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Sunday, January 24, 2016

100 Songs I Hate (47)

47. "The Motown Song" (Rod Stewart)

If you are right now roughly my age (let's call it "late-30's"), you probably remember this:



If you don't remember Rod Stewart's video for "The Motown Song," you probably didn't have cable growing up, which means you probably didn't--well, because you couldn't--obsessively  watch Mtv, because if you had had a direct portal to the musical landscape of 1991, like I did, you would've seen this thing, roughly, 33,000 times a day.  Just so we're clear: I'm not making fun of you if you didn't have cable; you are the winner in this situation.

But why, you might be asking, is "The Motown Song (one of the laziest song titles in the history of music) in my head this fine, snowed-in Sunday morning?  Well, it all started with a conversation I had at work last week.  A colleague used the word "waiting," like you do, in an instant message to me, and being the office cut-up I'm known to be, I thought it would be funny to reference the Tom Petty song about how waiting is difficult, but then comically mix up Petty with the recently deceased Glenn Frey, you know, for laughs.  So, I think I wrote something like, "Well, it's like my good friend Glenn Frey always said, waiting is the hardest part."  Hilarious.  

(Real quick.  I know the above is not funny.  It did happen though.  Look, I don't know if comparing the songs of Tom Petty and Glenn Frey even makes sense.  You could put a gun to my head and demand that I name 5 Glenn Frey songs, and I'd be nothing but splattered brains on the wall within milliseconds.  I don't know Glenn Frey or the even the Eagles, you guys, OK, and I'm fine with that.  I'm just building a bridge.)

Anyway, this led to a discussion of people's reactions to Frey on Facebook (my colleague is not a FB user), specifically if people were displaying the same over-the-top declarations of sadness, love and devotion they had to David Bowie a week or two before, and then the question of Rod Stewart's continued existence.

Just seeing Rod Stewart's name in print flipped a forgotten, cobwebby switch in the deepest reaches of my brain, and then, from out of my mouth, without warning, came the following:

"Bring over some of your old Motown records.  Put the speakers in the hmmm-hmmmm-mmm-mmm-mmmmmmm."

"The Motown Song" was back, baby, summoned from the dimmest lit corner of my 90's Vault of Memories.  I've been sing/humming those lines ever since, to the chagrin of my wife, who has many times threatened to hurt me physically if I don't stop.

How does one exorcise a demonic entity of such strength?  I think revisiting the song and griping about it, and more importantly its video, on my blog is the best hope for ridding my home of this ancient evil.  So, let's do it.  Let's take a look at this bitch.



The nicest thing I can say about "The Motown Song" is that it's got a helluva chorus, in fact, that's the only thing it's got going for it.  The verses are about as interesting as the song title itself, something about a "soul in the city" that is "watching over" everybody.  What is he talking about it?  Is it a reference to soul music?  I think so, probably, but it seems more ominous.  Or Christian.  It seems both ominous and vaguely religious at the same time, although, I find most things related to religion to be a bit ominous, so maybe it's the same thing.  Whatever it is, it sucks.  That chorus though.  It's as catchy as The Stand's super flu. That's probably why it continues to survive in my memories, like a pulsing tumor of terrible that even the most sophisticated drug treatments can't eradicate.  

I'm more interested in talking about the video, specifically Rod Stewart's animated canine companion.  What's his deal?  To some, he may simply be the video's comic relief.  But he could just as easily symbolize the video director's, or, say it ain't so, Rod Stewart's view of his contemporaries.  If the latter is true, well, I'm not sure "The Motown Song" or "The Motown Song" video was the giant killer Rod thinks it is.

Elton John gets off easy--he just kinda looks weird.  But Madonna, Sinead O'Connor, Vanilla Ice and The King Of Pop don't fare so well.

First, Stewart's dog pummels/drowns Vanilla Ice in an avalanche of ice cubes.  For you millennials who aren't familiar with Vanilla, a musical artist who in at least one song discussed the joys of having sexual intercourse in an inner tube, imagine instead that the dog has opened the back of a Salvation Army truck and smothered Macklemore in a mountain of faux fur coats.  It's the same thing: two Caucasian rappers murdered by a cartoon dog using the very items they are famous for popularizing: ice and thrift store clothes, respectively.

The dog also spooks Sinead O'Connor while she's shaving her head. leading to a domeful of cuts and Band-Aids, and slams Madonna's coat in a limo door (oooooh, scandalous), but I want to get to the Michael Jackson part.  There's no way Cartoon Michael Jackson makes it out of this video alive, right?  I mean, he moonwalks into an open sewer hole, opened, I should add, by Rod Stewart's homicidal pooch.  What is Stewart getting at here?  Is he really taking on Michael Jackson in the video for "The Motown Song?"  Does Rod Stewart really think "The Motown Song" comes anywhere close to toppling even the worst of Michael Jackson's oeuvre from the pantheon of pop songs?  True, "The Motown Song" went #1 on the Canadian Billboard charts, but c'mon!  (To be fair, it was a top 10 hit in the US too, I just find it more amusing to poke fun at Canada.  I do it out of love.).  And I'm fully willing to accept that Rod Stewart has some good songs--I don't know of any off the top of my head because I've listened to as much of them as I have of Glenn Frey's--but Jackson is an institution.  A creepy, weirdo institution.

So, thats "The Motown Song," a phantom from my childhood that still haunts the darkest reaches of my brain.  I'll be honest, I don't know if "hate" is the right word here.  "The Motown Song" certainly fits conveniently under the 100 Songs I Hate banner, as my feelings toward it mostly resemble hate.  But the Bible says hating something is akin to wanting it to die or wanting to kill it with your bare hands, and I don't want to murder "The Motown Song."  It's a fun reference.  It's a quick and easy way to annoy my wife when I'm in one of those Time-To-Annoy-The-Wife kinda moods.  But I'm also OK with forgetting about "The Motown Song" for awhile, filing it back in the memory drawer I rarely visit anymore, to unlock only when the next beloved musician I have no working knowledge of passes away.  Or when, God forbid, Rod Stewart kicks it.  Until then though, why doesn't everybody just keep your old Motown records at home and keep your speakers pointed inside, OK?  Thanks.  There are people trying to sleep in here.


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