Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bono bests Brahms for baby bliss

This is a really interesting book; just a series of recorded conversations between the author, who is an old friend of U2 and wrote about them in the early days, and Bono. The insights he shares in the interviews prove he is at least somewhat less overrated than most rock star activists, and confirms my sense that he's better grounded than most. I recommend the book and the music, not necessarily in that order.

The above bit of vital, award-worthy blogging led me to the following:

I ran across this CD in an online search for U2 music at the library (I like to have a soundtrack when I read about musicians, and I haven't heard any full U2 albums since "The Joshua Tree." I know, I know). A search on reveals this bizarre production is part of a whole series of rock songs made into lullabies.

I try to have an open mind about these things...I really do. And I've found I've become more accepting of interpretations of musical works that are unconventional or that seem to stray from the original intent. But this...this is too much. To paraphrase Dave Barry: "And the RIAA does nothing." They should be lobbying against THIS instead of trying to convince everyone that it's wrong to make one copy of a legally-purchased CD onto a computer for personal use.

I mean, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" as a LULLABY? Could this be more inappropriate? Not so much for the kid, but... poor song! Neutered like Bob Barker's housecat. This is not "interpretation" or a musical equivalent to poetic license...this is a Kafka short story in the making!! It's just as well I'm a Baptist because no combination of swear words would be adequate at this point.

The other collections are just as odd...Rolling Stones...the Cure...Led Zeppelin...Nirvana (They had tunes? Who knew?)...Pink Floyd (OK, that last one is more plausible, especially if the baby is medicated). If the phrase "rock 'n' roll is dead" ever meant anything....

Granted, infants couldn't care less about the lyrical content as long as the melodies are pretty and repetitive and the sound is soothing (case in point, that song about the baby falling from a tree..."cradle and all"). And there must be a bazillion recordings out there that meet this standard. If anyone thinks this is mainly about how much the BABIES enjoy the music, I'd put them in the same category as the people (especially cat owners)who project the personality traits onto their pets that they want the pets to have, regardless of the evidence, or lack of it, that said pet has that trait. Ego-based self-delusion is a fascinating thing.

So, OK, clearly the key element at work here is how much the ADULTS like the music because it reminds them of the original songs (usually due in part to associations with their own pre-parent lives, of which the kids are equally oblivious). And even though most adults don't pay that close attention to the actual lyrics, it can't be healthy for a mom to be reflecting on the words, however subconsciously, to the Rolling Stones' tribute to Valium, "Mother's Little Helper":

"And though she's not really ill
There's a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper"

The sad part is that this reveals how low the bar is for success in this country. Any resemblance or vague connection to the popular and familiar will move merchandise, never mind the artistic principle being violated. I don't want anyone to be a musical snob...but surely even parenthood doesn't damage one's tastes to this extent!

Is this what losing all that sleep and dealing with diapers and drool does to a person? I can accept the occasional nod-off in the drive-through by the mom in front of me, or a new dad's failure to stay on-topic around the water cooler...but this? Very scary!

Especially funny or tragic (depending on your point of view) are the remarks in the consumer reviews posted on no apparent sense of irony.

Debra C. Perry of Modesto, CA hoped her nephews would receive "subliminal messages of good music in their sleep." How about: "Grow up quick so you can enjoy good, original, passionate music, and not this watered-down substitute."

Lindsey Justice said:
"My husband and I both really love U2, so I was positively giddy to buy this CD! I didn't have very high hopes for it- I figured it was just too crazy to pass up."
"Too crazy"? She might be onto something here.

Book Lover "JJ" from San Francisco proudly declared that she gave the CD as a baby shower gift...more than once...and spread the disease:
"Both gift recipients LOVED this lullaby collection. One recipient registered for many of this series. Her two favorites were this one and The Beatles renditions. The tunes were absolutely recognizable."
Well, a producer can't ask for a bigger compliment to his work than "recognizable"!

Not everyone was positive--but their comments don't inspire much hope, either.

Pesopusher from Texas clearly bought the CD as a necessary item--he needed to feed his unhealthy addiction:
"As a U2 fan of over 18 years, 15 concerts, a trip to Ireland, and a U2 tattoo, I have over 100 U2 CDs (singles, imports, bootlegs, rarities, and what not) and thought 'what the heck'.
[Unfortunately this sentence doesn't continue with " I doing with my life?!"]
"After two times listening to the full album, I still get confused and messed up during the songs."
Guess it's hard to pump your fist when the percussion doesn't quite recreate the original feeling of teen angst. At least he's willing to admit he has a problem; that's the first step.

"Disappointed" D. Ferchland from New York seems to have missed the point, as well as a few typing lessons:
"I bought this and the Pink Floyd Lullaby CD... this is just as bad... Actually both cd's sound the same, nothing like the actual songs, and just like the Floyd cd, the sound is annoying and definitley not soothing... I recomend buying the regualr cd, not the lullaby versions."
Gee, it's too bad there's no way to listen to these things in, where a person could click a button and hear a sample online....hmmmm.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not without sympathy. I appreciate the pull of a familiar tune and the annoying nature of some music for kids, and I'm all for recycling...but...people. Please. Songwriters and composers are struggling to make a living...this is one more reason why. Let the music you love keep its dignity--what little it may have left after being used in detergent commercials and "American Idol" auditions.

Of course, I know it'll be different if I'm ever a parent; maybe I'll understand. Or maybe not. But until then, I'm looking up entertainment lawyers in the phone book; surely something can be done.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

sorry- I'm a bit behind on the blog- and I just read this one today. I must admit, I'm intrigued! I am considering checking out the Beatles stuff for my little one. I'll let you know how my personal experiment turns out though!