Archive for Saturday Night Live

All The Other Kids…

Posted in Current Events, Music, Music Video, What? with tags , , , , , on October 13, 2011 by greedycherry

So….did anyone see Saturday Night Live this past weekend?

If you did, I’m guessing you probably enjoyed it. The show has been erratic in the quality category for a long while now (which, in my opinion, could be a frightening understatement on my part), but every once in a while I’ll catch one where I end up laughing more than I expected….where most sketches seem to “click” in just the right way.  (The Elton John show from last year was one such example for me.)  This show was one of those good ones, and the host, Ben Stiller, did a great job….he’s always a pretty funny guy no matter what I catch him in.

(Somehow, though, every time I think of him, I always end up picturing his Dodgeball character White Goodman in my head.  “Nobody makes me bleed my own blood!  Nobody!”  Don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing….)

Anyway, the point here wasn’t the host of the show.  (Or the surprise cameo by Hugh Jackman, for that matter.)  What I’d like to talk about, since this is a music blog, is the show’s musical guest: Foster The People.  Their big hit song, which you may or may not have heard by now, is called “Pumped Up Kicks”.  I could be crazy, but I think it’s one of the catchiest little tunes I’ve heard in a long while.  (So if you haven’t heard it yet, I’d suggest going back and clicking on that link one sentence back….) It’s not an overly complicated or intricately composed piece by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s got a solid, catchy chorus that can get you singing along in three seconds flat.

And that, my friends, is the literal definition of a great pop song.

Of course, if you peruse the lyrics, you could be forgiven for swallowing your sing-a-long halfway through.  The song’s narrative, as explained by group founder and lead singer Mark Foster, is “about a kid that basically is losing his mind and is plotting revenge. He’s an outcast. I feel like the youth in our culture are becoming more and more isolated. It’s kind of an epidemic. Instead of writing about victims and some tragedy, I wanted to get into the killer’s mind, like Truman Capote did in In Cold Blood.”

“You’d better run faster than my bullet” indeed.

But what really caught my attention about their appearance on the show was the second song they performed, “Houdini”.  (That’s a link to the actual performance so that you can see it for yourself.)  It wasn’t necessarily the song itself that caught my attention, bouncy and energetic as it was, but who joined them onstage to play it…..someone who I haven’t heard a peep about or from in years, and was actually quite okay with that, thank you very much.

I believe my exact words when he walked out on stage were, “Is that Kenny G???  Get the @%&$ out!!!!!”

Don’t know how it came together, don’t know whose idea it was, but my brain lurched towards my ear in a bold attempt to escape my cranium when it registered what was going on.  I mean, I’ll be fair here….Kenny G, despite all the nasty things that are said about him, is a very talented musician, and plays a mean saxophone when you give him the chance.  Not in any deeply intense, soul-wrenching, John Coltrane-ish kind of way, of course, but he can definitely get around on the instrument and has a mastery of improvisation on it.  This fact aside, he’s known mainly for his smooth jazz stylings for a reason: that’s how (and what) he plays.

We could have a nice, long debate here about the “realness” of musicians, and who can be considered artistically relevant and who can’t.  Everyone’s got an opinion.  Some people dismiss Foster The People as just a “dumb pop band,” and nothing you say will ever convince them that they are wrong.  But I myself believe that it takes incredible skill to write a song and arrange it such that, simple as it may be, it sticks out to listeners when they’re listening to the radio, and sticks with them because it’s catchy.  (As much as people love to denigrate ABBA, for instance, I think they had some of the most well-composed and brilliantly arranged pop songs to ever exist. We can debate that further, of course, if you’d like.)  There’s a reason Foster The People were on Saturday Night Live in the first place, I think…..don’t you?

Therefore, if some “dumb pop band” can be grabbing national attention on a network television show, why can’t a “dumb jazz musician” be a guest and play with them?  When considered in this way, the performance was a good, solid match…..two artists at the top of their games, even if you don’t necessarily care for the particular games they play.  I’ll admit the collaboration itself came just a bit out of left field, so to speak, but thinking back on it, I suppose I ultimately found that the whole thing was pretty cool.

Just as long as it doesn’t lead to a Yanni guest appearance during a Justin Bieber show, I think we’ll all be just fine.

Opinions? Comments? Suggestions for outrageous musical pairings? Drop ’em below…..and thanks for reading!