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Sunday, June 01, 2003

True To The Game

Appropos of nothing, four rules of good music...

1. The "Wang Chung" Rule:
It is generally a bad idea to name check oneself, or one's band or crew during a song. In addition to the titular example ("Everybody Have Fun Tonight" by Wang Chung, infamously containing the line "Everybody have fun tonight/ Everybody Wang Chung tonight," as famously recited on an episode of "Cheers" by Frasier Crane.) This rule may be sufficient to explain why most 90s rap sucks, since most of them can't stop referring to themselves.

2. The "Geographical Locations" Rule:
Don't name a band after a piece of land, particularly a large one. The larger the piece of real estate, the more you will suck. There's Boston and Chicago, and then Kansas and Alabama, which suck more. Then there's America, Europe, and, worst of all, Asia. (I can't take credit for this one; I got this from an observation by Victoria during Craig's "Best Bands Ever" tournament.

3. The "Rich and Famous" Rule:
With the exception of a handful of solo artists whose desire to create new art is probably so strong that they do it out of compulsion, almost no great pop or rock music is made by someone who already both rich and famous. Rock music is for the young, the lean, and the hungry. Stay in the game long enough, and you'll embarass youself, either by singing teenage lust ditties when you're closer to Medicare than to the Junior Prom, by trying to put across anthems of struggling to get by when your immediate perspective is closer to Corporate CEO than to Starving Musician, or by trying to sing about anything real when your chief concern is making sure that the correct kind of champagne is in your dressing room. You can safely ignore any product by most established artists over 40.

4. The "No Ringers" Rule:
Rock bands should generally not resort to "professional songwriters." While pop idols almost always do nothing but rely on such writers, rock is a different form, one that puts a premium on the fact that the singer and musicians believe in what they are trying to convey. When that material comes not from the artists themselves, nor in the form of a cover of a song they either hope to recast or satirize, but from professional songwriters more used to being in the mindset of vapid pop idols, it's a sign that the musicians have nothing left to say. This fact has deep-sixed the quality of more bands than you realize, from pop-rock outfits like REO Speedwagon and Cheap Trick to former rock heavyweights Aerosmith and Pink Floyd. If you're so out of things to say that you can't write songs anymore, that's a strong sign you should hang it up. Heck, as the Ramones, AC/DC, and some other bands have found out, your fans might not even mind terribly much that you keep rewriting the same song(s) over again.


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