Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jonathan Coulton - Baby Got Back



In 1992 there was an epidemic of people not appreciating women with large posteriors. Championing this cause was rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot with his accidental huge hit “Baby Got Back.” Since that time night clubs and karaoke bars have celebrated the value of female secondary sex characteristics by playing, and subsequently over playing, “Baby Got Back.”

Well done Sir Mix-A-Lot your joke song has undoubtedly given many larger women some well deserved confidence in their appearance and enriched the sex lives of many others; I am sure.

I think I like “Baby Got Back.” I am not a hip hop guy and I do not dance so this kind of music is often wasted on me. Furthermore “Baby Got Back” suffers from being obnoxiously over played. Lastly this is the sort of song that I would typically dismiss as the bad comedy that it is, however “Baby Got Back” is the best kind of bad comedy, and like any good joke there is a gem of truth wrapped somewhere within. As a straight man I can definitely relate to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s campaign for I too like women with curves, or perhaps to put things into perspective, I am drawn to all things female, and pronounced buttocks is a characteristic associate with the female gender. Gentlemen, all of you may not be aware of this, but you too like big butts, assuming of course you are a heterosexual, in fact it is quite telling if you truly don’t. So that’s all fun, but with all due respect to Sir Mix-A-Lot for giving us this song, I find my sense of humour and musical taste more in line with Jonathan Coulton.

The original by Sir Mix-A-Lot
Jonathan Coulton is a singer songwriter on the Internet. I do not know if he started his career by sharing his wacky songs online or if that is simply the popular means his fans have taken to share his music, but everything about Jonathan Coulton screams “internet.” Everything about Coulton appears to make him a great candidate to champion nerd culture, especially songs like “Still Alive” the closing theme to the video game Portal.

Jonny C. Also did a cover of “Baby Got Back.”

The two most important qualities of any cover song are A) respecting the original concept and message, and B) making the song your own. First Coulton has kept the same original spirit of the song, as quirky as such a notion may be; respect is certainly given to the serious message of appreciating large butts. Second he has made the song his own, and in a big way, whereas Sir Mix-A-Lot’s original version is a hip hop song Coulton’s cover is done in a folk style ballad. This folk/light rock stylization alone does so much to bring a new light to “Baby Got Back.” There is a certain intensity in Sir Mix-A-Lot’s original that makes his message and intention clearly one of celebrated lust, which is fine; however there is something incredibly charming about Coulton’s version with everything slowed down and sang passionately. Coulton has made “Baby Got Back” a more emotional song than it ever had any right to be, he sings it sweetly and softly and it now feels like an earnest love song for woman with large buttocks, and that, that is funny.

I have known about Jonathan Coulton for a while now, mostly because of songs like “The First of May,” “Re: Your Brains” and “Still Alive” (there is a version where Sara Quin sings “Still Alive” with Coulton, and you know I love her) but it was not until recently I was introduced to his delightful cover of “Baby Got Back.” There was a three week period there where I could not stop listening to it; it is just such a charming song. Coulton’s version of “Baby Got Back” is a fantastic example of how to completely rework a song and give it a whole new level of meaning, while also being a finely structured soothing song. Everything about this cover is perfect.

I do not watch Glee. I do not know anything about Glee beyond that it is a show about the music club, the school choir, or whatever they call it; a glee club maybe? I honestly don’t know. I also know they cover a great many songs because people like hearing songs they already know and also writing songs is hard, even harder when you have to write multiple songs per episode. So to be fair I should reserve judgement on the show, I do not know if it is good or bad or what. However it has recently been brought to my attention that they have covered Jonathan Coulton’s cover of “Baby Got Back” and apparently there is a lot of controversy surrounding this.

So let’s put things into focus here.... Glee covered Coulton’s cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Okay makes sense.

