Sun, Nov 20, 2005 - Page 9 News List

A lesson in musician lingo means giving the front man a hook

By William Safire  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

"Back in the `30s and `40s," writes a reader, John Strother, "it often had a pejorative connotation, such as when Bob Crosby `fronted' his band but had no involvement with the orchestrations, arrangements or musical operation of `his' orchestra. He may have waved a baton symbolically once in a while."

Others called front men were leaders in a personality sense, like Kay Kyser and Paul Whiteman.

Today, "the front man has to be a member of the band," said Sasha Frere-Jones, pop critic for the New Yorker. "Mick Jagger is the front man of the Rolling Stones." [That's the group, not the magazine; both have gathered no moss.]

"Some bands have had a compere, an Old World term for a `hype man,' onstage to exhort the crowd when the singer is out of breath, but that's not a front man. I can't imagine a front man who isn't the lead singer," she added.

(Compere, French for `godfather,' is used in Britain to mean `master of ceremonies.')

HOOK

"Listeners are treated to more than just Rowland on the hook of the song," writes Michael McGrath, 17, about Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child in the Houston Chronicle. "She is featured on the bridge, as well."

I turn again to Joe Levy of Rolling Stone to get hooked up to musicalingo: "The hook is the sweet spot, the easily remembered melody or rhythm figure. Beatles songs are packed with hooks. A hook is similar to a riff, which is instrumental, while a hook can be played or sung."

"It's the chorus of a rap song," said Serena Kim of Vibe magazine.

Back in 1982, the rock critic Lester Bangs defined the hook, which he first noted in a 1969 review of a Shocking Blue album, as "that one irresistible little melodic or rhythmic twist that'll keep you just coming back and back and back to buy and buy and buy."

It's frequently used in a sample, an interpolation of one bit of an artist's digitized recording into another's longer work. If you're a geezer trying to establish communication with a grandchild jiggling along to an iPod download, you might idly observe that sometimes a sample can be made into a hook.?

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