Till My Head Falls Off 10.22.03: You Can Do That On Television?

For Your Listening Pleasure
Eric B & Rakim – Paid in Full

One of the best rap albums of all time, period – and Island Records is re-issuing a “Platinum Edition” next Tuesday. Just pick it up, and bear witness to the man who all of today’s emcees bite their styles off of…

I got a question — it’s serious as cancer
Who can keep the average dancer
hyper as a heart attack, nobody smilin
Cause you’re expressin, the rhyme that I’m stylin
This is what we all sit down to write
You can’t make it so you take it home, break it and bite
Use pieces and bits of all my hip-hop hits
Get the style down pat, then it’s time to switch
Put my tape on pause, and add some more to yours
Then you figured, you’re ready for the neighborhood chores
A E-M-C-E-E don’t even try to be
When you come up to speak, don’t even lie to me
You like to exaggerate, dream and imaginate
Then change the rhyme around, that can aggravate me
So when you see me come up, freeze
Or you’ll be one of those seven MC’s
They think that I’m a new jack, but only if they knew that
they who think wrong are they who can’t do that
style that I’m doin, they might ruin
Patterns of paragraphs, based on you and
your offbeat DJ, if anything he play
sound familiar, I’ll wait ’til E. say
“Play ’em,” so I’ma have to diss and bro
you can get a smack for this, I ain’t no joke

Eric B & Rakim, “I Ain’t No Joke” (lyrics from OHHLA.com)

News to You
Scouring the music news sites, it seems like a lot is going on, but nothing inspiring enough for me to rant on and on about, so here is some Quick News (huzzah?) for your enjoyment:

— As hot as the soundtrack is for Kill Bill: Vol. 1, it’s not news to any of us that yet another Quentin Tarantino film kicks major ass in the music department. But what’s with video games having such tight soundtracks? Add EA’s NBA Live 2004 to the list of sweet looking video game soundtracks, as this one will feature music from Black Eyed Peas, Mobb Deep, OutKast and many others…

— Elton John is going to Vegas, baby, making the huge mistake of following in Celine Dion’s footsteps. In fact, he’ll even be performing at Caesars Palace’s Colosseum on and off for the next three years. Actually, I’m only kidding. He’s really going to be filling in for Roy next door at the Mirage…

— What else? Uh… The Strokes have a new album? And Rolling Stone gave it four stars? Now, I respect David Fricke a LOT, and maybe I’m just jealous of how well The Strokes dress, but c’mon, FOUR STARS? In fact, looking at the latest issue of that magazine, I honestly don’t know if more than one or two new releases got LESS than THREE stars. What’s the point of having a rating scale if everything’s the same? My head hurts – no more news….

You Can Do That On Television?
Well, it’s happened. Clay Aiken’s album is out, and it has sold three google units. Or something like that. And the critics are going WILD. In fact, the “American Idol” runner up (that’s right, folks, he didn’t even WIN the reality/talent contest!) is finding himself caught in the middle of a strange phenomenon. The more the critics pan his debut album, the more his fan base grows.

Okay, that’s not really phenomenal (we all know that the snobbiest of music snobs would rather be caught dead than listening to something in the Top Ten), but it’s getting interesting to watch, especially with my own mother on the Clay bandwagon with a vengeance. Every music critic hates this album, and every 14 year old girl and 55 year old soccer mom that’s heard his voice will come to Clay’s defense the moment anything negative is said. They saw his metamorphosis from geek to geek-with-a-new-hairdo-and-wardrobe, they voted for him multiple times week in and week out, they cried when he was edged out by Ruben, they get defensive when people imply he’s gay, they live on his fan sites’ message boards… you get the picture.

But all these fans really want is for the meanies to get off of Clay’s back (and to get away with illegally downloading songs and video clips from the ‘Net). One crazy, Clay-lovin’ soccer mom wrote a very thoughtful column on the subject. You know the drill: the critics should just shut up and stop calling Clay’s fans “out of touch” or “out of it”, and let the record/ticket sales and fan passion speak for themselves. I don’t’ necessarily agree with everything she says (especially the context in which she mentions “Bye Bye Bye” and “Baby One More Time”), but she puts together a fine argument, laying out point-by-point why she is a fan, and what she looks for in music to satisfy her.

I respect that. In fact, there’s plenty of music that I listen to – whether I call them “guilty pleasures” or not – that the critics could care less about. And I definitely don’t listen to something just because a critic tells me I should. Anyone remember the trouble I got into with my Radiohead comments a few months ago?

Let me make sure that I also say that just because something sells a lot, it doesn’t mean I have to like it. As much as certain critics are at fault for ragging on someone that likes a pop record that the critic feels isn’t “substantial” enough (whatever that means), fans similarly shouldn’t tell me that I’m “wrong” for not liking the music that they’re passionate about. Don’t hate on me for not liking Clay; and don’t fault me if I think he’s overrated and cheesy, with a voice more suitable for Broadway than MTV. Or MTV2. Or whichever TV station actually shows music these days.

