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In Defense of the Common People (Or: Nerd Brand 4) by jason
May 13, 2011, 10:51 am
Filed under: Nerds! | Tags: , , , , ,

Click here for my first Nerd Brand post.
Click Here for Part Two.
And Part Three.

At work the other day, two of my coworkers, one, a self-described “uber-geek,” was going on about the greatness of William Shatner. They were explaining to the rest of the staff that The Transformed Man was actually a brilliant album, and that Shatner is pretty much awesome in every way.

Now, if you haven’t heard anything from the album, here’s his cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

I’m not trying to say there isn’t some sort of kitsch appeal to that piece. Hell, I’ll even admit that I enjoyed it, in that sort of “I’mma drink some PBR and get a moustache tattooed on my finger” sort of way. Entertaining? Sure. But not good. And if he weren’t William Shatner, if he weren’t Captain Kirk or T. J. Frickin’ Hooker, this cover would have faded into obscurity. It is not “good” music. It’s barely even music.

Another thing that was brought up that day was the Shat’s “Rocketman” cover. You’ve seen it, but here it is anyway:

Again, this is ENDLESSLY entertaining, but there is no way to enjoy this that doesn’t scream of irony. It’s a one-two punch of “so bad it’s almost good” and “nerd brand” that makes this clip so popular. However, you shouldn’t mistake entertaining, bad, or pertaining to your particular geek sub-genre as “good.”

“YOU ARE ALL WRONG!!!” I shouted as my coworkers watched this on the tubes of you. (Actually, it was probably “That’s alright, but I know something better..” I try not to be a dick to my coworkers.) “You should play…”

“Common People?” Angie, the “uber-geek” asked.

“WORD.” I said.

And so she brought up William Shatner’s cover of Pulp’s “Common People.”

Here’s the thing. You see everything I’ve said about Shatner’s “music”? None of it applies to “Common People.” His cover of that song is objectively good. This is not my opinion; this is empirical fact. In fact, I’ll say it. I’m a Pulp fan. I have all their albums, even the stuff on the Fire label from the ’80s. I want to be Jarvis Cocker when I grow up. So it almost hurts me to say this, but…William Shatner’s version of “Common People” is better than Pulp’s.

Seriously, that is good. I think that’s Joe Jackson doing the chorus, and Ben Folds produced it. It’s almost like Shat’s entire music career was a journey to get him to this song.

So what’s my point? I don’t know. Do I need one? It’s Friday, dogg. I guess if I need to say something poignant to wrap this up, I’ll say that you should rail against nerd-branding, but you shouldn’t let this nerd-brand hate blind you to what is legitimately good.

And at least it wasn’t Shatner who did “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins,” right?

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Somehow in Common People his diction works at a kind of Ken Nordine level. Crazy.

Comment by ymatto

“Seriously, that is good. I think that’s Joe Jackson doing the chorus”
_______________________

Wow, I imagine Michael Jackson’s dad covering a Jarvis Cocker’s song.

Comment by CM




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