Thursday, January 13, 2011

January 13: Mazzy Star, "Fade Into You"

Artist: Mazzy Star
Song: "Fade Into You"
Album: So Tonight That I Might See
Year: 1993

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While there are a number of components that are necessary to make a song truly unforgettable, perhaps the most important is also the most overlooked.  Though there are much to be said for a great musical hook or a moving lyric, without the right mood for the song, all these other elements almost become irrelevant.  Furthermore, deploying a proper mood is often the most difficult task, as regardless of where on the spectrum the song falls, most artists either go too far or don't even bother with this part of the song.  Yet conversely, when a performer truly achieves that special height where the mood of a song is both genuine and balanced, there is almost nothing that can hold the song in question from becoming a classic.  While there are a number of bands that have found this space within the more aggressive genres, composing proper mood in the more mellow genres has proved to be a far more difficult task.  Yet this type of perfection was found in a band that mastered the art of what is often called "dream pop," and it is this mesmerizing sound that makes the music of Mazzy Star so fantastic.  Fusing together elements of jazz, blues, soul, and much of the darker side of the post-punk sound, the group offered an album the likes of which have rarely been matched within their brilliant 1993 release, So Tonight That I Might See.  Filled with some of the most extraordinary musical textures ever recorded, there are few songs that better show the true power of the overall mood of a song than one finds in Mazzy Star's unforgettable 1993 single, "Fade Into You."

While in most cases, it is due to the almost overwhelming, full sound of a song from which a mood as moving as that found on "Fade Into You" is derived, with this song, it is perhaps how much the band does with so little that is the most significant.  The slow-rolling, almost lulling sound that the band puts forth is uniquely hypnotic, and one can easily feel the waves within the music.  By all popular accounts, this entire mood, both in composition as well as deployment, is the product of David Roback, and one can easily make the case that his work here is one of the finest singular achievements in all of music history.  The way in which the piano combines with the acoustic guitar sound provides a sweeping, dramatic feel that is truly in a class all its own.  Furthermore, it is in this combination of sounds that one can even hear rumblings of a "country twang," and this fusion of styles and genres perfectly mirrors the still underground resurgence of the late 1960's sounds.  Mixing into this musical base a strangely haunting, almost crying slide guitar, and "Fade Into You" quickly becomes one of the finest examples of the idea of "dream pop."  The fact that even with this strangely sorrowful, slow rolling sound there is an undeniably catchy hook is what makes it the very definition of "dream pop," and it is one of the few songs ever recorded in which one can truly get lost, solidifying its place amongst the greatest songs in history.

Though the music on "Fade Into You" is absolutely unforgettable, it is the vocal contributions of Hope Sandoval that truly make this song a masterpiece.  Bringing an almost whispered, ethereal sound to the song, Sandoval quickly made her voice one of the most unforgettable ever, and there is no other word that can be used to describe how her vocals fit into the song other than "perfection."  Working the entire vocal scale, the way in which she sings proves to be just as important as the words she is singing, and yet there is a strange disconnect that one can sense within her vocals.  It is in this element that one can pinpoint the true brilliance of "Fade Into You," as in every aspect, the sound of the song mirrors the words which are being sung.  This sense of Sandoval's singing being disconnected from the song conveys the feeling that she herself is fading away in some sense, and this suggests a very close proximity to the lyrics which she sings.  The amount of isolation and sorrow in the song comes across most clearly within Sandoval's singing, and it also highlights what stand as some of the finest lyrics of the entire decade.  Though they are perhaps a bit lost behind her stunning voice, when Hope Sandoval sings lines like, " live your life, you go in shadows, you'll come apart and you'll go black...," one is almost overwhelmed with the overall mood.  Providing a breathtaking compliment to the music, it is the extraordinary voice of Hope Sandoval and deep lyrics that push "Fade Into You" into a class all its own.

In nearly every aspect, "Fade Into You" defines the idea of "dream pop," and the sound that Mazzy Star conveys on this song would serve as a blueprint for a number of bands that followed.  The ability shown here to communicate such deep and powerful emotions within a uniquely minimalistic musical arrangement is where much of the genius of this song lives, and it is this combination that has proved to be one of the most rare occurrences in all of music.  In many ways, one can almost feel as if Roback and Sandoval started the song and then simply let the mood takeover.  It is in this idea that one can understand how they might have been able to master such a lulling, yet completely mesmerizing sound.  The fact that "Fade Into You" was released during an era of far louder and more aggressive songs further adds to its uniqueness, as one can easily see the song as an anomaly on the charts at that time.  This is perhaps the final piece of evidence needed to prove just what a significant moment in music history the song represents, as to this day, it is just as moving and fresh, and it is still able to crossover into nearly any musical style.  There are simply not enough words to do justice to the stunning combination of sonic beauty and an almost ethereal mood that one finds here, and it is much the reason that even almost two decades later, there are few songs that can even remotely compare to the overall impact of Mazzy Star's unforgettable 1993 song, "Fade Into You."

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