting characters, but the plot went nowhere” - sorry, really old joke) or the instruction manual for assembling the Ikea Fnorpf Cradenza (“It just fell apart at the end there.”).  

Happily for me, someone (and only one person!) did do just that, and that is the winner of this round.  Please note though that the song would have won anyway, even without the “bonus points” for creative thinking.  That extra push over the top just made sure that this was the winner of Round 3 with nobody else even coming close.

1. Mc Ohm I - “Merriam Webster’s DIctionary and Thesaurus”

I am definitely a large fan of excessive vocabulary rapping, so this was right in my wheelhouse.

The absolutely stunning pop chorus, worthy of nearly any 1980’s Top 40 hit (which put me in the mind of something from the UK...nothing in particular mind you) really had me singing along and would not leave my skull for quite a while.  

I also have to give props to MC Ohm-I for taking the Ray Parker Jr. “Ghostbusters” route and not attempting to rhyme “thesaurus” with anything.  Okay, he did do that in one of the verses, but points for using “Ford Taurus” instead of lyrics about dinosaurs.  Also points for probably being the first person ever to rap the word “zyzzogeton.”  And even further points for specifying the Merriam Webster product (the gold standard) instead of a generic “Webster’s Dictionary.”

I don’t think it’s remotely useful to judge how good or bad this would serve any potential movie to be made, since a movie would never get made from a dictionary.   But that absurdity just makes me love it all the more.  If that makes me perverse, then so be it.

Now that we have the obvious champion out of the way, I have to say that deciding which three to give the boot out of the remaining six was a very difficult task indeed.

2. Turbo Shandy - Ready Player One

Catchy, tuneful and happy.  As I was not familiar with the book I had to approach this based on the song only.  But I definitely could see this on a big budget Hollywood soundtrack.  Love the doubletime bit at the end.  That’s always a clutch move.  It’s got that big shiny pop sound, with the computerish keyboard figure in there relating to the story of the book.  Well done!

3. Brian Gray - Maus

I must admit that this and The Tell Tale Heart were the only books taken on here that I have actually read (well, I have read Merriam Webster’s too, but I never finished it.)  It’s a really intense story about the Holocaust in allegorical form, as a graphic novel with anthropomorphic talking animals.  When phrased that way, it sounds kind of cheap.  But Maus won a lot of awards and is probably the most acclaimed graphic novel of all time, along with maybe Watchmen.  Points here Brian for stepping up and tackling a really serious work with an intensely dramatic story arc.  I think you’ve done a very respectable job with this.  It doesn’t get too sentimental while remaining emotional and courageous.  The music and arrangement give a very regal, strong feel.  Kudos on this.

4.  Zoe Gray - The Tell Tale Heart

In the end I had to give this a pass forward because it simply captures the mood of the original story so well.  Contemporary, but at the same time antique, which is what would be called for with a blockbuster Poe adaptation in 2014.   In this case, I did enjoy the contrast of the glockenspiel and the modern electric guitar.  And this would be quite appealing to the target market, in my opinion.

5. James Young - The Shadow of The Wind

This was a tough one.  I was going back and forth on this one and The Tell Tale Heart for quite a while.  I like the mood.  From what I’ve read about the book, it sounds interesting, a book about a book, stories within stories.  Those are always fun.   A drama with mythological and fantasy elements, and this song is certainly appropriate for that kind of story. It seems like something you would hear as the closing credits roll by.  But I didn’t find the melody too memorable or distinctive.  I had to cut something, so this got cut.

6. Governing Dynamics - Blackbirds

Again, I really did like the mood here and it’s a great tough arrangement.  It’s got that disaffected rock musician vibe totally down.  And I liked the cold ending.  Not enough people use cold endings.  Very dramatic.  It really was a close call, but this didn’t make the cut.  

7. Steven Wesley Guiles - Eyes of the Dragon

Sorry, this had to go.  I found the chord progression rather monotonous and there was not enough variety or dynamics.   Also, I was not familiar with the book.  I know that I”m supposed to be judging the song, and not the book that it was based on, but I feel that the choice of book IS a part (but only a part) of the creative decisions made by the contestants. This may not be fair, but I feel like choosing a popular book might have helped.  What?  It was a Stephen King book?  Never heard of it.  Doesn’t he write a book a month?  Some of them have got to fall through the cracks.  (I guess it didn’t sell too well since it was outside his usual genre.)


Dr. Lindyke - The God of All Small Boys

Well, color me dumb.  But I have no idea what book this is based on.  However, this is very pretty.  LIke a lot of these there seems to be aspirations to get to a sort of timeless, ageless quality which good literature sometimes gets to.   And that’s what usually gets made into movies.  Well, that, or adaptations of comic books or video games.   There’s an evocative, yearning quality here.  The arrangement is uncluttered and simple.  Sometimes there is elegance in simplicity.  I certainly would have passed this forward if it wasn’t a Shadow.

Jailhouse Payback - 7 Habits

Here’s another song based on a non-fiction book, but this is a Shadow, so isn’t eligible to go forward.  I wasn’t aware that The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was LDS related.  The lyrics are a little rambling, but I think the singing and the vocal arrangement are really good.  I like it but don’t love it.  It’s somewhat catchy, but didn’t stay with me for too long.  It’s like a Lay’s Chicken and Waffle Potato Chip.  First salty, then sweet, then meaty, but ultimately leaves you wanting more.

Megalodon - Ready Player One

I thought this might happen: two contestants choose the same book.  Fortunately, this entry is a shadow, so I will not compare it to Turbo Shandy but take it on its own merits.  This strikes me as sloppy.  There’s dropped beats and the arrangement is pretty much thrown together.  It’s like it wants to be heavy metal but can’t be heavy enough.  I guess it’s like Aluminum Foil Rock.


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