Om Randy Newman
Randy Newman is a hard one to pigeonhole. He set the stage for such songwriters as Tom Waits and Lyle Lovett with his odd-mannered vocals and witty, yet bleak, narrative songs. A fine craftsman, Newman couples his talent for lyrics with catchy pop melodies -- the kind that grandma has the sheet music to and plays on hot, summer nights. He's like an unholy alliance between Elvis Costello and Elton John -- which means he's either too hip or just not square enough for much of the public. That said, Newman has been releasing strong albums since 1968, and he's even had hit songs, like "Short People" and "I Love L.A." -- with most missing the ironic content. Since Ragtime in 1981, Hollywood has paid his bills, and Newman has written a string of film scores, from The Natural to Toy Story. Song or musical suite, Newman's music offers snapshots of America -- some fawning, others unflattering.