I spent all day worried about the notes that i fucked up on Mother Mother. Peter, i kept thinking, how could you post a Trio with notes that fucked up?. Well, i knew how; “Mother Mother” had been holding me up for over a week, and finally this morning i just woke up, tuned my guitar, screamed intermittently for about three minutes, and then wiped my hands of the Trio just in time for my directing class.
I walked to said class while listening to, for the first time in many many years, Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl. This was an album that, in my pre-adolescent life, was probably second only to the LPs in my Madonna collection when it came to getting the most spins, though i would be hard pressed to explain that phenomenon to you after a day of suffering through the ten-track atrocity that Paula passed off as a debut album.
I refer to it as such not because it failed to be a coldly calculated synth-fueled pop smash (it was), but because even with the best computers the late eighties had to offer and a multi-cultural multi-gender team of anonymous back of singers, Paula can still barely hit a solid note. It’s actually quite pathetic. Verses that i remembered being supple and sweet were instead slurred and sloppy, and vocal crescendos on choruses were actually a tiny, squeaky Paula being carried by a crashing layered tide of herself and said crack team of backup singers.
I can appreciate that some people aren’t the most phenomenal singers, but all through my walk to and from class i found myself wondering couldn’t they have gotten a better performance out of her? Obviously the album was destined for success whether it featured assured singing or not, but why settle for not? Why not train more, or record more takes, or pick a pop-model who can actually sing to sell your songs rather than a former cheerleader destined to be remembered more for her scripted anti-Simon quips than her amazing vocal abilities?
I don’t know that i’ve figured out the answers, but tonight i found myself absent-mindedly listening to my first Trio ever, and i realized that i really didn’t hit very many of the notes. I was singing, and supporting a little, and i had pitch, but i was not singing with the tuneful confidence that invites harmony, a band, or a record deal. If had i turned in a similar performance earlier today it would have been promptly thrown into the recycle bin. And, yet, three years later i find myself kvetching about a “so” on “Not So Bad” whose O wasn’t round enough, how Paula Abdul’s singing is nothing but unimpressive and contrived without the wonderful world of Pro Tools to augment it’s many Britney quality failures, and how the vowel i sing in the word “mother” makes me sound like i’m trying to remember how to vomit.
In a moment of absolutely clarity, i realized that the only thing i know how to settle for is progress. None of these three complaints would have even occurred to me three years ago, two years ago i wouldn’t have known what to do about them, and a year ago i would have settled for a few mistakes and called it a day. Each step represented a previously unimaginable improvement from the last, but at each junction i was just as imperfect as Paula.
So, essentially, i cannot wait until season five starts. And that’s a long way from now…