An Open Letter to Charlie Daniels  

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dear Charlie,

I couldn't help but think that M. Night Shyamalan would have been better served to take a cue from you, and end his recent crapfest "Devil" with a fiddle contest between Satan and his would-be victim.

But as I imagine the logistics of such a scene, I am overwhelmed with questions. I would appreciate your clarification.

How can the devil be "way behind"? The implication being that the devil is not meeting his soul quota. Who sets the devil's quotas? Assuming the devil is not an all-consuming perfectionist utterly committed to self improvement (for reasons which will soon become apparent), the only imaginable force that could literally compel the devil to meet a regular soul quota is god. But this really just raises more questions than it answers. Why does a loving god want the devil to steal souls at all? Why is he pushing him to be the best devil he can be by enforcing a quota system, which apparently is unobtainable?

Moreover, what exactly is god's leverage on the devil? Apparently, the devil is "in a bind," which would imply that there is some consequence for failing to meet his soul quota. But what's god going to do, send him to hell? If god could do something worse to the devil than he's already done to him, why hasn't he done it already? But maybe I'm looking at this wrong; is this a case where god is using positive reinforcement? Is the devil in the running for some sort of demonic employee of the month award? It's hard to imagine that god would reward the devil for stealing souls, but then again, there's the Book of Job.

Now, Charlie, I suppose it's possible that the devil being "way behind" is a comparison relative to the souls god is collecting. Sounds like a pretty reasonable answer, right? I just have a hard time reconciling the chorus of your proto-Tea Party anthem "Simple Man."

"What's wrong with the world" -- not just the United States, not just a couple states or a particular political or religious ideology, but the world damn world -- is that people "done gone put their Bibles away." So there's really no reason why the devil should be "way behind," especially considering that a vast majority of the world's population has never read and does not believe in the words in the Bible. Add 1.5 billion Muslims, another billion Hindus, another 500 million Buddhists, 13 million Jews and safely another billion atheists, pagans, Jains, Shintos, Wiccans, Rastafarians, Scientologists, Mormons, cult, native and folk religious believers and good handful of Christians who are doing it wrong, and that should give the devil a pretty comfortable advantage. That's not even counting the literally trillions of people who lived and died before the completion of the Christian Bible. Charlie, I'm not going to suggest that you're one of those unitarian types who believes these people would all be godly souls simply on the merits of being good people. That would be an insult both to you, and to the universalists.

Just how far behind is "way behind," anyway? If he's really that far behind, shouldn't he probably be working on a larger scale than trying to con bumpkins one by one? It seems that he would be better served by turning kids onto some hip new form of blasphemy, or drug addiction or buttsex. Maybe he could post links at message boards claiming to have a video of Lindsay Lohan blowing a dolphin which actually directs viewers to a video which will take them to hell.

But then again, your devil isn't very bright, is he Charlie?

He's spent ten god damn years preparing for a rematch and he gets beat by the same fucking song? This is why I can't believe that the devil is in the least bit self-motivated. Anyone who would hold themselves so strictly to a quota system would have learned to play a better song before demanding a rematch. If god weren't give him a quota, he'd be sitting around in hell playing Shaq-Fu on his Super Nintendo while subsisting on an all-Cheetos diet.

Furthermore, if he were already "way behind" 10 years ago, wouldn't spending a decade pacing around hell fuming about one bad bet either put him hopelessly out of the running for the soul contest or somehow even more on god's bad side for having failed to meet his monthly quota?

I'm afraid I also need some clarification on the devil's betting system. Just how much is this guy bound by his word? Just enough that he can admit when he's been defeated, but not enough to keep him from go back for a consent-free rematch? Why not just keep going back and challenging Johnny at really inopportune times until he finally loses? Why not wake him up at 3 a.m. screaming "fiddle contest, bitch!"? How about right after a double shift at work? Mid-coitus? For that matter, why doesn't the devil just go back to Jesus and ask if he wants to try that whole crucifixion thing again?

Is this the same devil who took on Daniel Webster? At least that one was bright enough to use a third party arbiter. He even had the foresight to stack the jury. And he decides this fiddle contest can be settled by mutual acclamation? Is the devil getting dumber?

I'm having a hard time understanding why you would challenge a kid to beat you at something you know he's good at. Twice. How fucking stupid is the devil? Has this idiot ever managed to steal a soul? Hell must be filled with the most gullible people imaginable, and even they're kicking themselves for falling for the same old shit again.

Come to think of it, Charlie, there's no need for you to waste your time answering my questions, because I already know the answers. You see, I've been to hell. I was in the theater showing "Devil."

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover  

Monday, August 16, 2010

There are many enduring mysteries in pop/rock music: "what did Billy Joe McAllister and his girlfriend throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge?" and "What won't Meat Loaf do for love?" and "What the hell is 'froggy style'?" Paul Simon has contributed to this choral cold case file a couple of times, and while it'd be nice to know what he and Julio were doing down by the schoolyard, the more compelling mystery comes from his 1975 hit, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."

I imagine that most of you are familiar with the song, but here's the capsulized version in case you aren't: the narrator, presumably Simon, is meeting with a woman who wants to help him leave his lover. She tells him that there must be fifty ways to do so, but they really only discuss five (arguably six).

This makes some sense; a couple is having dinner or some other quick meeting, and they're able to rattle off five ways to leave lovers pretty quickly, so it's not too much of a stretch to say "if we can think of this many this quickly, then there must be, like, fifty." But without elaborating on those other ways, I think the listeners are right in feeling a little cheated. Here's the established list:

  1. Slip out the back, Jack
  2. Make a new plan, Stan
  3. Don't need to be coy, Roy
  4. Hop on the bus, Gus
  5. Drop off the key, Lee

The arguable one is "just get yourself free," which is repeated.

I've seen other attempts to flesh out the fifty ways, but they often devolve into "five ways to leave your lover, and forty-five ways to kill them," which is not how the line goes. So I'm going to do one better. Here's my attempt to help you in your struggle to be free: the missing forty-five ways to leave your lover.
  1. Write up a scene, Jean
  2. Do it on stage, Paige
  3. Sing it in chorus, Morris
  4. Take out an ad, Tad
  5. Act like a dick, Nick
  6. Bail on a date, Nate
  7. Call her a bitch, Mitch
  8. Say he smells bad, Brad
  9. Say he's too small, Saul
  10. Stick her with the bill, Will
  11. Tell her she's fat, Pat
  12. Give her a spank, Frank
  13. Make him feel pain, Jane
  14. Take him to a bris, Kris
  15. You could just beat 'er, Peter
  16. Don't brush your teeth, Keith
  17. Live like a slob, Bob
  18. Bogart his weed, Reid
  19. Say you've got crabs, Babs
  20. Give him VD, Bree
  21. Dump him for his twin, Lynn
  22. Say that you're gay, Jay
  23. Say you're a man, Ann
  24. Have sex with her dad, Chad
  25. Do it through text, Rex
  26. Do it by phone, Joan
  27. Send it by mail, Gail
  28. Just go for a drive, Clive
  29. Pack up and leave, Steve
  30. Tell her you're dead, Ted
  31. Shave all his hair, Clare
  32. Sell her as a slave, Dave
  33. Blaspheme her god, Todd
  34. Just pull the plug, Doug
  35. Fake your own death, Beth
  36. Give her no space, Chase
  37. Make him feel blue, Sue
  38. Say "go to Hell", Nell
  39. Sing "You're so Vain," Lane
  40. Take back her ring, Bing
  41. Say you won't marry, Gary
  42. Get up and get gone, Dawn
  43. Just say how you feel, Neil
  44. Tell her the truth, Ruth
  45. Just try 'em all, Paul

And get yourself free.

