What Makes a Song So Catchy?


A melody that’s simple, familiar and repeated over and over can make a song catchy. What makes a song catchy though raises more questions than we have the answers to, for now.

My friend’s son who is pursuing his bachelors’ degree in music points out that a (catchy) pop song moves easily from one chord to the next and then back to the “root” chord. The notes in the melody fall closely to one another on the musical scale.

A study at the University of London suggests that a chorus which combines a hook over three different pitches was found to be catchy.  Just listening to the chorus of some of the catchy songs I grew up with – Madonna’s “Into the Groove,” Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven on Earth” – suggests it’s one of the things that makes a song so catchy.

Read more: http://www.zmescience.com/research/studies/what-makes-a-song-catchy-science-explains/

The Art of Madonna (Part III)

The “American Life” video was born against the backdrop of the American invasion of Iraq. The video was already causing controversy before the invasion of March 20, 2003. Premiering on American television on March 25, 2003, it was pulled by Madonna on April 1, 2003 who did not want to “risk offending anyone who might misinterpret the meaning of this video.”

American Life 2

Click here to watch video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weCQ6ahu92g

“American Life” is not a song about war but a song where Madonna questions the American Dream. The video uses the metaphor of war as the outgrowth of greed and ego which the dream has become. Madonna appears as a military commander and a guerilla with a girl squad. A fashion show forms the centrepiece of the video featuring models wearing bullet belts, gas masks, grenade necklaces and other “war-fashion” paraphernalia while the deadened upper crust of American society observe from the audience.

Madonna and her girl squad gatecrash the runway and spray the fashion paparazzi with a water cannon. Images flash on an overhead jumbo-monitor revealing the horror and destruction of war. Madonna drives off the catwalk to a laughing audience and, in an alternative ending to the video, tosses a ticking grenade onto the runway. The original ending shows a George Bush lookalike catching the grenade and lighting a cigar with it.

The video highlights how the violence of war has become embedded in a decadent American society and culture. “No matter how many distractions we put up for ourselves, whether it’s a fashion show or a reality TV show or a hot contest,” explained Madonna “what’s happening in the world is still going on.” The video is “a statement about our obsession with the world of illusion.” American society becomes a fashion show with gawking spectators, insulated from the world and desensitized to its realities.

In one scene, two Muslim girls in hijab take the runway and are scared off by two army models to the amusement of the audience. The girls, with their serene, peaceful, sad faces, challenge the idea that there is a “barbarian” other. The water cannon and the grenade are symbols of protest rendered futile in a time of post 9-11 censorship. The grenade tossed at the end of the edited version of the video beckons: what will it take for America to snap out of its stupour?

The “American Life” video was not seen again until it was appeared online in 2005. The irony of the video as a protest is not lost since it was Madonna herself who withdrew it from the air. Yet, in hindsight, “American Life” has proved one of Madonna’s most prescient statements in representing “[her] feelings about our culture and values, and the illusions of what many people believe is the American Dream – the perfect life.” The America of the past ten years – the continued War in Iraq and Afghanistan, the growth of “pop idol” and reality culture, the World Financial Crisis, the loss of homes across America and the bailout of banks – show just how illusory that dream has become, making “American Life” all the more relevant.

Written by Randeep Singh

Further Reading:  “From Blatant to Latent Protest (And Back Again): On the Politics of Theatrical Spectacle in Madonna’s ‘American Life.’ Martin Scherzinger and Stephen Smith, Popular Music, Vol. 26, No. 2 (May 2007), p. 211-229.

The Art of Madonna (Part II)

Justify My Love (1990)

The black-and-white European-art style “Justify My Love” video was shot in Paris by director Jean-Baptise Mondino. The video begins with a worn-out Madonna being approached by a stranger in a hotel hallway. While they kiss and prepare to make love, Mondino teases out a series of sexual images, including bisexuality, androgony, cross-dressing, voyeurism and sadomasochism. Madonna leaves the stranger behind and runs down the hallway, laughing. The video ends with the words “poor is the man whose pleasures depend on the permission of another.”

justify 2

Click here to watch video: http://vimeo.com/59487452

The video is deliberately surreal, blurring the line between reality and fantasy. The furor over the video was all too real. MTV banned the video for its sexual content. Madonna responded by releasing a video-single of the song, which became the best-selling video-single of all time. It was named the “Best Video of the Year” by the critics of Rolling Stone magazine and as one of “Best 100 Videos” of all time by that magazine.

“Justify” asks what constitutes acceptable sexual behaviour in (American) society. For Madonna, sexual behaviour with a woman as its subject was always going to be socially problematic. “I was not objectified,” she explained to Bob Guccione Jr., “and that is unacceptable.” The “Justify” video shows Madonna granting permission to her lover to enter her room, taking control of her fantasy, creating one erotic scene after the next and leaving the man after she’s done with him. While a public backlash was brewing against her for going too far, Camille Paglia defended Madonna for exposing the puritanism and hypocrisy of America.

