To follow me on social media and listen to my EP “Anonymous Semantics”, click on the link Here.
As we are approaching Valentine’s Day, I found it more than fitting to discuss about love, a subject that for some is experienced with seriousness and intensity, while for others, with serenity and tranquillity.
No matter how much the human being wants to opt for rationality in favour of emotion, it is something that we cannot avoid, because we all have feelings that moved by longing, happiness, passion, motivation and heartache, gradually blossom and reveal our weaknesses, strengths, virtues and defects.
Although everyone behaves in different ways in their love life, no one of some age can say that they have never suffered for it.
Regardless of the overcoming time of a heartbreak and relationship of each one (including asexuals, because loving is not only carnal and sexual demonstration, it is much more than that), we are all worthy of loving and being loved.
This lived suffering and recall of happy/sad memories has the capacity to make us grow, in order to start a process of personal development and self-overcoming, learn from our mistakes and evolve by becoming more patient, understanding and empathetic people.
Therefore, the two albums under review distinctly demonstrate the possible impacts that love has on creative, artistic, personal and educational impetus.
Fleetwood Mac — Rumours
Genre (s): pop rock, soft rock, folk rock
The first album under review is entitled Rumours, by British-American band Fleetwood Mac, released in 1977 by Warner Bros. (which is currently Warner Records Inc.).
Founded in England, UK by the ex-Bluesbreakers’ (John Mayall’s blues group in the 1960’s) guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, the legendary blues rock and psychedelic rock ensemble full of various cult songs, such as “Albatross” (one of my favourites, I expressly recommend), “Oh Well” and “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)”, as well as memorable projects such as England Rose (1968) and Then Play On (1969), failed to achieve commercial success during their early period, which led to a desire for artistic change.
With Peter Green’s departure (in 1970, due to problems derived from drug addiction) and Christine Perfect’s entrance (later McVie, for her marriage to John McVie), the group discarded their blues roots in search of a more soft and pop rock sound, in order to reach a wider audience.
However, following the desire of new members for the outcome intended (with the departure of Bob Welch in 1974, substitute guitarist of Peter Green), Mick Fleetwood recruited Californian guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and Arizonan vocalist Stevie Nicks in 1975 (teenage sweethearts at the time), bet that became game-changing for the group’s revitalization, which originated in the release of their second eponymous album and most successful record to date, filled with classics like “Rhiannon”, “Say You Love Me” and “Landslide” (by far, my favourite song by the band).
Despite of its success, which led to a non-stop North-American Tour (between May 1975 and August 1976), this period proved to be extremely damaging to the five member’s interpersonal and loving relationships, as well as highly inspiring for Rumours’ creation.
According to Christine McVie, the project’s post-tour period of artistic and musical development was marked by “Drama. Dra-ma”, having led to her divorce with John McVie after an 8-year marriage, turbulences in Buckingham’s on/off relationship with Nicks and Fleetwood’s marriage (due to an affair that his wife was having with a close friend of Fleetwood).
Taking this into perspective, all these times of emotional turmoil, discomfort and insecurities that provided impatience, intolerance (during the album’s creation period, the group did not socialize or communicate outside the studio sessions), creativity and drug/alcohol addiction (hedonistic behaviour felt in the sessions: “Everybody was pretty weirded out”, according to Christine McVie), were extremely vital to Rumours’ result, which is ultimately based on the frustration and confusion, projected by the relationships and marriages of each one of the five members.
The project was produced, arranged, recorded (between February and August 1976) and conceptually developed by the group in several studios, such as Criteria in Miami, Record Plant Studios in Sausalito and Los Angeles, Zellerbach Auditorium in Berkeley, Wally Heider in San Francisco and Davlen in North Hollywood.
The five members of the group collaborated as instrumentalists: Stevie Nicks (vocals), Lindsey Buckingham (vocals, guitar, dobro and percussion), Christine McVie (vocals, keyboards and synthesizer), John McVie (bass guitar) and Mick Fleetwood (drums, percussion and electric harpsichord on “Gold Gust Woman”), Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut in production and engineering, Chris Morris in engineering assistance, as well as Ken Perry and Charlie Watts in mastering.
However, despite the fact that all contributors were prominent in the production and mixing outcome, Lindsey Buckingham was the most ambitious one of the group in this endeavour, aiming to create the “perfect pop album”.
With Caillat, Buckingham took over the majority of the production by using a 3M 24-track tape machine and an API Mixing Console with 550A Equalisers, where they carried out the redistribution of frequencies and control of the instruments’ timbre, in order to not conduct unnecessary experiments to amplifiers and microphones’ recording.
