Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 12: Seal, "Crazy"

Artist: Seal
Song: "Crazy"
Album: Seal
Year: 1991

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Throughout the last few years of the 1980's and the first few of the 1990's, the songs that were deemed as "mainstream" began to become diverse in a manner never before seen, as it seemed that every genre was suddenly capable of achieving massive commercial success.  As the "buying public" quickly tired of the rather uninspired world of "hair metal," everything from electronica to folk to hardcore rap began to find larger audiences, and it was often those artists that crossed between multiple genres where the most uniquely exciting music of the era can be found.  Among such performers, there was Seal, who took elements from "house" music and a number of pop styles, blending them together into a sound that has rarely been matched.  Though his later albums would move in a handful of other directions, it was during his early years where his sound was the most focused, as well as the strongest.  Placing his stunning voice over-top a wide range of musical textures, his self-titled 1991 debut stands as one of the most engaging and impressive releases of the time, as on many levels, it perfectly captured the entire mood of the current culture.  Combining absolutely blissful musical arrangements with some of the finest vocals and lyrics of his generation, there are few songs as superb or unforgettable as Seal's now-legendary 1991 single, "Crazy."

In many ways, the musical arrangement found on "Crazy" stands as the perfect representation of the shift from the music of the 1980's to the sounds that would dominate the next decade.  Much of the orchestration, composed by Seal along with producer Guy Sigsworth, is based in the core of the style of the Seal had been exploring to that point, with the majority of the sounds coming from the world of house music and perhaps even an almost psychedelic tinge that can be heard at various points.  Yet regardless of where the sounds originated, the fact of the matter is that they create a texture and mood that was a far cry from nearly anything else being recorded at the time.  It is the almost entrancing opening notes, that seem to swirl back and forth, before giving way to the amazing, tension building synthesizers, which in many ways define the song, and even after more than two decades, the music to "Crazy" remains one of the most unmistakable musical arrangements of all time.    The soundscapes are rarely anything short of hypnotic, and yet there is a delicacy and almost gentle lull that completely captivates the listener from beginning to end.  The music that one can experience on "Crazy" manages to work in the arenas of pop music, dance music, and a unique sound all its own, and this is what in many ways makes the song such a significant moment in the wider scope of music history.

Yet while there's no question that the sonic structures found on "Crazy" have easily withstood the test of time, there are few vocalists of his generation that can compare to the voice and emotion that one can find in every note that Seal sings.  Boasting one of the most powerful and wide ranging voices of all time, one cannot help but become completely enamored by the heartfelt, soulful delivery that defines Seal's singing style.  Much like the music on "Crazy," there is a quiet intensity within the vocals all across the song, and this is yet another point where one can find proof that volume rarely equals impact.  It is perhaps due to this more humbled vocal approach that the song was able to reach so many different audiences, and perhaps the only aspect more impressive than the singing itself are the brilliant lyrics which he sings.  It was during the early years of the 1990's that many of the most iconic lyrics of the generation were recorded, and there is no question that the words to "Crazy" stand among the finest.  Addressing the issue from a number of different angles, "Crazy" takes sharp aim at those who do not live up to their potential due to some sort of fear or societal pressure.  Often encouraging the listener to follow their dreams and their heart, it is nearly impossible to not become completely captivated and inspired by every line which Seal beautifully delivers.

Truth be told, "Crazy" stands as one of the most heavily covered songs of the decade, with artists from a wide range of styles taking their own spin on the song.  From jam bands to heavy metal groups to pop stars, "Crazy" has been reinterpreted on an almost constant basis since it was first released, and this in itself proves both the impact and respect that the song commands.  The song has also made regular appearances in films, television, video games and many other areas of popular culture as the years have gone by, further cementing its place as one of the most important songs of the entire decade.  Yet "Crazy" is also historically significant due to the fact that there has simply never been another song that sounds even remotely similar, and one can easily make the argument that Seal exists in a musical category all his own.  However, one can hear the influence of "Crazy" across a number of different bands and sub-genres that formed in the wake of the song's release, and there is no question that without Seal's unique musical contributions,  popular music simply would not have progressed in the same manner that it did.  While he would find greater commercial success with later singles, there is no question that Seal completely redefined what was "acceptable" within mainstream music with his magnificent 1991 single, "Crazy"

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