What Indie Musicians Can Learn From Iconic Music Videos

Sources: Hypebot – Kathleen Parrish| All Things Michael

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Creating a music video that stands the test of time is tough, but not impossible. (In fact, narrowing this list to only four is almost as difficult!) Having a hit music video can sometimes make or break a song, so it’s helpful to study legendary videos for inspiration. Here are four distinctly different styles of iconic music videos, and how you can apply the same winning techniques to your own videos.

1. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson and his girlfriend run out of gas while driving in the dark. As Jackson gives the unnamed girl a ring and asks her to be his girlfriend, he tells her he is “different from other guys.” As the full moon rises, Jackson transforms into a werecat, urging the girl to run away. She does, but Jackson’s alter ego lunges at her and, presumably, kills her offscreen. Cut to Jackson and his girlfriend at the movie theater in real life, throw in some Vincent Price, zombie makeup, and an iconic dance sequence, and “Thriller” is one of the greatest music videos of all time.

Why it worked: “Thriller” broke new ground in both the music and film industries, merging the two mediums together. Creating a more complex story than many music videos at the time, along with its extended length, set “Thriller” apart from the rest.

What indie artists can learn: The catalyst behind now-commonplace longer length music videos, “Thriller” is a prime example of telling a great, compelling story within any length video. By really thinking through your storyboard, you’ll capture the attention of viewers and dramatically increase the chances that they’ll watch your video the whole way through.

2. “Take on Me” by A-ha

Incorporating pencil sketch animation and live action, the video follows a romantic fantasy between the lead singer and his girlfriend. As she reads a comic book, its car-racing hero reaches from the page, inviting the girl into his animated world. A chase with the hero’s racing opponents, a return to the real world, and a happy ending captivated fans, and the video was a huge success.

Why it worked: Director Steve Barron, responsible for the video for “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, delivered yet again with “Take On Me.” Besides the song’s inherent catchiness, its music video is still interesting to watch, even decades after it premiered. The combination of live action and animation is always iconic and timeless.

What indie artists can learn: Music videos are a great way to incorporate other forms of art. Consider utilizing your and your band members’ non-musical talents to create something a little out of the ordinary.

3. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen

The video opens with Queen singing a capella in the shadows, cutting back and forth to a live performance. During the middle of the video, a simulated opera of the band members appears before another cut to the live performance. Throw in a mixture of minimal effects, and you have the masterpiece of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Why it worked: Shot in near-darkness, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a perfect example of keeping things simple. The idea was creative and represented the song well due to its operatic nature, and the band because of its live performance aspect.

What indie artists can learn: Sometimes keeping a video simple is best. While there are some special effects in the video, the overall raw feeling allows the theatrics to shine, rather than any fancy trimmings.

 

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Excellent Book Review Of Susan Fast’s Michael Jackson’s Dangerous (33 1/3)

Sources: Michael Jackson Academic Studies – By Karin Merx | All Things Michael

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Dangerous by Dr. Susan Fast, volume 100 33 1/3, Bloomsbury, ISBN: PB: 978-1-6235-9; ePDF: 987-1-6235-6102-4; ePub: 987-116235-6156-7

‘Dangerous’ is a must read for every Michael Jackson fan, non-fan, critic or music lover. Dr. Susan Fast meticulously researched Michael Jackson’s 1991 album in a way that has never been done before and in doing so she puts Jackson back where he belongs; in the spotlight as the highly talented black musician and artist he was… and he was dangerous too!

The book also makes readers want to re-listen to the music and re-watch the short-films again and again.

Fast structures the book by dividing the songs on the Dangerous album into categories: ‘Noise’, ‘Desire’, ‘Utopia’, ‘Soul’ and ‘Coda: Dangerous’. Before she starts analyzing the songs, she places them in the context of the time addressing the problems that surrounded Jackson, to make clear this album is by no means the end of his career but foremost the start of his adulthood. Fast explores the use of noise in the Dangerous album, Jackson’s adaptation of hip-hop and classical music through his own interpretation and she integrates his short-films into the discourse.

