Wednesday, December 29, 2010

#1: JYJ - Long Way

I liked a lot of songs this year, and so choosing the best was literally like picking a specific needle out of a pile of needles that look exactly the same - nearly impossible. There was too much good music and too little time to take it all in. Question me all you want, call me biased or whatever, but I've made my decision and this is final.

When I was in the process of choosing songs for this year's list, I was debating between putting this in, or W. So why did I choose Long Way instead? Because while W made me bawl my eyes out (I kid you not), Long Way made me smile, cry, and feel all tingly inside at the same time - the only thing I was sure of was that this song is gorgeous. I don't get tingles down my spine very often, mind you, it's usually just goosebumps or the hairs on the back of my neck standing.

The first time I heard it I didn't know whether to laugh, cry or jump around the room - never mind that I couldn't and still don't understand the lyrics. That's truly what music should do to you, to be honest - it should make you feel something you never thought was possible. In this case, a combination of feelings you never knew existed.

I'm not saying all these because I like DBSK or Jaejoong or whoever, I'm saying this because this song deserves the praise, and that's that. If someone else released it and did just as good a job as the three, I'd still name this the best song of the year, because it's beautiful, epic, sad, happy, outstanding and every other positive adjective I can think of, rolled into one song.

I say this and that about songs, that they lack conviction, that the arrangements suck and the execution was sloppy and I say that because they lack what I think are qualities that will really give depth to a song, like what they've done for Long Way. Music is an art, and because it's an art it should be respected - with depth comes beauty and with beauty comes respect. At least that's how it goes for me.

In simpler terms, Long Way is epic and beautiful in every way. The light but sure drum rolls throughout the song, the strong arrangement that leads the song to places and doesn't just stay still, the sweet melody that's full of emotion, and the three gorgeous voices singing it just leave me speechless every single time.

But most of all, it is everything I stand for thrown together in one song, perfected and put together in all the right ways.

This song proves that there's more to good singers than ballads - the true measure of a technically and musically outstanding singer is flexibility and ability to sing more than just ballads. It's not how many notes you can hit in a minute and how high they are, it's how you hit those notes.

Long Way isn't a ballad, nor is it an uptempo - it's a nice, sweet midtempo that really makes you think.

I'm literally getting the shivers as I begin to write this.

The melody, oh dear the melody, it has enough variety to not bore us for 4 minutes, but it has enough repetitions to allow the boys the freedom to adlib and change things up a bit - showing their ingenuity and creativity. And mind you, these three know how to put fantastic and mind-blowing, yet appropriate and well-executed, adlibs together. It was treated in such a way that there's a balance to the sanitary-ness of Japanese production and the intensity of the three's vocals - need I say more?

In songs, I always look for an arrangement that explodes, or doesn't explode, in the right way. This is it. Everything starts out with a nice, sweet piano line and then a percussion part comes in and the song develops into a pretty package. Little by little it's like everything comes to life, and it explodes without you even knowing it, but very much feeling it. By the end of the song you have organized chaos - things are happening all over the place but there is a clear direction to the arrangement, as expected from the Japanese. But more so, the way everything was resolved at the end was done with finesse - it was neither a sudden stop nor a dragging, element-by-element drift.

Everything about this song matters - from the instruments to the vocals to the production. I was listening to the instrumental and while it's gorgeous and you really get to hear the instrumentation in it's purest form, it has no intensity, no life - until you put in the vocals.

That said, Long Way, as a whole, soars - there's no other way to put it, really. While it has the intensity, enough build-up, to make you stand up and listen to it every time another dimension is added, the way each element is executed then put together in relationship to the entire song is so effortless that the whole song just makes sense. You don't want to question why or how anymore - everything just makes sense.

Each element was so meticulously thought about and executed, every note painstakingly put into place, the entire package perfected over and over and over again, and yet listening to Long Way is more than a pleasure - it's such a joy. For me, that's what music is, and should be - pure and utter joy. More than a way to express yourself, more than a business, a profession, a commodity or a hobby - music is something that is to be enjoyed, savored.

There's nothing more I could ask for, really. As a writer, putting this together was just as effortless as listening to the song - it was like all the ideas, and the right words to express them, just poured out of my head and I didn't have to force any of them out like I had to for some songs on the list. It's because of songs like this that I write, it's because gorgeous, effortlessly stunning, songs exist, and continue to.

For all these simple, yet very meaningful, reasons, Long Way is the best song of 2010.

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