Better? Or worse?
The Justiciers masqués took a bunch of hit songs and translated them word for word into French. “Quand on comprend les paroles, c’est moins bon,” they say.
Is there something inherently appealing about songs in languages you don’t understand, is music magic lost in translation, or are these songs just written badly to begin with?
- Get a pretty person to sing a happy love song in English. Bonus points for constant smiling and similarity to Sanjaya
- Have dancers in the background, wearing black, do lots of crouching and jumping
- Use tall, pretty, female backup singers
- Involve string instruments, especially violins and/or cellos
- Include lots of sound that clearly does not come from any instrument on stage
- Exploit screens, fireworks and coloured lights in the background
Am I the only one to have expected a bit more from a pan-European talent competition?
It’s amazing how many people will write songs about their local sports team. I listed some of them during the playoffs last season, though I’m sure half of those links have since gone dead. Many of the songs are professionally produced, and feature catchy music, inspiring lyrics and on-key singing. Or they’re just funny.
The following is none of those things:
So there you go. CBC’s Hockey Anthem Challenge winner, out of almost 15,000 entries submitted, is Colin Oberst’s Canadian Gold. The one with the bagpipes. Hockey Night in Canada made a big thing about it, with loud congratulations from Don Cherry. And Oberst takes home a $100,000 cheque.
UPDATE: CBC has posted the announcement, new theme and a season intro montage in Quicktime format.
With the new theme comes new intro graphics as well. This season, rather than go the classic route of showing hits, goals and saves, CBC has gotten its computer graphics department on overdrive, recreating classic moves so they could look at them from impossible angles (even simulating Bobby Orr’s Stanley Cup-winning goal, which created the best sports photo of all time). Unfortunately, this kind of computer animation still has a long way to go, and it just ends up looking like they’re showing scenes from EA’s NHL 09 video game.
Meanwhile, on RDS, the original Hockey Theme reigns. They paid a lot more for it, and their re-recording doesn’t sound as good as the most recent CBC version, but it still sounds better. It’s still the one with that special place in our hearts.
Real Canadiens fans have been watching RDS for years now. Even Leafs fans have moved to TSN or Rogers SportsNet. Many people I know turn to CBC to watch the opening theme and switch to RDS for the play-by-play.
Now, with the hockey theme on RDS, does Hockey Night in Canada have any purpose anymore?
Steve Proulx’s slow descent into madness continues, as he locks himself in a small room with only a recorder and a webcam to keep him company.
He’s taking requests (Freebird?). He’s already done the Passe-Partout theme.
Now I’m gonna spend all night doing air recorder.
In order to help you visualize them, CBC has set the songs to video of the HNIC opening (even including the “Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland” voice intro). In all of them, the absence of the old theme is jarring, especially next to familiar video.
Here are some thoughts of mine off the top of my head for the five semifinalists. I’m not a music expert (but I know a few who will no doubt chip in), so don’t take these as gospel because I have no clue what I’m talking about.
(Warning: CBC forces you to watch the same stupid Bell ad before each video. Sorry.)
1. Ice Warriors (by Gerry Mosby): A complicated melody, but without any climax. It sounds like a good part of a song, but it’s missing the rest. Even as a fan of rock music, the guitar really threw me off. It belongs in a 70s album, not on the Hockey Night theme.
2. Sticks to the Ice (by Robert Fraser Burke): This one builds energy, and the professional arrangement is a huge improvement over a 13-year-old on a piano. But it’s still lacking. Just when you think it’s going to hit you hard, it sulks back into a melody that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.
3. Eleventh Hour (by Graham McRae): McRae is a skilled composer, and this one doesn’t lack for energy. He seems to really get the point. CBC’s orchestral recording of it seems a bit muted though, especially compared to McRae’s original. The melody in this one is my favourite, but that doesn’t necessarily seal the deal.
4. Let the Game Begin (by Christian St. Roch & Jimmy Tanaka): This contribution from two Montrealers echoes the original in a non-copyright-infringing way. Similar use of instruments. It is very successful at building energy and anticipation, and best of all it doesn’t waste any time getting there (this is, after all, a minute-long intro, not a three-minute song). It has punch, but the theme gets a bit repetitive. Still, if your goal is to find as close to the original as possible, this is probably the one for you.
5. Canadian Gold (by Colin Oberst): I like this one, not so much because I think it’s better than the rest but mainly because it’s so different. It’s the only one I think that comes out swinging after it gets going, and has that feeling of raising an army to defeat the enemy. It doesn’t sound like it’s holding anything back, and it’s not as repetitive as the others. It’s also more upbeat, almost to the point of cliché, which I think will appeal to less hard-edged hockey fans. But I could do without the bagpipes.
All five are works worthy of praise, and the CBC chose well. I don’t think any of them nail it 100%, but they surprise me with their quality (I had earlier suggested the contest might not be worth it). The fact that there were close to 15,000 entries is kind of astonishing.
