tremble clef

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tyler James, "Procrastination" (2005)

Like Natasha Bedingfield's "These Words," Tyler James's "Procrastination" is a song about trying to write a song. "Got to get this song down before I leave tonight," Tyler sings in the middle eight. "But my head just does its own thing/And I gotta feel alright/I gotta write this chorus/But words elude me now/I have to get this done before I get dressed somehow." How nakedly pomo.

The difficulty with such meta-songs is that they practically have a "kick me" sign around their necks. A snarky retort, should you be inclined towards one, is ready-made and never too far away. "Well, you didn't do a particularly good job overcoming that writer's block, didja? Oh yes I did too! Snap!" Etc.

In Natasha's case, that sign seems a little more prominent: though "These Words" a solid pop-hop single, its beat is a bit too thudding (at least in the hit Manny Marroquin remixed version), and the lyrical punchline -- I'm having trouble writing these words, but then I realized that I only need to speak from the heart and say "I love you" ad nauseam! -- disappointingly banal. (Contrary to the Wikipedia entry -- there is a Wiki entry devoted just to Natasha's song! All hail democratic editing! -- which claims that "Bedingfield breaks some new ground by having one of the few songs of popular music in recent history to deal with a very sensitive subject that is not about sex or relationships," the song turns out to be exactly about relationships.)

"Procrastination" mostly avoids these pitfalls. Though it's not entirely clear -- his delivery isn't mush-mouthed, but he's not exactly Rex Harrison either -- any sense that Tyler's adventures in songwriting is due to some obstacle in love only lurks as a faint whisper, and the song is better for it. More crucially, the track sounds effortless. It thus belies the lyric, as all such songs aim to, in a way that "These Words" doesn't manage. In particular, despite his claims that he's having trouble finding a hook -- a claim about which Tyler sounds utterly sincere, as opposed to smirkily self-reflexive -- the track hits you with one straightaway. Well, almost. The first thing you hear in the song is a muted voice going, "Uh-woo-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah." It's a placeholder, for when the chorus comes around, horns take over the playing of that line, blaring gloriously. They weave in and out of the song: slinky, hypnotic, breezy. [This part needs fleshing out. Maybe later? "But right now I've got stuff to do."]


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