Thursday, 18 April 2013

I’m in the mood for Love, or am I? Analysis and interpretation of an old-time classic.


Many factors contribute to the differentiation between the re-imaging of certain songs. Brackett discusses how the juxtaposition between two different performers, allows us to explore how the voice can be used to convey a different message or perhaps a character’s motive within the song (Brackett, Family Values In Music? in The Popular Music Studies Reader edited by Andy Bennett, Barry Shank and Jason Toynbee [London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group], 36). Altering and re-imaging a song can completely shape our interpretation of it, whether this is conveyed in the musical language or through a more ‘authentic’ delivery, it’s important to place the new interpretation in context with its ‘biological’ rendition. Brackett also emphasises the role of commerce and the importance of acknowledging this when considering recordings.  Referring to Billy Holiday and Bing Crosby’s arrangements of ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’, he states that it is important to question, ‘the relationship between the images of these two performers and the notions of commerce and artistry’ (Brackett, Family Values In Music? in The Popular Music Studies Reader edited by Andy Bennett, Barry Shank and Jason Toynbee [London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group], 37). This theory can be applied to most renditions of songs, provoking one to question why it was originally chosen and how a re-imaging was achieved.
The original version of the song was recorded in 1935 by Frances Langford (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYkgpF6rvV0) for the movie, ‘Every Night at Eight’. It was composed by Jimmy McHugh and written by Dorothy Fields, a song written by a female lyricist and portrayed by a female performer. After her success with it (it was believed to be her ‘signature song’), many attempted to re-release it, with over 110 documented recordings from artists such as: Nat King Cole, Doris Day and Rod Stewart. Although the range isn’t substantially complex Langford’s interpretation of the work is vocally seamless. Her vocal delivery is reminiscent of the crooners. She indulges in the nostalgia being portrayed with a steady tempo and moments of rubato. The song is vocally driven, her voice is the most prominent instrument, many instruments are being used in the background, such as the flute and the violin, it is largely string orientated, which emphasises the emotive quality of her voice.
Holland and Kay’s interpretation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_S41oEfT9g) is in sharp contrast with the original. Performed with the ‘Rhythm & Blues Orchestra’ the collaboration was released in 2000 and reached no. 29 in the charts. The same Lyrics were used in the ‘ABBA’ and ‘ABAB’ patterns. In this rendition both the voice and instruments are on par collaboratively, both hold equal importance, a bold representation of the emotion, making Langford’s seem clich├ęd. Kay sings with an air of cynicism and smugness. The upbeat feel to the piece creates a more persuasive attitude to love, more so like a pursuit. There are greater leaps in the vocal line and he also incorporated pitch-bending in a nod to the jazz genre. The big band is heavily reliant on the brass instrumentalists, but the drums and cymbals hold a strong importance. His voice is seamless, almost on par with Langfords. Although in the video there is a strong sense of the egotistical performer, when we disregard the visual representation and listen to the vocal line, it feels like an authentic expressive song. The brass brand interlude interacts with the singer, unlike in Langford’s version, where the instruments yielded to the voice.
Both portrayals of love in these renditions are authentic. Kay’s rendition evoked a sexually driven smug approach to the subject and this was reflected aptly in the musical language and in the performance. Langford (in fitting with the social and cultural context of the era) took a more sentimental and tender approach, which was effectively translated through word painting and the vocal delivery. Although the same text and mainly the same melody were used, the two versions are stylistically different. The different arrangements and ensembles, altering of the tempo, pitch and range fluxes prominently distinguish the representations from each other, yet both feel like apt and authentic representations of the love theme. Bracket raises an interesting point, saying that the context of the style can affect the impact of the music (Brackett, Family Values In Music? in The Popular Music Studies Reader edited by Andy Bennett, Barry Shank and Jason Toynbee [London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group], 38) the audience must be considered when analysing the work.