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Sep 14

LENNY KRAVITZ – “Fly Away”

Popular50 comments • 3,038 views

#816, 20th February 1999

kravitz To get it out of the way: a dodo, a rhea, an emu, a penguin. “Fly Away” has the same chance of getting off the ground as any of them – a stolid, earthbound tramp of a song, anchored by a riff and a groove that does too much to be actually heavy but never enough to soar. Perhaps that’s the point – flight as an impossible aspiration. If so, Lenny makes it too hard and too long. Its basic rhymes poke weakly at me – wish I could FLY so very HIGH like a dragonFLY – but Kravitz gives them a throaty push to let me know he’s shooting for passionate, meaningful even. After a bit it strikes me – this circular trudge is a shoegaze record with the effects turned off, a #nofilters snapshot of a Ride song. And who needs that?

When I first bumped into Lenny Kravitz, the comparison was to Hendrix. This was unfair to both Kravitz – whatever his clear attraction to 60s rock, you could hardly accuse him of limiting himself to one inspiration – and, rather more obviously on this showing, Hendrix. So out of all the possible influences that you could name, why Jimi? I guess the world’s media showed the same sparkling imagination when faced with a black rock dude as directors of airline ads displayed when this song came their way.

With a little distance, “Fly Away” seems more like an early incarnation of the staunchly revivalist rock strain we’ll meet a couple of times in the 00s – though less aggressively self-important than tracks by the Stereophonics or Jet, less intriguingly hermetic than something like the White Stripes, less interesting than almost anything, come to think of it. Kravitz had, in fairness, more range than this single suggested. But if you wanted something whose plain aim was to sound like rock music was meant to sound and not much more, “Fly Away” was your jam. The hook is sturdy, the beat chugs economically, you can jab the air to it and still keep a hand on the wheel. To the stars! Or maybe Mars! Or then again, maybe not.

3

Comments

  1. 1
    thefatgit on 25 Sep 2014 #

    Take “In Bloom” and squeeze all the disdain and sneer from it. Turn what’s left into a jingle and hang everything off the monster hook. Package it as though Kravitz is the answer to that nagging question all the Q heads had been asking since Britpop imploded: WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF ROCK SOUND LIKE???

    Answer: not this.

  2. 2
    Cumbrian on 25 Sep 2014 #

    Funny you mention Jet (alongside New Bunnied Welsh Band) – because they reminded me one hell of a lot of Lenny K’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”, which is comfortably the high water mark of his career as far as I can see. The riff slays “Fly Away” and after the solo, just as it’s about to get boring on another run through, the drums ring out last orders and he just downs his pint and walks out. Mark Romanek’s video is classic too – everyone knows it’s just a mid-70s rock track, all the band have 70s haircuts that belong to different groups from the era, there’s a ridiculous lighting rig that descends like a crown of light at the beginning as Lenny plays 70s Rock God/Jesus poses and there’s a load of people dancing around like it’s an episode of TOTP from 1974 as well. Uncomplicated riffage that everyone seems to know is a bit ridiculous that doesn’t out stay its welcome.

    Fly Away on the other hand seems to have lost all of that sense of fun. It’s just a bit po-faced and serious. He’s not the only rock artist that got to this point of the 90s in this frame of mind but he is the one we’re discussing here, so he’s the one getting it both barrels from me – this attitude was a real downer and made bands like The White Stripes and, later on, The Darkness, really stand out as not being too up their own arse to realise that a bit of artifice and playfulness wouldn’t go amiss. So a pox on you, Lenny, for this – but I still love AYGGMW? so you’re not all bad.

    On a personal note, I think I might actually be able to re-engage with music again after about 4 or 5 months of just hating virtually everything. Weirdly, having a U2 album foisted on me without me realising it, was just the thing to make me want to listen to something else. Especially if that is the answer to the question WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF ROCK SOUND LIKE???

    It’s not Fly Away. It’s not whatever that track about Joey Ramone is called either.

  3. 3
    flahr on 25 Sep 2014 #

    #2 Surely you don’t m-m-mean… “JOEY RAMONEY” BY HELEN LOVE?

