Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Beatles' White Album - It's Everything You Want It To Be

As a friend of mine said "The White Album is officially middle aged."

To honor The White Album's birthday, I had a few drinks of Basil Hayden and listened to the album from front to back. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a jingle out of my head: "Visa - it's everywhere you want to be." And sort of like a DJ Dangermouse mash-up, I started to think how The White Album can fit in almost every popular music genre as a metaphor.

First off, I have to look with a great degree of skepticism for people who list The White Album as their favorite album of all time and fawn over every single track. That worship sort of reeks of hippie desperation. Every track, really? "Honey Pie," "Revolution #9," "Ob-La-Di, Ob La Da"? I can definitely see why the album is perceived as a masterpiece in the way that some epic albums are greater than the sum of their parts.

One group of people who would be lost without The White Album has to be music critics. The album has been used to describe albums that fit so many facets. For good, The White Album encouraged artists to go wild and throw all of their energy and ideas into a grand statement. And for ill, that same album showed that even the best bands can succumb to self-indulgent excess and showcased the need for an editor at the control panel. That is why the album fits so well in describing albums from almost every popular genre.

For example, The White Album is brought up to describe the following albums that are common in almost every genre, such as...

The Album Where An Artist Or Band Every Musical Element They Can Into An Album -
Along with standard rockers, Extreme pack everything from sappy 60s ballad arrangements, funk and a gargantuan three-part opus into their latest album. In essence, III Sides to Every Story is Extreme's The White Album.

The Album That Is Made Despite The Fact The Band Refuses To Be In The Same Studio Together -
With Andre 3000 free to explore his affinity for the jazz, show tunes and the abstract in general, and Big Boi free to do what he does best, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below can be regarded as Outkast's version of The White Album.

A Double Album That Could Have Used Some Pruning -
See Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Wu-Tang-Clan's Wu-Tang Forever or that god-awful Red Hot Chili Peppers double-album. What's worse, each of the White Album's sides (on CD) is around 45 minutes whereas most groups of today who want to make double albums unwisely push each side to the 60-minute mark.

It seems like The Beatles' music reflects the music of today in terms of what many critics regard as the greatest Beatles album. In the '80s, where production was at the forefront, Sgt. Peppers was regarded as the greatest Beatles album by many critics. But in the late'90s and this decade, when the arrival of scaled-down bands like The Strokes and The White Stripes came along, it seems like Revolver became the album of choice for critics. Who knows what music environment would have to be fostered to have The White Album regarded as the best Beatles album in the future. But don't rule out the possibility...



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