Voting closes at 11:59pm Tuesday. Two finalists will be announced Thursday, and then the winner will be on the Hockey Night in Canada premiere on Saturday.
CTV has released its re-recording (with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra) of the Hockey Theme (i.e. the ex-Hockey Night in Canada theme), which will be used on RDS and TSN hockey telecasts starting Oct. 10 and Oct. 14, respectively.
Perhaps I should wait until it actually goes on air, or maybe it’s just my computer, but it sounds like elevator music compared to the rough-and-tumble CBC version.
The press release, which says it “revisits the original 1968 version” also gives plenty of praise for how awesome they think it is:
We’ve taken great pride in blending the heritage of the song with the best digital technology available, creating a stunning rendition sure to resonate with hockey fans across the country.
Colour me unimpressed.
The Quebec-based online video sensation Têtes à claques has soft-launched a new website and and anglo version with passable anglo accents.
The videos are the same as the franco versions, but they seem to lose some of the humour in translation. I’m not quite sure what it is, exactly. Maybe I’m just more easily amused by francophone humour. Maybe the québécois accent does something to make stuff sound more funny.
Meanwhile, Le Devoir today has a letter about francophone singers releasing anglo albums. Of course, it’s filled with the usual anti-English xenophobia you’d expect out of Le Devoir, but the gist of the letter is that artists shouldn’t be selling themselves short recording in another language just for the money, even if the English market is insanely lucrative:
La chanson est un art qui mérite le respect.
The writer is talking about Garou and Gregory Charles.
For this, an honourary doctorate in music.
40 years ago, when composer Dolores Claman was given the task of coming up with a theme to a hockey broadcast, she envisioned the music you’d associate with Roman gladiators wearing skates (assuming you could imagine such a thing in the first place). The theme she came up with became synonymous with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada for 40 years, and has become this country’s unofficial second national anthem.
Then, in June, all that changed when CTV announced it had acquired the rights to the theme from its original composer, who was still involved in contractual disputes with CBC over the terms of its license.
The CBC, left with its pants around its ankles, dusted off Plan B: Run a contest to find its replacement.
A contest to replace the most epic song in Canadian history. No problem.
The CBC’s Anthem Challenge, which has been promoted endlessly in order to drive up interest, has been surprisingly successful at doing so. Thousands of submissions each take a legitimate shot at being the theme’s successor, mostly by trying to copy it with slightly different notes.
Some come close to what you’d expect the winner to sound like, but are still missing that punch that truly gets you ready for a hockey game. They might sound more appropriate for a Megaman level than a hockey show.
Others miss the beat entirely, spanning the range of genres from cheesy ’80s sitcom themes, elevator music, electronic music, pop songs, even cheesier pop songs with lame lyrics, Randy Bachman, and other types of music entirely inappropriate for a hockey show theme.
Considering all these people got paid exactly $0 for the submissions, they’re not bad.
But these were the most popular ones. Imagine the ones that sucked.
The big question I have here is: Is this the kind of thing that should be trusted to Joe Schmo next door? Claman was a professional, not some person they picked off the street. Why should we think that amateurs would do a better job this time, clinging to the faint hope that maybe they might be the one lucky one out of thousands to win the $100,000 grand prize and get all the fame and glory that comes from not having the right to play your own song because you’ve signed away the copyright?
It’s perhaps partly to prove this point that a member of Something Awful posted “Hockey Scores,” a collection of random annoying sounds designed to sound as bad as possible, and encouraged others to vote for it. Because Something Awful is so powerful, the song rocketed to the top, where it sits as the most popular, most viewed and most commented entry.
That has garnered the attention of mainstream media, its blogs and even the CBC itself, which points out that the number of votes is not the only factor it must use according to the rules in determining the semifinalists that will be presented to the nation in October (though it will likely be the determining factor in choosing finalists from those semifinalists, and then the winner from the finalists).
But little of that coverage is mentioning the larger issue: When rich media organizations “crowdsource” something that’s going to make them a lot of money, expecting people to work for free, they’re just begging to get a bunch of crap.
Something Awful just helped the process along a bit.
The contest continues to accept entries until Aug. 31. Semifinalists will be aired and voted on by the public in the beginning of October.
UPDATE (Aug. 9): The Globe has a piece on the contest, which of course includes not a single link to all the entries it talks about, nor the contest itself.
Remind me not to watch any CTV-owned channels tomorrow.
(Coldplay? Really? Have another Weird Al Day and then we’ll talk)
XM Canada wants the world to know that it’s sponsoring a music awards show with a whopping two categories, and investing a grand total of $50,000 in prize money. For the mathematically challenged, that’s $25,000 apiece, or enough to cover airfare to the ceremony.
The awards will be given out in September, and rather than judge them based on merit, they’re putting it to a popularity vote.
Between this and the Junos, I think it’s safe to say that Canadian artists are well cared for.