Thursday, February 1, 2007

Bookstore music

I have little tolerance for what I call "bookstore music" -- the tepid, unobtrusive stuff one hears when browsing in Borders. And nothing seems to say "bookstore music" more plainly than "Norah Jones." Jones is, in truth, a distinctive singer (her "Don't Miss You at All," a lyrical setting of Duke Ellington's "Melancholia," is one of the most moving recordings I've ever heard). But she's being marketed as background music. Here, sentence by sentence, is Borders' pitch for Jones' new CD:

With its laid-back beauty, sly musicianship, and honeyed singing
"Sly"? "Honeyed"? Those adjectives grate. Given the sexy overtones in this opening phrase, I wonder whether "its" was originally "her."
Norah Jones' latest album is as comforting as a summer breeze on a winter day.
It's odd to refer to an "album's" singing, which strengthens my suspicion about "its" and "her." And in light of global warming, I'd think twice about calling that breeze "comforting."
On Not Too Late, Jones shares in the writing of each track
One doesn't write tracks; one writes songs (or fugues, sonatas, symphonies, and so on).
for a personal recording
I'm not sure what defines a "personal recording," but given the ability of great singers (Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra) to make songs their own, composer credit is hardly necessary for a "personal recording."
that indulges her honky-tonk side.
"Honky-tonk" startles a bit: suddenly I smell cigarette smoke in the summer breeze, a breeze that is now even less comforting than it was when it was reminding me of global warming.
It's a lovely set
"Lovely," on the heels of "honky-tonk"? Ah, what lovely honky-tonk! This CD promises to be all things to all people.
that sounds perfect whether you're enjoying a dinner party or the Sunday paper.
Yes, middle-aged listener, you there with the newspaper spread all over the living room, this CD's for you. You want music that's comforting, but you too have a honky-tonk side waiting to be indulged. And yes, it's the 21st century, in which music is mere background to accompany other, more important endeavors, like sipping a latte, or doing the crossword puzzle, or browsing in a bookstore.

Would this CD still sound "perfect" if one were just listening to it, and not practicing continuous partial attention?

comments: 2

Eustace Bright said...

lol. After a good chuckle at the CD jacket writer's expense, I feel a little bad enjoying this sardonic post. The author of the CD blurb writes to the consumer, not a "reader". He writes anonymously, without artistic significance or hopes, perhaps repetitiously to the point that even when a particular disc matters to him, he doesn't even remember that any more as he writes. This writing situation, my dear Michael Leddy, sounds like Hell for someone like you. m

Or, maybe I'm just feeling a pang of hypocrisy laughing a writer as clumsy as I...

Michael Leddy said...

I wouldn't feel too bad laughing -- Borders is marketing the Norah Jones CD in an e-mail going out to people all over the country, so I would think that every phrase has been worked out in committee. I don't think the writing is clumsy, really, just empty and false.

(You're no clumsy writer, Eustace, not from what I've read.)