Everybody is Trying to #SaveNelly

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By John

It’s been a few years since we have heard a hit from turn-of-the-century hip hop sensation Nelly. His latest hit, however, isn’t a collaboration with a younger, fresher artist in an attempt to gain ground in the game. No, Nelly’s latest hit comes to his bank account by way of the IRS and a $2.4 million tax lien from 2013.

His last hit albums may have been in 2004 with the dual releases of Suit and Sweat, (Seriously. Those were his last platinum albums. M.O. which was released in 2013 only sold 23,000 copies to date.) but Nelly still has a fan base, apparently, as his fans are banding together to stream his music in order to help him defray the cost of his tax lien. Specifically, fans are turning to what may be his greatest hit, 2001’s Hot in Herre in a campaign to #SaveNelly.

According to an article in the Washington Post by Elahe Izadi, fans will need to stream Hot in Herre (or their favorite Nelly track) on Spotify 287,176,547 times in order to pay off the 2.4 million dollar levy. Essentially what this tells us is that Nelly makes $0.008 for every play of one of his songs on Spotify. That’s not even a penny, folks.

As of today, Hot in Herre has been played a total of 60,108,586 times which of course includes every play since it became available to stream on the music service. That isn’t even close as it stands right now, although we do not know how many plays Nelly has got since the #SaveNelly campaign went live this week. However, it does mean Nelly has earned $502,301 from this one track alone from Spotify.

Fans are making their best attempt to help the rapper defray the cost, but the effect is merely a Band-Aid on the left cheek of his overall tax problems.

So that is the story that is going around the Internets this week, clogging up my Facebook news aggregator. But to me, that is not the interesting part of the story. The fan response is where it’s at, so to speak. I have so many questions:

1.)  Does Nelly really have that many fans to rally together to put their efforts into saving him from his IRS issues?

2.) How many people are just doing this because its a fun thing to do on the Internet? Has the hashtag campaign really brought such public awareness that people are jumping on the bandwagon to stream his music?

3.) Why are people so worried about a guy who basically screwed up and didn’t pay his taxes? (Yes, I know, blame the accountant.)

The thing is, streaming a song, however noble, does not require anything of the person doing it. It costs the listener nothing. There is little investment on the listener’s part. I’ve written before about cost to a consumer vs. their investment in an artist/event/movement. This isn’t a Kickstarter or GoFundMe campaign where someone is trying to fund an album by giving things away to a person who will put up cash to see a project completed. That is a way to gain invested fans. But is this #SaveNelly campaign indicative of how to leverage existing fans? Or,is this just people on the Internet getting a little chuckle about referencing a hit they remember from college and throwing up a hashtag on Twitter?

Apparently, Nelly is beloved by enough music fans in 2016 to start a movement, but I question whether this is a noble gesture. I suspect the #SaveNelly campaign will be hot (in herre) on Internet news feeds for a few days, then people will go back to forgetting about Nelly. Meanwhile, he will have to pay future tax on his $0.08 earning on each new play his fans are doing to help him.

Ok, so my natural instinct is to go skeptical. But, when I think back to what I was listening to from 2000-2006, there was a lot of Nelly on my iPod. I really was a fan of his first album, before the Hot in Herre era, and I loved a lot of the music off Nellyville and Sweat/Suit. Maybe it takes no investment to play a few tracks on Spotify, but maybe that’s the key thing about this movement. It cost nothing, it helps out an artist who’s music played a pivotal role many people’s hip hop education, including my own. Nelly might not be tearing up the charts these days, but he was at least relevant enough in the lives of his fans that they want to give the guy a hand when he is down.

I highly doubt that the #SaveNelly campaign will make a dent in his tax problems. But maybe the gesture is one of the most beautiful things to take place in a world full of skepticism and negativity.

All that being said, I personally contributed $0.024 cents towards the goal to #SaveNelly. You know, because sometimes you just have to give back.

