An Album of Musical Nudes

By Nathan Payne | pablosmoglives | 1 Dec 2022


Stupid Old Heart is my attempt at an album of nudes.  Visual artists have life drawing sessions with nude models in an attempt to capture the human form in whatever medium they happen to be working in.  So, why not music?  Is it possible to capture the naked human form in song?   

In short:  No. 

And also:  It had better be.

Music isn't a visual form, so obviously it's impossible to render an actual nude in soundwaves; on the other hand, if the songwriter hasn't laid his or her heart bare for the world to see in a way that is truly naked, without the slightest trace of exhibitionism, the song won't resonate with anybody.  Not for long.  As I have previously written in An Audience of One (You Are The World), "songs with the most widespread appeal are written for an audience of one."  If you're writing a song, don't spread your audience too thin.  If you want to lose them all, write to all of them.  If you want to keep most of them, and maybe even win a few new fans, write your songs to one of them.  And don't lie, unless the lie is true.  Everyone can smell a rat. 

If you must put a slight gilding of falsehood on your writing because the writing itself demands it (no other reason is acceptable), fine, but make sure that you don't lose the heart of what you're saying.  Make sure the guts of it are true.  If the innermost bleeding guts of any given line don't make you weep, or laugh, or whatever, on a one-on-one basis between you and the song, at least 1,000 times over and over again before anyone else ever hears it, drop it.

Anyway, a tangent. 

So, is it possible to make an album of musical nudes?  A portfolio of musical life drawings?  A sonic sculpture of the muse in all her glory?

I gave it a shot.  In the song "Down in the Valley," I sing, "I'm on the diving board at The Last Picture Show," referring to the scene in the Peter Bogdanovich film when Cybil Shepherd gets undressed for a group of underground nudists on a diving board.  But does that make the song naked?

Not really.  It does break one of the cardinal rules of writing (one which hints at the visual arts, incidentally), which is "show, don't tell."  Don't tell the reader or listener that you're naked.  Show them.

Can it be done with music?

If you want to hear a naked song, it doesn't get more raw and undressed than this:

And even though "I'll Never Love You" was written long before Stupid Old Heart was conceived and recorded, in fact it was "Weighted Down" I was re-writing when I wrote it.  Even though the production is extremely well-dressed, at least by thrift-store standards, the chords in "I'll Never Love You" mirror the chords in "Weighted Down," maybe even exactly.  I have never checked.  I just took the template of the song and molded it to suit the vision of my muse, who is a nudist.

If your muse is not a nudist, you need to find a different muse.

It's a huge problem in music today.  Everybody's muse is strung out on designer medication and wearing million-dollar robes of medieval penance-material that is paradoxically totally transparent, yet which no one can see through.  The songs are obvious sound-product manufactured in a chemical factory by robots programmed to deface and destroy truth and beauty, and yet the veil of booty that covers it, which is actually a veil of lead, successfully prevents people from seeing the Kryptonite at the heart of the machine.  It looks naked; there are tits, thongs, and twerking.  The singer is usually attired to a point that transcends the very concept of immodesty, often surrounded by a phalanx of androgynous snake-handlers dressed like bowls of children's breakfast cereal, dancing on golden tightropes.  The half-dressed people and crass sexual lyrics seem to revel in nudity.  So why doesn't anybody see that this thick-yet-transparent dress of exhibitionist abandon is actually a mask of fear?

What are the artists of today so afraid of?

Baring their hearts and souls, of course.  Shaking your butt to a beat comprised of overdressed noise while flaunting your assets, whether they be butt cheeks or Bentleys, is in fact a cowardly act of sleight-of-hand.  Sleight-of-ass, perhaps.  Instead of risking anybody actually seeing their asses from an unflattering angle, today's mainstream sound-performers make their asses the centerpiece of their entire discography, and possibly personas.  Like flashers on the subway, today's mainstream music artists eschew artistic nudism in favor of artless exhibitionism.  Like the creeper in a trenchcoat who hopes to entice his subjects away from the truth of his or her existential, self-hating horror and sorrow in an act of lustful shock-therapy, today's mainstream singers flash the public and get a weird, creepy jolt that could be mistaken for fulfillment or happiness by only the truly depraved.

Instead of baring their hearts and souls (and teeth when necessary), today's sonic exhibitionists hold their hearts and souls down under a sea of diamonds and drugs until their very humanity sputters and drowns, at which point they dress the bloated corpses of what used to be true in rhinestone-studded hairshirts of money, sex, and chemical alteration in a vainglorious attempt to make their audiences jealous of their power, fearlessness, or wit.  Or something. 

