April 21 2009

Harold Wheeler and the Dancing With The Stars band

harold wheelerIt has been a year since I tackled the subject of the Dancing With The Stars band, and it seems I need to do it again.

Back on April 15th of 2008 I took on the subject of the Dancing With The Stars band, and Harold Wheeler, the band conductor and arranger.   In the year that followed, this has been a rather large hot bed for comments that bring my intelligence into question.  The comments questioning the placement of my head in my rectal area aside, one commenter, Jeff D, made a point that actually got through to me and made me rethink my opinion on this whole matter a bit.

These arrangements are made for a standard “Big Band” format. That fits BALLROOM dancing.

And therein is the problem I believe.  Well, at least most of it.  This show has attempted to take popular songs from many different genres, and they leave it to the band to try to make them fit a format they were never built for.  I still hate the singers, but this one comment (notice the comment didn’t insult my intelligence, amazing how much further that will get someone) really made me rethink my stance on the actual band.  For instance, does anyone think The Clash were ever meant for ballroom dancing?  No, they weren’t.  Yet there was one of their songs a few seasons ago, being tormented to the point of painful, but I now hate it a little less because I finally see what was being done to it.

I still have problems with what seems like random changes in the tempo of songs that even seem to throw the dancers off their step.  And as for the singers… the singers are a whole different matter that just make me cringe.  I’m sure they’re fine for certain styles of singing, but a lot of times they just seem totally ill suited for what they are being asked to sing on the show.

John Ratzenberger and Edyta ?liwi?ska on Dancing With The StarsNow, there is one point where I do still have to wonder about the band and Jeff D’s comment (I’m not attacking him, it is just something specific I thought of), and that is when the band tackles songs by the band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  Songs by this group seem to be a favorite on this show, popping up at least 3 to 4 times thus far.  For those of you unfamiliar with them, they are a California band deeply entrenched in the 1940’s swing era style of music, and you may have seen them in the movie Swingers some years ago.  You would think a band that plays in swing style wouldn’t need any “corrections”, but yet, there they are when the Dancing With The Stars band plays them.  It’s usually just a slight tempo change, but it is still a change.

Sure the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy issue is a small one, and I’ll forgive it, and I will say the commenter changed my mind a bit.  The producers are the ones who choose the music each week, and perhaps it is time someone, namely Harold Wheeler, sat them down and said, “You really think this song is a good choice for this show?  Sure it’s popular, but it doesn’t even come close to fitting the style we need.”  I doubt this will ever happen, but I can dream of a day where I stop cringing when I hear them twist another of my favorite songs in to some unrecognizable mess that makes me cringe.

As for the singers… my problems with them have nothing to do with the arrangements, but more so that they are being asked to sing songs that they have never attempted that particular style before in their lives.  What better time to try it out than on live TV?

One last note, in my original post I made a comment about my love of the version of the song “Roxanne” from Moulin Rouge.  Many people have argued in the comments that it is a horrible arrangement, but seeing as the original band, The Police, had to sign off on its use, I’m guessing they didn’t think it was so horrible.  In that particular case, yes, the song was significantly changed, but I felt the arrangement fit the context of the song’s subject matter far better.  It is a song about prostitution after all, and the guttural, growling version that plays in the movie makes a whole lot more sense than Sting’s original ascending vocals that have almost a melancholy tone to them. Yes, that is my opinion, as are all posts on this blog, and it is the one I’m sticking to on that particular case.  I’ll give a small victory to the commenters on the overall feelings on the main thrust of the article about the band, but I will never surrender my love of that particular version of that song.

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