A little more than a decade ago, a self-proclaimed Japanese scientist called Masaru Emoto conducted a series of tests on water. One part of his experiment consisted of placing tap water in a glass and exposing it to different words. To put this in a more simple way: He spoke to a glass of water. After this, Emoto froze the water he’d been conversing with and studied how the water crystals looked. As insane as this all sounds (and is), according to Emoto, he made quite an interesting “discovery.” His results showed that negative and positive words had different effects on the water. Emoto’s conclusion was that if water is influenced with positive and kind words, the water crystals are nicely formed. On the other hand, if exposed to negative words and tones, the opposite happens and the water crystals become ugly and distorted. Now, what does any of this have to do with music?
Well, our track of the week, ”Gold Dust” by Ted Russet, deals with how important positive feedback is to all of us. We seem to need it on a daily basis, as this is how we evaluate the worth of what we are doing. If we get showered with compliments and praise, we are bound to think we are on the right track. Conversely, if we receive too much negative feedback, then rather soon we begin to form doubts about what we are doing. Here’s how Paul McCartney tackles the issue of negative feedback in an interview published by the Rolling Stone magazine in 2016:
I do albums and, like a fool, I listen to what people say about them. A New York Times critic damned Sgt. Pepper when it came out. The terrible thing is it puts you off your own stuff. It plays into your self-doubts, even though you overcame those self-doubts to write that song. You're left with this smell of the music – a whiff of something not very good – and that sticks with you.
I agree with this wholeheartedly. I also agree with Russet. Positive feedback is everything to us. No wonder he compares it to ”gold dust.”
The nice thing about Russet’s lyric is that it isn’t just about celebrating positivity. Although simple, it adds a nice twist to the theme of Mr. Emoto’s so-called research. Instead of asking all of us to walk around burying our peers in shallow compliments (which is what most songs that tackle this topic end up doing), Russet wakes us up to the fact that perhaps most of us are too dependent on praise, constantly hungry for reassurance from those around us, when we really should learn to have faith in ourselves – with or without positive feedback. I suppose the ideal state of mind would be the kind where we don’t need reassurance, “gold dust,” at all.
Russet describes rather well how hard pressed we are for an escape from reality, especially when life is not going our way.
You've been searching for gold dust
Because you have had enough
Of your boring everyday
Fighting through the mishaps
That life always gives out
You want to find an escape
But you need to try
You don't need gold dust to fly
When asked about the meaning of his lyric Russet explains:
The inspiration around the song is based off the idea that people are constantly searching for recognition in order to justify their dreams. Positive comments are like “gold dust” because people aren't always supportive of each other. The message is: You don't need “gold dust” (reassurance) to fly (succeed). You can grow and succeed without needing other people to tell you you're doing great. To me “gold dust” also translates further to mean literally anything that’s hindering your progression (drugs, money, etc.).
However, there’s more to “Gold Dust” than just the lyric. Musically, the song harks back to the eighties with an arrangement and production that reminds you of the likes of Duran Duran and Tears For Fears. Having said that, even though “Gold Dust” is clearly a celebration of the above-mentioned era in music, it is much more than a pastiche, mixing quite a few licks and tricks from a rather large variety of genres and eras. Good examples of this are the sixties-influenced a capella intro and outro of the song, the Eagles-flavored “ooh-ooh” harmonies in the chorus and the melody of the bridge that’s clearly modern (even if it does bring The Police to mind a bit). And this is ultimately what makes “Gold Dust” stand out. It’s a powerful collage of styles and yet, original at heart. Well, that and the fact that it really does have an irresistible chorus.
Since I had the opportunity, I also asked Ted about his relationship with music. Here’s his answer:
I have studied music through college and it has always and forever been the only thing that comes naturally to me. I love the atmosphere that music can create and the way it can make you feel happy on a bad day and can keep you going through a tough day. I have always been interested in how music works and how you can convey so many thoughts and emotions just by playing a few chords on a guitar or piano and by adding a melody over the top. To me, music always appears to be timeless and never appears to die, it just evolves.
Going back to Mr Emoto’s experiment for just a bit, a friend of mine (who I told about the water crystals and Russet’s “Gold Dust”) wanted to know what water has to do with people reacting badly or poorly to feedback. In case you are wondering, my logic was that since the human body is 60% water, negative feedback must affect us on that level as well. I do want to point out, however, that this was a thought that came to me in a restaurant car of a train after a few pints, so do not under any circumstances step into a freezer to find out what your water crystals look like after being yelled at.
You can learn more about Ted Russet here:
About the curator - Tommi Tikka
Tom Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in; to him, they are a way of life.