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January 2020 Archive
31.01.20 > Song Index
I’m so excited! And I just can’t hide it. I’m about to lose… hang on, that’s something else. Anyway, the thing is, I am majorly chuffed to be able to point you towards another wonderful resource at AllAboutKatie (I know, the gift that keeps on giving, stop it). The Song Index page is now up and ready to rock your world. It’s a complete list of Katie’s studio songs in alphabetical order with links to the lyrics and track notes pages. If that doesn’t blow your mind then by all means skulk off and chomp on a Snickers bar instead. But for proper Ketefans it is a ruddy useful resource. Forget sliced bread, that’s so yesterday, the Song Index is the thing you need in your life that you didn’t know you needed in your life until you see it. Never mind Brexit, let history show that January 31st 2020 was the day that the AllAboutKatie Song Index page went live.
So, where to find this miracle of internetiness? Cast your eyes a little to the left and you'll see a brand spanking new option at the bottom of the menu panel. Isn't life wonderful? Bet none of you noticed it creep in there. If you did then you have my full permission to pat yourself heartily on the back with a tent-peg mallet.
30.01.20 > Sketch Effect
29.01.20 > Playlist: Katie's Collaborations
Katie has collaborated with other writers on many songs over the years. Here’s a playlist of some of the gems that have been uncovered. In the interests of impartiality I have limited this list to one song per collaborator. (This has the happy side effect of meaning there are enough songs left over for me to do a second playlist like this at a later date. Contain your excitement.) Oh, and I’m not mentioning the names of the collaborators here—if you care enough, look it up, otherwise revel in the mystery.
Katie's Collaborations pt. 1
- What I Miss About You
- Dreams On Fire
- I’d Love To Kill You
- I Never Fall
- The Cry Of The Lone Wolf
- Perfect Circle
- Red Balloons
- Love Is A Silent Thief
28.01.20 > Track Notes 80: If You Are So Beautiful
If You Are So Beautiful
Natela Gelashvili & Anzor Erkomaishvili
This is a lovely Georgian folk song. It is listed as "If You Are So Beautiful" on In Winter and Ultimate Collection but it appears as "Tu Ase Turpa Ikavi" on Live In Berlin. Nothing mysterious about that—it is the romanised version of the Georgian language used, თუ ასე ტურფა იყავი. If you want to know what the lyrics are about then have a look at the lyrics page, which has an English translation. I'm too good to you, I really am.
I just know you are sat there desperately wishing you could hear this Georgian folk song performed by Georgian male ensemble "Rustavi". Well, when do I ever disappoint? Here you go — Davit Gvelesiani - Georgian Folk Song Tu Ase Turpa Ikavi.
27.01.20 > Katie Bite: Dirty Dice
(That look SO goes with that line :-)
26.01.20 > Whatever Happened To Funny Songs?
I was reminiscing about the amount of humorous songs there were in the Seventies. Whatever happened to funny songs? When did the world lose its sense of humour?
Actually, they can still be found today it’s just that they are an endangered species. But let’s not forget the Christmas number ones for the past two years have been amusing songs about sausage rolls. Yet it did seem like there was a light-hearted performance almost every week on Top Of The Pops. (It saddens me but I feel I probably need to explain that TOTP was a long-running weekly TV show featuring performances from the singles chart. It began before videos were invented so usually involved the artist in question miming their song, badly, in front of a small and generally embarrassed studio audience that had clearly been instructed to dance but obviously felt no connection to the music and invariably just shuffled about a bit in a random manner.) Funny songs were a staple back then. You’d often see popular comedians like Benny Hill and Ken Dodd performing on TOTP. There were also plenty of quirky songs such as Paul Young singing about “Toast” or Jona Lewie letting you know “You Will Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties”. Or how about Jilted John - Gordon Is A Moron—
“I was so upset that I cried all the way to the chip shop”
Even if the songs weren’t funny they could be oddly different, such as the one about the taxi driver that refused to pick up a fare because the address was that of his ex, or the one where a guy kept listening to an answerphone message from his dead girlfriend (sounds morbid but it was jauntily done).