Fast explores the use of noise in Dangerous, including Jackson’s adaptation of hip-hop and classical music through his own interpretation and she integrates his short-films into the discourse. On her way, Fast debunks the dominant narratives that surrounded Jackson’s life and explains in-depth how he fought against racism and other world problems, while maintaining his sense of self as a (hetero) sexual being. A closer look reveals that he is not at all the man-child that the critics persistently described him as. Counteracting these narratives is Fast’s representation of a mature intellectual man, artist and performer who knew exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it.

In the first two chapters, ‘Noise’ and ‘Desire’, Fast takes us along on a journey of the album’s first six songs. She dissects them, places them in context what Jackson meant and what critics made of them. At one points she has to ask herself if she watched the same short films that the critics did at that time. She describes in detail the sonic enhancements Jackson used as ‘non-musical’ sounds. She writes that on Dangerous, the noises are more than just a ‘cheap thrill,’ especially the breaking glass in the “Panther Dance” where Jackson ‘unleashes his profound rage against structural racism’.

In discussing the album cover art by Mark Ryden, where the globe is the central focus of the painting, Fast defines the fundamental idea at the heart of the Dangerous album as: ‘something is breaking, is broken.’ Jackson obviously used noise as a signifier for critique and he incorporated the hip-hop soundscapes, but he did it in his own way. From this album forward, he begins to use his voice more and more roughly, adding even more grittiness, “blackness”, machismo, noise and danger.

Fast also addresses the abuse Jackson had to endure regarding his gender and sexuality. He was often caught between being perceived as either the sexiest man on earth or a self-hater who destroyed his face to become a monster. The author neatly debunks critics who suppose that the sensual, passionate performances of Jackson must necessarily be carried over into everyday life. If he does not, the critics perceive the performance as faked. But Jackson was a master in modelling the intensity of his sensual body in his performances. According to Fast it is the combination of his softness and the erotic dynamism that makes fans believe he was the sexiest man ever.

Jackson apparently grouped the songs on this album to give four different views of love, and his message was that love could be complicated and cruel. She makes clear that Jackson was using an important strategy here, as he presented himself as shy, humble, respectful and disinterested in sex; which includes both on and off stage.

After the first six songs, she brings us into the theme of ‘Utopia’, which is defined as escape and mysticism. This section revolves around Heal the World (the seventh song of the fourteen), which is seen as ‘an important thematic pivot point’ because it moves the listener to a somewhat disturbing view of utopia. The songs are at the center of the album and Jackson offers two utopian visions: one more general view and one about race. For the first time the children are introduced and one can hear their voices in the music. As a matter of fact, on this album Jackson uses the voices of children for the very first time. But, Fast writes that it is important to know, he did not go for the conventional idea of a future that belongs to children. The song sounds white, and even though it is certainly clear that Jackson could easily made songs sound blacker. It is just not what he wants at this point with this particular song.

In “Black or White,” Jackson seems to mix white and black music conventions by having the black rap section performed by a white musician, while the white rock section is performed by Jackson himself, a black performer. She brings the short-film into the mix to discus Jackson’s racial politics and how he beautifully takes on the role of shutting the director out visually to emerge into his final coda. The “Panther Dance” is where the noise comes back; noise used as a form of protest. Jackson’s points were not immediately understood or accepted by the general public, which forced him to re-edit the “Panther Dance” with graffiti art, making it more intelligible to television audiences. Fast concludes that the circumcision of the “Panther Dance” was a violent act against Jackson as an artist and done only to ‘protect white sensibilities’. But she asked herself why he capitulated? Was Jackson aware of the fact that the public was not yet ready to be confronted with structural racism?

