Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Clef Notes: The “I’m As Surprised As You Are” Edition

Every Friday, or at least until his spectacular rock star flameout, Giovanny will be dropping a week’s worth of music knowledge on you with Clef Notes, proof positive that he’s a one man music magazine.


Don't judge me, like I judge her.

You had no idea either: Over the 63 editions of Clef Notes I have rarely written about Ke$ha, and in the few instances where I did it was almost always derisive... okay, it was always derisive. This week I bring you loyal readers a mixed bag of Ke$ha observations which include disparagement, confusion and, most shockingly, praise. It was a rather slow news week.

Let’s begin with the disparagement, shall we?: As it does every week, Tuesday brought us a massive helping of new music (most of which I ignore on principle). Among this week’s new releases was the remix of Ke$ha’s Sleazy, which is called Sleazy 2.0, Get Sleazier. Normally I would not write about this kind of thing because the song, and especially its hook, are pretty awful. But, the remix does feature an impressive number of guest rappers, with the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Andre 3000, T.I., and Lil’ Wayne all passing the mic. To be fair, some of the guest verses are pretty tight, and the fact that Ke$ha has been culled out of most of the track make the remix infinitely better than the single - but then again, so is silence.

Moving on to the confusion: Since I am not a fan of Ke$ha’s, I had no knowledge of her obsession with beards (did you?). Well, don’t just sit there uninterested and take my word for it; click on this link and head on over to her facial hair dedicated Tumblr, Putyourbeardinmymouth.com (there is an adjoining video). The site does not have much content yet, but there are several pictures of Ke$ha with some pretty gnarly beards in her mouth. So... yeah, that’s a real thing.

She has more in common with Pagliacci than you think.

Now for when the world spins off its axis while I commend Ke$ha: As has probably been made clear within this article I am not very familiar with Ke$ha’s work, other than the songs which I hear everywhere, and hate every time. Bearing that in mind, when I read that she had contributed a track to the upcoming Amnesty International release Chimes Of Freedom, a Bob Dylan covers record, I was horrified. Compelled perhaps beyond rational thought, I tracked down the song (read: went to Youtube), which just so happened to be Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, a beloved tune off of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. About 90 seconds into her version, I was stunned. While I hesitate to use words like exceptional, or even unbelievable, to describe Ke$ha's version of Don't Think Twice, I can’t really think of others that properly explain my initial thoughts. This cover song is the literal manifestation of unbelievable. I have actually conducted experiments on people (admittedly none of them were Ke$ha fans) and not one of them was either A) Capable of guessing what artist was singing or, B) able to believe it was Ke$ha after the truth had been revealed. Practically every second of the song is a revelation; from the foreign (at least to me) and subtle qualities of her voice, to the tasteful, minimal arrangement, and, finally, the audible sobs that appear in the latter half. Trust me when I tell you that I am as surprised to be writing these words as you are to be reading them.

I am sure that some of you out there will think that I have in some way lost my edge, or credibility, because I choose to laud Ke$ha, but I am just being honest. You can sit there all you want and tell me how contrived every aspect of this song is (and I know you will), but if Feist had cut this track then all of you would be making horrible videos for it on your iMacs, and posting them on Youtube. Besides, I trashed Ke$ha in the first half of the article, remember? I’m still allowed to be cool, right?

#KindredspiritNot cool dude. Not cool: Do you know the name Malcolm Harris? Of course you don’t. Well, it turns out that he is a writer and editor of a literary journal called The New Inquiry. He is also the person responsible for the “Radiohead - Occupy Wall Street” hoax. Harris let the world know all about his Internet-spawned mischief this week via a Gawker story he wrote which, amusingly enough, is titled I’m The Jerk Who Pranked Occupy Wall Street.

Basically, the “ruse” went a little something like this: First, he wrote a blog post for Jacobin magazine, wherein he claimed he heard a rumor that Radiohead was going to perform at OWS. Harris then turned to Twitter, where he engaged a Gawker reporter who had read the post and concocted a story (over direct message no less) which implied the editor over at Jacobin did not let him report his scoop in full. So far this all may seem innocuous enough, but after stirring the pot a bit more on Twitter, Harris actually created a fake email account under the name of Bryce Edge (which is also the name of Radiohead’s manager), and proceeded to send an email to the OWS Arts and Culture committee who, with obviously bated breath, decided to hold a press conference to confirm the rumor. At this point all that there was left for Harris to do was sit in smug satisfaction (my opinion of course) and watch the both the Internet, and the entire New York metro area, freak out over the thought of the world’s greatest band playing a free show at OWS. The final step of Harris' busy afternoon was a trip to Zucotti Park, to see how many people were showing up because of his efforts. He was surprised by the crowd, much like the occupiers, I bet.