Funny songs were also abundant away from the charts. They were a staple of many entertainment shows like The Two Ronnies and Not The Nine O’Clock News. And of course, Monty Python— who could forget Brave Sir Robin?
“When danger reared its ugly head
you bravely turned your tail and fled”
There were bands doing the club circuit that relied heavily on humorous material, like
The Fivepenny Piece—
“As I was out walking with my brother Jim
Somebody threw a tomato at him
Now, tomatoes are soft, and they don’t cut yer skin
But this beggar did—it were still in the tin”
Funny songs were popular and there was a demand for them, hence the supply. Nowadays the music business is so cut-throat and commercial that profit is the almighty God that rules all and there is no place for light-hearted fun. (Those number ones about sausage rolls were independently produced charity singles and would never have made it past reception at a major record label.) It is a sad state of affairs, but that’s the world today. Society is becoming joyless. You see it clearly in city centres—stony-faced people glued to their phone screens and wearing headphones to cut them off from everyone else. Heaven forbid a stranger should try to interact with them and have a little witty banter. What kind of nutcase does that? Every day I strive to do my bit to save the world—I plant trees, recycle plastics, neutralise carbon and so on. Yet there are days when I find myself wondering if the world is worth saving. It is, of course, if only for the flora and fauna, but I’m not entirely convinced that homo sapiens deserves such a wonderful planet. We need to look up from our phones and realise the person standing in front of us is far more interesting. We need to talk. We need to smile. We need to laugh. Bring back the silly, quirky, funny songs and let’s all lighten up a little.
25.01.20 > Lyric Cards
If you like the lyric cards (and why wouldn't you? They are just about the best thing in the entire world) then I'll just give you a quick reminder that there are now a ton of them and they can be found in the Gallery section, or more quickly right here.
25.01.20 > Lyric Card: Plane Song
24.01.20 > Katie Sings Kate
Now here’s an idea. A daft one, but an idea none the less. Nils Lofgren recorded an album of Neil Young songs called “Nils Sings Neil”. So I thought it would be rather large if Katie were to record “Katie Sings Kate”, an album of Kate Bush songs. I’ll be honest—I’m struggling to visualise her tackling “Wuthering Heights” (unless she steps on a plug) and there is an inherent weirdness with KB that KM can’t match. But Katie’s ability to interpret would make this a doable and fascinating project. How good would it be to hear her cover “This Woman’s Work”? (If you’re not sure I’ll tell you—it would be way beyond spiffing.)
24.01.20 > katiemelua.com update
Katie's website is working again. I don't know what caused yesterday's lengthy downtime (a Wordpress update for example should take less than half an hour) but sadly there are no noticeable improvements on show. The music page still doesn't include Ultimate Collection let alone Live In Berlin, and my favourite lyric error is still happily on show...
But the good news is that if you're reading this then you've found allaboutkatie! Stick around here and you won't miss a thing. You might even learn something you never knew you didn't want to know.
23.01.20 > katiemelua.com currently down
Eek! Katie's web site is currently down. That's not good. It has lots of mistakes and issues at the best of times but being greeted with the screen below is not really good enough for a major artist. It's time her site was handed over to a web company that actually cares.
23.01.20 > Our Own Little Worlds
Last year I showed someone this web site and they said “That looks great. Why Katie Melua?” Of all the possible responses, that was one that simply hadn’t entered my mind. I probably came up with some glib answer like “why not?”. (I have since prepared something more formal for future reference: “She has the voice of an angel, the looks of a movie star, the intelligence of an academic, the empathy of a carer and the personality of a trusted friend. That’s why.”)
It did make me think though. Perhaps Katie is a sun in my solar system but every single one of us has our own unique little solar system with planets and moons that orbit around us and whom we orbit around. Everyone has their own sun (or suns) that brightens their everyday lives, comets that may pass by just once or twice and countless distant stars that we are aware of but will never interact with. Our personal solar systems are drifting through space and time in different trajectories—some may run parallel with ours whilst others may be destined to cross our paths in future or be heading in a completely different direction. When our own little solar system does encounter someone else’s it may be that gravity pulls them into each other’s orbit permanently or it may simply deflect them off along a slightly new trajectory. But our perception of life is all based around our personal solar systems, which is why we all see the world slightly (or sometimes very) differently.
