Why Yanni Reminds Me of Pissing in a Cup

What happened to the 'stache, dude?
What happened to the 'stache, dude?
Wikipedia.com

So who is Yanni, really? Is he merely a pin-up and a poser, some sort of schlock jock, a kitschy crusader like those who are unmoved by his grandiose symphonic hyperbole tend to suspect he is? Or is there something more to his New Age manipulation, something so compelling, it's possible to brush aside the bravado and verbosity to understand and appreciate what his legions have come to adore?

On the surface, it appears he's merely the musical equivalent of Fabio, an airbrushed idol that causes the ladies to pledge their devotion and the men to glare at him suspiciously, aghast at his pomp and pretension. Either way, you do have to hand it to him; whatever his charms, he was able to snag that babe Linda Evans -- when she was at the peak of her babe-ness that is. And the guy has made a mint by successfully convincing at least some people that New Age isn't merely Muzak in disguise, what with those crowning keyboards and swirling synths.


Still, I gotta admit, when my esteemed editor gave me an assignment to write about Yawni -- er, sorry, Yanni, I felt a bit embarrassed when I accepted so readily.

It's kind of like sitting in a staff meeting with the big boss at work and tossing out an anecdote about what happened the last time I was at the doctor's office for a check up and got a blood test, and then had to take a urine test immediately after, and I became so woozy after they took the blood, I couldn't get my aim straight to whiz into the jar.

It seemed like a funny tale at the time, but I knew immediately after the words starting escaping from my lips, I had made a strategic error in sharing the story at that particular juncture. I'm not making this up. It actually happened. The looks of shock and dismay on the faces of my co-workers made an indelible imprint that caused me to question not only my judgment, but my sanity as well. 


And so I had the same feeling after I opted to tackle a piece on Yanni. But then I remembered seeing that Yanni album in my wife's CD collection. It was situated right there alongside Loggins and Messina, Lionel Richie and -- oh God, can I utter the words?- - Kenny G! It was one of those things we never talked about.

Our musical tastes are so disparate anyway, so why aggravate the situation by bringing up the merits, or lack thereof, of a man who I inherently felt repulsed by, both musically and symbolically? But then, forced for the sake of research, I grabbed that damned disc off the shelf and put it on the player. Could I relate to those numbing Cirque-like soundtracks? Would it lead to aesthetic enlightenment? Is there a reason New Age is such a rage? Why would his label, Private Stock, put such stock in him? Can a lute or a bouzouki really make headway against the neo-classical crush of keyboards? And could I ever get beyond song titles like "Nightbird" or "Quiet Man"?


I tried. I swear to almighty Zeus I tried. (Note: the reference to a Greek god isn't accidental. Yanni is Greek after all, which may or may not explain why he goes by one name. Most Americans are too tongue-tied to attempt to pronounce a proper Greek last name.) I even tried convincing myself that his stuff wasn't any more pretentious than those Rick Wakeman solo albums I used to listen to long after he left Yes. Or the "Chariots of Fire" theme that I couldn't get out of my head whenever it came on the radio (A song which, I might add, was written by another uni-named Greek composer, Vangelis.)

I even bumped up my admiration and appreciation when I read Yanni used to be a member of the Greek National Swimming Team, which meant he had to wait an awful long time to grow his magnificent mane. (Try squeezing that hair under a bathing cap!) I mean, what a transition -- to go from being an athlete to composing material used by "Wide World of Sports" and the Olympics. Okay, maybe not. And maybe I am a bit bitter because some good looking dude with lengthy locks - uh oh, I'm thinking Fabio again - manages to make the women swoon and their husbands conceal their jealousy in order to feign admiration. 

 
Anyway, sorry, Yanni. I listened to an entire CD and I still don't get it. I know a lot of folks love you, but I'd be reticent to admit to anyone I actually listened to one of your discs all the way through. If this is what New Age is all about, then I guess I'm better off with middle age instead.
 
Yanni performs at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 17, 2011 at the Kravis Center, State Road 710, West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $30 - $135. Phone

561-833-8300


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