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Time After Time, I Fall for Nostalgia

By John

During the 2016 Rio Olympics, McDonald’s released a commercial that made me swell with manly tears the first time I saw it.

The commercial features a split screen, on the left, a little boy clearly growing up in the 80’s playing and doing activities in which he passes the game or item across the split screen to a little redheaded girl.

The little girl is clearly living in 2016. He hands her an Atari controller, it becomes a contemporary game system controller. He passes her his stuffed puppy, and it becomes a real puppy. Everything he passes to her is slightly better than what he had in the 80’s.

In the final scene, you see the little girl excitedly waiting for the little boy to join her in the left screen. The boy sits down, pulls out a chicken nugget, then passes it across the screen to the little girl.

The little boy from the 80’s then slides himself across the split screen into 2016 to reveal, he is her father.

Here is the commercial:

The music playing in the background is none other than Sam Beam, who records as Iron and Wine performing a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s standard “Time After Time.”

On the face, this is a really clever and effective commercial appealing to people my age (I turn 35 on September 12) who have kids who are 7 or 8 like the adorable little redheaded girl in the commercial.

Our generation is a fickle one. We are the generation of natural cleaning products, GMO free foods, minimally processed snacks, and such. We are the generation that is likely the cause of McDonald’s recent struggles in the marketplace. We have drifted from McDonalds to Chipotle because of the promises of the burrito makers of providing hormone free, responsibly raised, local foods for their offerings. McDonald’s has been hurting lately, most likely because our generation and the Millenials coming behind us have better options than the fast food stalwarts like McDonald’s and Wendy’s and Burger King.

Burger King has gone the route of offering hot dogs and (god awful) Whopperito burritos to attract new customers. The purpose of this McDonald’s commercial is to feature their chicken McNuggets, now with 100% all natural white meat, no artificial colors or flavors. The commercial does a great job of reminding us 30-something dads of the childhood we experienced frame-by-frame, showing how a dad can relate his childhood to his daughter (or son) According to this commercial, fundamentally, nothing has really changed. I remember so many birthday parties at McDonald’s and eating so many chicken nuggets over the years as a kid in the 80’s. Its the same experience when my kids beg for Happy Meals that my parents experienced – however, McDonald’s also appeals to the old adage that “we all want better for our kids.” Now we can share the experience we had growing up with our kids, and our kids have it better than we did.

(One of my favorite things about this commercial is in the first scene playing basketball. Both the father and the daughter are wearing high top Chucks. Nice touch, Mickey D’s.)

This commercial brought me to tears the first time I saw it. It touched that part of me that always aches for nostalgia. It appealed to my childhood. It appealed to my fatherhood. But this time, the sheer timing of this commercial hit me the hardest.

After 10 years living in the Chicago area, I just relocated my family back to my old hometown in the middle of rural “look out for Amish buggies” Ohio.

My kids were born and raised as Chicago suburban kids. This is a big change for them. For me, its a homecoming of sorts. I grew up in Ashland, Ohio, moved away, then moved back for college, where I met my wife – their mom, who also grew up here. Then we got married and moved to the big city. For us, its a bizarre juxtaposition of lives. This is where we were kids and where we grew up. We went to those birthday parties at McDonald’s when we were in third grade. Now my third grader lives here. He begs for Happy Meals at least a few times a month.

The night I first saw this commercial, I had just gone with my wife to the ice cream shop in the park by the house. I grew up in a 60’s ranch house up the hill from the ice cream shop and got ice cream there regularly as a kid. It was across from the softball diamond where my dad played church league softball several nights a week. It is down the hill from the municipal swimming pool where I spent literally every day of the summer. It is across the street from the mini-golf course where my wife worked in college when we were dating. I spent hours sitting in the little red shed with her as she waited for patrons to come pay their dollar to rent a putter and a ball.

