In honor of the brand new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, I thought it only appropriate to celebrate with a music video.
That’s So Jacob presents:
Episode 12: Linda Ronstadt/Amy Winehouse “You’re No Good/You Know I’m No Good” Remix
Pop music has changed.
Not just the songs, but the images of the artists as well. What was once risque is now tame; I watched an early Britney Spears music video the other day and was like “so what’s the problem here?” Now you look at people like Miley Cyrus and wonder where the hell music went to. The only “pop” in pop music these days seems to come from Macklemore’s song where he “pops some tags” (and at first, I thought it was “popping some tabs,” like from soda cans or maybe a reference to MDA or some other sort of drug tablets). None of these songs have much of a shelf life. I mean, are we still going to be singing “Shots shots shots shots shots shots” or “You a stupid hoe (repeat)” twenty years from now? Ten? Five?
From the 1940s forward, pop music emerged out of a burgeoning youth culture in America and around the world. These were songs teens could dance along to and sing along with. Pop music has evolved over the years, spawning new genres (like bubblegum pop, country pop, dance pop, adult contemporary) and influenced other styles of music like rock, rap and R&B. Pure pop, however, came from the likes of folks like Linda Ronstadt. I believe that Linda Ronstadt is one of the most versatile performers of our time; her decades-long career has spawned albums in classic pop, contemporary pop, country/western, folk, rock and roll, and Latin, including setting the record for the best-selling non-English-language album in the USA. It shouldn’t have taken until 2014 to induct her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but now she’s in a place which deserves her name. She just came out with a book, Simple Dreams, that I am dying to read.
Unfortunately, she has lost the ability to sing due to symptoms from Parkinson’s disease; other than that, she’s alive and healthy, and apparently, according to her Wikipedia page, single and never married. (Linda – if you’re reading this, call me! 😉 )
She has some of the star qualities that are rarer and rarer to find in pop musicians these days. Every song of hers is distinct and has a different sound to it; you know it’s her because her name is on the CD cover, but even if you didn’t know who she was, you’d appreciate the song and the voice. Her songs were catchy, punchy, and had fun lyrics that were easy to remember, actually made some sense, and had a message in them. Her image wasn’t necessarily squeaky-clean, but that didn’t matter as much in those days; keeping your body covered was in, and songs with provocative lyrics didn’t receive much airtime. Frankly, the concept of “squeaky clean” image that we have today didn’t really exist back then; singers just performed, and the innuendo was what the listener made of it.
21st century music, while it has plenty of exceptions, has seen the proliferation of the “adult” factor, especially in teenagers and young twenty-somethings. Drugs, alcohol, and sex, once a subculture, have now hit the mainstream now more than ever. And they’re all so young. Consider Amy Winehouse. Her life was like a side show of addiction that resulted in an unfortunate death at the age of 27, just a year older than I am right now. And ironic, considering one of her breakout hits, “Rehab,” where she sings about not wanting to go there, and very adamantly at that. Fans seem to consider her some sort of musical martyr, but I don’t see it that way. People make choices in their lives, and she made some pretty bad ones and paid the ultimate price. This is by no means to speak ill of the dead, because she could have had a long, fruitful career ahead of her; just look at how Ozzy Osbourne turned out. Okay, maybe not the best example, but you get the picture.
But back to the video. We start off with the Amy Winehouse part, where she sings about drinking while lying in a bathtub and smoking at the bar, telling all the world “You Know I’m No Good.” Basically, a typical Amy Winehouse day. Her outfits are pretty darn revealing, and I don’t even think she’s trying to be all that sexy. After an awesome transition, we tune into a 1970s episode of Midnight Special, with Linda Ronstadt, two backup singers (who have incredible hairstyles, by the way), and a live band belting out “You’re No Good,” with long-haired Linda rocking the mic in her floral patterned Oxford and bellbottoms, and shaking a tambourine and her long brown hair like she just don’t care. The backups have interesting leisure-suit type outfits on, very 70s, especially the one who appears to be in gold lame. We transition back to Amy doing things with her tongue and half-naked boyfriend (not at the same time), with an awesome tambourine clap from Linda in the middle, before transitioning back again to Linda and co., who bring us out on a high note.
Now, what’s the take away here? I’ll start with the imagery. I love both ladies’ looks in this video, but it really shows just how much music has changed. In the 1970s, Linda’s outfit would be considered trendy, fashionable, and maybe even sexy with the tight fitting waist and legs, but today, you’d find that outfit (or a similar variation) at Ann Taylor or H&M. Amy’s outfit isn’t entirely inappropriate, more like club wear, but shows more cleavage than most 1970s pop divas would dare to bare. Their makeup and body language communicate their characters. Linda’s natural look and slight swish of the hips does more to implicate anything sexual than actually do anything sexual, whereas Amy’s heavy makeup, body tattoos, and (implied) nudity in the bubble bath make more of a show out of her, detracting from the voice and the song. The songs themselves go together nicely in one video, but are very different in style and tone: “You’re No Good” is less specific and contains relatively harmless lyrics about a relationship, where “You Know I’m No Good” refers to alcohol, having affairs, and sleeping around. Unfortunately, the original six-minute video has been taken down by YouTube, but this three-minute version packs the same punch.
This video is a masterpiece because not only does it feature two amazing singers, but it shows some of the stark contrasts between pop music from this century and the last.
Congratulations to Linda as well as Nirvana, Cat Stevens, KISS, Peter Gabriel, and Hall & Oates for their incredibly well-deserved achievement. And also to the nation of Taiwan and the Northwest Territories of Canada for showing up at That’s So Jacob for the first time. Give yourselves a round of applause.
But seriously, Ms. Ronstadt, if you’re ever in the Madison, Wisconsin area, let’s have dinner and drinks. Please?