I watched American Idol for the first time last week. Sure, this show embodies evil in popular culture, and its producers, contestants, and audience should be castigated as the worshippers of Mammon that they are. But last week's episode was a salute to Queen, with the would-be Idols plundering the golden catalogue of Mercury/May/Deacon/Taylor for songs to massacre. I couldn’t miss that car wreck, could I?
The guy who sang a country-rock tainted version of “Fat Bottomed Girls” got voted off the island after the show. Good call, America.
Actually, all last week was Queen Week, with the Rodgers/May/Taylor "Queen Company" rock revue finishing their tour here in Vancouver. I didn't go, but I'm sure everyone had a good time. I also just picked up a Classic Albums DVD about the making of A Night at the Opera, an album that, when I was 12 or 13, I played until the vinyl was worn as thin as Bohemian Rhapsody's master tape. Because I've internalized that LP and taken those songs for granted for so long, the show contained some revelations. I'd never realized that "Sweet Lady" is in 3/4 time until Brian May demonstrated the riff in one of the DVD extras—the drums play it completely straight and mask the song's time signature. Clever. And May's explanation of "'39" really knocked me for a loop. He says it's about interplanetary time travellers, not emigrants from Europe going to the New World as I had always assumed. Guess my 12-year-old powers of interpretation were off, or I thought Rush had cornered the market on space opera stuff and didn't bother reading any of Queen's lyrics in the same light. Brian May, you are an extraordinary nerd and I salute you.
I haven't had cable for the past four years, so I've missed out on a lot of these Classic Albums shows. I don't mind being out of the loop too much. If I want to find out what's going on in mainstream culture, free TV can always offer me something, whether I want it or not. Locally, there's the Kool Countdown, a music video hit-parade roundup that fancylady and I end up watching with disturbing frequency on Thursday evenings. I think we can't look away for two reasons. 1) The show is based in Victoria, so it has that Island television low-budget CRTC-mandated local programming feel to it, as the host, the Garofalo-like Robin Farrell, touts whatever acts are playing the Save-On Foods Memorial Centre (Rob Thomas is coming!) between Madonna and James Blunt vids, and 2) Robin herself has a witty persona, enhanced by our suspicion that she hates all the music she presents on the show.