Thus, the outcome was rich and innovative, full of accented rhythms, beautiful vocal melodies and harmonies, sound spacing with reverberation experiments (like on “Dreams”), highly resonated and “sentimentally perched” guitars with various folk rock and celtic rock influences (on “Second Hand News”), driving bass sound, use of keyboards (like Hammond B3 organ and Fender Rhodes) to characterize soft rock and pop rock sound and a mix of dense/intense drums.
In addition to the production impetus, we cannot overlook the lyrical-compositional nature of the three main songwriters Buckingham, Nicks and Christine McVie, who completed the project’s feeling and immortalization with the band’s interpersonal experiences (“are definitely about people in the band…Chris’ relationships, John’s relationship, Mick’s relationship, Lindsey’s and mine. They’re all there and very honest and people will know exactly what I am talking about…” — Stevie Nicks).
By focusing on love, the record derives from various issues that occur from it:
- Anger, suffering, intolerance and emotional insecurity (on “Second Hand News”, the album’s opening song, in which Buckingham brings us to the mood in which the creative process was developed, full of heartbreak, resignation and pain, making us believe in hope that quickly turns into loneliness and emotional despair; on “Dreams”, one of my favourite tracks, which Nicks composed on the piano during a boring day in the studio, expressing her perspective of the relationship with Buckingham, characterized by a journey of distorted dreams, on the way to a desperate and pathless reality; on “Never Going Back Again”, one of my favourite songs on the album, where during the recording, Buckingham’s guitar was restringed three times every 20 minutes, to get the best possible sound out of his finger-picking; written by Buckingham himself, is a “very naive song” about finding a new love or soul recovery due to his breakup with Nicks; on “The Chain”, the most intriguing instrumental song on the project; despite regarding betrayal, this “chain” is the bond that keeps the relationship active and endless, as well as the group; on “Oh Daddy”, probably the saddest track of the record, in which McVie expresses the vision of a woman who is dependent of her lover and doesn’t even feel worthy of him, projecting to the listener a feeling of despair/hope, by urging her to find inner-strenght to love herself; on “Gold Dust Woman”, the last track of the record, in which Nicks writes (in my opinion, autobiographically) about someone who tries to survive with a drug addiction issue, while living a love-loss and devastating relationship));
- Questioning and denial (on “Go Your Own Way”, in which Buckingham presents moments of denial, regarding his anguish and anger derived from his breakup with Stevie Nicks (which according to her, is the hardest track to sing live), by wanting this person to get away from him, as well as wishing her to be happy and that both want the same things);
- Self-survival and hope for happiness (on “Don’t Stop”, the best known of the project, in which McVie writes about the aftermath of her relationship with John McVie, which both portrays a desire for her past relationship to be of a different time and place, and works as a message of encouragement and positivity, to “move forward” and “thinking about tomorrow”; on “Songbird”, one of the most beautiful ballads ever in my opinion, McVie writes about self-sacrifice in love, referring to the feeling she has for a man who doesn’t reciprocates the same for her; however, the lack of reciprocity makes the singer want (or not) to love him even more, by alluding to birds that sing to attract others, as long as they know the “score”, because if they don’t, they will “sing alone” forever; on “You Making Love Fun”, a track written by McVie, inspired by her relationship with the band’s lighting director Curry Grant following the divorce with John McVie, providing a breath of fresh air and restored hope; on “I Don’t Want To Know”, a song written by Nicks, during a performance by her group Buckingham Nicks (her duo with Buckingham, before joining Fleetwood Mac), in which she addresses her relationship with Buckingham, by wishing them both to be loved and to be deserving of happiness in their life)).
Derived from its relationships, Rumours is one of the most brilliant “soap operas” in the history of popular music, having been able to be adored through its vulnerability and artistic intimacy, as only the effect of love can create.
Having approximately 40 million copies sold worldwide and being highly regarded as one of the best albums of all time, by numerous critics and music magazines (7th in Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” 2020 updated list, named in the book’s “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die”, Time’s All-TIME 100 Albums shortlist, just to refer a few), this 70’s classic album greatly impacted my teenage years and understanding around music marketing and songwriting making.
Therefore, happy late 44th anniversary to Rumours (celebrated last Thursday) and I recommend its listening to all appreciators of 70’s music, pop rock, soft rock and love ballads (Link here).
Lorde — Melodrama
Genre (s): pop, indie pop, electropop
The second album under review is called Melodrama, by New Zealand artist Lorde, released in 2017 by Universal Music Group, Lava (recording company owned by Jason Flom, in partnership with Universal) and Republic Records.