My Shitty Taste  

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yes, I get "Ok Computer," I like Vampire Weekend and own The Postal Service album on vinyl (it does sound better). But there are plenty of reasons why you should never allow yourself to be persuaded by anything I write on this blog. With this occasional feature, I humbly submit to you the ever-growing list of reasons why my Rolling Stone subscription should be revoked.
-- I prefer the studio version of "Hotel California" to the "Hell Freezes Over" version.
-- I saw Tommy Tutone in concert. Last year.
-- The album Liz Phair made with Avril Lavine's songwriters: Awesome.
-- "Tik Tok" was my favorite song of 2009.
-- I have downloaded two songs because they were on "Glee." I have downloaded five songs because they were on "Degrassi."
-- I have asked a DJ to play "The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald" on the radio.
-- As a DJ, I have played "The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald" on the radio.
-- I love "We Didn't Start the Fire."

-- I own a Maroon 5 album. If I hadn't bought a new car it would still be in the front seat with me.
-- I know all the words to "Mambo No. 5."
-- Yes is a better band than Pink Floyd.
-- I can't get into "The National."
-- I have both "Convoy" and it's sequel song on my iPhone.
-- I own no fewer than 15 songs about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
-- "Toxic" was my favorite Britney Spears song. That was before she released "3."
-- I loved Jason Mraz's first album. I was disappointed by his second album. I was horrified by his third album.
-- As I write this, I am listening to "The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald."

The Tragic Tale of DJ Khaled  

Monday, July 19, 2010

An inspirational story about overcoming adversity.If you listen to as much Top 40 radio as I do, you've probably heard DJ Khaled's1 song "All I Do is Win." What you might not have noticed is the tragic undercurrent of that song, emphasizing the unique pain of DJ Khaled's life.

The tragedy is apparent right from the first line of the song:

All I do is win win win, no matter what
At first glance, this may sound like DJ Khaled lives a charmed life, successful in anything he puts his mind to. And I'm sure that was probably how Khaled felt when he first discovered this quirk of his existence. However, as any Twilight Zone fan will tell you, a world without loss--or even the possibility of loss, is not necessarily a pleasant one. Errors are what allow us to grow as people, and the chance of loss is what makes games and sports thrilling, what gives value to our possessions, what makes us cherish the things we have.

Sure, having an unbroken lifetime winning streak would be nice for the money and prestige--and Khaled says as much, noting that he's "got money on [his] mind"--but it would certainly become boring after awhile. Khaled's next line makes this clear, saying of money that he "can never get enough." His inability to lose has taken the thrill and satisfaction out of his moneymaking endeavors, leaving his desire for cash insatiable. No longer can he find a sense of accomplishment in his work, no longer does his calling fulfill him, he now works to continue accumulating money the way an addict continuously increases his dosage to try to outpace his body's acclimation to the drug and get the same high that much smaller doses once offered. Eventually, addicts become so inured to the sensation that they must keep using just to feel normal; this is how money has become to perpetual winner DJ Khaled.

But the really sad detail is in Khaled's almost supernatural influence on other people. As he explains:
And every time I step up in the building,
[sic] hands go up
And they stay there
Were this a simple manner of people recognizing Khaled's inability to lose and expressing immediate surrender, it would be one thing. But were that the case, we would only expect those who planned to compete with Khaled to throw their hands into the air in a show of acquiescence. No, the truth is far more bizarre: due to some unknown force, upon the moment DJ Khaled enters a building, everyone inside--through no volition of their own--puts their hands in the air and makes them stay there.

The more one thinks about such an ability, the more apparent its nuisance becomes. Leaving aside the problem of body odor, imagine trying to eat at a restaurant where none of the other patrons, nor the cooks or wait staff, can lower their arms below their heads. Picture attending a hockey match where everyone is high-sticking or a basketball game where 'the wave' is hampered by the crowd's inability to put their arms down. DJ Khaled must bag his own groceries. When DJ Khaled goes to dances, the song is "YYYY." There are sex acts that DJ Khaled can only enjoy outdoors.

And do you know how many unfortunate misunderstandings have happened due to routine trips to the bank? DJ Khaled just wants to make a deposit, but all any passing police officer sees is a black guy in a bank where everyone else has their hands up.

Sure, there's some enjoyment to be had with this unusual ability. By repeatedly entering and exiting a building in quick succession, DJ Khaled can cause everyone to rapidly raise and lower their hands. The backing vocals reference this explicitly--"up, down, up, down, up, down"--but the novelty of that game wears thin rather quickly.

Khaled has persevered in the face of this adversity, finding solace in a musical career, where large numbers of people holding their hands in the air signify adulation and excitement. Off the stage, however, his ability is far more a curse than a blessing.

So next time you hear "All I Do is Win," make sure you appreciate DJ Khaled's courage in making his condition public and taking ownership of it. For me, if I ever find myself with my hands uncontrollably held in the air, I'll know that DJ Khaled must be in the building. Should that happen, I'll seek him out, tell him how inspired I am by his strength in the face of adversity, and while I may not be able to shake his hand, I can always wave.

1. And a cornucopia of guest stars. Little-known fact: rap's primary influences were African music, Disco, Funk/Soul, and The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

Clash of the Remakes  

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I recently watched the original "Clash of the Titans," having never actually seen it--or, for that matter, pretty much any other Harryhausen film. I've always been a big mythology buff, so it was an easy sell for me. Plus, it gave me lots of opportunities to make jokes about Veronica Mars and Professor McGonagall in a toga.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. It took a little bit for the plot to get going, but once it did, it kept going. I was impressed by the quick pacing, especially given just how much was crammed into the movie. Between Perseus and Andromeda's personal drama, the various challenges, and the conflicts between the gods, "Clash of the Titans" is full to brimming with plot elements, but it never feels like it's trying to do too much. The moderately episodic story works, which is not usually the case for movies with this much story. But more than that, after a point it seems like there's a crazy stop-motion battle every ten minutes or so, which maintains the action all the way through to the end.

The special effects are a bit of a mixed bag. The claymation enemies are gorgeously detailed, and the switches from actors in makeup to clay figures is generally done well. They do tend to move unnaturally and a little choppily, which is to be expected. It doesn't always take away from the film, though--when dealing with inhuman monsters like Medusa, a little unnatural motion just drives home the point. There's a bit of the uncanny valley going on, and it makes the monsters a bit more unsettling in several cases. Generally, the worst part of the special effects were the bluescreen bits, where the dark lines around the inserted actors or inserted creatures were often readily apparent.

