New Music Through Old Ears: A little ray of sunshine

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As Australia faces a gradual release from lockdown with many entertainment activities still months away, music man John Turnbull presents a selection of new music with positive vibes.

Alicia Keys: Underdog

Classically trained pianist Alicia Keys was something of a child prodigy, composing songs by age 12 and signed to Columbia Records at age 15. She has won 15 Grammy Awards, was named by Billboard as the top R&B artist of the 2000s and has sold over 65 million albums. While increasingly active in philanthropy and activism, her musical output slowed somewhat over the next ten years but the accolades continued. And now she’s written a song that seems to capture a moment in time almost perfectly.

At any other time, there is a chance that this tribute to the less fortunate might come off as patronising or twee, but in mid-2020, the air of positivity and unity is welcome. Released just before the COVID-19 crisis kicked in, the song pays homage to doctors, teachers and the other people keeping everything together, echoing the sentiment that has seen people around the world take to their doorsteps to applaud the actions of the essential workers.

Neighbour.: When Things Get Better

We were first introduced to eclectic Sydney duo Neighbour. via their infectiously catchy 2019 single ‘Freaky Hoes’, a track which I said sounded like ‘a vaguely impaired cross between MGMT and Lil Peep. A fractious year saw oddball vocalist Rory Asquith flee the country for the UK only to return a few months later, drawn inexorably by the lure of making weird and wonderful music with singer/guitarist Cameron Davies.

Capturing the cabin fever vibes of an inner-city Sydney in lockdown, ‘When Things Get Better’ isn’t necessarily upbeat from a lyrical perspective, dealing as it does with missed opportunities and an understated longing for the future. On the other hand, the self-aware clip and psychedelic breakdown make this a delightful track to take you away from the mundanity of your home office, if only for four minutes and ten seconds.

Doja Cat: Say So

For those unfamiliar with the artist known as Doja Cat, the Los Angeles born singer/rapper rose to fame with a dirt-cheap but entertaining clip for 2018’s ‘Mooo!’, then followed it up with deliberately “edgy” tracks like ‘So High’ and ‘Go To Town’, a song about oral sex with all the lyrical subtlety of Steel Panther. Think Cardi B but not quite as ubiquitous and you’ll get the idea.

Like the soundtrack of a summer that was inexplicably cut short, ‘Say So’ also has strong links to the newest and most baffling social media platform, TikTok. While this may mean little to many readers, tech early adopters and those under the age of 15 will recognise the popularity of viral dance challenges — which has to be a better use of the internet than encouraging people to set their homes on fire.

Justin Bieber: Intentions

Let’s get one thing straight — I can’t stand Justin Bieber. I do not care for his lazy, derivative music and I think he is a fundamentally flawed human being that would have been better off if he had never become famous. To be fair, he seems to have done some work on rehabilitating his reputation over the last year or so, with nary a story about urinating in mop buckets or egging his neighbour's houses to be found. So good for him, I guess.

It is from that perspective that ‘Intentions’ makes this list. The track itself is immediately disposable, but the film clip has an undeniable positivity and charm with the Biebs visiting a bunch of his fans and making their day a little happier.  It’s hardly ‘Walking on Sunshine’, but in 2020, you take what you can get.

And now… the most uplifting song ever written.

Queen: Don’t Stop Me Now

Based on a scientific formula that measures factors including beats per minute, the scale in which the song was written and the chord variation, Queen's ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ is the most uplifting song ever written.

The study was conducted by University of Missouri neuroscientist Dr Jacob Jolij, which analysed 126 songs over a 50-year period and placed ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ in front of banging tracks like ‘Eye of the Tiger’, ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘I Will Survive’. In case you were unsure, this confirms that Queen is awesome.

That’s it for this week, good readers. 

Be good to one another.

Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: EuropeDamnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).

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