At seventeen, Ella O’Connor a.k.a Lorde was catapulted to pop royalty status with her debut album Pure Heroine (2013).
Having been highly acclaimed through its numerous international hits such as “Royals” and “Team”, “grand and big” lyrical narrative, minimalist character and hip-hop based sound, Lorde had later years of commercial success, complemented by a world tour (Pure Heroine Tour).
However, the artist who would determine “the future of music” (according to David Bowie), entered into a spiral of negativity and sadness, after the end of her 3-year relationship with James Lowe in early 2016, leading to a period of heavy drinking, refuge and solitude.
This solitude gave her the time and concentration to create and produce Melodrama, a record totally different from the first and previous one she presented to the industry.
That said, the album focused on a more reflective, personal, intimate and bold perspective at the conceptual level, in which the artist applied an analogy, between the different emotional stages of a relationship ending, followed by a positive/negative sensation of loneliness and emotions that are happening during a house party, which can trigger moments of euphoria and dazzle (“With a party, there’s that moment where a great song comes on and you’re ecstatic”), as well as sudden thoughts of self-doubt, loneliness and insecurity (“and then there’s that moment later on where you’re alone in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, you don’t think you look good, and you start feeling horrible”).
Even though Lorde mentioned that the album is about “being alone. The good parts and the bad parts” and stories about “me and my friends in New Zealand”, I think it’s a lot more than that, because it represents the human being’s suffering after a very significant relationship, contributing to greater self-knowledge and personal growth in all aspects, which sometimes comes from a pique of creativity, enhanced by moments of nostalgia and melancholy.
Production and arranging wise, the project was recorded and conceptually developed in several studios during 18 months, such as Electric Lady and Jungle City Studios in New York City, New York, Rough Customer Studio in Brooklyn Heights (producer Jack Antonoff’s home studio), Westlake Recording Studios and Conway in Los Angeles, California.
It had the collaboration of several producers/arrangers/mixers like the Lorde herself (producer, executive producer and lead vocals), Jack Antonoff (main producer and executive producer on all tracks, except “Homemade Dynamite”), Frank Dukes (producer and executive producer), Andrew Wyatt (producer on “Perfect Places”), Joel Little (producer on “Supercut”), Kuk Harrell (vocal producer on “Green Light”, “Sober” and “Homemade Dynamite”), Laura Sisk (main engineer), Barry McCready (assistant engineer in songs such as “Liability”, “Sober II (Melodrama)”, among others)), Serban Ghenea (mixer in several songs like “Green Light”, “Perfect Places”, etc.), among others, who offered different approaches of texture and feeling to the sonic result of the album.
By ranging various melodic influences from several artists, such as Phil Collins (on “Hard Feelings/Loveless”, which contains an “In The Air Tonight”’s sample), Paul Simon (on “Hard Feelings/Loveless”, which contains a Simon’s audio recording in Under African Skies: Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey’s documentary (the artist was obsessed with his 1986’s Graceland album, which I also love, just saying)), Joni Mitchell, Frank Ocean (who inspired her to do non-traditional song structures, like the downbeat chorus in “The Louvre”), among others, junction of several subgenres such as electropop, dance-pop, post-disco, dream pop, indie pop, afrobeat, industrial and noise, use of equipment such as the sampler and digital sound processing, through multiple plugins and quantize, the instrumentation is enhanced by track overdubbing, cathartic and emotional layered vocals (under the influence of artists, such as Kate Bush and Sinéad O’Connor), piano based melodies and synthesizers, dense and rhythmically infectious drums, which complemented Jack Antonoff’s characteristic touch for modern sound pop (producer and singer-songwriter who collaborated with several artists such as Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, among others), makes the production and mix multifaceted, dissonant, dark, elucidative, spatial and ambiguously charming.
Besides this, these characteristics felt in the production are so or more evidenced, in its lyrical-compositional impetus.
