New Releases: Beyond the Sea

The best thing about Beyond the Sea, Kevin Spacey's uneven biopic about Bobby Darin, is its sympathy for the awkward position Darin occupied, in the 1950s and 60s, between pop music and rock'n'roll. Born Walden Robert Cassotto in 1936, Darin was only one year younger than Elvis. But he was not a Southerner; he was an Italian-American from the Bronx, and his dominant musical influences were not the great black and white stars of rhythm & blues, country & western, and gospel, but the great Italian pop singers, from Tony Bennett to Sinatra.

Pop was the residue of the big band era, a music focused on the fine-grained, microphone-magnified vocalism disparaged as "crooning" by ignorant critics. It could be that, but when practiced by singers as subtle and brilliant as Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, or Sarah Vaughan, it approaches the sublime. (See related entry under Soundtrax.)

All the more pity today's young 'uns don't know any better than to call this whole body of work "lounge music." Blame their parents: for the 60s generation, pop was the ancien régime against which their beloved rock'n'roll was the revolution.

So Darin turned to pop in 1959 and never let go (I will pass in respectful silence over his early 70s foray into "folk"). For all its faults (and there are many), Beyond the Sea is worth seeing for the sheer effort Spacey makes to replicate that bygone sound and attitude - an effort all the more poignant because Darin himself was replicating it. Bless him, he was an anachronism all his life.

July 15, 2005 11:00 PM |



PRC Pop 

The Chinese pop music scene is like no other ...

Remembering Elvis 

The best part of him will never leave the building ...

Beyond Country 

Like all chart categories, "country" is an arbitrary heading under which one finds the ridiculous, the sublime, and everything in between. On the sublime end, a track that I have been listening to over and over for the last six months: Wynnona Judd's version of "She Is His Only Need." The way she sings it, irony is not a color or even a set of contrasting colors; it is iridescence.

Miles the Rock Star? 

Does Miles Davis belong in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame? Here's my take on his career ...

Essay Contest 

Attention, high school jazz listeners ...

more trax

Me Elsewhere

Edward Hopper 

Painter of light (and darkness) ...

Dissed in Translation 

Here's my best shot at taking Scorcese down a few pegs ...

Henri Rousseau Revisited 

"Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris" appeared at the National Gallery of Art in Washington this fall ...

Paul Klee's Art 

Paul Klee was not childish, despite frequent comparisons between his art and that of children...

Our Art Belongs to Dada 

Rent my "Dadioguide" tour of the Dada show (before it moves to MoMA) ...

more picks


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Serious Popcorn published on July 15, 2005 11:00 PM.

All Of The Above was the previous entry in this blog.

Remembering 50s Pop is the next entry in this blog.

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