Jul 2, 2012

Monday Music Duel #3: Crazy

By my count, last week's MMD was a dead-set five-a-side tie. If you take my verdict into account, it gives it to Shakespears Sister.

This week, it's time to re-evalute our mental states and unhinge ourselves for a few minutes. There's about 43,000 songs entitled Crazy, so I could probably revisit this particular duel several times. But today I'm focusing on two deliciously mellow and well-rounded ones that I've always enjoyed.

Crazy by Seal

Before he was a velvet-throated judge on talent show "The Voice", Seal was a velvet-throated pop singer. His most famous hit is probably 1994's Kiss from a Rose, but my personal fave is Crazy, from his debut 1991 album Seal.

In a way, this song reflects the new decade it's entered into - rejecting 80s brassiness and self-obsession in favour of 90s soul-whimsy and introspective funk. The Cold War has ended, the USSR disintegrated - but a new set of problems has arisen in their place. Who are we? What are we? Are we alone? What's the point of us? WHY DO I HURT, SEAL? "Crazy are the people walking through my head/One of them got a gun to shoot the other one/And yet together they were friends at school" OH SEAL YOU UNDERSTAND I THOUGHT I'D HAVE TO GO ON MEDICATION.

But oh no, put the anti-depressants down and embrace the divided self. Because you're never gonna survive UNLESS you get a little... bit... crazy. The world is too difficult to process from a sane point of view; Seal urges us to let go and join him up in the clouds. "In a sky full of people only some want to fly/isn't that crazy".

Musically it's still an aurally pleasing soundscape, with a funky bassline and that almost-cosmic synth accompaniment. It's a reflective song about the human condition that explores the need to embrace all aspects of our personalities, even the darker ones. And it does that in a surprisingly upbeat way.

The music video features a dreadlocked Seal, wearing leather high pants and some sort of alarm clock necklace, sitting on a large red orange juicer. Obviously it "strains" his essence, as multiple Seals end up sitting on the juicer, looking all soulful 'n' stuff. There's also a couple of chicks in mesh and leotards, because it was 1991.

Kylie Minogue would later borrow Seal's white satin hooded cape for her infamous Can't Get You Outta My Head video clip.

I guess that explains why it was so loose on Kylie.

Crazy by Gnarls Barkley

Remember 2006? There was a war in Lebanon, a FIFA World Cup in Germany, and a little social networking start-up called Twitter was just starting to spread its wings. Amidst all this chaos, suitably, was Crazy, Gnarls Barkley's first - and probably biggest - hit.

The duo - comprising vocalist Cee Lo Green and instrumentalist and producer Danger Mouse - was inspired by spaghetti westerns, and adapted the music from a song featured in 1968 film called Viva! Django. The lyrics were penned after a joking conversation about how artists are never taken seriously unless they're insane.

It's a slow burn of a song, with Green's smooth vocals going down like a good whisky, suitably fiery in the chorus. I'm not super-musical myself, but I think there are only three chords; possibly four, but no more. The simplicity keeps the whole song grounded: surprising, given its subject matter.

Another technique that helps the song stick in your head and stay there is its use of repeated lyrics and questions. My favourite moment is after entreating "Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are?", Green bursts, Joker-like, into a manic laugh, taking down your ridiculous confidence and sense of power in one fell swoop. "Ha ha ha, bless your soul/Do you really think you're in control?"

At the end of the day, the song is not judgmental, but forgiving. It embraces craziness as a universal constant, that must be shared to be experienced at all.  "I think you're crazy/just like me." And you know what? That's OK.

The video clip again displays the majesty in simplicity. Who hasn't heard of an inkblot test and its umbilical connection to psychiatry and psychoanalysis? Shapes form and shift, with the band members' faces blurring in and out of our consciousness. Are we seeing them really? Or just imagining them? What else do we see in the colours and patterns? Have I been watching this clip too many times?

Verdict: Another doozy. I keep making these hard on myself. I guess... oh, goodness... ummm, Gnarls Barkley. For the "Ha ha ha!" maniacal laugh.

Now it's over to you! Which of these two gets your vote for Crazy and why?


  1. Gnarls easy, not much like Seal's music. Some is Ok.

  2. Definitely Seal. I listened to this song over and over and over again. It's got such good percussion. I'd plot out computer animations with it in mind.

  3. Wow. This is a tough one. If you'd asked me 20 mins ago I would have said Gnarls for sure because I didn't realise that song was by Seal. I think I'm going to have to go for Seal just due to the length of time that song has been a part of my life.

  4. Seal, definitely Seal. The Gnarls song really grates on me, dunno why, but I just can't stand it! Being an 80's child the Seal song has memories too, although if you'd asked me 2 weeks ago who sung it, I wouldn't have known!

  5. Definitely going with Seal on this one. Great song. The Gnarls Barkley song is probably catchier, but that doesn't make it better. Also, I can remember a point where you couldn't move without hearing the damn thing. Also, the lead-in to the chorus sets my teeth on edge, the way the chord changes before Cee Lo's voice does. It might be deliberate but I really don't like that. I don't hate the song, but given the choice it's Seal all the way.

  6. Well one is actually not a bad song and the other is a Seal song

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