Daily Archives: March 12, 2011

Is David Working on a “Concept Album”?

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I do get encouragement knowing that David is tucked away somewhere in Utah getting all introspective with his songwriting.  I still want my album of cover songs, but I’ve always had mad respect for David’s musical ambitions.

So, while some in the fanbase still wring their hands, raise their eyebrows, or come oh-so-close to putting a razor to their wrists (during this rather long Archudrought season), I’m just glad The Voice keeps us updated on his latest “It’s hard getting songs down on paper” tweet musings.  I just want to be a good and loyal fan and say: “Keep up the good work! Can’t wait!”

Such devoted work makes me think there is a label on the horizon and even management negotiations on the table, or why is he working so hard (instead of, say, touring on a mission or completing his GED)?

Anyway, I hope all this songwriting labor pays off, and I sincerely hope David is really working on concepts rather than just putting out forgettable pop ditties.

And that’s when I had the thought: hmmm, could he in fact be working on a whole “concept album”?  It would be perfect for Album #3, no?

There was a time when we 21st-century music lovers began mourning the loss of a dying art, which is the concept album: an album that contains not just a collection of singles but, rather, a unifying theme – either musically or lyrically.  Famous examples include The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Bob Marley’s Exodus (one of my favorite concept albums ever IMHO!), David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

But something happened in recent years: the concept album made a comeback (or perhaps it just started getting more attention if it never really went away).  In the midst of pop singles from the likes of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber, which were literally keeping the music industry from going under, we were still getting some true gems – even if albums were not selling out in the way they used to. So, Green Day’s American Idiot gets a Broadway musical makeover, and Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs emerged from obscurity when it captured this year’s Grammy for Album of the Year.

One concept album that I’m playing on a loop at the moment is Janelle Monae’s The Arch Android, which I purchased sometime after seeing her performance on this year’s Grammy Awards show.  It’s such a badass album that I’m still kicking myself for not getting this when it first came out, but I guess it’s always better late than never (and just goes to show that albums never get old if you listen to it for the first time, whether it was released 30 years ago or just last week). What I especially like about Janelle Monae’s concept – a sci-fi cyborg by the name of Cindi Mayweather, who becomes the savior and mediator between the humans and the androids – is how literally out of this world it is and how the futuristic theme is felt less in the lyrics and more in the music production: a mixed tape hybrid of 21st-century techno pop time-traveling in its remixed encounters with ’50s Hollywood scores, ’60s soul, ’70s psychedelic funk, ’80s hip-hop, and ’90s neo-soul.  (How did this not win Best Contemporary R&B album at the Grammys this year?)

At any rate, I realize most concept albums are shaped around social criticism and visions of a new world order of some sort. So, it makes me wonder what “concept” David would totally be into.  And don’t think it’s not in his repertoire. He comes really close to articulating a concept with The Other Side of Down. It demonstrates his youthful and inspirational worldview.  The lyrics are almost there. What’s not yet demonstrated is his earliest musical influences: now if a talented producer could team up with David and help him capture some of the gospel and old-school R&B sounds to collide with his interests in inspiration and pop.  For instance, it’s so obvious to me, having re-listened to “Things Are Gonna Get Better” yesterday, that David needed somebody who understands how gospel music builds up and frames money-note vocals to deliver the emotional wallop that it’s known for, to really make that song work.

A devoted fan like myself always recognizes the potential in the musical limitations.  So, whatever is going on concerning the business side of things, I’m really excited about the artistic side of David’s development.

Here’s hoping for good things as we continue to wait. The question of course is, what concept would David want to put out there for the rest of us?