Thursday, 25 October 2007

Million Dollar Quartet vs Billion Dollar Remix

Those internets were on fire with rational debate last week. New Yorker critic Sasha Frere-Jones opined that his dream of musico-racial miscegenation had crashed on the rocks of a cruddy, whinging-whitey Modest Mouse album and some Trick Daddy records that were “too black, too strong”, or something. Slate columnist Carl Wilson said the problem’s not race, but god only knows it’s class. Specifically, he identified a caste of Generation Y-ers who refuse to get jobs after university, so are ruining things by still listening to indie pop when they’re in their thirties.

The internets seem to think Carl Wilson won, probably because he let Sasha Frere-Jones go first. But both critics think that something’s gone awry. Can it be true? A Galactic Mystery!

In December 1956, the Million Dollar Quartet of Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis got together for a jam session at Sun Studios, Memphis. Fifty years and a bit later to the day, feud-happy rap-moguls 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Diddy and Kanye West got together onstage at Madison Square Garden. Taking into account inflation, the result was a billion dollar rrrrrrremix of Mr. Cent’s pop smash, ‘I Get Money’.

In both cases, we have groups of rich men selling working-class black music to middle-class white kids, laughing amongst themselves as they do it. Both brought together the dominant popular music forms of the day – in the former case, gospel, country and rock-n-roll; in the latter case, club-rap, pop-rap and rap. But which is best, and has pop music moved on? GMS breaks it down:

The best pop music is full of great hair.
Billion Dollar Remix The late 80s wasn’t rap’s golden age for nothing: hi-top fades, jheri curls, rap mullets. These days? A poor showing. 3
Million Dollar Quartet is full of great hair. Yes, even Jheri Lee Lewis. 10

The joy of great pop is that you don’t have to listen to it for very long.
BDR is in and out like a crack team of management consultants. A one shot deal. 9
MDQ took all day about their business – literally! Until Cash went to do some Christmas shopping, and Elvis nipped out for a cheeseburger and some sex. 4

Lusty rabble-rousing
Go cat go.
BDR have been linked to their fair share of honeys, despite Jay and Fiddy having faces only a mother could love. 6
MDQ Marrying your 13-year-old cousin? Check. Shooting the telly? Check. Causing a forest fire while full of drugs? Check. Winding up June Carter and attacking a sink in a highly-praised but rather plodding biopic? Check. 9

The Lord Jesus Christ
The first pop star?
Those MDQ boys loved their mommas, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of their session is spent singing about how they’re going to meet him and have a chat. 9

BDR seem like a godless bunch, though Jigga has started rapping in Hebrew a bit. But maybe they’re just channelling their god-lust into the accumulation of worldly wealth. Praise him! 6

Investment portfolio
I get money, money I got.
MDQ were the first r’n’r megastars, and set the bar for TCB – takin’ care of business, that is! 7
BDR 50 took quarter water, sold it in a bottle for two bucks, Coca Cola bought that shit for twenty mill – what the fuck?! Diddy and Jay both have a Masters in Business Administration from the Correspondence College of Tampa, Florida. 9

“The pocket of the beat”
The best pop musicians discover the beat’s pocket, then set up shop in it. © Status Ain’t Hood.
BDR 50 struggles to keep pace (on his own beat). Diddy blithely monotones like he does on every track. But Jay saves the day with his limber, off-key flow, ducking and weaving, stretching his vocals out, picking “the pocket of the beat” like the artful dodger of pop that he is. Hmm. 6
MDQ Back in the day, the pocket of the beat had a different name: “shooby-doo-bop”. No egos on display for the Million Dollar Quartet – they all get involved. 7

Quality of death
C’mon, dying is rad.
MDQ Elvis carries the torch here, as Cash and Perkins passed on with some dignity, and Lewis is still with us. But Cash “shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”, while Perkins killed, and was killed by, David Bowie in John Landis’ Into The Night. Score! 7
BDR Much as they glorify death, and the administration of such, all of these guys are alive. 0

Vehicle of choice
If there’s one thing that unites pop musicians, it’s automotive transport.
BDR 50 names all the different types of expensive car, and mumbles so that they rhyme. 9
MDQ were just hung up on Cadillacs. 5

Diddy’s ghostwriter earns his cheddar here, penning amusing non-sequiturs about “riding round in Miami on mopeds” and rhyming “million” with “ice grillin’”. 8
MDQ hardly wrote any of the forty-odd songs they play, the big frauds. 4

Searching critique of race and class
Frere-Jones would vaunt MDQ’s commitment to musical miscegenation, and Cash went on to record social protest pieces like Bitter Tears and ‘The Man In Black’. But in 1956 these boys weren’t exactly readers. Plus, erm, what Chuck D said. 5
BDR Digested Chomsky? Yeah, Diddy did it. Protested the WTO? Yeah, Diddy did it. 8

Million Dollar Quartet 67
Billion Dollar Remix 64

There we have it. Pop was slightly better fifty years ago. The three-points gap in the totals seems to imply that it’s neither class, nor race, but religion that’s made the difference. Maybe if that nice, god-fearing Kanye West had joined in, things would have levelled out. So, no need to fret, pop fans!

Million Dollar Quartet (Presley, Cash, Lewis, Perkins) – ‘Just A Little Talk With Jesus’

Million Dollar Quartet (Presley, Cash, Lewis, Perkins) – ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’

Million Dollar Quartet (Presley, Cash, Lewis, Perkins) – ‘Down By The Riverside

50 Cent (feat. Diddy & Jay-Z) – ‘I Get Money (remix)’


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