Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Various Artists - W Hotels Warmth Of Cool - Overture

My younger sister works for a large pharmaceutical company out on the West Coast, and the nature of her job has her traveling all over the country, essentially trying to entice doctors and hospitals to make use of her company's products. It goes without saying that, as one of the leaders of Big Pharm, her company has more money than God Himself, enabling the firm's sales reps to live relatively well when they're out on the road. As such, my sis stays in some pretty swank places and enjoys some fine dining while making site visits. Shoot, I used to travel quite a bit for work myself, but the ambiance I encountered rarely rose above the level of a sweaty-smelling Radisson and T.G.I. Fridays-esque fare in some second-tier Midwestern burg. But I didn't hold my sister's comparatively gold-plated travel against her or her company, especially when, on the times where she traveled to fun places like Vegas or New York, she would occasionally invite me there to hang out and have a few laughs in the city. A free hotel room in the Big Apple is hard to say 'no' to!

During her frequent travels to New York City, she almost invariably stays at one of the many W hotels that dot the town. W Hotels is a subsidiary of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, a corporation that owns and operates the Westin, Sheraton, and St. Regis luxury lodging brands (among others). W is basically Starwood's boutique brand, their attempt to move away from the stodgy, old-fashioned, musty swankiness of their other hoity-toity hotels and project a newer, funkier kind of luxury to attract younger 'urban hipster'-type customers. That "hipness" is reflected in the decor - a lot of earth tones, beiges and dark woods, along with meticulously pebbled atriums containing quiet, sleek sculptures and water art (small waterfalls, fountains, etc.). Thanks to my sis, I've stayed in several Ws in the New York City area, and while they all have their esoteric differences, that nouvelle hip aesthetic is a hallmark of every one of them.

I enjoy the hotel rooms and their amenities, but frankly, I've never felt entirely comfortable in them. Why? Well, a couple of reasons, really. One big problem I have with W Hotels is that it seems they're trying TOO hard to be contemporary and hip, so much so that the whole effect comes off as forced and false. Examples? OK - the one-word shorthand codes for services and amenities: "Bliss" for their soaps and cosmetics, the fitness center is called "SWEAT", pet services and known as P.A.W. I guess it sounded like a good, funky idea when they were setting the places up, but after a while it's just a bit annoying, at least to me.

But my main issue with W Hotels is that in their drive to be 'cooler than . . .', they create a very peculiar kind of exclusivity and snobbishness far beyond that of other higher-end hotels in the city. The lobbies of the W give off a weird vibe of studied pretentiousness. Dark-suited and/or leather-clad young urbanites (both staff and visitors), looking like they're on their way to the next gallery opening, congregate in the desks or hold court in the large open bar area, all but looking down their noses at other folks who don't rise to their perceived level of fashion and sophistication. There's not a lot of Kenneth Cole or Versace in my everyday wardrobe, so I've always felt like "the poor kid in prep school" every time I'm in a W and have to walk through that gauntlet of pretension. I've stayed in other, more storied and swank hotels in NYC (including Le Parker Meridian, Gramercy Park Hotel and the Plaza), and in all of them have felt more welcome and accommodated than I have at the W. That "We're so cool, you really shouldn't be here" vibe there is something they really need to work on to rid themselves of, if they're serious about expanding their customer base to families and regular business travelers - the 'hip' folks won't frequent the same place for forever.

But enough of that. Like I said, despite the weirdness of the lobbies, the rooms are very nice and fairly stuffed with amenities - flat-screen TVs, DVD players, iPod docks, high-end snacks, etc. At one W my sister and I booked for a couple of days, they had a CD available to play in your room during your stay called Warmth Of Cool - Overture, featuring what was described as 'contemporary, relaxing' music. I had a listen to it while we were there, and liked what I heard. Here's the lineup:
1. Wax Poetic (w/Norah Jones) – Angels (Thievery Corporation Remix)
2. Martina Topley-Bird – I Still Feel
3. Rouge Rouge – Décide-Toi
4. Blank & Jones (feat. Robert Smith) – A Forest Remix (Short Cut)
5. DJ Cam – Success (Thievery Corporation Remix)
6. Just Jack – Snowflakes
7. Natacha Atlas – Who's My Baby
8. Stigmato Inc. – Reality Check
9. Federico Aubele – Postales
10. Galactic – Paint
11. Dos Y Uno - Love Is Desire
12. Quantic – En Focus
A lot of the tunes on this disc are just what you would expect a place like W Hotels to feature - stuff straight out of a dance club that they thought was 'cool' (hence the name). However, I do have some favorites on this disc, including the remix of The Cure's "A Forest" by Blank & Jones, featuring Robert Smith himself on vocals; Just Jack's Euro-rap "Snowflakes"; and both of the Thievery Corporation remixes. All in all, it's not a half-bad collection.

Of course, if you liked the CD and decided to keep it, the hotel would charge you something like $25 for the privilege. Fortunately, I had my computer with me. So I quickly burned a copy of my own - problem solved (at least for me!).

So, for your listening pleasure, here's the W Hotels Warmth Of Cool - Overture compilation from 2005 (released in conjunction with Rock River Records). Despite my overall dissatisfaction with the hotels themselves, they DID manage to redeem themselves by making some decent music available. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, never heard of this one before but I do enjoy it.