"Peter Gabriel's 'So': The Soundtrack to a Failed Love Story"
I first encountered Peter Gabriel's "So" album through a rather unexpected source (circa 1987): Monica, a girlfriend-not-to-be, handed me the original cassette her dad had brought back from a trip to the US. She couldn't care less about the music or who Peter Gabriel was, so she passed it on to me with the casual indifference of someone getting rid of clutter. Yet, there was something about that cassette—the sound quality was impeccable, and the craftsmanship felt special. I cherished it like a hidden treasure. In retrospect, I felt a bit more like her musical recycling bin than someone special, as our relationship didn't get very far. But in an ironic twist, this seemingly insignificant exchange opened the door to the captivating worlds of Peter Gabriel and Genesis.
Peter Gabriel stands as one of the most innovative and creative artists in the history of music. During his time with Genesis, he introduced theatrics and imaginative lyrics into their performances. Over the years, he has continued to push the boundaries of technology in music. Currently, is the biggest embracer of AI in music and art. He was even profiled in The New York Times for pioneering commercial music downloads with OD2 (On Demand Distribution) in 1999, a visionary move given that Napster had already made waves. According to his former manager, Gail Colson, "He seemed to be able to see the future of music and technology at least a decade before anybody else." Gabriel's diverse ventures include Real World Records, Womad (World of Music, Arts, and Dance), investments in Solid State Logic (SSL), a leading maker of high-end recording studio consoles, Mudda (Magnificent Union of Digitally Downloading Artists), We7, an advertising-driven music site, and TheFilter.com.
He also created Secret Worlds, the first-ever digital game via a CD-ROM, I spent hours playing it!
"So" is one of Gabriel's standout albums, gaining tremendous popularity partly due to its innovative and visually stunning videos for “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time”, which were promoted on MTV during the network's heyday.
Over the years "Big Time" has become a personal anthem that gives me stamina, courage, and positive energy when I am doing something big. When I decided to do the MBA, when I took my first internship in the US, when I did my first trip to Asia are some examples.
This album is particularly notable because it defied musical paradigms in several ways:
1. Progressive Pop: Gabriel's roots in art rock shine through, resulting in progressive pop tracks that are both intricate and catchy.
2. World Music Influences: "So" incorporates elements of world music, with African rhythms and percussion prominently featured in songs like "In Your Eyes" and "Red Rain," adding a global and rhythmic dimension to the album.
3. Synth-Pop and New Wave: Embracing the trends of the 1980s, the album features synth-pop and new wave elements. Tracks like "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time" are upbeat, radio-friendly hits filled with synthesizers.
4. Soulful and Emotional Vocals: Gabriel's distinctive and emotionally charged vocals are a highlight of the album. His ability to convey a wide range of emotions adds depth and intimacy to the songs, especially on the haunting duet "Don't Give Up" with Kate Bush.
5. Lyrical Depth: The album's lyrics touch on a variety of themes, including love, identity, social issues, and personal introspection. Gabriel's storytelling and lyrical prowess are evident throughout.
In summary, "So" is a diverse and genre-blending album that showcases Peter Gabriel's musical versatility and willingness to experiment with various styles. It's an album that has left a lasting impact on the music industry and continues to be celebrated for its innovation and timeless quality. For those who haven't delved into the world of Genesis, "So" serves as an excellent entry point, and Monica's cast-off cassette tape turned out to be an unexpected treasure trove of musical discovery.