Would Kurt Cobain have killed the Web?

What if the internet had existed in its current state when Kurt Cobain committed suicide?

This question was brought up as I was listening to Rob Sheffield’s Love Is a Mix Tape on the way home from work tonight. Sheffield is a music writer and his book — the concept at least — is really smart. Can our lives be told through mix tapes?

Do we even know what mix tapes are anymore?

I got to thinking about Kurt Cobain and his suicide because Sheffield talks about it in his book (SPOILER ALERT! Cobain kills himself!) and how when he died, how all they did all weekend was watch MTV for the news…something…anything about Kurt.

It reminded me of when the King of Pop died in June. Because his death occurred under such strange circumstances and he was a curious, quirky guy, the reaction on the web was weird. Some were quick to remind us of his questionable relationships or the way he burned through money and others did their best to remember him as the genius he was.

Then I thought about the demographics of the people who use the web — punk kids with blogs, hipsters in skinny jeans with Tumblogs, Twitterers — and I got the feeling that they’d be all over Cobain’s suicide. Not only would it have broken Twitter into a Fail Whale loop, I think it might have brought internet giants like Google and Facebook to their knees. I get the feeling that even YouTube would have struggled to support the onslaught of streaming and embed requests.

This is not a post about how Kurt Cobain was a better artist than Michael Jackson or that one of them contributed more to music than the other. I was just thinking that while the reaction to Michael’s death was huge, I get the feeling that Cobain’s might have been even bigger, given the demographics of those who are most active on the web.

What do you think?

Michael Jackson’s This is It

There are plenty of reasons not to see Michael Jackson’s This Is It.

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I went in with an open mind. Despite his questionable legal history and lifestyle choices, you cannot deny his musical genius and I was interested in seeing the behind-the-scenes look as he prepared for what would be his swan song, a 50-night engagement at the O2 in London, completely sold out.

My dad was lucky enough to see Michael Jackson in Wembley Stadium during the Bad tour. I remember him bringing back the official program, glossy in red and black and white with Jackson in black leather and looking as tough as he could look with that crazy perm.

When I was eight years old, my brother and our close friends Gabe and Shannan put on a breakdancing show with The Jacksons Victory album as our soundtrack. Ridiculous, I know. But we were kids.

The footage that makes up This Is It was intended for Michael’s personal use only; with his passing, it’s the last glimpse we get of a brilliant performer, a quintessential entertainer and a musical talent we are unlikely to see again in our lifetime. We see him rehearsing the iconic songs he became known for over a career that spanned four decades.

Personally, I was always a fan of Michael’s music, but not like with other artists. Michael’s music was just always there, a part of the thread of our culture, and just about everything he did was totally brilliant.

Watching this 50-year-old man sing and dance and prepare to perform a 50-night engagement was fascinating. He was lucid and involved and inspiring to those surrounding him — dancers, backup singers, band, crew. In fact, watching the reactions of those around him as he rehearsed was one of my favorite parts of the movie. Hearing the dancers explain that they had no idea where their careers could go. This was the pinnacle for them. How could it get better?

The thing that really bummed me out was that this tour never happened. It looked EPIC in rehearsals. They also showed many of the extras filmed just for the concert — a new 3-D intro to “Thriller”, an awesome multiplying green screen effect for “They Don’t Really Care About Us” and others. But I left the theater feeling a bit unsatisfied if only that I couldn’t see the finished product. Michael Jackson was a rare combination of accomplished musician and enthralling entertainer.

While this is a nice documentary and great insight into what it was like to collaborate with such a genius, it really just left me wanting more.

Genius gathers crazy

Is anyone else sick of the Michael Jackson coverage?

Look, the guy was a musical genius. There’s no doubt about it. Sure, he was eccentric (to put it nicely) in his personal life, but let’s be honest: his crazy was just an elevation of the musical phenoms that came before him. Elvis. The Beatles. Kurt Cobain. All of these musicians are considered to some of the Greatest of All-Time. And every single one of them was at one point surrounded by an entourage that only fueled their madness.

  • Elvis had Colonel Tom Parker and Priscilla.
  • The Beatles had Yoko Ono and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
  • Kurt Cobain had Courtney Love.

I’d say that these folks are lightweights compared to the crazies I’ve seen trotted out daily to comment on Michael Jackson’s estate. His lawyer. His other lawyer. His previous lawyer. His “close friend”. His spiritual advisor. His nanny. It’s an unending stream of people who have done nothing but suckle at the teat of his fame and exploit his insecurities to make themselves rich.

What is it about the ridiculously talented that keeps them from finding stable and normal people to help them with their careers? Is there a service where famous people can send out for their “advisers”? 1-888-NUT4HIRE?

I just don’t get it.

Retiring a number

Tonight when I was watching Dancing with the Stars (yes, I watch Dancing with the Stars), the “Stars of Dance” special feature was Omarion covering a couple Michael Jackson songs to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Thriller.

There’s no doubt that Michael Jackson is off-the-reservation-crazy, but there’s also no doubt that he still remains one of the single most influential figures in pop music and Thriller is the seminal album in his long career. It contains some of the greatest pop songs of all-time, including “Billie Jean” and the title track, both of which were covered by Omarion during the performance.

During the performance, I leaned over to Alli and said to her, “You know there are some songs that should be like retired numbers in sports…they shouldn’t be covered by anyone else.” Thriller is one of those songs. Omarion is a decent performer (he’s no Chris Brown, but he’s passable), but his version of Thriller was a train wreck. They dropped it an octave and the song just doesn’t work there.

I know there are a ton of other songs out there that shouldn’t be covered. Vogue by Madonna would be one. Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen would be one. Others that come to mind: Enter Sandman by Metallica, Hotel California by the Eagles, The Joker by the Steve Miller Band, Hound Dog by Elvis Presley.

What songs would have their numbers retired in your CD collection?