    This is a bit pants. About its only virtue is that it doesn’t last longer than four minutes, which it very easily could. I actually like rock music and even I struggle to imagine anyone ever actually buying this. You bet I want to get away: [2]. Only slightly better than Elbow.

  4. 4
    Tommy Mack on 25 Sep 2014 #

    Is there a song about Joey Ramone on that free U2 album? At least that explain’s why they’re projecting Joey’s face on Bono’s outline in the advert like Freddy Krueger’s chest of tormented souls. Never been so glad I plumped for Android.

    Lenny Kravitz: Of the two songs I know (the two mentioned already) – I’m always pleased to hear the opening riffs and then bored once he starts singing. He’s a weird bugger really, isn’t he: like a real-life version of a rock star from a kids’ TV sitcom: a kind of Mondeo man’s Bobby Gillespie; all gesture and reference and attitude but without the this-and-this-and-this-too inclusivity of Primal Scream.

  5. 5
    thefatgit on 25 Sep 2014 #

    Yes! An American Primal Scream was what I was trying to think of.

  6. 6
    Kinitawowi on 25 Sep 2014 #

    Kravitz did a decent enough American Woman and It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over is perfectly servicable; AYGGMW is a solid classic.

    But as noted, this is in fact the answer to WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF ROCK SOUND LIKE???: dull, plodding and nowhere near as good as anything else he’s ever done. Still, it’s not as bad as Jet; 3 is about bang on.

  7. 7
    23 Daves on 25 Sep 2014 #

    One for my personal “Did this really get to number one?!” file. I had no idea. Clearly I was looking the other way when the charts were announced that week, and I’d always assumed it was merely a moderate top ten hit, though even that is more than it deserved. I can’t think of much to add to the discussion.

    However, I can’t let a Lenny Kravitz thread go by without bringing up this utterly bizarre appearance on the long-forgotten late night music show “The Dome”: http://youtu.be/ZPrRhdwG8Ec The backing musicians, pros that they are, calmly continue performing as if nothing is amiss, waiting for the great man to return and cut them free from their rehearsed cycle.

  8. 8
    Ronnie on 25 Sep 2014 #

    This is one of those songs I like and don’t particularly mind that other people don’t like. People *shouldn’t* like it, honestly; if there was a major critical upswell in support of “Fly Away” (especially in this, the year of 2014), something would be seriously wrong. The lyrics are pretty thoroughly awful, and musically it’s a lumpen and unfinished thing.

    But I can’t help it, I hear that riff and my mind goes FUCK YEAH. Call me a traditionalist, I guess.

    And as for why Kravitz got compared to Hendrix, it’s because on his biggest and best song, he sounded like he was trying to be Hendrix. Kravitz did indeed have many influences but rarely more than one on the same song (possibly less, in the case of “Fly Away.” Anyone care to identify any precursors?). Kravitz reminds me quite a bit of Bruno Mars, another artist who is quite enjoyable when working in self-conscious but mostly tedious when working as himself.

  9. 9
    lonepilgrim on 25 Sep 2014 #

    this sounds like the kind of song you might make up in the shower while pissed – the lyrics are neither as quirky as Prince, as engaged as early 70s Stevie Wonder or as starkly dumb as the Stooges (to pluck three comparisons out of my addled brain); instead they are lazy and dull. The music is like a treadmill, simulating movement but going nowhere. Could do better

  10. 10
    chelovek na lune on 26 Sep 2014 #

    An interlude (and far too obvious candidate for advertising jingles) rather than a joy to treasure and consider at length: positively, less cringingly pastiche-esque than some of his work (“I Build This Garden For Us” – bleurgh, you AND John Lennon, eh?). Negatively: not terribly interesting or substantive, if unobjectionable, but very far in stature from when he really was good (“Believe” being his standout track IMO)

    I remember Carter USM, in a creative lull, having a (pretty, well in fact very) crap single dissing both Lenny and Terence (Trent d’Darby): no fair, the latter, while prone to self-influence and noodling (…) was immeasurably more creative and had a broader range. Here, as too often, Lenny seems like a late 60s psychedelic rock revivalist who just, and too evidently, wasn’t there. “Fly Away” though? It has energy and drive, at least, up to a point. I kind of file it alongside Jamiroquai’ s recent no. 1, both stylistically and terms of the place it holds in the artist’s own catalogue: looking back, and far from the artist’s best, perhaps too weighed down by imagined, but not terribly inspired, ideas of times (recently) past. 5

  11. 11
    JLucas on 26 Sep 2014 #

    Am I right in thinking that this was heavily used in a popular advert at the time? (I want to say Levi’s, because it was always Levi’s…) or did that only happen after it was a hit?

