‘Play This More Often’ is a series of essays meant to highlight songs that deserve more attention and appreciation, all in the humble opinion of this music listener of course. Some of them may be neglected by the public at large, some not taken seriously enough by music writers or some plainly overlooked because of their obscurity. Whatever the case, suggestions via the comments from you are always welcomed.
1) Eminem – Rock Bottom
While the beats were rarely the focal point of Eminem’s songs, they were right from the start in total accordance with the subject matters. And by “start” I mean right from The Slim Shady LP – whether we talk about the cartoonish funkiness of ‘My Name Is’ or the mock-dance of ‘Cum on Everybody’. So what happens when Eminem decides to write some of the saddest lyrics of his whole career, describing past struggles with poverty and raising his daughter under those conditions? Producer team Bass Brothers provides a hollow and down atmosphere that is just the perfect match.
2) Nirvana – Where Did You Sleep Last Night
Usually when artists die a tragic death, their last work acquires a certain eerie quality. The title of Notorious B.I.G.’s only album has a more powerful effect given that he was killed before he could follow it up. John Lennon’s ‘Double Fantasy’ is, paradoxically, the album of his that makes me the saddest because I hear a man finally happy and at peace with himself. Nothing compares with Kurt giving one of his most passionate lead vocals right at the end of Nirvana’s last album, though. Try listening to that final chorus (or better, watch it) without getting shaken up. Hint: it’s impossible.
3) Ramones – Baby, I Love You
By definition, perfection is something that you can’t outdo. So there is no point in even comparing this cover song to the original Ronettes version. But judged on its own terms, this is still among Ramones’ prettiest ballads, having a nice arrangement, showcasing Joey’s voice and fitting in perfectly with the “do you remember…” theme of the album. Many fans reject the idea of combining the raw sound of the Ramones with the meticulous, dense style of production that Phil Spector is famous for, but I’ve always thought it worked well. Maybe it’s due to the fact that the band always had a significant pop element in their songs.
4) Public Enemy – Rebel Without a Pause
“I could die tomorrow. Because that record right there? Nothing could fucking go nowhere near it” is Chuck D quoted as saying after he heard the finished song. And I can certainly understand that – this is the band’s first truly classic single in a string of many. I could talk about Chuck’s imposing tone or about Flav’s perfectly timed interjections or about that epic 3rd strophe, but what always impresses me the most is that noisy, alert “whistle” sample. How the hell did they decide that out of a whole James Brown song, they’re gonna take just the two seconds and turn it into such an iconic sound? Makes you realize the large potential of the whole sampling technique; if the right ear and skill is involved that is.
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