One thing I really enjoyed was the way they flipped around Clarke's Third Law. We usually see it in sci-fi, where some hi-tech species or entity or time traveler, or some superpowerful alien race, uses technology to pose as a wizard or a god. Here, instead, we see the gods expressing their magical powers through advanced technology--first, a steel sword; then, a talking shield that initially sounds like it's speaking through an electronic speaker; finally, a robotic owl, because robots, that's why. In "Titans," magic is indistinguishable from sufficiently advanced technology, and I think that's an idea that more fantasy stories should pick up on.

The reason I bring all this up is because apparently Warner Brothers has decided to remake "Clash of the Titans," with the release coming in early April. Normally, I'd balk at the idea of remaking a film that's already perfectly good, but I'm actually kind of excited to see how "Titans" looks with modern special effects wizardry. Judging from the previews, I think the 2010 Kraken looks to be more menacing than the 1981 version (though I did like the four arms, and I hope that feature remains--I can't tell from the trailers I've seen), but I also think the Kraken ought to have a bit more in the way of tentacles.

Judging from the cast and the previews, I'd imagine that the new version will be just as action-oriented as the original. My primary worry is that they'll jettison everything that made "Clash of the Titans" distinctive: the complex episodic plot, the web of intertwining conflicts between men and gods, and especially the reverse backflip 3rd Law thing. Okay, the comic relief robot owl was kind of a late-'70s, early-'80s vintage thing (see also: Buck Rogers), and I can see where that might not fit the tone of a modern action flick. But stripping away too many of those elements will leave you with just that: a typical modern action flick. And a movie like "Clash of the Titans" should be at least a little better than that.

I'm hoping to see the new version around opening weekend, so hopefully I'll have a wrap-up post in a couple of weeks. One way or another, it'll be worth talking about.

Unsolicited Advice: An Open Letter to Will Smith  

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dear Will,

I'll see your remake of "The Karate Kid." The fact that you and your wife put up the money for this movie so your son could have a starring role opposite Jackie Chan is pretty damn shameless, and he looks like a pretty wretched actor, but the trailer makes it look more creative than I would have expected from a remake.

That's why I'm writing to you. It looks like you're trying to best Ralph Macchio for realistic martial arts, and that's great, but I can't help but assume from your trailer than this means you have thrown over the famous "wax on, wax off" training. Don't get me wrong, I too question the practical application of waxing the car and painting the fence, but this means that an entire generation of young moviegoers are going to be without the unadulterated hilarity of t-shirts that read "Mr. Miyagi Wax Off."

But I can't complain, because you haven't killed the legacy of sophomoric masturbation humor derived from improvised methods of kung fu instruction, you've added to it. In this trailer, Jackie Chan's new Mr. Miyagi -- reimagined as Mr. Han -- teaches the new Daniel-san -- reimagined as Dre -- by having him take his coat off and put it back on again, at one point delivering this instantly immortal cinematic gem:

Don't listen to much Blink 182, do you, Will? Ok, so the obvious cut in the sound makes me think that this line won't be in the final film, but I've viewed this trailer on enough legitimate film websites to make me think it is, actually, in the trailer, and even that is a great gift. The "Mr. Han says jacket off" t-shirts will be even funnier, even if no one is going to know who Mr. Han is.

So Will, I'm not sure what kind of audience you're hoping to attract by featuring Jackie Chan yelling "jacket off" to an 11-year-old boy in your trailer, but I know one movie blog that will forever appreciate your contribution to kung fu puerility.

Music Schmusic: Worst Decade Ever Pt. 10  

Monday, January 25, 2010

I’ll admit it, I started this project without any real list of which ten songs I thought were the worst of the decade, but I thought I had a pretty good idea. Turns out I underestimated my knowledge of truly awful music, because I had a lot of ideas. So many songs, like Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5,” Bob Carlisle’s “Butterfly Kisses” and LFO’s “Summer Girls,” were necessarily excluded because they came just a few months too early. I had to make a concerted effort to avoid country songs, or I’d still be writing this in 2020. But even with those initial exemptions, I was left with a vast array of possibilities.

My goal, then, became to represent the widest possible selection of the worst music from this worst decade. Some songs, even ones I really hate like “Fireflies” by Owl City, were excluded to compensate for any bias toward new shit over old shit; if I ever put together a list of the worst Postal Service rip-offs, expect Owl City to be a strong contender for No. 1. Of course, Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas would be nowhere without Gwen Stefani, who gave us the impossibly awful “Wind it Up” and surpassed even Hall and Oats for the worst song called “Rich Girl.” Sorry, “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon; it’s not that you don’t make me want to vomit, you do, you really do – it’s just that you were released amid a real shitstorm of awful songs. Mariah Carey, I don’t think the world was ready for “Touch My Body,” a song about how you’ll fuck a stranger and rub your thighs around his face, for “just a little taste,” but if he’s secretly videotaping your sexcapades, you’ll kill him…Ok, so this one deserves an honorable mention for coming off as the creepiest fucking thing ever recorded, I just don’t want to think about it anymore.

Let’s not forget rappers, because they could have made a top 100 unto themselves. Ja Rule’s “Mesmerize,” Lil Kim’s “How Many Licks,” Chingy’s “Right Thurr,” Khia’s “My Neck, My Back,” Akon’s entire fucking catalogue all should have made the list. Somehow, I gave R. Kelly a pass, despite the fact that his 22-part, 84-minute opus “Trapped in the Closet” contained lyrics like “And she said please no don't stop/ And I said I caught a cramp/ And she said please keep on goin'/ I said my leg is about to crack/ Then she cries out/ Oh my goodness, I'm about to climax/ And I said cool/ Climax/ Just let go of my leg,” he released a remix of a song that had never had an original mix, oh and he pissed on some chick’s head a videotaped it.

I could go on and on, but I said I would cap it at ten (posts, not songs), and here we are. The previous nine installments were in no particular order; they are simply organized by the ever-changing standard I call “Which awful song could I stand listening to ten times in succession today?” That being said, today’s final song came to mind as soon as I started this project, and I’ve been saving this one – which truly is the worst song on the list – for last.

Crazy Town – Butterfly (2001)

This song sneaks up on you. You hear the guitar fade in and you think “Gimme Shelter” is about to start. But you correct yourself when you recognize the melody; wait a second, this is that Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song. Then the lyrics kick in, and before you can react, you feel like you’re being sodomized with a Garden Weasel.

I actually have a hard time listening to this entire song in one sitting. It’s the kind of thing where I have to get up and take a break, allow my ears to stop bleeding, and listen to the rest later. Why, you ask, is this song any more difficult than seven Nickelback songs? Well, simply put, this is a rap metal love song, and to do rap metal right, you have to really believe deep down that you’re better than the guys who do metal, and you’re way better than the guys who do rap. You don’t write songs about thongs or bathin’ apes; you write songs about concepts and…uh…stuff. Your songs have lines like “I thought that happy endings were only in the books I read,” because check yo’self, bitches, you’re literate. What this means for the listener is that, not only is “Butterfly” infectiously catchy to the point that I’ll wake up at least one day every other week with “hey sugar mama come and dance with me/the smartest thing you ever did was take a chance with me” stuck in my head, it also manages to come off as incredibly pretentious. And if your songs sound like Crazy Town, you’ve got nothing to be pretentious about.