Associated with the above mentioned core concept, Lorde enriched the lyrical content by relating Ray Bradbury’s science fiction short story “There Will Come Soft Rains” with her own daily realities, experiences and adversities:
- The different emotional stages of a breakup in adult life (on “Green Light”, the album’s opening track, in which she addresses the last two years prior to the release of the album, characterized by the artist as “the first chapter of the last two wild, fluorescent years”, coming from her first major breakup and passage from “glossy idiot god” teenager, to the harsh phase of adulthood; on “Sober”, a song inspired by Lorde’s synesthesia, in which she portrays the initial involvement with someone and the “drunken” feeling it provokes (“you’re just king and queen of the weekend, you own the party”); on “Homemade Dynamite”, in which she describes the moment of meeting someone at a party, that will have intriguing and explosive episodes; on “The Louvre”, in which Lorde continues the narrative of the previous song “Homemade Dynamite”, about her relationship with her new crush, by referring to moments of obsession, euphoria and sacrifice; on “Hard Feelings/Loveless”, a track divided into two sections, with themes about her breakup with Lowe: the first, sonically calm and soothing that describes the separation and post-breakup recovery, and the second one, characterized by a more choppy and chant sound, in which she explores thoughts about her generation and indifference to her ex’s envy of her lifestyle; on “Writer in the Dark”, in which the supposed “writer in the dark” expresses that although she loves her ex forever, she will have to move on));
- Alienation from fame (on “Liability”, one of my favourite tracks, in which the artist demonstrates a personal side never seen before by herself, reflecting on her true-self and pressure felt by people as they approach her; on “Liability (Reprise)”, a different lyrical approach to “Liability”, in which it conveys an autoreflection and commentary to youth about fame and self-reliance, by thanking people who support and want to be part of her life, despite her cultural status and fame);
- Solitude/insecurities (on “Sober II (Melodrama)”, one of my favourite songs and inspired by Lorde’s synesthesia, is a contrasting two-part track with the party described on “Sober”, in which it portrays the other side of a party “when the lights are on”, as it becomes depressing, unpleasant and less memorable; on “Supercut”, in which she dreams of a perfect relationship and highlights the positive aspects she wants in one, however, she ends up realizing that perfection is unattainable in reality, so dreams are just a supercut));
- Self-reflection/self overcoming (on “Perfect Places”, the album’s last track, in which she addresses the problem of drug use and sexual practice at late youth, conveying its central message, i.e, the mentalities in late youth are naturally imperfect, for unconscious acts are practiced that make us grow, so they should not be disproportionately increased for what they really are, regardless of the euphoria experienced).
Lorde surpassed her own expectations by making a cathartic, vulnerable and highly creative project in order to make us reflect on our own acts and behaviors.
Personally, for not being an appreciator of her voice, nor of the blend of electronic with pop, I have never been a great fan of Lorde’s music.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by the message conveyed, in which the learning and loving experience are the thread of such a well done and successful musical work.
Therefore, I recommend its listening to all enthusiasts of pop, love ballads, electropop, EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and concept albums (Link here).
Clash of Times (Rumours vs. Melodrama)
In its essence, love has always been searched and lived throughout humanity, so when we compare the 70’s and 2010’s, we will not find anything significantly different.
However, there are certain nuances that can be highlighted, more specifically, the way it was and is demonstrated.
In the 70’s, it can be said that love and its overcoming were more fluid.
Due to the fact that there was no way of communication to be constantly in touch, all kinds of affection (the distinct impact of traditional customs on different world cultures must be highlighted) were sometimes distant, more independent (which is not bad at all, it is extremely important), cold and detached, whether at the family, parental, loving level, etc.
And in Rumours, we manage to take a little bit out of all this, from these more distant and selfish particularities, as well as the more emotional and passionate ones.
By having in truth and vulnerability its most striking features, this project makes us reflect on the influence of pain for personal growth, in which even though it has its adversities and discomforts, love holds the capacity to provoke a boost of creativity and mirroring of individual life, as few things can in life.
Therefore, if we are going to relate these traits to the 2010’s and the present day, some things are different, both for the good and the not so good side.
Due to the amount of information and accessibility to the digital medium, we have the possibility to be more connected to our loved ones, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives, which allows a greater devotion and attention to them.
But for some, this same constant interaction may bring greater dependence, possessiveness and devaluation of the other, something that in previous decades might not have happened so easily, given the more natural experience of living in the moment.
But as everything in life has exceptions, Melodrama provides us with something distinct, by mirroring the times in which we live in its splendour.
By calling for a greater awareness and reflection of mistakes made and cathartic suffering, during and after a loving relationship, we have the capacity to be humble enough to recognize them in order to rectify them, overcome ourselves, love ourselves more and more and to increase self-knowledge, about what we want and don’t want for the sake of our happiness.
As we experience love, the most important thing is to like ourselves, because if this is not felt at the moment, we will not be happy and will never be able to give what the other person deserves and needs.
So for me, everyone deserves to love and be loved, regardless of their religious, political, cultural disagreements/differences, etc., and that is the motto for any human being, because we all need love in any way, shape or form.
“You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear” — Oscar Wilde
Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone and be safe wherever you are!
Thank you to everyone who read the article, be free to share it with everyone and leave a comment below, of what did you think about it, if that’s your wish 😊.