On second thought, don’t. As a musically picky traditionalist and classically educated rebel against the status quo of pop-culture as it’s written by iPhone-wielding hipsters treading the corridors of public high schools, I have more dutifully resisted the emergence of that techno-funky travesty called “dubstep” than anyone else to my knowledge. At least I have in my head, banishing Skrillex, Psy, and all their imitators to the darkest, most secluded vestiges of human digital creation. With that in my mind, to wed radically unclassical dubstep elements with one of the most universally beloved instruments in the classical orchestra would probably seem a more toxic union and riskier gamble than just about any other combination, but the ever exuberant violinist Lindsey Stirling somehow manages to make such a marriage work in ways not just harmonious but beautiful.
I first learned of Lindsey’s presence on Youtube by coming across her rendition of the iconic (at least among video games and those circles willing to recognize them as a true art form) main theme of the Halo saga, which was interestingly arranged and filmed if markedly less bombastic and memorable than Mike and Marty’s original composition, written obviously for a complete orchestra instead of just one piano and a violin. Regardless of its worth comparative to the source material, Lindsey’s version must have incurred at least twice as many views and ‘likes’ as the most popular official Halo track on the site, and that her channel had amassed upwards of 400 million views was another indicator that she was probably doing something exceptional. Aside from reproducing the sound of Halo, she had also churned out interpretations of works ranging from Zelda and Assassin’s Creed to Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones to Phantom of the Opera and a Fallout-reminiscient cover of Radioactive with Pentatonix of all things, many of which do dramatically surpass the original songs even when not accompanied with the consistently high production values and rugged Utah scenery that elevate her music videos. Nevertheless, all of these ventures are just sideshows to her primary vocation, namely her self-pioneered blend of the violin and electronic beats that almost exclusively comprises the content of her debut album, recently re-released this year.
Lindsey’s style has been praised as original and invigorating by some and maligned as “dance music” by others. Being much unlike Lindsey, who can bust a seemingly endless number of moves while playing simultaneously, and entirely unversed in all matters of dance excepting the Futterwagon, the Fox, and the Firebend, I can’t really vouch to the validity of that classification, but if it be true, hers is easily the most appealing dance music that has yet and ever will cycle through my senses. The first allegro on her CD, Electric Daisy Violin, promptly establishes an spirited and energetic tone that will distinguish most of what follows, with a few tracks such as Crystallize and Elements and Song of the Caged Bird assuming a somewhat more solemn air. Lyrics are mixed only minimally into the largely instrumental album, functioning primarily as background chanting to a symphony of strings and computer-generated percussion. Lindsey’s use of dubstep differentiates itself from other artists’ – or entertainers’, for a more apt description – in that the electronic components are more of a supporting instrument than a means to cover up weak voices or to distort already melodious notes. Although the techno-beats are erroneously mixed louder on certain tracks than the violin, which should be the centerpiece of all her music, the two sounds remain mostly separate throughout the album while at the same time complementing each other superbly. A couple of the songs, notably Elements, sound exponentially purer and more powerful when the strings are isolated from the artificially generated electronic track, but then the orchestral versions of Crystallize and Transcendence (included with the deluxe, Target-exlusive release of the album) prove that the dubstep can actually enhance the music in some situations.
Lindsey imbues her music with an overflowing rush of youthful joy and force, flawlessly adapting the few strengths of the present to reinforce the everlasting virtues of the old – the end result being a sound that’s refreshingly classical but also distinctly modern. I cannot recall a single occasion where $10, or any quantity for that matter, has bought a greater feast for my ears. If Lindsey is not a better-looking 21st-century Vivaldi, then she’s at least the next best thing, no wrecking ball, vulgarity, or Super Bowl wardrobe malfunctions required.
This sampling is probably the most emblematic of her usual fare. And fiery.
And Peter Hollens kind of steals the show from her by the very nature of this song, but it's a great duet regardless.
And this just went up yesterday. She's a Mormon, BTW. Make of that what you will, but you can appreciate that she doesn't try to hide her beliefs.
Royals – Like many songs that blow up records nowadays, Royals has a dangerously catchy beat and moody, muttery vocals that you can hum all day long, but makes precious little logical sense when you attempt to dissect the lyrics in your mind. The first line immediately establishes what looks like a thematic idea for the rest of the song, expressing the artist’s sentiment that she’s “never seen a diamond in the flesh”, i.e. that a perfect soul is illusive and even unattainable among mortal men. However, this metaphorical and captivating observation disintegrates into a cryptic and probably nonsensical reflection about “chipping my teeth on wedding rings… at the moooovies”. First of all, how on earth does that even happen, and secondly, why should we care?
The narrator embarks in a state of stuttering confusion, chanting, “Hey, hey, hey,” monotonously and without purpose. He has arrived at this condition through the progression of gradual steps, moving ever further away from reality as he continually immerses himself in the realm of dreams and fantasy, to the point that he can no longer see or reason clearly. “Maybe I’m going deaf, maybe I’m going blind, maybe I’m out of my miii-iii-iii-iiiiind,” he emphasizes by artistically multiplying the singular I syllable into four or five. From here Thicke shifts into the powerful and emotionally stringent chorus, crying out in a passionate burst of untempered fury, “I hate these blurred lines!” referring to the ever receding distinction between the real and the imaginary.
Rarely does a songwriter rise into the public eye who so eloquently laments the increasingly blurred lines of fiction and reality, between the idealistic world that so many people construct around themselves and the objective world that evades their gaze but will catch up to them in the end, whether or not they are steeled to face it. In Blurred Lines Feat. T.I. & Pharrell, Thicke has done as much with lyrics mature, graceful, and uncommonly moving. This is rightly the must-own title of year, so if you haven’t bought it yet, waste no more time. After all, “I know you want it. I know you want it. I know you want it.”
Our God (Is Greater) – Chris Tomlin deserves credit for writing many of the best worship songs to overwhelmingly infiltrate and even dominate churches and radio stations around the country. This is not one of those songs – even though it has unjustly wormed its way into every facet of modern Christians’ cultural life. Our God (Is Greater) has all the sophistication and logical reasoning of an elementary school kid’s playground taunts and all the poetry of a Sunday school lecture. “My Lego collection is bigger than yours, you peasant! My test scores are twice as strong as yours, you simpleton! I can out-jump, out-run, out-fight, and out-socialize any of you! Oh, and my god can kick your god’s butt! because he’s greater, stronger, and higher than any other being – because he’s God!” When the song isn’t stooping to petty and nauseatingly repetitious boasts about the superiority of the Christian God over all others, it’s either recounting various miracles that Jesus performed on earth, as though these acts are the source of his divinity and the one reason we praise him, or completely ignoring basic grammatical rules. “And if our god is with us, then what can stand agaiiiinst… what can stand agaiiiiinst?” Against what? That’s a preposition, not an adverb.
This spiritually and substantively vacuous verse, reverberating around the world and making unconscious braggarts out of regularly nice people with its primitive, generic hero worship of a deity’s physical might, altitude, mystical healing properties, and awesomeness of power, may be one of the main reasons why the liberal Nones are so broadly coming to think that Christians are nuts. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, all of America’s Founders including the deists among them, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Dante Alighieri, Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine, and countless other intellectuals would beg to differ, but such is the impression that Our God (Is Greater) will continue to foster.
* squared – Correction from Chief Editor Josephos Rex to staff underlings: That’s not the ONLY reason…*
* cubed – Staff underlings to the hand that feeds them: Come on, now.*
* to the 4th power – OK, you got me.
** That was sarcasm, as succinctness is a concept altogether foreign to Nolan.