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Track Review: Yo La Tengo ‘You Can Have It All’

A mixing of two genres you never thought would work.

Abbey Collins

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Yo La Tengo gets inventive on their laid back track “You Can Have It All.” The song was included on their ninth album And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out in 2000. This will immediately capture your attention with a foreign sound and have you trying to pin down all the different elements that make you want to dance, cry and jam out to this bold release.

The band is comprised of Georgia Hubley on drums, Ira Kaplan on guitar and James McNew on bass, with all contributing vocals. They have been constantly evolving since their start in 1984 where the three have experimented with their signature indie rock sound.

“You Can Have It All” borrows from George McCrae’s 1974 release of the same name. Yo La Tengo twists this disco original into a somber song that is so unique you will want to keep listening — in an attempt to understand how what shouldn’t work, works.

Think The Velvet Underground mixed with João Gilberto to form an idea of what this track is feels like.The two opposing genres clash on the song, making the first listen jarring. The disjointed sound becomes more interesting than appalling upon continued listening.

Throughout the song, there is an acapella voice serving as a beat and demanding your attention. The repetitive voice chants to create a bossa nova inspired rhythm. Paired with this happier vibe is melancholy rock inthe droning guitar and repetitive, almost muted drumline sounding percussion.

There is a lack of variation in the song’s lyrics with two lines, “You can have it all” and “Take it baby” taking up almost 90% of the song. The simplicity of these words becomes hypnotic the more they are repeated.

Members Georgia and Ira are married and their romantic sentiments are clearly expressed in the song’s message. They croon lyrics that are laser-focused on giving the each other everything the they possibly can. Their “heart / love / time” and their “last dime.” The lyrics are very focused on one line, reflecting the both singer’s sole focus on each other.

What draws me back to listen to “You Can Have It All” again and again is that the song is like nothing I have heard before. Yo La Tengo’s complete disregard for what typical music should sound like and how songs should be arranged as is refreshing. This track is for those who have adventurous music taste and can sway and headbang at the same time.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Abbey Collins is a senior Communication Specialist major at Baylor University in Waco, TX. She loves live music and discovering new artists. She is graduating this fall and plans to pursue a career in media communications.

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