    Because as obviously commercial as this is, it’s a weird anomaly in Lenny Kravitz’ surprisingly poor UK chart career. Prior to this his sole top ten hit had been AYGGMW – #4 in 1993 – and the previous two singles from the album had charted at #48 and #75 respectively. To date he’s only returned to the top 40 once subsequently, enlisting P.Diddy and Pharrell Williams to guest on ‘Show Me Your Soul in 2004 and getting a #35 out of it.

    That’s a really poor record given how well known he is, although he’s had hits in America that didn’t really do anything here. As for the song, it’s a decent hook but little more. Inoffensive daytime radio fare that I can’t summon particularly strong feelings about either way and couldn’t at the time either.

    5

  12. 12
    Alfred on 26 Sep 2014 #

    Although it never hit #1 in the States, “Fly Away” was massive — omnipresent like few #1 singles are. From 1998-2000 it and “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” ruled recurrent playlists. It also augured Kravitz’s brief period of superstardom, of which “Again” would be the peak. As a guy who bought “Let Love Rule” in ’89 because I was too young to start buying Prince (wait another year), I never thought he topped the light, buoyant, Earth Wind & Fire/Spinners homage “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over.”

  13. 13
    mapman132 on 26 Sep 2014 #

    Surprised by the negativity this one is getting. Perhaps it’s because it’s a bit of a monolith – used in commercials, stadiums, you name it, at least in the US – perhaps similar in the UK? Every time I hear this song a flying skateboarder appears in my mind – not from the music video apparently – must’ve been from a commercial. Despite the overexposure, I liked it then, and see no reason to change my mind now. 8/10.

    LK’s had a very strange chart career in the US. His highest charting hit – and only Top 40 entry until “Fly Away” – is “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over”, blocked at #2 by Bryan Adams in 1991. Shockingly, AYGGMW missed the Hot 100 entirely even though it’s better known than IAOTIO even in America. Maybe there was no single release (?), but other LK singles were released around the same time (ex: “Believe” peaked at #60). LK’s highest charting Soundscan-era hit is “Again”, #4 in 2000.

    Bringing us back to “Fly Away”: It peaked on the Hot 100 at #12. So obviously it wasn’t as popular in the US as the UK, right? Not so fast: It was the 29th biggest Hot 100 hit of 1999, but only 58th in the UK. A perfect example of the difficulty of comparing peak positions in the US vs. the UK – of course, I’m as guilty as anybody at attempting to do this, perhaps more so.

  14. 14
    Alfred on 26 Sep 2014 #

    1999 was also the year in which physical singles became almost non-existent and airplay counted for a lot but not enough.

  15. 15
    Matthew K on 26 Sep 2014 #

    Agreed Mr Kravitz is a waste of resources, but I am always amazed by the casual hate for Primal Scream as if they were purely derivative. Have you guys even heard Vanishing Point, or XTRMNTR? Those albums are insanely good, and anything but slavishly derivative.

  16. 16
    Ed on 26 Sep 2014 #

    @11 Yes, Fly Away was the soundtrack to a commercial for the Peugeot 206, which I think was the reason for its otherwise inexplicable success.

    This is the ad, which must have looked pretty cool for 1999:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vm6u4tAFmjM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    An all-time great YouTube comment below, too, praising the song but lamenting that the fact that the Peugeot 206 was a step back in terms of reliability from the 205. I think that says everything you need to know about the music.

  17. 17
    Ed on 26 Sep 2014 #

    @8 Kravitz may have been trying to sound like Hendrix, but he didn’t get very close, did he? I agree maybe there’s something a little Hendrix-like about the vocals, but the guitar is a million miles away. Hendrix really didn’t play that kind of grinding distorted chordal riff very much at all. Maybe on Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), but there he screws it up spectacularly , rather than playing it straight.

