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Judges have until the timer runs out to turn in their reviews:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

SpinTunes #9 Round 3 Reviews: Ted Kiper

By the third round, I figure judging is going to be more intense. Who can keep up a streak of making good stuff? And how can I filter out the good from the best? These are times where I might be more inclined to be hyper-critical. Forgive me if I offend.
 
Here is the challenge as a reminder:
 
SCORE! - Finally! Your favorite book is being made into a decent movie! The producers need a title song to promote the film and hopefully win an Academy Award. You're hired. The song must have the same title as the book. (2 minute minimum length) (your submission is due Sunday, August 10th 11:59PM)
 
This is pretty general, isn’t it? You pick the book, the genre, the theme, and countless other factors. However, what I’ll focus is your song aims to win an Oscar. And I find that Best Song winners are stirring, uplifting, and epic.
 
I predict that some competitors might find my focus for the challenge rather narrow for the judging of the entries. I apologize, but it made ranking a bit easier. And I’m counting on the other judges to make their own interpretations of the challenge for what to find in your song.
 
Some people might have made it easy, picking books that could turn into interesting movies. But others chose books I wouldn’t imagine becoming a movie. Should you be judged as a producer who chooses the book, as well as the composer of the title song? Hopefully, your picks were wise enough to consider your musical strengths.
 
My Reviews
 
 
Brian Gray – Maus
Score: 44
Ranked: 1
 
Challenge: 11
            I think I remember this book when I was in elementary school. (Not sure how I heard about it, but the cover looks familiar.) Although the background is rather dark, there is a huge potential for an Academy Award from an idea such as this. And why not? A lot of movies that seem to feature the Holocaust have some place for cinematic awards.
Lyrics: 6
            The verses are rather dark, but the choruses are perfect for the challenge. And it keeps for the simplicity and accessibility expected from a graphic novel.
Composition: 7
            Gotta love those minor chords you throw in to twist the sweetness into something sinister. My only suggestion is that the music of the verses seem virtually identical, so why not add another instrument to pronounce the situation?
Songwriting Craft: 6
            The blow-up of [?synth pads] to transition the verse to chorus always get me. Perfectly nightmarish. In a good way. This works wonderfully for the challenge, because it is heart-wrenching.
Arrangement: 3
            Some instruments and their placement work really well, like the bell chiming in the verses. But some instruments (synth brass?) sound a bit strange. Adorable, but odd.
Performance: 2
            I think some singing on the chorus were a little off-key, and strangely it depends on which platform I choose to hear this song (headphones, car, speakers, etc.)
Recording: 2
            When the chorus blasts in, I can’t tell if the instrumental attack is too long, if the compression is pushing the volume down too much, or if there is clipping.
Judge’s Whim: 7
            Thank you for not doing “C++ for Dummies”. This entry makes much more sense to grab the Award. My top pick for the round. Excellent job.
 
Zoe Gray – The Tell-Tale Heart
Score: 43
Ranked: 2
 
Challenge: 9
            Edgar Allen Poe has some cool pieces that I would love to read. Wikipedia claims that there are many film adaptations, but the reason I couldn’t rate this higher for the Challenge section is mostly because it’s too specific to inspire me.
Lyrics: 6
            Something I would expect Poe to approve, and that should be a compliment. Funny how even letters in words give such emotion: “Oblivion”, “convince”, “unveil”, “convictions”—something evil; “seems”, “sound”, “screams”, “slowly”—something soft. And the repetition of the “can you hear it”? It all feels subconsciously natural.
Composition: 8
            Ah! Creativity! In it’s full abundance! I’m not sure if you’re familiar of hallucinations (I hope not), but usually they are rather subtle. There is something about the music that is hiding something, especially the instrumental bridge, that could harbor something sinister. Excellent job.
Songwriting Craft: 5
            I like the change of the tempos, I really do! But this would’ve been more successful if there were more transitioning. An addition of a textural instrument simply to prepare the listener for the next phase might be well appreciated. (But there are some shifts, like the one to a capella, that are placed perfectly.)
Arrangement: 2
            I’m not sure how having such a strong and specific rhythm help support for a horrific experience, but the rhythm is too gratuitous not to enjoy.
Performance: 3
            Once again, such a pretty voice feels strangely misplaced in your rigid rhythm. I sense too much innocence, but I believe you are trying more for the feelings of guilt. You’re delivery in the a capella is on point.
Recording: 3
            Pretty standard. Kind of wished for a better quality or higher reverb. But I’ve been known to be a reverb addict.
Judge’s Whim: 7
            This is what I was looking for. Even though there were some sounds to iron out, this song is my favorite from you. This risk was well worth it. It is already difficult for horror movies to promote their “hit song” as a contender for the Oscars. But I believe your creation is the closest I can expect.
 
