I try to never focus too hard, first listen.
I try to let the music wash over me, preferably while I’m distracted but not too distracted. Playing three-minute chess, not writing. Dragon City, not working. Cooking the kids’ evening meal, not arguing.
I never focus on the lyrics, but if the lyrics announce themselves then I will listen. This means hook, not detail. The earworm, repetition – the smart musical motifs repeated.
I usually give it three or four songs before I start to exercise quality control.
I trust to my instincts but do not allow my instincts to get in the way of my enjoyment. For example, today I listened to the new Pretenders, Elvis Presley and Lady Gaga albums. The first I did not expect to like but found myself strangely drawn to, not least because Chrissie knows when to exercise restraint and when to leave the edge in. Not least because it is far edgier than I expected (if I never hear ‘2000 Miles’ again it will be too soon). Not least because both myself and Isaac were lustily and good-naturedly joining in first time round on ‘I Hate Myself’ (the title repeated, and amended to ‘I Hate My Son’ after he beat me at chess twice) and ‘Death Is Not Enough’. The second I wanted to enjoy, but after Charlotte pointed out that Elvis now sounds like a karaoke version of Elvis, replete with bloody strings smothering everything and… Well, I have no objection to easy listening, but this?! And it’s true. Listen. The fiddling round with the vocals someone has done to make Elvis fit right with 2016 and in sync with the bloody Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has left Elvis stranded in the building, left behind.
The Lady Gaga album I was hoping to love. Sure, of course. Same way you always hope to love the new Bowie but so rarely do. And it’s a total fucking romp – the album Lennon should have been making with Mind Games but singularly failed to do. Wonderful. Not the slightest idea what it’s about, and don’t care either.
I never try and focus too hard first listen, see. She’s remembered to write some songs again. Fucking A.
It’s Scissor Sisters all over again, with Elton and all that thrown in (not that I could ever love Elton as much as I wanted).
But it’s not. It’s Gaga. Our wonderment and our life.