Tag Archives: pop music

Sorry, Pop Fans: ‘A Star Is Born’ Thinks Ally’s ‘Why Did You Do That?’ Is Bad

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

I feel like I have to correct the record on something. Ever since A Star Is Born came out, there’s been a lot of analysis about the soundtrack, especially one song on it in particular: “Why Did You Do That?”

“Why Did You Do That?” is the song that a post-fame, pop-repackaged Ally performs on Saturday Night Live. A sampling of its lyrics: “Why do you look so good in those jeans? Why’d you come around me with an ass like that? You’re makin’ all my thoughts obscene.” Later, Jack derides her for these words.

The analysis I’ve seen around the song usually takes the form of two questions: 1) Is “Why Did You Do That” a bad song outside of the universe of the movie? 2) Within the world of the movie, does the movie believe it’s a bad song, or is it just Jack who doesn’t like it? The first question can’t have one definitive response. Either that type of music works for you, or it doesn’t and that’s fine.

But the second question has a concrete answer, and yet the conclusion I arrived at isn’t really the one drawn unanimously, much to my confusion. But  A Star Is Born really, truly thinks that “Why Did You Do That?” is bad. My proof:

It’s So Different From Ally’s Other Songs

Ally is so talented that Jackson can’t help but be taken in by her. He falls in love with her through her songwriting. But “Why Did You Do That?” sounds nothing like the tunes that kick-started their romance. Before her big pop-career launch, even the catchier songs she wrote, like “Look What I Found” (which I personally like a lot better than “Why Did You Do That?”), come rooted in a much more singer/songwritery place. If we’re supposed to believe in the transformative power of Ally and Jack’s love, and they express that feeling through music, how are we supposed to see the change in her sound as anything but a betrayal of that love?

She Refuses the Dancers

Okay, artists evolve. Things change. If you believe A Star Is Born is about Jackson’s desire to manage Ally’s artistic work and stifle her creativity, I think that’s a truly cynical reading of the movie, but you can read his dismissal of “Why Did You Do That?” through that lens. But my big question to you: Why did she refuse to have backup dancers at her first performance? 

The answer is she turned the dancers away because that’s not how she sees herself as an artist. This, to me, is the biggest clue into what Ally thinks of her pop image. If those songs truly came from her developing sense of self, she  would’ve embraced the dancers at her debut and in her SNL performance. Instead, she said she didn’t think she needed them.

And Jack had nothing to do with that. She doesn’t get rid of them because she’s afraid Jack won’t like it. It’s because, in her heart, she knows she’s a songwriter and  not a pop product.

Diane Warren Co-Wrote It

Actually, this probably runs counter to my point. Warren has written some of the most successful songs ever.

Jackson Hates It

This is where we veer into a bit of subjectivity: If the hero of our romantic story says mean things about the song, does that look bad for him, or for the song? This time, I think it’s both. His criticisms come at a point in the movie where it’s clear he’s on a downslide, and could potentially take Ally down with him. But he’s also heralded by the movie as a musical genius, and he knows what he’s talking about.

For what it’s worth, I think this is a departure from the other versions of A Star Is Born. (The biggest departure after changing her name from Esther Blodgett, which I’m gutted they did. Esther 4-Eva!) You’re supposed to think Judy Garland is an acting tour de force. You’re supposed to think Barbra Streisand is a consummate performer. I don’t think you’re supposed to think Janet Gaynor is untalented. James Mason, Kris Kristofferson, and Fredric March never impugn Esther’s talent. I kind of like that Bradley Cooper does.

You Only Get a Sideways Glance at It

When Ally does perform “Why Did You Do That?” on Saturday Night Live — with dancers — the performance isn’t really the focus of the scene. It’s something happening in the background. If A Star Is Born was really behind this evolution in Ally’s career, and really thought the audience should consider it an unambiguously good song,  it would’ve had a moment as powerful as “The Shallow.”

There is no moment for “Why Did You Do That?” The movie doesn’t want you to consider it a triumph. Whether you do or not is up to you, but the movie’s thoughts on it are pretty clear to me.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Best Music of 2017

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

It’s the end of the year, and you know what that means: music publications published their year-end coverage approximately one to three months ago. We here at SportsAlcohol.com do not have a list of our 200 Favorite Albums That Came Out Between January and Mid-October, though we will have some individual write-ups of songs we love throughout the rest of the month and maybe into January. But Marisa, Sara, Rob, and Jesse did sit down to talk about our faves (and other opinions) from this year in popular musics. (They also took selfies. See above.)

For our best music of 2017 wrap-up, we decided to take a different tactic and take a roughly chronological trip through the various live shows we all attended, together and apart, throughout the year, and let the discussion spring from there. You’ll find out who we went to see because we’re afraid of death, whose live show exceeded their disappointing album(s), which band(s) Sara cannot deal with right now, and which show got Rob feeling real emotional in a rough year.

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

Track Marks: “Younger Now” by Miley Cyrus

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

For the impending end of 2017, some of our writers are going back and talking about beloved songs from this year, especially from artists not covered on our upcoming podcast.

Is it really so ridiculous that Miley Cyrus would sing about feeling young? It might seem redundant, I guess, because she’s only 25, which to me, racing toward 40, sounds so impossibly fresh and dewy now. But I don’t know that I felt that way about 25 when I actually was 25. Bless anyone who maintains uncomplicated feelings about aging for 25 whole years.

Moreover: Miley Cyrus has been making music for a decade. Yes, she’s the kind of showbiz lifer who was born into it and made a beeline for the Disney machine, but Younger Now, the 2017 record whose title song I adore, is her sixth album. It’s the first one I’ve ever bought; I got Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz from whoever was kind enough to rip a free mp3 version from the free streaming version that was the only version available for a while (it’s now available as a paid download, and honestly, I kind of recommend it). I bought “Wrecking Ball” but not all of Bangerz. I downloaded “Party in the USA” from a music blog that encoded its source album as Shit Guys, Miley’s Done It Again!

There was a time when that fake title was only half-ironic. People like “Party in the USA” and especially “Wrecking Ball.” In the annals of teen or teen-like stars getting grown-up and weird, people do not so much like Dead Petz, the album where she fronted the Flaming Lips and (I assume) smoked a lot of pot, displaying a lot of vulnerability – and genuine, not overproduced, weirdness – in the process. People do not so much seem to like Younger Now so much, either. I gather that it’s considered kind of a clumsy, opportunistic pivot back to pop-country after a series of failed cultural appropriations. Though the record is country only insofar as it sounds kind of country-ish compared to the Flaming Lips, it is inarguably uneven. Miley Cyrus is not a savant who makes Top 40 pop that we wish actual Top 40 pop sounded like, like Carly Rae Jepsen. But then, Carly Rae Jepsen is 32. She knows things. This is why we (Rob and I, anyway) love her.

Which brings us back to “Younger Now.” Like the album of the same name, it’s not perfect. It has at least one production touch I actually hate: the fake or fake-sounding drum-ish fills that sound way too much like the fake record-scratching noises everyone started using around 1997 or so. (Again: I am not 25.) The lyrics are rife with clichés, especially in the chorus: “No one stays the same.” “What goes up must come down.” “Change is a thing you can count on.” But as on Dead Petz, the weakness and awkwardness in her music now feel achingly sincere, and both the melody and sentiment of “Younger Now” soar with an unforced wistfulness, and faux-drum stutters aside, the production lets that wistfulness breathe, showcasing Cyrus’s vocals. She’s never sounded more confident or comfortable or hopeful. You know, like how you feel for a few fleeting moments when you’re young, if you’re lucky.