[one_half last=”yes”]SHE & HIM
Label: Columbia Records
01. Stars Fell on Alabama
02. Oh No, Not My Baby
03. It’s Not For Me to Say
04. Stay Awhile
05. This Girl’s in Love With You
06. Time After Time
08. Teach Me Tonight
09. It’s Always You
10. Unchained Melody
11. I’ll Never Be Free
12. Would You Like to Take a Walk
13. We’ll Meet Again
NBHAP Rating: 4,2/5
Somewhere along the way something went horribly wrong. How disturbing must contemporary’s pop music feel to someone from the 1950s and 60s who travelled half a century forward in time? Elvis’ shaking pelvis was nothing against Nicki Minaj’s bum. A tender I Want To Hold Your Hand slowly but steady progressed into a Tonight I’m F***ng You over the past decades. A socio-cultural decline is undeniable, also in pop music. It’s not just the explicit content but also the musical shape of it. Plastic is all over the place and in times of EDM and Co. who wouldn’t want to travel back in time just once? Going back to a simpler era, a more innocent time in history where pop music was still build on quality and expertise, where sex was not all over your face in the media but a forbidden fruit, enriched with sensual fantasy? Worry no longer, Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have prepared a musical time machine.
Classics, the fifth album by the American duo that goes under the name SHE & HIM, is a cover record that takes us right to the golden era of the recording industry, the 1950s and 1960s. Long before rock’n’roll shook the youth and changed the face of music forever the artists of that period of time delivered high quality pop music for America’s middle-class, drenched in strings, driven by slow-grooving beats and packed with innocent romance within their songs. It was a brief moment in time between the end of World War II and the rise of THE BEATLES (and those who followed them) where this innocent perspective on popular music was neither cynical nor cursed. Artists like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Big Crosby or Dusty Springfield were highly welcome by the masses. SHE & HIM build these glory days a monument with Classics.
Having Deschanel and Ward recording an album like this seemed heavily overdue. From early on their sound hat quite a ‘retro’-feeling as it relived the innocent naivety in a more contemporary context. And, of course, the singing actress and her appearance itself helped to shape this image. For years now Deschanel is something like the unofficial queen of sweet quirkiness; doe eyes and fancy dresses included. Her voice itself is also quite classical while her musical partner plays the ever cool crooner. This role allocation also works quite well in the 50s setting. Classics was recorded with a 20-piece string orchestra and is driven by nostalgia and the two musicians who truly love these songs. Stars Fell on Alabama, It’s Not For Me to Say or She – the record is packed with legendary pieces. Deschanel memes the sweet but confident diva whose delicate voice basically can sing everything. From the tender sweetness of Dusty Springfield’s Stay Awhile to the never boring Unchained Melody which SHE & HIM interpret in form of a reduced lullaby.
Mr. Ward also gets his moments. His version of the Charles Aznavour classic She sounds way too cool but also really honest. Strings and an extended brass section are everywhere, polishing all edges, making the listener feel comfortable like a big pillow. Teach Me Tonight is one of the album’s highlights and a fine example on how sexual explicit content was dealt with back in the 50s. ‘Since this is the perfect spot to learn, teach me tonight’ – who wouldn’t fall for Mrs. Deschanel in that moment? Although the duo gives these old tunes little twists here and there they basically keep their traditional nature. SHE & HIM practice preservation of those monuments in the best possible way – by letting it sound like an album from 50 years ago. One could argue that this is lacking a bit of artistic bravery but on the other hand we highly doubt if that ever was the intention of these two musicians. Classics is an entertaining history lesson in popular music; a lovely alternative draft from the past. It’s not the worst idea to pick some of these ideas and take them into our accelerated times. At least, from time to time.
SHE & HIM’s cover record ‘Classics’ is a string-drenched bow to pop music’s roots, hopelessly outdated and even therefore highly entertaining.