Friday, July 24, 2009

Let's Separate the Message Rockers from the Real Rockers

Are you ready to rumble? I heard the song "Sober" by Pink this morning on the radio and I found myself getting pissed off. Don't get me wrong; I don't have anything against her, like some other musicians I could name coughJohnMayercough. I appreciate her swagger and her semi-aggressive stance. I like her anti-airhead campaign; it sends a good message to young women and girls that may not have heard that it's a bad idea to be an alcoholic or a slut, but it's ok to have a good time.
And that's also a problem.
Message Rock rubs me the wrong way. I really don't want to take my cues from message rockers. Even if their message is a good idea. This is probably why I can't even open the door to the room full of Christian Rock. Rock and Roll is not the place for self help or spiritual development. It's supposed to be primal and emotional. Or devil-may-care rebelliousness. If there is a message, it should be buried or backmasked. Am I alone in all of this? Let's look at some samples. Please let me know what you think.

Message Rocker v. Real Rocker

Lyric Smackdown


Pink’s Sober


Amy Winehouse’s Rehab

No pain inside, you’re like perfection…But how do I feel this good sober?

I don’t ever wanna drink again
I just, ooh, I just need a friend
I’m not gonna spend ten weeksHave everyone think I’m on the mend

The question is, do addicts really want to know how to feel this good sober? No. I don’t think so, though I’m open to information to the contrary.

In my personal experience, I’ve actually heard alcoholics say: “I don’t want to drink.” It’s not about feeling good; it’s about not wanting to fuck things up further and believing that not being drunk is the first step.

Judgment: Sober is bullshit and throws in the towel at the mere sight of Rehab.

Green Day’s American Idiot


CCR’s Fortunate Son

Well maybe I'm the faggot America.I'm not a part of a redneck agenda.Now everybody do the propaganda.And sing along to the age of paranoia

Some folks are born made to wave the flag,Ooh, they’re red, white and blue.And when the band plays hail to the chief,Ooh, they point the cannon at you, lord,

I think these two are saying the same thing; however, I appreciate the directness of CCR. I think that Green Day is being too abstract here. It’s not personal enough, damn it. Stop tossing off half-baked imagery.

Judgement: CCR by a nose.

Lee Greenwood’s Proud to be an American


Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA

And I gladly stand up,next to you and defend her [America] still today.‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,God bless the USA.

Come back home [from Viet Nam] to the refineryHiring man says "Son if it was up to me"I go down to see the V.A. manHe said "Son don't you understand"

I don’t have to tell you that Greenwood’s song is a pile of sugar-coated pablum pops for the masses. I’ve probably told you this before.

For instance, one can’t gladly stand up and literally defend her and still be honest. I mean, Are we talking about defending her at the water cooler or in Afghanistan? Because I’d gladly defend her at the water cooler but I’d have to say I wouldn’t be so happy about the prospect of tromping through the Hindu Kush mountains to defend her.

In my opinion, People probably have similar reactions to her as Bruce Springsteen’s protagonists do to a country that keeps closing doors on them until they have no choices or opportunities anymore.

Judgement: Shut it, Lee Greenberg; life is not a parade down Main Street. Bruce Springsteen wins by a mile.

Nickelback’s Rock Star


Dr. Hook’s Cover of the Rolling Stone

‘cause we all just want to be big rock stars
And live in hilltop houses driving 15 cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We’ll all stay skinny ‘cause we just won’t eat

We got a lot of little teenage blue eyed groupies
Who do anything we sayWe got a genuine Indian Guru
Who's teaching us a better way
We got all the friends that money can buy
So we never have to be alone
And we keep getting richer but we can't get our picture
On the cover of the rollin stone

Nickelback are basically lying here. They are claiming that WE all want to be rock stars. Well, maybe we don’t, Nickelback; but sadly, you already are. So why are you patronizing us pretending to want what you already have? Is this supposed to build kinship for with your fan base? Or is this supposed to be ironic? If so, nice work, Alanis.

Now Dr. Hook’s take on the celebrity experience is funny. And true. It’s honest and it doesn’t try to pander to the fans. It’s art not propaganda.

Judgement: Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show by a TKO.


  1. Awesome post. Brilliant analysis. Bravo.

  2. Coaster Punchman likes this. (Thumbs up ala Facebook.)

  3. I love you.
    I mean, I won't try to steal you from Doc, or that I didn't love you before this post, but I love you, man.

  4. allow me to quote Spongebob when I say, "I have no talent."

    And you're not going to get any argument outta Spooky when ANYONE smacksdown Nickelback. Hell, she might even think ol' Lee smaks them down...

  5. Dave Barry once suggested (back in the '90s, I think; turnout has gone up since then) that if you want to get more people to vote you should ask them about stuff they care about, like what they think the worst song ever is. _Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs_ is funny.

  6. A rebuttal on behalf message rockers as submitted by the Evil Genius:

    I agree that artists such as Green Day and Rage Against the Machine complain more than they highlight the ills of the issues they sing about. But I disagree with the blanket statement that message rock is by default a lesser means of expression. Bob Dylan has long been lauded as a seminal influence for all rockers subsequent to him. Hard to imagine Hendrix without "All Along the Watchtower." It is not the message that spoils the rock, it is the artist.

    Your citing Credence Clearwater Revival as "real rockers" is also flawed, especially in the case of "Fortunate Son." Not only are they pushing their hippie diatribe down your throat, but doing so in a manner that leans so heavily toward country that it seems almost wrong to call them rockers at all. I am biased as they do not suit my taste, but I will agree that most would align them solidly in Classic Rock.

    In fact, I would go so far as to state that you too are focusing on bad music that makes a weak attempt at getting a point across, as in the case of Pink. CCR is just as guilty in my eyes.

    However, the music that I am biased toward is steeped in whiny bastards complaining about some issue or just how misunderstood they are in general. So I feel compelled to defend them. You are more than entitled to your opinion, but let's be clear on what is opinion and what is fact.

    Defense rests.

  7. I never said this was anything but opinion.

  8. Don't try to derail my argument by agreeing with me.