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Oldies But Goldies: My Great Niece Juliet When She Was Seven In 2009’s Playlist

 

juliet

In a somewhat scathing review of Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” back in April, I snickered “How much reassurance do young girls need?” Well, there is young and then there is young. My great niece Juliet Lababedi is going to be seven years old in a week and like all seven year old’s there isn’t enough reassurance and recommendation, and though my great-niece, is as self-possessed a young girl as you can imagine, if what she gets from a song like “the Climb” is a sense of life as a reachable goal, I applaud Ms. Cyrus on her achievement.

I never disliked Miley Cyrus the way I have, say, Marie Osmond, a similar role model, but with the exception of a song here and there she hits me as being entirely average: not bad but not there. I have been comparing Cyrus unfavourably with Taylor Swift since I started this blog and Miley’s songs don’t stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever.

On looking at Juliet’s playlist I see a mix of tween and dance. The dance comes from her mother Hyam Lababedi. I took Hyam to see Justin Timberlake at MSG a coupla years ago and sitting in Hyam’s car and trying not to puke (she thinks the brakes is a fifth gear), the best thing about riding with Hyam has always been the Dance mixes she blasts. The influence can be seen here but what is surprising is Juliet would choose the downbeat “What Comes Around”.

Let’s stay with dance music. Music isn’t innate, it isn’t like language, even if you listen to it from a young age you might not enjoy it. Novelist Vladimer Nabakov’s mother was a gifted musician and his song became a professional opera singer. Nabakov couldn’t play a lick AND didn’t particularly care for music at all. I myself am tone deaf and can barely strum a guitar. So whether Hyam had a musical enviroment or otherwise would not NECESSARILY influence Juliet’s liking or disliking of music but for sure, in being introduced to music at an early age if Juliet was to like music it would, self-evidently, not be other than music she was being introduced to. You can’t expect Juliet to enjoy JuJu music, for instance, though her African counterpart might well love King Sunny Ade.

What I am trying to get at is that from, what she has to choose from, Juliet likes what she likes. Still, I would hazard a guess that as a teen or twenty something Juliet will listen to a lot of modern country and DJ mixes.

The Climb – Miley Cyrus – The song is a self help manual for teens and tweens and if the proforma ballad style was new to me I could hear easier what Juliet responds to. There is a musical pun working its way out there, in the chorus her vocals go higher the further up she climbs. Cyrus voice is nondescript in the extreme , somewhere between mezzo soprano and soprano, but I’ve heard her live and if they are doctoring her vocals I can’t tell. It’s the little bit country in Miley: a youthful sincerity belied by the big business surrounding her. If she was better she’d be worse. Take a look at the lyric now:

“I can almost see it
That dream I’m dreamin’ but
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“you’ll never reach it”.
Every step I’m taking.
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction.My faith is shakin’
But I, I gotta keep tryin’.
Gotta keep my head held high.

There’s always gonna be another mountain.
I’m always gonna wanna make it move.
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose.
Ain’t about how fast I get there.
Ain’t about what’s waitin on the other side.
It’s the climb.

The struggles I’m facing.
The chances I’m taking.
Sometimes might knock me down but
No I’m not breaking.
I may not know it but these are the moments that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah.
Just gotta keep going.
And I, I gotta be strong.
Just keep pushing on,
’cause,

There’s always gonna be another mountain.
I’m always gonna wanna make it move.
Always gonna be an uphill battle
But Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose.
Ain’t about how fast I get there.
Ain’t about what’s waitin on the other side.
It’s the climb.

There’s always gonna be another mountain.
I’m always gonna wanna make it move.
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes you’re gonna have to lose.
Ain’t about how fast I get there.
Ain’t about what’s waitin on the other side.
It’s the climb.”

