Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rebecca Black is Rock and Roll

Before anyone gets all up-in-arms about that statement, take a breath and finish reading what I'm saying here.  First off, I know this has nothing to do with the super-glamorous world of voice over nor the numerous people now involved in voice over posing as coaches to make money because they no longer make money as a "voice artist."  I happened to be awakened this morning by local radio pundits debating the merit and effect of young Rebecca Black and her viral song, It's Friday.

The first fact they mentioned that hit me between the eyes like a sniper's bullet was that the video has over 64 million views.  Let that one sink in.  64 million.  Not only that, her song, simple as it is, has been in the iTunes Top 30 for a month.  Folks, she's 13 years old.  Her song and video were financed by her parents.  They did this because she asked them to.  It cost about a grand.  She's making huge bank on this.  People, that is rock and roll.

See, back in the days before autotuners, Pro Tools, and copyright infringement, there was Rock and Roll.  Guys like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, and Bill Haley.  There were girls like Wanda Jackson, Leslie Gore, the Crystals, the Shangra-Las, and the Ronettes.  What did they all have in common?  A song and a desire.  It caused people to love it or hate it; very little in between.  When Elvis sang on TV, you didn't see his hips.  When Little Richard wailed "we gonna ball tonight," he wasn't talking about dancing.  Hell, the term Rock and Roll was used by the original bluesmen (like Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, and Muddy Waters) as a euphemism for sex.  Rock caused problems.  Rock crossed color barriers.  Rock turned parents' stomachs.

So what happened?  I'll tell you what happened; the 70's.  I'll go one better, "Prog Rock" happened.  Suddenly, bands discovered drugs (I know that most of the guys and gals I mentioned above were drunks, hop heads, and pill poppers, but they never took trips to "The Center of The Mind")  and rock turned into one big navel gazing exercise.  Now I appreciate Pink Floyd, Genesis, and their ilk, but they didn't represent the rebellion and the "Hey gang, let's make a record!" spirit of rock.  Worse, they led to the 70's.  The 70's gave us Journey, Boston, Kansas, and Satan's own favorite. . . Styx (if you thought I was going to say Kiss, HA!).  Some of you (anyone?) reading that last sentence are likely saying to yourself, "Hey, I like (insert name of lame band here).  They did, (insert name of super lame song used in any one of a number of Adam Sandler movies here).  I love that song!"  Let me guess, you chose "Don't Stop Believin'" mainly because it was used in the last episode of "The Sopranos."  You lose.  That episode was lame; the song is SUPER LAME; it was written by a talentless hack who happens to be a Giants' fan; and the powers that be decided to torture Dodger fans by playing it during the bottom of the 8th at all home games.  That has LOSE written all over it.

But I digress. . .

The point here is this:  Those bands brought rock to it's nadir.  The bottom.  Hind teat.  Styx and the like ushered in the era of Corporate Rock.  An era when rock was judged by chart success, concert tickets, and hair.  When songs like "Blue Collar Man" pushed better songs off the air, rock died.  Face it, rock radio died in the 70's.  How many times must one hear "Money" by Pink Floyd on one's life?  Ever heard, "See Emily Play" by the same band?  Didn't think so.  While I'm at it, the next idiot who plays "Sweet Home Alabama" on a juke box when "Simple Man" is available will get my full and vengeful wrath.  Luckily, the decade was saved in 1978 by The Ramones.

The Ramones were four guys from Queens who made the trek to Manhattan on a regular basis to play bars like CBGB's and Max's Kansas City.  They wrote songs about teenage fun, horror movies, sniffing glue, pinheads, Rockaway Beach, and a girl named Sheena.  Their songs were never longer than 3 minutes.  They wore black leather jackets, ripped T-shirts, and tight jeans.  Their names were Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and (insert name of current drummer here), and they all had the same last last name; Ramone.  Rock radio wouldn't play them.  Rockers mocked them.  Parents were afraid of them.  Kids (like me) loved them.  They were the embodiment of what Rock was and should be.  Four guys who could barely play their instruments banging out rhythms on their chewing gum and putting kids into a sweat.  They had a song and wanted to sing it.  They had no A&R man guiding their "singles."  No record company breathing down their necks pressuring them to sell thousands of tickets and fill arenas.  They were, by far, more influential than any other band to come out of the Punk era.  They were likely the most influential band ever, outside of four other guys from a Northern England town known for shipbuilding and soccer.

This brings me full circle to Rebecca Black.  She is more Ramones than Journey.  I get the irony of my "autotune" statement, because her voice is obviously over modulated and produced.  The real reason she is Rock and Roll is seen in her success.  Her song is short, catchy, fun, and makes grown-ups squirm.  Is it stupid?  Hell yes, but so was "Beat on the Brat," and Saint Bono and that overrated bunch in U2 covered that, didn't they?  Does the song get on your nerves?  No more than any rap record does already.  And believe me, there is more Journey, Styx, and Kansas about current rap music than there is Ramones about it.  Rebecca is all about her song and having people hear it.  Did she do it for the money?  Don't know.  Did Rage Against the Machine do it for money?  Answer; YES, but no one seems to hate them for it.  Did she do it for fame?  Again, don't know and don't care.  When Will Smith's obnoxious, overly-precocious daughter is allowed to torture us with tales of whipping her hair back and forth, I gladly welcome Rebecca and her warbling about the end of the week.  A girl, her song, and an audience. . .THAT, people is Rock and Roll.

Besides, I dare you to listen to her song and not sing it on the day that proceeds Saturday.

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