This is Music History Today the Weekly Edition 11. On this week’s edition, we discuss misunderstood songs, we review the new album by Gorillaz, and we make the case for putting Nine Inch Nails into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Let’s start with some news. You may have heard of the Fyre Festival. It was the festival that was started by Ja Rule & his festival partner Billy McFarland. They promoted a festival being held on a small island in the Bahamas. They had splashy social media posts with models in bikinis swimming in the ocean, lots of sandy beaches, big name bands like Blink-182, etc.
People spent thousands to go to this festival. Unfortunately, the organizers bit off more than they could chew on this one. They picked an island that really didn’t have the infrastructure to support thousands of people being on it. The entire this was a disaster. Bands started backing out, the facilities were half built, and a lot of people were really unhappy.
This week, the organizers announced that people were going to get refunds for at least the tickets. I’m not sure if anybody’s getting their money back on the airfare that they spent getting there and back. At the very least, it shows a few things. The first is that you have to realize that, in the words of the old advertising saying, let the buyer beware. Sometimes, the sizzle of social media doesn’t match the steak of the real world event. Second, if you’re going to try to organize something of this magnitude, you better hire some people who have done it before. I think that the organizers had good intentions but what they thought was going to be a small, exclusive event got way out of control. Lesson learned.
In Rest in Peace news, a big RIP to Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme. You may be wondering why I’m putting him onto a music podcast. It’s because whether you know it or not, Jonathan Demme had a huge musical presence. He directed, for starters, the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense; considered one of the greatest concert films ever made, for it’s style. He directed, also, Neil Young’s documentaries Trunk Show, Journey, and Heart of Gold. He also directed music videos for Kenny Chesney, numerous videos for Bruce Springsteen, New Order, UB40, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, and the Artists Against Apartheid Sun City music video. The man was a huge music fan and lent his skills to the musical art form, along with directing one of the greatest movies ever made: The Silence of the Lambs. He also wrote for three seasons on Saturday Night Live, which is something I completely forgot. He will be greatly missed. Jonathan Demme passed away from cancer. He was 73.
The other week, singer James Blunt gave an interview where, among many other things, he discussed the meaning of his song Beautiful. He was quoted as saying:
“‘You’re Beautiful’ is not this soft romantic f-ing song, It’s about a guy who’s high as a f-ing kite on drugs in the subway stalking someone else’s girlfriend when that guy is there in front of him, and he should be locked up or put in prison for being some kind of perv.”
That made me think of other songs whose meanings have been misunderstood. For instance, keeping with the “it’s a stalker song; not a love song” theme, you have the Police with Every Breath You Take, for which Sting has spoken numerous times about the same thing that James Blunt spoke about. On the more personal stalker level, Sarah McLaughlin’s Possession is about her stalker, taken from her stalker’s point of view. In real life, the stalker committed suicide.
There are many other songs that have been misunderstood. I Want Candy by Bow Wow Wow was used for a candy commercial. Apparently, no one told them what the candy actually was that the song was referring to. I’m not going to say here.
There’s also I Can’t Feel My Face by the Weeknd that people think is a love song and it is. It’s just that it’s a love of drugs, not another woman. Also along the misunderstood drugs line is Semi- Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind.
Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen is a song that everybody thinks is a patriotic song but actually listen to the words. Bruce is talking about a Vietnam War vet and the treatment that the veterans received. Common’s I Used to Love H.E.R. is about rap and hip hop and how he used to love it, not another woman. The song Slide by the Goo Goo Dolls is actually a song about abortion, not about love and the list goes on and on. The lesson is the next time you hear a song, actually listen to the words and not just the music. The song may be trying to tell you something that you’re not understanding.
This week, I’m going to make the case for putting Nine Inch Nails into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For starters, they (and by they, I really mean Trent Resnor since he’s pretty much the band until they go on tour) are considered Industrial Music Gods. Their first album, Pretty Hate Machine in 1989, sold 20 million copies worldwide. Their album the Downward Spiral is #200 on Rolling Stones’ Top 500 Albums of All Time list.
They’ve been nominated for 13 Grammy awards, winning two. They were on Rolling Stones’ 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list at #94. They also made Time magazine’s most influential people list.
Trent, himself, has remixed and produced artists as varied as Enigma and David Bowie. In fact, some people would call him his generation’s Bowie. He’s also won an Academy award for the score to the Social Network.
You can hear Resnor’s impact in the music of today, from Linkin Park to Orb and basically anything that sounds industrial. He, along with Prince and Pearl Jam, have been railing against the music industry for years; so much so that now Nine Inch Nails are an independent band.
If you want to get your feet wet, then Downward Spiral and Pretty Hate Machine are musts to have in your collection. I personally would get every single thing they’ve ever done.
Nine Inch Nails has been nominated twice for the Hall of Fame. Here’s hoping that this upcoming year will be the year that they finally get in. If they can’t get in as a band, maybe the Hall will do what they did with the Chic / Nile Rodgers situation and at least put Trent Resnor in as an influencer.
This week, we’re going to review the new Gorillaz album Humanz. Right off the bat, I will say to buy it and don’t buy it. I’ll explain. First, the album is an eclectic mix of pretty much every musical genre and the guest list on this album is amazing. It has everyone from Vince Staples to Mavis Staples to Kelela to De La Soul to Anthony Hamilton Pusha T to Jehnny Beth and Benjamin Clementine. There’s a ton of songs on this, although a few of them are 30 second interludes. My favorites are Ascension, Strobelite, Saturnz Barz, and Admission.
Here’s why I said buy it but don’t buy it. I would buy the digital download but stay away from the LP version. While the LP version is considered deluxe, it costs at least $6.00 more than the MP3 version and has 6 less songs. If you get the LP only and not the MP3, then you miss out on a couple really good songs like the Apprentice and Ticker Tape, which has Carly Simon. Seriously, CARLY SIMON!!! If you do get the LP version on Amazon, they do give you a free MP3 version but it’s only of the LP version so you still miss out on the extra songs.
This week on the Billboard charts, Kendrick Lamar takes over both the top 100 singles and top album chart with the single Humble and the album Damn both claiming the number 1 spots.
As far as new releases go, there are new albums coming out by Black Lips, Blondie, Colt Ford, Flobots, Full of Hell, Dishwalla, Kasabian, Logic, Perfume Genius, Pond, Robin Trower, Slowdrive, the Afghan Whigs, and the Suicide Commandos.
And that is it for this week’s edition of Music History Today the Weekly Edition. Don’t forget that we have the daily music history podcast, along with a new podcast every Tuesday evening called Music History Today in Depth, where we look at 3 events in music history for that week.