The song was written by modern country pros Jesse Alexander and James Mabee who, despite being pros, have never had a hit like that. What does Juliet, and all the other people who bought it, see in the song? The thing that is so hard to grasp is that seven year olds have their own battles, their own places where they need to attempt and sometimes fail. Jesse and James are journeymen who will never see the success of a Cyrus. Jesse is 37 years old, her parents divorced when she was three, and what is different about “The Climb” is the acceptance of failure. As we grow old we become a little more used to failure since we fail so much more often than we succeed, a song that embraces the climb and not the top of the mountain is more in common with the life as we live it at seventeen years of age and even at seven years of age. If Juliet’s mother gets on her to do her homework or clean her room or try harder because Juliet is “capable of anything”, Juliet can comfort herself with “The Climb”.

Rich Girl – Gwen Stefani
Hollabackgirl – Gwen Stefani
Pokerface – Lady Gaga
The people who flocked to Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life” had never heard of “Annie” for the most part and I bet Juliet has never heard “If I Was A Rich Man” though when she does she’ll recognize it and a song that maybe would have seemed too remote for her will be a pleasurable surprise. Dre is the man behind “Richgirl” and it has the best sample imaginable but is there anything older than last years beats? The biggest problem on Eminem’s “Relapse” was Dre’s beats which are too hard by half and lack the dexterity of a Nellee Hopper – who produced Holla, let alone a LMFAO. Though none of that should bother seven year old girls. Both of these songs are obscene nursery rhymes and very good though I hope Hyam is playing the bleeped version!! Lady Gaga has the potential of becoming a Madonna like figure and “The Fame” -Lady Gaga’s first album, is her “Madonna” and “Pokerface” is a straight faced, glam swagger hit like we haven’t heard in years. In her spacegirl suit Lady Gaga will have to prove it on her next album but if she should, Juliet will have have Lady Gaga tailing her forever.

Love Bug – Jonas Brothers
Here are the options open to the JBs. A) they become serious long term artists or B) they don’t. Now here’s the moral: right now they are in that icky area between the pre and the pubescent periods of their career; if they were (actually they are but..) teen boys their voices would have started to break and their faces break out. Did you see them with Stevie Wonder at the Grammy’s? Honestly, nice try guys but you look so… er, awkward! They are seconds away from being the next Jesse McCarthy or… maybe there is some real talent beneath all that clearasil. “Love Bug” is another nursery rhyme, a tinkling piano, a sacharine lyric, and in the video the boys in white tuxes.

Back To Tennessee – Billy Ray Cyrus
Miley’s papa is a talented fellow, always up for the pop side of southern boogie and he sure is here again. It’s like Alabama made with nutrasweet.

What Comes Around/Interlude -Justin Timberlake
Of all the songs on Juliet’s playlist this is the flat out, no doubt, masterpiece. It’s a
dark brooder of a dance joint -the keybs -which Timberlake played at MSG, live he is using back up singers but recorded it sounds like he is multitracking himself and the strings that tke him out is a synth. It is love as pay back but I am guessing again we are dealing with a nursery round, “the round and round and round….” is a refresher course from kindergarten -“round and round and round the rosey” it might as well be and when people has straight up gifted as Lake and Land put their mind to hook you it is pointless to fight them: there’s a rigged, circular trigger to the song. For adults there is comfort in the spiral, in the renewal, but for children it is in the circle, the comfort of returning from where you came, and the entire song enforces this return though the return, the revenge, is negative (which is why there are so many blue notes). And more, it is a suite not a song (that’s the interlude) and it includes too indelible hooks: The “round” and the “don’t wanna talk about…” —you’re ears want to hear both. A magnificent song worthy of Michael Jackson.

So what have learnt from Juliet’s taste. First, children love nursery rhymes but nursery rhymes with an edge to them. If Juliet’s taste was a fairty tale it would be “Hansel and Gretel”. For a seven year old girl Juliet’s taste is a touch too mature -maybe more like a ten year old.

Thank you Juliet Lababedi for sharing with you Great-Uncle your wonderful music. I love you very much!

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