After an absence of several months – though it’s evident that during that period much work on the music was being accomplished – the Austin singer and pianist Landon Gadoci has posted a cover on Youtube of Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” this one a duet with his friend and fellow singer in Italy, Nicole di Gioacchino; and the interaction between their two delightful voices, supplementing one another in harmony and counterpoint by turns, conjures forth from the original – which has tended to suffer from its rampant overexposure on the radio and elsewhere – something quite pointed and timely. (And of course I’ve added it to the playlist.)
If one listens closely to their version, both the vocal performance and the arrangements, it’s the particular joie de vivre of the generation that’s still in its twenties – those, in quite a few countries, for whom the tempo established by such inventions as iPhones, instantaneous e-mail messaging, and Twitter, has become a second nature, for better and for worse – that one comes to understand a bit better. Or at least, if one closes one’s eyes, one might hear the sound made by the gait, the particular pace and lightness of step, characteristic of this generation as it strides along the boulevard of its life; there’s a special bounce to this music from which one could glean, not, to be sure, where this generation is headed – the future, let’s hope, still holds unexpected destinations to deal out to us all – but perhaps how it’s getting there. And, speaking generally, beginning to comprehend this way of life adequately will increasingly become a matter of some importance, won’t it?
To be more specific, the lyrics of this song seem to be about the especial difficulties that – at a time when, to mention just one feature of the reign of the Internet and its subsidiary technologies, the act of giving out one’s telephone number to another has itself become a nearly antique mode of “hooking up” – have been placed in the way of that even older event, love at first sight. Here too Gadoci and di Gioacchino sound as though they’re well attuned to register how the situation of the young-hearted today, surrounded by the many temptations, real, cyberspatial, or telephonographic ones, to encounters that often end superficially at best, will feel when those have been lived through from within. In their rendition one hears something of the manner in which, these days, in these amorous matters, a jittery self-confidence can in the blink of an eye be supplanted by an excruciating amalgam of uncertainty and certainty, whenever, that is, you grasp that you have most likely misread the signals radically (or even cut them into existence out of whole cloth by the scissors of your imagination), and what you took as encouraging indications that someone else was or could be “into you” were anything but that. Now, such an unstable succession of feelings, which must transpire quite frequently, has been well replicated by these two singers in the tremuli of this mercurial music; and this accomplishment may suffice to account for the distinct appeal of their version, especially when it’s compared to the original.
One particularly striking aspect about the fashion in which love is played out currently, when the Internet and the expectations inherent to it are busily remaking all sectors of our life, is the upheaval that frequently is introduced into the sequence by which it, whether great or small, once tended to unfold – a destruction of the definite order of states of amorous sentiment through which, with his sharp lucidity, Stendhal guided the reader in De l’Amour. In an early section of that work* he recounted the vicissitudes of what he felicitously termed “cristallisation” – “c’est l’opération de l’esprit, qui tire de tout ce qui se présente la découverte que l’objet aimé a de nouvelles perfections” – in its first emergence and its subsequent modifications. Here I shall not attempt to summarize his analysis, but simply quote from it three especially lapidary remarks, each pertaining to a different moment in this crystallizing process, while observing the sequence in which they were provided there:
* Bk. I, chap. II.
1. “Un homme passionné voit toutes les perfections dans ce qu’il aime ; cependant l’attention peut encore être distraite, car l’âme se rassasie de tout ce qui est uniforme, même du bonheur parfait.”
2. “L’amant arrive à douter du bonheur qu’il se promettait, il devient sévère sur les raisons d’espérer qu’il a cru voir. Il veut se rabattre sur les autres plaisirs de la vie, il les trouve anéantis. La crainte d’un affreux malheur le saisit, et avec elle l’attention profonde.”
3. “Le moment le plus déchirant de l’amour jeune encore est celui où il s’aperçoit qu’il a fait un faux raisonnement et qu’il faut détruire tout un pan de cristallisation.”
Although it could well be doubted whether any of these three remarks would actually fittingly describe what commonly goes on now in amorous life, I tend to think that they all still do, taken individually; but it’s their definite sequence which no longer holds good in general, when love too is conquered by the haste and inattentiveness that’s triumphing everywhere: these days, the moments they describe often occur, in this or that case of love or love-sickness, virtually simultaneously or otherwise out of turn in some similar rhythm. Accordingly, one of the merits of Gadoci and di Gioacchino’s version of “Call Me Maybe,” to my mind, is that in it it’s these unruly rhythms which we’re given to hear.
Or it can happen, in our period when world enough and time are what few if any have any longer, that the entire development outlined by Stendhal is run in reverse; then what originates the entire amorous experience and sets the tone for it is the moment he called “le plus déchirant”: in such a case, even before one finds oneself falling in love, the crystallization around that person has already in some mode been completed in the inverse order at least once, having advanced back through its various stages and reached the one where irregularities are discerned in part of the crystal, if only so that the whole of this “amour jeune” may appeal even more strongly than if it remained simply uniformly flawless and perfect.
Now, although I realize that this train of thought could well seem strange, I also think that one might want to ponder what the most significant line in these lyrics, “Before you came into my life I missed you so bad” – and both Gadoci and di Gioacchino seem to have found this line to be quite thought-provoking – actually means, directly or, more likely, by way of implication. Then one might begin to wonder: what kind of joy – if it’s a question of joy at all – will be afforded by a love that commences by virtue of a tearing up (“déchirage”) and emerges out of negation (“l’anéantisation”) and which remains bound back as long as it lasts to the origin comprised of those acts? (Not to mention “l’affreux malheur” that could stubbornly continue to afflict such a lover.) If one really listens to their version of this song, one might hear the elements of an answer.
For his part, this seems to be familiar territory to Gadoci, the locale he’s explored numerous times in the videos he’s uploaded on his Youtube channel, and this character has lent some unity of theme to the playlist I’ve put together of them as well.
Musically speaking, he excels in drawing the point from out of love’s disappointment; he knows to fashion some very sweet songs – and don’t these perhaps also serve as vehicles for a species of practical wisdom? – from the distress the human heart often inflicts on itself, in its loves and, yes, in its friendships too. (It’s very possible that some distress, some amount of self-imposed friction, is needed if the heart’s powers are not to wither away and it is to remain capable of bestirring itself and instilling in itself the courage to take any significant action.)
Probably the strongest performance in this vein he’s yet given is his version of Jason Derülo’s “In My Head,” a rendition which in its expression of the loneliness of those who, for lack of time or skill or finesse, or simply by happenstance, build up entire scenarios in their own imaginations – whether they are fantasies of love or of friendship or even just of some fleeting contact is a secondary matter – is truly poignant.