One of the weird things about these personal solar systems is that you can’t always predict how other orbiting bodies will interact. I remember having two really good friends at school that both completely got me and I got them. But they never got each other at all. I was so keen for them to get on with each other and I was utterly baffled why it never happened. We had the same interests and the same wacky sense of humour but there was some weird polar magnetism thing going on—they were both readily attracted to me (not physically, I should stress) yet seemed to repel each other. It was probably one of the reasons why I stopped worrying about how the world works and just started going with the whole crazy flow of it. When our own little worlds do happen to interact it can lead to wonderful new friendships but you have to remember that until that moment you’d lived your whole lives in your unique little solar systems so you should be ready to accept that your idea of the greatest thing since sliced bread may not even be a blip on someone else’s radar. You don’t have to understand other people’s passions, just respect them. There’s no need for our own little worlds to collide, they can co-exist very nicely. Space is very big, and I no longer have any idea what I’m going on about so we’ll leave it at that.
22.01.20 > Katie Bite: In My Secret Life
21.01.20 > Inspiration
Inspiration is the goose that lays the golden eggs for writers and artists. It’s not so much the gift that keeps on giving as the gift that keeps on disappearing. Usually, creating something wonderful is a process more akin to laboriously panning for gold than sauntering along, casually spotting one nugget after another. Lightbulb moments are few and far between—it is more normal to have a succession of tealight moments that you have to cobble together to form something brighter. It is an elusive animal. Inspiration can’t be taught and it can’t be bought but it is forever sought. The thing is to gratefully grab any gifts it throws your way and make the most of them.
That said, wise owls can acquire a sense of where inspiration may be hiding. You need to develop a sense of self-awareness, which admittedly is easier said than done. But it can be done. Whenever you have an amazing idea your first instinct is to act on it. Write it down or record it quickly, before you forget it. This is essential otherwise you almost certainly will forget it. Creative types don’t go anywhere without a notebook (though Bright Young Things these days will rely on their smartphone. Except they may not feel quite so bright when they realise the power has run out and they’ve no way to record their brilliant idea.) When you are self-aware you will do more than just make a note of your idea—you will stop a moment and look around you and think about where that idea just came from. What inspired the thought? Was it a tree or a flower or a cloud formation? Was it completely unrelated to your current surroundings? Sometimes a great thought can just pop into your head apparently out of the blue. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t triggered—you may have just seen a name or street sign somewhere and had a subconscious suggestion. Even if it did seem like a completely random idea it is worth noting where you were when it happened so that you can later visualise yourself in that place and perhaps recreate the magic.
Over time, you can begin to get a sense of what your likely triggers are and therefore load the dice in your favour. There is no outright cheat to gaining inspiration but you can make educated guesses as to where it may be lurking. For me, I know that long walks are the key. At some point on a walk an idea will reveal itself. Quite often it is hiding in a tree. Really. Trees often spark suggestions in my mind. That is why whenever I’m struggling with something I head for a forest to help me work through it. I’ve found it works for me—you need to find what works for you. Once you’ve had hundreds of great ideas and noted the circumstances you may begin to see a pattern yourself and identify some common trigger that is prompting you. Then you can begin to put yourself in the right place and hope it’s the right time. How human brains work is beyond mysterious but our ability to learn and analyse means we can at least give ourselves the chance to have more of those precious bolts from the blue. If ideas aren’t happening for you, if inspiration seems to have dried up and you feel at a loss as to where to find it, the important thing is not to beat yourself up about it. You can’t force it to happen. Forget it for a while. Get out and do something else, go have some fun and allow your brain to play for a while. Perhaps visit a place you remember as a child, that you haven’t been for years. Anything that can give your brain a break, either by feeding it with a completely new experience or reuniting it with a fondly-remembered old one. Nine times out of ten it will reward you by letting you have your inspiration back.