On first listen, “Butterfly” could easily be a love song that is really about Jesus. Lyrics like “You lift me up,” “I knew a better life existed, but thought I missed it,” and “You showed me life is precious” are just the kind of dog whistle lines that make up covert Christian pop. Shit, “I was lost now I’m found” is taken directly from “Amazing Grace.” I’d be all set to brand Crazy Town another band that writes Christian songs, advertises to Christian teens, tours with Christian bands, but doesn’t want to be considered “Christian rock,” were it not the implication that god has got you sprung with his tongue ring.

The amount of weird sexuality in this song is unreal. Let’s see, the repetitive chorus is “come my lady, come, come my lady.” Believe me, in this situation begging rarely works. And let’s not overlook the line “Fierce nipple pierce,” either. The fact that they missed the obvious double entendre in the line about happy endings being only in books is really a testament to the quality of songwriting we’re dealing with here. (Or perhaps the more unsettling thought: Maybe they didn’t miss the double entendre; maybe I did.)

Overall, this song is supposed to sound like wooing, but it comes off more like sexual harassment. The video confirms that this song is basically a woman walking past a construction site set to music, as bandmates Shifty Shellshock, Epic Mazur, Trouble Valli, SQRL and Faydoedeelay keep jumping in front of each other to shout increasingly inane pick up lines at the camera. A bunch of shirtless guys with stupid nicknames in a fantastical garden; it’s kind of like the Bollywood production of Jersey Shore.

A lot of the songs on this list can make the listener wonder whether or not life is worth living anymore, but that usually takes multiple listens. Crazy Town manages to achieve this in half a verse, the lyrics of which are so irritating, ridiculous and mind-numbingly stupid that to hear them is to go through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief. First denial: No, there’s no way in hell they just said “whatever tickles your fancy.” No one spoke like that in 2001, with the possible exception of my grandmother, and I highly doubt she’s living a double life as Shifty Shellshock. Anger: Why the fuck am I still listening to this song? It’s like eating candy out of a dumpster. Sure, there’s probably something sweet underneath it all, but all I can taste is rancid mayonnaise. Bargaining: I was wrong to not believe in you, and I’ll take back every blasphemy I’ve ever spoken, written or thought about you if you’ll just save me, Underdog. Depression: This is the way the world ends; not with a bang, but with Crazy Town. And just as you’re coming upon acceptance – the realization that this song will be the death of you – they hit you with the mother of all abysmal pop lines: “Girl, it’s me and you like Sid and Nancy.”

Oh, Underdog, thou hast forsaken us.

Any woman who hears that line from a guy…fuck, any person who hears that line from anyone can’t run away fast enough. Sure, lines like this are pretty prevalent throughout pop music; The Reflections compared a relationship to Romeo and Juliet all the way back in 1962, although they forgot the line “Our love’s going to end when I drink poison, and you plunge a dagger into your heart, just like Romeo and Juliet.” But the specifics of Sid Vicious’ and Nancy Spungen’s story make its use as a simile a little more disturbing. Take Sid’s tragic drug addiction for example, or his battle with Hepatitis, or the fact that Sid fucking stabbed Nancy to death and left her to die in their hotel while he went out to buy drugs, and that after he realized what he had done he had his mother help him commit suicide.

I can only guess at how a line this bizarre made it into the song. Maybe Crazy Town wants to kill us. After listening to the entire song, I can attest that this is a distinct possibility. Or maybe they truly are warped enough to see Sid and Nancy as some sort of punk rock Romeo and Juliet, although I’m not quite sure how Nancy Spungen’s very much alive parents feel about that one. Does this mean that in 20 years we’ll have pop songs saying “Girl, it’s me and you like Nicole an OJ” and “Girl, it’s me and you like Jacko and Propofol?”

But however it got there, the line really solidifies the overall feel of the song. Because having your mother inject you with a massive dose of heroin, having Hepatitis or bleeding to death in a hotel bathroom all sound like a pleasant alternatives to having to hear “Come my lady/Come, come my lady/You’re my butterfly/Sugar/Baby” ever again.

Music Schmusic: Worst Decade Ever Pt. 9  

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I’ve been putting this one off. But I can’t keep quiet any longer. I’ve been listening to a lot of Nickelback recently, trying to get ready for this post. And I need to bring this to your attention, because I believe it is an urgent threat to our national and moral fabric:

Grown men, singing lyrics that sound like tween girls’ poetry. You can’t deny it’s out there, and you can’t deny that it’s growing. Take Nickelback lead singer Chad Kroeger for example; he looks like a man, and he sings like a belt sander, but the words that come sound like a middle school poetry slam.

It comes down to one of two possibilities: Either there are large men hunched over their computers in darkened rooms, trolling LiveJournal for suitably sappy poetry, or, perhaps more disturbingly, there are secret sweatshops packed full of tween girls, toiling away in a 2x2 workspace – their only possessions being a laptop computer and the complete collection of “One Tree Hill” DVDs – forced to churn out page after page of angst-ridden lyrics. The members of Nickelback oversee this factory of tears, offering a meager wage only to those who produce album-worthy material; a once-daily bathroom break is afforded only to the girls who provide singles.

I know, I know. This sounds crazy. And I sure don’t have a lot of hoitey toitey academic degrees or evidence of even facts. I’m just a guy asking questions.

You could say that listening to all this Nickelback has made me crazy. But what if I’m right? Sure it all seems like a coincidence, but what if it’s more than that? What if…I’m sorry I usually don’t get so emotional. I just love…pop music…(sob)… so…much.

Someday (2003)

Nickelback - Someday

Alan | MySpace Video

“Someday” has one of the worst videos of all time. We lay out scene in a couple’s kitchen. The woman is crying over something she read on the in the newspaper. Sometimes those “Cathy” strips hit a little too close to home for me, too. Her boyfriend is watching her, as she rushes to pack her suitcase and runs out to her car. He chases after, only to see her get into a terrible auto accident and die. As a crowd gathers to look at the mangled body, the boyfriend watches as his girlfriend materializes in spirit form, and is reunited with him. Turns out the story she was crying over earlier was her boyfriend’s obituary. He was a ghost the whole time, and now she is too thanks to suicide. What a touching no, heartwarming er, life-affirming , deeply troubling and morally questionable ending. That works. Hiring M. Night Shyamalan to direct your music video? That doesn’t.

The song is nothing to be proud of either, complete with lyrics like “Now the story’s played out like this/just like a paperback novel/Let’s rewrite an ending that fits/instead of a Hollywood horror.” Yeah, I learned about similes and metaphors in grade school, too.