Here is the thing, Glee did not cover Coulton’s version of “Baby Got Back” so much as they completely mimicked it. There is no difference, at all, between the Glee version and Coulton’s version, and this is very noticeable since the difference between Coulton’s version and Mix-A-Lot’s version is drastic. Glee uses the exact same chords and tempo as Coulton, which were nothing like the original. They were so lazy ripping off Coulton they did not even have the wherewithal to change the name “Johnny C” during the line;

“I want 'em real thick and juicy,
So find that juicy double,
Johnny C's in trouble,
Begging for a piece of that bubble.”

Did they think that “Johnny C” was just a generic name that could refer to anyone? Would they have said, “Mix-A-Lot’s in trouble” if they were simply covering him? This is laughably idiotic. In response to Glee’s cover of his song Coulton has released his cover of Glee’s “Baby Got Back” for sale on ITunes, which of course is just his version. But clearly the joke is this;

The rip off version by Glee:

Jonathan Coulton has released his cover, of Glee’s cover, of Jonathan Coulton’s cover, of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Makes sense.

There are many people upset by this fraud, and I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it. Credit should be given to Jonathan Coulton since it is painfully obvious his version was the one they were copying chord per chord, and word per word, and the man deserves credit, which of course he is not getting. That is the only real problem I see here. The writers and producers of Glee being lazy and unimaginative, at least in this example, is hardly worth getting upset about, people cover songs without imagination, or talent, or effort, or thought, all the time. This uninspired rip off’s existence is not the problem, the problem is that depriving Coulton of his much deserved credit will result in a whole bunch of people not knowing better. Some people will now think Glee created something special when they should be listening to Jonathan Coulton, and Jonathan Coulton will likely remain a relatively unknown. But you, my friends, will not be one of them. You will know that this charming rendition of “Baby Got Back” was the work of the quirky and talented Jonathan Coulton.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

Colin Kelly

P.S.

Coulton was not even the first person to do an ironic cover of “Baby Got Back,” Richard Cheese did a cover of “Baby Got Back” along with about a hundred other songs all in the style of Frank Sinatra, however everything about Cheese’s lounge style covers has failed to amuse me. There are other covers that are cringe worthy; I hesitated to listen to the chipmunks cover... I mean really? Why? Why any of that? It just goes to show that most people fail to appreciate the level of vulgar male heterosexuality celebrated in this song, and yeah, maybe children’s icons shouldn’t be singing it with such pomp, or people who like the skinniest of white girls.

Just saying.

Richard Cheese's version:

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Maybeshewill - Movie Quotes

In September 2011 I reviewed Maybeshewill - He Films the Cloud Part 2:
It turned out to be one of my most popular posts.  I have been meaning to revisit the inventive band and I think I know what to talk about.  Maybeshewill never has lyrics, in place of lyrics they use movie quotes, and here is the complete list.


Album: Japanese Spy Transcript 

Song: In Another Life, When We Are Cats 

Movie: The Rules of Attractions 


“The Rules of Attraction” might appear as a shallow teen heart throb movie but in reality is a very dark film. We follow three protagonists as they struggle with their sexual interest with one another. It is quite enjoyable seeing each one of these characters get slapped in the face with reality as all three are forced to see how wrong they were to romanticize, glorify, and justify their selfish intentions.

The quote Maybeshewill uses here is the final confrontation between Sean and Lauren. Sean the megalomaniac is properly put in his place. Don’t worry Lauren get hers shortly after.

“Lauren, wait. Hey, wait. Lauren.”

“Oh my god.”

“Get in the car.”

“No!”

“Lauren, don’t walk- Hey! I really did try to kill myself! Just before I faked it.”

“Wow. Sean it’s over.”

“No it’s not!”

“Yeah it is. I’m in love with somebody else.”

“Who?”

“My old boyfriend Victor, and that’s none of your fucking business, actually!”

“What? Fucking Victor?”

“Yeah.”

“What... the fuck are you writing me letters?”

“Wow. Deal with it Sean. It’s over. Rock and roll.”

“Lauren, I want to know you.”

“What does that mean? Know me. Know me. Nobody knows anyone else, ever!”


Interesting side note, “The Rules of Attraction” was written by Bret Easton Elis who also wrote “American Psycho.” If you are paying close attention you may have noticed the common last name of “Bateman” for both leads in “American Psycho” and “The Rules of Attraction.” The reason for this is simple, Patrick Bateman, the American Psycho, is supposed to be the older brother of Sean Bateman.