    And the drums are not remotely like the suppleness of Mitch Mitchell.

    I think of Kravitz as a prime example – and perhaps the first example – of what Mark Fisher says about the Arctic Monkeys. It’s clear he’s a revival act, but it’s much less obvious what he’s reviving.

    Overall, the effect is not so much that he’s trying to be Hendrix or whoever, more that he’s going for a general aura of old-timeyness.

    Which makes him perfect for a car advert. He can sound like one of the stars the target market will remember from their youth, without carrying any controversial ideas about society, politics or sex that might upset people.

  18. 18
    Steve Williams on 26 Sep 2014 #

    Of course we’re still on 1999’s amazing run of one week number ones and I guess this is what you might come up with if there was some sort of rule that there had to be a different number one every week – a fairly likeable and inoffensive song that the majority of people would find agreeable enough.

    I found it quite an interesting period. There’s certainly been plenty of diversity over the past ten number ones and to have them all in successive weeks surely creates the most frantic period in the history of the charts so far. I’ve also got fond memories of this era because at university our course, apart from one exam, had the whole of January off (but to make up for it we ran longer into December than any of the other courses, meaning the week before Christmas 1997 there were about a dozen of us rattling around the halls of residence) and it was the last time I had a long carefree period of doing next to nothing without knowing I had to get a job.

  19. 19
    GREEN WITH RAGE on 26 Sep 2014 #

    @15 – First posting after reading for about a year, around Earth Song time (I’m more enthused and engaged this week FOR SOME REASON – see para 3 below) and I’m using it mainly to provide a high 5 for Matthew K. Ver Scream are one of the most frustratingly inconsistent bands I’ve ever had the dubious pleasure to call a favourite – far too happy to revert to basic bloozrock when it suits (although, given recent tragic events, the reasoning behind that may be all too sadly apparent), but capable on a good day of ridiculously inspired and thrilling music. Screamadelica, natch, but I got very excited by my first hearing of Kowalski, pretty stoked by the parent album, astonished by the MBV Arkestra remix single (plus the gorgeous Darklands cover on the flip)… and then came XTRMNTR. Holy cow.

    The pinnacle of Gillespie’s paranoia and anti-establishment rhetoric, this time utterly justified and powered on by the greatest punk-disco-white noise fusion there had ever, HAS ever been, made this utterly vital and a handy trump card for Alan McGee to crow about his championing of “dangerous” music (like, erm, Ed Ball and One Lady Owner). I adored this album immediately, felt perplexed by my friends’ ambivalence towards it, and still play it loud every chance I get. The Glasgow Green show the following summer remains the best gig I’ve *ever* been to.

    And as a disaffected Scot even more worried for the future after last the events of last Friday, “Exterminator” the track has accompanied many a nervous trudge around the streets, in this most difficult of weeks.

    Oh, sorry, yeah – Kravitz? Nah, mate. Guff. TWO for the riff, docked a point for my Uni halls mate declaring this to be the greatest rock song in ages and boasting “I can play that song!” – no, friend, that’s the 10 second riff and no more.

    ONE.

  20. 20
    GREEN WITH RAGE on 26 Sep 2014 #

    @19 – and I got my website address wrong. Still getting used to it – 2 days young and all that…

  21. 21
    Cmmmbase on 26 Sep 2014 #

    @13 – there was no US single release for AYGGMW, hence it didn’t chart on the Hot 100. It was a massive rock radio hit though (#1 on mainstream rock and #2 on modern rock charts).

  22. 22
    PurpleKylie on 26 Sep 2014 #

    #1 on my 11th birthday. I remember watching CD:UK (I’m really showing my age here) and being surprised that this song out of nowhere got to #1, I hadn’t heard the song at all before then.

    It sounds exactly what it was used for: an advert soundtrack, nothing else. Meh.

    It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over is a tune though.

  23. 23
    Tom on 26 Sep 2014 #

    I remember this as being an ad, but I thought it was for Virgin Atlantic, not for Peugot. No reason it couldn’t have been both, of course.