Far Away (2006)

This, one of Nickelback’s most maudlin efforts, is a great opportunity to explain what I mean about Nickelback’s lyrics. The listener is faced with the same disconnect you get from Hinder, where a big, burly guy with a big, burly voice is singing really trite lyrics. I call them tween girl lyrics, not to denigrate female songwriters – because there’s no question that there have been many amazing female songwriters – but because the level of poetry is juvenile, and the syrupy romantic subject matter has been indigenous to young girls’ diaries for decades.

Listening to “Far Away” provides a moment of clarity: For as weird as it sounds to have these lyrics coming from the mouth of this man-bear, it’s really Nickeback’s saving grace, because no girl group could get away with singing these lyrics. If Liz Phair or Ann Wilson or Joni Mitchell wrote a song with lyrics like “I have loved you all along/And I miss you/Been far away for far too long/I keep dreaming you'll be with me/and you'll never go” none of them would be taken seriously. If they sang the line “Stop breathing if I don't see you anymore” they’d be accused of setting the female musicians back to the era of “He Hit Me (And it Felt Like a Kiss).”

But you can almost forget about the awful lyrics of “Far Away” by watching its awful video. Right off the bat, Kroeger makes the regrettable decision to park his donkey face right in front of the camera, as if to really drive home the grown man-tween girl disconnect. But it’s the cutaway sequences, which tell the story of a fire jumper and his lady friend that really win for me. The whole think kind of feels like they spun the Hero Wheel to write this video.

Chad Kroeger: So how about we make our video about a soldier being called up to fight in Iraq?
Whoever the fuck else is in Nickelback: Dude, isn’t that a little controversial? Besides, ever other band is going to have a solider in their video.
Chad Kroeger: Ok, how about the SWAT team guy who defuses bombs and shit?
Whoever the fuck else is in Nickelback: No, that’s played out.
Chad Kroeger: Well fuck, man, we need a hero for the video.
Whoever the fuck else is in Nickelback: How about an inner-city teacher; they’re the real heroes.
Chad Kroeger: Where’s the action? The video needs to be really EXTREME to distract people from the shitty lyrics.
Whoever the fuck else is in Nickelback: Ok, how about a letter carrier…
Chad Kroeger: Have you been popping pills from a Pez dispenser again?
Whoever the fuck else is in Nickelback: Hear me out, man. A letter carrier…in space.
Chad Kroeger: Huh?
Whoever the fuck else is in Nickelback: You know, the guy who has to deliver mail to the space station.
Chad Kroeger: Whatever, we’re doing it about a fire fighter. He’ll go try to put out a fire in an empty field or something, and some big ass tree will fall on him.

That’s more or less what happens. The fire fighter and his wife/girlfriend/concubine/sister/I don’t really know are looking at a photo album/yearbook/picture book/Kama Sutra in bed when he is called away (far away, presumably) by his fire jumper team. The woman watches on TV – aided by the helpful and realistic news captions like “Huge forest fire!”

It’s actually pretty impressive that a video about fire fighting can seem so boring, but that’s mostly because instead of fighting the fire, the video is mainly focused on minutiae like making sure the hose is long enough, attaching various parts to allow the water to flow, et cetera. But the action really picks up when, for some reason, one of the fire fighters decides to run deeper into the fire, despite the fact that his teammates, and those of us with half a brain, realize that this is stupid, and really kind of pointless. Someone from the team retrieves the body of one of the other fire fighters and airlifts him to safety, but our protagonist is left behind. Then, sure enough, a tree falls on him.

Cut back home, where the woman somehow found out about the guy, and is crying uncontrollably. A quick change of sweaters and she’s ready to hear the bad news from the other members of the fire fighting team who have arrived outside her door. But suddenly, out of nowhere, the man walks out of the shadows and the couple is reunited.

Ok, if I did a subpar job of explaining that video, I apologize, but I can only work with what they give me. If you think about it for a minute (a few minutes longer than Nickelback likely did), the questions begin to pile up: How the fuck did he get out of the forest fire? If the helicopter came back for him, then his teammates would know he was alive, in which case why did they bother to all go to his wife’s house? Was the last minute of this video, from the phone call to the visit, just some elaborate scheme by the husband to punk his wife into thinking he died? Or did the wife just commit suicide in order to be reunited with her dead husband on the other side? I’m going with that answer, simply based on precedent.

If Everyone Cared (2006)

This song did the impossible: It somehow beat out “Waiting for the World to Change” as the dumbest socially-conscience pop song of the decade. “If Everyone Cared” sounds like a protest song written by people who don’t know what they’re protesting, and don’t really care. And I don’t mean that in the way that Rage Against the Machine’s songs are just sort of vague, generalized anger at “the man;” I mean that Nickelback not only wrote a song that is essentially about nothing, they don’t seem too upset about it. Kind of ironic given the song’s chorus:

If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
Then we'd see the day when nobody died

Given that logic, I can only guess how many deaths this song has caused. Listening to Nickelback is painful enough to make you want to cry; they clearly don’t care; oh, and the chorus is a big lie, because the rest of the song is actually about a couple looking at the stars.

I wish I were kidding. I wish they had actually wrote a full on protest song about how mad they are about…uh…death, and that if people just cared enough, nobody would die. Ever. But they didn’t; they wrote a clichéd love song, with a chorus that – despite the apparent belief of the band – never even enters into the same time zone as profound, and they bridge it all together with the flimsy assertion that “If they could love like you and me” then everyone would care and nobody would die.

So instead of any real message or meaning, we get a song that basically says “If George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein could have just loved each other as much as I love my new boyfriend/girlfriend there’d be no need for war.” Shit, I guess those tween girls are still hard at work.

Rockstar (2006)

Here, Nickelback proved they have some range. Tired of simply being the overly macho conduits of tween girl poetry, the guys set out to prove they could sing tween boys’ poetry, too. Of course, they maintained the complete lack of any self-awareness that is the band’s calling card, by making their 18th single all about what they would do if they were big rock stars. So what would Nickelback do if they were big rock stars? The sort of stuff that any tween boy would want to do: go to the Playboy mansion, hire a bodyguard to beat people up, drive 15 cars, and…uh…play baseball in the bathroom.

I don’t want to dwell on how much this song sounds like it was written for a 12-year-old boy’s poetry class, but it really, really does. Of course there’s the over-the-top braggadocio, but there’s also the really in-your-face sexuality. This is a song is determined that you know it likes chicks. That’s why it talks about centerfolds, joining the mile-high club and getting a star on Hollywood Boulevard somewhere between Cher and James Dean

Wait a minute, how did those two gay icons get into this tribute to man stuff? For that matter, why does the male narrator talk about cutting his hair to become famous? Male rock stars grow their hair, not cut it. And come to think of it, the song doesn’t actually talk about boning the centerfold; it talks about dating her so they can go shopping. Ok, moving on…

Savin’ Me (2006)

Nickelback - "Savin' Me" Video

NICKELBACK | MySpace Music Videos

Where the fuck did this come from? How did guys who sang “I like your pants around your feet” and “You look so much better with something in your mouth” turn out a Christian rock song? “Savin’ Me” carries all the hallmarks of a Christian rock song that is trying hard to keep its mainstream appeal: the imprisonment metaphor, the feeling of being lost and broken, and calling out for a savior to redeem you. These lyrics are too overt for Switchfoot. Even taking this as a religious song, the imagery is lazy.

