Friday, May 14, 2010

May 14: Bobby Darin, "Dream Lover"

Artist: Bobby Darin
Song: "Dream Lover"
Album: Dream Lover (single)
Year: 1959

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Though many consider the idea to be a more modern development in music, the fact of the matter is, an emphasis on image and good looks has always been a factor within the genre of pop music.  Along with this factor, perhaps the "key" to being a successful pop star is an ability to move with trends and keep ones' music an accurate reflection of these changes within the musical taste of the masses.  Though he was unquestionably a pop star, there are few of that genre who have made as much of a point of being so unique within this role as the one and only Bobby Darin.  Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, Darin was one of the most successful singers on the planet, and though he was often grouped in with "the rat pack" singers, the fact of the matter was, Darin in many ways made his career on refusing to be pigeon-holed into any single style.  Within Darin's extensive recorded catalog, one can find everything from folk to early rock and roll to the more "standard" singer-songwriter fare, and it is this diversity that sets him far apart from nearly ever other performer of his era.  Furthermore, Bobby Darin was different from his peers in the fact that he wrote a number of his own songs, and this almost constant striving for change and "something new" is one of the many aspects that makes Bobby Darin a talent like no other.  From his early, almost novelty hits like "Splish Splash" to big band singles such as the iconic "Beyond The Sea," Darin is responsible for some of the most well known songs in history, yet few can compare to his 1959 ballad, "Dream Lover."

Perfectly capturing the musical style of the time, "Dream Lover" remains one of the greatest R&B songs ever recorded, and the sound on the song is so diverse, that it in many ways is impossible to define with a single category.  The song incorporates a number of different elements, and from the gorgeous backing vocals to the fluttering guitar work, "Dream Lover" is truly a genre onto itself, as one can hear everything from doo-wop to soul to Latin influences within the song.  "Dream Lover" ebbs and flows across the track and quickly envelops the listener in a sonic bubble, and even after repeated listenings, the song remains one of the most captivating musical arrangements ever recorded.  While there are many clearly talented artists performing on the track, one cannot overlook the fact that the piano part that runs through the song is being played by none other than Neil Sekada.  The bright, almost ska-esque guitar overtop the vocals further push "Dream Lover" into a space unlike that of any other recording, and it is also this aspect of the music that gives the song a "dancability" that is completely unique.  This guitar work, contrasted with the more easy going, smooth backing music makes "Dream Lover" one of the few songs in history that can be taken as both a "slow dance" as well as a faster dance number simultaneously.  Making the song even more impressive and unique, the truth of the matter is, the song was actually written BY Bobby Darin, proving that he was far more talented than a majority of his peers, and clearly one of the most talented musicians in history.

On top of writing the song, Bobby Darin uses "Dream Lover" as the vehicle for one of his most stunning and inspired vocal performances ever, and it is similarly one of the finest of any genre of any area in history.  Darin has already proved with his previous singles that he gave his all to every performance, yet his emotions are a bit more restrained here, leaving his unparalleled vocal dexterity to step into the spotlight.  Using the entire vocal range, Bobby Darin is nothing short of stunning on "Dream Lover," as everything from the mid-range verses to the lower bridge sections to the soaring choruses are absolutely perfect, and the song overall is truly unrivaled more than six decades after it was first released.  "Dream Lover" leaves nothing to the imagination, as it is without question one of the most perfectly executed and brilliantly penned love songs in history.  Darin commits completely to the song, and one can easily feel the emotion behind his words, yet it is also a song that every person can take as their own.  The words are simple, yet it is in this simplicity that one can find the true power of the lyrics, as one would be hard pressed to find a more direct, yet heartfelt lyric as is found on "Dream Lover."  When Darin's voice soars on the songs' iconic refrain of "... I want a dream lover so I don't have to dream alone...," it remains a truly special moment in music history, and one of the key reasons that Darin remains such an icon to this day.

Though he is unquestionably best known for his singing, the fact of the matter is, his ability to compose and write his own songs remains one of the key factors in Bobby Darin being in a class all his own when it comes to the great voices of the 1950's and 1960's.  As one of the most iconic and heavily covered songs in music history, the fact that it was Darin himself who wrote "Dream Lover" is in many ways all the "proof" one needs to place him into a category all his own.  Everyone from Ricky Nelson to The Misfits have released covers of "Dream Lover," and it is this fact that proves what a boundless and timeless song Darin created in 1959.  Perfectly fusing together elements of R&B, rock, soul, and many others, "Dream Lover" stands out not only in the Darin catalog, but also within the popular songs of the era, and one can see the influence of its success within the music of many acts that followed.  With the female backing vocals giving the song an airy, almost ethereal feel, contrasted with the strict, punctuating drums, "Dream Lover" excels due to its mixed styles, and while in most cases, this would lead to musical chaos, it is largely due to Darin's talents that it takes the opposite direction and remains one of the most uniquely brilliant songs ever recorded.  Without question one of the most irresistible vocal tracks ever recorded, even all these decades later, it is almost impossible to not sing along when the song comes on, and this is one of the many aspects that makes Bobby Darin's 1959 single, "Dream Lover" one of the most influential and truly phenomenal songs ever recorded.


Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful analysis of a a magnificent, but generally underrated, talent. Thanks very much.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that Darin's talents were unparalled and this song is exceptional, your completely one-sided and uncritical analysis rings like propaganda. And the repetitiveness of your writing (e.i. the phrase "ever recorded" was used five times) makes is sound like a class assignment with a minimum word count that had to be reached.

Pedro said...

Thanks a lot for your analysis of this song. It's always been one of my favourite songs ever, and thanks to you I can now put into words some of the reasons why.

Your comment that Bobby uses a broad vocal range here has made me wonder, do you have any idea what his whole range was?

Anita Zenobia said...

Thank you for this in-depth analysis of the brilliant Bobby Darin and his equally brilliant song Dream Lover. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and learned alot about the orchestration, musicians and vocal styling. Very interesting! Can you tell me what Bobby Darin's complete vocal range was?