Featured Music: Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Aww yeah! Kenny G., Warrant, and Milli Vanilli rule!
Are we embarrassed? Absolutely. But trust doesn’t come easy.
Guilty Pleasures

The Weekly’s music crits come clean.


Cool hasn’t been cool since the postmodern conceit of “anything goes” went mainstream about five years ago, when everyday celebrities began expressing their (probably) feigned admiration for some of pop culture’s most repulsive disasters, from awful sit-coms to hair-metal to dorky comic books to ugly clothing. In the microverse of stardom, where image is everything and nearly every celebrity looks and sounds the same, a star needs to establish the pretense of individuality, that one trait our culture has always valued. What better way to say “I’m an individual, and I’m cool” than by associating with the non-cool? There’s a good reason Shania Twain makes public appearances in a Scorpions tour t-shirt, and looking hot is only half the explanation.
Who knows? The pop-C&W starlet may even know a Scorps song or two (though I doubt it). But where I come from, a person wears a certain t-shirt as an extension of her ego, not as a publicity ploy. Yeah, Shania may be aware of “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” but you’re crazy if you think she regularly listens to or has ever listened to the band’s music.
I tell you what. I have — and a lot of other stuff that would raise the ire of hipsters everywhere.
Music critics usually catch a lot of flack for admitting to liking music not deemed “cool” by the establishment, an entity before which 99 percent of music snobs — friends and neighbors — unwittingly prostrate themselves. All I have to say is that the day I begin listening to music approved by the establishment and/or my friends (“Grade-A establishment-certified!”) is the day I look up from a coffin to see shovelsful of dirt flying toward my face.
We here at the Weekly want to offer the voices of music critics who not only have the courage to speak their minds but are proud to take unpopular stands, especially in the taste department. The following is not some sort of exorcism; Jimmy, Justin, and I all agree that we don’t want to be absolved of these particular sins. Think of this list as our reinforcing your trust that we Weekly critics will always be as diplomatically honest as possible. Are we embarrassed? Absolutely. But trust doesn’t come easy. Nor does the truth.
— Anthony Mariani

