Chefs navigate dietary restrictions all the time. What if a proverbial music chef had to cook a meal without essential ingredients like guitar, bass, or drums? Here’s a list of 6 songs they could prepare to accommodate unique instrument preferences.
Aite, I’m coming clean, I’ve been binging Below Deck. Anyone seen this show? It’s on Bravo. It’s about the people that work on super yachts. It’s terrific escapism during this hell year as the show is set in places like Croatia, Greece, and Thailand. So for 45 minutes at a time, I pretend it’s me jumping 50 feet from the yacht bow into the sparkling turquoise water.
Each yacht crew includes a borderline Michelin star chef, so it’s like 20% a cooking show. It’s basically Chefs Table + The Real World + Parts Unknown on a boat. It’s fun! But anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be an ad for Below Deck…
I bring it up because before these uber-rich guests—who pay $250K for a three-day charter—come onboard they fill out preference sheets. And because they’re loaded and entitled, they’re picky as hell: no gluten, no dairy, no fish, no fried food, recently someone listed no onions for god sake! And of course each guests has unique preferences. The chef is constantly navigating this Tetris game of dietary restrictions to craft accommodating meals that hopefully don’t get sent back, much less relished!
This whole thing got my brain gears spinning. I was thinking about the idea of instrument dietary restrictions. As if a proverbial musical chef was handed an instrument preference sheet: no guitar, no harmonies, no programming, etc.
On balance, I am not suggesting these are the BEST songs that adhere to these restrictions. I think that would be too much to take on. But this is a list of great songs, performances, and most importantly, unique instrumentations:
Rock without guitar | Elton John “Holiday Inn”
Electric guitar IS Rock ‘n Roll. They are synonymous. It’s almost like trying to make a movie without actors. But much like Coco, Aladdin, or Wallace and Gromit, it’s been done and so has it with Rock.
This pick is a little like claiming Tracy McGrady was the best player from the 2000s. It’s a homer pick. But come on, we’re having fun! My pianist friend performed this song in college and I just fell in love with it. Love the piano line, absolutely love that “Holiday Inns” got a classic rock song. Lol. And the song is just so on the nose about life on the road. It’s great. Also can we please bring back drummers wearing crop tops!
Some fantastic and (probably should have been chosen) finalists: Radiohead “Everything in Its Right Place,” The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby,” Tears for Fears “Mad World,” Pink Floyd “Nobody Home, “ Ben Folds Five “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces.”
Hip-Hop without drums | Gangstagrass “Bound to Ride”
Drums are to Hip-Hop what guitar is to Rock. To that point, give me a great drummer and a dope MC and let’s go. Nonetheless, just like our last category, there is some amazing rap without that essential ingredient. Outkast “E.T. Extraterrestrial” is magnificent as well as Nas “Queens Get the Money” and Tyler, the Creator “Bastard” to name a few.
But for me this one was a lock. Gangstagrass all day baby.
I love this band. Probably my favorite Hip-Hop + other genre fusion project. I’ve been a fan for years, but it seems like the crew is really breaking through these days, they just got this Rolling Stone write up for their topical rendition of “This Land Is Your Land.”
No guitar, no keys | Royal Blood “Out of the Black”
We all know about iconic guitar and drum duos. But the drum and bass duo—a bit less common! Nonetheless, Royal Blood is throwing down the Thor’s hammer of musical statements to confirm they’re here to stay. I don’t even listen to music this hard anymore. But the song is so ravenously primal, the band is so tight, the drummer is so damn good, and the sound is so impossibly huge, I can’t turn away.
No drums, bass, keys | Yebba “My Mind”
I’ve watched this video over 100 times. It never ceases to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Of course I love Yebba’s voice and her technical acrobatics are in a class of their own. But the emotion she sings with… holy shit man. When she laments, “you say you love me but I know it’s a lie” you can literally feel her heart being torn apart inside.
It’s one thing to deliver this colossal performance for Sofar Sounds and announce your presence as a bonafide superstar. But I have always wondered if she could emote like this night after night on a 100 day tour. If you’ve seen her live, let us know!
No instruments | Kings Return “Ola Gjeilo”
Once we kick instruments out of the mix, we find ourself face-to-face with the strange world of acapella. Honestly not a world I care to venture too deep into. (Who is really into acapella besides the card carrying acapella heads?) But once you stumble into the Mines of Moria that is acapella, there is of course a million ways to go.
For me however, this was an easy choice. My wife showed me this video a few months ago and the first time she played it I cried. This is music at its most pure. This performance cleanses souls.
If you’re having a tough day, week, year, put this on, take some deep breaths, allow your mind to stop spinning for one minute. It will help.
No instruments, no vocals | John Cage 4’33’’