TL;DR Matt and Donna made a fantastic song. It’s my favourite one this round and you should check it out!
Judging this round is easier, because there are fewer entries; it’s also harder, because you need to consider the newspaper story for each song. Personally, I found this challenge a bit too liberal – so many possibilities. Then again, my personal style relies on puns, and ordinary news rarely provide them. I guess I liked those entries best that strayed from the original story a bit and developed a life on their own. Here’s the individual verdicts.
Godz Poodlz: The pop band production gives this one a Jonathan Coulton feeling, yet I’d prefer a more basic approach in the style of the folk singers from the 60s. The lyrics require knowledge of the story, which might diminish the impact of the song. Apart from that, the plot and the values sung about speak directly to the listener (at least to me) and there’s little to no part I’d skip / shorten. Nice one.
Caleb Hines: Great atmosphere, beautiful melodies. The instrumentation gives the song a movie soundtrack / music vibe. I’m not sure the handclaps belong there. Also, the chorus could have done with a bit more closure imho.
Matt and Donna: I like this one from the very start. Yes, I’m a sucker for synth melodies (and sounds) like this one. The rhythm is this perfect mix between sparse basics and driving beats. The changes to some minor chords throughout the track give the song enough emotional depth to render the lyrics somewhat unimportant. And then I read them and the annotation, and I wish I had a) found such a story and b) come up with such a small, yet clever idea. Hot contender for my favourite song of #3 so far. (PS: A different, more memorable title could have made more sense in the challenge, like “stuck between the bars”. Then again, the actual title fits the song and is clever.)
Alex Carpenter: The sound of this stripped recording reminds me of the German Monsters of Liedermaching. The quirky man-with-guitar approach isn’t the perfect vehicle for a rather serious, highly motivated lyric. Alex should have changed productions with the Godz Poodlz! The ending could have gotten bigger with some more instrumental toys, I guess. In the present state it sounds rather flat, and the song remains nice at best.
Ross Durand: Top notch vocals – love the many words in one line vs. short line endings contrast. The guitar playing is exquisite as well. Once again, switching to a minor chord (?) when it comes to “Land of the free” give the chorus an extra bit of emotion. I’m not sure how including three headlines in one song is in line with the challenge. Still, the way they are combined into something new (i.e., this song) works perfectly for me. Very good entry!
Dr. Lindyke: May I suggest you add some vinyl playing sounds (crackling?) to the recording? It’s difficult to compare this contemplative song to the rather upbeat entries most other contestants made. I like how peace is in the center of the whole song. A bit more “plot” in the lyrics (as in the third verse, where a person, a place, and an action is given) would have appealed to me, I guess.
Alexa Polaski: Mmh, this seems to suffer from deadline writer’s block. Or maybe the flat, sober rendition is intentional. I find myself impartial to this entry.
Matt Walton: I get the feeling that this is a good idea. But the execution lacks energy and passion. Or maybe it’s intentionally clean. Speeding up the whole thing and adding a jig somewhere in there would have spiced up things. Speeding up your song is generally a good idea to figure out possible changes/improvements. I’m not a native speaker, so my impression of the lyrics is rather vague. The verses sounded too much alike. It’s a song about demonstrating, so it could have done with more outgoing temperament – and possibly a mellow last verse for contrast.
Charlie McCarron: The production and performance sound quite good – still, it’s a tad too jazzy for my taste. The soaring vocals in between are a nice touch. The song managed to turn a newspaper story into a song story, thumbs up for that!
Jon Eric: Epic song, longest entry so far!? It starts out good, but the first chorus is already taking the drive out of the song. The atmosphere is gripping and it becomes clear that this will be a longer journey. The whole thing reminds me of Trans-Siberian Orchestra – probably the pathos in the vocals and the piano. When I say that this one’s too long, I don’t mean that parts are very enjoyable. The plot line holds the thing together and is one of the better ones this round.
Wait What: Did the planned marriage involve a robot? No? Then why the excessive auto-tune? The music is solid, creating a dense atmosphere. I like how it becomes bigger half-way through the song. Having the vocals in a higher register afterwards is a good idea. But why the auto-tune?
Governing Dynamics: Much better than the previous entry – or at least more true to the dynamics and the vocal/e-git combination I admire Travis for. The choice of the news item isn’t exactly quirky or anything. But the aura suits the musical style. Tip for future hit songs: Try writing a refrain that starts with an offbeat (that is, the vocals have a couple of notes before the 1 of the first chorus bar). Right now the song seems to me like a reflection of a big city in turmoil (which is an achievement), but with the right kind of hookline it could have been, well, catchier.
Pat and Gweebol: The topic of the song is rather serious, but the overall tone is quite joyful. Apart from this cognitive dissonance it’s a solid song, neatly produced and with much better vocals than I can ever hope to perform myself.
The Offhand Band: Did Billy Joel sneak into the contest? The style of the song along with its unintrosive melodies makes it easy to dismiss it as (quite flawless) background music for movies, elevators etc. The story told in the song has an important message and I wish it would have been put into more concise words.
Chris Cogott: Amazing vocals! The news were translated into highly original lyrics. I don’t think you can meet the challenge more than this entry does. There’s little to complain here, only that it’s ever so slightly outside my musical pleasure zone. Maybe it’s a bit too soft, a bit too much U2 (though there’s little to begin with), a bit too vast a harmonic soundscape. I don’t know. It boggles my mind that this appears to be one of the earliest submissions as it sound really professional. Maybe next time there will be rock guitars or melancholic twang guitars. No wait, we all will be rapping.
Steve Durand: I like how Steve has a rather unique sound that sets him apart from the other competitors. His tune is cheerful and less elaborate than some of his previous works. The vocals struggle with the higher notes – transposing is no crime, I think. The music is a bit too casual for my taste. The instrumental part in between hints at a bit more depths. But in the end it’s a plain waltz with a lot of happiness.
Gold Lion: Again, this is not exactly my cup of tea. However, the droning motive in the guitar and the strong vocals make me enjoy this song quite a bit. The refrain is beautiful and the story rather touching. The guitars could be a bit tighter, but this doesn’t keep me from enjoying the song. Also, the second vocal track is a bit confusing, at least to my ears. I could imagine that some more instruments here and there could give the whole thing a bit more colour. Anyway, a pleasant entry.
Inverse T. Clown: Oh boy, why isn’t the rhythm in the chorus a double-time feel? The verses are a bit dull, but the chorus is strong and the sounds fit the song well. The dramatic chord near the end of the refrain is very effective. The instrumental is kind of cool. There could have been a tad more plot development throughout the verses. Nice ending, good song.
Happi: Not a pleasant entry, partly because I’m not into rap. Oh, the irony. The plot fits the style, sort of. The individual parts a rather flat, but the transition keep the ball rolling throughout the song. The chorus melody is sung out of key, I guess. But who am I to point that out?
Menage’ a Tune: A jolly tune with some nice rhymes and a sincere vocal performance. I would have liked the title line to be bigger, more like a recurring refrain, maybe sung by a bunch of players. (Is it baseball? Or basketball? Or American Football?) I’m sure I’d dig the song if I had a connection to the team/type of sport.
Noah McLaughlin: The off-beat hi-hat in the verses is an interesting choice. The twangy guitars are cool. The distorted vocals work well. The songwriting feels a bit rushed. The middle-part is rather confusing, yet another indicator that more time would have led to a better song (or no song at all, who knows). The lyrics deal with a complex matter (or well, a matter I’m not too familiar with), so while I’m catching glimpses of the news in the song, I struggle to connect all the lyrical dots.