Friday, January 16, 2009

Marvin Gaye - What's Happening Brother?

A well-worn rhythmic mechanism—effortlessly equalized, synchronized and syncopated—impels the sound forward with a self-assured, steady gait. There are luminous voices hovering above that seem impossibly distant. They are garnished with exuberant swells of horns, strings, and a tiny precious bell, almost overpoweringly effusive, for a centerpiece. Marvin’s lead vocal is imbued with a tender determination; its coarseness is charmed into clarity and its straining is seduced into something much sweeter. His voice is bound to the rhythm beneath by chains of cacophonous consonants, but stretches nobly, tonally upward toward the heavenly hosts singing “ooh” and “aah” above. The rising and falling of Marvin’s voice functions in a frustrated teeter-totter with these untouchably close singing sirens. It seems just as Marvin relinquishes his side of the struggle, cascading back into a tired sigh, the sonorous objects of his affection take notice and reach down towards him. The rhythm, meanwhile, remains indifferent to this antagonism and continues chugging along below it. Ultimately, it seems the consistency, between the song's words and sonic illustrations, is what serves it well in articulating a case for listeners to stop and consider 'what's happening?'

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