Monday, February 3, 2014

Music To Write By: Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix's "Radioactive"

Why Listen? To hear -- and see -- the synergy possible when various creative characteristics come together.

One of the odd things about going to school in your mid-thirties is how you find yourself with far less credulity. Professorial pronouncements appear profound when you're in your late teens, but they seem a little less life-changing once you've acquired real-world experience. Some lessons, though, stick no matter one's age. During my lengthy quest for an MBA, I've picked up a useful marketing axiom: All products are packages of physical, image, and service characteristics. It's a useful framework, and I think you can even port it over to creative projects. Take music videos, for instance. You could say that they're all composed of lyrical, sonic, and visual content. Using that paradigm, it's interesting to note how Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix's cover of Imagine Dragons' smash hit "Radioactive" outstrips its source material.

You don't need a degree in music theory to understand why the original version of "Radioactive" became the best-selling digital rock track thus far in history. Super-punchy percussion and ambient guitar riffs meet killer melodic hooks. It's a catchy tune. But the lyrics don't quite match the visuals that directors Lou Diamond Phillips and Alexandra Daddario put up on the screen. Images of pit-fighting muppets (no, really, see for yourself) hardly fit with lines like, "I'm waking up to ash and dust. / I wipe my brow, and I sweat my rust." Five-piece a capella act Pentatonix and violinist Lindsey Stirling must have noticed the disconnect, because the shots that accompany their music look like something straight out of Mad Max, all leather and grime and suburban desolation. What's more, in their hands the song actually sounds like it could be performed after the apocalypse. One suspects that there'll be a dearth of amplified Fenders and Korg synth once the bombs fall, but I think humanity will always be able to scrape together some stringed instruments and harmonic vocalists. These performers show the synergy possible when creative characteristics come together in holistic union.

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