Amy Wood: Not-Love Songs
“IN A SEA OF LOVE, ONE SINGER SONGWRITER TRACKS MEANING BEYOND ‘YOU’”
I’ve been meaning to write about Amy’s album Cinnamon Heart for a long time now, (which you can get for free at http://www.amywood.ca) but never found the time to do so. So I’d like to show off and talk about her latest work. Amy helped us out for Music Track Day and her song “Symphony” is finished and being mixed by Jesse Bell, so stay tuned for that!
Amy’s current project is called “Not-Love Songs,” where she creates and records covers of songs that aren’t focused on love. Surprisingly, there are fewer out there than one would expect.
Each week previous had been someone else’s material, but for her latest release, Amy showed off an original track, “Universe.” Teaming up with Julia Gummo of Gumo Productions, Amy set out to create her first music video.
Now with “Not-Love Songs,” there are three things that we need to take into consideration:
- The Video
- The Song
- The Project
I think it would be better to look at all these parts individually, as opposed to clumping it together into one whole.
Starting with the song, Amy provides us with her signature style – her lone voice accompanied by her piano. Having heard Amy’s album, I feel that “Universe” is a pristine example of how Amy composes, writes and sings.
With quick arpeggios and bouncing bass notes making up the verses, the dynamic range of the vocal is captivating. Some lines are sung at a half-whisper, while some are sung quickly, the variation appealing to the ear. Amy’s voice rises above the piano and draws the listener in, especially after the second chorus into the bridge. A held note falls and then climbs pulling you into the ending of the song.
Amy’s style can draw comparisons to many of the female artists who base their music around a piano. Sara Bareilles immediately comes to mind for me, as the vocal liking and the piano both sound similar.
Next, let’s take a closer look at the video. There are a few things that immediately catch my attention, and not necessarily in a positive way. In a music video, it is very obvious when a musician is lip syncing with a song as opposed to having the audio being included in the video recording during the shooting process. I understand this is usually not possible and that lip syncing is the only feasable manner in which to record videos, but that’s the focal part for the viewer and it needs to be done spotlessly. In “Universe” there are a few moments where the song and the video don’t line up, and it makes the video seem unnatural.
The message of the video is spelt out for us, quite literally in fact, as we see the words “Follow your path” and “and let them talk” written out on scraps of paper. I like the stop motion effect during these parts as the papers travel. It adds congruency to the other stop motion style parts – particularly the bench scene. The synchronization between the piano line and the cutting frames also works at this point.
My favourite scene occurs at 1:45 when Amy is silhouetted on the blue sky backdrop. I think this scene works because of Gummo’s composition as well as the natural elements that create the natural universe Amy is singing about. The birds that fly through could not have been timed any better, and the visual element matches well with the sonic, creating a lovely scene.
The video as a whole seems to be built of a few parts – that don’t necessarily relate to each other.
- Amy singing on a mountain
- The words on paper
- The bench scene
- Some slow motion parts
I think it would have been nice if there was a unifying tie to these visual elements. Perhaps the words could have found Amy on the mountain – and she would have followed them down to the bench, where they get caught in the tire and she rides off into the distance. The video is just missing the glue in which holds together all the composite parts.
Lastly, the project as a whole is a unique experience, inspiring us to look into the music we listen to every day, and examine how much of that involves love. Songs in which a lover’s heart was broken, or a ballad preaching one’s undying love to whomever fill a majority of our musical libraries.
Amy defines a “Not Love Song” to be:
“[A] Song that doesn’t deal with ‘before you’ ‘you’ and ‘after you’ in a romantic way. I don’t think I’m gonna write-off songs about human connection…. The point is to level the subject matter playing field out there in the [musical] world.”
I am kind of embarressed to admit – but I’ve just looked up the entire track listing of Justin Bieber’s My World 2.0, and there is not one “Not-Love Song” on the entire album. This album is certified double platinum in Canada. I think Amy’s onto something here with this idea.
Already, Amy has covered “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Steer,” and, “Life is a Bowl of Cheeries.” Accompanying each song is another music video. So far, all videos have been live – using the sound from the actual performance, with “Universe” being the first to use a pre-recorded track. Amy’s fallen off her once-a-week upload schedule (and understandably so) to finish her music performance degree, but that doesn’t mean she’s given up. Hopefully we will get to see at least 40+ Not-Love Songs over the course of this year.
You can head over to her Facebook page and offer up your own suggestions for Not-Love Songs for Amy to cover! My pick was City and Colour’s “Happiness by the Kilowatt”.
It’ll be interesting to look back once this project is done and see how the videos have evolved and if Amy ever runs out of Not-Love Songs to play! I’ve started to look into my iTunes at all the music I have based on love, and this is just one more thing to add when listening critically.
Amy Wood has set out on an ambitious journey to show the world you can sing about more than love, and her song “Universe” is a perfect example of that. If you’re looking for a fresh take on popular, check out what Amy is doing with her “Not-Love Songs” project. See the other Not-Love Songs here!
(Update: Here’s Amy’s latest Not-Love Song, with West My Friend! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agsJlmTsBAg)