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Friday, July 28, 2006

100 Doses: A Long-Term Cure for American Idol, Part 2

Resurrecting this post seemed appropriate after the graphic in the previous post.

I don’t know what ingredients build a great song, but I do have my opinions about some songs that I consider to be great. And, one by one, I’m going to share 100 of those songs. They won’t be in any particular order (and Mark Lanegan might be a little over-represented), but they will be accompanied by MP3s and the reasons that I think the songs are so brilliant.

Some of the songs will be familiar, although popularity is no quick gauge of virtue.

Think of this as a cure for American Idol. A group of songs that make up a hell of a playlist with songs that you’ll hate and songs that you’ll love and a little bit of musical exploration for the class. The only two rules are that the songs have to have a prominent vocal, can’t be a cover of another artist’s music, and that I think that they are so damned good that they are worth sharing.

Dean Carter - “Jailhouse Rock”

I’m going to violate my own rule about cover songs because, after much thought, I decided that it was my freakin’ game and I could change the rules if I wanted to. Anyway, my original “two rules” were actually three rules which leaves me believing that I must have meant that the entries had to meet two out of three of the rules to qualify for inclusion. It’s a comfortable lie and I’m sticking to it.

You have all heard “Jailhouse Rock”; it’s as familiar as comfy jeans. What you probably haven’t heard is the terrifying psycho-billy rock version by Dean Carter, and almost nothing I can say will prepare you for it. It’s a jumble of styles, influences, instruments, and noise. The thing moves along at 100 miles an hour, bouncing off the walls like its gone completely out of control. It’s shocking and just plain weird.

Then there’s the demented buzz saw guitar solo dead in the middle of the song that must have been wild to see live. The man is a maniac who, while staying completely faithful to the thing, manages to utterly destroy the song. In a good way.

If you don’t like music that is loud, fast, and unpredictable, then you sure as hell won’t like this. If you don’t like stuff that is under produced, uneven, and hard, then just skip right past. For everyone else, this is a fun trip. Every time the crew on American Idol talks about their token “rock” singers, I think back to songs like this--the aural equivalent of teen rebellion.

Like teen rebellion, Dean Carter’s version of “Jailhouse Rock” is probably as useless, inexpert, and contentious as it is energetic, boisterous, and breathtaking. Sometimes, isn’t it fun to just go fast and hard for nothing but the joy of the moment?

And that’s Dean Carter’s “Jailhouse Rock.” (File will be removed early Saturday. Right click to download to your hard drive.)

The Previous Posts

100 - Mark Lanegan, “Judas Touch”

Comments & Trackbacks
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Why is it music interpretation not considered an art. That, writing lyrics and playing an instuments are not the same talents. Only in rock have I heard of this as an expection. Classical music, Blue grass, folk music, Jazz, R&B, especially Luther, would be non-existant by now.

on Jul 28 2006 @ 09:42 PM

Someone, I think, on National Review Online wrote something about that question once, noting precisely the same things. I wish I could remember who did it so I could find the article or post or whatever it was. I think that the reason it falls down in most contemporary pop music, though, is that the original music is generally so simplistic and tied to a particular voice and style that any interpretation either loses the original vision or plays so note-for-note like the original that its useless.

I don’t know. The truth is that I generally sneer at covers from pop artists while I’m entirely accepting of covers (and musical cross-polination) in ever other class of music I listen to. Either there is some good reason for that or I’m a complete hypocrite. I imagine that either is possible.

on Jul 29 2006 @ 11:35 AM

That is because there is a dearth of talent among pop stars. Without technology there’s not much too them.

on Jul 29 2006 @ 12:42 PM

I would agree whole heartedly with that.

on Jul 29 2006 @ 12:52 PM
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