Thursday, January 05, 2012

4. Randy Newman, "I Want You to Hurt Like I Do" (1988)


Some of those early Randy Newman albums seem to me a bit overrated, but it all balances out because I think the ones from the '80s are underrated—Trouble in Paradise and Land of Dreams, the latter of which provides a home for this. A lot of Randy Newman's best stuff tends to get over by slapping a wiseass smirk in front of calculatedly ignorant, outrageous statements, usually about racism and its analogues, set carefully into musically lulling settings (he takes his place in a family of movie composers), and then letting his partisans fob the excesses off on capital-I irony. It's a lot of passive-aggressive energy, to get to the point, but mostly I think it does work, not least because Newman himself remains so sly and so shrewd about what he does. He's got a lot of courage and a lot of wit. That's a good combination and this is where he puts it over with few peers, I think. At first it seems like the usual, in the singer's self-reported reprehensible behavior, the way he treats his family and loved ones and all his responsibilities, most painfully his children. But it's bracing when you realize how truthful he is, from beginning to end, and how he has found perhaps the perfect mouthpiece to do so, himself—or anyway, the singer is a performer too, it turns out. There's nothing funny about it. It's tragic. It's mean. It's chilling. The only thing giving irony any purchase at all is the idea that anyone like the singer describes himself would have this level of self-awareness, let alone the ability to articulate it so clearly and so matter-of-factly, a question as well with the great material on William Shatner's Has Been. This one's not got its due yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment