News Column

Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill., Tim Cain column

May 10, 2013


May 10--BY TIM CAIN -- H&R Entertainment Editor

Sometimes, we simply do not do ourselves any favors.

I was buying a magazine that featured Led Zeppelin on the cover. A cashier whom I estimated to be close to my age excitedly said, "Oh! I remember Led Zeppelin."

Now, I was in no mood for a conversation, but it was clear we were going to have one.

"I remember when bands played music," she continued, clearly referencing her distaste for what's popular today.

This one is always among my favorites. For me, it's the musical equivalent an ignorant "uppity minorities" conversation. (i.e., "How dare females think they have the right to express an opinion?" or "Everybody knows that [a specific minority] doesn't have what it takes to be [an NFL quarterback/a professional head coach/President of the United States].")

Absolutes are really dangerous, gang.

Now, I get the whole concept of not liking genres of music. What I object to is this thought that people used to play music, but they don't anymore. I also object to the idea of dismissing current popular music genres by saying, "That isn't music."

I've been hearing that all my life. My elders told me in 1965 that The Beatles weren't music. In 1970, Frank Zappa wasn't music. In 1973, Led Zeppelin wasn't music. In 1979, rap wasn't music.

Some of us never learn.

My new friend, meanwhile, wasn't even ready to take cash from me yet. She had more to impart.

"My son was listening to some stuff the other day," she said. "And I heard some things. And I thought, 'Is that what they're singing? I've got to pay closer attention to the words.' I can't believe my son is listening to stuff like that."

And then the kicker.

"I mean, sure, he's 30, but still ..."

This was at a retail store. Not a comedy club.

At almost the same time I was on the receiving end of this monologue, pop singer Justin Bieber was on stage in Dubai. As a TMZ clip shows, a fan rushed the stage while Bieber was seated at a piano. A bodyguard takes out the intruder (and appears to crush Bieber along with the fan). The piano turns over, but piano sounds keep coming over the PA system.

Bieber: Busted. Backing tapes were almost certainly in use. Additional evidence comes from Bieber's voice continuing without a break. Unless you're a superhuman entertainer -- and Bieber may be, who can tell? -- you're going to at least gasp a little bit when you're on the receiving end of a tackle and knocked off a piano stool.

Bieber clearly and unfortunately has not learned the lesson learned by performers like Milli Vanilli and Ashlee Simpson -- it does not go over well if you use tapes in lieu of actual performance. Especially if you get caught.

Or maybe -- just maybe -- that's one stage taboo that's turning into a "so what."

Technology has meant the advance of sounds you can hear from stage. Any band that's toured with any kind of keyboard will tell you how fickle and touchy those instruments can be. Add in electronics, computer programming and the kind of jostling any transported instrument undergoes, and you have a whirlwind of issues.

So maybe it's better to have pieces of music prerecorded, to better enhance the enjoyment of thousands who don't know the difference and don't care.

It seemed Bieber hadn't done himself any favors. Maybe he did one for all of us.|(217) 421-6908


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