Till My Head Falls Off 01.08.04: Hey Ya!

For Your Listening Pleasure
Nirvana – From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah

Ten years ago today at the Seattle Arena, Nirvana played its last live show. Am I getting old or what?

News to You
So it’s happened… and folks, let me tell you, I believe in the sanctity of marriage and all, but I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t kind of rooting for an annulment of Kate Hudson & Chris Robinson’s nuptials.

But that being said, let me be among the first to congratulate the Sexiest Pregnant Woman (and her husband) on the birth of their first child…

_____ Of The Year? (Reprise)
I know it seems like being me is all glory, glamour and glitz, but it’s hard work being an Internet Celebrity!

Last week, I listed my picks for the 411mania.com Year End Awards – and, WOW, did I get lambasted for some of my choices! One bit of feedback that stands out went something like this:

“Matt, you call yourself a music columnist? You’re more like a MORON columnist! Dave Matthews as the best male pop act of the year?! What are you on crack you ass clown?! Why don’t you get a fu**in’ life and learn something about MUSIC for once, and stop listening to that unintelligible crap?! Oh, and don’t quit your day job.”

Brutal right? Who would’ve thought my girlfriend could be so mean?

Nonetheless, let me try to explain myself a little bit: I was just working with what I was given, i.e., the final nominations (which can be found – including four categories that YOU can vote for — here)… and there was no way I could vote for John, Justin or Jason – and I haven’t heard Jeff Beck’s album yet – so that left Mr. Matthews.

Also last week, I listed a few singles and asked the question: did the albums these songs are on come out in 2002 or 2003?

1. Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell – “Beautiful”
2. Christina Aguilera – “Beautiful”
3. T.A.T.U. – “All The Things She Said”
4. Pink – “God Is A DJ”
5. 50 Cent – “Wanksta”

Well, that was partly a trick question, as Pink’s album was the only one to come out in 2003! In fact, even though “Wanksta” was on 50 Cent’s 2003 album, it also appeared on 2002’s 8 Mile soundtrack…

See, I told you it wasn’t that easy!

Hey Ya!
What WAS easy, though, was choosing the song of the year. While the quality of albums (or to be fair, the albums I’ve heard) seems to have diminished over the past couple of years, I feel like I’ve noticed quite a few really good, fun songs over that same span. Maybe it’s that hit-and-run mentality I talked about in June, or maybe it’s simply a result of the download-one-song-at-a-time online music craze that iTunes, Napster 2.0, and all the rest are leading… or maybe I’m getting to be just like the rest of the dumb music marks out there, with no attention span and a craving for the catchy pop tune. Who really knows?

I DO know that “Hey Ya!” was THE single of the year, and one of the most fun songs I’ve heard on the radio in a while. “Lose Yourself” fun. “Groove is in the Heart” fun. “Kiss” fun.

And what cracks me up is half the song is utter nonsense! Sure, the first verse or two paints a picture of a couple that can’t figure out if they should stay together (“cause they don’t know how!”). Andre’s girl won’t mess around ’cause she doesn’t want HIM to mess around… and they’re not sure if their love will last forever, so instead… they decide to DANCE.

I mean 2/3 of the song is all about “shakin’ it like a Polaroid picture”, and I’m sure there are many a songwriter that shake their head whenever this one comes on the radio. I’m also sure that quite a few self-proclaimed “serious” musicians also love the damn song, maybe even seeing through the quirk and recognizing the (obvious?) Prince, Zappa, and other influences that are all over this song, and the album it comes from.

Oh, and when was the last time a song was such a cross-over hit? Fist-fights almost broke out at the offices of 411mania.com as we tried to figure out whether OutKast should be classified under “Rap/Hip-Hop”, “Pop/Mainstream”, or whatever. And in a year with so many songs that (in my humble opinion, of course) could have easily run away with the title of “best single” (“Stacy’s Mom”, “Move Your Feet”, “Clocks”, “Bring Me To Life”, “All The Rules Have Changed”), it looks like “Hey Ya!” is going to make everyone else eat their dust.

Pitchfork Media has an interesting “top singles” list up, where they say this about “Hey Ya!” –

“Hey Ya” broke-through, crossed-over, or whatever Billboard term you want to use, like no other chart-topping song since “When Doves Cry”. Every race, nation, age, creed, musician, and political party adores the song. Black and white. Jews and Palestinians. Muskrats and snakes. Thurston and Mandy Moore. They all got down. You can approach pop music as cynically as your indieness mandates, but “Hey Ya” is a monument to the idea that a really f*cking great song will blow up because it’s really f*cking great. Mind-blowing, then, when the track sounds very much like a home recording by a guy with a couple guitars and keyboards.

Now, I wouldn’t call the song “mind-blowing”, but I will say this: I can’t hear it on the radio without stopping everything I’m doing and shakin’ it. Music fun? Shh… don’t tell my emo friends!

From The Head of Toe
I realized that I don’t give enough attention to “new releases” so, from now on, I’m going to give my buddy Toe a guest spot in this column each month, where he can list some noteworthy albums set to drop in the next few weeks. Please send comments on this directly to Toe as he’d love to hear from you!

Thanks, Matt. January looks like a slow month, but here are a few new releases I feel are worth taking a look at:

Matthew Sweet: Kimi Ga Suki (Jan 20): Recorded in 2002 specifically for his Japanese “big in Japan” audience, this album finally sees US release. This reunion of the “Girlfriend”-era lineup with guitarists Richard Lloyd and Greg Leisz is probably what his fans have been waiting for.

10,000 Maniacs: Campfire Songs (Jan 27): This 2-disc set will feature greatest hits and b-sides/rarities, many of which are just as good as their singles, such as their cover of the Smith’s “Everyday is Like Sunday” and R.E.M.’s “Don’t Go Back to Rockville.” Hopefully it will just feature Ms. Merchant

Norah Jones: Feels Like Home (Feb 10): Can Grammy sweeper avoid the sophomore jinx? With the same crew aboard, it may be a non-issue.

Thanks Toe! For now, it’s time for me to figure out a way to fix this vote so I win! Results for the 411 staff and reader awards will be up on 411mania.com in the next week or so, so don’t forget to vote early and often…

Until next time…

peace. love. moe.

– Matt

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