Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tonight It's Magic

After that review of The Cars' song 'You Are The Girl,' I thought I'd do a sort-of double review on two other songs of theirs, 'Magic,' and 'Tonight She Comes.'

I've heard a few of their other songs ('You Might Think,' 'Let The Good Times Roll,' 'Drive,' 'Just What I Needed,' etc.) but other than 'Drive,' these two appeal to me the most.

Although I've probably heard many Cars songs prior to realizing I'd heard them, 'Magic' was the first one I took real interest in, looked up, and found out the band performed it. I basically liked the voices in the chorus and the general, positive sound to it. It uses a bright-sounding keyboard as a sort of lead. The musical structure is actually very simple - A-D-E - and the voices are positive and bright like the keyboard, at least in the chorus. The drums are - bright. I guess everything but the bass in the song is 'bright-sounding' to me - the bass, being a low-sounding instrument, is just as it sounds. Sounds like Benjamin Orr used a pick on it, as it's got a hard edge to it. Perhaps it's an effort to ensure the song sounds like hard-rock.

The lyrics seem like they go back and forth contradictorily to me - "I've got a hold on you, why don't you let me go, etc.", then "Wha-oh, it's magic when I'm with you." I'm not sure where Ric's lyrics are going. Perhaps there's something in between the lines I'm not grasping, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was.

Unlike the 'You Are The Girl' music video, the one they made for this song is pretty nice. What I tend to do when I watch it is imagine it's my birthday and I'm Ocasek's character. The setting is a huge backyard, with a pool and house (with veranda) overlooking it. When morning comes, dozens of people show up to marvel at and admire Ric Ocasek as he walks across the pool's surface, like it's magic. At the end, some of them jump in, but only end up thrashing about in the water as Ocasek stands over them. It's sunny and bright, and the guests vary almost ridiculously - there's a mime on the diving board, a tall circus character with top hat and white face paint, a couple dressed like they're from ancient Greece, a cowboy, a pilot with a trumpet and trombone, a pirate, a clean-cut blonde guy with a drink who looks like one of the Hardy Boys, an over-excited wrestler, two identically-dressed women who stoically move in time together, etc. etc....

I like to imagine it as my birthday largely because of the large crowd of people there - like they're friends and family of mine - and because some of them do look similar to people I know, or I can relate them to people in my life. While I don't enjoy the scenes of the guests' faces leering at the camera or the way they're surrounding Ocasek like he's a celebrity they have to get near, touch, speak to, I can easily see my friend Brent in the short character with the hat first seen lying by the side of the pool, or those two girls I've always looked to as the two rhythmic stoic ladies in purple. Basically I imagine everyone as people I know come to be happy around me. I know this all sounds very egocentric and perhaps even sad, but it's a nice thought.
The rest of the band don't appear until the song's bridge, on either side of the house's veranda, though you can see them over the crowd just before. It was apparently shot at a property owned by the Hilton family. Essentially, the band ran around on top of the same pool Paris Hilton probably swam in as a child. A couple of times, according to Wikipedia, the plexiglass surface Ocasek walked on collapsed under his weight during the filming. It's not always so magical I guess...

Unlike 'Magic,' 'Tonight She Comes' was something I heard and liked after simply seeing the thumbnail for the music video on YouTube in the related videos. I hadn't heard it before - not in Wal-Mart or otherwise - it was completely visual stimuli. The thumbnail was of a red-headed girl in side-profile grinning almost mischievously at the camera. That was alluring enough to me to want to look at it properly, so there you go. I was drawn in by a girl in the music video.

Like 'You Are the Girl,' the song is a mixture of hard guitar and keyboard. I find the keyboard at the beginning - the one that's rhythmic, not sustained - obviously feminine, which gives it more appeal to me. I guess I like keyboards that sound intensely feminine to me synesthetically, probably because it plays to the whole dynamic I've long since constructed of femininity in organs and keyboards verses masculinity in guitars and bass. Ironically, the sustained, leading keyboard over the same beginning of the song sounds masculine to me. The song has a nice melody and sound to it, although the very bright, soft keyboard parts probably overdo it just a little for me. Also, there are certain guitar parts or riffs that quite literally sound exactly like a tired, whiny boy. A perfect example is the 'why does she keep me hanging on the line' verse, in which it sounds (appropriately) impatient, but in a whiny little-kid sort of way. The instrument is also overly accentuated in key moments of some verses, like it has to be affirmed or positive or something. I have no complaints about the guitar's actual solo, and Elliot Easton did a great job on it.

The music video is a good visual aide to the song, and the tone of some of the instruments (particularly the keyboards) do make me think of a redhead, though that's probably because I saw the video of the song instead of hearing it first, and the redheaded girl dominating it influenced my synesthetic point of view (visual images do have an influence, not just sound). It's a simply performance thing mixed with attractive scenes and images of this redhead moving about in a patterned dress. There's a few good shots of her - the one that makes me almost laugh is where she's looking annoyed and has a ridiculous hairstyle. In the video's conclusion she takes off on a rocket.

I have one more thing to mention about the song, and it's its introduction - it seemingly starts with a string section of sorts. I get this unusual image of myself as a young child, innocent and unaware, just young and curious. I kind of like it. It's like a reference to better times, freedom and ignorance of what life gives you later.

Music: A-
Lyrics: B-

Tonight She Comes:
Music: B+
Lyrics: B
Additional marks for the video for actually drawing me to the song despite not having even heard it before. Or the girl in the video, whichever.

I'll finish by saying that I think both songs are a minor mark of the general 80s sound - keyboard synths and guitars - as well as one of The Cars' main musical directions. In contrast, 'Just What I Needed' and 'Let the Good Times Roll' are both are more rock-oriented and 'Drive' is a slow, synthy ballad. They had a diverse range.
The video for 'You Might Think' is ridiculous and kind of funny; Phil Collins spoofed it in his video for 'Don't Lose my Number.' Tonight, though, it's just Magic.

Justin C.

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