TurboShandy – Ready Player One
Score: 42
Ranked: 3
 
Challenge: 8
            I researched through Wikipedia, and fortunately the book sounds really interesting. I enjoy understanding all the consequences of virtual reality. If this were a movie, I’d imagine this would be marketed as “Action-Adventure”. This particular song, compared from Megalodon’s, aims for “Action”.
Lyrics: 6
            Yes, I sense a feel of inspiration that would get an attention for an Academy. Really, my only issue is minor: I thought you said “virtual” a little too much. Besides “headset”, perhaps your tech-vocab could have expanded. But general words can be more relatable, and I think this works.
Composition: 5
            Standard, straight-foward chords are pleasant and all, but it’s the dynamics and shift of instruments that make the music sparkle. Good execution and tight design.
Songwriting Craft: 7
            Your delivery of your words in many of your songs are usually by-the-beat, but this song is different. And I’m very thankful. It exhibits a creativity I haven’t seen since “Miss Leon”. There is still control, no sloppiness, no excess. It’s a skill I wish I had.
Arrangement: 4
            There is an electronic bleeping-instrument that grabs me. And I’m so very happy it lasts in the fade-out. It’s a simple add-on, but it makes a difference that brings this song to stand out to me.
Performance: 3
             Actually, it’s the ending instrumental that I find most real and therefore more delicious. And wasn’t that the point of the book? That reality is better?
Recording: 3
            Nothing wrong here. I kind of wished I heard vocals a little louder, especially the call-backs and harmonies.
Judge’s Whim: 6
            This is not a bad song, but it harbors a little more for a pop song than an Academy Award entry. Be happy that it’s such a good pop song that it makes me want to believe it could win.
 
James Young – The Shadow Of The Wind
Score: 42
Ranked: 4
 
Challenge: 9
            A story within a story is what Wikipedia explains. Your song was well crafted to fit the seemingly mature themes.
Lyrics: 5
            I’m thankful that the lyrics were more straight-forward, relatable, and even a little uplifting. But a good amount of the singing was the lyrics “the shadow of the wind”. And that isn’t bad, to be honest, except I kind of wanted to know more story of your promotion.
Composition: 6
            Cushy chords make for some good easy-listening. It blends well with what the title suggests. It’s sort of like saying the best choice font for a select choice of words.
Songwriting Craft: 6
            Not sure how the gratuitous guitar solo was all that necessary, other than adding a creative risk on the side of this smooth main course.
Arrangement: 4
            Excellent choice of instruments to make this song work.
Performance: 4
            That guitar performance was awfully sweet--the awesome kind of sweet.
Recording: 3
            I figure you like your vocal effect, it displays consistently on your entries (chorus with a slap-back echo?). But perhaps a more epic sound would be more beneficial for winning this Oscar, with a addition of either more reverb and just straightforward singing.
Judge’s Whim: 5
            I can’t find anything wrong with this song. But I don’t believe you’ve made many more creative risks than what you’ve offered the last round. I guess if the formula is good, why bother fixing it, right?
 
