Monday, April 4, 2016

Jamming Music ... Not in the Good Way

For all the enjoyment I've gotten out of performing and listening to music, sometimes it certainly tests me.  This column is a bunch of that, so do forgive its wandering.  I will indeed get to Bed, Bath and Beyond soon enough.

You either have or have not heard the news that the actor Kiefer Sutherland, the star of the show "24" that I never did see, and son of the distinguished actor Donald Sutherland, has changed careers.  At least he is trying to.

Apparently the younger Mr. Sutherland has decided to pursue a career as a country music singer, and has recorded something.  I don't know if it is an album, or just a single song, but I did hear a piece about it on the radio.  The show's hosts included a segment of a song he did, which if memory serves, was called "There Ain't Enough Whiskey" or something like that.

The radio hosts were laughing and they had every right to.  It was flat-out awful and pretty much unlistenable.  I know that -- or I assume that -- Mr. Sutherland's ability to retire and his future income are not dependent on his success as a country music singer, which should be proof at least to him of God's existence and manifest love.

What I don't get is when Kiefer Sutherland actually heard a recording of his voice, whether speaking, acting or singing, and decided that the vocal instrument the aforementioned generous God gave him was, in any earthly way, suitable for singing where anyone else could hear him.  The recording I heard was supposedly done through a professional recording studio, which means that it came out about the best that could be done with the voice that was there.

It still stank.  The voice was raspy and unpleasant; the fidelity to whatever the written pitches were was marginal, when he actually tried to hit musical pitches.  There was nothing musical about what he did.  And I wondered what made him think that anyone would actually pay money to hear him "sing" either recorded or, Heaven forbid, on a live stage.

Then I thought a bit longer.  I remembered, for example, Rod Stewart.  Like Sutherland, Rod Stewart has a voice that cannot be complimented except to say that he apparently is able to memorize lyrics and produce them back on stage or in a studio with pitches attached.  The voice itself sounds as if he were gargling with sandpaper, and not in the good way.  Rod Stewart may be a great guy but, also like Sutherland, you have to ask whatever he listened to way back when that told him a career as a singer was the right path.

You also have to ask what ever happened to music to where someone else heard Rod Stewart sing and decided that singing would be a boon to the vocal art.

And Rod Stewart, friends, is very successful.  Apparently there is something to music I'm not getting.

- - - 

I thought again of all of this yesterday while I was in, of all places, a Bed, Bath and Beyond store buying some towels.  It should have been simple, of course.  But it was made complicated by the fact that they were blasting some kind of recorded music over speakers which were placed so that it was really hard not be under one.

Every time my best girl asked me if this or that color of towels would work with this or that other accessory, I had to ask her to ask the question again and sometimes again.  My hearing is just fine, but when your wife is talking to you from ten feet away and there is a speaker positioned directly overhead blasting loud music, you can't hear, and have to ask her to repeat the question.  And that makes her really happy, you know.

I wrote about that, of course, a long time ago in a piece about my local grocery and their penchant for having music way too loud for its purpose.  Needless to say, the Giant grocery chain didn't fix their speakers and still blasts music over them.  I don't expect Bed, Bath and Beyond to get back to me and tell me they appreciate my opinion and they're going to change.  As I wrote in the piece, if this were about customer experience as opposed to being paid to play songs, you'd have a lot more pleasant music at a much lower volume, if it were there at all.  Keep Bach fugues going at a very modest volume and I'd be buying towels there all day.

There is nothing that loud music does to enhance the customer experience, and this was, mind you, a household goods store, not a concert.  As I write this, an hour and a half after leaving the store, my ears are still ringing.  I couldn't wait, most importantly, to get the heck out of the store and will go back reluctantly if ever again.  I don't think they care.  But whoever the VP at Bed, Bath and Beyond was who made the corporate decision, to take some kind of payment from the music industry to blast at its customers nonstop over speakers, should have his head examined and his job ended.

Oh, better idea ... make him listen to Kiefer Sutherland.  He deserves it.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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  1. I wish more people would read this and consistently bring it to the attention of stores like BB&B. Why they make their experience so annoying is really odd. Must be a lot of payola getting paid these days.

  2. Agreed. Even retailers think they need to be like clubs and have loud background music. It's insane. Restaurants are just as bad or worse. You try to talk to the person you're eating with and have to raise your voice. How does that make dinner better? If it's uncomfortable when eating, I can imagine how bad it makes buying things in a store.