‘Bless us, father, for we have sinned ...’
A guilty pleasure is something that a normal person wouldn’t freely admit to in public, and if he did, he’d kind of feel as if he spilled his porn collection in front of several nuns. Here are some bits of music porn from us Weekly crits.
From Jimmy: “No Rain,” by Blind Melon. Is it fair to feel guilty about a 13-year-old mega-hit when it’s been successfully revived to plug the most critically acclaimed film of the year? We wanted to throw up when the song reached its radio saturation point in early ’93, but the marketers of Sideways were canny to recognize the instant nostalgia value in this tuneful little gem about being a boy forever. Is there really an undertow of lovely melancholy in the song’s instrumental whimsy, or did Shannon Hoon’s untidy New Orleans demise, face-down in a tour bus, make it so posthumously? God, the bee girl from the video’s gotta be on her second marriage by now. ... “Magic Man,” by Heart. True story: When I lived in Deep Ellum during the mid-1990s, a professional dominatrix who briefly stayed down the hall knocked on my door one night and wanted to know the name of that slithery, guitar-churning rock number in which a sultry wailer sings about some magician guy. Amazingly, this power babe had never heard of either Heart or “Magic Man,” although before she moved out, she thanked me for introducing her to what became, for her, an indispensable warm-up track, guaranteed to psyche her up before paid sessions. Try, try, try to understand — there’s something about “Magic Man,” mama. ... Pretty in Pink — the single, the soundtrack, the movie, the vibe, everything. Times were so simple then that to be a rebel and piss off the rich high school bitches, all you had to do was work at a used record shop and wear funky multi-colored leg-warmers to gym class. I recently took a spin through this 1986 Molly Ringwald-John Hughes collaboration and discovered it was all the more joyful for its illogical plot turns, screwed-up values, and utterly soulless take on what “individuality” means. And, yes, I prefer the plastic, tarted-up, commercial version of the title track to The Psychedelic Furs’ gloomier, dirgier original. It seems only right for a movie in which the quirky heroine purports to reject the materialism of her peers yet dissolves into tears when her rich boyfriend wishes to see her modest middle-class home.
From Justin: “Seventeen,” by Winger. My stone-cold fox of an ex-babe used to say that Kip Winger had the best teeth in rock, and I always thought he couldn’t twirl for shit, but no matter — Reb Beech’s riffs were rocket flares to the groin. Ain’t no shame in digging this one. ... “Still Of The Night,” by Whitesnake. Another sexy-as-hell, sleazy beauty, built on 10-foot-high guitar riffs and David Coverdale’s British purr disguised as American lust. You couldn’t knock the chorus of this bad boy out of your head with a 2 x 4 in 1987. Possibly largely responsible for the baby bang of the early 1990s. ... “Don’t Worry Baby,” by the Beach Boys. Downright blasphemy for a guy raised on Zeppelin and Sabbath, but there’s no denying this number’s vocal melodies — so sweet, they melt in your brain like aromatic candle wax. And just think: These dudes hung with Charlie Manson, dropped acid with shamans, and were consistently gacked to the gills on booze, pills, and ’shrooms. Still as American as apple pie and handguns. ... “Lay It Down” and “Back For More,” by Ratt. You can bet that Satan uses their awfully corny videos to torture the souls of serial killers in hell, but the swing in the melodies of these two stingers is pure heroin heaven. ... “The Air That I Breathe,” by The Hollies. A warm-breeze of love blown by Graham Nash in his über-feminine tenor. Probably recorded in a studio blanketed by a cloud of reefer thicker than prime rib. ... “I Remember You,” by Skid Row. “Say, Justin. Do you have a vengeance for power ballads?” Do I have a vengeance for power ballads?!? The chorus just kills here, and, damn, if Sebastian Bach doesn’t pop an artery or two when he hits that last note. Classic. ... “Without You,” by Harry Nilsson. The most utterly heart-breaking song ever. If this doesn’t put a tear in your eye, then you have no hustle in your hedgerow. (I’m amazed that dude was singing about coconuts a month later.) Do not listen to this weeper while inebriated, in the throes of a deep love jones, and equipped with a loaded firearm. ... “Without You,” by Mötley Crüe. I just can’t detect any faux-sentimentality here. I think that when Vince Neil sings, “forever,” he really, really means it. ... Scandinavian metal. Besides insanely hot women, Sweden and the rest of the Alpine countryside is lousy with some of the most brutally beautiful metallic sounds today — Opeth, Arch Enemy, Meshuggah, In Flames, et al. From folk-metal to blazing thrash to math-metal (everything typically loaded with furnace-hot melodies), this cool part of the globe is hot. Keep your damned Metallica. I’ll take my heaviness in wooden shoes.
And from Anthony: “Ice Ice Baby,” by Vanilla Ice. I understand that sometimes tastes change and that what was cool in high school may not be cool later in life. But I cannot comprehend how everybody I knew back when this tune hit — white and black — went from loving to hating it within, like, a week’s time. So good ol’ Rob Van Winkle wasn’t a gangsta. No shit! Next thing you know, the Music Police will reveal that Avril’s not a real punk. ... “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” by Warrant. The down boys’ lone, gratuitous attempt at social redemption, this based-on-a-true-story rocker could have been recorded two months ago, its timbre is of such pure melodic granite. ... “Eastside Jam,” by Kenny G. Screw y’all. ... “Girl You Know It’s True,” by Milli Vanilli. You remember these jokers, right? Two handsome black guys with long dreads and ridiculous dance moves? Made a nice living for a few years in the late 1980s for pretending to have written and performed a handful of Top-40 charts? Well, if you’re ever looking for a sure-fire way to start a bar fight, then stand on your chair and with exaggerated hand gestures and in a loud voice proclaim this song one of the best R&B numbers of the past 50 years. The knuckle-draggers around you won’t blanche over the music itself but over the fact that “Milli Vanilli” was not as much a band as it was some major record label’s idea of a marketing gimmick. (The Best New Artist Grammy awarded them in 1990 was soon afterward stripped away once investigations proved that neither Milli nor Vanilli contributed a whit to the construction of Milli Vanilli’s music.) Nothing gets Americans more riled up than the thought of a pop star whose success is authored by subterfuge — when 99 percent of our fellow citizens wouldn’t have pots to piss in without indulging in a little risky business themselves. But forget about all the drama surrounding the band for a moment and lend an unprejudiced ear to the music — music written, arranged, and performed by real though non-credited musicians, talented folks who made their livings off musicmaking. I guarantee you’ll be tapping your toes.
So that’s that, but this story’s not over. Inspired by all this truth-telling, we Weekly crits are planning a piece on music’s most overrated artists. We’re not naming names yet, but fans of Snoop Dogg, Bright Eyes, and Radiohead are hereby warned to avoid our paper for the next few weeks.

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