All Summer Long

I haven't listened to Kid Rock at all since his breakout album some 9 years ago (has it been that long? I'd never have predicted that kind of shelf life.), largely because I stopped being an overgrown frat boy and decided that songs about pimping weren't really my style. I was reading about his latest hit song in Rolling Stone about a week ago, but didn't really feel the need to search it out until my daughter mentioned it during my visit a couple of days ago.

She's nearly eighteen, which means she's grown up in a world where sampling and mashups are the standard, and like many young music lovers, she also spends a lot of time listening to music that was big before she was born. She mentioned the Kid Rock song to me with some venom in her voice, because Rock uses "Sweet Home Alabama" as part of the mashup, and she really likes that song. (She can't help it--it's the dominant redneck gene expressing itself.) She hadn't heard the other song Rock uses--Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London"--a great failing on my part as a parent, and it turned out that when I finally listened to Rock's hit, that was one of the things that set my teeth on edge.

The real problem with Kid Rock's song, though, isn't that he's desecrated a song that means something to me--it's that the song is even more derivative than most. Musically, the song is dominated by two signature riffs--the openings of both Skynyrd's and Zevon's songs--and doesn't really do anything with them. They're two instantly recognizable moments just looped around each other, and not a lot of anything else.

But the lyrics are, if anything, even worse. Look at this section from the first verse:

Splashing through the sandbar, talking at the campfire,
It's the simple things in life like when and where
We didn't have no internet but man I never will forget
The way the moonlight shined upon her hair
So--it's a nostalgic look back at teenagerdom, complete with the notion that life was simpler then, and that made experiences more immediate. But I've heard this song before, even down to the bit about the internet.
The vcr and the dvd
There wasnt none of that crap back in 1970
We didnt know about a world wide web
It was a whole different game being played back when I was a kid

Wanna get down in a cool way
Picture yourself on a beautiful day
Big bell bottoms and groovy long hair
Just walkin in style with a portable cd player
That's "A. M. Radio" by Everclear. Sure, Kid Rock throws in some stuff about sex and smoking weed, but it always comes back to the music, man. Both go on and on about how it's rock that mattered--for Kid it's southern rock, with the "Sweet Home Alabama" reference, and with Everclear it's Led Zeppelin--but the result is the same.

But here's the big difference. Everclear wrote and performed their song. I certainly don't have anything against mashups--they're awesome when they're done well---but the key, it seems to me, is to use a delicate hand. There's nothing delicate about "All Summer Long."

So yeah, I've just spent a long time taking apart a freaking Kid Rock song. Seems like a lot of effort for a small result, and I guess it is, but as an artist, when I use a work as a jumping off point for a poem of my own, I feel like I have a duty to the original work of art to do something new and different with it, as opposed to simply repeating a trope and dropping in some dishonest nostalgia into it.

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