Tag Archives: Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys Super Bowl 47 National Anthem – Thoughts & Observations

Jazz singer/songwriter Dave Frishberg once recorded a song entitled “You Would Rather Have the Blues,” a tongue-in-cheek narrative poking fun at people who are always looking for reasons to be unhappy. Though the song was written long before the social media revolution, one might surmise that the tune is aimed directly at the Twitter nation.

Alicia Keys performed the Star Spangled Banner kicking off tonight’s Super Bowl in the New Orleans between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Fancisco 49ers. It’s a role that has come under considerable scrutiny in recent years. Some artists lip-synch the song to a pre-recorded track, some sing live and get criticized for not sounding great, some have forgotten the lyrics. Some are blasted for taking too many liberties with the melody.

The version that Ms. Keys performed this evening was simply spectacular. The combination of her restrained piano accompaniment to her extraordinary vocals, both of which were performed live, was wonderfully simplistic and appropriately poignant. The chordal arrangement was thoughtful and reserved. Many vocalists prefer the safety blanket of a large orchestral backup, yet the honest emotion of piano and voice was consistent with the style of the artist and daunting to pull off in such a setting. And you never had the sense that she believed that she or her performance were bigger or more important than the song itself, a trait becoming rarer and rarer in the day of Megastars and Super Bowl production overkill.

Yet the initial response on the social media outlets focused on the length of the song, a whopping 2 minutes 30 seconds preceding a game that exceeded 4 hours. Amazing. It should be noted that most of the early reviews that focused on the performance itself have been very positive, some concurring with me that it ranked as one of the all time best at this event. If you didn’t care for Alicia’s performance, let me know who has done a better job performing the song LIVE in the history of the Super Bowl – a short list I’m sure.

By the way, Kudos to local New Orleans Piano Showroom, Lafargue Pianos. Technicians from the local Yamaha Piano dealer were summoned to give Ms. Keys’ Grand Piano some prep work, and the look and sound were outstanding.

Here’s a video of tonight’s performance…

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-super-bowl/0ap2000000136099/Alicia-Keys-wows-singing-national-anthem

 

Is Your Music Hamburger or Duck a l’Orange?

I remember watching an interview with Paul Simon regarding the inversely proportional nature between the complexity of some of his songs and their commercial success. He stated that he has written songs that he felt were masterpieces that went virtually unnoticed by the listening public. Others (he referenced “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” that he felt were very simplistic shot to the top of the charts.

It’s a simple fact that sometimes simplicity can connect with a broader audience. I’ve also heard Herbie Hancock, when asked about genres that might not receive the critical acclaim that jazz generally does explain it this way (paraphrasing) – “In the world of cuisine, hamburger is just as significant as Duck a l’Orange.”

And Americans eat a lot more hamburgers.

And therein lies the artist’s dilemma – as you hone your skills you might begin to appeal to an increasingly narrow audience. On occasion the planets align and a Stevie Wonder, an Alicia Keys, a Christina Aguilera or a Steely Dan find commercial success despite their talent, but any artist understands Simon’s perspective on this topic.

And that concept certainly isn’t limited to the music world. Visual artists – Can I have an Amen for the Mona Lisa…or for Dogs Playing Poker?