Listening to some kinds of Easy Listening Music is a bit like being at the pinnacle of the vinegar stroke – you might be at the height of your enjoyment, but you may not want to tell your mates about it. I remember back in the 1990s a station known as i98 FM, which specialized in this particular kind of music. Now, when I talk about “Easy Listening” I'm talking about soft, dulcet popular music songs that your dad might put when serenading your mum on their centennial wedding anniversary, accompanied by some fine wine, candles and a bottle of blue pills. OK, I'm sorry I felt compelled to add that last bit in, especially for those who know what I'm on about. I just had to do it. The elves in my head told me it was either that, or a mild stroke. My call. My bad too. Anyway, the DJs employed by the station had an irritating predilection for speaking in a soft and friendly tone of voice that was meant to create a romantic atmosphere, but in truth forged an extraordinarily effective method of torture that could awaken the dead. Of course, I never listened to this station on my own free will.
Dave on Easy Listening Music
As I was writing this I had just listened to a song called “Hands to Heaven” by Breathe. Softer than a baby's turd, it has pretentious, soft-cock and lovey-dovey written all over it. It makes Cliff Richard's “Suddenly” sound like “Born in a Casket” by Cannibal Corpse. Musically, it is well put together – however, the lyrics and vocals come across as nothing short of a pitiful, politically correct and somewhat asinine attempt at being a Casanova-like figure. The difference is, though, Casanova pulled more roots than a bored toddler in a strawberry patch. He certainly pulled more than the lead singer of Breathe ever did anyhow. Especially if the rest of the album was anything to go by. But, I digress.
Of course, I like music of many different styles and genres, and some of these will include the odd prominent power ballad or ten. I harbor a great deal of respect for Bryan Ferry, because Bryan Ferry had the cool factor. “Slave to Love” is probably the benchmark for what a love song should sound like. Just add Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and you're away. Avalon by Roxy Music, the group for which he fronted, is arguably one of the best albums I've ever heard. And let's not forget Peter Cetera. Chicago punched out a few good numbers in the 80s with him behind the mic, but everything else they produced is only fit for getting hardened criminals to talk. His solo stuff produced a few gems as well. I particularly like his voice – he apparently achieved it by trying to sing with his jaw wired shut. I could easily name a few singers who could do with such a restraint.
And then there is the issue of the crossover singer Michael Bolton. Bolton initially started out as a hard rock singer. And then he decided to shift away toward a sound more reminiscent of the typical Easy Listening song, albeit somewhat heavier. It was more or less watered down hard rock for your mum. To be quite honest, it is a real shame that he effectively betrayed his roots in the way that he did. I mean, come on Michael, there's more to life than trying to woo women by telling porkies. The love songs musically were great. They exerted power, energy and emotion. But to be honest, you're not going to get laid by telling fibs.
But in the end, you can have great Easy Listening Music. It doesn't have to be so pretentious and lyrically synthetic and emotionally fake. But it must center the role of the music as an art form and not just some vehicle for telling the world about what a complete cock you are in the courting department.