Wednesday, June 16, 2010

6/16/10 - Songs of the Summer #5-6 - "Swinging on a Star" and "Sentimental Journey"

Top Song of 1944: "Swinging On A Star" by Bing Crosby

Well, hello first recognizable name. Bing Crosby, step on down. I have greater appreciation for why Bing Crosby's songs (or song interpretations, I should say) have endured, when other singers from mid-century have faded into obscurity, after listening to this shortly after some of the other '40s songs in this list - his voice is remarkably expressive and distinctive. As opposed to yesterday's Dick Haymes song, where I found myself focusing more on the background vocals and overall architecture of the song, I found that Crosby's vocal style has a way of casually asserting itself as the dominant instrument of this song.

So, even though we've got the standard horn solo, and harmonized vocals in counterpoint with Crosby's lead, his voice really establishes itself - not by trying too hard, but by achieving a kind of controlled casualness. It's the kind of smoothness that doesn't call attention to itself - not a lot of overemoting or "emotionalism", but the kind of line reading that suggests that Bing has just kind of sidled up to you at the bar and is chatting about all of life, or nothing at all.

My favorite example of this is the way that when he sings "You might grow up to be a fish", he hangs extra on the "sh" sound of fish - it's a touch that connotes a simple pleasure in the sounds of the words. The only time he gets a little fancy with the delivery is when he holds on "star" at the end, and it stands out because of how straightforward his reading of the song is for the bulk of it.

Top Song of 1945: "Sentimental Journey" by Les Brown and Doris Day

Again, a slower-tempo ballad to pair with a more swinging, up-tempo number. I'm wondering how long that's going to the pattern from year to year. I don't expect it'll hold up for longer. I love the way this song starts - the instrumentation is very dramatic at the beginning, leading all up to a very restrained delivery of "Gonna take a sentimental journey" in the middle of Doris Day's register. Like Bing Crosby, Doris Day also has a really enjoyable voice, similar in that there's an element of casualness of a lot of her lyric delivery. She gets after it by the end, but for most of the song she's also in a more low-key mode.

This song is notable for not really having much of a pop structure. It's 3:15, which is right in the comfort zone for pop song length, but it's got a really long instrumental intro (more than 1:15 of the song). As opposed to most pop songs, and summer songs are almost always pop songs, it doesn't have an ebb and flow structure, where it returns to a certain refrain; it proceeds in a straight line from beginning to end, without really circling back except for the penultimate set of lines, where the first couple of lines are echoed. Which is all a long way of saying that this song has no chorus.


ariyele said...

LOVE this one. while listening to this song and reading your words on it, i was thinking, "wow i really like this intro." then you said it. there you go.

ariyele said...

sentimental journey that is.