    #19 welcome Green With Rage! And good luck with the new blog! I think with Bobby Gillespie there’s a slight touch of the Bono or Damon about him – artists who, while everyone admits (to a greater or lesser degree) that they have made SOME good music, are still quite easy to mock as people. A disgraceful impulse, perhaps, but there it is.

    I never much liked XTRMNTR, to be quite honest, but I was coming off my personal peak listening to noise and krautrock and so on and was a bit snobby about it – perhaps I should revisit. Vanishing Point I liked a lot more, though it has one of the single worst overreaches of their career with “Star” – what ever possessed BG to think he could do Sly Stone? “Kowalski” I loved though, partly because it found something effective to do with Gillespie’s voice, always their main problem.

  24. 24
    Nick R on 26 Sep 2014 #

    @19:
    >and boasting “I can play that song!” – no, friend, that’s the 10 second riff and no more.

    Hey, every guitarist knows that once you can play a song’s intro hook and the first four bars of the solo, that’s all you need to be entitled to say “I can play that!”

    Verse background rhythm parts? The variation between a bridge leading to the outro and a bridge leading to a chorus? … Bah, who has time to learn details like that?

  25. 25
    swanstep on 26 Sep 2014 #

    Like ‘Praise You’ and ‘You Don’t Know Me’, ‘Fly Away’ takes a single, relatively pleasant musical idea and then beats it into the ground. Sober, I think all of them need their videos to be bearable, and I’m somewhat bemused by their wildly disparate Popular-responses. Next! (and I love Tom’s ‘getting this one out of the way’ antsiness here):
    3 (4 or more if drunk)

    Note: I think that kids today mainly know Kravitz from his role in The Hunger Games films (and also from his roles in things like The Butler and Precious). Such is the lot perhaps of rock stars most appreciated just for being ridiculously good-looking.

  26. 26
    swanstep on 26 Sep 2014 #

    The vid for ‘Kill all hippies’ from XTRMNTR is one of the best things ever: http://youtu.be/E86gWQs-ios

  27. 27
    Matthew K on 26 Sep 2014 #

    @19 and @26 – my humble thanks for solidarity. Thought I was losing my mind. And yeah the blues rock is a poor contrast to their caustic, blistering heights, but I will even defend “Pills” to the naysayers.

  28. 28
    Matthew K on 26 Sep 2014 #

    And @23 Tom, I was neck deep in Neu! and noise rock at the time of XTRMNTR but it felt like a savage affirmation of those roots. The venom and abandon with which they laid into the material erased any sense of pastiche or curation. Sometimes you grab the best tools that come to hand without inventing from scratch (cf Dylan, Bob).

  29. 29
    Tommy Mack on 26 Sep 2014 #

    @15 – I wasn’t knocking Primal Scream or calling all of their output derivative. Just comparing LK to Bobby in terms of being singers with an image built on classic rock tropes. XTRMNTR was one of my very favourite albums for many years after seeing a blinding performance at Reading 2000 and the only reason I’ve gone off it a bit is from playing it to death.

  30. 30
    Tommy Mack on 26 Sep 2014 #

    Tom @23: I’ve come to quite like Star: it’s like watching Homer Simpson trying to climb the Murderhorn, you can’t help admire the naive chutzpah although the Sister Rosa/Dr King stuff is a bit studenty even for Bobby.

  31. 31
    Weej on 26 Sep 2014 #

    Haven’t we done Primal Scream in a recent thread? Anyway, I love XTRMNTR / Evil Heat, but I can easily understand why people don’t like Bobby Gilespie – he’s not so much a phoney as someone who constantly over-reaches due to (presumably) a lack of self-awareness. He genuinely doesn’t seem to realise when he has just spent half a decade creating what turns out to be a whole load of unoriginal nothing, but occasionally he seems to just get it completely right. Is Lenny Kravitz guilty of the same? Not really – he’s a talented pastichist who occasionally strikes gold (AYGGMW and IAOTIO for example), but for the most part he’s made solid radio-friendly rock which happens to be sort of limp and dull and, well, it’s a living, I suppose. They do both play the rock star a bit too much, especially now that it’s a firmly retro look, but it’s a forgivable crime. Basically I think Kravitz knows but doesn’t care, and Gillespie doesn’t know but really does care.

