I thought this might be a one-off record by some slumming symphony folks, but, no, this highfalutin foursome have recorded similar tributes to AC/DC, Alice in Chains, Guitar Hero, and, um, 30 Seconds to Mars. Now they've arranged the songs of a young upstart who sells pop music to unsuspecting and impressionable children under the colorful sobriquet Lady Gaga
I seem to recall someone giving the same treatment to Metallica a few years back. That was met with a collective yawn by everyone not a Metallica die-hard. Will Vitamin String Quartet's chamber-music take on Gaga's hits meet with the same reaction? You don't have to answer that question because I'm not interested in the answer.
Anyway, all the hits are here: "Poker Face," "Paparazzi," "Alejandro," "Telephone," and the granddaddy of them all, "Bad Romance," which is Gaga's one truly great song, in my opinion. But unfortunately, in this medium, they all sound a lot alike: minor key verse, major key chorus. "Poker Face" is probably the standout, and VSQ uncovers a pretty astounding melody. On the other side of the coin, "Alejandro" stands out as the lame song it is. I'm letting aesthetic atrophy really show here, but didn't Madonna do "Alejandro" 20 years ago under the title "La Isla Bonita," and it was considerably better?
I will say the 11-song CD blows by in a flash and, to their credit, Vitamin String Quartet keeps it simple, breaking these songs down to their essence, such as it is. These four musicians are almost certainly highly skilled pros with more upstanding gigs, and they can arrange, rehearse, and record these songs in, let's say, four days -- tops. So, if they can make a quick buck on someone else's tunes, I can't fault. I'm pretty sure that's what pop music is all about anyway.
The following Soundclound asset is not from the CD I just wrote about. It's VSQ's rendition of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army." Go to www.soundcloud.com to hear so much more, including No Doubt's "Hey Baby" and the Red Hot Chili Pepper's "Under the Bridge." Let me know how they are if you want.
Deja Vu: A record you buy, listen to once, and immediately experience the depressing lows of buyer's remorse.
I'd rather listen to: Stars on 45's collection of Beatles covers or, of course, Meco's disco cover of John Williams' Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind themes. Those were wonderful.
Grade: C (the kitsch factor bumps it up a whole letter grade)
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.