Monday, March 16, 2009

Say It Loud, Say It Clear - 5 Cool Songs With Children's Choirs

Picture it. 1985. Two record producers are in a studio trying to find a way to take an underwhelming song and blow it out into an undeniable triumph.

"What if we add a full string section?"
"We've already done that."
"What if we had cannons going off?"
"I don't think it really fits."
"Harps? We could add tons of harp music!"
"A little too cherubic. Again, it doesn't really fit what we're looking for."
"Okay, what if on the last verse we cut out all of the instruments except a light percussion and have the vocalist sing a heart felt lyric, maybe something about his dad dying and having a baby in the same year and then we bring all the instruments back in this sweeping tidal wave of sound . . ."
"Wait, you're forgetting one thing. A children's choir."
"Holy shit!"
"Yeah! The angelic tones of innocent kids piercing the upper register will give even the most cynical dick chills."
"You want people to have chills on their dick?"
"I think you're missing my point."

And that's how it happened folks. Later that week, Mike + the Mechanics recorded In the Living Years. And 80's synth cheese history was made.

Check it out.

(Alright, I want to murder blogger. For some reason I'm having trouble embedding the video for this song. If it doesn't play for you, here is a link that should work. Also, I have no friggin idea why the font is all screwed up on this entry, but hell if I know how to fix it.)

Man, the bubbly little synth loop makes me want to drink a Fresca on the top of a mountain surrounded by puffy white clouds. Note the multiple use of the following shot: helicopter fly-over shots of green fields and foamy beaches with the singer's earnest, eyes-closed profile half dissolved over it. It reminds me of those weird studio photos from about 20 years ago. You know, the ones that have the kid's profile floating over a straight shot of them? I can't find a picture of them online, but you know what I'm talking about. Those were creepy.

Back to the song. When the chorus gains momentum BAM! your previously dormant goose bumps are assaulted by the chimes of prepubescent children in white robes lit by candlelight. If that doesn't make your eyes itch with tears than you have no soul! The guy's dad died and he never got to say all the things he wanted to. Who the hell are you, to not cry? Nevermind that the chorus is nonsensical fluff. "You can listen as well as you hear"? What? Forget that. Just listen to those little altos sing and then weep, damn it! Weep!

So with that, I would like highlight a few other badass songs that lean heavily on the children's choir.

You Can't Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed 1969

Alright, I'm shifting gears pretty drastically here. I'm going from sentimental cheese to true greatness. A few months ago I highlighted some of my favorite songs byThe Stones and it killed me to leave this one off the list.

A long time ago, I heard a little story about this song. Something about how this is the Viennese Boys Choir in this song and The Stones had to trick them into recording their part because such a respected musical institution would never record a song with the evil Rolling Stones. Yeah. After about thirty seconds of Wikipedia research, it turns out that that story is complete bull crap. Although I am positive that I have repeated it several times in my attempt to look like some authority on Classic Rock. If you heard that from me, consider this a retraction.

Thoroughly badass song. The last 1:30 is unbelievable.

Christmas Time is Here – The Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas 1965

It may not be seasonally appropriate but man, I love the Peanuts Christmas Special.
It’ll be another eight months until it’s on TV again, but do yourself a favor and watch it. There’s some serious depth to it. It features a wonderful blend of anti consumerism and heartfelt religion. Those two things aren't associated with each other as much as they should be. And this song has such a strange melancholy to it. You would think a children’s choir singing about Christmas would sound all chipper and happy but this song has a beautifully sad tone. And to be honest, there always seems to be a hint of sadness to Christmas. Whether it's that another year has gone by and not much has changed or it's the cold dark weather. I don't know, but this song captures it perfectly.

Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 – Pink Floyd, The Wall 1980

It was inevitable that someone was going to tap into the ironic value of something that is so pure (and cheesy) as a children’s choir. Leave that to Pink Floyd, the moody, angry voices of England’s industrial wasteland. By the way, it should be pointed out that the chorus of this song contains a double negative. “We don’t need no education” is really saying “We need an education.” Speaking of irony.

Common People – William Shatner, Has Been 2004

Now before your mind jumps to Rocket Man, let me correct any preconceived notions you may have about Bill. This song is the single greatest creative accomplishment in the history of time. It is nothing short of a musical orgasm. Some people will say that such a statement is hyperbole. Those people can suck it.

In 2004 Shatner teamed up with Ben Folds (he's the other guy singing) to produce this cover of a Pulp song. The original is cool, but it lacks the unapologetic balls of William Alan Shatner. And it lacks a children's choir. The whole reason I did this entry was so I could feature this song. Seriously. Listen to it. And then listen to it again.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Dude! I love the Peanuts Christmas song! It makes me want to hang my head and sadly walk away. As if my girlfriend had just dumped me or as though someone had eaten all of my hard boiled eggs.