Unfortunate CD Covers Insult My Intelligence

I’m feeling inspired today by a couple of recent posts about terrible CD covers over at the muscleheaded blog.

I’d like to add a pet peeve of my own to this: the gratuitous use of pentagrams for music that isn’t satanic.  (That’s satanic, not santaic.  Christmas is over.)  It makes the music harder to find because American sellers fear it and, once it is found, buyers like me experience profound difficulty when explaining the purchase to unenthusiastic friends and family.   Since people are inherently superficial, many would prefer to judge a book or CD by its cover… especially when it comes to anything that might influence their soul’s eternal resting place.  Picky, picky, picky.

I’m done pontificating, so here’s the first CD cover:

Die Prophezeiung

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This CD is about as Satanic as Dante’s Inferno.  However, you can’t really get anything by this musical group in the U.S.  I bought my copies overseas.  And when I wanted to obtain a copy of something that wasn’t even available used, I couldn’t get one despite the fact that Amazon sells MP3 copies on its foreign websites.  I contacted Amazon about it and they apologized for the “inconvenience” and cited vague copyright issues.  I suppose Universal Records can’t afford to be associated with a pentagram in the U.S. market.  (Gratuitous advertisement: I’ve written about this issue before.)

And then there’s “Sex Sex Sex” by JBO, which I also enjoy.

3s

(Tip: the German words for six and sex are pronounced even more similarly than the English words.)

JBO is the closest thing Germany has to Weird Al Yankovic, and who doesn’t love Weird Al, or sex and Satanism rolled into one CD cover?    That surely must make you curious about the accompanying concert tour…

Lives

I don’t own this CD.  I prefer my sexual content to be perfected with all sorts of technological advances.  Anything that’s relatively “unplugged” sounds too much like celibacy.

But seriously… there’s barely any sex in the music.  And so I offer you a song from one of JBO’s later CD’s because it’s in English.  My more theologically oriented readers may want to skip the video but, then again, anyone who made it through the CD covers isn’t too likely to be offended.  I think…

Barking Insults My Intelligence

Once upon a time there was a cute little puppy…

Beagle puppy

Cute little puppy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Star1

Unfortunately, the puppy had no unique talents.  He knew how to pee and how to bark and how to fetch.  He also knew a few other doggy tricks that made his owners happy, but he didn’t know how to become famous.

Star2

In his sadness, the puppy started howling at the moon and the racket woke up his neighbors.  Soon enough, their door opened and an old, tired-looking man started walking his way.

The puppy was scared.  Very scared.

STAR3

The old man also knew that the puppy had other hidden talents.  For example, the puppy knew how to hump a person’s leg.  “That’s perfect for your first concert tour,” the old man said.  “Just get up there and shake your hips and yelp and you’ll make a lot of people very happy.”

Star4

And that, boys and girls, is where wealthy pop stars come from.

The American Music Industry Insults My Intelligence

Das letzte Einhorn, In Extremo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d like to introduce one of my favorite European bands: In Extremo.  They originate from Germany but they’ve toured in Mexico and probably some other places.  As far as I know, they have never made it to the United States.  Their exclusion from our market reveals much about consumer preferences in this country while enlightening us on what risks the music industry will take.  Let’s have a closer look.

1-  In Extremo has recorded songs in German, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Icelandic, and a host of dead languages… but not in English.  And unlike some other performers, they don’t offer translated versions of their hit songs.  Unless they decide to cover the Macarena or Du Hast, they have no chance here until they jump on the English bandwagon.

2- They released a CD called “Unbridled Sinners” (Suender ohne Zuegel) and that’s totally unacceptable to Americans’ religious sensibilities.  That must be why those devoutly Catholic Mexicans welcomed the band into their country.  Oh, wait, that album title came from the lyrics to a song and those lyrics were “I was searching for people like myself but all I found were unbridled sinners.”  So they’re implicitly criticizing less savory types who love metal (yes, this is a metal band) while still marketing the product to this demographic.

3- On the subject of darker types, metal in Germany is sometimes associated with certain extremist tendencies… which isn’t fair in most cases.  And then In Extremo has the medieval and occult-ish aesthetics that the Nazis also liked, plus the overly masculinized musicians.   That’s why In Extremo has to be kept out of the U.S.  That’s also why Rammstein could create a music video using clips from an old Nazi movie and still be imported into the U.S. market.

4- Americans don’t mind overly masculinized musicians, but the musicians have to play the part.  In Extremo’s lead singer goes by “The Last Unicorn” and that name isn’t particularly manly.  The original German name isn’t much better because “Einhorn” already exists in the American cultural vocabulary.  (In case you’re too young to remember, the first Jim Carrey “Ace Ventura” movie featured a crossdressing villain named Einhorn.)  Oh, and a few band members sometimes wear kilts… and that obviously makes them look like a bunch of neo-Nazis.  And then one guy plays the harp in a few songs.