Song: Transmission Three 


Movie: Return of the Living Dead 

“Return of the Living Dead” is a silly movie. Co-creators of “The Night of the Living Dead” wanted to take the zombie idea in a different direction then George A. Romero. While I often criticize movies like “Day of the Dead” and “Land of the Dead” for being completely idiotic and absolutely void of any relatable character motivation, Romero on his worst day has nothing on the return of the living dead series; having said that... the first film “Return of the Living Dead” isn’t bad.

The quote Maybeshewill has lifted is when Burt to forced to explain (as best he can) what the fuck is going on. I think Maybeshewill did an excellent job with this quote, the atmosphere is the song is truly frightening; more so than the actual horror film.

“Freddy are you alright?”

“Tell her...”

“What did you do to Freddy? What’s wrong with him, and this man?”

“You know I think it’s time you tell us what the fuck’s going on.”

“I don’t have to tell you anything dick brain.”

“We think you should.”

“Tell them god damn it.”

“Talk!”

“There was a chemical. There’s some chemical and it soaked into the soil of the graveyard and made the corpses come back to life.”

“What chemical?”

“I don’t know what chemical, god damn it!”


Album: Not For Want of Trying 

Song: Not For Want of Trying 

Movie: Networ

News anchor Howard Beale’s speech is often considered one of the best movie monologues of all time, and rightfully so, actor Peter Finch is so powerful in his performance. The 1976 film “Network” is a must see for anyone who would fancy themselves a film buff and choosing to use this quote was a good idea. In this example I do not feel Maybeshewill did anything special, they just choose a fantastic quote to put in one of their songs.

“Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be.

We know things are bad, worse than bad, they're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.'

Well, I'm not going leave you alone. I want you to get mad!

I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a human being god damn it! My life has value!'

I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!”



Album: Sing the Word Hope in Four-Part Harmony 

Maybeshewill must have realized people like big powerful movie quotes in their songs because the album “Sing the Word Hope in Four-Part Harmony” has four songs containing four movie quotes and one dramatic reading of an article. Also this is when Maybeshewill decided to be a little more obscure since I have never seen any of these films.

Song: Co-Conspirators 


Movie: The Verdict 


I’ve never seen “The Verdict” but I sure want too after hearing this speech delivered by Paul Newman.

“Well... you know so much of the time we’re just lost. We say, ‘please god, tell us what is right. Tell us what is true.’

I mean there is no justice. The rich win; the poor are powerless; we become tired of hearing people lie; and after a time we become dead, a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims... and we become victims. We become... we become weak. We doubt ourselves, we doubt our beliefs, and we doubt the law.

But today you are the law.”


Song: Our History Will Be What We Make of It 

This song “Our History Will Be What We Make of It” doubles up on the movie quotes. The opening speech is from the film “Good Night, and Good Luck” a film about the McCarthy trials staring George Clooney and the closing speech is from “Young Winston” a film about Winston Churchill.

Movie: Good Night and Good Luck 

“Our history will be what we make of it. And if there are any historians fifty or a hundred years from now and there should be a kinescopes of one week of all three networks, they will find there, recorded in black and white and in color, evidence of decadence, escapism, and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have a built in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information.

Our mass media reflect this.

But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then history will take its revenge and retribution will not limp in catching up with our sins.”


Movie: Young Winston 

“It may be the human race is doomed, never to learn from its mistakes. We are the only animals on this globe who periodically set out to slaughter each other for the best, the noblest, the most inescapable of reasons. We know better, but we do it again and again in generation after generation. It may be that our empire too is doomed, like all those that have gone before it, to continue to spew and waste its best blood on foreign soil, no matter what we say or do in this place, or think, or believe, or learned from history.

But thank god for us.”


Song: This Time Last Year 


Movie: I Heart Huckabees


I can forgive myself for having not seen “I Heart Huckabees” it seems like the kind of movie I would normally avoid. “I Heart Huckabees” appears to be a movie about a bunch of self appointed intellectuals discussing the world through the lens of childish immaturity. At least that is what I can gather from the following quote.

