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Follow Me to the Bargain Bins

Music Critique by Matthew Webber

Okay, okay (sigh): I like Kid Rock. I know I should be cynical and hate him for his commercialism. I know I should be hygenic and hate him for his hair lice. I really should hate him as only a music critic can, for every guitar screech, his white rap/rocker cliches, the strippers in his videos, the Jerry Springer morality, the money-grubbing glibness - and finally, and basically, for debasing our humanity. I hate him as a person, as a loudmouth, filthy, sleazy slice of sludge.

I hate him.

I love to hate him.

And I've already established my lack of credibility.

I broke the most important rule in writing a persuasive essay to prove a point I'll make later. See, although I do happen to like one Robert Ritchie (that's Kid Under-A-Rock, to you), I like him as a Rock Star, not necessarily as a musician. It's the same reason I like a Motley Crue or an Ol' Dirty Bastard. None of these "artists" inspire me for their insights into human suffering, their redeeming social values, or their contributions to continuing music education in our elementary schools. (We don't play the recorder to write "Bawitaba.")

Rather, I like them for their total two-dimensionality. For their being cartoons. For their fascinating lack of ability to take themselves, rock 'n' roll, or life too seriously. For entertaining me when I need some time off from popular culture I actually have to ponder, true art such as Abbey Road, Taxi Driver, and the four-way pelvic juggernaut that is "Lady Cream-My-Pants-Alade."

Because, really, in a culture that allows Mase to have a successful pre-religious-conversion music career, how seriously can we allow ourselves to take ourselves? Let's all wear girly makeup to cover our evil tattoos, let's synchronize our guitar strums while we sing about kicking ass, let's add an umlaut over the O for no reason other than it's looks all German and Gothic-like and cool and stuff, and while we're at it, let's change our name to Nikki Sixx, with three Is, two Ks, and two Xs. We rule!

Or, let's write choruses full of nonsense words and pollysyllabic grunting, bathe ourselves in bacon grease, and join the list of Rock Stars who have probably filmed themselves screwing Pamela Anderson Lee.

Albeit guiltily, I enjoy Kid Rock, the character, simply because he enjoys himself. He revels in his dirtiness like nobody other than Pigpen. He's straight out of the trailer, the American Bad Ass, a cowboy. So, da bang da bang ditty ditty whatever the rock else he's singing - I like it. I do. I'm a little bit sorry, but not much, 'cause I like it.

But Uncle Kracker. God, I hate Uncle Kracker.

With Uncle Kracker we have the by-now-familiar story of rock 'n' roll excess. Not the Behind the Music excess of heroin, car crashes, and underage groupies (although they're probably in there, too) but the excess of having too many members of one crew publishing music.

Quick: within ten seconds name at least two members of the following cliques: the Outlawz, the Eastsidaz, the St. Lunatics, the Funky Bunch. Can't do it, can you? Because they're not worth remembering. Tupac, Snoop, Nelly, Marky Mark: for better or for worse, these guys are Rock Stars. The rest of their posses are the backups for the plainest and simplest reason of all: they suck. (Yes, being more whack than Marky Mark is possible.) They lack the musical ability. The charisma. The whatever it takes to make someone a Rock Star.

But that doesn't stop them from releasing their albums.

Unlike any member from Heavy D's the Boys, Uncle Kracker is actually receiving massive radio play and record sales without his cool-older-brother figure letting him tagalong. I can't understand this at all, because, as history would tell us, Uncle Kracker should suck. And he does. And Christalmighty, I'm saying this and I even like Kid Rock! (There's the later point I said I would prove.)

I wanted to like Uncle Kracker before I heard "Follow Me." I really did. I sheepishly hoped he'd sound like Kid Rock; I mean, I figured he would, since he was the guy's DJ and all. And I think I would have liked him, if only he had sounded the teensiest bit like my boy. I don't even mean he had to sound as identical to Kid Rock as Crazy Town's "Butterfly" does to any Limp Bizkit song. I would have been happy with his sounding as reminiscent of Kid Rock as Pearl Jam does to Neil Young. As one Timbaland-produced joint does to another. Hell, as Aerosmith does to N'Sync, just because both groups are made up of five dudes.

Yeah, yeah (sigh): "Follow me" sounds like "Only God Knows Why," which makes sense since Uncle Kracker co-wrote that song with Kid Rock. But I hoped he would sound like the good Kid Rock, the kind of Kid Rock you won't hear on VH1. The kind that included Joe C's sub-four-foot mayhem.

Well, maybe, you say, "Follow Me" is his ballad. Maybe the rest of his album rocks. If this is true, I hate the song even more, because it has stolen and continues to steal the money of the millions of adult contemporary listeners who actually like it and are duped into believing the rest of his album will sound as mellow. This is the same reason I have no respect for Sugar Ray, even though I can't get their sunny California melodies out of my head for months.

To me, the acoustic guitar riff that opens "Follow Me" sounds like something I would have composed when I was a freshman in high school trying to write my first song. Actually, I probably wrote that dopey melody, played it for the next three weeks, tried in vain to find to find the chords and lyrics that would follow it, and finally forgot it when I realized how much it sounded like the score to an 8-bit Nintendo game.

Lines such as, "I'll swim through your veins like a fish in the sea," are words one typically finds in the pages of their high school literary magazines, next to "knife," "black flowers," and "forever." (I'm sure the girl to whom Uncle Kracker is singing has since dumped him.)

Sadly, one often finds these lyrics, or diamonds just like them, in rotation at their local pop radio station. Like every seventh song or so. Like five times in the course of one work day. Apparently, some people like them. Only God knows why. These people can only redeem themselves if they promise to hate Kid Rock.

Issue 6, July 2001 | next article

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