Married to the Music is a new weekly section borrowing the ridiculous and enjoyable tradition brides endure before getting married.
JANUARY 22, 2016
Last week there was a record-breaking blizzard that hit New York and left many unfortunate souls such as myself to hole up in their apartment, not change out of pajamas for 48 hours, envelop themselves with an arsenal of snacks and wine, and begin binge watching a new show.
Snowstorm Jonas severely limited New Yorkers' options to either suck down a coffee that's easily 80% Bailey's and/or Kahlua in order to brave the storm and witness the madness first hand or hop onto your preferred video streaming platform and watch the grains of sand sift through the hourglass until you have to trudge through sludge on your Monday morning commute. Maybe I did both. After the novelty of the Snow Day began to wear off and I realized just how cold and wet I was, it was high time to turn off all the lights and mindlessly scroll through Instagram while sort of half-watching a show for the remainder of the weekend.
I started watching Empire which is not a very great show but it is a very watchable show if you need a different activity once you're done diving down the rabbit hole of Making a Murderer internet conspiracy theories.
Empire is more or less about a drug dealer turned musician turned business mogul (Jay Z meets Dee Jay from Hustle & Flow) who has to decide who will be the sole heir to his Empire (the incredibly subtle name for his company). His three sons are the candidates but each have, in the eyes of their awful father, a gift and a curse. Andre (Sean Combs discoverer Andre Harrell meets real life Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and manager to the stars Benny Medina) is a business savvy Ivy league grad but has no artistic talents. Jamal (Frank Ocean meets John Legend) is a thoughtful, wise R&B singer but, oh no, he is gay and his father believes there is no place for homosexuality in hip hop. Hakeem (Chingy meets Tyga) is an up and coming rapper but his short temper continues to destroy what he creates. What a mess! The show reinforces (ad infinitum) the hamfisted theme of the relationships between children and their famous parents as they try to make a name for themselves in the music industry.
To live as the spawn of a famous artist is often wrought with baggage. How can someone escape the shadow of their parent's legacy? Sure, the talent can exist in the genes and the parent may even foster their child's career if they choose that path. They have all the connections in the world, the means and access to train their child, and the experience of achieving the limelight and managing within it. Those are the pros. All too often the cons weigh far greater: the jealousy and spite towards that privilege, the insurmountable expectations, the inevitable comparisons to style and talent and ability. Most fall short. Some children of famous parents are given a huge leg up, but if they dare follow in those footsteps they better be able to take the unrelenting lifetime of criticism and juxtaposition. It's nearly an impossible task for a second generation artist to achieve more success and critical acclaim than their celebrity parents let alone a unique identity, but several have been able to do just that.
Hank Williams, Jr. | "All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down"
I know that country music does not really have much of a presence on Breathe Heavy and truuuuuust me I'm honestly not trying to change that. Truth be told I actually prefer the off-hand live cover Elliott Smith played, but this song was a hit and this specific performance truly exhibits the bittersweet nature of the lyrics as the camera pans to the faces of a few of the men who Williams names in the lyrics. Despite being the son and namesake of country music legend Hank Williams, Hank Williams, Jr. is probably best known as the singer of the Monday Night Football opening theme song from 1989 to 2011 (until a ridiculous racist rant comparing President Obama to Hitler; though of course, why was Fox News interviewing him in the first place?) which was based on his song "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight." The music video for the original song awarded him Grammy two nominations in 1985 and reached number 10 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks.
That song is actually a psuedo-sequel (maybe, more realistically, a prequel) to an exhausted and disillusioned Hank Williams, Jr. in 1981 with "All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)." This song was his fifth number one on the Country chart and spent a total of ten weeks on the chart. Outlaw Country music contemporaries George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson are name-checked as his friends who no longer "want to get high on the town" or "get drunk and get loud," instead preferring to spend quiet nights at home. This version of Hank singing in the same room as some of those guys and improvising the lyrics slightly during a live performance for a TV special on TCM called The Door Is Always Open. We all get to that stage in life where you look around to see that your old partying friends have all gotten older, simmered down, and finally learned when to say when.
Willow Smith | "TnGwee#3"
This song feels like more of a raw sketch of song parts and ideas than a finished track, but those parts and ideas sound great. Lately, Willow Smith (daughter of ultra-famous actor/musicians Will and Jada) has been exhibiting an interesting left of center pop sensibility and “TnGwee#3” is a prime example. It begins with simple electric guitar plucking and a male verse before Willow drops in with her multi-layered harmonized vocals sounding like an entire choir of weeping Willows. Towards the end the guitar gets just as distorted as her caterwaul.
Is it indie? Is it pop? #idk seems to be Willow's preferred answer to most of these questions, but it's becoming clear that she is truly interested in becoming an artist with a personal, independent sound. "I've been searching in the wind for a message / I've been trying to learn something different." It's refreshing to see this 15-year-old with all the access in the world making headlines with her music and not the typical celebrity garbage gossip.
ARO | "I Can Change" (LCD Soundsystem cover)
ARO is the moniker of Aimée Osbourne, the other daughter of Ozzy that you never saw on The Osbournes because she outright refused to be a part of the show telling MTV executives, "I’m not buying this. That’s great, works for you guys, but it’s not happening for me.” Her first EP is due to be released this Spring which will include this cover of LCD Soundsystem's melancholic disco-crooner "I Can Change." ARO's version slows down the rhythm into a somber, synth-pop ballad showing off her vocals as they harmonize through rises and falls echoing beautifully throughout the track. Her prescient decision to stay out of her family's reality TV show and staying the most anonymous member of your ridiculous family was wise and now we get to see the fruits of that choice.
The Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger (Sean Lennon) | "Britney Jean"
Maybe a song about Britney will offset the old country song and return balance to the Breathe Heavy force.
What would you do if you were the only child of John Lennon and Yoko Ono? Huh? Answer me. How do you even begin to Imagine? Your father was one of the most iconic figures in the history of pop culture, murdered in front of your home when you were just five years old, and several weeks before his last album which included a song about you. Your mother remains one of the most polarizing people on the planet, a conceptual modern artist loved and hated for things she did and did not do.
Then there's you, Sean. You think you have a chance at normal life? You think if you were to be a musician you would ever escape the constant scrutiny of being unfairly compared to one of the greatest songwriters of a generation? Well maybe, just maybe, you would work hard and humbly put out amazing album after amazing album, evolve as an artist, and somewhere along the way you write a tragic ballad about "the sad tale / Of the girl in blond pigtails / From small town Mississippi / Her mother put her up for sale." Maybe you know all too well about the pitfalls of fame and fortune and empathize with someone who was thrown into the fray of stardom way before they are able to make their own decisions on just how that can affect the quality of your life.