In the chapter titled ‘Soul’, Fast beautifully de-constructs the cover art by Mark Ryden, and reveals that Jackson also had the considerable input into the artwork himself. Given that Jackson was a very literate man, and a serious student of history and art history, the reference to Renaissance Christian art in his own work is really not so strange. The cover is divided into three parts like a triptych, with Jackson’s eyes behind the mask positioned at the centre. But there is more. We also see surrealism in the art that can be perceived as contradictory. It is a complex album cover that uses rich and ambiguous imagery. Fast wonders if it has any relation to theSgt.Pepper album cover of the Beatles and describes it as capturing Jackson’s expansive world-view, or ‘theology’.

The four songs that follow form the heart and soul of the record because they begin to address real ‘torturous personal struggle and quasi redemption’. No moralising, no children and no noise. Here we can read how Jackson attempts to merge these genres: the renaissance, classical, and rock. Jackson is able to use his voice, with its purity and versatility to the fullest expressive extent here, which is always pitch perfect.

Fast analyses how Jackson utilises Beethoven’s ninth. However, instead of answering the musical (unresolved chord) question like Beethoven does in the passage that follows, Jackson let’s it linger. This also brings to her mind the concept of Renaissance polyphony: ‘voices are reminiscent of the boys choirs’. However, the most important thing at that moment is how Jackson returns to the music of the black church; he gives the community a voice. In this cluster of four songs (“Keep the Faith”, “Will You Be There,” “Give In To Me” and “Who Is It”), Fast writes that Jackson made a spiritual journey, mainly by invoking different musical languages. The short-films for the three last songs I mentioned,do not do the music justice, according to Fast, and I must say I agree with her. For her, one of the reasons is the fact that Jackson does not dance. I have other reasons, but this is not the place to address them. Fast concludes that this group of songs expresses how Jackson was wrestling with religion, the soul, betrayal and redemption; serious adult stuff, she adds. And the cover art depicts the struggle so beautifully, bringing high and low art traditions together into one. This album is not merely about the ability to achieve commercial success, it is musical work about social unity.

“Dangerous”: The coda (which literally means ‘going back to the beginning’), signifies Jackson’s returning to noise, and to his breath. Fast describes Jackson’s musical use of breath as something of a sonic principle, sonically connecting the musical dots throughout this album. Fast calls “Dangerous” Jackson’s most ambiguous femme fatale song. According to Fast, all hisfemme fatale songs have different narratives and deserve a good thorough study.

Finally, when we reach the end of the album of this fine book, Fast concludes that Jackson was at his best when he was politically engaged and interested in social justice. She acknowledgesDangerous as a monumental album, the album that marks the point where he is fully matured as an artist.

Although it took 99 editions in the Bloombury series on popular music to dedicate the 100th edition to Michael Jackson, I am glad Susan Fast was the one who did the job. As a musicologist she is quite capable of writing about the complexity of Jackson’s music, offering a clear insight into his process. By placing the work in a cultural context: racism, politics, gender and sexuality, she also offers the non-musician an excellent read and good critical insight. Mostly because she makes crystal clear that Jackson knew exactly what he was doing as a writer and performer, his versatile voice and body combining high and low art to convey a serious message. Fast’s analysis also makes it clear that Jackson was able to ingeniously communicate his message through the compilation of the album itself. This book offers a much-needed in-depth analysis of Jackson’s music and art. Let’s hope it will forever silences the tabloids! Highly recommended… and don’t forget to listen and watch again!

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How To Play Eddie Van Halens’ ‘Beat It’ Guitar Solo – Lesson With Chris Zoupa

Sources: Ultimate Guitar – By Chris Zoupa | Edited By – All Things Michael

Eb Standard tuning: Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb

Difficulty: Advanced

This solo is diamond encrusted win. I remember hearing this solo as a wee tot and thinking “Hot diggity damn, that’s bogus!” Keep in mind it was the early ’90s and I would’ve been maybe 6. Now, an older gentleman, I put aside about 4 hours to nail and transcribe this solo properly and here we are.

