Gonzales, in conjunction with WDR Einslive (1Live), has released two videos that musically dissect Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, and Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Coming Home”. The videos have been very popular, garnering over 50,000 views in a short timeframe. It appears that there’s a pent-up demand for additional depth in music reviews, which is something that Gonzales has been doing for years. Actively sharing musical and entertainment insights in ways that are accessible to everyone is part of the reason why Gonzales has such a loyal following.
The videos themselves are fantastic, and Gonzales provides great content within each beautifully shot segment. If the videos themselves weren’t enough, another dimension was added to the videos that speaks to Gonzales’ innate sense of competition. Just before Gonzales’ videos were released, fellow Canadian composer, arranger and musician Owen Pallett decided to develop his own web-based column that dissected a few recent pop hits. By chance (or simply by popularity), Owen also analyzed “Get Lucky” for one of his columns. As is usually the case in these sorts of happy coincidences, each composer seems to have worked on their analysis independently, with Gonzales even tweeting Owen’s column prior to releasing his videos:
— chilly gonzales (@chillygonzales) April 3, 2014
It’s unlikely that Gonzales and Pallet would knowingly compete against each other, but given the attention that their respective musical analyses has generated, it might not be a bad idea for them to go head-to-head in an ‘showdown’ or sorts. Zach Sokol at The Creators Project on Vice must have sensed a good opportunity to pit the two analyses against each other. He wrote an article titled: “Who Explained The Genius Of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” Better? Owen Pallett vs. Chilly Gonzales”. The column also hints at a “showdown” and writes:
…hey, maybe he and Chilly should do a head-to-head theory breakdown. Then we could really see who’s the musical genius.
That last line is a bit of a shot at Gonzales’ “musical genius” moniker. Earlier, the article lists this as a ‘con’ when comparing pros and cons:
Man, we know you’re good, but come on. #facepalm
It would appear that the author hasn’t followed Gonzales long enough to understand the “musical genius” reference. Gonzales has a great verse in “Self Portrait” (from “The Unspeakable Chilly Gonzales”:
I said I was a musical genius
I repeated it ’til it became meaningless
Because you assumed I was joking
And then you thought about it
Like – “he’s not joking”
Listen, it’s entertainment but if you listen the genius is in the arrangements
See I wasn’t kidding, wasn’t bullshitting
Anyways, you can’t fire me now, because I’m quitting
Gonzales has taken a page from the rapper’s (or earlier – wrestler’s) notebook; self-aggrandizing, bravado, showboating, etc. Essentially, adding something controversial to your persona that makes people take notice and even try to disprove your assertion. In “Self Portrait”, Gonzales takes the musical genius moniker and makes you second-guess if he’s serious about it. And after you think you’ve got him figured out, Gonzales has already moved on. Eliciting a reaction (such as the author’s) – that’s genius right there.
At one point in the comparison article, he writes: “Across the board, Pallett kills it with the humor”, which Gonzales may have taken to mean that his persona is too serious. Again, this may be due to lack of familiarity with Gonzales, since a humour is an inextricable part of Gonzales – be it in his music, shows, tweets, and so on. Some people wondered if Gonzales couldn’t “take” the criticism, but nothing is farther from the truth, and Gonzales is his own worst critic (see “Soft Power”). What Gonzales does seek is fair criticism from someone who has obviously done their research.
Overall, analyzing music is akin to Shakespeare – unless you hear it from the bard himself (or the robots or Drake and OVO40), it’s a personal opinion shaped by a lifetime of experience. In Gonzales’ case, he’s an “actual collaborator” (as the author wrote) with Daft Punk. The article also points out that it would have been interesting for Gonzales to impart some “personal experiences he had with the group” – referring to his collaboration with Daft Punk. It may be tempting for Gonzales to leverage his personal experiences with artists to forward his own career, but that’s not how you gain a reputation as a trusted collaborator. You work your ass off to prove yourself musically, professionally, and personally, and then maintain complete and utter silence – even exceeding the level of professionalism that you would expect from other people. Gonzales takes this to extremes. He has not shown up to two Grammy award ceremonies where he was nominated – in complete respect for the album artist(s). That kind of professionalism has underscored Gonzales’ reputation as a valued collaborator, and it’s unlikely that he will do anything to tarnish that reputation. As for being “more of an authority” on the music of Daft Punk, Gonzales doesn’t have to add anything to over 10 years of friendship with Daft Punk, remixes, collaboration, etc.
The article concludes with a brief recap of Gonzales’ accessibility and Pallett’s refusal to succumb to inaccessibility. The difference between these two approaches seems lost in semantics. Regardless, the author concedes that both exercises were awesome, which brings up a final point. The fact that more and more people are looking at music from an analytical point of view drives closer to one of Gonzales’ goals, which is to make the creation of music accessible to everyone (see Re-Introduction Etudes). It’s unlikely that Gonzales has any artistic rivalry in this regard; he’s probably very pleased to see this sort of discourse, because ultimately, his audience is the winner, and everyone has a chance to become a “musical genius”.
Here’s the full transcript from Gonzales’ analysis of “Get Lucky”:
Hello, I’m Chilly Gonzales the musical genius, and I’ve been asked by the radio station WDR Einslive (1Live) to explain some of today’s pop music. I’m going to begin with Daft Punk – the song “Get Lucky”; you all know it. That sounds like 2013, right? So what do we hear? We hear 4 chords over and over again. They are as follows: Bm, DM, F#m and EM. Now the names of the chords aren’t so important. What you need to know is that Daft Punk has used them before. You know this song? That’s right – “Around the World” – so this is classic Daft Punk, and it’s also classic of them to use only use these four chords for a six-minute pop hit. So you might think that’s a bit “lazy”, or unimaginative. A truly clever pop musician can do so much with so little, and if I think about classic music and this kind of technique, it reminds me of an Italian thing called the ostinato. This was just a way of having a bassline, just like our Daft Punk bassline, though everything – the whole song. And it’s here – what happens in the right hand – or in this case, in the voice of Pharrell Williams, which really determines the structure of the song. So it begins with some very syncopated verses – very repetitive. And rhythmically you can hear it’s in the air. This is a way of keeping the excitement going and anticipation. We then get to the bridge, and in the bridge, they use a very interesting harmonizing technique where the voice follows the bass but with a slight harmony, so it sounds like this. So it’s the exact same shape just at different parts of the piano that gives the feeling of togetherness. This is an old technique. I like that Elvis song “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. It uses the same technique – here, following the bass. Same in Daft Punk. But of course, a pop song is all about its chorus, and in the chorus of Get Lucky, we get the excitement of finally hearing the words “Get Lucky” in a rhythm that comes together and it’s just so pleasing and catchy, and that’s why this chorus made it the hit of 2013.
And (in case you haven’t seen it), here’s the video: