Friday, September 1, 2017

The Police - All Songs Ranked Best to Worst

I grew up listening to the Police. My dad had Synchronicity on tape and I borrowed it from him so much that he finally just let me have it so I'd leave him alone (a move I totally get now that I'm a dad). I was sitting at home one night feeling bored and decided to re-listen to all five Police albums and rank each song. Here are some things I learned:

Stewart Copeland (drums) and Andy Summers (guitar) are the best in the business at their respective instruments. Also, if you watch or read any interviews, they are clearly nicer, humbler dudes than Sting by a very large margin. What I mean to say is: I like them much better than Sting. However, some of the songs they wrote are awful and are far down on the list. Part of it is their songs sound more like novelty songs with silly lyrics and gimmick-y premises.

I have to hand it to Sting: he writes relentlessly catchy songs. However, I don't think enough people recognize the contributions of Copeland and Summers which take each of Sting's songs from "good" to "amazing." None of Sting's solo stuff has ever been as good or successful. 

Sting is a very pretentious as a lyricist, trying to cram in as many literary and Psych 101 references as he can, whether it works or not.

Andy Summers was the original Tom Morello. He has the best effects and offbeat solos and probably never really got his due as the genius he is.

I averaged the rating for each song on each album and the album ranking (lower album number means higher song ratings) came out like this:
  1. Synchronicity - 23.09090909 
  2. Outlandos d'Amour - 23.3 
  3. Zenyatta Mondatta - 25.90909091 
  4. Ghost In The Machine - 32.18181818
  5. Reggatta de Blanc - 35.09090909
That's pretty consistent with what I found as I listened. Each album has the killer songs we all know, but a lot of the deep cuts are pretty mediocre. One music critic said of the Police, "Once you skim off the hits, you're left with uninspired though well-crafted filler," and nowhere is that more true than Regatta de Blanc. Weak ideas and even riffs recycled from Outlandos get stretched painfully thin into "songs." Zenyatta Mondatta has similar problems. To be fair, they were making these albums at a crazy fast pace.

My main beef with Ghost In The Machine is the saxophone. Some time before it was recorded, Sting taught himself how to play and the album is polluted with layers upon layers of middling saxophone that hurts my spine to listen to.

My favorite songs are on Outlandos d'Amour because it captures the Police in their first moments of combining punk rock and appropriated reggae, and the sound is exciting and bouncy. For best album, Synchronicity stands out because it all works together so well as an album you can sit down and listen to front to back.

Here are the songs ranked best to worst:

1"Roxanne"StingOutlandos d'AmourY
2"Message in a Bottle"StingReggatta de BlancY
3"Don't Stand So Close to Me"StingZenyatta MondattaY
4"Can't Stand Losing You"StingOutlandos d'AmourY
5"So Lonely"StingOutlandos d'AmourY
7"Man in a Suitcase"StingZenyatta MondattaN
8"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"StingGhost In The MachineY
9"Walking on the Moon"StingReggatta de BlancY
10"Synchronicity I"StingSynchronicityN
11"Every Breath You Take"StingSynchronicityY
12"Spirits in the Material World"StingGhost In The MachineY
13"De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da"StingZenyatta MondattaY
14"Next to You"StingOutlandos d'AmourN
15"Miss Gradenko"CopelandSynchronicityN
16"King of Pain"StingSynchronicityY
17"Truth Hits Everybody"StingOutlandos d'AmourN
18"Secret Journey"StingGhost In The MachineY
19"Wrapped Around Your Finger"StingSynchronicityY
20"Masoko Tanga"StingOutlandos d'AmourN
21"Invisible Sun"StingGhost In The MachineY
22"Synchronicity II"StingSynchronicityY
23"Walking in Your Footsteps"StingSynchronicityN
24"Canary in a Coalmine"StingZenyatta MondattaN
25"O My God"StingSynchronicityN
26"Tea in the Sahara"StingSynchronicityN
27"Bombs Away"CopelandZenyatta MondattaN
28"Driven to Tears"StingZenyatta MondattaN
29"Does Everyone Stare"CopelandReggatta de BlancN
30"Hungry for You (J'aurais toujours faim de toi)"StingGhost In The MachineN
31"Too Much Information"StingGhost In The MachineN
32"Behind My Camel"SummersZenyatta MondattaN
33"Born in the '50s"StingOutlandos d'AmourN
33"Murder by Numbers"Summers, StingSynchronicityN
34"Bring on the Night"StingReggatta de BlancY
35"The Bed's Too Big Without You"StingReggatta de BlancY
36"It's Alright for You"Sting, CopelandReggatta de BlancN
37"When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around"StingZenyatta MondattaN
38"Voices Inside My Head"StingZenyatta MondattaN
39"Shadows in the Rain"StingZenyatta MondattaN
40"Ī©megaman"SummersGhost In The MachineN
41"Peanuts"Sting, CopelandOutlandos d'AmourN
42"No Time This Time"StingReggatta de BlancN
43"Hole in My Life"StingOutlandos d'AmourN
44"Rehumanize Yourself"Sting, CopelandGhost In The MachineN
45"Demolition Man"StingGhost In The MachineN
46"The Other Way of Stopping"CopelandZenyatta MondattaN
47"Darkness"CopelandGhost In The MachineN
48"Contact"CopelandReggatta de BlancN
49"On Any Other Day"CopelandReggatta de BlancN
50"Deathwish"Summers, Sting, CopelandReggatta de BlancN
51"One World (Not Three)"StingGhost In The MachineN
52"Reggatta de Blanc"Summers, Sting, CopelandReggatta de BlancN
53"Be My Girl – Sally"Sting, SummersOutlandos d'AmourN

Monday, February 13, 2017

Trump life

So, Trump happened. President Trump is a thing now, and I, like a lot of people, am kind of embarrassed that America has let itself go like this. I can say I’m embarrassed of America because I love America, and I can be embarrassed of something an still love it i.e. grandparents, relatives, certain songs by Justin Bieber.