    By the way, Stardust by (the in my view unfairly derided) Menswear is a pretty viscious take-down of Bobby Gilespie which seemed to be missed at the time – “He’s a superficial fucker”

  32. 32
    Tommy Mack on 26 Sep 2014 #

    That (Stardust) seems quite unfair: Bobby Gillespie is like when you used to play cowboys or Ninja Turtles or whatever as a kid and you got so into it you told yourself you were a cowboy or a turtle and you swore for a minute it almost happened, like Carlos Castenada convincing himself he’d become a crow after he met Mescalito: he’s so excited about rock and punk and acid house he wants to be rock and punk and acid house and if he plays the game hard enough, maybe just for a minute he can be. How can you hate that?

    I never get the impression PS want to just recycle old myths to feed off the cool of the old myths. They want to make new music but they love the old myths so much, they want the old myths to be a part of the new music.

  33. 33
    Cumbrian on 26 Sep 2014 #

    For me, Gillespie and PS are more about who they choose to work with. I don’t think that it’s that they want old myths to be part of new music as much as they don’t have the talent to make new music sound like anything other than old myths when they are left to their own devices. That’s why their best records have heavy doses of people like Andrew Weatherall and Kevin Shields on them, the indelible moment on Shoot Speed/Kill Light is when Barney from New Order rocks in with the killer riff and there is usually an inverse law of quality to audibility of Bobby’s vocals/lyrics.

    Having managed to turn this entry, at least partly, into a discussion about Primal Scream, and the previous one into a discussion of Dire Straits, which of us will dare to try turn the upcoming bunny into a discussion of some more white, British, rock musicians and who will they choose? Athlete? Coldplay? Travis? I guess there is a way in on Travis…still, I would hope we’d manage to avoid it, given the next record is a lot more interesting than Lenny K’s efforts here.

  34. 34
    flahr on 26 Sep 2014 #

    Was the Peugeot advert before it hit #1? I have a Sporcle quiz to update if so so would appreciate confirmation.

  35. 35
    Ed on 27 Sep 2014 #

    @23 Wiki doesn’t mention this in a Virgin Atlantic ad. Virgin used ‘Crazy Horses’ around this time.

    This suggests it was an ad that got Fly Away to number one:
    http://www.adnews.com.au/26A2C72C-B5C9-4EB3-92BE8D68FBF5548D

    I’m no expert, but I would guess it’s a bad idea to use a song for your ad that’s already in use by another brand.

  36. 36
    DanH on 27 Sep 2014 #

    I’ll join the crowd…”Fly Away” is sooooooo boring. I have a lot of time for both “It Ain’t Over til it’s Over” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” but that’s as far into Kravitz as I go. I seem to remember hearing his stuff a lot here in the U.S. in the early ’00s…”Stillness of Heart,” “I Belong to You,” “Dig In,” “Again”….it’s sad I remember all these watered-down tracks. Especially hate his “American Woman” cover, a classic case of butchering a song I didn’t really like in the first place. Note how he evokes “Fly Away” at the end of that song too….oooh how subtle, sir….

    On a lighter note, we all know the Four Chords of Pop (“Don’t Stop Believing”)…is there a Four Chords of Rock I hear in “Fly Away”? Can sing “Wonderwall,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” over it…anything else…? ;-)

  37. 37
    Doctor Casino on 27 Sep 2014 #

    Can’t pretend i always hated this – I think I enjoyed it the first and maybe second time I heard it. That was about it though, and I’ve never once wanted to hear it since its heyday. This whole period of Kravitz was tough to take, just too much “Look! ROCK! I am ROCKING! Are you ROCKED?” without enough actual rocking. I liked some of the earlier ones, and “Black Velveteen” just for not sounding like this.

  38. 38
    Chris Retro on 27 Sep 2014 #

    I quite like Lenny Kravitz, but this isn’t all that great. It was a hit due to an advert at a time when his commercial stock in the UK was at an all-time low.
    I don’t mind it, the best thing about it at the time was that it brought something different sounding to #1 – and compared to the dreck that was to come in 1999 this is a masterpiece. But the track itself doesn’t do anything or go anywhere – although going round in ever-decreasing circles with Lenny is much more preferable to 911, Boyzone and the about-to-be-unleashed Westlife.
    In terms of sound and radio play, the follow-up to Fly Away as far as the British public were concerned was the New Radicals single which seemed to be playlisted for the duration of the year once it charted – both 60’s/70’s Americana streamlined for 1999.
    The best thing about Fly Away for me though was Lenny’s cool hat.

