Saturday, February 5, 2022

Like A Rockstar

Even though I'm home this weekend, I'm still going with music for the posts, today at least and probably tomorrow, unless anything blows up. I kinda like doing them on the weekend, although this time around I had the idea mid-week and it was a real struggle to hold back. 

The idea (Such as it is. Don't get your hopes up.) came to me when I clicked through a Stereogum link to the latest single by Mallrat. It's called Your Love and it's pretty good, maybe even a bit better than that. Stereogum describes the video as "ominous... porny... rapid and jittery." and it's all that and more. Sonically, there's a bit that sounds really like the breakdown in Venice Bitch (Any excuse, right?) and another that reminds me, bizarrely, of Van Morrison doing something from Astral Weeks. Madam George, I think...

Anyway, comparisons are invidious, as I said before, so let's stop with that. It's not what we're here for, not today. Today we're here for rockstars. Or, more precisely, songs about rockstars. Or, more precisely still, songs that have the word "Rockstar" in the title.

There are one holy hell of a lot of them. Seriously, I had no idea. I did know the word was shorthand now for an attitude of mind but the extent to which it's penetrated the culture was a surprise to me. All kinds of demographics like to throw it around like it's theirs, no matter how bad a fit that makes.

Around now, you might be wondering if you missed a paragraph. How did we get from an Australian bedroom pop singer dancing in a deserted gas station to rockstars, anyway? 

Like this!

I know I wasn't going to make comparisons but that sounds really similar to... no, NO. Stop it!

Doesn't matter who it sounds like. It only matters that it's really good. It also introduces one of the two Big Themes of this post: apparently when you invoke the Rockstar Concept it's for one of two reasons: either you're going to tell everyone how you are a rockstar or at least like a rockstar or you're going to wish for a rockstar to come and take you away from your mundane, non-rockstar life.

"Maybe, I'll fall in love with a rockstar
We'll be married forever
I'll forget all about you one day
Maybe, when I've won all the Grammys
And I've got my own family
I'll forget all about you one da

"Someday my prince will come", only with a little more "Fuck you".

I'm not sure when rockstars took over from princes as the escape fantasy. You have to wonder where that leaves Prince

I grew up with a somewhat less romantic idea of the kind of relationship you'd be likely to get if you ever did hook up with a rockstar. 90s alt-pop legends that dog remember it that way, too. 

"Could you sign my guitar?
Can I take a picture with a rock star?
Your face wallpapers my walls
Here's my number, when you're in town give me a call"

Yeah, he's gonna do that. Just don't expect ever to hear from him again after he leaves town the next day.

That that dog track is so out of character, though. I remember them as dayglo-bright, upbeat pop-punkers. They reminded me of my Britpop faves, Sleeper. (You're doing it again...) but listening to Rockstar I can totally see the comparison their Wikipedia page makes with my favorite band of all-time, Dolly Mixture. It's the highest of bars and almost no-one ever clears it but yes, there's something there...

The whole "rockstar's gonna take me away from all this" motif is only a minor note in the power chord that's "Woooah, yeah! ROCKSTAR!" So many very bad songs like that. And some very odd ones...

I mean, where do you even start? I guess if Ed Sheeran's your idea of a rockstar, maybe it makes some kind of sense but if you're going to have everyone wearing leathers, holding guitars and posing like Aerosmith in your video, wouldn't you throw in at least a hint of an actual rock sound?

I guess not. But, hey, as the Kid says, "Get the fuck out of my face! I'm doin my thang". 

And so are these guys, only a lot more convincingly. (I should point out I do like that Uneducated Kid number, by the way. It's just, well, you've seen it...)

"Metalstar." It's not really something anyone says, is it? I guess Rockstar has to cover all the bases. And if you were wondering why I didn't make more of Uneducated Kid's somewhat unusual stage name, it's because I knew this lot were coming next.

"We Butter the Bread with Butter". That's what they're called. I mean, I realise they're German but that doesn't even begin to explain it. It did get me to click on the YouTube suggestion when it popped, though, and while I'm no fan of any kind of metal, really, I like it. Reminds me of... shall I say it? Oh go on, it's blindingly obvious anyway. And yes, I do always link to that one. It's my favorite of theirs.

Rammstein are real rockstars, of course. As in they play rock, they fill stadiums and they're rich. What they do in their mansions I have no idea. Play chess and keep tropical fish for all I know.

What rockstars are supposed to do is drink, take drugs, have wildly inappropriate sex and either die young and beautiful or old and grizzled. Is that aspirational? It's complicated, as Mark Zuckerberg would say. 

One of the more nuanced, perceptive writers to employ the trope has to be JuiceWRLD, dead at just twenty-one from a surfeit of pills, some of which, a prescription opioid called Percocet, he allegedly swallowed to keep them from being discovered by police as they searched his private plane. That is a bona fide rockstar death and also a total fucking waste.

JuiceWRLD has two songs with rockstar in the title and they're both very good indeed. In one, Rockstar in his Prime, he claims "If I take too many percs then I won't die". Yeah, about that...

 The second, Rockstar Girl, is even better and even more freighted with post-ironic meaning. It opens 

"I wanna tell y'all a story about this girl I met
 I don't know if it was in person, or if it was in one of my dreams
 But she'd have been a rockstar tonight"

The chorus goes

"Coke in her nose ring
Molly in her nails
She gon' die a rockstar

It's a really strong lyric that feels true both to JuiceWRLD's reality and the rockstar myth. Rappers really love that myth, too. I watched and listened to a bunch of them riffing on it while I was putting this post together, from DaBaby ft. Roddy Richh to Future ft. Nicky Minaj but the only thng I heard to give JuiceWRLD a run was, predictably, this:

The recorded version sounds a lot better but that's some rockstar performance, right? Or it would be if you could see him. I can't make out all of the lyrics. From the few lines that pop, it's probably just as well. I think his point is that it's never too much for a rockstar. Whatever "it" is. Everything, probably.

Actually, before we leave the hip-hop stage, there was this one other tune I liked, mostly for the title: Emo Rockstar by NBA Youngboy (AKA Young Boy Never Broke Again.) I guess every kind of rock got its rockstars and if we're talking first wave emo they don't come much starrier or rockier than Jimmy Eat World.

I looked up the lyrics to that one. They're... eliptical. Opaque. 

"Rockstar, what's mine is yours
Rockstar, you're looking good
You're looking to find a fight
Rockstar. Rockstar"

And that's the fricken' chorus. The verses aren't anything like as clear as that. Old school emo; it was all about never having to explain yourself to anybody, I guess.

Time to bring the show to an end. Every rock show needs a big close. Will this do?

That's actually an opener but it works just as well either way. Here's what it sounds like, clean. I think they're from Mexico but don't quote me on it.

Of course, every rockstar worth the crystal saves the very best for the encore. Remember a few weeks back, when I mentioned indie duo Sales seemed to have become a lot more popular since the last time I looked? No? Well, I did and they have and now I know why.

Tik-Tok. Because of course it's Tik-Tok. Any time anything becomes suddenly, inexplicably popular these days, it's Tik-Tok. There was an article in The Bookseller magazine about it. Really. 

Seems there's a Tik-Tok meme called Go Little Rockstar. It involves putting a sample from Sales utterly wonderful Pope is a Rockstar under whatever you want. Tik-Tok's not complicated.

We've had this one before but as Playboi Carti says, it's never too much. And anyway, we've never had the live, stage version. We can't have because this is the first time I've ever seen it.

That's how you finish a post like a rockstar!

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