There’s not much for me to add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said and covered in the thousands of op-eds and think pieces published daily. All I really can do here is to make my position clear and talk about my own family’s experience.

When Trump got elected, my wife cried and cried and my five-year-old asked me, “Why is mommy crying?” and I was at a loss for words. How am I supposed to explain racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, sexism, misogyny, ableism, homophobia, antisemitism, classism and so on and so forth to his little innocent face? He still thinks Spider-Man is a real person.

What I want to say is: Son, Donald Trump represents the worst parts of America. It’s like America was sitting out on the counter at room temperature for a while and it started to separate and all this weird filmy stuff floated to the top and that filmy stuff is Donald Trump and his ilk.

I also want to say: Son, Donald Trump has repeatedly spoken out against people who look like you and your mother. He has enabled a whole unsavory host of hate-filled people to feel like they can do and say whatever awful thing they feel like. Your mother is likely crying because she is afraid for you and her family and all of the other people Donald Trump has threatened.

Some good has come out of the whole Trump thing: It has forced me to talk to my kids about these issues, which I should’ve been teaching them about all along.

So far here are some of the topics we’ve had to cover:
  • Talking about race is OK, saying racist things is bad, and how to know the difference. People need to be OK talking about it. This also applies to issues of gender, religion, sexuality, etc.
  • Hating people is bad. Most people, no matter how much we disagree with them, don’t deserve to be hated. I’m OK with hating ideologies but I am squeamish to say I hate a person. To say, “I hate that racist,” seems highly ironic to me. “I hate racism,” feels better. Demonizing people I disagree with is not good.
  • Other people have feelings too. Civil discourse is nice. Polite discussion is nice. Openness and honesty and a willingness to pause talking to listen are great.
  • Problems are complex and thus solutions to problems are also complex. If you look at an issue and your analysis is so simplistic as: “The problem is obviously brown people, so the solution is obviously to ban, deport, or wall out all varieties of brown people,” then your analysis is dumb, and you need to re-analyze the problem.
  • We are religious but we are NOT Republican. You can be liberal and religious. It’s allowed. A lot of religious, Christian people have somehow gotten the idea that they HAVE to be Republican and I promise that is not the case. If ever there was a time to break with the Republican party, it’s now.
  • Lying is bad. We need to place value on the truth and verifiable facts and hold our elected officials accountable for what they say.
Great, well, I’m sure this has changed a lot of people’s minds. The internet is great, isn’t it?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Little Caesar's, living your best life, and who should pay on a date

Do you like observational humor? Here’s an observational joke for you: Have you ever noticed that Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready Pizzas and very frequently NOT ready?

Seinfeld is rolling in his grave*. When I thought of this joke I actually got up from where I was sitting, opened a drawer and got out a pen, went to a shelf and got out a notebook, and wrote that mess down. In hindsight, it probably wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I had forgotten that joke.

But seriously: the other night I was at Little Caesar’s and they told me it would be a 10-15 minute wait for a Hot and Ready, without any trace of irony. I sat in the little plastic chairs and while I waited I started to write an angry tweet to Little Caesars. Before I sent the tweet I had the thought, “It’s probably a better use of my time to just kill myself,” because if you’re in a Little Caesar’s on a Friday night, angry tweeting about a $5 pizza, it’s not really about the pizza, is it? Something else has gone wrong in your life to bring you to this point. Furthermore, Little Caesar’s doesn’t care one bit about your customer service experience. They know that people who can afford to go elsewhere for pizza, do. They know you’re going to be hungry and broke again, and you’ll come crawling back.

While I waited, a good-looking couple came in. They looked like they were on a date and they ordered the Hot and Ready pizza. The young man asked the young woman, “Hey, can you get this?” Now, call me old-fashioned, but I feel like if you’re on a date and it’s a $5 pizza, the guy can pay.

They sat down with me (their pizza wasn’t ready, of course) and while we waited a woman came in to order a Hot and Ready. She was an overweight woman, and I can say that since I am also overweight, so she is my people and we are bonded together by carbohydrates. She proceeded to get super upset that the Hot and Readies weren’t ready. She yelled at the-16 year-old disinterested cashier and demanded to see the manager, who was also 16, also disinterested, and also unable to help.

I had crazy respect for this lady, because, as an overweight person, I never want to seem too overeager to eat, especially when it’s something as nutritionally bankrupt as a Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready pizza. I don’t want to be judged, like, “We get it fatty: you’re fat. We’ll get you your pizza as fast as we can and then you can cram it down your gullet as fast as you can.” But this lady didn’t care about any of that.

She was the hero of my evening, a role model, and she got her Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready before all the rest of us. I think she earned it.

*Seinfeld is obviously alive. This is, like, a joke within a joke. I invented it, I'm sure.

This post is adapted from a standup set I did a few nights ago. Like when a comedian writes a book that is just their standup bits in collected essay form (i.e. Dad is Fat). Not sure if the adaptation worked. You be the judge. I might do more of these in the future.