I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes. I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale. Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not. In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey. I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site. With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment.
I’ve never been good at predicting the “Next Big Thing,” especially when it comes to music. I know what I like, and it used to be that, through MTV and the radio, I knew what everyone else liked too. And that was kind of awesome. Now, things have changed. Fifteen minutes of fame has dwindled to fifteen seconds and maybe a guest spot on a late night TV show. With the rise of music and musicians on the Internet, one now has a seemingly infinite number of listening choices. Bands are lucky to be the flavor of the day, let alone a whole week, because there’s now there’s a cacophony of newcomers scraping at their heels. I honestly didn’t think it would happen, but I have reached a point where I simply can’t keep up with it all. By the time I tap into the “Next Big Thing,” it’s already two weeks old, and it might as well be two hundred. As I sit here and ponder my musical nature, I harbor odd feelings at the notion that it’s been close to a decade since I truly sought out whatever I thought was going to be the “Next Big Thing” in music. I’m not really okay with that. But I also am.
This brings me to “Mama’s Room” by Under the Influence of Giants. I first heard snippets of this song in DJ Earworm’s “Over the Confluence of Giants” mashup.
Of all the songs sampled, “Mama’s Room” was completely unfamiliar, and something about it was exciting. I really liked the singer’s voice – that caught my attention first. And the snippets gave off a cool, calm, and collected vibe. A little bit retro, a touch funky, and very put together. I needed to know more about Under the Influence of Giants.
Now, this was 2006, so the Internet was only moderately helpful, (VEVO…what the hell is that??) but, I managed to find the single in iTunes. As I had an iTunes gift card burning a hole in my pocket, my impulses immediately steamrolled my pragmatic self, and I formulated a whole playlist right then and there around a song I barely knew. I just couldn’t shake the thought that Under the Influence of Giants was going to be the “Next Big Thing.” I was sure of it. (Not to play my hand early, but that playlist also includes the likes of KT Tunstall, Panic! At the Disco, and Alien Ant Farm, so…yeah. [All fine artists they are, regardless.])
Now is the part where I get all judgey. I mean, I’m not a music critic, so what the fuck do I know anyway? Nothing as far as most are concerned. But I do know a dichotomy when I see one…or…make one up in my head, at least. Not having actually seen Under the Influence of Giants, “Mama’s Room” conjured up images of an easygoing group of musicians just doing their thing with an air of confidence. Maybe they had skinny jeans and modified one-eyed pirate cuts, but that was okay, because Mama’s Room was just so…so…perfect.
And then, I saw the video.
ABBA was the first thing that came to mind. And I don’t mean that in terms of sound but in terms of looks. Shallow as it may sound, I just couldn’t connect the sound of “Mama’s Room” with the visuals presented. If the song sounded so perfect, the band looked too perfect. Waaaay too perfect, like carefully crafted. Not a hair out of place. No moments of imperfection or casualness. These guys didn’t look like they had just arrived at the studio to make a music video. They looked liked they had been sitting in makeup chairs for hours while a wardrobe person carefully chose their perfect outfits, and while lighting magicians chose the perfect filters, and while a casting agent chose the perfect women to look so perfectly choreographed in their perfect lingerie. It was no wonder the song sounded so composed, because it was that exactly. Do not get me wrong about their overall appearance – I’m down with subdued 70s glam all day, but the video for “Mama’s Room” appeared too produced for its own good.
I still really like the song, but Under the Influence of Giants did not become the “Next Big Thing,” though some of its members went on to perform as AWOLNATION, which recently had fifteen seconds of its own, so maybe I was just ahead of my time (haha).