Song Versus Style

So many times we get caught up in what style we like, or play, or even are. (Well, maybe the ‘are’ part is just junior high. I didn’t listen to punk. No. I was punk. Like, punk like the Dead Kennedy’s literally believing that anarchy was a governmental option? No. Not real punk. I was ‘Blink-182 punk’. Which means you safety pin an MxPx patch to your pleather jacket and yell ‘You suck’ at traffic going 50 miles an hour. And it’s the traffic going 50 miles an hour, not me and my ‘punk’ friends. We’re walking…and trying oh so hard to look like the only reason we we don’t have a car is because we don’t want a car. And failing. Ah, my younger years.)

But it amazes me sometimes how into the ‘style’ of music I get. And then I try to listen to music around that style, and play music around that style, because I think I like it. And that’s partly true. But I’m blown away sometimes when I hear a song in a style that I normally can’t stand, but for some reason with this particular song, I love it. (And I’m pretty sure this ‘getting caught up in style’ goes for most people, too……not just me. Just turn on your local indie station. If I hear one more band trying to be The Shins…….)

I think it goes back to what Johann Sebastian Bach said in the 17th century. He said, ‘Music is melody.’ I love that. A good song, sound, and music will always trump a good style. Style is important, but it’s secondary. A good song will come through no matter what style. You might love it more if it was in a style you dig, but you’ll still be drawn to a good song even if it’s not ‘your style’. Whereas a bad song in your style will still be a bad song.

Here’s an example of a good song. And here’s five different ways it’s been done. And some of the styles aren’t really my deal. But the song, melody, sound, and music are so good that it transcends style.

Here’s the original version. Vintage Stones. (And for you toneheads, pay attention to the sound Keith can coax out of that acoustic. Really nice. That guy really does have tone in his hands. Edit: never mind, youtube took that version down…too much tone for the internet, methinks.)

And then here it is, totally different, and sung wonderfully by Franco Battatio. This song just wrecks me every time I hear it. If you’re into film, this was one of the highlights of ‘Children of Men.’

And yet another version. Still beautiful. This is Melanie Safka.

And here’s the U2 cover. (You knew it was coming, right?) They go into it a bit at about 6:20. Gorgeously played; nice and simplistic. (And, as side notes, if you like U2, this is one of their best live performances right here. And yes, I am aware that Bono is half naked in overalls, and it does disturb me, too. Also, pay attention to the fact that Bono is roaming all over the stage with a wired mic. Watch the guys behind him scramble to keep the cord from getting tangled.)

So, a good song will always come through. Focus on your getting a good sound out of your instrument…melodically, tone-wise, and as it works with the music. Don’t worry so much about what style it is. Just sound good. Then add the style you’re looking for afterwards.

Style doesn’t matter at all when you’ve got a good song. Well……except for maybe this one:


Splendid. And sorry for that last arrangement. There are a few styles, I guess, that can kill good songs.

0 thoughts on “Song Versus Style

  1. Dude! That version of “Bad” on “Rattle & Hum” is what hooked me when I saw it for the first time, age 16. It’s just raw. I don’t know what other word to use.

    Is it just me or does the version of “Exit” on R&H also sound incredible (it’s completely unremarkable on “The Joshua Tree”)?

  2. yeah that version of bad is great, there are some things that they captured on R&H that were probably best-of type performances.

    it would be an interesting segue into how people mix songs together. bono does it all the time, but I’ve heard other artists mix say old hymns into some contemporary ones (sometimes ending up like a train wreck).

    @jeff – same thing with sliver and gold I think too.

  3. I can’t listen right now because I’m on a conference call, but I’m sure I’ll like it :) I had a similar experience last week. I got addicted to this TV show “Weeds” and I watched 3 seasons of it last week. I know. BUT, in season 1 they had this catchy intro song over the opening credits. In season 2 and 3 they had a bunch of guest artists cover the song in styles from gangster rap to country to orchestral. Same melody, different style. It was awesome!! If you’re looking to kill some time search “Weeds intro” on youtube:

  4. From your posts, I get a slight hint that you are a fan of delay. However, I’m not sure if that is accurate. I may be reading into some of your posts. Anyway . . . assuming you are a fan of delay . . . can you post a “Delay for Idiots” post with some insight on how to use delay. Again, that is only assuming you are a fan of delay. I could be way off base. Thanks!

  5. Jeff–serious, bro. I used to (and still do) just put the song on and watch it over and over. And ya, I actually liked Exit on the album, but live took it to a whole ‘nother level.

    Kenrick–totally agree. I love the way they can seamlessly integrate songs together; it can be useful in worship, too, like you mentioned.

    And great call on Silver and Gold!

    Mike–I love that this is how you spend your conference calls……surfing gear blogs. That’s the best thing ever! And interesting on the Weeds stuff. I like it!

    Mark–hey, welcome! Great to have you here. And yep, you called it right……I am a delay freak. And it’s good that you mentioned that, because I’m in the process of trying to get a couple videos recorded on how to use certain effects in modern music. Delay and fuzz will probably be the first ones up. Glad to see that at least one person will be interested! 😉 Cheers, bro!

  6. Songs with meaning behind them are so much better. I think this crosses all genres of music and art in general. Human expression is best when passion and meaning are central to the message.

    As Christian artists, we have the advantage of having the best meaning in the history of the world. When we add our passion successfully, God inspires some awesome moments. how can he not be the God of this universe.

    Sorry to get so serious, but hearing that music is really inspiring. Edge uses his talent for great things. If I could only use it 1% as well…

  7. Great! Looking forward to the videos. I have a dd20, but need to spend some time with it. If I subscribe to your blog, does that mean I get notified of new posts you put up? Will I be notified of every comment or just your posts?

  8. Hmmmm . . . can I subscribe? I watch your blog and a few others. I usually just check them every few days for new posts. Is there a way to follow a blog by subscribing so I get email notification of updates?

  9. By the way, this was one key to my “guess” that you liked delay:

    ” . . . if I didn’t have a beautiful wife, the delay pedals would go to bed with me just like your toys as a kid . . . .”

    Great quote!

  10. Good stuff. The Stones get the hook right so many times!
    A few random-nothing comments:
    * Melanie Safka’s voice can peel the paint off of a car. She’s just a sheer acoustic hurricane; I could listen to her even if the lyrics were in Swahili; check out Candles In The Rain.
    * Ruby Tuesday was written for Marianne Faithful; she never made the song big as did the Stones. Her version is nice.
    * Here’s another goosebumpy version with a little Irish flavor:
    * Every Sunday we cover other people’s songs in our church band; I hope we’re breathing the same energy and passion into them as some of these artists have done with Ruby T.
    Merry Christmas.

  11. Gotammo–seriously great comment! I totally agree. Songs where the bands are obviously passionate about they’re singing…where they believe what they’re singing, are usually infinitely more able to get across and get the audience to feel something. And as worship leaders for God, you’re right…if only we could do that half as well as some of these bands, we’d be in good shape. Great comment!

    Mark–sorry, bro, I’m so technologically-challenged. I have no idea how to subscribe to my blog. But I usually update every 2-3 days, if that helps. hehe But if you figure out how to subscribe, let me know! hehe

    And lol at your last comment. hehe I guess that would’ve been a big hint. 😉

    DanV–awesome comment! And nice links. Candles in the Rain is great, as are the other two versions of Ruby Tuesday. And wow, great point about us putting the same energy and passion into songs for the Lord as these guys do about life in general. Think how powerful it would be. I really enjoy it when you comment…lots of wisdom. Thanks!!

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