Friday, September 16, 2011

Sincerest Form: 5 Songs Indebted to Motown

Motown's heyday ended four decades ago, but artists continue put additions on the house Berry Gordy built. Some prime examples:

"Town Called Malice" by The Jam
This song, especially the bass and drum opening, is Paul Weller's homage to (some would say rip off of) of the Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love," though the angry pun in the title and "message" lyrics harken back to the band's punk past. Weller would soon go on to full-on Soul with the Style Council.

"If Looks Could Kill" by Camera Obscura
Another tribute to Holland-Dozier-Holland-penned girl group hits.

"Postcard to Nina" by Jens Lekman
The blue-eyed soul of the Rascals' "Groovin'" (not on Motown, but close enough!) is the touchstone here, though there weren't many songs from the Motown era with first lines like this one: "Nina I can be your boyfriend, so you can stay with your girlfriend."

"If It's True" by Yo La Tengo
Duets were big in Motown . Think Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell on "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" or "Ain't Nothing But the Real Thing." YLT's Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley don't have the vocal chops for that and sound more like Lou Reed and Mo Tucker, but they're charming nonetheless.

"When You Were My Baby" by The Magnetic Fields
Merge Records' head (and Superchunk frontman) Mac McCaughan perfectly described The Magnetic Fields' early sound as "lo-fi Motown -inflected Yaz."

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