I got the same ice cream flavor I lived on as a kid. I sat there, eating ice cream with my wife, sitting on the familiar picnic tables, taking in the scene. Nothing had really changed in 25 years. It was fundamentally the same. All of my memories of growing up in this neighborhood next to the park were completely in tact. I had just taken my kids to this park earlier in the day and let them wade into the creek where my brother and I used to overturn rocks and catch crayfish and minnows. My son spotted a few that day.

Then, I came home that night, ate dinner, cleaned up, got the kids in bed and flipped on the TV and saw this commercial. Tears. I usually kind of tune out commercials, but being an Iron and Wine fan, I recognized Sam Beam’s whisper immediately. It caught my attention. He is singing one of my all time favorite songs – Time After Time. I love Cyndi Lauper’s original, I love covers of the song. It holds up no matter who is singing it. Its a powerful song.

Then, the commercial features a little redheaded girl about 7 or 8. I have a little redheaded girl the same age. I’ve been walking her through the memories of the hometown that is new to her and so familiar to me. “This is the house I grew up in, Honey. This is the merry-go-round I played on too when I was a kid. See that house? One of my friends lived there and I used to go over and play all the time when I was your age.”

My wife just had this same odd experience when we took my daughter to sign up for dance classes at the dance studio where my wife danced when she was a little girl. We searched the hundreds of photos on the wall of the reception area looking for all the pictures that mom was in when she was a kid. My wife said the place was exactly the same as it was 20 years ago when she danced there.

I can’t fully explain what this feels like.

Between one of my favorite artists singing one of my favorite songs and the little redhead girl who melted my heart because she reminded me of my own little redheaded girl who melts my heart, this commercial got me right in the feels. All of the feels, really.

Its comforting and disorienting to have my children actually experience my childhood themselves. I didn’t have that in Chicago. That was a whole different ball game. I had no touchstones to a childhood there. My kids were having a childhood that was completely their own. Now they are having mine. And hopefully, it’s fundamentally the same, but incrementally better than my own childhood.

Of course, times have changed. But my kids and I still wear matching Chuck Taylor’s from time to time.

 

Dueling Reviews: David Bazan & TW Walsh

By John

Back in 2006, Pedro the Lion was effectively kaput. David Bazan and the only other official member TW Walsh returned with the electronic sounds of their one-off album as Headphones.

Headphones utilized the song structures of typical Bazan-penned Pedro tunes but combined that with Walsh’s drumming and both artists’ respective synthesizer skills to create a new sound.

Over the decade since the duo released their album as Headphones, they continued to collaborate (Walsh remastered all the old Pedro the Lion albums for rerelease a few years ago) but mostly worked on their respective solo careers. Bazan released two solo albums, 2009’s Curse Your Branches and 2011’s Strange Negotiations on Barsuk records, but both albums were mixed and mastered by Walsh. Walsh kept busy with production work and released albums with the Soft Drugs, and his own 2011 album Songs of Pain and Leisure.

Both artists solo work after Pedro the Lion and Headphones was not electronically based, but focused more on the classic guitar/bass/drum sound.

Interestingly enough, a decade after their combined electronic release with Headphones, both artists have returned with new solo albums that shift completely their solo sound. Both new albums from Bazan and Walsh are heavily synth and drum machine based, but each album has its own flavor.

On to the reviews. We’ll go in order:

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TW Walsh – Fruitless Research (Released 2/12/2016, Graveface Records):

Walsh has an amazing ability to find execute melody. Each song on this album flows around the melody and Walsh’s vocals.

The structure of most of the songs is basic. Walsh does a great job layering simple repeating melodies to create a masterful, nuanced pieces.

Walsh was quoted in Paste on lead single, Fundamental Ground:

“Musically speaking, this song is dead simple,” said Walsh. “Three chords on repeat, and I think there may be a grand total four notes in the vocal melody. Lyrically, it’s about the quest to recognize the fundamental ground of reality as described by the great ancient Mahasiddhas (meditation masters) of India and Tibet. So, basically, it’s a song that the kids are really gonna identify with…also, Ben Gibbard texted me to let me know he really likes this song, which was pretty awesome.”

