Also stay tuned for Sam Craighead's thoughts on 'Twilight'
Once you've seen Sharon Udoh writhe around on the floor with her band Counterfeit Madison, you know the singer-songwriter isn't prone to holding back.
In that regard, Udoh would be the ideal person to have comment on some of the year's most critically and commercially celebrated songs — even if the musician didn't release one of the best local records of 2017 in Counterfeit Madison's Opposable Thumbs.
Joining Udoh is equally idiosyncratic singer-songwriter Sam Craighead, who scored another Alive local fave with his most recent full-length, The Tuesday Night Music Club. (And, yes, the Sheryl Crow reference is purposeful.) Here's an edited and condensed transcript of a recent listening session with the duo.
St. Vincent: “New York”
Sharon Udoh: I heard this for the first time when I was on tour in New York, and it's the first song I heard off this album. … It's more accessible-ish than her older stuff. This part of the melody is really relatable.
Sam Craighead: What I remember from the rest of the record was it was way more weird, almost Talking Heads-y.
Udoh: It's probably more influenced by the album she did with David Byrne (Love This Giant), which is my favorite album of hers, actually, which is probably rude, to be like, “My favorite album of yours is the one you did with David Byrne.” But I really like David Byrne! Sorry! I really like St. Vincent because she's always trying shit and she's always reinventing herself. I have to give credit to artists who explore all sides of themselves.
Future: “Mask Off”
Udoh: I remember the video for this song. I get introduced to a lot of songs by their videos and … [trails off]. Sorry, you can put in the transcript, “Sharon stuck her tongue out and danced.”
Alive: Does having a visual with a song that first time effect how you take it in?
Udoh: Yes, it does. I am captivated by moving images, so it definitely helps. There are a lot of songs I've heard where I'm like, “This is trash,” then I see the video and I'm like, “Ooh, OK!” It's totally different. … The problem with me and rap is I listen more to the beat. I'm not a lyrics person, and I'm not good at remembering lyrics. I don't know the nuances of what makes a good rap song. I feel like I can really talk about what makes a great pop song, but rap, it's untouchable for me.
Alive: I think a lot of it translates the same way. It's how it makes you feel. If you dissect a lot of pop lyrics, they're essentially meaningless.
Udoh: Or sometimes trite. Or just wrong. I think it's slightly unhealthy to say you can't live without your partner, but that is all over pop music. “I can't live without you.” “I can't breathe without you.” I'm just like, “That's whack. I can breathe without Phil. I'd rather not, but I'm a'yight. I can.”
Craighead: I do like the flute loop in here a lot. It reminds me of that DRAM song “Broccoli.” It sounds a little elven, like walking through the forest. I love it.
Lorde: “Green Light”
Udoh: This is what she sounds like now? This is what tipped me off: Lorde always paints some imagery. She's always setting the scene with some shit and then there's the way her voice falls, it's a very specific way.
Craighead: I like the backup vocal part that comes in. It reminds me of Kate Bush.
Udoh: Ohhhhh, bitch! Yeah! And she's so dark. I want to watch this video now. I bet she's dressed in something dark. Bet! Watch me be wrong. Watch her be dressed in white, looking like an angel.
Charli XCX: “Boys”
Udoh: Is this the “Boom Clap” lady? OK, I don't know anything about her.
Craighead: Does she kind of look like Lorde? That's what I'm remembering. And she was dating Robert Pattinson at some point. Why would I know that? I must have been reading People magazine at the Jiffy Lube. I'm more of a Team Jacob, anyway. Have you seen any of the “Twilight” movies?
Udoh: I've seen five minutes of one.
Alive: I thought you were going to say, “I've seen five of them,” and I was like, how many are there?
Craighead: [“Twilight” character Jacob Black] has this really bad long-hair wig and it's worth seeing. Taylor Lautner with the long hair, it's something. There's a whole series of [memes] that say, “Dear God, may Taylor Lautner lose his shirt and never find it again.”
Udoh: My biggest critique of female pop music is the similarity in their voices. … What happens in the studio? Who's making the calls? Is it running through the Jack Antonoff filter? How do all the girls have the same inflections? Are they all imitating Beyonce or Taylor Swift? That's why Lorde stood out, because her voice is notably darker than the belters, like the Demi Lovatos.
Craighead: I think a lot of the pop vocal performances seem overwrought, very “American Idol” or “The Voice,” and then they super-compress it and you hear that little whisper as loud as you hear them belting. I like Carly Rae Jepsen for the same reason I like Lorde. She has a thin voice, and it's not the best, but she's not overdoing it and the songs are great.
Kendrick Lamar: “Humble”
Udoh: I have lots of feelings about Kendrick Lamar. … Kendrick somehow rides that line of being original and being mainstream, and I don't know how he does it. This was my theme song for a while because I was just like, “Bitch. Sit down. Be humble.” I don't remember when this came out, or what was going on in my life, but I was using it a lot.
Harry Styles: “Sign of the Times”
Udoh: The video, again, is so beautiful … but I think the song's kind of trash, really. I'm not really into it. I think what happens with me is when a band breaks up, I choose one person and their career rides all for me. I'm a Zayn [Malik]. When NSYNC broke up I was like, “Everything Justin [Timberlake] does is gold.”
Craighead: I went with Joey [Fatone] on that one. I was a Chris [Kirkpatrick]. I was a Chris and a Joey. … Does [Styles] still have the hair? I only know who he is from occasionally looking at the search thing on Instagram, where it showed trending stuff, and it would just be pictures of him and his hair. For the first year of Instagram that's all that was on there and I was like, “Who is this guy?”
Migos: “Bad and Boujee”
Udoh: [Laughing] I love hip-hop so much! But I, please, Black Jesus, do not be offended, I like Migos' guest spots better than their songs. But maybe I haven't listened to enough Migos.
Craighead: There was a point where I thought Lil Wayne was weird, but people have taken it so much further. Every time I hear rap now I'm like, “Oh, shit. It got weirder!”
King Krule: “Dum Surfer”
Udoh: King Krule, he's that young kid with the red hair?
Craighead: Yeah, kind of looks like Rick Astley.
Udoh: What on earth. How did they mix that jazzy guitar shit with that line…
Craighead: …and the haunted-house vocals.
Udoh: I'm so confused. How does this work? This shouldn't work. But it totally works.
Cardi B: “Bodak Yellow”
Udoh: [Rapping] So many complicated feelings. OK, so, this song, so many feelings. People were talking about Cardi B. I'm a black woman, so I was intrigued and I checked her out and I was like, “This. Is. TERRIBLE.” Then I went on tour this summer, and every bar I entered in Memphis, Chicago, Iowa, New York, every place was playing this fucking song. … And it grew on me! And I don't know what happened, but I stepped away from it and it grew on me so hard. I totally turned around to where I got really proud of her, like I knew her. It was really weird. It's gotten super complicated. And I think what grew on me was I realized it wasn't exactly like everything else.