Sunday, February 7, 2016

George Gershwin - Blah Blah Blah





This is THE hardest Gershwin song to perform, because nobody understands what it's about.

I traced the roots of it down to an obscure 1931 movie called Delicious. It was George and Ira Gershwin's first attempt to write songs for the silver screen, although their initial wild burst of enthusiasm soon collapsed like a ruined souffle.

It almost immediately became apparent to them that their talents really weren't required at all. Hollywood demanded the kind of generic love song that any idiot could tunelessly hum, not giving a good goddamn WHAT the words were because what difference does it make anyway? No one remembers them. And the simpler and more mind-numbing the tune, the easier it is to whistle as you leave the theatre.

"I should live so long," George lamented near the end of his life, "that Sam Goldwyn should say to me, why can't you write hits like Irving Berlin?"

The brothers got a bit of their own back with this pointy little gem, but nobody seems to get it in performance. There are a number of gorgeously operatic versions on YouTube which are just as ridiculous as ALL gorgeously operatic versions of smart-ass, snappy satire.  In other words, it hits the floor with a double-clunk.

They are oversung, overacted, and just WRONG. Meanwhile, there is a whole crop of performances that make me wince: the singer rolls his/her eyes and looks panicky with each "blah blah blah", as if to say: gosh, I've forgotten the words! 

As was always the case, George and Ira knew exactly what they were doing. And if the audience wasn't in on the joke, if they just saw it as a silly little thing with no lyrics, so much the better.

Or perhaps they thought: George and Ira Gershwin. I wonder what all the fuss is about? These gentlemen can't write songs at all.

This fellow, Andrey Stolyarov, stands a little awkwardly and might sell the thing a bit more adeptly, but vocally he's perfect, with a slight nasal quality that puts all those "blahs" over with a distinctly Gershwinesque flair. Here is his YouTube channel, which I intend to dip into with pleasure:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_xMc3vp-GiJOSmPIbdi4AA

Somebody got it, George. You only had to wait about 85 years.


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