December 31, 2006

Ella Fitzgerald – What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

Upon its composition, I wonder what type of artists Frank Loesser imagined would cover “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” Harry Connick, Jr.? Sure. Barry Manilow? Maybe. Clay Aiken? Probably not.

I think Ella would have surpassed all expectations. This song wasn’t meant for Diana Krall’s crystal-confident pipes. It’s saturated with longing, with the agony of indecision (that rules your cover out, too, Bette Midler). And Ella—oh, Ella—she knows what that means. Her voice wavers often, dangling in the still air of midnight like an unmet expectation. More than anything, this song sounds sincere drifting from her glossy lips. Diana knows what you’re doing New Year’s Eve, but Ella sounds genuinely hopeful, genuinely uncertain. The trumpets and saxophones long to bring her drinks not because she’s the best, but because, when she sings, she knows the most important part of the song is the question mark in its title.

Perhaps I’m drawn to songs destined for numerous covers because it implies some sort of inherent excellence. Twenty versions of Evan and Jaron’s “Crazy for This Girl?” No. Twenty versions of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” including a phenomenal version (head tilt and all) by generally-indie-accepted-pop-bluegrass-juggernauts Nickel Creek? You’re damn right.

And now it’s that time of year again. Your favorite music e-zines have agreed it’s the point at which to take holiday, leaving your ears otherwise starved for new idols. How will you survive? If Nick Hornby has anything to say about it (and, in fact, he has an entire dreary book’s worth of speculation), New Year’s Eve is a time for reflection, regret, and numerous other forms of angst. However, it is also a time of creation. Our most beloved artists are just as human as the lot of us, and while we’re pissed and busy dreaming up resolutions (e.g. “I WILL learn the accordion this year, I WILL.), some of next year’s best music is gestating in these musicians’ figurative wombs.

I imagine I’ll be out and about at some hipster shindig, decked in appropriate hipster attire, listening to some brilliant Scottish album not slated for release until 2009. Or I’ll be at home listening to great music, having a laugh, a bottle of wine, and teaching myself the accordion…

Happy New Years.

[buy stuff here]

Rahawa Haile | 7:00 pm

 
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