The majority of this solo is a bit of whammy action and some tapping EVH style and if you’re familiar with Eddie‘s soloing style from other songs, you’ll probably see some motifs and themes of his you’ve seen in other songs and solos. As usual we’ll break the solo down into sections and look at anything that could be potentially problematic. I’ll also leave a link to YouTube and the tab at the bottom of the article.

Section 1 Tips

The opening to this solo is with the rising whammy. However the tapped and artificial harmonics are a little tricky (see excerpt below).

HARMONICDIAG

You’ll notice in the 3rd bar of this excerpt that there’s 2 artificial harmonics on the 14th fretof the 3rd string. Due to the tension changing between the 7th fret and the 9th fret the pitch changes as well as the technique. I found it easy to tap the first one and do an artificial pinch harmonic by gently brushing the 14th fret with my index finger on my picking hand and then plucking the string with my thumb. This is a very Eric Johnson way of getting harmonics smooth and less squealy harmonics. I’m not 100% whether Eddie taps both of them but it’s extremely difficult to get a clear tap harmonic the second time. If you listen to the John 5 cover of this song he plays a tap then the pinches like I do.

Section 2 Tips

The section deals with a pretty weird and complex legato lick that stretches from the 12th to19th fret. Let’s have a look at it as a 6 note shape (see diagram below).

STRETCHSHAPE

I tried a 2 formations and pointer-middle-pinky finger worked the best for me. If you use the ring finger on such a massive stretch the pinky note can be especially hard to get to. Get as comfortable as you can with this shape and the fingering you with to use as the lick we have to put with it is pretty tough (see excerpt below).

STRETCHLICK

Pay close attention to legato in this lick and be wary of questionably timed string changes. I dare say this little phrase nearly made me give up on the entire solo so be super patient with it guys.

Section 3 Tips

The tapping in the final section is a relatively simple idea played across 2 strings. There’s a bit of a stretch on the fretting hand but the tapping itself is pretty simple (see excerpt below).

TAPPING-S4

The timing on this is pretty predictable and consistent. We’re basically working in semiquaver (or sixteenth note) triplets. It’s not ridiculously fast on the tapping hand so you have options as to whether you want to have 2 tapping fingers (one per string), or to just let one tapping finger do all the work.

Finally, I wanted to have a look at the epic and fist raising crescendo of the solo that uses an aggressively attacked tremolo picking phrase (see excerpt below).

TREMOLOSHRED

Once again we’re ealing with semiquaver triplets. The timing on this is important. I listened to the solo countless times to nail the phrasing and to get the tremmed notes changing at the right time. If you can get your hands on a program to slow solos/songs down I would definitely recommend it for this phrase in particular.

Take care guys and happy shredding!

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Before Off The Wall

Sources: The Moderate Voice | All Things Michael

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Show me a modern day pop or RnB artist who wasn’t influenced by Michael Jackson? I can’t think of a single soul. For better or for worse, Michael’s impact on music can still be felt today in the music industry. Artists are still dressing like Michael, they’re still singing like Michael, they’re still dancing like Michael and they’re still making videos like Michael.

It’s amazing that when you think about the late King of Pop’s career most only consider the fruitful period in the 1980’s and almost completely forget what he did before that time. I simply get annoyed at folks who try to compare the Justin Biebers (even the great Smokey Robinson is at it) and Chris Browns of this world to Michael Jackson simply because I think they are disrespecting the utter scope of Michael Jackson and how he had an extraordinary talent even at the age of
twelve. Twelve years old, ladies and gentlemen.

The five killer Jackson Five songs, ABC, I want you back, Who’s loving you, The love you save and I’ll be there were all recorded before Michael Jackson was a teenager. Just think about that for a second and go back and listen to Who’s loving you and tell how a boy has any right to have that much soul in his voice. I feel pretty confident in believing that only Barbra Streisand and Stevie Wonder can claim to have possessed and publicly demonstrated such a godly talent at such an early age.

