I don’t like a whole lot of current popular music. Anyone who knows me a little bit probably knows this about me. I think just about everything that gets played on commercial radio and music-themed TV stations today is insipid, unmusical, generic crap.
I have nothing against anyone who feels differently. This just my opinion. It does nothing for me. Actually, it does something to me: it makes me angry if I spend any amount of time thinking about how the vast majority of people just lap up this stuff like starving animals.
Still, I am cursed with a strange musical memory that latches onto just about every piece of anything musical I’m exposed to, whether it’s good or not. Play me random songs by popular artists, and even though I don’t listen to them, I can probably tell you who most of them are after only hearing a short snippet of a song. I don’t know why this is. It just is.
Generally I try to avoid that which causes me to grow more profane than I already am, and that’s that. But then I heard something that changed my life. You see, Sean Kingston has just released an album on which he gets personal. He’s not just lifting the music from “Stand By Me” completely unaltered and singing some horrible shit over it anymore. He’s going deeper.
In one song he sings:
Sayin’ that I’d look better if I was thinner —
don’t you know you should have loved me for my inner?
Seriously. It makes me want to rip my small intestine out and eat it. That’s an insult to music. It’s an insult to my brain. It’s an insult to the written word. Hell, it’s an insult to the universe. Even the Auto-Tune-drenched garbage that allows “artists” who can’t sing to make a living takes a back seat to lyrical brilliance like that.
If I hadn’t said to hell with trying to build an audience and achieve any kind of success in the music industry long ago, this sort of thing would work me up into a lather and you’d be reading a furious diatribe somewhere between five and ten thousand words long. I wrote something just like that once, maybe six years ago, and emailed it to George Stroumboulopoulos. I have no idea why I did that or what made me think I might get a response to what amounted to little more than a cross between an unsolicited rant and an essay that swallowed itself in a sea of its own bitterness. I think I was in a pretty angry place after putting a lot of effort into getting gigs and sharing my music just to get ignored repeatedly, and I thought maybe I’d somehow find a kindred spirit and an unexpected champion in him.
Not that George cared. Why would he? I’m nobody.
I know now there’s no point in fighting battles that can’t be won and screaming into a void. So instead, here’s some psychotic John Cale live footage from the early 1980s to combat the musical abomination that is Sean Kingston’s latest material and the music made by all those like him. Master Cale was a huge influence on me back in my angry young days, and for my money he had (and still has) one of the best blood-curdling screams in music. And as for his version of “Heartbreak Hotel”, that’s how you cover a song and make it your own.
Some of the songs are followed by full-band performances from a year later, but I think the solo versions trump them all.