MC Ohm-I – Merriam Webster Dictionary And Thesaraus
Score: 40
Ranked: 5
 
Challenge: 6
            Interesting book choice. But have you considered why it should be a movie? Of course, you’re not the producer, you’re just the composer, and you have to do whatever the moneymakers ask you to do. But for the sake of our challenge, I think you missed something.
Lyrics: 7
            Lyrics have always been strength for you. I think any listener could agree. So your book is a perfect choice to exploit. Sure enough, you somehow use some awkward vocabulary to pull some heavy punches. Speaking of dictionary, I wouldn’t describe this song as uplifting, but it’s certainly not disappointing. Perhaps the word I’m looking for isenlightening.
Composition: 5
            For a dictionary/thesaurus, the music seems to make it rather colorful. Which kind of contradicts what I thought was the classic view for these books: black-and-white and boring. But at least it has the seemingly-repetitive beat well reflected.
Songwriting Craft: 6
             Everything fits well, or as well as they could be. The “Merriam-Webster” repetition might have been a bit too much of a time-filler, as I’m not sure what good it was. 
Arrangement: 4
            The click-clack feel and sounds has a strangely fitting parallel to the idea.
Performance: 3
            As usual from you, the delivery is rather impressive. The abnormal words make it quite a feat.
Recording: 4
            Crispy clean. Nothing wrong here.
Judge’s Whim: 5
            If this book was unfortunately made into a movie, your song might be the most interesting add-on. It can be catchy, but there is oddly too much weight in the words to inspire me. Big words still slightly scare me.
 
Governing Dynamics – Blackbirds
Score: 36
Ranked: 6
 
Challenge: 7
            I had a difficult time looking for the info for this song, and searching through Wikipedia was unsuccessful. A song bio would have been very beneficial. Regardless, despite my poor reading comprehension, I did my best to understand the story from your lyrics. (EDIT: I read your song bio via Facebook. Thanks for putting in the enormous effort in clarification.)
Lyrics: 5
            There is epicness of some degree trying to express itself. But I can’t see how it would inspire for an Academy Award. Where I would think Best Songs try to confidently uplift the listeners, this seems to be hopelessly lost in its insanity.
Composition: 5
            The textures provide good depth for the song, but I feel some shallowness on a busy chorus. I suppose that helps enforce some namesake dynamics. I especially enjoy the second verse’s mellowness. And the intro guitar atmos, a nice dressing to this rock song.
Songwriting Craft: 5
            On one hand, I enjoy the slight fluctuations of styles through the song. On the other, I think the words get dragged with the music in their delivery. If you were hoping for the feel of anxiety, then this hits the mark.
Arrangement: 3
            There is a good deal going about in this piece, but nothing too complicated or overwhelming, even if it wanted to.
Performance: 3
            Impressive singing, with the vulnerable cry of “you”. Guitar work is rocking.
Recording: 3
            Pretty standard. It feels a bit claustrophobic in the chaos of the song, and that’s pretty smart.
Judge’s Whim: 5
            Compared to your last entry, I was going to say this aimed for a safer road for passing into the next round. But I hear a good amount of details that can’t be ignored, like the guitar improve and different subtle blend of textures. But will this safety overcome the creative risks that some of the other competitors offered? Let’s hope the other judges believe so.
 
Steven Wesley Guiles – Eyes Of The Dragon
Score: 35
Ranked: 7
 
Challenge: 8
            After reading Wikipedia’s info, this seems like a book I’d be interested to read. Stephan King doing fantasy? Awesome! (At first, I thought this was referencing Hannibal the cannibal, but maybe I was thinking of “Red Dragon”.)
Lyrics: 5
            “Bullets won’t slow me”—for a fantasy novel? Or could this be an attempt to make the song more relatable, beyond the scope of the supposed movie? But I do appreciate the inspiring, I-know-better-now attitude. It stresses to fight for justice.
Composition: 4
            Rather simplistic. Makes for a standard pop rock song, with possibly the most interesting part is the transition from verse to chorus.
Songwriting Craft: 6
            This song was constructed rather nicely. So nicely, in fact, I can’t find much wrong with it. Although I don’t find much risk taken in creativity, I think it was all executed well.
Arrangement: 2
            The noisy guitars provide some cushiness for your voice. But perhaps you could’ve added more tricks than your distorted-guitar/bass/drum set.
Performance: 3
            A performance, indeed. The way you sing could act all by itself. Well done.
Recording: 2
            Sounds pretty raw, which I’d like to believe was done on purpose. Good choice for the song, but for the Academy?
Judge’s Whim: 5
            Honestly, I get the feel of the song. It feels right. I might be able to imagine a D&D kind of person who likes this blend of music. But for a book that I read involved magic, I feel there could have been opportunities to add some.

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