    I’ll give it a 6 – even as a bit of a Kravitz fan I can’t pretend it’s any better than that.

  39. 39
    Ed on 27 Sep 2014 #

    Looking back, the number of advert soundtracks that made it to number one is the most “what were we thinking?” aspect of the 1990s charts. Say what you like about S____ C_____’s satanic reign, at least his songs are advertising only themselves, and their singers, and the talent contest that spawned them. They aren’t trying to sell you plane tickets or a hot hatchback.

    The idea of people voluntarily going out and paying money to buy the soundtracks to popular commercials shows why Naomi Klein had to happen, I think.

    On a lighter note, It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over – Kravitz-does-Mayfield – is indeed rather lovely, and certainly my favourite of his hits.

  40. 40
    tm on 28 Sep 2014 #

    I didn’t know IAOTIO was Lenny Kravitz. It’s a much better Philly soul homage than this is a rawk one, so I guess credit’s due to him for range if not originality.

  41. 41
    wichitalineman on 28 Sep 2014 #

    The Kravitz homage thing – seemingly leaving most people cold – is interesting. I got into a twitter conversation about Robert Palmer the other day. He has a lot of people who’ll stand by him. But Every Kinda People (Curtis Mayfield, his IAOTIO), Addicted To Love (rawk), and Johnny And Mary (synthpop) are all homages to a degree. He also covered everyone from Allen Toussaint to Gary Numan to Cherelle to Husker Du. And yet, these records work as Robert Palmer records. Kravitz sounds like a pastiche of something ‘old’, no more no less, everything’s in the right place. The Kravitz process feels something like embalming (see also Give Out But Don’t Give Up), whereas Robert Palmer’s songs sound like a celebration (see also Angel Fingers). Maybe playfulness is the key?

  42. 42
    Another Pete on 28 Sep 2014 #

    I heard his latest offering ‘The Chamber’ on Radio 2. His latest homage seems to be to Elvis Costello and New Wave.

  43. 43
    Lazarus on 28 Sep 2014 #

    I thought ‘Let Love Rule’ was very Costello-ish, actually.

  44. 44
    Mark M on 28 Sep 2014 #

    Like various other people here seem to, I think It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over is by some way Kravitz’s best moment. But I’m inclined to feel that your ultimate judgement on him comes down to whether you think this shows that he has a sense of humour about himself, or reveals that he has no sense of humour.

  45. 45
    Justified Ancient on 28 Sep 2014 #

    @41 Maybe the difference is that Robert Palmer is a performer of songs whereas Lenny Kravitz is a mascot for a sound.

    Listening to “Fly Away” I wondered if the fact that its super-generic lyrics lend themselves so perfectly to ads, powerpoint presentations, in-flight TV programmes or documentaries about holidays in the sun / retired airline pilots / model airplane freaks / balloon aficionados etc, in the same way that James Brown’s “I Feel Good” has been thoroughly eviscerated over the years for similar purposes was not, at least in part, intentional. Like a retirement provision (“Ok, I’ve done the fluffy Curtis Mayfield stuff and the Hendrix pastiche, the retro nineties may be running out soon, let’s just quickly write a song that gives me decades of royalties”).

  46. 46
    Joe on 29 Sep 2014 #

    This is a bit like Inside by Stiltskin in that the it sounds much better in the brief bit used in the ad then as a full song although I’d put Fly Away a couple of points above Inside. I think the ad this was used on aired around November 98 because it was a while after until I first saw the video on some late night programme. Then it was another few weeks before it made No.1 which was a surprise to me as I presumed it was an old song from the early 90’s and having liked it a lot when the ad was first shown I was already bored of it. That’s one major negative effect on the charts at this time. By the time a song was released many people were already sick of it and the new songs on TV/Radio weren’t going to be charting for another few weeks meaning the charts were moving much faster then before but were now usually about 2-3 weeks out of date.