You can read Harris' slightly muddled, not exactly remorseful, first-hand account here, but let me warn you: if you were one of the people who had the misfortune of being duped into taking the train downtown (i.e. me), you will not find much merit or humor in Harris' piece. As a matter of fact, I think it would be delightful if we all found a way to repay Harris' for his misdeeds; we’re all smart people, I bet we can think of something. After all, it’s just like he says: “It's amazing what people will believe when it comes from a clean-looking Gmail account”.


Lioness - Amy Winehouse

Lioness features an Amy Winehouse that your grandmother would love, as slightly above-decent covers of The Girl From Ipanema, and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow showcase an artist who is still trying to find her way, and is content to sing jazz standards. Thus, we find a performer who has very little in common with the woman we eventually became fascinated by... [Full Review]

16th Notes:

Who could possibly be offended by this?

In a recent MTV interview Jay-Z let the world know that there may be a sequel to Watch The Throne next year. I’m only speculating here, but I bet the next album cover will actually be made of money... Two geological monitoring sites located near a recent Foo Fighters gig in New Zealand both reported seismic activity equivalent to that of a volcano being generated by the band and its 50,000 plus audience. What I’m saying is, the Foo Fighters made the Earth move and, while I want to write something snarky, I’m actually kind of impressed... Jeff Tweedy totally reported the weather this Thursday on Chicago TV station WGN’s Morning News. You know this means Kanye is going to have to call a Cubs game, or do the whole Ferris Bueller parade thing... Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and glam-rock institution L.A. Guns are covering each other’s songs for an upcoming split 7”. Sure that’s weird, but the Feist/Mastodon pairing still has it beat... Trent Reznor is nominated for yet another Golden Globe for his Girl With The Dragon Tattoo score. To be fair, Trent doesn't even know where his Grammys are anymore, so it’s safe to assume these things don’t matter to him much (plus, he’s Trent Reznor)... Apparently some people out there are offended by the artwork on the cover of the new Justice single On’n’On. Those people are ridiculous, the cover is totally killer (see right)... Lana Del Rey (and her Illuminati handlers- admit it, that’s what some of you think) has released a video for the first single, and title-track, from her upcoming record Born To Die. You better watch it now, so you can form your own irrational reasons to hate it before your next social gathering... Radiohead is releasing The Daily Mail and Staircase together as a single, on Monday. I, too, am surprised this isn’t leading 16th Notes... Drake has announced an upcoming tour. Just pray that your girl comes back after the concert... Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles tweeted two interesting cover tracks on Monday, one of the Bruce Springsteen classic Glory Days, the other Cold Play’s In My Place. I guess that’s a real Different Strokes circumstance, huh?.. In an effort to bookend 16th Notes with some Watch The Throne flavor this week, I would like to point out that Jay and Kanye performed the hit-song Niggas In Paris 1o times in a row at the end of their most recent gig at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. I can honestly say I would lose my mind if any artist played any track 10 times in a row at a concert I attended. Yes, even Radiohead...

Top Twenty List:

While doing my research for Clef Notes this week, I read that American Pie came out 40 years ago this week. When I did my fact checking I realized that was wrong, but it still led to me to think of the best songs over seven minutes long, and that is how this list was born. Enjoy!

20) In The Court Of King Crimson - King Crimson
19) November Rain - Guns N’ Roses
18) Heroin - The Velvet Underground
17) Banshee Beat - Animal Collective
16) Bros - Panda Bear
15) Rosalita - Bruce Springsteen
14) You Can’t Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones
13) Stuck Inside Of Mobile - Bob Dylan
12) Visions Of Johana - Bob Dylan
11) Paradise By The Dashboard Light - Meatloaf
10) American Pie - Don McLean
9) War Pigs - Black Sabbath
8) Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd
7) One - Metallica
6) Purple Rain - Prince
5) All My Friends - LCD Soundsystem
4) Scenes From An Italian Restaurant - Billy Joel
3) Layla - Derek & The Dominoes
2) Stairway To Heaven - Led Zeppelin
1) Hey Jude - The Beatles

Tracks Of The Week:

Born To Loose - Sleigh Bells: Those of you who can’t wait till February for Sleigh Bells’ follow up to their critically acclaimed debut Treats (which is basically most of us) got an early holiday gift this week, though knowing our readership, none of you probably deserved it. All you need to do to retrieve your present is click on the link embedded at the start of this blurb and enjoy the first single off of the upcoming Reign Of Terror. You’re welcome.

That Was The Worst Christmas Ever- Sufjan Stevens: I’m reaching way back into pre-Culture Blues times to unearth this poignant and subtle Christmas song which is perfect for a winter evening with a lot of mulled wine. I’m sure most of you have heard this track before, but that isn’t suprising, most of you have heard everything right?

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1 Responses »

  1. I had to check out that Ke$ha track myself. And I agree! Even if the sobbing is contrived it still works to dramatic effect. Thanks for sharing the dirty feeling of enjoying a song sung by Ke$ha. She has a $ in her name for chrissakes.