by Tarique Ejaz
For a person who enjoys music just for the sake of enjoying it, it might not be the most technical-based article on music or an artist or an album or even a song for that matter of fact. Having said that, those who are expecting an article that comments on the beats and sound-resonance scale, audible likability and genre based insightful take on a rather popular album which has come up immensely in the last two years, be prepared for disappointment.
With that warning out of the way, let's get started!
George Ezra and his coarse-mature voice happened to me by accident. Normally when I hear a stray song either at a mall or at a friend's place, even if I like it, it takes me ages to get addicted to it. And there have been rare occasions that have brought up such a result. One of them being this particular instance. So I was at a friend's place and a gentleman kept humming 'listen to the man who is loving you' over and over as if stuck on repeat and I found it amusing.
Being an individual who lacks much in-depth knowledge of Western Music or music in general, be it of the past or the present, my first impression was that 'this must be a pretty old song, sounds catchy but pretty old.' And then it was forgotten until I came across 'Budapest' on YouTube. It then led to the other singles and then to the album and BAM! Three months in and I am hooked onto Ezra's voice to a folklore-similar tune or a rock tune or some other upbeat loop, like anything. It has become my playlist as I undertake an almost four-hour bus journey every now and then.
"The entire album was written while I undertook a trip to Europe in 2013."
Unlike most songwriters, Ezra came up with the songs in a more haphazard manner and the inspiration mainly lay in his experiences as he undertook a journey by train through Europe. However, not all songs were inspired from places he had visited or situations he had been a part of. More than the lyrics of the songs or how catchy it sounds, it is the man whom you have to blame for the success. His voice is mesmerizing and the modulations just make it all the more addictive, if I may use the word. It is a deep voice, sonorous and has a coarse quality about it which makes it sound hard and crude when he intends to make it so and flimsy like a fleeting piece of paper when he decides to lower it to suit the part of the song that demands so.
Now, it goes without saying that each and every song is lovely to hear and should be heard, at least once, before you come to the conclusion of it being worth keeping or not. But I would like to specifically pick out 5 songs that I keep on repeat as I listen to them over and over and over. Let me give you a run down to each of them, one at a time.
"My house in Budapest.
My, my hidden treasure chest.
Golden grand piano.
My beautiful Castillo.
You, Ooh. You, I'd leave it all."
Ezra had told the Daily Telegraph that Budapest was his first attempt at writing a love song. He stated that he was in Malmö, Sweden and had heard about the Eurovision Music Festival being held there. (Which happened to be really popular for the parties it hosted) Now he was unaware of that fact that you don't get to buy alcohol after 10 in the night there. Thus, he ended up getting a bottle of rum from a guy at the park so he did have something to drink at the party. But he had an early train to Budapest next morning which he missed due to being severely hung-over, resulting in the inspiration behind the song.
The lines are simple, with George stating his longing to be in the place that houses his greatest treasures, and then putting it all up for the love he is willing to give it up for. It is a rather rickety kind of a paced-song, and the catchiness about it stems from the fact that he makes it appear as if he is trying to convince the person intended that it would be the ultimate end to his desire.
There is a part where he is ready to give up on family and friends just to be with her/him (who am I to judge?). That underlines the tone he wishes to communicate, which is one of jovial seriousness. He is ready to change just for the one he desires. Change! The implication is huge to be looked at.
The video is equally colorful. A crowd of people signifying diversity waiting for something (probably a flight to Budapest, if I start assuming) and as the song proceeds we see the words translate to actions, with changes being sprung about here and there.
And Budapest is heard in all its glory.
II. Listen to the Man
"I feel your head resting heavy on your single bed.
I want to hear all about it, get it all off your chest.
I feel the tears and you’re not alone.
When I hold you well I won’t let go.
Why should we care for what they’re selling us anyway?"