    #39

    It seems to be more common now for songs that have already been huge hits to start showing up on ads a few months later.

  47. 47
    punctum on 29 Sep 2014 #

    What is the point of Lenny Kravitz? That he is an accomplished pasticheur is beyond question, but you could say the same about any Shaftesbury Avenue pavement artist. He appears to want to live in an eternal 1970, but hasn’t really worked out which 1970 he prefers; Curtis Mayfield (“It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”) or the last days of Hendrix (“Are You Gonna Go My Way?”). Todd Rundgren could emulate his heroes to a frightening degree of accuracy – but that wasn’t all he was capable of doing. “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” seems to emphasise the contradictions; he knows his Hendrix records but is totally unaware of Hendrix’s reasons, so is capable of no more than “Crosstown Traffic” with period split stereo guitars and Rich Little grunts but minus all of the blood, uncertainty, apocalypse and true sex. With specific regard to the latter, his Madonna collaboration “Justify My Love” seems to me his one unarguable masterpiece in that he takes elements from the then-now (the Public Enemy drum loop and residual ambiguous harmonic echo) and creates an even newer nowness.

    “Fly Away” owes its success to its use in a Peugeot car TV commercial and scarcely seems to exist beyond the realm of advertising jingle; the left channel only guitar thunk is present and correct, uneasily struggling with 1972 synthy squelches and clavinet-as-bass-guitar as Kravitz whines about wanting to “fly away/just like a dragonfly” and inviting his unspecified other to help him “see the stars/The Milky Way or even Mars/Where it could just be ours” (confirming his dubious approach to both rhyming and scansion). But he never expresses any painful urge to provoke flying, nor does he betray what he’s flying from or why. It exists merely as a catalogue of referred reflex gestures in rock; ideal for those high-earning Peugeot drivers too busy to take in subtlety, subtext or tone in the music they profess to like and consume, and finally too busy actually to listen. 1 for the silent right channel during the intro

  48. 48
    Tommy Mack on 29 Sep 2014 #

    That’s a good point: emulating the 60s’ hard-panned stereo mixing belies the pointless authenticity of this particular approach to retro (I.e. doing it because it’s old rather than doing it because it’s good). In other words, certain aspects of the sixties are worth pilfering in and of themselves (who wouldn’t want to play or dress like Hendrix if they thought they could pull it off?) but reproducing one of the era’s ropier production quirks just seems a bit trainspottery.

    (The perhaps unplanned upside of the 60s brutalist approach to stereo being that by playing with the balance one can hear acapella/instrumental versions of classic albums of the period. In 1995 this allowed Dave Cross to use the backing track for Drive My Car for the classic anti-drugs song “Baby you can take some drugs/guess you’re gonna be a thug” during GCSE Drama. Happy days.)

    Anway, on to Britney…

  49. 49
    Rory on 29 Sep 2014 #

    Time for my Bateman moment as The Man Who Liked Songs of Innocence.

    No, really. It’s my favourite U2 album in twenty years. “California” and “Volcano” are highlights, but every track has something going for it, and it’s a long time since I could say that of a U2 album. I like the echoes of Boy and other early U2, and Franz Ferdinand, and James, and even the dread Coldplay. So there.

    Also, getting Apple to front up presumably millions for an exclusive deal was genius, given that the royalties from No Line on the Horizon can’t have amounted to much. It’s a trick you couldn’t pull off too many times, because attracting newcomers to iTunes will be a case of diminishing returns from here on, but who cares. Apart from the Irish Revenue.

    “Fly Away”, though: dullsville. I didn’t mind IAOTIO and AYGGMW, but as generic rock sounds go this is the definition of 4 for me, minus a point for coming 25 years too late = 3.

  50. 50
    ciaran on 20 Oct 2014 #

    Kravitz always struck me as the kind of rock star trying way too hard to be liked and one of those keepin it real style frauds.

    Fly Away was indeed used in a Peugout ad in early 99 so sadly it gave Kravitz a boost when his career looked all but over. The lyrics are terrible and goes on way longer than it should. 1999’s equivalent of Stiltskin.3.

    Even after it he never had a hit of note with the utterly dreadful American Woman cover later in the year a lowpoint.

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