April 28, 2008

Good songs are good no matter what...

Of all the songs that are considered great (i.e., "My Girl" by the Temptations, "Thriller" by Michael Jackson, "Losing my Religion" by R.E.M.,...er, "Humpty Dance" by Digital Underground...but I digress), I often wonder if those songs would be as well received regardless of the time period in which they were released. Of course, recording technology and technique progresses, but I'm talking about the song at its core...chords, melody and lyrics.

In 2003, the song "Hey Ya" by Outkast was everywhere. The two reasons I knew it was in a different class: 1) My 60 year old dad saw Andre 3000 do this song on Saturday Night Live...and loved it, and 2) My 40-something year-old aunt-in-law had this as her cell phone ringtone...yikes. Once the old folks start to "dig it" you know it's crossed into pop super stardom. Even Andre 3000 at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards seemed tired of doing it when right before it he claimed, "Alright, for the last #%@$ time...".

Now, I'm no Top 40 fan...believe me...but this is a really good song with surprisingly insightful lyrics. Of course, the ridonkulous video and dance beat wouldn't exactly make this obvious, but the take on modern relationships is dead on. When you take the song out of its natural habitat (i.e., the beat and video) and listen to it's simple melody and lyrics, it's a pretty interesting song.

Mat Weddel of Obadiah Parker did this acoustic version of the song...giving some credence to what I'm talking about:

He proves one of two things: 1) I'm right, or 2) any song done slow enough, in a minor key, and sung with your eyes closed sounds good. Oddly enough, Howard Stern agrees with me on this one.


Todd said...

I'm not sure you can do this with ANY song, but you might want to check out Jonathan Coulton's version of "Baby Got Back" at jonathancoulton.com

Jeremiah said...

Very true, very true, and there are many good examples of this. I remember buying John Jonethis' CD, "Lounge Freak" back when I was a teenager that made lounge versions of popular Christian rock songs (MxPx, Supertones, etc) ... the Matt Weddle and Jonathan Coulton songs are both classics, another great one is Fresh Prince of Bel Air (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3o0ZAod8GFo&feature=related).

And whether you're an American Idol fan or not, David Cook did an awesome job covering (Chris Cornell's cover of) Michael Jackson's Billy Jean (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_aiawC-9aM). AMAZING.

Thanks for yet another insightful post, Jay. You truly are one of the nation's as-yet-largely-untapped brilliant minds.