“Clothes, videos, toys, cheeseburgers, cars, a functioning economy.”

“You can still have a functioning economy and preserve open spaces with a little planning.”

“Yeah.”

“Socialism.”

“Um, complete disaster.”

“Theodore Roosevelt was a socialist, and William Butler Yeats.”

“Theodore Roosevelt!”

“Henry David Thoreau, Robinson Jefferson, the National Geographic Society, they’re all socialists?”

“You’re talking about socialism.”

“No, I’m not. I’m talking about not covering every square inch of populated America with houses and strip malls until you can’t remember what happens when you stand in a meadow at dusk.”

“What happens in the meadow at dusk?”

“Everything.”

“Nothing!” - “Everything!”

“Nothing!” - “Everything!”


Song: Sing the Word Hope in a Four-Part Harmony 



This is not a movie quote, but I felt it was worthy of mention because it is a quote nonetheless. The speech in “Sing the Word Hope in a Four-Part Harmony” is not an exact quote, but is based entirely off the above linked article, “The generation facing its first recession. How will they cope?” by Tracy McVeigh. Maybeshewill has recorded this speech about generation Y, which they are likely apart of; based on age and the fact they have recorded this speech in reference to the content from a first person perspective.

I do not know if the voice in “Sing the Word Hope in Four-Part Harmony” is one of the gentlemen from Maybeshewill, but I do know this recording was done specifically for the album of the same name.

“We are young, confident, affluent, and have no memory of tougher times. We’ve grown up in an era of never ending financial growth, and have expected things to stay that way. We’ve grown up in owner occupied homes with total acceptance of technology, global warming and terrorism. Our whole society has been based on consumerism for the past fifteen years, making us dream consumers, yet we don’t know the difference between a credit card and a debit card, and we have no idea how much a pint of milk costs.

On average we have eight hundred illegally downloaded songs, and one in eight of us spends more than one hundred pounds a month on our mobile phone bill. We’ve never read a newspaper, and we’ve never used our chance to vote.

We allow our governments to make decisions without giving us all the facts. They send troops abroad who will die in order that we can steal resources from the people who have them. People who meant us little or no harm until we invaded their country. We allow those troops to commit horrendous atrocities and yet our leaders hang our alleged enemies for much less.

We’ve spent years entrusting our futures to our parents, our governments, the banks and the corporations who have continually lobbied for their own interests, and we’ve let them make selfish decisions that have left our society teetering on the edge of ruin.

We’re blinded from the information that would really shock us by stories of sex and sleaze which doesn’t make the smallest difference to our lives, and so we have no desire to do anything about the things that really do. We’ve watched as greed wipes billions off the world’s stock markets, destroys jobs and lives, and proves that capitalism is just as corruptible by human nature as communism.

These are tough times but we seek solace in our friends and Co-Conspirators, we make small differences in each other’s lives, and dream that we can make real progress.”



Album: I Was Here for a Moment, Then I was Gone 

“I Was Here for a Moment, Then I was Gone” is Maybeshewill’s latest album. They have kept with the tradition of having the longest possible album title but they have broken away from the tradition of having song quotes instead of lyrics in their songs on this album. Instead the album is an instrumental.

I do not know whether movie copyrights become the sudden enemy of Maybeshewill or if perhaps the band wanted us to pay more attention to their fine guitar work this time around. All in all “I Was Here for a Moment, Then I was Gone” is a good album and keeps in the spirit of Maybeshewill even without great movie quotes.

- Colin Kelly

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tegan and Sara - Now I'm All Messed Up




I absolutely love Tegan and Sara. In fact I would go so far as to say I am “in love” with them, especially Sara. I am total in love with Sara Quin. Read all about my lame emotions here:

The Sara Quin Love Letter - http://colinkellymusicinreview.blogspot.ca/2012/02/sara-quin.html

So yeah...I really like Tegan and Sara, so when they decided to play two shows in Calgary during their Heartthrob tour I bought tickets to both shows. I was going to go get a big eye full of two very pretty girls and listen to them play some high emotion music, and that’s what I did. I had a blast.