20.01.20 > Track Notes 79: Plane Song
Katie Melua & Don Black
Another sumptuous song by Katie. Evocative, nostalgic, wistful, dreamy. Listen to her talk about the song here.
Live performance of Katie performing with the Gori Women's Choir — Plane Song live in Berlin. (Choir leader Teona handles the whistling duties here, and very nicely too. Katie knows some pretty good whistlers!)
19.01.20 > Could Katie Do Floyd?
Pink Floyd are a bit Marmite. I’ve no idea why, since they were amazing musicians and songwriters. Perhaps women considered them a bit laddish and blokes were put off by “pink” in the band name. But they should only be judged on their music and if you don’t like that then fair enough, I understand (except I don’t because their music is amazing).
What has this got to do with Katie? Well, they recently released an album of remixes and live performances called “The Later Years”, the brilliance of which left me wondering if there are any Floyd songs Katie could cover. My conclusion was yes, absolutely there are. Katie’s ability to interpret and reimagine songs is peerless and I have no doubt she could reinvent a Floyd classic. But which one? Perhaps not “Another Brick In The Wall”. But “Wish You Were Here” is an option and acoustic-friendly. Or how about “Comfortably Numb”? One of my favourites is “On The Turning Away”. Katie would smash that out of the park. However, there may be one fly in the ointment—many Floyd songs end with an impressive Dave Gilmour guitar solo, and that includes the last two I mentioned. “Comfortably Numb” is often voted as one of the all-time great solos, but I love the solo for “On The Turning Away”. It makes me want to weep, for it sounds in my mind like Mother Earth herself raging and wailing for her misguided and dying children as they wreck the only home they have. Obviously, searing solos are not Katie’s forte but these songs are beautiful in themselves and don’t actually need those grandstand endings. I have no doubt that she would put a unique spin on them and make them her own. Realistically, it ain’t gonna happen but I do have fun thinking about these things and I think we all know by now that Katie can do pretty much anything she puts her mind to. Maybe something like Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” is a more likely cover (and that would be amazing too) but the truth is we just never know what Katie will do next. Mmmm… “What Katie Did Next”. Someone should write a book…
18.01.20 > Katie Bite: Dirty Dice
17.01.20 > Thoughts On The New Album
Following Katie’s recent live social media events (if they can be called ‘events’—the idea was good but they were let down by technology fail) we now know another studio album is coming in to view on the horizon. Katie mentioned summer but let’s just take that as a ballpark figure. If all goes swimmingly with recording and editing then it could happen but remember that creating art nearly always takes longer than we expect so don’t be too surprised (or vexed) if it turns out to be a late summer or even early autumn release. That’s fine, good things are worth waiting for and what matters is we know that good things are definitely coming this year. The autumn tour is already in place to promote the album so we can start saving our pennies and euros for all that lovely new merch.
In musical terms, what should we expect from the album? We know Katie has an explorative and experimental mind so she’s impossible to second guess but I don’t think we’ll see a massive change of musical direction, though perhaps there’ll be more variety in the songs compared to In Winter, which was intentionally a themed album. Most fans will be excited to see the Gori Women’s Choir being involved again and recording in Georgia with Georgian musicians is definitely a good thing. That said, there was no mention of the GWC in the tour announcement so it could be their involvement on the new album is only partial but we just won’t know until we hear it. It was also encouraging to hear Katie say she’d been concentrating on writing lyrics—this is an area where she always seems to have lacked confidence. Perhaps that was down to working alongside one of the greats in Mike Batt but her efforts have always held their own from day one with songs like “Faraway Voice” and “Belfast”. I love her lyrics and crave more and if she’s starting to accept she has the ability I for one will be as chuffed as a lobster with a Rubik’s Cube. If she trusts in herself as much as we all trust in her then everyone will be happy. Don’t worry Ketefans, the new album will not disappoint.