Listen to the Man is arguably one of my favourite songs. Ezra captures the essence of reassuring a beloved with such ease and the tone is equally fascinating (aren't all his songs?). But there is something more about this particular number. The beat is funky and his voice is stellar as always but it is the flow - the ease of the flow of the lyrics that is infectious.
"We’re so young, girl and you know. You don’t have to be there, babe.
You don’t have to be scared, babe.
You don’t need a plan, of what you want to do. Won’t you listen to the man that's loving you?"
In the video, we see Sir Ian McKellen mouthing the lyrics as a frustrated George is sitting in the background, trying to get the point across that it was his song. The vigor with which Sir Mckellen lip-syncs the song is just enjoyable to watch. Well, as the song keeps repeating, you got to 'Listen to the Man' after all.
III. Song 6
Song 6 is like one of the children, in a family that is widely adored, who fails to capture the attention of the world showering their adornment and silently shines in its brilliance. Lighting up the lives of people who happen to come across it. The song is so beautiful in the way it is written, composed and sung that I remember the first time I had heard it. It had been placed on a loop on my phone and an hour and a half had passed before I realized that I had been listening to the same song over and over and over and over.
Unlike his other songs, this is a relatively short song with not much lyrics in it, but it is not the lyrics alone (whatever of it is there) but the power of the words and the song that will hold you still.
It starts with a tuned-down Ezra voice talking about watching the paint dry on the wall. Then there is a pause and with all his majestic glory he sings about the beauty that one sees in a city and announces that we are all searching and dreaming about something or the other, maybe achievements or a solution to our worries. He, however, is simply dreaming about his beloved. Even the part where he describes certain militant commuters waiting for a train on a long Bavarian night, he follows it up by simply stating in his rich voice that he is simply waiting for the one concerned.
IV. Blind Man in Amsterdam
"When your adventure ends, your next one will begin."
This song is loosely based on Ezra's experience with a blind beggar in Amsterdam. This individual used to have a music box with him and a small tin box for collecting money. Now, Ezra changes the entire aspect where a song blares out of the box by replacing it with the utterance of how the beats sounded thereby reflecting the tempo of energy that one normally associates with the city of Amsterdam.
The blind man remain unacknowledged by the people passing by. On seeing this, Ezra went up to him and put a 50 in his native currency in his tin box to which the blind man, citing clairvoyance of his, tells him of a new journey awaiting him.
Blind Man in Amsterdam, like Song 6, is another unearthed gem of Ezra's work. A song which is as simple as it is beautiful.
V. Blame it on Me
Like most of Ezra's songs, 'Blame it on Me' has a completely different flavour. The song starts at a high tempo with the singer mouthing about incidents that vary from the natural phenomena to things that would take place out of the negligence of people. He knows that he will be blamed for every single thing so he wishes for the blame to come as fast as possible and wishes for his accusers not to wait as he keeps inquiring of the reasons for them to be taking so long.
"When I dance alone, and the sun's beating down.
Blame it on me."
The video shows that the singer/protagonist is having a horrible day where everything seems to be going against him, but he knows that there is no point in complaining about it as he will be the one who will be blamed. In fact, he embraces the fact and wishes to take the blame upon himself. It is this persona of the situation that makes the singer see the world in a more forgiving light and as to why we as humans keep seeking an answer to our problems.
This is a beautiful song and the mere tune brings to mind a warm, sunny day as one sits and stares out of the window listening to Ezra belt out one line after the other in his enrapturing voice.
Having covered the 5 tracks I had started out to cover, I would like to particularly mention the other songs from the album that should not be avoided just because I talked in detail about 5 of my favorites. Among others 'Did You Hear the Rain?' is an intense song regarding the corrupt nature of people and how one should deal with it along with 'Barcelona' which is a lively track conjured up during one of his visits to the city. Then there are 'Over the Creek', 'It's my Skin' and 'Da Vinci's Riot Police' that one should give a try to.
Well, in short, Ezra is young, no doubt talented and has a voice that many top singers of today would die to have. Having said that...
"Won't you listen to the man who is recommending this album to you?"