Sunday, February 12, 2012

Adele and the Sounds of Hell

   Tonight someone named Adele will win a boatload of Grammy Awards. Patsy Cline, Diana Ross and Bob Marley never won one. The Beach Boys, The Doors, Led Zepplin, and The Who never won one. But tonight someone named Adele will win a whole bunch of them. 


     The poet Dante describes a Hell where all manner of horrific torture is heaped upon sinners. The guilty are plunged into molten lava, devoured by beasts only to be devoured again, their skin is stripped from their bodies, they are impaled, crushed and wracked in every fiendish manner imaginable. Most of Dante's tortures were borrowed from actual crimes of barbarity inflicted upon non-Christians during the Inquisition. These are things people did to other human beings. It is rumored Hell sounds a little bit like this...


...but this humble reporter respectfully disagrees. I think it sounds more like this...




Am I being a smartass? No. Let me explain. There is one difference between the sounds in the first video and the second video. And that difference is soul. Those in Hell have soul. That's why they're there. They have bad soul, but they have it. But I find very little evidence of soul around me anymore. Walking down the street I rarely see the spark of soul in anyone's eyes anymore. Dead, sunken lakes of bottomless void is what I see. And the phenomenon of popular singers who caterwaul like beasts of burden being eviscerated by rusty kitchen utensils has been substituted for human beings who make sounds from the heart and soul. These are imitators of humanity. A style foisted upon us by shows like American idol, but first perpetrated by artists like Michael Bolton who would take a sledge hammer to songs by legends of soul like Otis Redding and just howl until your ears bled. Like parasites these artists share only the blood of those they feed off, not the soul. I remember the first time I heard Mariah Carey do that blood-curdling banshee cry that was passed off by tin-eared pundits as a seven octave range. Start by hitting the first of the octave. The trend continued through the nineties until it was rare for anyone to be able to discern shit from shinola anymore.


     Then American Idol happened. And culture died. It was murdered. By howling monkeys belting out fifth-rate versions of songs artists of previous generations suffered and died to make their own. But nobody seemed to notice. Eventually it didn't seem like their was anyone left capable of noticing. Or that those who could had merely given up in disgust. It was fake, forged, hollow, inane, soulless, saccharine garbage. And people ate it up. Worst of all, they insisted on labeling it exactly the opposite of what it was... soulful. To be soulful one has to have soul. It can be imitated. It can't be duplicated.


     Tonight one of these new generation of huxters will go home with a sackful of Grammy Awards. And for an award that has a history of ignoring the artists in each generation that stood the test of time and became treasured assets to our culture, that seems entirely appropriate. 


    The sounds of Hell. 

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