But as usual, Nickelback manages to distract us from their tired sound and awful lyrics by making an even stupider video. What’s worse, they’ve moved from ripping off “The Sixth Sense” to ripping off a much worse movie, “Final Destination.” Both play off the same “when you cheat death, you can see death’s plan” crap, accept “Savin’ Me” takes it a step further and turns it into a game of tag. When someone pulls you out of the way of a speeding truck of falling industrial equipment, you gain the ability to see how long everyone has left to live.

I want to go on record here, in stating that this video is totally unrealistic. These people gain the ability to tell how long someone has left to live simply by looking at them? And they don’t try to parlay this into a new age money-making scheme? Fuck, if these assholes can get major TV deals, the people in this video should at least be able to get regular gigs at small-market casinos.

Anyway, as soon as you save someone, you pass off the ability to them, and leave them to wander the streets aimlessly until they can stop the next untimely (or is it timely?) death. If, like these people, you live in a city where three people on the same city block die every other minute, you can rid yourself of this power rather quickly.

By the way, if you can not laugh when the old lady’s high school drama club-worthy death coincides perfectly with the end of the guitar solo, you’re a better person than I.

If Today Was Your Last Day (2008)

A lot of singers have poor grammar. I’ve come to accept that, and most of the time I don’t complain. But when you base an entire song around that same misuse of the English language, I won’t let that go.

The line “If today was your last day” is speculation and speculation calls for the subjunctive tense of the verb “to be” which is “were.” Suppose in the in process of writing her latest album, someone asked the Beyonce, “Hey, what do you think it would be like to be a boy?” If, in fact, she had once been a boy, she could reply, “When I was a boy, I put myself first and made the rules as I went.” I would have no problem with this, because it is grammatically correct and I believe that transgendered people are deserving of the same respect as everyone else. But Beyonce isn’t a boy, she never has been, and given the success her feminine physique has given her, and the fact that she is well past the age of majority, she is never going to be a boy. So the sentence calls for the subjunctive, “If I were a boy…”

Here’s a simple way to remember the subjunctive: Chad Kroeger could say “If I were a good songwriter I wouldn’t suck so hard” and that would be grammatically correct, because he’s not a good songwriter and he’s never going to be a good songwriter. It’s purely hypothetical.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into this awful wannabe country song, “If Today Was Your Last Day.” Every line in this song is a different motivational quote. It’s one “carpe diem” away from the “Dead Poets Society” script. The whole song sort of feels like the football player in Logic 101 trying to philosophize. The writer was trying so hard to be profound, but ended up making Heidi Montag look thoughtful.

Then there’s that line “Leave old pictures in the past.” God I wish they had...

Photograph (2005)

There’s not much worse in life than this song. Failure, the pain of rejection, scabies; they all pale in comparison. It probably helps that most of these themes are the subject of this losers’ anthem. Give Nickelback credit, however; there’s a lot of pain in these lyrics, and Kroeger really helps you feel it to the point where you worry he’s going to have a hemorrhoid by the end of the song.

Every now and then you have to stop and appreciate the fact that Chad Kroeger is actually a singer. Think about that for a second; Chad Kroeger, who sings like he’s trying to kick the song’s ass, could claim the same profession as Frank Sinatra. You’re reminded of just how bizarre this is early and often in “Photograph,” and Kroeger looks straight into the camera and melodically bellows: “Look at this photograph.” In case you didn’t get it, he holds up a photograph.

The fourth line really demonstrates Nickelback’s lyrical prowess: “What the hell is on Joey’s head.” That’s when you realize it’s going to be one of those songs, where the singer just narrates everything he sees, as he sees it. And the fact that it’s rhymed with “How did our eyes get so red” really makes you question how the first verse of your song could possibly contain two throwaway lines. Normally, Nickelback songs can at least hold it together until the second verse, or at least the chorus. Frankly, it’s pretty hard to get past this point. It’s like your ears have stumbled across a barren wasteland, and you realize that going any further is kind of a useless, because nothing ahead of you could possibly sustain life. But we push on, because this is Movies Schmovies damn it. I made it through Vampires vs. Zombies, I made it through Shatter Dead, I made it through Antichrist, I made it through something like 400 Black Eyed Peas videos, and I'll make it through this too.

Somewhere in the third verse we figure out that the narrator is a high school dropout. That might make me a prick for pointing out that this song, also, fails to grasp the subjunctive tense (“If I was them I wouldn’t let me in”), as well as the fact that the narrator assumes his criminal record would contain trespassing offenses committed as a minor (“Criminal record says I broke in twice”). His juvenile record would be closed, assuming the narrator is over 18 (god I hope so).

In spite of the narrator sounding like he’s reflecting on his third tour in ‘Nam, this song actually doesn’t tell us a lot about the character. What photograph is he looking for and why? Do his memories of high school make him happy or sad? With Kroeger’s voice it’s kind of hard to tell. And perhaps most importantly, how does a song about a 20-something loser’s reflections on his fairly mundane high school experience appeal to Nickelback’s teenage audience? I haven’t the slightest clue; all I know is that you can hear this song on Kidz Bop. I guess even in elementary school, kids look forward to the mawkish reflections they will someday be able to have as of yet to be had on their high school years, whereas all I can think while I’m listening to this song is the likelihood that I went to school with people like this, and they’re hanging around somewhere in the Chicaogland area looking at old pictures and muttering “What the hell is on Jon’s head?” This song is why I’m never going to a reunion.

* * *

So, by now you probably feeling like you’ve survived the trials of Hercules, but I haven’t told you the half of it yet. Nickelback will not be satisfied until it has unmade everything that is good and holy about our society. Just look at their name: Nickelback. And what’s on the back of the nickel? Monticello. Sounds awfully Italian to me. But what’s to fear about Italians, you ask? Oh, nothing. Except maybe for that guy Mussolini, and that socialist porn star in their government.

Now I know you’re all rushing to grab a nickel because I can’t possibly be right about all of this, so once you see that I’m not pulling your chain, flip that coin over and see what’s on the front: Thomas Jefferson, our god-fearing philosopher-president, without whom we’d still be sieg heiling George III. And Nickelback wants him facing down. So why are these Canadians asking us to cover up our founding fathers in favor of Italian Nazi socialism? I don’t claim to know all the answers; I’m just a guy asking questions.

Music Schmusic: Worst Decade Ever Pt. 8  

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I got a feeling that tonight’s gonna be a…grating and painful exercise in self-flagellation.

Tonight, we explore a band that is continually one-upping itself in a sadistic effort to suck harder. A band whose truly prolific output of jaw-droppingly awful solo and collaborative efforts goes beyond the bounds reason, human decency and even the English language to stupefy you with its inanity. I feel like I’m presenting them a lifetime achievement award, and they’ve been active for less than ten years. I’m talking, of course, about the Black Eyed Peas, and their pursuit to record the worst song of the 2000s. We’re going to look at seven strong contenders, but first let’s meet the Peas themselves:, the guy from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Fergie, the chick from “Grindhouse

Taboo, the guy who played Vega in the “Street Fighter” movie

And uh, Boba Fett.

