A few things....
First, this is going to take more than one post.
Second, some songs are going to get their own post. (Give you 3 guesses which one and the first 2 guesses don't count.)
Third, thank God Barry was finally willing to try something (else) new and different and outside the safe little stereotype box that he's been put in all these years. In every case those projects have been incredible.
Fourth, this is the first time anyone has created a concept record dedicated to the concept of fame that also tells the story of how someone experiences it, first-hand, seemingly as it happens. There have been other records or songs that convey similar messages but always in an objective, retrospective approach. 15 Minutes is shown through the eyes of the main character, as events happen to him and how he feels at the time. Makes it easier for those of us "great unwashed" to understand.
Let's get down to it....
Nice use of the harmonica in the beginning. Gives you a feel of manual labor, almost like a chain gang, feeling trapped. Funny how a musician who's been working for years at his craft is still blinded by an artificial vision of glory where everything is blissful and wonderful and achieving that height of fame will make his life wonderful and solve all his problems. You would think that after that much time, at that low a level in the industry would open your eyes to a thing or two. Or maybe he just thinks it will be different, and he knows better so he can work the system in a way everyone else can't. Anyone else see any parallels with Katy Perry's "Firework" in the imagery?
Work the Room
For someone who focuses more on melody than rythms, Barry does a great job of knocking out a highly-rythmic song with a more simplistic melody to it. When the clip was released my head popped up when I heard it the first time, thinking "Wow!! It's about time he let this type of song out!" Anybody who's ever had to meet a group and sell themselves cold can relate to this. The song style paints the picture of thinking fast, being nervous, one face after another, wondering if you're saying the right thing to the right person at any given time. Anderson has obviously worked with a lot of musicians going through these motions because the subtle details that would be overlooked by a layman are crystal clear. ("Suit 1 shakes my hand but it takes him a beat to recall my name.") Intentional or not, there's a foreshadowing of the character's relationships as a musician later on; he wants everyone to know his name, but he doesn't take the time to know anyone else's. The people he wants to impress and hire him are delegated "Suit 1", "Suit 2", and "Big Suit".
Bring on Tomorrow
Even Barry has said in interviews (Gayle King, this morning) that he wanted to put one of his more typical ballads on the album. He did, and most of all, it works beautifully with the theme. When anyone makes a breakthrough, or achieves a goal, it doesn't dawn on you and you don't "feel" the relief until all of the sounds and sights have faded and you've got some time with your own thoughts. It always seems to happen and night when the world has retired until morning. This is one of the few songs on the record that can be a single - because even though it fits with the concept/theme, the lyrics stand on their own as their own story. Not an easy feat on a concept album.
Now it's For Real
Every serious fan of Barry's knew that he could, if he wanted to, knock out good pop/rock four-on-the-floor, syncopated hits. The key is wanting to. Now it's For Real is the "getting down to business" number. You can feel the sleeves being rolled up and smell the midwestern work ethic. He got the job (corner office with windows, for those of us in the corporate world) so he can do what he's always wanted to do. It's a relief even as it's a challenge.
Drugs and groupies. They go along with a successful musician just like Swiss cheese goes along with a ham on rye. I've met a number of musicians over the years and Every. Single. One. Of. Them. has fallen into this trap to some degree. Some just smoked a joint here and there and moved on. Some had hideous drug addictions that took years to overcome if they survived. Some had a one-night stand followed by a "Come to Jesus" session with their spouse. Others have had more wives/girlfriends/one-night-stands in the few years of their careers than most men have in a lifetime. How does everyone fall into this trap? (And it is a trap, not a benefit like everyone seems to think it is.) Either the noob rolls into town on a truckload of turnips and doesn't know any better, or the city slicker thinks he's seen it all and can "handle it" better than anyone else. Either way once the threshold is crossed, he's on his way down. It's only a matter of time and how far he's going to fall. You'll notice the distinct absence of "Without you it's nothing/why else would I climb/together forever/Hearts beating in time." In its place is a "warped" sound in the music - the character's world is becoming surreal; fantasy and reality are blurring. More foreshadowing.
He's a Star
The only song that takes a 3rd-person objective view of the character, as opposed to 1st person. Probably because Barry wrote it years ago for another project. In spite of our hero's experience and probably learning from other musicians, he's figured out that being a star or being famous isn't the life panacea he thought it would be. Instead of all of his problems being solved, he's got more piled on. The fantasy life of the stage, the story he's selling to the fans is nothing like real life and his brain hasn't clarified those boundaries, or isn't able to yet. "He's left with no companions / only enemies and slaves." Will he figure out before the end of the record that the biggest slave in the story is himself?
Written in Stone
Oh, right - the wife. He didn't forget, really. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Every once in a while he remembers his other half (I'm using the word "wife" for simplicity here, but it could be a girlfriend, partner, other kind of SO, etc.) He doesn't understand why she's not having a good time and enjoying his new life along with him. "It's your party too, babe / come on for the ride" Because he can't see that he's only focused on himself and any relationship requires paying attention to the partner. I just celebrated my 10th anniversary and my husband and I lasted that long (so far!) because a day doesn't go by that we each don't do something to build our friendship, make the other's life easier, or continue the love affair. The image of water wearing away stone is brilliant. Nothing lasts forever if you just leave it and don't take care of it, no matter how solid it seems. The married artists I've met over the years who kept their families intact by ensuring their other half had a place in "the life". Some brought families on the road with them. Some had spouses playing a managerial role (No "Spinal Tap" jokes, please.) Others had spouses with enough backbone to set boundaries and followed their lead when they said, "That's enough. You've got to come off the road." Without that role, the marriage/partnership inevitably died.
Interesting ending with a refrain of "Bring on Tomorrow" - not hopeful this time but sad, even regretful.
Letter From a Fan/So Heavy, So High
We all know this is creepy as hell, so I'll just get that statement out of the way and we can move on with the analysis. But I will say after hearing this song all the way through the first time, I wanted to sleep with the lights on last night.
There is no way Barry could have performed this song himself. The point of the record is seeing these experiences through the character's eyes. If he had done "Letter" himself it would have been a 3rd person retrospective. Nataly Dawn captured the innocence of the fan's intentions beautifully. Even as the 3rd verse gets disturbing - for reasons that deserve their own post - the intentions and emotions are still innocent. They have no idea they've crossed the line because they don't know where the line is. Or even that there is a line. Or even that if they communicate these thoughts to the object of their affection that they will scare the living shit out of him. The scariest part of all is, we've all encountered someone like this. Many fans have even experienced some of these emotions to lesser degrees. No one can tell by looking who's just honestly enthusiastic and whose soul has been touched by the music, and who's going over the edge and is potentially dangerous.
What makes this track particularly brilliant is that it is merged in almost a medly with So Heavy, So High. Each of the songs on its own is just OK. But together they display the dichotomy that is the character's life. He's cracking under the pressure. He was able to handle the public scrutiny for a time but it wore him down. He's so innundated with the mental noise of being a public star that he can't even hear the little girl and her innocent letters.
This song needs its own post so I'll pause it there and pick it up when the rest of the main review gets out of my system.
I'll be back later tonight - enjoy for now!