29 October 2006

Expect the Unexpected

Thanks to this blog, I have been invited to join a fascinating group called the "CD Mix Project." Every month, someone in the group of fifteen people decides on a theme for a mix CD. Everyone e-mails the leader with Mp3s of their selections, and the leader then burns all those songs onto a CD that is mailed to the entire group. It's a pretty great idea for a club.

I thought we could all play along. The first month's theme is "Expect the Unexpected." In other words, which songs from well-known artists are the most surprising in terms of content or sound?

For my entry, I've chosen Madonna's "I'm Going Bananas." The song is on her "I'm Breathless" album, which ostensibly features music "from and inspired by" the film "Dick Tracy," in which she stars as Breathless Mahoney. (I say "ostensibly" because that album also features "Vogue," which was added to the track list because of its hit potential and was not in any way inspired by the "Dick Tracy" film or its 1920s period. Vogueing is something Madonna picked up from black drag queens in 1980s Harlem. To see them in action, check out the documentary "Paris is Burning.")

Along with three songs that Stephen Sondheim wrote for the film, including Oscar-winner "Sooner or Later," "I'm Breathless" features a pastiche of turn-of-the-century styles, including "Now I'm Following You," a swinging soft-shoe ditty, and "Hanky Panky" a big band number about the joys of rough sex that has to be one of history's most unlikely top ten singles (Number 10 in 1990, right after "Vogue").

The album also features "I'm Going Bananas," which suggests the Latin-flavored music you would might hear in a high-class, low-morals tequila joint in Prohibition-Era Tijuana. There's a saucy rhythm (maybe meringue? I'm not sure), plenty of Mexican horns and percussion, and Madonna doing some kind of Carmen Miranda voice.

As weird as it is, though, the song is also a lot of fun. It features such silly lyrics as...

There's bat's in my belfry
Better make sure that straight jacket's tight
Otherwise I might
Get my self free.
Yes there's bats in my belfry

...and it's got undeniable energy. Fizzy and clever, it's a tune that wouldn't be out of place in a south-of-the-border Cole Porter musical. Not what you'd expect from a Madonna album.

So how about you guys? What makes you "expect the unexpected?" Certain songs? This photo, perhaps?



At 11:48 AM, Anonymous jenni is a scary zombie said...

i love annie lennox's 'keep young and beautiful' from DIVA. not what one expects on that album.

it's so twisted to open that album with 'why' and close is with said ditty.

twisted, i say.

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Ryan Dubbs said...

I agree with the Annie Lennox assessment. Also, for a completely unexpected track, check out "You know my name (look up the number)" by The Beatles. The track can be found on their Past Masters Volume 2.
I don't know what album it originally appeared on, if any, but the track is absolutely bizarre. The only lyrics in the song are the title, which are repeated ad nauseum. The song begins with a bit of rock to it but quickly shifts to Paul inflecting a lounge lizard approach to the lyrics. The next section sounds like it's being played on teacups before the penultimate section of John Lennon, essentially, coughing.
The track ends with a sax solo by the late Rolling Stones guitarist, Brian Jones.
Um, this track is bizarre. Yet somehow fun and refreshing at the same time. Good stuff.


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