Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Greatest Hits

I was standing in line today at Starbucks, waiting for a latte, looking over their various pretty and eco-friendly products, blissfully unaware of the soft background music, until a thought struck me: this soft, baby music that I was listening to was, in fact, a version of I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking for by U2. Played on the xylophone. The xylophone. Barely a musical instrument. The instrument that we all use in a bid not to lose the alphabet game on any given subject because almost nothing else, which isn't a chemical, starts with the letter x. I was so appalled while listening, wondering if there was some way to make sense of it all, suffering through this painfully soft rendition of what is an honest to God good old-fashioned rock song by Ireland's greatest export since the potato and Guiness beer.

There is an explanation, as it turns out. Starbucks and its other partner companies also produces music to varying degrees, and one of their ingenious ideas was to put together a baby rock CD, compiling some of the greatest rock songs into 'ding ding' songs that you can use while firing up the mobile on top of a crib. The hipster parents of a new generation that likes to 'friend' their children has now sunk to a new low: integrating rock and roll into the lives of their too cool tots, the ones who wear designer clothing when they're out on a walk with mommy, dressed up in her Lululemon yoga gear with her soy latte in hand.

Does anyone remember a time when rock and roll was banned and most parents forbade it because they thought that it incited the devil? Does anyone ever think back to how crazy it was that Elvis once caused such a stir with his suggestive hip dancing that he was filmed only from the waist up while doing an appearance on the Sullivan show? No, nobody remembers that. That was back when records still churned out rock and roll and when the TV was a big appliance that sat in the middle of the family room and got only got one channel that you had to switch with a big dial button. It's funny to think that in the period of roughly 50 years since the onset of popular American rock and roll, it went from being forbidden and feared by parents, to embraced by hipster parents and corporations alike.

Beyond the irony of the situation, though, I have to object to the fact that listening to U2's greatest hits as played on the xylophone is not just silly, it's bad. It's plain old bad. It takes all the fire, grit and well, rock and roll out of the song. It waters it down until it becomes like modified orange drink that you used to get at McDonald's. You know that drink, right? It's so water and orange that it actually can't be called juice because it's just orangy. Well, this watered down song was so stripped of everything that makes it rock that it wasn't rock anymore.

What if we did the opposite? What if we took the greatest baby hits of all time and remixed them so that they were done by, let's say, the Clash? What if we made Rock a Bye Baby into London Calling? Come on, you're thinking about it right now...

"ROCK- a bye- Baby- on the TREE TOP- when the wind blows, the cradle WILL ROCK..."

Or other such classics, like Ring Around the Rosey:

"RING!- around- the ROSEY- pocket full of POSEY- HUSHA- HUSHA- WE ALL FALL DOWN! That's right you bunch of wankers, FALL DOWN!"

It's silly and irreverent. Just as silly and irreverent as the idea of dumbing down rock songs to make the babies sleep at night.

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