Monday, January 2, 2012

Music: or Why Does It Matter?

I'll keep this as short and sweet as possible, but I needed to get this out in more than 140 characters. I joined Dave Silverman and a number of others in publicly criticizing Cee-Lo Green about changing the lyrics to "Imagine" when singing it on New Year's Eve. I have a few motivations I'd like to share. I don't know how to prioritize them, because dammit, they all matter.

First, because the religious have a ton of songs and it's only really been okay to make overtly doubtful references in music for a handful of decades. Our stock of inspirational music is pretty low, so I feel pretty protective of it.When it's trodden on during a huge national broadcast I feel genuinely excluded, and can't help but wonder what the uproar would be were the (apparent, not necessarily inherent) roles reversed. I'm totally willing to buy that it was meant as a message of hope, but it certainly wasn't taken as that by enough people to make it matter.

Second, because despite anything that happened around the song, it's a beautiful sentiment and the line he changed was, to me, the centerpiece of the song. Imagine a world where it's okay to just be human. It doesn't demand action, it doesn't hate anything else, it just evokes a thought of how the world could be different, and it's beautiful in its simplicity.  It's the same reason that when I sing Amazing Grace, I sing it straightforward. I don't believe that there is a god at all, much less a loving and forgiving one, but the beauty of the art is that the song takes you to the heart of what someone was feeling, and you can share the beauty of humanity with someone across time. Other stone-cold atheists may vehemently disagree with me there, but if there's anything sacred in this world it's the beauty we create.

Third, it's because I really like Cee-Lo. He's one of the more distinct and powerful vocalists out there, and one of the few great collaborators of our day. His corporate involvement has pained me because I honestly consider him one of the few great current pop artists, but it's frankly impossible to have untarnished legitimacy as an accomplished artist doing a soda commercial. 

So that's where I stand. I hope he takes up Dave's offer to sing at Reason Rally. I'll throw my hat in the ring too - Cee-Lo, if you sing at Reason Rally I'll wear a Cee-Lo shirt in support throughout the rally. I'll work the merch booth. I'll sing a duet with you. Godless folk really want to reach out to you. Reach back.

1 comment:

  1. I have no idea what you're talking about but it would be pretty ironic to infuse religion into a song that's message is about how great the world could be if we all stopped putting importance in what keeps us apart.

    Also, I would never pick that song for Cee-Lo. Stylistically, it seems a poor choice. To me it would be like getting Michael Bay to direct the remake of Footloose. So yeah, not going to be listening to this cover or watching the new Footloose any time soon.

    Lastly, I would like to make it known that I'm still mildly irritated from when Hillary Duff changed the lyrics of "My Generation" from "I hope I die before I get old" to "I hope I don't die before I get old." Next thing you know someone is going to try to put eyebrows and a capped-toothy grin on the Mona Lisa and make all the Reubens skinny.

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