5- The band’s traditional symbol is too violent for American tastes.  They use a gallows, kind of like the one you drew as a kid while playing Hangman.  I suppose crucifixes are also kind of violent, though.

6- In Extremo signed with one of the major American music labels and rebranded themselves by dropping all of their old costumes and symbols; the resulting CD also lacked flavor and didn’t earn great reviews.  A bonus CD included some of their older music performed in their new style and it disappointed.  And they adopted aviator jackets… which somehow reminded me of the giant bandages the lead singer needed after being injured by the pyrotechnics during their previous tour.  The nostalgic looking biplane on the CD cover didn’t help their image either.  Very medieval.  I suppose making it big can ruin a band.

7- I’ve told you that this metal band sometimes uses a harp.  So as you can probably guess, In Extremo’s choice of instruments lands them well outside of the U.S. mainstream.  Americans expect guitar riffs and more guitar riffs.  And three chords maximum.  I can’t list all of the instruments these guys play, but they do have one signature instrument that constantly appears in their music.  It will convince you that these guys are a bunch of neo-Nazis.

So, without further ado, I present a video clip from an In Extremo concert.  They will be performing a song from “Unbridled Sinners” called “Omnia Sol Temperat.”  It’s a cover of the Carl Orff composition that’s based on the thirteenth century poem from the Carmina Burana.

Classical music was meant to be played with an electric guitar and in the original Latin.

iTunes Insults My Intelligence

Interesting fact: the music you are permitted to purchase on iTunes is determined by the country you live in.  (Amazon also does this for its MP3 downloads and they they judge your location by your credit card billing address.)  While Amazon lets you see foreign music if you go to the British (or other foreign) site, you can’t even see the listings for music you’re not allowed to buy on iTunes.

According to iTunes, this has to do with the contracts they’re able to sign with the various record companies; I would imagine that it’s the record companies who demand these restrictions.  It’s nothing new.  If you’ve spent much time in a foreign country, you know that DVD’s are programmed to run only in a particular region’s DVD players.   Before that, the same was true of videocassette formatting.  I’m sure the record companies are just trying to protect everyone from musical tastes that would be dangerous to the larger community.

But some stuff gets through and, very often, we are left with crap.  Do you remember the band Rammstein?  Rammstein is and always has been perfectly safe.  After all, they’re the group that did a music video out of clips from a Leni Riefenstahl film.  We didn’t get that information in this country because that would have made the band unmarketable here.  The only “controversy” we were informed of was that the Columbine killers liked the band.

Since I’m no longer so young, I like to categorize Rammstein as “Dr. Seuss Death Metal.”  This is what their lyrics seem like to me:

Would you kill your lovely wife?

Would you do it with a knife?

Would blood splatter here and there?

Would blood splatter everywhere?

I do not like green eggs and blood.

I do not like them, Sam, you pud.

When I was in Europe about a dozen years ago, I came back with CD’s of a similar band called Oomph! (The exclamation point is part of their name.  It’s not an indication of excitement on my part.)  When my brother heard this stuff, he accurately stated that they make Rammstein sound like sick little men, or something like that.  For one, these guys can actually sing.  And second, the music often has more than one or two chords per song.  And third, their lyrics rise above a second grade reading level.  iTunes carries all of Rammstein’s stuff but is missing a great deal of Oomph!’s.  The innovative stuff is absent, like the prozac album.  (I call it the prozac album because the band recorded a bunch of more cheerful songs and a pair called Dopamine and Seratonin.)

And then there are the bands iTunes doesn’t carry.  There’s a Finnish group called Northern Kings and the only song iTunes carries from them is the one that isn’t in English.  (The ones in English are all covers of American hits, mostly from the 1980’s.  You’d think that kind of thing would sell if it were offered…)  I encourage you to look them up on Youtube.  If you’re into lighter music, go for “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight.”  “Take on Me” is a better introduction if you’re into heavier stuff.  Except for R&B and Gospel singers, the U.S. music industry doesn’t give us much authentic musical talent like this.  One of the Northen Kings’ singers has even released a serious recording of “Nessun Dorma.”  Can anyone picture Lars Ulrich or Ozzy Osborne pulling off anything remotely similar to opera vocals, or even being able to handle a full song in Italian?

I suppose iTunes and the record companies must think that they can keep selling us garbage if they just spoon feed us recommendations, leaving us to never experience what else is out there.  Just buy the stuff they advertise and everybody’s happy!

And if you think that sounds nefarious, ask yourself this: can you think of another industry where businesses choose not to offer their products for sale to the broadest possible market when it would cost them nothing extra to do so?  It’s not like iTunes doesn’t have all this other music stored on its servers already.