16.01.20 > Katie on Facebook Live from Leno Records, Tbilisi
Katie on Facebook Live
FB Live is a bit rubbish really. It keeps freezing and breaking up so whilst the idea is amazing in practice it is quite frustrating. Also the comments are a bit of a distraction, just an endless stream of “I love you, come to my country” and very few actual questions worth answering. Katie hadn't done one for a couple of years and I'd hoped the technology would have improved but if anything it was worse. All in all then, though it is always lovely to see and hear her, this was something of a damp squib. The only real snippets we could gather were that she's spent 3 days with an orchestra recording for the new album and that for said album she has been focussing on lyric writing. The latter fact in particular makes me beyond happy and it was worth struggling through half an hour of stuttering and freezing footage for that gem alone.
Katie on Instagram Live
This wasn’t much better. But then Facebook owns Instagram, so it's no surprise. It ended abruptly after about five minutes, just as Katie was beginning to talk about the new album. She did manage to confirm it would be out in the summer moments before the Instagram plug got pulled. Don't know if it was a technical hitch or manager Sumit hitting the kill switch before she gave away too much information. Pretty sure it wasn't something I said because I didn't say anything. (I resisted the temptation to join the masses with something along the lines of "please come to Lincolnshire".) Also pretty sure it wasn't Katie simply being rude and hanging up mid-sentence. It would have been nice to have heard a little more but at least we now know there is involvement with the Gori Women’s Choir again as well as a Georgian orchestra, so it all bodes well for another cracking album, and not too long to wait for it either. It's a shame these live events don't really work that well. They could be a wonderful thing but it seems the technology isn't up to it yet and the free-for-all fan comments lead to a waterfall of mostly inane remarks—they could do with some kind of monitoring/regulation, perhaps with an assistant just allowing the more interesting ones through rather than a deluge of "you look beautiful 😍️" type stuff. Of course she does. But what's her favourite flavour crisps? The important questions just don't get answered...
15.01.20 > Katie Bite: Chase Me
14.01.20 > Live Q & A with Katie from Georgia
Here's a message from Katie...
"We're going to be saying hi on Facebook and Instagram live from Tbilisi's @leno_records, the music studio where many iconic Georgian film soundtracks were recorded during the Soviet Times. Come and see what we're up to and join in the conversation around the topic of recording with orchestras and choirs."
Facebook Live — Thursday 16th January, 14:00 GMT
Instagram Live — Thursday 16th January, 14:40 GMT
13.01.20 > Lyric Card: A Time To Buy
12.01.20 > Activity Alert!
The notorious Kateona gang are wanted in several countries
Now then, pay attention. Intelligence reports leaked by operatives in Georgia suggest that these two persons of interest,aka "Kateona", have been spotted having hushed conversations and comparing notes (albeit musical ones), fuelling speculation that they are planning another job. This would not come as a great surprise since they are known to make an effective team and have pulled off something spectacular once before. They both have a record. Indeed, the one in blue has several of them, including gold and platinum ones. We know they are dangerously talented. Do not approach them unless you are prepared to risk getting something autographed. Rest assured, the situation is being monitored and if they succeed with another audacious plan they will be exposed and almost certainly spend time in the charts.
11.01.20 > The Cold Reality of Talent Shows
How many successful recording artists can you name that were discovered through talent shows like X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Fame Academy and The Voice? Think about it. For many years now there have been at least a couple of those shows running concurrently. What happened to all the winners? Steve Brookstein anyone? Michelle McManus? Leon Jackson? Joe McElderry? Matt Cardle? Ben Haenow? I could go on, though only with the help of Wikipedia, and anyway, you probably get the point. In fact, you could easily make a case that more success has been had by acts that didn’t actually win their competition—I mean, you may at least have heard of JLS, One Direction, Olly Murs, Stacey Solomon and of course SuBo herself, Susan Boyle. Very few of the winners have gone on to have more than a couple of albums before fading into obscurity yet year after year the wannabes whine about how much they want it. Do they actually know what it is that they want so much? Their fifteen minutes of fame? For that would seem to be the extent of the prize on offer. If the thing they really want is a long career as a respected recording artist then there’s only one way, and it starts with fending off the likes of Simon Cowell with a super-sized barge pole.
