Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

I.G.Y. (What A Beautiful World) – A Timeless Classic

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, August 8, 2019

I don’t always think about politics.

Sometimes, I think about music.

Or, more accurately, I sing, or hum a few lines of a song which melody happens to pop in my head.

This morning, it was Donald Fagen’s – of Steely Dan renown – tune known as “What A Beautiful World,” which is properly titled as “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World).”

Released as a single on his first solo album “The Nightfly” which was certified Gold, and then Platinum by the RIAA based upon sales volume in 1982, and 2001 respectively, the single never reached above 8th position on Billboard’s U.S. Adult Contemporary chart, while on Canada’s RPM Contemporary Adult chart, it topped out at number 2, both in the 1982-83 time frame.

The tune and melody of the song is its most powerful attribute, while the rhythm and bouncing dotted-eighth syncopation is belied by the smooth, lyrical vocals.

Punctuated by a light horn line crescendo in the background, the staccato synthesizer secondary introduction establishes the entire song’s basis which is reinforced by the horn line. When Fagen’s solo vocal is introduced 53 seconds in, the listener has been treated to an effective preview of the song, which is not disappointing.

Harmonic all-female back-up vocals with light 6th chords an octave atop accentuate the lyric’s hook line throughout, as they push, then drag about the syncopated phrase while effectively utilizing the swell of crescendo and decrescendo to accentuate the phrase.

A Fender Rhodes provides a briefly simple chord basis while the snare drum’s shuffle and accompanying bass kick provides the locomotion necessary to move the song along, while the steady-as-she-goes bass line progresses from bouncing to tastefully accentuating.

Fagan’s rhythmic solo lyric treatment laces in and out of the song and serves more as decoration and primary connecting phrase than as the song’s principle musical device, which is the hook.

Formed upon a relatively simple major chord progression, the keys to the song’s unique identity rely upon tasteful artistry, musicality and arrangement, while instrumental breaks are nominally simple and brief. The song relies not on complexity, but upon melodic simplicity, in combination with an equally-matched and memorable rhythm.

Effectively, “I.G.Y. (What A Beautiful World)” is, and has been demonstrated to be a timeless recording for all those reasons, and more – not the least of which are equally attributed to its production.

In short, Donald Fagen has done what few other musicians have ever been able to do, which is introduce a uniquely American musical genre – jazz – to an even-broader audience in the pop/rock marketplace. And that is precisely his genius, which is so exquisitely and memorably demonstrated by “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World).”

2 Responses to “I.G.Y. (What A Beautiful World) – A Timeless Classic”

  1. jvlivs said

    A song from my early childhood. We need more music like this. Most of todays’ music just flat out sucks!


    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Recollecting Quincy Jones’ (with 28 Grammy Awards to his name, second only to Georg Solti w 31) remark that the most important thing about music is the melody. Melody. Not rhythm, not “beat,” but melody. Can you hum or whistle today’s tunes? I never hear anyone doing that. And rap? Well… Jones made his comment in regard to that genre. Melody makes music.

      Liked by 1 person

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