It isn’t just the vocal performance that we should revere – Michael was also a hell of a writer before he released Off the Wall. The man had a hand in writing all of The Jackson’s Triumph album which included songs like Can you feel it and he wrote Shake your body. These are all incredible songs and it is a shame that such feats are forgotten in conversations about Michael Jackson.

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With all of the above said, I understand why people focus on Off the wall, Thriller and Bad – they’re incredible genre defining pieces of work. All of them are in my top 10 favourite albums of all time and they are the main reasons why I have chosen to focus on Michael for the whole week on my blog.

 

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“ODINO” Revisits “Smooth Criminal” And Other Pop Favorites As Classical (Album Release September 22, 2014)

Sources: Aidem | Translated By – All Things Michael via Google

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Michael Jackson, Edith Piaf, Brahms, Daft Punk, ODINO revisits the highest standards of pop and classical symphonic version, thanks to conductor Sylvain Audinovski, who wished to open the symphony crossbreeding, to innovation and new audiences.

So these are 80 musicians who re-recorded songs like “Get Lucky”, “Disillusioned”, “Ode to Love” and “Smooth Criminal” by bringing a new dimension.

ODINO is a beautiful meeting of two musical worlds: the classical and pop. A full alliance of emotions where the melody becomes important.

 Video Teaser

Album Tracklisting

1 - Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson)

2 - The Hymn to Love (Edith Piaf)

3 - Get Lucky (Daft Punk)

4 - Disenchanted (Mylène Farmer)

5 - We Are The Champions (Queen)

6 - Symphony No. 3 (Brahms)

7 - Reach Out I’ll Be There (The Four Tops)

8 - Les Moulins De Mon Coeur (Michel Legrand)

9 - Skyfall (Adele)

10 - Requiem For A Fool (Johnny Hallyday)

11 - Pomp And Circumstance (Edward Elgar)

12 - Parla Mi Amore (Amaury Vassili)

13 - Dancing Queen (ABBA)

14 - Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)

15 - Kings of the World (Romeo & Juliet)

An album Universal / Polydor – Released September 22, 14

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Review: 35 Years Of MJ’s Off The Wall

Sources: Philstar Entertainment | Editted By – All Things Michael

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Michael Jackson started work on his album Off The Wall with Quincy Jones as producer when he was only 19 years old. They met when he starred in the movie The Wiz to which Quincy provided the music and they agreed that the famous Q would produce his next solo album. It was to be a most important one.

What came to be called Off The Wall was Michael’s fifth outing away from his brothers, the famous Jackson Five. He did four solo albums in his old Motown contract which produced the hits I’ll Be There, Ben, Rockin’ Robin, One Day In Your Life and others. This one was his first solo album under a new recording deal with Columbia’s Epic label. He would remain with Columbia, which later became Sony, up to the time of his death 30 years later.

Michael and Q finished Off The Wall early in 1979 and the album was released on Aug. 10, 1979. Michael turned 21 a few weeks later on Aug. 29. He celebrated not only his birthday but also a most successful solo debut that would change the sound and the look of popular music forever.  Everything would come into full bloom three years later with Thriller, but Off The Wall was the seed out of which a worldwide phenomenon for the ages would grow.

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To this day, I still believe that Off The Wall is superior to Thriller in terms of content. And Michael was so natural with the music. He was young, sexy and happy and it showed. Take a look at that bright-eyed guy on the album cover in a tux with his cute socks. There is not one hint in him about how complicated everything about him would become only a few years later.

Admittedly, there were already hints of his growing insecurities in Off The Wall. Listen to the first cut and first single release, Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough. He sings in the opener: “ You know, I was…I was wondering, you know, if you could keep on… keep on with The Force, don’t stop ‘til you get enough…” Those words, so full of fear, doubt and uncertainty, were to get Jackson on the road to undreamed of stardom.

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For those who remember and also for those who still have to experience this great album, here is Off The Wall once again, song by wonderful song.

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough: This is old disco with a funk spin but it still packs quite a charge when heard. And have you ever heard anybody sing falsetto the way that Jackson did? It was almost other-worldly. The first No. 1 single.

