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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Diamond, pt. 2

This started as a comment, but I couldn't stop typing. Darn it all, Neil, what are you doing to me?

I stand behind both Neil Diamond as cheesy and Neil Diamond as good, no, great. It's unabashed glorious cheese.

Actually, I'd say Neil Diamond is the musical alter ego of Bob Dylan. The music is excellent from both, consistently. Diamond is on the pop love song, loving life end of the spectrum, Dylan on the rock, folk, art, the world is so messed up end. Diamond's voice is crushed velvet, Dylan's torn denim. Neil writes songs that tell stories of the heart, the libido. Bob's tell stories of the soul, the conscience. But the songs are great. Over and over again, they're great.

And they are the anti-Idol, both of them. I mean, look at them both. At either of their peaks, Neil or Bob make Clay Aiken look like Johnny Depp. In Dylan and Diamond, you have two guys who made it entirely on the strength of their music and their music alone.

No Idol contestant can say that. The genius of Idol is that they have manipulated the pop culture system to perfection. They pick a couple dozen marginally talented singers and surround them with endlessly entertaining buffoons who can't sing a lick. They market that talent vs. mockery rodeo for a month or so, gradually eliminate some of the less-than-marginally talented folks, and then they kick it up a notch with the master stroke: popularity disguised as democracy. Popularity disguised as talent. Popularity disguised as the real stars who are too good to win the competition (yeah, I'm talking to you Bice and Daughtry . . . you're no more artistic or genuine than Clarkson or Underwood. You got on the show because you knew it could pimp out your career. Don't you dare pretend that you wanted to lose so you wouldn't have to sell out. You sold out at the audition, you loved it, and you'd do it all over again if you had the chance. Okay, go pretend, cuz it's sellin' you records.) It's genius. It really is.

But Neil Diamond didn't have American Idol. All he had was his music, terrible hair, a magical voice, and the look of a spritely dwarf (same goes for his Hobbit friend, Dylan).

So yes, I like Neil Diamond. (I got nothing agains ALW, either, I just don't think he belongs on Idol.) I guess you could say . . . I love him. Cheese and all.


  1. Yes, I think the true talent lies in the ones that can actually write AND sing their OWN music. I love Diamond.

    Guess what Clay Aiken is doing? Broadway! Exactly what Simon said he should be doing with his kind of voice!

    I hate Kelly Clarkson.

  2. I think to determine whether he's cheesy, you have to compare him to his time. I think he only rode the wave of inspirational/cheesy with an album or two in the 80's, which I'd like to call the "America" years. But in all actuality you have to blame the 80's for that, not him. If synths and hair hadn't've been so popular, the songs like "Love on the Rocks" and "Forever in Blue Jeans" would've sounded much different. On the flipside, his singer/songwriter material all the way back to the time of the Monkees (along with writing "I'm A Believer" for them) isn't really any cheesier than anybody else at the time. I think people like us just grew up in a time where we heard the Cure, REM, grunge, Radiohead, and Ben Folds sing about fairly depressing stuff all the time, so we assume things are cheesy if they're sunny. But this is neither here nor's just an opinion...

    As for Chris and Bo, I guess I agree AND disagree. I don't think they went on there thinking that they wanted to lose. I think they recognized after the fact that maybe winning wasn't all that necessary. there is a fine line between using something as a vehicle and selling out, though. If you've been working at it for a long time, playing in clubs and such with various bands like those two did (and Cook has done), I think I see it less as selling out and more just marketing. Although Cook sold out this past week with the cheesy version of the Phantom song...but you really see no artistic difference between those guys and Kelly/Carrie? I think you have to look at who they were before and after. The guys, they were rocking to crowds in clubs, not superstars, but had following and original music. The girls? Nothing. All they can do is sing. Like any girl in choir. And when they try writing? You have Kelly's latest bomb of an album full of Alanis Morrisette songs which leads to her gaining 100 pounds. I guess I agree about the fact that if you REALLY want legit cred, you continue to dig it out on your own. But at least there's still some artistry there with those guys, which at least makes them a tad more Diamond like than any girl who has ever been on the show...


  3. On a separate note which I think you might agree with, I don't think the Office has been any better than it is since it came back these past two weeks. Last week and this week were just it.

  4. There are NO cheesy Phantom songs, by the way.

    I really thought that when Daughtrey got voted off that he truly looked P.O.'d. Like he already knew he was the greatest and the voters were stupid. That's just the way it looked to me.

  5. I have tried thrice to post a comment here. Let's hope this works.

    Neil Diamond is cheesy now, even if he wasn't at the time his songs were released. I think there will be a diction addiction post on the etymology of cheesy. Regardless, I don't think cheesy and great are mutually exclusive concepts. It's cheesy because he couldn't get away with recording a lot of that stuff today, but it's great because despite the culture shift, it rings true. It's genuine and real. So I guess it depends on your definition of cheesy. I would say Sound of Music and Singin' in the Rain are cheesy, but they're also brilliant classics.

    The Office has been awesome. Dwight at the club was pure genius.

    And as far as Daughtry and Bice go . . . no, I don't think they're artists. Not really. Daughtry . . . it's questionable how much of the songwriting he's responsible for, especially how much of the good stuff he's responsible for. Bice . . . to be honest, I haven't heard a single thing from him since he left the show (which is maybe a sign he's actually good, I don't know).

    But I don't think you have to be a songwriter to be considered an artist musically any more than you have to be a screenwriter to be a great actor. The comparison I like in this argument is Frank Sinatra. As far as I know, he didn't write any songs, but as a singer, he was an amazing artist. If you can make a song come alive and connect with a listener about a real emotion or experience . . . if you can tell the story like it's yours, I think you qualify as an artist, even if you can't write worth a lick.

    That said, I think most of what we see on Idol is just processed cheese (not the fine, artisan aged cheese Neil Diamond produced). It's overstatement to say everyone on the history of the show is completely talentless (Melinda Doolittle was amazing to me, in a Sinatra kind of way). But I think as a so-called rocker, you lose credibility when you go on the show. The medium has to match the message. Like Brooke . . . you can't be an earthy folk singer/songwriter hero on American Idol. The whole thing comes off as bogus.

    Okay, let's see if this posts at all. . .

  6. Yeah, I follow on the cheese. He's definitely cheesy in now terms, which is probably why he work with Rick Rubin on his last record, to bring himself back to the here and now.

    I guess I never saw Sinatra as a great artist. He was just a singer and an actor to me. And a great singer and actor. But not an artist. I feel like artistic creation and the ability to perform are closely related but not the same. On the other hand, the semantic differences in the concepts are confusing to's about as hard to define "artist" as it is to define what a "sport" is, sometimes...Which is probably why I feel like I do about all the "talent" on idol. Are many of them talented in the way that Sinatra was? Sure. Like Melinda, as you said. But to me, that difference again comes down to being a great performance as opposed to a great artist...which I see a difference in. The show has lots of performers on it, in my view, but very few artists.

    The entire Phantom is cheesy, by the way. As is all Broadway. That's Broadway's thing. Even Broadway would say it's cheesy. Doesn't make it bad, for all the reasons Adam stated about ND being cheesy. But no one can deny Broadway is over the top, flamingly cheesy.


  7. OK. I think you two need your own show - like Siskel & Ebert - except with music!

    Is Opera and Broadway the same thing? I just never considered an Opera as being cheesy or Broadway...

  8. Phantom of the Opera is not an opera. It's a broadway show. Like Wicked or Rent or Les Miserables.


  9. Phantom of the Opera is not an opera. It's a broadway show. Like Wicked or Rent or Les Miserables.



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