April 3, 2011

NT's greatest hits, No. 26 (of 35)

Two years ago, casting about for a new blog topic, I decided to use this space to do what most bloggers do: talk about my own interests. And make teenage desires of self-indulgence real. So, remembering my long-ago dreams of splendid-isolation pop-music musing for an adoring audience, I embarked upon a project: to document every song on my iTunes playlist of my favorite songs ever (seriously, it's labeled "MY FAVORITE SONGS EVER"), one by one, in this space. And I began, with a nice little double post on my No. 1 song ever and a more recent curiosity that got my blood pumping.

And I continued. For a little over a year, self-indulgent as expected. March 2010, I wrote about Television's "Venus" (referring to it as a "tight musical fantasia"). And then, I stopped. Not sure why, but I'd hardly be the first person in history to to flake on an ambitious blog project, because…you know, it's a blog. If you want to pay me, my PayPal account is waiting.

But today, in recovery mode from a heavy, heavy week of BQT private parties—and mostly set for the doubleheader this week in the East Village and Boston—I have returned. In the interim, the song list has expanded to 36, but I'm going to finish out these last 11, by gum. I owe it to you, my readers! (By which I mean mainly me.) Thus…

"American Girl" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Pop music is often criticized, and occasionally celebrated, as a victory of style over substance. Anyone can play it, all you need to be able to do is strike the right pose, look good in a leather jacket, drive the kids crazy without giving them anything worth really remembering. This is usually not true. Despite the depressing degeneration in the standards of our popular culture, very few truly talentless hacks enjoy sustained success (Britney Spears being an exception). Perhaps many pop legends lack the kind of talents that, say, a music-theory professor would consider talent, but almost all of them have something. I'll praise Lady Gaga to the skies even though I find her actual music to be completely uninteresting.

This is not a roundabout way of pointing out the often-pointed-out observation that Tom Petty is ugly. Besides the fact that I don't consider him particularly ugly—he's no John Taylor, but who is, my older sister would ask?—it's more about the sheer fact that this guy is a thousand times more talented as a songwriter and musician than, oh, 99% of people who've ever strapped on a guitar. Sure, he struck a good pose, and always had an excellent understanding of the art of the music video, but Tom Petty joined the classic-rock-radio pantheon lacking virtually all of the obvious attributes of his peers: He's not an inspiring figure like Springsteen, not recklessly bombastic like the Who, not particularly sexual like Led Zeppelin, and—okay, fine—not cute like the Beatles. (Relax, I'm not saying the Beatles made it big just because they were cute, but you better believe that got their foot in the door with millions of Beatlemaniacs, even those who didn't see pictures of them; their music was a 14-year-old girl's wet dream, brilliantly.)

What Tom Petty is is a decent vocalist, an amazing band leader, and an excellent, excellent songwriter. He's got at least half a dozen songs I considered for my greatest-hits list (all with the Heartbreakers; yes, I'm the one guy who thought Into the Great Wide Open was an improvement over Full Moon Fever), but I'm positive I'm not alone in singling out "American Girl." Listen:

The lyrics might seem a little mushy and vague ("raised on promises"), but I don't know how anyone can argue with their effect, the aching appeal to the dreams of American youth ("God, it's so painful when something that's so close is still so far out of reach!"). Above I said Petty's not an inspirational figure like Springsteen, and while that's mostly true—he prefers small frustrations to big dreams—I think this song is a notable exception, along with the nearly equally brilliant "Learning to Fly." The point is, while he can write a song that appeals to the human desire to escape to a better tomorrow, he's not reliant on the trope, the way Bruce can be in his weaker moments, the way so many Boss imitators are ad infinitum. When Petty does aim for the heart, he strikes an uncanny bull's-eye.

So I do find "American Girl"potently inspiring, but I think it's its soaring, unique sound that earns it legendary status. Its perfect re-creation of the Byrds' magical jangle, its loping, extended fade-out solo (incidentally, the reason this makes a terrible karaoke song), its shifting rhythms. Most people have never listened to TP and the Heartbreakers' debut self-titled album—it's a slight record of not-bad-but-half-formed rock songs—but it completely takes off when it gets to "American Girl," the final track, signaling to the world that this guy knew exactly what he was doing, even if he hadn't done it yet. You can't argue with talent.

