Thursday, May 3, 2018

In style: Dionne Warwick - "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?"

Warwick's "low-emot" style stands as a refreshing contrast to what we hear all too often today. There are three modes, so to speak, in contemporary urban music (a term I use because anything else might be [even more] inflammatory).

There is rap, in which the vocalist does not sing, but rather chants often ugly (self-centered, materialistic, misogynistic) words over a crude beat. Ironically samples from real music are often pilfered and added to the "songs". Next we have songs in which young men who don't have good voices whine their way through ill-advised lyrics, which are often more than a little like bad high school poetry material. Lastly you have women, often with pretty good voices, over-emoting and "over-melismaing" the hell out of trite lyrics.

This song, a Bacharach/David work from 1968 (released on the album "Dionne Warwick in Valley of the Dolls"), does none of those things, and neither does Warwick. Instead we get an amusing look at how elusive, and maybe worthless, stardom is:

L.A. is a great big freeway
Put a hundred down and buy a car
In a week, maybe two, they'll make you a star
Weeks turn into years. How quick they pass 
And all the stars that never were 
Are parking cars and pumping gas

The Bacharach/David team, at its best, rivals Lennon/McCartney for the best songwriters of the 60's. I don't think a song better than "Affie" was written in that decade.

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