We've come to the last round, and not a moment too soon! I am currently returning back to college, so my priorities are pleasantly shifting. I would never have thought critiquing would be so exhausting, especially when there has been such great entries from the competitors.
It's a pity I didn't go through with my podcast idea. My wife Erica and I have worked hard all summer. She said that we could do audio recording of our reactions to the songs. Unfortunately, I express my thoughts better in writing than I do in speech. And if you have ever seen my lyrics, you'll know I even do that poorly.
So, the challenge is write a song about the panoramic image posted from Spin. The lengthy photo includes people on beach chairs, boats at a distance in the sea, some structures, electrical lines, lots of sand, and various other typical things. And I think "lengthy" is quite the word: apparently every song seems rather long. (Except for BYD's "Panorama", which
To be utterly fair, it didn't take much to meet the challenge in my eyes (or ears). I've always loved the idea of these Photo Finish rounds because they let the finalists have incredible amount of freedom.
However, I will be judging as to what you have done with your freedom. I've listened to all the previous rounds, so now I can compare the current entries with their predecessors. With that comparison, it's hard not to conclude what feels comfortable for the artist.
I will therefore be judging in favor for risks and creativity. What makes these songs sound more like the posted image than past submissions?
I was hoping to write longer reviews, but I neither had the time nor the computer reliability to go through what I promised. I apologize. With the way my computer has been crashing, I’ll be lucky to send these reviews in one piece…
Brian Gray – All You Can Eat
The idea is rather interesting. When you mention “Buffet”, I had thought it would be a pun to Jimmy Buffett. Silly me. If there were inside references to Jaws, I’m sad to say I’ve never watched the movie. For no reason, I promise, it’s just no friend has referred.
If there was a story, I got lost. But I did enjoy the various one-liners.
Rather listenable. Bridge got serious, and then back to casual fun. Good transitions.
Songwriting Craft: 7
I’m not sure if this was your best, but the creativity took me everywhere. My favorite part is the last part of the bridge. Slightly unsettling and mysterious.
Although everything fits together, it sounds too pleasant for a potentially upsetting situation about shark-feeding.
“Peed right through my skin”? Sounded like you especially enjoyed that.
It sounded a little raw, but whatever. I guess the beach can get a little raw, so interesting reflection.
Judge’s Whim: 6
You have impressed me all throughout the rounds. This isn’t the best I’ve heard from you, but I hope you reign champion based on your cumulative effort.
I’ve enjoyed all your entries, but the one that still warms me is “St. Agnes”. It had very wise directions.
MC Ohm-I – Black People Don’t Swim
Is that the only one black person in the photo?
Your story-telling is quite embarrassingly amusing.
The design is not all too new, as it serves as a rather safe background for the rest of your song.
Songwriting Craft: 7
Your delivery is as smooth as ever, which is nothing different from your previous submissions.
You have an amazing ability to pick the right sounds and instruments for the story. From watery trumpets to wavy synths. Always thoughtful.
Those low notes are low, aren’t they?
I like reverb in your speaking is a little distracting. Overall, nothing wrong here.
Judge’s Whim: 6
The song is unfortunately enlightening and nostalgic. As a Hispanic, swimming comes quite naturally. We kind of need to be, so that we can cross the rivers and gulfs to get our eventual green cards.
Oh goodness, you’ve done all sorts of good stuff. Although this entry was very well likable, I believe “Love Her Again In Hell” was better executed, and the performance couldn’t be more perfect.
James Young – When The Morning Comes
I wouldn’t have any problem with your idea, but it sounds more like the sequel to your last entry than a caption of the photo.
“You forget the things you’ve done \ And what she said”—this matches very well to my idea of a casual, carefree beach.
Overall refreshing, with the instrumental bridge balancing for insistent heavy guitar riff.
Songwriting Craft: 8
In almost every round, you’ve delivered some excellent forms of songs. Quite smooth.
The heavier guitar work is a bit out of place for a soft, casual beach.
I’m very impressed how you handle those low-notes for singing.
The soundscape is expansive as the photo or even the ocean.
Judge’s Whim: 5
Although there are some subtle differences with this song and your past submissions, I didn’t feel there was enough creative risk. You played it very safe.
“Moth”—although “Elbonia!” was rather creative and daring, this entry reminded me of The Cure and much more replayable.
TurboShandy – Twenty-Two
This feels quite drawn out, but I suppose the panorama calls for it.
I hardly know why your choice needed to be so extreme. It’s just a beach, from what I see.
It reminds me of Coldplay, mix “Politik” and “Yellow”, and I happen to love all of such mentioned, nostalgia compounded. The shift of the flat 5th note to natural is particularly satisfying.
Songwriting Craft: 7
The tempo allows for a more dramatic performance from you. Compared to your other songs, it’s a pleasant turn.
The Celtic overtones are appreciated.
Nothing wrong here. It’s as expected.
The opening and ending camera-reel sound is again a nice and thoughtful add-on.
Judge’s Whim: 4
This song feels rather long, but I do like and respect your rarely softer, smoother sound.
You’ve done very well throughout the competition, but my pick would’ve been “Ready Player One”. Maybe it’s the chorus, maybe it’s the electronic outro. Isn’t it interesting that it was #1 for the round, even if the judges didn’t specifically pick it first? It was meant to be.