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Black Eyed Peas & the Genesis of Suck

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Q.  How is it people can say an artist has “sold out” to their audience? Doesn’t the performer work for them in the first place? I mean, they paid the ticket price. I say, sell it all! EXPLOIT IT! Fuck that “starving artist” bullshit!!! Make sure you give it your all though.

A.  I’m sure the more sensitive, independent artists — who care more for causes than the trappings and riches that go along with fame — hold back their best material for fear of success. All that comes along with it, it’s not worth selling out.

Actors who refuse to polish their craft in order to avoid getting a callback. Comedians locking the best jokes away because if people laugh too hard, they’ll want to come to the concert. Songwriters stashing the really good stuff in underground vaults, left unheard for fear people might really like the tunes and want to buy them. Some of the very best aren’t even recorded, they’re that good. Sheet music, stacked shoulder high. To hear the songs performed would be so heavenly and harmonic, people would seek out the performers in order to pay them; follow them on Twitter as well as Facebook. It would be a total sell-out.

The added benefit, you can still wear turtlenecks or go to Bonnaroo without people giving you a hassle.

Better than the alternative: success.

Finding your name on guest lists to high-profile events and gaining access to even greater opportunities; not having to worry about bills, which allows for a more industrious pursuit of the passion. Only a fool would release quality so potent and risk selling out.

Besides, popularity is such a son of a bitch.

Too much success might also rob others of their slice. There’s room for everyone in the entertainment industry and people are known for offering their opportunity to somebody else, as a simple matter of courtesy. It’s a happy cooperative, I hear.

For fans, it’s jealousy the band is no longer their hidden gem — it’s everyone’s gem. They sold out. The kids nurtured in the lean years are suddenly mature and out of the house, free to do as they please. Not as easy getting tickets and the venues are bigger, it pisses them off. The extraordinary douchebag fan will turn on the artist they love. From that moment, they’ll always tell you the “older stuff” was better.

Sure, there’s acknowledgement that you recognized greatness way back when and now more will experience it — but you saw them first. You truly love this band, still, a star is born. That sweet cherry you ventured with years ago is now on the market, potentially fucking everyone behind your back. It’s heartache, betrayal. Proud the artist you love gets to paint with colors on a much larger canvas, but time to abandon ship and seek out the next new thing.

You know these people. While everyone else is enjoying this performer’s work for the first time …

  • “I saw them at (smallest concert venue known to man). Place was no bigger than this (points at closest tiny object in room). It was just me, the band and the bartender. Who’d want to see them in a huge arena?
  • “I saw her on Broadway years ago and she was so much better in that.”
  • “(name of current album) is overproduced, it’s poppy. You should listen to (name of earlier album). 
  • “When he was in (name of previous band), he was more into it. Now he’s just cashing a paycheck.”

Growing up, I listened to a DJ who loved Genesis, until they got popular. The dividing line was somewhere between Duke and Abacab, Fall 1981. Phil Collins had put out a solo album (Face Value) earlier in the year using the Earth, Wind and Fire horn section — used again, first time on a Genesis track, on Abacab‘s “No Reply at All.” Four minutes and forty seconds out of lengthy career, Genesis had sold out.

You would have thought the Earth had twisted open and been licked in the center like a giant Oreo, then put back together so that nobody would notice. No longer a tasty creme filling inside the Genesis catalog, future songs okay at best and always reluctantly praised. Everything Duke and below, better. He’d play Genesis, you knew the dig was coming, “before the Earth, Wind and Fire horns and Phil Collins thinking he’s a solo artist.”

For Genesis, this was the beginning of their most successful run as a band. In a two-hour concert, they’ll play 75% of what happened after this cookie planet split, inside the mind of a DJ. They had sold out. They should have stayed a conceptual progressive rock band with great albums, few hits and a lineup that changed every year. Instead of gaining millions of fans, they wouldn’t have lost one.

Genesis did sell out. They were always better with Peter Gabriel, just like the Black Eyed Peas were better pre-Fergie, before all the hits. Is it wrong to dream of the past and still have nightmares over the halftime show? That’s not the band I knew, before they went corporate.

You’re not alone. For many, life is viewed with a “pre-Elephunk/post-Elephunk” mindset, but not for the positive reasons you suggest. It’s beyond selling out, I’m pretty certain the Black Eyed Peas also cut a deal with Satan. It’s hard to mention BEP and not immediately follow with the word “suck,” yet here we are.

I was amazed during the halftime show to learn that two of the members actually have names. I always thought it was, Fergie and the two guys who must have blackmail on them. One’s named Taboo, the other is — and I know what you’re thinking, gett.hefuc.kouto.fhere.

The Black Eyed Peas — break them down: piece by piece, talent for talent. Not a pretty sight. We haven’t voted them off the island yet and we should have voted them off a long time ago. Fergie’s pipes are undeniable and she’s unquestionably the best voice in the group, but that’s a lot like ordering the most healthy option at McDonald’s or contracting the least contagious sexually transmitted disease.

When new television sales spiked a few years ago, many attributed it to the public converting to flat screens, not Pepsi’s commercial comparing to Bob Dylan. For many of us on the fence with new technology, resisting the urge to throw something at the old TV became less of an issue when the prices came down, and Pepsi continued to run the ad.

Let’s get something straight: Bob Dylan lead a movement of reexamination in the 60’s that grew to challenge ideas and leadership. wrote “My Humps.”

That said, these fuckers put out some catchy music. Remove the 5th-grade humor from “Let’s Get Retarded” and “Let’s Get it Started” becomes a chorus for a generation. The original approach was retarded, the sound was always there. You have to believe now it’s done on purpose, creating the soundtrack for a fill-in-the-blank ad campaign that will form the beat of yet another wave of existence. Next year, a new theme song. Somehow, tha.tfu.cker manages to cut through the murk and weave a melody that becomes an anthem every 18 months or so and didn’t Bob Dylan do that too? Ugh, it just makes you want to scratch your retinas out.

In terms of suction, the Black Eyed Peas will always be the Rock of Gibraltar. None of this extinguishes the Pentagon’s belief that air-dropping the band in Pakistan would prove a vital weapon in the war against Al-Qaeda, although it may violate the Geneva Convention.

I don’t think I’m going on a limb to say that the reason the halftime show was so poorly received was due to the product on stage — and who didn’t see that coming? Still, it’s the freaking Super Bowl and that only verifies that you’ve made it. Better to be smart than good, catchy enough that you don’t get sick of it even though you never want hear the song again. Some Survivor players succeed not because they’re the best, they know to play the game. There’s a lot of brilliance in that.

A lot of the rest of us are not getting paid Black Eyed Peas money and I’d remind you to please click on the ads.
Which ads? Any ads? So who should play the halftime show? I think they should hire a DJ.

Make it a surprise. Never announce who’s playing, leak all sorts of misinformation and when halftime comes, David Bowie walks out or Madonna, Garth Brooks, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Metallica, AC/DC, Duran Duran, Katy Perry — maybe Phil Collins with Earth, Wind and Fire. It doesn’t matter, most everyone watching at home is drunk at that point and will be stoked to see Gallagher smash watermelons for 15 minutes. It wasn’t until Michael Jackson performed in 1993 that the Super Bowl halftime show became a major act that needed to be outdone every year. It becomes impossible to exceed expectations.

Not long ago, it was all college marching bands and Up with People. Check out 1982’s halftime show and see how long you can go before you start praying for sniper fire.

And any ads, click them often. I can’t promise I won’t sell out on 2 cents a click but I’ve done worse for less.

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© 2011 – 2012, Soapy Johnson. All rights reserved.

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