Friday Flash Reviews is the bit where the TNOCS.com admin picks a category of song to review and the community votes up the song they want reviewed within said category.
This week’s voting category was “Best Rock Song Featuring A Woman Lead Vocal,” and the community picked “Crazy On You” by Heart.
This is probably a fair choice, but I need to pause a moment to share some what-is-likely surprising information:
I had never heard this song in its entirety before this week.
Oh yeah, I hear your gasp. And I feel your incredulousness. And I sense your judgment.
And all of that is perfectly understandable. Because most, if not all of you weren’t raised by a music nazi.
He’s a lovely fellow, my father. He’s still alive and kicking at 86. And he’s sure mellowed out since the 70s and 80s. But if there were ever to be a biopic on a classical music snob, he ought to be the antihero of that film.
My father would drill into my young skull the following phrase, on the daily:
“Rock music is noise, Jonathan.
The only real music is classical music*.”preternatural classical antihero music snob, and also, jon’s dad
No, he didn’t actually pronounce the asterisk, but I’ve added it because there were clear exceptions to his rule that he never created any kind of rubric around other than: “I like that.”
Asterisks included: are you ready for the most bizarre exception list of all time?
Simon and Garfunkel.
and Synergy (Larry Fast.)
As a young, impressionable lad who looked up to his parents for guidance and wisdom, I thought that, thanks to my dad’s distinctive insights into music, that I actually had the inside scoop on how to be A Better Person™.
Turns out, none of this was right. But it took a good while for me to break with my father (which involved a lot of sneaking in music without his knowledge and limiting all “off limits” music to headphone playback).
In fact, the first “rock” song that I really ever heard was “Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band. It all went downhill from there (from my dad’s perspective), but if you’re doing the math, you can see that I had absolutely zero exposure to music from the 70s (except for that rando exception list) as a result of my rock music holocaust.
(FYI because it’s 2023:)
(Please interpret and and all hyperbole as attempts at humorous rhetorical flourish and not a comparative history lesson, thank you)
So, that’s a lot of backstory for a review article, right? Yeah, I’m with you.
But trust me: given what I’m about to write for my gut reaction, I think it’s crucial context.
The Friday Flash “Gut Take” Review
There’s two things “Crazy On You” brings to mind for me: Simon & Garfunkel and Led Zeppelin.
And the chorus?
Well, until this week, the chorus is the only piece of this song I’d ever heard before. I’m certain it was in some movie or show that I’ve watched as backdrop audio. It’s one of those choruses that is just imprinted in our musical tapestry in America. I just know it. But, until this week, I would have told you that it was a Zeppelin song.
Yes, that means I thought the singer was Robert Plant.
You may laugh at me now…
… but why did I think it was Zep?
Because it sounds like the eponymous “70s rock song” — that guitar riff sounds absolutely quintessential 70s “classic rock.” And the singing had that Zeppelin falsetto vibe going for it.
Upon further, closer inspection, of course it’s not a male vocalist whaling in the chorus. But if you took the music nazi journey with me, would you at least have a bit of empathy — if not sympathy — that I got this so entangled with another artist?
Which brings me to my gut take: it truly sounds like quintessential classic “classic rock” through and through.
If you like that sound, it’s pretty epic. If you’re me and your gut for rock music started with “Centerfold,” you can perhaps excuse me for not feeling it like the rest of the universe does.
Real talk: it’s frankly a bit indulgent. It has a lot of stuff going on, but I’d argue a bit too much stuff. The intro is cool, but it feels entirely detached from the rest of the song. The “core” part of the song after the intro has a sound structure and approach (except for the detached bridge), and it sounds like…well, the 70s. It sounds like a song that would be on the soundtrack for an 80s movie about Vietnam.
And, whaddaya know? The lyrics seem to intimate that it’s about getting into the thick of sex in order to block out the poisonous Vietnam culture surrounding the narrator.
It’s a 6/10 for me.
I can tell it’s something special, but I actually don’t think it’s as special as everyone thinks it is.
The Friday Flash “Deep Dive” Review
If a song wanted to absolutely nail the “70s rock sound,” “Crazy On You” accomplished this feat with flying colors. That main guitar riff just oozes 70s rock guitar. There’s all kinds of core 70s elements that come through: the thin organ, the flute, and of course the single-mic drum kit.
It’s all recorded quite pristinely.
And honestly, the performances of the musicians are incredibly in lock-step across all the complex breaks. The drumming is actually pretty on-point and quite engaging. The background vocals are subtly dubbed in, and the guitars own the stage with the vocals, which is just so seventies.
The good folks over at Hooktheory.com do analysis of songwriting, and you can see that this is, technically at least, a pretty normal song with a slightly more complex than average melodic complexity (which I can perceive in the chorus, specifically in how it ends in a cliffhanger), and the bass melody stands out like any good 70s song does.
The verses are pretty straight-forward and honestly nice but forgettable. The breaks are pretty cool, and while the pre-chorus might be the best part of the melody, the chorus is obviously the breakout element of the song – the counterpoint between the guitar riff and the vocals is really something else. It breaks through, and it sounds distinct and epic nearly 50 years later. Points!
Given that this was the favorite pick for best female vocal of a rock song, one would expect that the vocal performance would be world-class. I’m here to report that, as I look across the pantheon of female rock vocal performances, the vocals are obviously quite good, but I think they stop short of greatness.
Sure, the whaling in the chorus is striking, but they are the exception, not the rule, in this song. The majority of the song is just straight-up good singing.
The chorus (and, notably, the end of the bridge, which is quite a vocal rip) is what makes this song feel and sound epic, and certainly credit should be given to that (points!), but there’s only so much a great chorus and a bridge rip can earn a song-wide vocal performance score.
“My love is the evening’ breeze touchin’ your skin / The gentle, sweet singin’ of leaves in the wind.” – I mean, this is so 70s. But it’s good! Wouldn’t it be wild if modern R&B artists decided to crib this style of lyrics for their 21st century jams?
Also, “Let me go crazy, crazy on you” is of course quite a provocative and tantalizing sentiment to hear if you’re a guy who’s into gals.
The not-so-subtle backdrop of the Vietnam era melee also helps set the stage for some need for release. Good stuff.
Ear Worminess: 10/10
Nearly 50 years since the song was released, this chorus earworm still endures. There’s not much more to say. A half-century of melodic stickiness deserves a bow.
Final Friday Flash Review Score:
rounds its way up to: an 8/10!
I love when a detached analysis of a song bumps it up from my gut rating. It goes to show that simply sharing what any given individual thinks of a song isn’t as powerful as an attempt at a detached analysis, which breaking things up into individual dimensions helps enable.
I’m sure that there are some who believe that “Crazy On You” is a 10/10, and I totally get that if that’s you.
But an 8/10 is, in this scale, a superior song amongst all songs. By the same token, it’s not a game-changer, and it’s not amongst the best of all time.
It’s earworm is amongst the best of all time, however, and that certainly helped it reach the level it got in the Deep Dive Review process.
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