The video also appealed to sexual sensibilities other than standard male heterosexuality. In presenting, homosexual behaviour, cross-dressing and gender-bending, “Justify” challenged the idea of a  heteronormative America. As Madonna explained, “sex is the metaphor that I use, but for me it’s about love…tolerance, acceptance and saying, ‘Look everybody has different needs and wants and preferences and desire and fantasies.’”

Madonna was not the first mainstream artist to showcase voyeurism, androgony or even bisexuality, but she was the first to present that content as natural outside of the conventions of heterosexual male desire. As J.D. Considine points out, music videos like George Michael’s “Freedom 90” featured lesbianism but as a spectator sport for straight men. “Justify”  on the other hand implied that both bisexual and homosexual desires were acceptable subjects for fantasy.  “These feelings exist” said Madonna in her interview on Nightline defending “Justify,” and “I’m just dealing with that truth here in my video.”

Written by Randeep Purewall

Further Reading:

Camille Paglia, “Madonna – Finally, a real feminist,” The New York Times, December 4, 1990

J.D. Considine, “How to justify Madonna’s new video?” The Baltimore Sun, December 9, 1990.

The Art of Madonna (Part I)

Madonna has always been a visual performance-artist rather than a classic singer songwriter in the way of Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde.  While her songs and albums have enjoyed commercial and critical success, it is arguably in her visual medium, and her music videos in particular, where her artistic statements on sexuality, race and gender politics find their most potent and provocative expression.

Like a Prayer

Click here to play video: http://vimeo.com/44003277

 Like a Prayer (1989)

When Madonna originally envisioned the video for “Like a Prayer,” she wanted to tell the story of an interracial love affair in the South between a black boy and a white girl who run away together and then are shot by the Ku Klux Klan. Mary Lambert, the video’s director, felt instead that the song was about sexual and religious ecstasy. Madonna visualized this ecstasy as  making love on an altar, an image which finds its way into the video’s climax.

The video begins with Madonna fleeing the scene of a young woman’s murder. She enters a church and sees the statue of a black saint which appears to be weeping. She reclines on a pew, falls into a dream, and through a series of flashbacks, recounts herself witnessing a white woman being murdered by white men for which an innocent black man (who resembles the saint in the church) is arrested. In the video, Madonna kisses the feet of the black saint, experiences stigmata, dances before burning crosses and makes love with the black man/saint on the altar.

From the beginning of her career, Madonna had provoked controversy by toying with religious iconography and sexuality. The “Like a Prayer” video added race to create an unholy trinity. Religious groups across America decried the video as blasphemous. The Pope banned Madonna from appearing in Italy and urged a national boycott of Pepsi which had featured Madonna and the song in a new commercial. Religious and family groups in America urged similar boycotts. Pepsi quickly pulled the commercial from TV airwaves. The video nevertheless topped critics list, winning recognition from Rolling Stone and Billboard as one of the top videos of the 1980’s and of all time, and winning MTV’s 1989’s “Viewer Choice” Award.

The “Like a Prayer” video presents a number of themes for analysis. Although the black saint in the video may be a replica of Martin de Porres (the patron saint of interracial harmony), the narrative of the video – where a black man tries to save a white woman and takes the fall for the men that murdered her – implies that this saint may be in fact be a (black) Jesus, something likely given the resemblance between the black man and the statue in the church, both played by Leon Robinson.

The love-making on the altar can also be interpreted symbolically. On the one hand, the image – along with the scenes of the burning crosses, the bleeding eye of the statue – can be seen tragically as the martyrdom of black men by White America for kissing, gazing or even wanting white women. On the other hand, Grant interprets the love-making as the most poignant scene of the video, driving home the message of racial equality.

Why the video provoked such a religious outcry is also a question. Robinson describes the video as “great for anyone religious – it shows Madonna witnessing an attack and then going to a church for guidance” – in this case, to confront the police as an eye witness to the crime the black man was wrongly accused of and have him set free. The Black Jesus alone was perhaps going too far from some. In this sense, Madonna’s dancing in front of the burning crosses not only symbolizes racial hatred in America and how it is institutionalized through iconography, but how it can be smashed as well.

Written by Randeep Purewall

Further Reading:

Santiago Fouz-Hernandez and Freya Jarman-Ivans. Madonna’s Drowned Worlds.

Now Bin Laden Will Never Die. Thanks, Yo US-led Bullies of the World!

Osama Bin Laden, a Muslim Fundamentalist that i could never support, has now become a symbol of resistance against the US-led bullies of this world. Marauding human rights of the peoples of the first, second, and the third world through unprecedented violence of their policies of trade, weapons, interference and occupation of sovereign countries and people, the US&Friends continue to be the aggressors with too much blood on their hands.