More of NT's greatest hits: "Venus," "Dead Man's Curve," "Message in a Bottle," "Emily Kane," "Born to Run," "Shake Some Action," "Chips Ahoy!," "Radio, Radio," "Could You Be the One?," "Summer in the City," "Teenage Kicks," "Strawberry Fields Forever, " "Tunnel of Love," "I Get Around," "Local Girls," "Don't Let's Start," "Suffragette City," "See-Saw," "My Name Is Jonas," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Reelin' in the Years," "Objects of My Affection" and "Crimson and Clover," "OK Apartment" and "Just What I Needed"


Anonymous said...

belstaff outlet
nike shoes
ugg boots cheap
ugg boots sale
cheap uggs for sale
north face outlet store
mcm bags
ugg sale
mcm backpack
ugg sale
cheap uggs for sale
uggs black friday
canada goose jacket
uggs clearance
parajumper jacket
uggs for sale
genuine ugg boots
kate spade
fitflops clearance
uggs outlet online
cheap uggs
true religion jeans
fendi handbags
cheap uggs for sale
cheap ugg boots
uggs outlet
ugg boots uk
cheap ugg boots
ugg boots clearance
louis vuitton black friday sale
uggs for cheap
ugg boots sale uk
ugg outlet
hollister outlet
uggs outlet

Unknown said...

cheap uggs, http://www.uggboot.com.co/
salomon boots, http://www.salomonshoes.us.com/
insanity workout, http://www.insanityworkout.us.com/
tods shoes, http://www.todsshoes.us.com/
supra footwear, http://www.suprashoes.us.com/
hogan,hogan outlet,scarpe hogan,hogan sito ufficiale,hogan interactive
tommy hilfiger, http://www.tommyhilfigers.net/
nike running shoes, http://www.nikerunningshoes.cc/
nhl jerseys, http://www.nhljerseys.us.com/
bottega veneta outlet online, http://www.bottegaveneta-outlet.net/
canada goose jackets, http://www.canadagoose.us.org/
coach outlet, http://www.coach-outlet-store.us.com/
chicago blackhawks jersey, http://www.chicagoblackhawksjersey.us/
discount oakley sunglasses, http://www.oakleysunglassesdiscount.us.com/
nike shoes, http://www.cheap-nikeshoes.cc/
ray ban sunglasses outlet, http://www.raybansunglass.us.com/
louis vuitton bags, http://www.louisvuittonhandbagsoutlet.co.uk/
cleveland cavaliers, http://www.cavaliersjerseys.net/
true religion jeans outlet, http://www.truereligionjeansoutlets.us.com/
swarovski outlet, http://www.swarovski-outlet.co.uk/

Unknown said...

celine bags
canada goose jackets
Coach Outlet Store Online
Canada Gooses Sale,Canada Gooses Jackets,Canada Gooses Coats,Canada Gooses Parka
Toms Outlet Shoes
Louis Vuitton Handbags Outlet Stores
coach outlet
oakley sunglasses cheap
Jordan Retro 13 Hot Sale
ugg boots
Abercrombie Store
Christian Louboutin Sale For Men And Women
Air Jordan 8
coach outlet online
michael kors uk
hollister uk sale
coach outlet online
Mont Blanc Pens
Louis Vuitton Outlet Online Shop
michael kors outlet online
louis vuitton handbags
cheap ugg boots
Coach Factory Outlet
timberland outlet
ralph lauren outlet
Coach Outlet Coach factory
Abercrombie kids - Official Site
michael kors outlet
Louis Vuitton Handbags Official Site
ralph lauren uk

John said...

ugg boots
hollister uk
nike air huarache
ugg clearance
coach factory outlet
nike air max
ugg boots outlet
ed hardy clothing
gucci outlet
nike free run
adidas originals
louis vuitton handbags
michael kors bag
burberry outlet
canada goose outlet
rolex watches outlet
air max 90
kd shoes
uggs outlet
cheap uggs for sale
louis vuitton bags
the north face
cheap oakley sunglasses
louis vuitton handbags
michael kors outlet online
michael kors handbags
louis vuitton outlet
true religion outlet
lebron james shoes
ugg boots

Unknown said...

canada goose outlet
adidas ultra boost
christian louboutin outlet
canada goose outlet
christian louboutin sale
nike soldes
ultra boost
cheap basketball shoes