Black Eyed Peas -- Let’s Get Retarded (2003)

Topping the list of the Peas’ musical crimes against humanity is this charming song about drinking so much that people mistake you for Michael Rapaport. It all starts with one of the best outlandish boasts in hip hop: “When I bust my rhyme, you break your necks.” Ok, so my necks are intact for now, but I’m still pretty sure one of these songs is going to give me meningitis.

The other lyrical joys of this song include lines like “Let’s get cuckoo,” “Let’s get ig’nt” and “Bob your head like epilepsy.” It should be noted that of these descriptions, each presented as an example of how to dance so people think you’re retarded, not one is synonymous with “retarded.” The lyrics may as well be “Let’s get sleepy/Let’s get Cotard syndrome/Let’s get manicures in here!”

Fergie, perhaps feeling underutilized on this track, shows off her mad spelling bee skills by teaching us how to spell “retarded” at the end of the song. At least she spelled it right. More on (pun intended) this later.

Black Eyed Peas -- My Humps (2005)

Inane, repetitive lyrics? Check.

Irritating musical hook? Check.

Warped view of sexuality? Check.

Overloaded with catchphrases? Check.

The last four minutes of “Layla” tacked onto the end? Pretty close.

My god, it’s the perfect storm of crap.

You may be thinking “Oh, come on; it’s no ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ but it’s fun.” Well, consider this: One day, a research scientist may suddenly be struck with a new method for curing all known disease. He’ll be scrambling to commit the thought to paper; he pauses for a moment to collect his thoughts, and is horrified to realize that he can’t recall what was potentially the greatest discovery in human history. His “eureka” moment has been completely replaced by a new thought: “What’cha gonna do with all that junk? All that junk inside that trunk?” Thanks, Black Eyed Peas; there goes the cure for lovely lady lump cancer.

Now there are a lot of bad songs about tits and ass, but most of them have the decency to not discuss them in first grade playground code. The Peas even go further, and make up their own euphemisms (more on that later, too) like “mix your milk with my cocoa puff.” Yeah, I don’t think I want to know.

Then again, when they get literal, it’s no better. “They say I’m really sexy/the boys they want to sex me.” There is only one proper way to use ‘sex’ as a verb, and that is the method for determining whether a newborn chicken is a cockerel of a pullet, before you sell them at market (don’t ask me how I know this; I’m not sure myself). I’m just going to assume that’s what Fergie is talking about here, otherwise the combination of the Peas’ awkward, childish euphemisms combined with Fergie’s creepy childish singing voice just takes this song places that no one wants to go…too late; I’m there.

Fergie -- London Bridge (2006)

Why is there an air raid siren? Why are those really tough-sounding guys so frightened? Oh, no. Fergie made a solo album. But we’all ain’t ready for this; Fergie says so herself right at the beginning. It’s been four years, and apparently we’re still not ready, because no one has a god damned clue what the chorus means. What is “my London Bridge?” Why is it falling down? Can we still try to build it up with wood and clay?

When you coin your own euphemism, the meaning has to be obvious. In 2002, Missy Elliot became the first person to throw the term “badonk-a-donk-donk” into a song. Even though the term was foreign to most of her listeners, everyone knew she was describing her ass, because the rest of the verse was talking about her ass. That’s context. When the euphemism is all there is to the song, there is no context. You just assume it’s about fucking, because...well, most of Fergie’s songs are. But Fergie and company seem to have made up a euphemism just for the hell of it. They give no indication that they even know what “London Bridge” is supposed to mean; it’s simply there to make listeners think they are hearing some forbidden carnal knowledge.

It’s time we take the mystery out of it, and give “London Bridge” a definition consistent with the overall feel of the song: “London Bridge,” is a variation of contract bridge played primarily in England, in which the loser of each hand must remove an article of clothing. It has gain popularity as a long, boring way for old people to get each other naked.

I think that image captures it.

Fergie feat. – Fergalicious (2007)

If you haven’t noticed, and Fergie share a love of the written word. Ok, so actually it appears more likely that they have a grudge against the written word. In that case, they know their enemy well, as so many of their collaborations show the tell-tale signs of an uncredited co-writer in the form of an online thesaurus. How else do you explain their use of the word “hectic,” or the fact that parts of “Get Retarded” sound like Microsoft Word’s list of recommended synonyms?

Nowhere is this more apparent than in “Fergalicious,” the second single off Fergie’s debut album “The Dutchess.” (Note the misspelling of “duchess.”) The song opens with an attempt to write the dictionary definition of a word they just made up. “Fergalicious, definition: Make them boy go loco.” Ok, so I never said it was an accurate definition.

“They want my treasures, so they get their pleasures from my photo,” Fergie continues. “Treasures” is hardly a Black Eyed Peas’ euphemism. It’s gentle and understated; plus you can tell what it means. I suspect its inclusion is the end result of Googling “What’s a classy way to say pussy hole?”

But even in a song about how Fergie is so delicious that she needed her own adjective to describe it, she is overshadowed by who spells it out for us: “T to the A to the S-T-E-Y, girl you taste to the D to the E to the L-I-C-I-O-U-S.” Ok, for starters I really didn’t want to know how Fergie tastes. I already found what she smells like, and that was entirely too much information to begin with. But what the fuck is with the spelling of tasty? It’s not like you’re spelling onomatopoeia and just forgot where the a’s and o’s go. Tasty is a fucking first grade spelling word. I can’t write the name of Fergie or without a little red line popping up under it, so you don’t even need to be a really proficient speller. But when a song has countless technicians, producers and studio executives listening to before it ever became a major single, you’d think one of them would tell them, “hey retard, you put an e in tasty.” Same goes for the designers, editors, printers and the of course ht studio executives again who signed off on “The Dutchess.”

The spelling on this album suffers from a serious systemic problem, or widespread apathy. Huh. Kind of explains the music, too. – I Got It From My Mama (2007)

Baby, where’d you get your understanding of genetics from? Apparently has never seen a Punnett square, because “if a girl’s real sexy nine times out of ten she’s sexy like her mama” is not a sound genetic hypothesis. Even if we are very generous and assume that the traits lists – sexiness, prettiness, fineness, hotness, etc. – are heritable by genes in a simple dominance pattern, the math just doesn't work. If the mother is heterozygous for each of these traits, then the best you could hope for is five times out of ten, or fifty percent. If, for instance, "sexy" is a recessive trait, then the girl's mother would have to be homozygous recessive just to have the "sexy" phenotype; the girl's father would have to be heterozygous or homozygous if she has any hope of expressing those genes, and in that case the probabilities are either fifty percent or one hundred percent. If "sexy" is a dominant trait and the mother is homozygous dominant, then the girl would (statistically) be hot ten times out of ten, and is unnecessarily hedging his bets. Of course, this is all ignoring the complications that sex-linkage, incomplete dominance, codominance, polygenic traits, epigenetic factors, and environmental factors would introduce, but even in the simplest of situations, willi.iam is completely off-base with his calculations. Ok, so the guy doesn’t know how to fucking spell, I admit we’re not dealing with Gregor Mendel here. Maybe this will help:

You see will, you don’t get all your traits from just one ancestor. You, for instance, are a little bit like Flava Flav, and a little bit like Biz Markie. That’s what makes you so special! should probably have the opportunity to demonstrate that his findings could be duplicated, but I don’t really want to hear the song again.

