Why I could never be a real songwriter…

With my May 22 wedding date fast approaching and spare time at a minimum these days, I decided to take advantage of some personal time yesterday and spent a couple of hours with my keyboard and MacBook to see if I could get the creative juices flowing again.

I am a big fan of the group Keane and love their new single “Stop for a Minute” (featuring K’naan). Since that song has been in my head lately, the song I tried writing yesterday started off with a Keane-like feel. However, what transpired over the next couple of hours showed why I could never be a real songwriter.

The song started with a simple piano part and a lyrical hook of “hit the ground running” immediately popped into my mind…so that became the working title. The rest of the foundation came quite easily — especially since I borrowed some bits from some aborted musical ideas from my past — and it did actually have a bit of that Keane flavor to it.

But then I decided to add a drum intro and it wound up being a nod to the intro to the song “Hold On” by Yes…so that introduced bit of my prog-rock influences.

And then I thought, “You know what? This needs horns.” So that brought my Phil Collins influence into the mix.

Finally, and this is really my big weakness as a songwriter/arranger, I decided to add some strings…because most of my songs inevitably end up with strings to cover up my lack of skill as a keyboard player.

And guess what my simple, little Keane-like pop tune ended up sounding like…the theme song to an action TV series from the 80s. Just take a listen and tell me you don’t envision cheesy title cards and graphics over actors and actresses with big hair and poofy clothes with forced smiles in ridiculous situations.

I really need to learn how to self-edit.

Hit the Ground Running (4:43)

New music review: Ben Folds, Keane

Well, today marked my first listening to new songs by two of my favorite artists, Ben Folds and Keane.

Ben Folds announced via MySpace the debut of a video for “Hiroshima,” the first single off his upcoming CD, “Way to Normal” (Sept. 30, 2008). The half-assed, stop-motion video is quirky and funny…but the song? Well, I worship Ben Folds…think he’s a genius…I even met him very, very briefly in November 2005. But I’m just not feeling “Hiroshima.” It’s obviously a fleshed-out version of one of Ben’s improvisational pieces during one of his shows…and it will probably be fun to hear peformed live. I just don’t see myself playing it too many times on my iPod.

However, I guess I just expect a level of musicianship from Ben on recorded media…and “Hiroshima” doesn’t really meet that expectation for me. Hopefully, the rest of the new CD reaches higher.

But I still love your music, Ben…and you are still a genius.

Ben Folds – “Hiroshima” [Live at Bonnaroo 2008]

On the other hand, Keane’s single for “Spiralling” (although I prefer “Spiraling”) off the upcoming “Perfect Symmetry” CD (Oct. 13, 2008 ) is really entertaining and fun. It’s not groundbreaking and I don’t expect Keane to be. However, the boys managed to retain their sound while also infusing it with dance beats and funk bass that seem to be greatly influenced by (and perhaps featuring samples from) David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” Even though this really isn’t the style of music I am into these days, I always seem to find a few pop songs throughout the year that I really enjoy…and “Spiralling” is definitely one of them. I can’t wait to get it on my iPod and play it a few times very loudly with my windows down on a long drive.

I was disappointed with Keane’s previous CD, “Under the Iron Sea,” although “Bad Dream” from that disc is a freakin’ great song. I thought “Sea” was a step back from the brilliance of 2004’s “Hopes and Fears,” which spawned “Somewhere Only We Know,” “Everybody Changes,” and “Bedshaped.”

But “Spiralling” gives me great hope that Keane has taken many steps forward with “Perfect Symmetry.”

Keane – “Spiralling” [Radio Edit]