Nuanced and Compelling

The other morning I was listening to WFUV on my iPhone. I like to mix up my music listening from XM and my playlists to a NY radio station and WFUV is the best there in the adult contemporary world. Hot 97 is not for Jimmy.

I am listening to the DJ introduce a song from a group with whom I am not at all familiar. That is one thing I love about the station, it introduces me to new music as well as playing the hits of days gone by. Anyway, this new song promised to present “Nuanced and Compelling” layers of some sort. At the enunciation of these words I once again remembered why I never became a music critic.

I thought about nuanced and compelling and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to find out what they meant relative to a song. I would hate to find out, for example, that “I Want To Hold Your Hand” lacked nuance while the Byrds were good but short on compelling.

The Boss? Nuanced, no. Compelling? Hell yes.

Pearl Jam? Very nuanced.


My mother always used to say if you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say they lack nuance.

Nuance and Compelling brought to mind a song by Harry Chapin, “Mr. Tanner”. It’s one of my favorite Harry Chapin songs. It tells the story of a tailor/would be baritone who tries to break into the singing racket only to be smacked down like some un-nuanced, non-compelling stain-removing, one-hour-martinizing pants presser by a music critic who knew his way around Nuanced and Compelling”.

I remember people telling me back in the summer of 1977 right before I was to assume my duties as a seventh and eighth grade teacher at St. Vito’s that “those who can’t, teach.” I never understood what that meant. It’s not like I was a hitting coach for the Yankees who couldn’t hit himself but had the audacity to teach others. I mean, I was going to teach History, and English, Reading, and Religion. Did these critic wannabes who posed as friends think I couldn’t be a historian and therefore I had to resort to teaching history?

Talk about un-layered people.

Getting back to the morning DJ, I guess all he was trying to say was that the song about to be played was a really good song and I think you listeners will enjoy it. Did he think that he was helping in that regard by putting us on the alert to make sure we don’t skip a layer or miss that compelling, nuanced guitar riff?

Not feeling up to the task and not willing to admit that I could neither identify the nuanced nor the compelling, I went to my Summertime Playlist.

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