[Every week, American Public Media's The Dinner Party Download brings radio and podcast listeners a fast and funny hour of conversation about culture and food – “public radio’s Arts & Leisure section.” On the show's "Soundtrack" segment, top musicians provide a playlist of some of their favorite dinner music.]
This week's Soundtrack guest: Weezer's Rivers Cuomo.
Since forming Weezer in 1992, singer/guitarist Rivers Cuomo has churned out some of the hookiest rock hits ever, sold over 26 million albums, and arguably made thick-frame glasses and sweater vests cool. Weezer’s newest album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, reunites them with producer Ric Ocasek, who helmed their classic debut.
Rivers Cuomo: I chose songs that were written and released within the last few years. That’s because I figured if I had to talk about them, I’d want to talk about the songs that I’m currently most excited about, rather than songs that maybe a long time ago were very important — or historically have been very important — to me. ‘Cause then I’d just kind of be talking about how I used to feel, or maybe how I should feel now, or I wish I felt now. But, I mean… this is where I’m at!
Calvin Harris, "Summer"
My first pick is a song called “Summer” by Calvin Harris. I know nothing about him. All I know is this melody is one of the most uplifting things I’ve ever heard.
The first time I heard it I was at my piano, kind of jamming along to some music on shuffle on Spotify. That’s how I like to get exposed to new music and new chord progressions. This song came on, and I immediately went out to get three of my friends. And as the melody kept repeating over and over… we all started holding hands and dancing in a circle. It was one of the most joyful moments in my life.
I’ve been playing this song myself on the piano, trying to figure out how it makes me feel so good. The amazing thing is, this chorus isn’t even a vocal… it’s all common chords… there’s nothing too out there or jazzy… it’s in a major key. Gosh, I haven’t really been able to pin down what it is about it that makes me feel this way. And maybe that’s one of the things I love about it.
For my second song, I think I would have everyone sit back down, uncover a rock somewhere in their soul to let out a little darker emotion. It’s time for a little catharsis. Sia’s “Chandelier.”
To me the song is all about the sound of her voice. It’s just incredible pain, and her voice is cracking up. It’s something you don’t hear in most pop singers. She’s soaring at the top of her range, and at the same time she’s able to make these giant [vocal] leaps. As a singer I’ve always loved that sort of big dramatic vocal line, when she says, “I’m gonna swing on a chandelier.” It’s huge. It’s a huge feeling.
Again, I don’t know a heck of a lot about Sia. I know that she’s not super young, like she’s closer to my age, which is kind of interesting to me. I know that she’s written some really big hits for Rhianna, Beyoncé. I think she wasn’t necessarily known for singing her own songs herself. She certainly is now.
Next: Rivers' playlist takes a turn for the inappropriate...
Empire of the Sun, "Alive"
Okay, so then we have to end the dinner party on another joyous note of affirmation. So I would put on “Alive” by Empire of the Sun.
I found out about Empire of the Sun when I saw a review of their live show in a local paper here in L.A., and it included a picture of them wearing these outrageous costumes with headdresses, on this elaborate stage set. And it looked so insane, and so completely out of sync with everything that is "cool" in the alternative rock world, that I had to check it out. I wasn’t anticipating liking it at all — I just had to hear what it sounded like — and I immediately fell completely in love with it.
It’s so joyful and, at the end of the day, I couldn’t care less what they look like — costumes or headdresses or makeup. Growing up, I was a giant KISS fan, and the truth is the record I had was “Rock and Roll Over,” and there wasn’t even a clear picture of them in the packaging! So I really had no idea what they looked like, I just loved their music. And for me, it’s the same with Empire of the Sun. They could just be wearing jeans and a T-shirt and I would love them just as much.
Weezer, "The British Are Coming"
I think to test my friends and make sure they’re really my friends, I would pick, off of Weezer’s new album, the least appropriate song for a dinner party. It’s called “The British Are Coming.”
I can’t imagine why people would want to listen to this over dinner! It’s a song about Paul Revere and his midnight ride. But I know my closest friends who share the same values would really respond to the soaring melody and the chorus, and the weirdness of the lyrics, and maybe more than anything else, the extreme drama of the extended guitar solo.
The Dinner Party Download can be heard locally every Friday at 7 p.m. on 89.3 KPCC, or on online at www.dinnerpartydownload.org — where you can hear the audio of this interview.
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