Black Eyed Peas -- Boom Boom Pow (2008)

If you haven’t noticed yet, the Peas are drawn to really simple rhyme schemes the way the Beastie Boys are drawn to really simple rhyme schemes. But even the guys who gave us lines like “My name is Ad-Rock and I’m a Scorpio/Don’t ask me ‘cause I just don’t know,” stuck to the English language, which is really all it takes to earn more respect than the Black Eyed Pea’s “Boom Boom Pow.” Most of the words in this song aren’t words at all. The ones that are have been arranged with other words, in such a way so as to make them essentially meaningless. So you want to get the line “I’m on that HD flat” into the song (and trust me, you do) but it doesn’t rhyme with “This beat go boom boom pow?” Change that line to “Boom boom bap.” Simple as that.

Even LFO’s “Summer Girls” isn’t that lazy. Its lines are complete non sequiturs but “Fell deep in love but now we ain’t speakin’/Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton” is made up of actual words, in an order that literate people can comprehend. Seriously, Black Eyed Peas; “y’all getting hit with the boom boom?” What the fuck?

Black Eyed Peas -- Meet Me Halfway (2009)

Until this point, I actually believed that the Peas were trying to make each song worse than the last. They were sort of like a musical Roger Corman, and as bad as some of the songs listed above were, at least part of you could feel like they were laughing with you. That changed when “Meet Me Halfway” hit the airwaves (and by ‘hit the airwaves’ I mean ‘was in that DirecTV commercial’).

This song is bad, and I don’t mean that in “My Humps” sort of way. This one is really bad. For starters, it’s based around a metaphor taken so literally as to make it nonsensical. “Meet me halfway” is a pretty familiar metaphor, and sounds like a good title for a song about compromise in relationships. Until Fergie starts giving you fucking directions.

“Can you meet me halfway?/Right up the borderline that’s where I’m going to wait for you…I can’t go any further than this.”

It’s like she’s traveling to meet a guy but her car ran out of gas or something. This song brings us back to the Black Eyed Peas’ childish lyrics, because she’s like a kid who can’t cross the street. Bizarrely enough, there’s no real indication in the song that even recognizes “meet me halfway” as a metaphor. Fergie sings her piece about how if she crosses the invisible fence in the front yard her shock collar will go off, and sings some shit about space travel.

The problem with this song is that it’s the only Black Eyed Peas it’s not trying to be dumb, and it’s still a piece of shit. There’s no juvenile hook and some of the lyrics actually try to be heartfelt; they’re trying to record a good song. But they aren’t trying very hard, so we end up with a song that not contains a bridge acknowledging that it’s time to sing the bridge, they make the bridge a pun about crossing a bridge to the other side of the song. Are things better on the other side? No, it’s exactly the fucking same.

I could go on and on. I haven't even touched on "Pump It," "Shut Up," "Beep," "Clumsy," "I Got A Feeling'" or that music video Boba Fett made, but I should probably go see a doctor about some broken necks.


If you've been to movies recently, you've probably seen the trailers for the upcoming film "Book of Eli," where Denzel Washington plays a kung-fu monk walking across the post-apocalyptic wasteland with a copy of the Bible that Gary Oldman's character wants to use as a weapon...somehow.

I was actually optimistic about the movie when I saw trailers that played coy about what the book was. I mean, a plot that focuses on a book as some kind of all-important weapon-thing is totally primed to be a preachy "Bible is Awesome!" message, which also makes it a perfect twist to have the book be something--anything!--else. I suppose it's a better setup for a "Twilight Zone" episode than a movie, really, but all that focus on a book that some revere and others want to use for evil would be great fodder for a twist where the book turned out to be "Utopia" or "The Republic" or the U.S. Constitution or the Collected Works of Shakespeare or a book by Galen or Hippocrates or Pasteur or Salk or Gray's "Anatomy" or any number of books that would be worthy of such focus thanks to their utility--and would do what post-apocalyptic stories are meant to do: comment on modern society.

Instead, the filmmakers have apparently taken a route that makes almost no sense, by playing the whole thing straight with the Bible. I don't know about anyone else, but if I were struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, I'd be much more interested in "Survivalism for Dummies."

All this would be somewhat forgivable if the filmmakers were trying to present some sincere message on the nature of society or faith or religion or humanity or something, but apparently they haven't put that much thought into it. Seriously, take a look at this hilarious, enlightening interview with the directors. It's a thing of beauty. Some highlights:

Q: I'm just curious. For you, why was it more important to have a character carrying a book with a message of spirituality, versus a message of "This is how you purify water?"

Albert: I would say it's the same thing nowadays. Why is it important that people are holding that book in such high regard, or thinking that it should be spoken from, or told to others as opposed to building a church talking about irrigation? You can pose that question to anybody in any time period, post-apocalypse or now, about any religious text, or any text of any sort. "Oh, it's more important to survive. We need food. So why not build churches about survival and food?"

You shouldn't have to explain anything — poetry, art on the wall, a movie, whatever it is. You shouldn't have to explain yourself. But here I am, being a hypocrite.

Q: I read an interview with you guys in Maxim, where it mentioned that a lot of audience members might think that this is Mad Max meets The Passion of Christ, and that that is a wrong assumption to make. Why?

Allen: Yeah I don't think that [describes] the movie at all. I don't believe you can even make comparisons. First of all, Passion of the Christ is an anomaly, it's a one all. That will never happen again. That was a situation that no one ever would have foresaw. I don't think you can compare any movie to that movie. Whether you loved it or it wasn't your cup of tea. As far as Mad Max, I prefer Road Warrior. Our movie has a bit of Road Warrior in it.

And my personal favorite:
Q: If religion didn't help the people of Eli's fictional past, why do you guys as filmmakers think it will help their future?

Albert: You have some very deep, profound psychological questions there! You're applying logic to something that there is no logic in. That's part of my struggle. If you apply logic to a faith based religion — any of them — it will slowly start to fall apart. If you apply logic to Star Wars or Lord of The Rings, it will slowly start to fall apart. But if you go into it as a movie experience, as entertainment, [as] a mythology, and you don't look for the holes, and you go and believe then that's a different experience.

It's not often that you see a filmmaker outright stating that the movie falls apart if you examine the plot with logic. I have to hand it to interviewer Meredith Woerner for asking all the right questions--with follow-ups, even!--and getting the most laughably inept, inane, and incomprehensible answers from the directors. Go read the whole thing; it's a gold mine.

As to "Book of Eli," I'm actually looking forward to seeing it even more, but I'm now fully expecting it to be a Schmovie.

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