Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Taylor Swift: Genius?

Let's Get Together

Some people decry Taylor Swift as merely an opportunistic ingénue who shoves out girly-pop under the guise of being an actual country music star. Some people relish her wholesome, talent and professionalism, citing her immense popularity with her core demographic. As she releases her new album Red, this week, it is time for The Inky Jukebox to pick sides.

Let’s use a single from this album as a point of focus: the irrepressible “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

Once you’ve heard this devastatingly catchy song once, you already know it. Its chorus is hook-city. It is jarringly up-tempo for a break-up song. It acknowledges the DRAMA of teenage dating into the fluff it is. It’s a pop song. There’s nothing explicitly country about it — something you can say about most of Swift’s work since her MySpace success with “Tim McGraw,” which is only country in that it references Tim McGraw. Swift claims she wrote it specifically to annoy the guy the song references, being everything he said he hates in music. The Inky Jukebox is not sure how well this maneuver is going to continue to work before people get pissed off about being dragged into Swift’s dating troubles. The fabric is already wearing thin.

But today, I walked into the lounge at a girl’s high school, and they were playing it and all singing heartily along, completely unconcerned about any of these things. This seems to trump all of the criticism being tossed back and forth at the end of the day. These girls are living through Swift vicariously, looking forward to the day they too can tell a guy goodbye without sounding so damn sad and broke-up about it. 

The Inky Jukebox will review Red later....

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hunter Hayes: The Youngest Old Pro You’ve Never Heard Of

He's Wanted

Every now and then along comes a musical prodigy who astonishes everyone with their remarkable facility with an instrument. For some unknown reason they are able to play songs perfectly by ear, or pick up the intricacies of the instrument as if by magic. Parents post videos of such things on YouTube and we all gasp. As often as not, however, childhood promise does not materialize into adult talent, and what seemed incredible at 4 years of age becomes ordinary at 24 years of age. Perhaps the little genius grows tired of being the center of attention or develops just as big a love for video games, say, or cocaine, or even just attention, things one’s parents do not advertize on YouTube.

One such child star was Hunter Hayes (see above). Only in his case, he actually grew up to develop that early gift, and is now a bona fide adult star. I say grown up, but what I mean is 21. Dude is still only 21, yet he has released five independent albums and one self-titled debut on a major label, as well as having written songs for acts like Rascal Flatts.

Although known as a guitar / accordion prodigy, Hayes’s skills reach deep: he also plays mandolin, keyboards, bass guitar, piano and drums along with having a voice lesser sings would kill for. Not only that, but he played every instrument that appears on his album. Oh, and he co-writes and co-produced every song on his record too. Plus he looks good.

I know, BOOOORING, right?


Here he is singing “Rainy Season” at a little club the day before he turned 20 last year. Check out his guitar chops.

And here is the future Grand Ole Opry member showing off his piano chops on his hit “Wanted.”

And something a little up tempo — his hit “Storm Warning,” where he demonstrates his mastery of the acoustic guitar.

While Hayes had, it must be admitted, a touch of the performing seal about him when 4 years old, he looks like he thoroughly enjoys himself on stage now. To wit: “Billy Jean.”

Hayes is currently opening for Carrie Underwood on tour. The Inky Jukebox will be seeing them both in November, and will report back on how insanely awesome it was. Buy his album Hunter Hayes now.

…And here’s a wee bit more.