Basically, it’s a simple formula. To begin with, you need to be talented. If you’re born with it then yay, happy days. But it still needs to be nurtured. Most people aren’t born with it. Either way, it will take years of dedication to turn potential into talent. Hours and hours of practice, regular endless practice. And until you reach a level of competence where practice can begin to be enjoyable you will likely find it frustrating and boring. Once you have acquired the talent you need desire and dedication. The chances of making it in the music industry are slim to zero so your determination will need to be off the scale. Dreaming won’t make it happen; it will require hard work and relentless resolve. Oh, and luck too. Can you make your own? To some extent you can—the more time and effort you put in the greater your chances are of catching a break. The more lottery tickets you buy, the better your chances. But you will still need moments of pure luck. You could buy 99% of the lottery tickets and still see the winning one picked from the remaining 1%. A footballer may practice free-kicks for hours every week yet score the winning goal in a cup final by virtue of a deflection off an opponent’s backside. You can never be sure you are in the right place at the right time—that is all down to chance and fate. If it was meant to happen it will. But you can’t lie in bed waiting for it, it doesn’t work like that. Get on with doing what you love doing, day after day, and don’t pay any mind to when the lucky breaks will come your way. If you keep your head down and stick at it then you may one day look up and find doors are opening. The trick then will be never to tell yourself you’ve made it—there will always be more doors ahead and who knows what may be behind them. Life is only ever a work in progress.
10.01.20 > Track Notes 78: A Time To Buy
A Time To Buy
A lovely song by Katie that cleverly fits the theme of the album by mentioning winter whilst avoiding use of the dreaded "C" word even though it alludes it Christmas shopping. That may not seem a big deal but it is—no one wants to listen to songs about Christmas in January and February but "A Time To Buy" evades that pitfall. After all, it could just as easily be referring to the January sales. In any case, the song is about more than shopping—it's about shoppers and how they all have their own story to tell. And it's further evidence of Katie's skill as a songwriter.
Dreamy video of Katie performing with the Gori Women's Choir — A Time To Buy.
09.01.20 > Feeling The Warmth...
Thought I'd back up what I said yesterday by converting my Yamaha steel string to nylons. Got a pack of Ernie Ball Earthwood nylons with ball-ends and whacked the little monkeys in. Yamahas are nice and I didn't need to touch my truss rod at all (stop it). They'll need pretty regular tuning for a while until they settle down but they sound warmer than a baby baboon's buttocks.
08.01.20 > String Theory
Professor Stephen Hawking used to bang on about string theory a lot, which I found odd since he wasn’t, to my knowledge, a guitarist. Basically it comes down to this: there are two types of string—steel and nylon. Why am I telling you this? Well, because the majority of singer-songwriters you see use a steel-string guitar, which is favoured by most genres. Classical guitarists tend to use nylon but often folk artists as well. Great. So, again, why am I telling you this? Well, because Katie favours nylons (behave, we’re talking guitar strings here), yet she may play many styles but not really classical or folk. What gives?
It’s all down to personal preference. In the first instance, when you are an absolute beginner, nylon is a little easier on your fingertips than steel strings, which feel like razor wire to begin with. But after a few weeks your finger pads harden to either type and this is no longer an issue. (This pad-hardening brings the additional benefit of letting you produce a cleaner sound with less of that hideous buzzing). Katie of course, is long past being a beginner. The main reason for preferring nylon is that they give a warmer, mellower sound with rich treble tones and good percussive attack. That sounds amazing, so why doesn’t everyone use nylon then? Steel strings have a brighter, crisper sound which many players prefer and they may be used to steel strings if they play electric guitar. Nylon strings tend to be plucked with your fingernails whereas steel strings often get played with a plectrum (or ‘pick’), hence the addition of a pick guard on these instruments.