I have always been very impressed with the emotions Tegan and Sara manage to stir in me, and now... I’m all messed up.

Now I know Tegan and Sara pretty well, because when I like something I typically learn just about all there is to know about it, and I immediately identified something was wrong the first night after the first few songs. Sara was singing two or three songs for every one Tegan was singing, and when Tegan barely got through their performance of “The Con,” as her voice was giving out, I turned to the two sisters from Montana that befriended me while waiting in line, and said “something is wrong with Tegan.” Later on I also noted that Sara sang lead on “Where Does the Good Go” a Tegan song, which is somewhat unusual.

The second night Tegan was clearly felling better. She sang stronger than the previous night and she treated us to songs like “Call it Off” which were absent in the first show. Tegan explained she had strep throat during one of her monologues and my suspicions were confirmed. I didn’t mind though, Tegan performed well in spite of her condition, but also I enjoyed the subtle interactions between the sisters. There was various times where Sara gave Tegan cues whenever her voice began to fade, mostly she would sing with her for a few lines until Tegan managed to pick her voice back up. There is a lot of personality in moments like that. Also I didn’t mind because Sara sang her ass off, and I love her.

I think my favorite moment in the concert was the second last song before the encore “Now I’m All Messed Up.” Sara sang this song amazingly. I love escalation in music, rising action if you will, and by the end of “Now I’m All Messed Up” Sara was yelling the chorus “Go if you want, I can’t stop you!” I like to use the term “high emotion” sometimes to describe really heavy heartfelt moments in songs, and this was definitely a high emotion moment. “Now I’m All Messed Up” was always a strong candidate for my favorite song on the new album Heartthrob and after seeing that live performance, twice, it has won my vote.

It is very clear that Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara’s seventh studio album, is the most pop album they have ever created. This does not offend me like it might some music critics (do I qualify yet?) because I do not have any preconceived notions that music can only be appreciated once it fits into a preapproved genre. This pop movement for the girls feels like a natural progression, their song writing has been gradually changing towards this direction the entire time and frankly I like this next step in their journey. Their last album, Sainthood, was their most rock and roll album, which is probably why it is my favorite, and it was canned by critics and apparently did not sell very well, so I highly suspect this trend of under appreciation to continue on for Heartthrob, because how dare anyone evolve as a band.

Every Tegan and Sara album was always more complicated than the one previous, and while we music critics do not like to admit it, a lot of pop songs are complicated. Granted it is easy to create a complex multilayer song when you let a machine do all the work for you, also it is easy to perform such songs live when all you do is press a play button on a machine and sing along (some don’t even do that), however that is not what is happening on Tegan and Sara’s Heartthrob.

The Calgarian girls have come to a point where the two of them alone were unable to properly perform the songs they had written. By the time “So Jealous” came out they brought in Ted to play guitar and keyboard, also they have had to have a drummer with them since that time. Now they need a full band, a bass player, a drummer, a keyboarder and good old multi-talented Ted, as sixth are needed to perform this “pop” music live. In this somewhat rare example pop has equated to depth, and while I may personal prefer the more rock and roll Sainthood stylization I can definitely enjoy what is being accomplished on Heartthrob, especially on tracks like “Now I’m All Messed Up.” Having a full band frees up Tegan and Sara’s attention so they can focus on singing and that paid off big time during their latest live performances.

While I may normally be a tough guy listening to hard rock and metal music I have a soft spot, and apparently the best way to melt my heart is with strong sensitive identical twin lesbian indie pop rock. It makes sense when I think about it.

Until later this month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

P.S.

Sure enough some enthusiastic gentleman ran up to me after the show and complimented me on my Blind Guardian t-shirt. I informed him of my plan that if I could find a girl who was into both Tegan and Sara and Blind Guardian I would be set.

To which he replied, “That’s an awesome plan... good luck with that dude.” Yeah, I’m going to need it. Thank you stranger.