Radio on the Internet: Pandora’s ‘Newstalgia’

So, I was listening to Pandora again at the gym and enjoying a station a created based off of the Pixies when I heard an

You know what clung to the box? Hope.

You know what clung to the box? Hope.

advertisement for the genre channel called “Cover Songs Radio. There were two things that made me continue to think about this channel over the next day.

First, as some might remember, I have sort of an embarrassing obsession with cover songs. I have theorized about them (twice), I have gone through an intense period of watching amateurs perform them on youtube, I have fantasized about impossible cover songs and I have objected to particularly bad ones.

But what really go me going was the advertisement selling “Newstalgia”, claiming that this is the feeling that a cover song inspires you with because it is both something new and something old. This neologism freaks me the hell out because (1) the Greek compound nost-algia is one of my favorite words and this new word reveals absolute ignorance about the root words “homecoming-grief”) and, more pedantically, new is not a Greek root. The Greek word for ‘new’ would create a perfectly acceptable word “Nealgia”.

(I know. I know. A silly thing to get angry about. And just do a google search for “newstalgia” and see how many others have committed the same unforgivable barbarism.)

So, the idea of a station dedicated to pop songs stayed in my head for a day and a night. The next day I returned to my office and committed myself to listening to the first five songs on the station and writing them down. Here’s what happened: I got excited, I got sad and then I got angry.

Here we go:

1. Van Halen, “You really Got me” (Cover of The Kink’s 1964 hit)

In classic and typical Van Halen stlye, the vocals are sufficient but forgettable and there is way too much guitar soloing. The simplicity and the masculine directness that make the original so powerful are lost on this one. I am sure that the different style was really fascinating in the hoary year of 1978, but years later, it just seems obnoxious

2. Nirvana, “The Man Who Sold the World” (Cover of David Bowie’s 1972 release)

I was surprised when this song came on because I still think of it as a such a revelatory moment for Nirvana. For one, I actually heard this song for the first time when Nirvana covered it in the unplugged show. In this version, the bass is so beautifully and simply played, the guitar-line is like some type of call-to-arms, and Cobain’s voice works well with its under-played presentation of the song. By contrast, when I listen to Bowie’s version, it seems almost cheesy. This cover, then, shows the power of a song translated from one style and time to another with the potential to characterize artist and song alike.

3. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, “Over the Rainbow” (do you need to ask?)

I wasn’t at all upset to have this song show up. For one, I have heard it about a thousand times but I didn’t know who sang it or really helped to redefine (for me and for a generation at least) what can happen when you transform a song from one genre to another. The ukulele is simple and his voice is a little thread-bare, but every time I have ever heard this song I have gotten a little sad.

Maybe it is the memory of this song and my youth. When I was a small child CBS or one of the networks used to play the Wizard of Oz one night a year. My mom and dad made popcorn, opened the sleeper sofa, and let me stay up late to watch it. I don’t know what inspired that, but I can’t think of or hear of Wizard of Oz without that thought. Even as I type this out, I am blinking away tears–the song is just too sad, to filled with that sense of the ephemeral nature of life.

And this is even more messed up. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole died at the young age of 38 in 1997 after fighting obesity his entire life. Is there a foreboding tone in this song? What is the song about but the desire for transformative change, for the release from this life to a better one.

Shit, I am getting weepy again.

4. Johnny Cash, “Hurt” (cover of Nine Inch Nails’ 1994 release)

When this song came on after the first one, I decided that I should just stop doing anything for the rest of the day. “Hurt” is a powerfully harrowing song in its original high goth form. When Cash sings this song at the end of his life and after the passing of his wife, it is just way too much to process emotionally. Poignant doesn’t even begin to describe this shit.

I didn’t skip the song, though. I don’t pay for Pandora!

5. Aerosmith, “Come Together” (Cover of The Beatles’ 1969 release)

I did not know that Aerosmith covered this song. I can be quite honest about this. It is terrible. Tyler has such a unique voice that it does not meld well into other peoples’ songs–and this range is quite wrong for it. The over all tone of the song is really ill-fit for Aerosmith and the time period. I really don’t care that much for The Beatles, but after hearing this abomination I listened to the original as a type of soul cleansing. This is the worst type of a cover song: it reveals the weaknesses of the the band performing and makes you want to hear something else.

So that ended my day with Pandora’s cover songs. Anything new to you hear my brother?

Mash-up Repost: Bands with numbers in their name from the Nineties

numbersSo, my brother wrote this post a bit back and I have been thinking about it. I wrote a response. Both generated some debate, so for the first time, I have mashed two of our posts into one terrible Frankensteinian beast. Any ideas for bands we’ve missed or explanations for the phenomenon?

Here’s my brother’s bit to begin:

It occurred to me the other night that there were a lot of  bands with numbers in them from the Nineties. I think  Seven Mary Three was the best. I came to this conclusion after a long conversation with an elementary school friend last week  with whom I enjoyed many of these songs. The football game was not very exciting because the Patriots were like seven touchdowns ahead. I decided to have a mixed drink and this turned into why Seven Mary Three was a better band than Third Eye Blind.  We had to first determine which bands were up for consideration. For instance was 311 up for the best band with numbers in it from the Nineties?

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New Music, Again

So, here’s a third installment of The Only D’s musical suggestions. Whether or not he wants me to tell you this, he has some time on his hands to search for new music because he’s one of a majority of a generation screwed by our financial system.

This means he doesn’t have a job. He should. (And his Mexican-American mother might have a breakdown if he doesn’t get one soon.) Yet, I benefit because, when he is not trolling Reddit for pictures of whatever the hell the ‘frontpage of the internet’ is obsessed with, he’s wading through music to mess with me.

(He’s also, apparently, the go-to guy for suggestions for ‘adult’ web-portals among his friends. Honor takes different forms in different cultures, I guess.)

If you notice, from his comments, he has stereotyped me as interested only in one type of music. What’s with this obsession with folk-pop? Am I so one-dimensional? He’s probably right: my tastes can be predictable. But not always.

Here we go:

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Taking Up the Numbers Challenge Again

So, my brother’s recent post about bands with numbers in their names originated not just from a conversation he had with a childhood friend, but also from some riffing that he and I did on the subject. Yes, as the commenter Jake keenly observed, my brother left far too many bands out of consideration. And, as my brother insisted, this is not accidental: he really just wanted to (1) denigrate Third Eye Blind while (2) defending an under-remembered and muscular-sounding band named Seven Mary Three.

The list below will be going through “Changes” too

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