It’s an ‘honour kill’ to save the ‘honour’ of the United States and Allies, and like all killings carried out for ‘honour’, this one also has privilege/resources/material-gain as the reason.

In ‘Muslim’ environments, Bin Laden’s execution will strengthen religious fundamentalism and encourage religion-based parties to mount crushing opposition against the ‘moderate’ Muslim formations struggling to build democratic and rights-based movements in our countries. Of course, it will worsen the situation of Muslim women, and will increase religion-based crimes against minority communities in Muslim majority countries, and it will make life more difficult for under-privileged people. As well, it will legitimize the existence of all militarized Muslim groups and their policies of violence and vigilantism, and the laws promulgated by structures of informal/parallel justice systems.

‘Thousand Thanks’, as the Danes might say in English, to the selfstyled and socalled ‘protectors of democracy and human rights’ for making a martyr out of a religious fanatic, for providing another tool to Muslim fundamentalists to destroy democratic movements in Muslim countries, for hijacking our lives yet again and offering them to violence, conspiracy and intrigue of the ‘un-reason’.

Our friend NewsClots came in handy again by illustrating the boundaries of Bin Laden’s influence in the non-Muslim world where the same US-led bullies have been active. ‘Friends called me today and reminded me about the lyrics we once sang…when we got kicked out by that ‘US embassy peace concert’ at V Park in 2003…’.

Below is the song written/composed by Trinidad musician André Michael Tanker (1941-2003).

(The song file could not be loaded)

Ben Lion U Bin Baad Man
By André Michael Tanker

Tat Tat TaTaTa Tat, Tat Tat TaTaTa Tat
La la lalaaiee, La La la la la la lalaaaiee

Ben Lion U Bin Baad Man
Why O Why suh Why yuh go wine in dese people place..
Ben Ruude Boy, Ben Baaad Boy,
Say you wine right down to de ground and mash up de place…

De eagle was flying high
Until you cause him to cry
Now all all over de dance dey calling your name…
Dey say you are wanted man
And it is time dat you understan’
De tings dat dey say you do dey coming for you…

Ben Lion Bin Baad Man (1)

Wha did yoo umb boom ba bam bam (4)

Now Bulldog looking for you
India helping them too
Monkey jump up and throw a net was master de fence
Things not like they was before
These grounds(?) are spreading(?) war
And the party is who could wine who could go win this time
So yuh best ask wine

Ben Lion Ben Baad Man (1)

Wha did yoo um boom bam bam (6)
Lala …

Dey want you to misbehave
To come out your cave and wave
Dey want you to form a line to stand up and wine…
(wine for them!)
But you too fast on your feet
And you know your way round de street
You wave shifting from side to side dey can’t get inside
(Dey aiming wide….)

Ben Lion Ben Baad Man (1)

All Caribbean, Hohoh!,
Come inside de fence,
All American, Ho! Ho!
Come inside de fence
All Afghanistan! Ho! Ho! Ho!,
De more defense I have is one world, a free world

La la lalaieee…

Bushman jump in de line
He say what is yours is mine
Bring Madonna to help him move was a waste of time
So he sent for Jennifer
(J-Lo!), a hip dancer
So to get him to move in time but de man can’t wine…
(He jes can’t wine)

Ben Lion Ben Baad Man (1)

Dey say dat dey catch a man
Dey tink dat is Ben Lion
But dey never check for de wine
Dat was his true sign!
So his feat are paying for all
We really having a ball…
Look out for de real Lion in de Carnival
Look, Bacchanal…

Ben Lion Ben Baad Man (1)

All Caribbean! Hohoh!
Come inside in de fence,
All American, Ho! Ho!
Come inside in de fence,
All Afghanistan, Ho! Ho! Ho!
The more defense I have is one world, A free world

(They want you to misbehave…
To come out your cave and wave)
La la la…

(01 Ben Lion.m4a could not be loaded)

‘And here is a rather tooo short but absolutely haunting intro by Andre…’

‘This live version is a little diffused… but its got the energy of the words…’

‘Then here’s an interesting pan version by the El Dorado Secondary Comprehensive School Steel Orchestra, Performing Ben Lion’ by Andre Tanker ft 3 Canal at the 2003 Junior SteelBand Music.’

Tanker’s Facebook page:

‘The Trini Andre Tanker who wrote these lyrics with 3 Canal song died (or was done in) that very year. André Michael Tanker (September 25, 1941 Woodbrook, Port of Spain – February 28, 2003) was a Trinidad and Tobago musician and composer. Tanker was considered one of the most original musicians that the country produced. His influence on the music of Trinidad and Tobago was compared by David Rudder to that of Bob Dylan in US music. Tanker’s work defines the Caribbean folk-jazz genre. We hear he died at the 2003 carnival cos the ambulance couldn’t get through the crowds…’

Information provided by NewsClots
Contact NewsClots c/0 uddari@live.ca