Thoughts, notes, observations on the everyday nonsense of American Pop Culture from one of the most not-hip people on the face of the planet...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Cover fever

Cover songs have always been a staple of lesser-known bands. They've also been a staple of washed-up solo artists looking to break back in. Then again, they've also been the staple of some bands--period. But you know what? There's nothing wrong with that.

I love covers. I'll admit it. In my mind, nothing is "sacred." Go ahead, remake "Yesterday" punk-style, reimagine "Jailhouse Rock" as a hip-hop anthm, gimmie the techno remix of "Stairway to Heaven."

Some people constantly flip out when a new cover is released. They call themselves "musical purists." They're kidding themselves. Those sort of people are "artist purists."

If one appreciates a good song for its lyrics or excellent (or potentially excellent) instrumentation, then a cover song is a fun new way to hear said song. We get the grand opportunity to hear a song we already like with a new voice, a new beat, a new guitar solo or new bass lines. What's wrong with that?

Hey, we should love cover songs because we already know the words.

Some of the best songs made are actually covers. Jimi Hendrix's take on Bob Dylan's "All along the Watchtower",
for instance, or Joe Cocker's remake of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends."

In recent years, we've seen an equal amount of notable and downright shameful covers. For every "Smooth Criminal" (Alien Ant Farm) there's a "Take My Breath Away" (Jessica Simpson). There's Guns 'n Roses' version of Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"...then there's Avril Lavigne's. Then there's Britney...oh Britney...who should be beaten with piano wire for her pathetic renditions of both the Rolling Stones ("Satisfaction") and Joan Jett ("I Love Rock 'n Roll"). Thanks for trying, folks.

There have been some excellent cover songs make an appearance on the airwaves in recent months that have reinvigorated the non-genre. Korn's "Word Up" is a helluva rock out song from a 70s funk original from Cameo. Possibly the king of popular modern covers, Marilyn Manson does it again with a rock-the-hell-out version of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" (you may recall he also has some awesoem covers of 80s hits "Sweet Dreams" and "Tainted Love" in his repertoire).

The cover song is cool. Say it with me: The cover song is cool. Now believe it...cause someday you'll hear a remake of "Sk8tr Boi" and you'll long for today's covers. Trust me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Greatest Hits?!?!?

From Pearl Jam to Tom Petty to George Strait, these albums are dropping all over the place. But Britney Spears....BRITNEY SPEARS?!?!? How is this girl qualified to have a greatest hits album? Pearl Jam is releasing their first GH collection...the same time as the teen queen of mediocre pop (who, btw, only made her debut 6 years ago, as opposed to PJ's 15). that just isn't right.

Then again, remember when the Backstreet Boy's released "Greatest Hits Vol.1" a few years back? Yeah, I thought not. With that release, the BBs were implying they had great hits among hits, as opposed to just hits...and that there would be more. They had been a band for less than 10 years and somehow felt that merely having a few hits songs on three CDs gave them license to deem them "great." Now, one of them is Paris Hilton's sex tape boy and all are without a singing career.

But Britney? Britney? How is her music deemed good enough for a "Greatest Hits" collection? That's the sort of music I'm supposed to look back on when I'm 40 and pissed off about the pop radio of 2020 and suddenly think is GH worthy. Not now. Is there really a person out there saying, "Man, Britney Spears...if only I could collect her masterpieces on one album to remember my lost youth..."?

If so, that person has the mentality of a 19-year-old girl and is more than likely passed out naked in a fraternity house anyway. Her opinion doesn't count enough to market this drivel. Does it?

Monday, November 08, 2004

Don't call it a comeback...

...cause I never left. Actually, I've spent the past coupla months channeling all of my creative energy and writing abilities into politics and had very little left over at the end of the day to lavish my affection for pop culture upon the WWW. But it's over.

I'm not the only one making a comeback, it seems good music has too. What the Hell happened to radio in the past coupla of months? Out of seemingly nowhere, new groups and old favorites have come out of the woodwork to revive rock and make radio fun again.

Rock is back. I know I called the death of alt rock...but it seems I was premature (there, I admitted it, I was wrong). It's an early 90s revival on the airwaves and alt rock is back in a big way. Indie rock seems to be making it mainstream faster and the music is getting better all of the time, as is evidenced by the fast-rocketing careers (and hit singles) of bands like Franz Ferdinand, The Killers and oft-ignored Modest Mouse.

A lot of this revival has to do with the "comeback" of 90s staples such as Green Day, Marilyn Manson and Stone Temple Pilots.GNR (in the form of supergourp Velvet Revolver). I say "comeback" because while these people never really left (except for Mase, who just popped back up outta the pulpit to rap again), they just...well, let's be frank...they went through suckage eras. Radio forgot them...and suddenly, somehow, my little brother in high school is telling me how he and his friends are all about Green Day and have I heard of them?

Even the constants are serving it up like its 1994. U2 drops its first new album in three years tomorrow, riding the coattails of the rock-the-fuck-out single "Vertigo." Eminem is poised to drop another hit-filled monster of a record thanks to his surefire club hit "Just Lose It" (accompanied, as always, by a highlarious video). Even the wildly overexposed Gwen Stefani has gone solo and somehow managed a single that's much better than her derivative crap of past years.

In short, it's a good time to be FM rock. Now, if only pop radio would notice....