The acoustic guitars themselves have differences. Classical guitars tend to be slightly smaller and have a slotted headstock with rods to wrap the strings around, whereas steel-stringed guitars tend to have a larger body and narrower neck and have a pick guard. Their strings are held by bridge pins instead of being tied on—which means you may not be able to use standard nylon strings on a steel-string guitar. And that raises the big question—can you use nylon strings on a steel-string guitar? Yes. You can, but if you want to experiment with nylons and you have a steel-string guitar you may need the rather uncomfortable sounding “ball end nylon strings”. That sounds ruder than it is. These are simply nylons that attach to your guitar in the same way as steels. It may not be quite as simple as that though and it may lead to buzzing and other problems that mean you have to get the guitar set up properly for the modification by things like adjusting your truss rod. (If you are not inclined to have your truss rod tampered with then put up with the issues or stick to steel strings.) Oh, and if you’ve got a classical guitar DO NOT try to go the other way and whack steel strings on it. You’ll bugger it up. End of.
So there you have it. String theory explained without any of that silly quantum nonsense.
07.01.20 > Katie Bite: Wonderful Life
06.01.20 > What Makes A Song Sad?
It wasn’t my intention to get the new decade off to a morose start but there does seem to be a bit of a theme creeping in to some of my early posts. Still, it is January and the decorations are down so now is probably as good a time as any to get it all out of the way. After yesterday’s sad song playlist I thought I’d muse on what it is that actually makes a song sad. After all, a song is just a bunch of notes and lyrics. But sound and music has had an emotional effect on human beings since the dawn of, well, human beings. How our brains interpret music can massively influence our mood.
One of the most obvious tricks for musical misery is choosing the right chords. Minor chords always sound more melancholy than major but progressions between the two can emphasise the gloom. A progression such as D7 to Fm to C, for example, may soon have you pondering your own mortality. And there is a lot of discussion about all this on the internet—just Google ‘sad chords’ and see.
Another factor is tempo. Fast songs are generally happy, slow ones sad. A protest song can be fast, or an angry song, but it is extremely difficult to make a fast sad song. Conversely, it isn’t easy to make a slow happy song. If you think about it, this mirrors our general moods in life—when we are in a positive mood we tend to bustle about injecting urgency into whatever we’re doing whereas when we’re down we are more inclined to feel lethargic and slouch around.
The singer’s voice is important. A low voice conveys melancholy much better. Think of Johnny Cash singing “Hurt”. Now imagine if the Bee Gees had sung that song. If Cash had sung “Massachusetts” it would have left people suicidal. This is more a matter of relative pitch than absolute. In other words, you don’t have to be a bass or baritone singer—it’s about making use of the lower register, using the bottom end of your vocal range. Karen Carpenter was astonishing when singing low and so is Katie. As an aside, those of us that grew up in the vinyl age may remember having hours of fun turning pop songs into dirges by playing 45s at 33rpm. I’m part of an elite group that has even tried the ultimate silly of playing 78s at 16rpm. (Some of you may be vaguely aware that 78s were a thing but so were 16s. I kid ye not. Sixteen revolutions per minute. What a golden age that was.)
Performance is also key. How the singer delivers the song, the emotions they put into it, go a long way to defining how the listener feels. This is the main reason why Katie is so effective at emotional music. Artful performance can also overcome the low voice rule—a good example of this is Springsteen’s “Lift Me Up”, a sad song that he delivers with a falsetto voice.
It isn’t entirely about music and performance. Lyrics can be just as important, if not more so. After all, music can only drop hints about how we should be feeling whereas lyrics don’t have to pull their punches. For example,
pink fluffy bunnies everywhere
sequins and sparkles in my hair
dancing in the rain without a care…
is hardly likely to tip you over the edge regardless of what the music is doing. But if you add sad music to words like
when you died in my arms
you took took away my charms
left me broken and alone…
you’re on the way to making a devastating cocktail of unbridled woe and desperation.
So next time you find yourself listening to a song and feeling sad why not try and work out which of the above techniques have been messing with your mind?
