A track-by-track look at “The Futurist”

After further ado…


The Futurist
Vocals, keyboards and piano by Robert Downey Jr.

Man like me– written by RDJ

A soft set of piano keys breaks through the silence, slowly and steadily. With strings backing them up, the scene slowly builds.
We get somewhat of a summary of a situation on the verge of turning around for the better. In the chorus, we hear of a relationship that may or may not be based on actual events. The girlfriend is told not to throw her life away to be with him, but he insists she can’t see the man inside. Deep down, he is good. He wants this to work out and to dismiss troubles in the past.
The song only runs for a little less than 3 minutes, so not much can be made of the situation. But small words and phrases make a big impact on putting a spotlight on the situation. The vocals are impressive throughout (as I probably will repeat) and they run smoothly here, carrying the approriate emotions just tangible enough to understand. Despite the fact I’d heard it the most times of any of the songs (thanks in part to it being the “first single”), it speaks volumes with its simplicity

Broken– co-written by RDJ

Starts out slow, tribal drums come in and bring somewhat of a different R&B edge to the overall effect of the beat. It’s repeated several times that the title refers to a broken heart that is afraid to be shared. Somewhat under the impression its never going to run right, but is given a couple reasons in the other lyrics to give love chance again. Some of the personal baggage is brought in to explain the broken heart and there’s a turning point where he wants to burn bridges and leave the past behind.
This is played during the credits of “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”… as I have mentioned time and time again.
Poetically, its quite interesting (just came up with this next part). I was thought in our creative writing class that a good poem needs to have a process and the overall state of things needs to change from start to finish. In the somewhat out of place bridge, a moment is marked where he wants to change the state of things in his life.

Kimberly Glide– written by RDJ

The culprit of my grief earlier that’s now been resolved…

The lyrics are still somewhat of a mystery. Specifically who title of the song refers to. A couple times, its mentioned that she glides in the arms of “cactus angels” though its never explained what they are.
Possibly its him comparing dueling his own demons to how she’s handling her problems… sheesh, it almost sounds like the song could be about me, but I’d heard it so much lately to correct the error I may have be coherced into believing that bs…
only after reading the lyrics can I see that he spends a lot of the song battling those same demons, as seen in the previous track. Though I must say the piano and strings in this song work together amazingly… a great partnership among instruments

The Futurist– co-written by RDJ

While dealing with difficulties of the previous, 10 seconds of this song kept slipping into it until I managed to fix the issue.
My first impression of this song: it was strange beyond all reason… I didn’t understand it and wanted to dismiss it right away. But of course, I delayed that and any thing relating to writing that I wasn’t really into the song.
There’s a combination of things that didn’t sit right with me. The use of the strings made it sound a little weird in general. The chorus is the bigger reason because, I dunno, I just didn’t understand it. Heck, I still don’t, meaning I’ll have to look it up eventually. There’s a lyric about giving into to his soul survivor and in the interview when asked about it, he pointed to Susan Downey as his “soul survivor”… he claims that it would have been convenient for her to inspire the tracks on this album, but it may or may not be the case. So I’m not going to assume anything…
One particular set of words in this song, just the way they follow from another, just felt a little odd. As if he’s using some sort of poetic device similiar to alliteration (assonance, I believe) to prove a point… on that note, it is co-written, so it might not have been his idea. Who am I to criticize… the line that begins with “a furious, curious…” is still growing on me and may at some point not make me cringe… feels out of place. But the rest of the song did work on me quite a bit these past couple weeks

Little Clownz– written by RDJ

The meaning of this song really came across for the first time a couple listens ago. I forget it if it was last Friday or this past Sunday… but as my mind was getting a handle on the lyrics, predicting them as they came along, the meaning came through and blew me away…
During Inside the Actor’s Studio, James Lipton singled this out as his favorite track and asks about the lyric “hang on little clownz, you might just turn this world around”…
Robert explains that its about him and other people who are having trouble with their vises or perhaps life in general, and its him encouraging them that they can change, they can make a difference in their lives. There was one thing about this song that annoyed me for similiar reasons to the passage I highlighted in “The Futurist”… now that I know the actual lyrics, its not quite as cringe-worthy… in somewhat of a sing-song tone, he repeats a couple times “Hang on” before giving the rest of the lyric… I was hearing “hello” in place of “hang on”, so I was taken aback cuz it made no sense… now I’ve been set straight. I’m embracing this song as one of the best the album has to offer.

