The Music Club

Is It Still OK To Like Radiohead?

Sir Keith, Sir Sasha—

You two are truly the kings of the wild frontier. I am honored to be included in this illustrious group grope.

I have learned a great deal this week … including the sad but unmistakable fact that YOU ARE BOTH TOTALLY WRONG and RADIOHEAD IS THE GREATEST BAND IN THE WORLD. I mean, geez, I just started liking Kid A a couple months ago, and now I find out it’s not cool to listen to Radiohead any more? Hail to my grief, dude!

“Get Low” is such a great song. I love the way Lil Jon and his Eastside Boys, who are so totally from the east side of wherever they’re from, bite their party-people chant from an ancient girls’ clapping song. It comes straight from the playground favorite “three-six-nine, the goose drank wine,” as in Shirley Ellis’ “The Clapping Song” and UB40’s “Red, Red Wine.” It’s like trying to thug up “Miss Mary Mack” or something. I love how they’re so sexually insecure about biting such a girlie rhyme that they feel compelled to beef up the misogyny to such self-parodically hilarious levels. Girls will be thugs, and thugs will be girls; it’s a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world, and so is Lil Jon. A confused, sick, screwed-up sound, the sound of gender crisis colliding with taboo desire on the floor, and I never get sick of it.

“Beware of the Boys”—that’s another great song. It kicks so much ass, more ass than I have to offer it. In fact, that song kicks so much ass that it totally exhausts my ass resources, forcing me out to the 24-Hour Ass Depot to pick up some more ass, so, like, that song can kick it some more. You know what I’m saying? I think you do. “Pass That Dutch” might not be up to the Missys of yore, but I love it anyway. Jump-rope songs are always excellent. (That’s a law of physics.) Beware of that girl.

None of us has mentioned 50 Cent’s “In da Club.” Maybe because it’s so old, and we’re all sick of it. Psych! Every wedding I went to this summer ended up with the bride and groom shaking it to “In da Club.” It was funny to see my little sister Caroline and her groom on the dance floor chanting at each other: “I’m into having sex! I ain’t into making love! So come give me a hug!” It gives me hope for the future of monogamy. It’s also the best use of “into” as a prepositional indication of excitement since Rupert Holmes declared, “I am into champagne!” in “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).”

It also evokes the Atlanta Rhythm Section’s “I Am So Into You,” which leads us to the real Atlanta rhythm section, the imaginary lovers in OutKast. “Hey Ya!” has to be the most new-wave of all hip-hop songs, as if Andre was on some Fred Schneider quiche-Lorraine trip or something. I’m not claiming to like the whole album, or even half of it, or even half of either disc. The pseudo-Prince ballads make me miss Ray Parker Jr. even more than I already do, and I had to refold the CD booklet because the cover shot of Andre with a gun is one of the year’s saddest sellouts. But “Hey Ya!,” that’s the pop hit of the year, rolling from the Dirty South to your own private Idaho—anyone arguing with that? (Arguments depending on the term “Chingy-licious” are not acceptable.)

Do these songs add up to any cultural significance? How would I know? But they do show how pop music sucked so much less than the rest of American culture sucked this year. I don’t want music that’s not bad, or even just interesting—I want music that makes me shake and jump, music that makes me burn in hell and gives me the fever to tell. I saw Bowie live the other night, and I’m still buzzing. I screamed at “Life on Mars.” I choked up at “Five Years.” That’s what I want from the music in my life. Ain’t there one damn song that can make me break down and cry? The music I loved this year didn’t want to meet my daddy—it just wanted to get me in the Caddy.

Again, thanks for including me in this. It is an honor for me to be the Shemp Howard in this three-headed Stooge hydra.