05.01.20 > Playlist: Sad Songs for Melancholy Moments
Sometimes its nice to wallow in misery. Who wants to be happy all the time? Where’s the fun in that? Here’s the thing though—if you’re a naturally happy person how can you get into an appropriately morose mindset to curl up on the sofa in a candle-lit room with a tub of ice cream? Hah, just like Wonder Woman, Katie is always on hand to help. Here is a suitably sad set of songs to darken your mood. Once you’ve listened to this lot you’ll be convinced the world is full of miserable people so you are never alone. N.B. You may want to tag “A Happy Place” on to the end of the list just to help prod you back towards normality afterwards.
Sad Songs for Melancholy Moments
- Downstairs To The Sun
- Market Day In Guernica
- Junk Mail
- Dreams On Fire
- Never Felt Less Like Dancing
- Red Balloons
- The One I Love Is Gone
- The House
- What I Miss About You
- Piece By Piece
- Blue Shoes
- Lilac Wine
- Somewhere In The Same Hotel
04.01.20 > Katie Bite: What I Miss About You
03.01.20 > Track Notes 77: Cradle Song
Traditional Romanian carol
Short and sweet traditional carol from Romania. Katie has said that the music inspired her to write "Plane Song".
Performance videos a bit thin on the ground for this one but here's a little video of Katie talking about the song Katie on "Cradle Song"
Ivory tinklers among you may want to toddle off to Oxford University Press where you can buy the sheet music for this and other "In Winter" songs.
02.01.20 > A Secret To Start The New Year
There's a reason why this site is called AllAboutKatie and I normally try to make sure my posts here are relevant but sometimes I have thoughts that may not be about Katie but that might have been inspired by her in some way. These are usually music-related. For other ideas I have a more general author blog at cdwarhurst.com and today I posted an article there that I decided I should share here as well. After all, Ketefans are people too and many people find January a troubling month.
I’d like to share a little secret with you. Except it’s not really a secret, it’s something you’ll have heard many times. It’s just a seemingly glib little 5-word phrase: “Everything happens for a reason”. No doubt someone has uttered those words to you in times of adversity. They may even have escaped your own lips. The trouble is it has become a phrase that is over-used and that has been weakened in meaning. Yet such a simple little saying can change your life once you think about it and accept it. It requires faith and belief—not in a religious sense but rather in an acceptance that the Universe is what it is and cannot be understood by a human being any more than a blob of solder on a circuit board can understand how a computer works. There’s no point in wondering why we exist or pondering the meaning of life. It is unknowable. It is difficult to accept that everything was created for a purpose and it only begs the question of who created the creator and so on. Down that path lies mental misery.
Whether you are born into a life of luxury or a life of hardship, the best way to be happy is to believe you are living the life you are meant to. That does not mean you cannot change your life around if you want to—it simply means that there is no such thing as failure. Every life that has ever been lived has had a point to it no matter how hard it was to see. Your experience of the world, even if it has been miserable, will be completely unique and hence priceless. You may think you’ve achieved nothing but that is impossible to know—you could easily have said or done something that inspired someone else to do something amazing and although you are unaware of it, it wouldn’t have happened without you. When you are having a good life and things are going really well there’s no need to dig deep and search for solace but when you’re having a difficult time it is helpful to remember that there is a reason why and that you are a unique piece in an infinite puzzle that cannot be completed without you. You won’t ever get to see the finished picture, or even have the vaguest clue what it is meant to be, yet your part of it will have been vital, whether you see that or not. Most of us can think back on moments in our lives that seemed catastrophic at the time yet in hindsight led us down a path towards something better. Equally, there may have been moments that seemed like unbelievable good luck but that sent us down a road where trouble and despair lay waiting. We cannot second guess what lies ahead—tomorrow may be just like today, or something wonderful may happen, or something devastating may happen. The only preparation you can make is to convince yourself that whatever happens, be it good, bad or indifferent, it will happen for a reason. Once you get that you will be able to survive whatever Kipling’s famous two imposters, triumph and disaster, may throw at you.
01.01.20 > Happy New Year! გილოცავთ ახალ წელს
As we look forward to the 2020s with eager anticipation, here's a graphical summary of the many gifts Katie has given the world over the past decade. We are truly grateful.