I’m not sure music is the same if you’re popular, if you’ve got a million friends, if your phone is ringing, if it’s overflowing with texts. Then it’s sauce. Whereas if you spend more time in your room than at the malt shop, at the skating rink, music is EVERYTHING!
And unlike so much else…sex, intimacy, conversation…it’s easily acquired. You can just turn on the radio, you can dig deeper, read magazines, surf online, you can own it.
That’s what you do when you hear a track that raises your eyebrows, stops you in your tracks, you dig for more. And in the old days, the best way to do this was to buy the album. You broke the shrinkwrap, dropped the needle and…waited.
That’s what I did with Bruno Mars’s latest album, “Unorthodox Jukebox,” only in this case I didn’t have to buy it, I just pulled it up in Spotify. After hearing “When I Was Your Man.”
And the opener, “Young Girls,” was o.k. The follow-up, “Locked Out Of Heaven,” the Police-style track…well, it’s not bad, but it’s too reminiscent of what once was without being special enough on its own terms.
And then came “Gorilla”… This is what made me want to continue to listen.
You see you hear one great track and you want to hear more.
No, it’s different from that, you have your fingers crossed. Kind of like asking a girl if she wants to go on a date and waiting for the response. You hope for your life to be changed, but you know just as easily you could hit a dead end.
But if you’ve had good conversations before class… If she smiled and tossed her hair…then you know, you’ve got a chance.
That’s what “Gorilla” was…a chance. I knew Bruno Mars had something.
And then I heard “Moonshine.”
I’m gonna be out of town when Bruno Mars hits L.A., but I’d go just for this one song. I wanna be the guy in the audience who stands on his feet and sings along with his head in the air, not even looking at the performer, having a transcendent experience.
Yes, I’m that guy. Not the one blocking your view, I’m not gonna stay up if everybody else is sitting… No, I’m the guy who’s there but not a member of the group, but in his own private reverie, connecting with the act, the music, having his life made on the spot.
Let’s go back to “Gorilla”…
The verse is good, the feel, the ultimate intensity, but what truly makes the track is the chorus…
You and me making love like gorillas
It sounds like it comes off of Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” or the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” You just want to put your arms in the air, wave them back and forth and sing along.
This is a rock anthem. From a guy so busy jumping genres and getting plaudits for it that he’s avoided settling into his own groove, finding out who he truly is.
Yes, “Unorthodox Jukebox” is only Bruno Mars’s second album. In the old days, he’d just be warming up, he probably wouldn’t even have a big hit yet. But today’s starmaking machinery needs fodder, as does the media, it needs something, someone, to champion, and Bruno Mars gets kudos for imitating others on SNL and what we really want to know is…who is he?
And speaking of who he is… Maybe he’s not a Top Forty wunderkind, but a classic rocker. When “Gorilla” fades, we want more. It changes, it’s more Porcupine Tree than Rihanna…where would he go from here? In the old days there’d be minutes of instrumental experimentation, but now all we get is the…end.
And then “Treasure,” which is more R&B than rock, and decent, but too much made for radio as opposed to testing limits.
And then comes “Moonshine.”
What other song do I know with “Moonshine” in the title?
“Sister Moonshine,” by Supertramp! And this new “Moonshine” is similar, because just like Supertramp’s oeuvre, Bruno Mars’s “Moonshine” is not made to fit into any genre, but stands completely alone…which causes us to be drawn to it.
Oh, I know online they say it’s akin to Michael Jackson. But listen to the chorus…it’s the anti-Michael Jackson!
Especially as his career wore on, Michael Jackson was about showing off, putting in vocal exclamations, imploring us to pay attention, whereas the chorus of “Moonshine” is a step back, it’s more Jefferson Airplane than Michael Jackson.
And the bridge… It starts Michael Jacksony, but in the middle it’s once again more rock than R&B.
Oh, forget all that.
Are you a winner? An upbeat world-beater who feels entitled to success?
Then stop reading this right now. Really. Hit delete and go on with your victorious life.
But if you’ve got more questions than answers, if good is not good enough for you, if you’re constantly searching for greatness, if your life is made by excellence and you feel no one’s paying attention to you…welcome aboard.
We can put on a happy face, we can get along with those at work, at school, but what we really want to do is let go, be ourselves and be accepted.
Good luck with that. I don’t have the answers. I’m working on them, I’ll get back to you if I ever figure it out. But in the interim, I put on my records and I feel like everything’s all right with the world, that I can survive. And the feeling is so exquisite, I listen to my favorites over and over again. They’re my drug, better than anything I’ve ever smoked or ingested. Hell, dope did not make my favorites better, but worse. Because, when done right, music is enough.
Okay, are you still here?
If you’re the kind of person who needs to revel in your taste, put others down for what they listen to, it’s your time to exit. We’re fragile enough, I’m fragile enough, I don’t need you to make me feel worse. Yup, unlike you, I’m susceptible to criticism, the first thing I do is evaluate myself, I’m convinced I’m wrong, when the truth is you are. Today they call it bullying, I’ll just call it self-satisfied insecurity, you need others to feel worse about themselves so you can feel better.
Okay, that just leaves us. In our own private worlds. Once upon a time completely isolated, but through the magic of the Internet, now able to connect. And that’s what I’m gonna do right now, connect you to this track, “Moonshine.”
Moonshine, take us to the stars tonight
Take us to that special place
That place we went the last time, the last time
You know that place? When you listened to your favorite record and were so happy you wanted to open your windows and scream, needed to go to the gig just to hear this album track you were sure no one else knew…