Monday, June 16, 2008

Driving home on Father's Day, I had the pleasure of catching on the adult contemporary station one of the very best ballads of the nineties. Although it led to the inevitable saccharine Disney ballad, and remains the peak of Vanessa L. Willams' career in the era before Mary J. Blige, Aaliyah, and Brandy effected a version of the R&B ballad toughened and inflected by hip-hop, "Save The Best For Last" is also a kind of peak for this kind of deliberately classic songwriting: the metaphors are rote but rounded neatly, and for once the piano and strings don't smother the singer -- who, by the way, sounds like a real human being; this song wouldn't be as memorable in the hands of a self-appointed Classy Dame like Anita Baker or gimlet-eyed up-and-comer like Mariah Carey. "Save The Best For Last" conveys a modesty without banality: living within your means, learning without ostentation, loving and being loved not an iota more than you deserve ("Love Is," her other Top Fiver from the era and a duet with Brian McKnight, is almost as memorable).

ADDENDUM: Wow. I had no idea this even existed. Greil Marcus always surprises you.

4 comments:

M said...

Yeah, the Greil piece is wonderful. It's the kind of thing I wish he'd publish an omnibus to collect--pieces that don't necessarily hold together under one (vague) thesis, just that are enjoyable.

The Vanessa song does stand up really well, though it'll never be a first-rank favorite (I guess I told you more than you wanted to know about myself, cough cough). Even when I was 17 I knew it was some kind of classic, even if it wasn't one I felt particularly close to.

kiss out the jams said...

DOUBLE ADDENDUM...Travis Morrison, who's kind of like the John Darnielle to WWIA's ILM, also loves this song: http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/feature/31376-guest-list-dismemberment-plan-top-10-musical-works-i-like-that-no-one-else-i-know-does

"Finally, it's got that ridiculous THX-Dolby bass that makes your sphincter loosen in movie theaters. I love that!" I'm telling you guys, dude is our generation's great lost rockcrit.

kiss out the jams said...

Oh, and I love the song too, of course.

Hans said...

Big fan of that song. Thanks. And the hushed resentment: "I wondered what was wrong with you!" Haha. Classic.