Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Believe

So, The Rocket Queen has been obsessed with the song “Baby” by Justin Bieber. I blame The Wife for this. I can say that with a clean conscience because it is entirely her fault. See, The Rocket Queen loves babies. Every time she sees a baby, either a real one, a doll, or a picture, she gets excited, points, and says, “Baby.”

We were sitting in the kitchen a few weeks ago, and, for some reason, I started to sing “Push It” by Salt and Pepa, which features the lyrics, “Oooh, baby babeh, ooh baby babeh.”

The Rocket Queen’s cute little face lit up, and then The Wife said something that I think we’ll always regret:

The Wife: We should play “Baby” by Justin Bieber for her.

Perhaps not realizing just how annoying and pervasive the song is, I looked for it on youtube[1]. We played it for her, and she was hooked. As soon as the song finished, she would say “Baby” and do the sign language sign for more. We went through a couple of weeks where we heard that song more than any human should. To the point that Axl, Slash and I know all the words. To the point that The Rocket Queen can now sort of sing the chorus[2].

The Wife then made the even bigger mistake of showing her the music video[3]. Of course, Axl and Slash liked the video and wanted to keep watching it as well[4]. Forgetting for a second that the video is really not appropriate for The Boys since they’re old enough to have an idea what’s going on, seeing the video made me think about the song and about just how unbelievable the song is.

Not unbelievable as in, “Wow, did you see Metallica’s set at Yankee Stadium? That was unbelievable.

No, unbelievable as in, I just do not believe the words or emotions Bieber’s singing. Wasn’t he like 14 when he recorded that song? Are we really to believe that some girl loves him, and that he had any sort of real relationship with Baby? Are we really supposed to believe that at 14, or 16, or however the hell old he was, that she was his love and his heart, and that anyone thought that they’d never be apart? Did he REALLY think she’d always be his. Are we supposed to believe that he’d really buy her any ring?

Not really able to listen to Justin Bieber’s version any more, I decided to see if I could find any rock versions of the song on youtube[5]. I found a version by some band from Virginia[6], and it definitely made the song a bit more palatable.

But then I decided that I would try to find other songs that featured the word baby, so I could maybe get her listening to something else. Someone suggested “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears, and I remembered that I had video of the band Travis doing a version of that song bookmarked on youtube. I played it for The Rocket Queen and she loved it.

This all made me think about two songs in particular and two cover versions of those songs: “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears (Travis) and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison (Miley Cyrus).

About a year ago, I happened to hear the Miley Cyrus version of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.[7]” It was dreadful. Her version has a vaguely techno-ish beat and she just doesn’t sound good singing the song. However, I remember thinking at the time, that one of the reasons I thought it was so bad was because I just didn’t believe the song she was singing.

Look, I know not every song I like is based on something that happened to the singer/songwriter, but when Poison sings “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” I can believe that Bret Michaels is singing about one of the thousands of women he’s slept with. Maybe he was only 23 when he wrote the song[8], but I always believed that the heartache was real. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, but that’s irrelevant. It COULD’VE been real, and that’s why it’s believable. When he sings about hearing a DJ say that love’s a game of easy come and easy go, you can sense that he’s loved and lost. When Bret Michaels sings that he knows she’d be there right now if he’d could’ve let her know somehow, you feel for him.

On the flip side, when Miley Cyrus sang the same words, I just couldn’t picture her lying silently still in the dead of the night, feeling miles apart inside from the dude she’s sleeping next to[9]. While she might have some thorns in her life, I don’t believe any of them have been from busted relationships. It’s not just that she’s singing someone else’s words, it’s that she’s singing someone else’s emotions that are not believable coming from her.

Ironically, the same sort of goes for “Hit Me baby One More Time.” When Britney Spears originally sang it back in 1999, I think she was 16. And while she looked cute in the video[10], the song just wasn’t that believable. Do we really think that the loneliness was killing her and that when she wasn’t with her high school boyfriend, she was losing her mind? And honestly, what the hell does hit me baby one more time mean[11]?

However, when Francis Healy, the lead singer of Travis sings Hit Me Baby One More Time, forget for a second that it just sounds a thousand times better, it just feels more authentic. When he asks how he was supposed to know that something wasn’t right in the relationship, it seems like a perfectly legitimate question. Yet, when Britney sang it, it rang hollow. Considering she’d probably never been in a real relationship, how COULD she know that something wasn’t right here? When he sings “show me how you want it to be, tell me baby cuz I need to know,” it seems like wisdom born from experience. But when she sings it, it just sounds desperate and a little creepy.

Now, I’m not suggesting that 16 year-olds only sing about shopping at the mall and texting[12], but singers should probably stick to singing songs that are believable.

Good times.

Footnotes:
[1] Something like the first 5-10 videos that come up when you search for it are parodies, and most of them are not appropriate to play for kids.
[2] Sort of.
[3] So of course now, The Rocket Queen picks up the remote, walks over to the TV, points the remote at the TV, and says “Baby.”
[4] Though, that’s really not that surprising because they’d watch a test-pattern if it was on TV. They’re addicted.
[5] I figured, if I had to listen to the song, maybe I could listen to version of it that didn’t make me want to jam pencils in my ears.
[6] Send The City
[7] Ok, I saw the CD at the library and, out of curiosity, took it out. I had heard that she recorded Every Rose Has Its Thorn and I wanted to hear what it sounded like. Like Ron Burgundy when he jumped into the polar bear pit at the end of Anchorman, I immediately regretted the decision.
[8] I have no idea how old he was when he wrote it
[9] Has she ever even had a boyfriend with whom she’s stayed?
[10] Though her gang of dancing schoolgirls in schoolgirl uniforms still isn’t as hot as the gang of dancing schoolgirls in schoolgirl uniforms in the video for “Girl School” by Britny Fox. Similar, yet different.
[11] Did she ACTUALLY want him to hit her? That would be strange. Is it a sexual thing?
[12] Because, frankly, that would probably be pretty boring, though I could get behind listening to sings about video games.

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