We all have different criteria – fans and critics alike – of what turns us to a song or an artist. Some of us care mostly about lyricism; some about melody, some about innovation, etc. And the more often you read a specific music critic’s reviews and columns, the better you get at understanding how they go about forming their opinions (and accompanying star-ratings and the like). But I take nothing away from a fan of any kind of music. I may feel you’re “out of touch” or a cheeseball, and you may think I’m a snot, but when it comes down to it, the kid’s sold tons of records, his fans are loving it, and let’s face it – opinions are like assholes (and some of us just happen to be bigger assholes than the rest).

And this all started with a silly TV show….

Speaking of TV…
I have to close this column out with a couple of TV-related notes.

First off, I saw one of the funniest things EVER on television as I was writing this column: David Cassidy singing “God Bless America” during the Marlins/Yankees game. I looked and looked, but I don’t think the man has a tongue. Wow, what a moment.

Secondly, Jack Black and the School of Rock Band were on with Jay Leno, and those kids are adorable – and great musicians, too! They’re making the talk-show circuit, so to catch any future performances if you can…

And finally, Steven Coogan wrote a solid column for moodspins, where he “fantasy programmed” a TV station with all of his favorite shows that aren’t on the air anymore. Definitely check it out.

My response to his column –

Here’s my list of shows I’d want to bring back, as well as a channel I’d love to “fantasy program” if a station like TRIO ever gave me a shot:

BRING BACK (Either I miss them or were too short-lived/didn’t get the chance)

1-5. Undeclared, Andy Richter, Action, Family Guy, Herman’s Head — Coogan’s right here — Fox gives up on shows WAY too easily.

6. Sports Night — although this one was as much Aaron Sorkin’s fault as it was ABC’s. Sorkin’s drug habit got the best of him, and his intense schedule with West Wing — so when Showtime offered to pick the show up after ABC cancelled it, Sorkin said he couldn’t do it. Luckily, almost all of the main characters (even Jefferson from Married… With Children!) have had decent rolls in other shows (6 Feet Under, West Wing, Ed).

7. Snoops — Cool direction/editing? Check. Great theme song? Check. GINA GERSHON? Check. Unlike “girls club” and from all indications “Poland, New Hampshire”, I don’t see how this David E. Kelly show didn’t make it past a few episodes.

8. That 80s Show — C’mon, JUST CHYLER LEIGH alone made this show! It wasn’t great, but is “That 70s Show” GREAT? At least the lead male character from that show looks like he’s gonna have a nice role on “ER” as Coop this season.

9. Coupling — Okay, here me out. I know this one isn’t cancelled. Yet. But PLEASE give it a shot, NBC! The first two episodes were weak, I admit that. But the show’s a hit in England, they’re using the same scripts, the cast is solid, and the third (latest) episode was pretty funny! You’ll never find replacements for your hit shows on their way out if you cancel everything after three weeks! And replacing it this week with Whoopi?! Oy vay.

10. Cop Rock — Just kidding.

10. Puttin’ on the Hits — Come ON, this show was great. Anytime people can win a contest BY lip syncing… Man, this should come back now. I’d much rather see this than Fame or American Juniors.

11. Remote Control — Name ONE good music game show on today that isn’t a talent contest? Thought so….

12. Who’s Line Is It Anyway? — Another originally British show killed by moving it around in different timeslots, never letting it get into a groove.

13. Once & Again — From the creators of “My So Called Life” and “thirtysomething”, most critics raved how this show had the best of both worlds: just enough focus on the kids as well as the adults. A f*cked up, modern day “Brady Bunch”, this show got screwed over every time they switched timeslots. A shame.

14. Dark Angel — I know, I know, we’ve got “Alias”, “Tru Calling” and “Karen Sisco” now, and there’s only so many “hot babe solves crimes” shows you can take. Not so. This one was a little “X-Files”, a little “21 Jumpstreet” in feel, and I miss it greatly.

Honorable mentions — What’s Alan Watching?, The Ben Stiller Show, Alien Nation, DC Follies, Wasteland, The $treet, and of course… Tenacious D!

IF I WERE IN CHARGE (Shows I’d like to program back to back on one channel, just to see how they worked):

1. Max Headroom
2. Hunter
3. Street Hawk
4. Knight Rider
5. 21 Jumpstreet

Come on, you would, too. Until next time…

peace. love. moe.

– Matt

Till My Head Falls Off can be found weekly on 411 Music (old columns are archived in the pull-down menu below). Already hit everything on 411? You can find more from Matthew Michaels at moodspins and 1-42.

Matthew Michaels is one of the original editors of Pulse Wrestling, and was founding editor of Inside Fights and of Inside Pulse Music.