5:30– written by RDJ

The piano strokes were what drew me to this song at first. I was saying previously how I would love for him to stick to ballads and slow songs…it was nice to have a little excitement here for a change
We return to him working through his personal baggage, but using rhetorical questions as a device to figure out which way is up.
I’ll give it a couple more listens before I look it up to see what he’s actually saying, but I enjoy this one quite a lot. It’s my belief as he gets towards the end, making statements without really singing them out, he concludes that he was never as alone as he thought he was.

Your Move/Give peace a chance– written by Lennon/McCartney

Yikes… I need to look up the lyrics online because they’re not in the goddam booklet. I hate when that happens…
I suppose this is speaking to a higher power or whatnot about working through your problems, dueling your demons… but I don’t get much about RDJ in this song. So I’m kinda dismissing it as a filler on an album that’s more or less him working through his issues…

Details– written by RDJ

Another really good track. It starts in somewhat of a downtrodden state of mind… a lyric is repeated about “dying 100 times”… I guess you could call this an epiphany where he concludes that he’ll “spare the details” about “the times that [he] lied” and he “can’t lay down tonight”, having “already tried 100 times”… I’m not saying much more because I don’t remember too many lyrics, but it really gives a clear perspective of the situation at hand. Simplicity is where it’s at and this is somewhat of where we get a calmed state of mind that knows where it stands.

Hannah– written by RDJ

Time and time again, this song has defied my attempts to understand what the hell its about. What really throws me off is that it starts in one place and then there’s somewhat of a jazz/scat sequence in the 2nd half of the song. And I really can’t see what either have anything to do with one another.
When I start this song, it feels like lately that it carries a lot more meaning that I ever get out of it… we hear a couple piano keys played at once, and his voice is clear as a bell. Because a cover follows this song, I believe I’m getting the impression that this is the chance I really get to hear his heart & soul sing in something he’d written.
Oh yeah… the lyrics really help me understand the thought process of this track… omg… this is the kind of thing that could take years and several sleepless nights to figure out…
he first talks about Hannah sleeping on his floor everyday… then we’re talking about a boy-king, a buckskin, hoping for a suicide… neither storyline has anything to do with one another. Brilliantly put together as a song, the lyrics are taking away from the enjoyment I could get out of it.
How about lending a hand, Robert Downey [Jr]? Cuz I’m sure as hell am lost on this one, lol

Smile– written by [the great] Charlie Chaplin

Seeing as he recorded a version of this after playing Chaplin, it’s more than approriate that the album ends with this track. It leaves behind a most wonderful message. It’s also pretty easy to learn and get a handle on. The beginning makes you feel like you’re watching an old b&w silent film with only the piano as background music… it transports you back to a simpler time.
All the lyrics are repeated at least twice in this song. First we hear it through… then there’s a jam session between a piano and bass that makes little to no sense to me, but I guess it helps build up for whatever comes next…
Needless to say, its sound advice that we should all adhere to…

Only problem, nearly everytime I’ve listened to this, I end up sogging my pillow… either because I hate for the album to end, it’s a beautiful track (thanks for writing it, Charlie)… or it makes me think of my own emotional baggage… I just can’t see fit to smile at my life despite my heart aching and breaking, though there’s no use in crying, its something I’ve done a lot lately when I’m on my own. Heck, thinking about this sob story of a song right now is making me want to fall to pieces. Both for good and bad reasons…

Would I recommend this album? Hell yeah, I would… why not?
Sure, it might not be able to keep pace with the likes of Prince, Michael Jackson, or The Beatles, to name a few in the industry, but it’s really good for a first-time effort from a guy who’s an actor. Plus he can write music, lyrics and play the piano really well… what’s not to love about this project?
Aside from the Beatles cover.

And there you [finally] have it…
if I were half as talented, I’d totally want to write a couple songs to dispel my negative energy or at least make sense of who I am and the person I want to be…

One more thing I will say for it… it really needs to be appreciated as a whole. I find that the tracks by themselves don’t have as much impact as the whole product as a whole.
Great job, Robert Downey!

Guess we’ll see what happens tonight. ABC’s doing a special on movies, the best in each genre, best line, best character and best movie overall… it’ll be interesting to see what makes the lists and what doesn’t.

Then tonight at 11pm, I’ll have to see what I feel like doing. May end up dabbling in Charlie Bartlett again cuz its been a while… or giving the album another listen, though I think I might need to give some distance for a while before I get sick of it… I’d sure hate for that to happen…

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