Thursday, July 01, 2010

Embracing one's "inner old fogeyness"

A few weeks ago, my cousin Kelley Mooney performed with the Chorale Voce dell' Anima led by Monette Gould at the Monument Lefebvre in Memramcook, not far from Moncton. Kelley had recently been granted an approved gospel lyrical adaptation of Hallelujah by renowned Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen's publishers.

Hallelujah is a beloved song. It's appeared in movies (Shrek), been performed on television (American Idol), and been covered by countless artists. The problem with the song is that its title suggests only spirituality, but its lyrics suggest sex too. So, when Kelley was asked by her parish priest (who never read the lyrics and only really heard the refrain) to sing it at Easter mass, Kelley had to break the news to him that the song was highly inappropriate for church, despite its spiritual overtones.

So, Kelley got to work writing new religious lyrics to the song but performed to the same beloved melody. A couple of years after sending in her proposed version, Cohen's publishers granted her the lyrical adaptation rights, so she now has the official OK to perform the song, which she did in Memramcook a few weeks ago.

A video I posted to my YouTube channel of her performance has reached nearly 4,000 views in two weeks - pretty good for local videos! Its popularity is a wonderful testimonial to Kelley's talent and the amazing accompaniment of Monette's choir. After the song, 400 people - many openly emotional - leapt to their feet for a well-deserved standing ovation. She'll be recording the song for an upcoming CD. If it gets anything close to the adoring response it got in Memramcook, she'll do just fine. And if I was a betting man, you may just be hearing it in church soon enough, now that its lyrics are considered 100-per-cent "churchy."

Like the priest who thought the original version of Hallelujah was appropriate for church, I've also spent many hours during the course of my life getting the wrong ideas about certain songs.

For instance, there are some famous Christmas-related songs that have absolutely zero to do with the yuletide season. Jingle Bells and Winter Wonderland are about winter, not Christmas. Read the lyrics. Not a thing about Christmas.

Song lyrics of many popular songs have always baffled me. They are so nonsensical that you either need to be on drugs to understand them or have a doctorate in philosophy to get their meaning. That doesn't mean they're not good songs. And it doesn't mean they aren't catchy. Here are a few examples.

From The Beatles' I Am the Walrus: "Semolina Pilchard climbing up the Eiffel tower. Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna. Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe." Seriously? Really? Now, if you can tell me what in the world that means without having to resort to visiting a monk sitting atop a mountain in Tibet, I'd love to know.

How about these weird lyrics from OMC's catchy and aptly named ditty, How Bizarre: "Elephants and acrobats, lions, snakes, monkey. Pele speaks righteous. Sister Zina says funky. How bizarre." I love this song. I could sing it all day. I'm sure if you don't remember it from the title or words, you'd likely fall in love with it right away, too. But the lyrics drive me crazy.

I love the twangy stuff from the 1960s. Now, those were lyrics you could understand. "My D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today. Me and little J-O-E will be goin' away." Clever use of spelling in the title and lyrics, but you get what the song is about. You don't have to sit down with a bottle of whisky and an encyclopaedia of ancient history to figure out what in the world poor ol' Tammy Wynette is warbling about.

And you can pretty much figure out what the wife is doing in Charley Pride's Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger: "Did you enjoy yourself last night, dear? How was the show? You know that I don't mind it, when you go. I understand sometimes we all need time alone, but why do you always leave your ring at home?"

I know I'm sounding like an old fogey, but why can't they just write songs that I can understand? It hurts my brain to try and figure out what half the rappers are singing about. They sing so fast that I barely know what they're saying. And Google "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum", an experimental rock band. Watch a couple of videos. Do people actually pay for this stuff? I'm sure they do, but man - it is so not my cup of tea.

Also, if you're looking around YouTube, look up "death metal." You've probably heard of heavy metal rock, but death metal makes heavy metal look like Tiny Tim singing Tiptoe Through the Tulips after inhaling a tank of helium. It's screechy, scary, obnoxious stuff. It's just absolutely ridiculous.

I tell ya, I consider myself to be a reasonably modern person open to new ideas and concepts, but when it comes to music, I tend to be a bit of a traditionalist. Give me the Harry Connick Juniors of the world any day, along with the Michael Bubl├ęs, the Sarah McLachlans, the Rufus Wainwrights (even though some of his lyrics are on the bizarre side, too). I like being able to sit back and relax to music . . . or sing along and be happy . . . or sing along and be sad. (Take a look at Billy Gilman's video of his song Oklahoma on YouTube. If you aren't a heaping mess of tears on the floor after that, you have no soul.)

Yup. Gimme a sad country song any day over death metal. I'd rather cry to lyrics I can understand than cry because the music's hurting my ears or because I'm confused by nonsensical and ridiculous lyrics.

I'm embracing my inner old fogeyness!

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