Fundamental Ground is a great example of the clean, uncluttered simplicity that permeates throughout Fruitless Research.

This is an album that connects with this reviewer from a music and melody standpoint. Lyrically, this album touches a lot on vague spiritual awareness in places, but I focus less on the lyrics and more on the tone and shape of the melody.

Key Tracks: Fundamental Ground, Counting Cards, The Glow

Static and Distortion Rating: 8.2 Dinosaur Jrs.

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David Bazan – Blanco (Released May 13, 2016, Barsuk Records):

Many of the songs from Blanco started as 2014 releases on SoundCloud as part of Bazan Monthly. Bazan fans could pay for a subscription to get a new track each month.

The track names on Blanco may be familiar to fans, but compared to the Bazan Monthly releases, the album tracks have been tweaked, remastered and largely rerecorded. Vocals are crisper, the production is brighter, and more cohesive.

This reviewer has been following the songs since they were trickling out month-to-month. I may be partial to some of the original versions. Some of the vocals on the original tracks felt more raw and honest, while the rerecorded vocals feel more “technically” better.

Sonically, the classic Bazan song structure is still there, although this electronic palette truly feels like something new after nearly 20 years making records. While Headphones sounded like electronic Pedro the Lion songs, Blanco feels like a new era of Bazan song writing.

The album flows well, but while Walsh’s Fruitless Research is simple and clean, some Blanco tracks start to feel cluttered with too much electronic ambiance and not enough melodic structure to underpin it.

Lyrically, its classic but nuanced Bazan. With You is a classic Bazan take on a love song. It handles the nervousness of a relationship, fears, doubts, and insecurities while ultimately realizing, time has passed and “we’re still together.” The Trouble With Boys feels like an electronic take on a classic slow-core style track. I’m almost reminded of older Low tracks. The final lyric “you are worthy of love” is devastating and beautiful.

Key Tracks: With You, The Trouble With Boys, Little Landslides

Static and Distortion Rating: 7.6 Dinosaur Jrs.

Final Take: Each of these albums have their own take on an electronic shift for each artists solo style, and each are good complimentary pieces for fans of the Headphones album.

Want to do something fun? Create a playlist with both albums to create a Headphones double album. If each album was released as a double Headphones album, you can basically create a Headphones version of Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.

The Static Podcast – Season 4, Episode 4: The Score by Fugees – 20 Years Later

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This episode starts off the rails and doesn’t ever really recover. John, Chris and Jason discuss Fugees “The Score” 20 years after its release and ponder the legacy of Everlast. Things get weird, words get slurred. It’s another quality podcast from the Static Team.

Good luck.

The Static Podcast – Season 4, Episode 3: Fela Kuti

fela-kuti-detroit-1986-600In this podcast, Jason, Robert and John talk about the best sandwich shops for stoners, how expensive Jewel-Osco is, and Jason and John put their friend Nancy on blast for shopping at Wal-Mart. John struggles to describe his definition of a “cool vibe.”

Also, we talk about the history and music of political activist Fela Kuti.

The Static Podcast – Season 4, Episode 2: DEATH GRIPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bottomless_PitWell, we finally did it. We finally decided to put a little faith in humanity back in Robert’s cold cold heart and give one of his most controversially favorite bands a proper podcast.

I swore I’d never do this podcast, but at the end of the day, I found some new respect for Death Grips. But unlike Robert’s heart, my warm, jovial heart now has a cold place reserved for Death Grips.

This week, we talk the Grammy Awards, Kanye West’s plan for life, and how Stockholm Syndrome may have affected Jason’s ability to love Death Grips.

Leave a comment below or head over to our Facebook page to leave a comment on how you feel about DEAAAATHHH GRRIIIIPPPPPPSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!