Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Holy Shit, Hook!

I'm gonna disappoint some of you loyal readers when you learn that I'm not referring to one of the best adventure movies to come out of the early nineties. Instead, I'm here to tell you about a song that came out three years later. The song that called us all idiots to our face, and we sat here bobbing our heads and proving Blues Traveler's point.
Hook (the movie)
It was this movie. And if you disagree you can shut your mouth, Philistine.

"Hook" ripped its chord structure directly from Pachelbel's Canon in D. That's the song you hear at weddings that might as well be called "Here Comes Everyone Who is Not the Bride." The progression is eerily powerful as an earworm. It's a song that will inevitably described as either Good or Catchy by anyone who hears it, even if they don't like it.

That's why it was chosen. Not in a nefarious way or even out of capitalistic self-interest...sort of. It was an artistic choice in the same way the title "Hook" was. As were the lyrics, which you probably don't remember even seconds after you belt them at the top of your lungs. They're surreptitious and overt all at once.
Like Bryan Cranston disguising himself as Heisenberg

You see, "Hook" is a song about how easy it is to manipulate people into enjoying trite, simplistic, boring music. The only thing original about it is its self-awareness. If you don't believe me, just check out some of the lyrics:

It doesn’t matter what I say
So long as I sing with inflection
That makes you feel that I’ll convey
Some inner truth of vast reflection

But I’ve said nothing so far
And I can keep it up for as long as it takes
And it don’t matter who you are
If I’m doing my job then it’s your resolve that breaks

Because the hook brings you back
I ain’t tellin’ you no lie
The hook brings you back
On that you can rely
The hook John Popper is referring to is the musical concept of a riff that catches your ear and makes you stick around to hear the rest of the song. It worked, too. "Hook" peaked at 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It got there by telling its audience that they were going to be taken in by the composition of the song and convinced that it said something meaningful even though it didn't.

And we obliged. Which actually kind of makes it an interesting song. Hell, check out the video:

If you can get past the incredibly '90s hair and tucked in t-shirts (and the realization that Paul Schaffer was in Blues Traveler), you'll see a perfect companion piece to the song. It's a guy watching television and being taken in by contestants in a beauty pageant and a Citizen Kane-esque politician, all of whom are literally telling him that he's only listening because of the way their words are presented, not what they're actually saying.

And the more you listen to the rapid-fire third verse, the more you understand that it's just John Popper saying, "This is really low and valueless as art, but hell, it'll make me some money."

Holy shit.

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