I understand we're supposed to be impressed by this pomp-and-paste exercise in narcissistic ego-flaunting, and get excited about some fake, bouncing boobs like people who drink high-fructose corn syrup straight from the tit, but we're not.

Today's sonic entertainment is comprised of pure exhibitionism, which is the opposite of artistic nudism, and the youth and culture have suffered for it.

Take the robes off, y'all.

"I'll Never Love You" is wearing the best tuxedo in the thrift store of my production skills at the time, but the lyrics are all true.  The song was written about the girl at the center of the "Good Morning Hollywood" story.  Here's me visiting her signature at the makeshift Elliott Smith memorial on Sunset Blvd., which appeared after he was killed by his junky girlfriend.  Fortunately, I survived my own encounter with L.A.'s deadly freak contingent.  It wasn't music as much as medicine:

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Not only are the lyrics true, but, thanks to Alexander Spence, the chords of "I'll Never Love You" cut the elevator cable in your heart until it sinks to the core of holy terror at the center of the singularity, through which no one can pass wearing so much as a Speedo. 

Nude you must enter, or dressed you will die.

Music or medicine.

Your choice.

Thanks for listening.

 

 

I'll Never Love You


Baby
I always loved you
even when you were putting me on

Maybe
I still love you
even though I'm long gone

Wake up
in a pile of garbage
you were my darling
but not for real
you healed my broken chains
I was in love with you
I was insane

Even in the worst times
we were more or less free
but it was the good times
that made it hard for me to see
that you were only playing
only playing games
you were good at pointing fingers
I was good at naming names

If I could do it all over
well you know that I wouldn't
I never understood it
but maybe I was never meant to

Show me your knife
hold the phone for ransom
you said I was handsome
for a chauvinist pig

Baby
won't you tell me what happened?
I don't care what happened
I only hope that you're okay
at least for today
you never needed me anyway

Maybe you got clean
maybe you went straight
back to hell where you came from
maybe it's too late

But in case you're still kickin'
or even want to make amends
go on ahead and apologize
to one-a your temporary friends

I don't care what they say
I thought you were beautiful
you were beautiful
you were beautiful to me

Did it make you tough?
Did it make you strong?
Always pointing out
where everybody's wrong?
Isolating yourself
in some backwards effort to belong

I was a fool
and everybody knew it
if you can find something to do
you can find a reason to do it

There's a million ways to dig a hole
but there's only one way out
of one thing I have no doubt

No matter how much you hate me
I'll never love you
turn out the lights
and let the telephone ring

I don't owe you nothin'
and you don't owe me
whatever you're doing
wherever you're staying
just stay away from me

 

©Nathan Payne
October 2004

 

 

*     *     *

 

So, did I succeed in making a musical album of nudes, of depicting the nude form of the muse in song?  Probably not.  Even the Mona Lisa is just a technicolor sketch of an actual, breathing human being.  But if you shoot for the moon, you might hit one of the low-hanging fruit from the Forbidden Tree in the Garden of Eden.  Were we juggling forbidden fruit while making this album?  Probably, yeah.  We were.  Even though I've never met her in person, Trey Blake from Brighton, England added background vocals to the album (including "I'll Never Love You"), and wrote and performed a poem for "Untitled Lovers."

Did we shoot the fruit off the forbidden tree, slice it up, and turn it into a pie?  Did we perform the inverse miracle of turning whipped cream to mud?  Did we give ourselves spiritual diabetes?  Did we have a food fight with our sin?

Yeah, well.  We all need to be forgiven of something.

Released on Valentine's Day Eve of 2013, the 13 songs on Stupid Old Heart chart the descent of a man from freedom to madness, by way of his heart.  From the opening strains of "I Am A Verb, You Are A Noun (chasin' the snail)" to the ridiculous, aberrant lunacy of "Zombie Wastoids Have The Power," Stupid Old Heart is the perfect self-inflicted valentine for all the broken-hearted people who haven't yet realized they're better off alone.

Thanks for listening.

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Nathan Payne
Nathan Payne

I am a songwriter and bandleader who travels the world in search of the golden ticket. http://www.pablosmoglives.com


pablosmoglives
pablosmoglives

Replacing my blog at http://pablosmoglives.wordpress.com

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