Rock With You: This is so nice and easy but still the sexiest song in the album. I still recall watching Michael sing this with that teasing smile on his face and his smooth hip thrusts.

Working Day And Night: This was never released as a single but Michael so probably believed in the song that he kept performing it live. Nowadays, it is not unusual to find this song in the Bad, Dangerous and other tours live recordings. This was also sampled in the Jackson/Justin Timberlake single Love Never Felt So Good from the posthumus album Xscape.

Get On The Floor: This is the album’s ultimate dance track. No way you will not get on the floor when you hear this one with Michael’s frenzied grunts.

Off The Wall: Another Top 10 single and the third hit tune from the album. MJ shows more confidence in this one and his vocal style shows a foretaste of what Thriller would be like.

Girlfriend: Just a sweet little ballad but it was written expressly for Michael by the most successful songwriter of all time, Paul McCartney.

She’s Out of My Life:  I do not know how it happened that so emotional a ballad got into the album but I am so very glad it did because it turned out to be another hit single and one of Michael’s best recordings. That tearful gasp of his towards the end is now part of pop music lore. Also part of legend is the rumor that this song was composed by Tom Bahler for the departed Karen Carpenter.

I Can’t Help It: Another nice up-tempo ballad that was composed for Michael by Motown cohort Stevie Wonder.

It’s The Falling In Love: A romantic duet with Patti Austin and they sing a song composed by Carol Bayer Sayer and David Foster, who plays the piano.

Burn This Disco Out: And it ends with more dancing in the same vein as Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough and Off The Wall with the then playful and innocent Michael ready to keep the boogie going and party nonstop.

Dangerous Talk with Susan Fast

Originally posted on dancing with the elephant:

Willa:  This week I am thrilled to be joined once again by Dr. Susan Fast, whose new book on the Dangerous album will be coming out September 25 from Bloomsbury Press. I just want to say up front that I’ve read this book twice now, and I’m still staggered by it. For the first time we have a detailed, in-depth analysis of one of Michael Jackson’s albums, and it’s amazing – it reveals how he conveys meaning through every layer of musical creation and performance. Some sections I’ve read numerous times, going through sentence by sentence with my headphones on, trying to catch all the details and nuances of meaning Susan identifies. I was quite simply blown away by it.

Susan, your book is such a treasure trove of ideas, as well as new ways of listening and thinking about his music. There’s so much I want to talk with…

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The Jackson 5’s “Dancing Machine”

The Examiner – By Ryan David | Edits By – All Things Michael

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By 1973, the popularity of the Jackson 5 was on the wane. The group had not scored a top ten pop hit since 1971’s “Sugar Daddy”, or a top ten pop album since 1972’s Lookin’ Through the Windows. Also by that year, the group felt limited by Motown, as the label would not give the group a chance to write and/or produce themselves, despite artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder already making that headway.

But in 1974, the Jackson 5 released the album Dancing Machine, and it brought the brothers back to prominence, thanks to the title track. The song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 (giving the group their first top ten pop hit in three years), and number one R&B. The song was first recorded in 1973 for the album G.I.T.: Get It Together, but was re-recorded when it became successful earlier in 1974. The song was later nominated for a Grammy in 1975 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

As “Dancing Machine” sat high on the charts, the song also became notable for popularizing the the Robot, which Michael Jackson performed during shows, particularly on an episode of Soul Train. While “Dancing Machine” proved the Jackson 5 could successfully parlay into the sounds of funk and the still-emerging disco, the group still felt limited creatively, and “Dancing Machine” would prove to be their last top ten hit for Motown. In 1975, the brothers (minus Jermaine) left both Motown and the Jackson 5 name behind, and moved to Epic Records as the Jacksons (with Randy taking Jermaine’s spot).

As for “Dancing Machine”, the song continued to be a radio staple, and was sampled from artists including MC Hammer and Q-Tip, and had even made it’s way into Disney and commercials.

 

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