Shut Up, Dude: This Week’s Best And Worst Comments

Last night most of the NY-based Stereogum staff rolled through Red Hook arts space Pioneer Works where Holly Herndon did her first PROTO live show as part of Red Bull Music Festival. She performed the album’s skittering electronic compositions alongside Mat Dryhurst and a six person choir, and, while Spawn was MIA, at one point Roman Ole led the crowd in a chant that was recorded as a lesson for the AI baby. Ok! Also: a surprise encore from Jlin! Here’s a video, and then your best and worst comments about Morrissey, Vampire Weekend, and “Bennie And The Jets.”

THIS WEEK’S 10 HIGHEST RATED COMMENTS

#10  BlueK
Score:35 | May 15th

5/10 seems really low

Posted in: The Number Ones: Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets”
#9  benf24
Score:36 | May 12th

I feel like everywhere I look, I see people talking about Vampire Weekend/FOTB. So it’s no surprise to me that the album has put up strong numbers. What is surprising is how many more people listened to this Mumford & Sons album that I didn’t know came out last year.

Posted in: Vampire Weekend’s Father Of The Bride Debuts At #1 With Biggest Week For A Rock Album This Year
#7  Tom Breihan
Score:41 | May 14th

It’s not an oversight. I actively decided not to post it.

Posted in: The Number Ones: Blue Swede’s “Hooked On A Feeling”
#6  inthedeadofknight
Score:42 | May 15th

I wash my legs in the sink, my face in the toilet, and my balls whenever I come across a drinking water fountain.

Posted in: Taylor Swift Answers Burning Twitter Question “Do You Wash Your Legs In The Shower?”
#5  log
Score:44 | May 14th

Morrissey: “I hate Muslims!”

Fallon: “Can I touch your hair?”

Posted in: Morrissey Supports Right-Wing Extremist Group While Performing On The Tonight Show
#4  StupidAsshole
Score:45 | May 14th

You can’t cancel the Moz because anyone who has bought tickets to Morrissey in the past few years knows this guy will cancel himself first.

Posted in: Morrissey Supports Right-Wing Extremist Group While Performing On The Tonight Show
#3  Chris DeVille
Score:46 | May 15th

Maybe Tom’s most ridiculous rating tbh. This should be AT LEAST an 8.

Posted in: The Number Ones: Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets”
#2  padfoot24
Score:56 | May 13th

Hot take: The National are a good band

Posted in: Premature Evaluation: The National I Am Easy To Find
#1  ISurvivedPop
Score:76 | May 15th

Archie said last week in a comment reply to me that there’s a lot of people who hate “Bennie and the Jets”. I honestly wasn’t aware it was hated until that comment since I’ve never met anyone who disliked the song. Regardless, I’m writing up an Archie-style long comment to defend it. If you don’t want to read this post all the way through, here’s the TL;DR version: I think it’s an absolute masterpiece on every level and it’s the second best #1 of the decade.

“Bennie and the Jets” is a total triumph of lyricism, of music theory, of editing, and most especially of vocal performance. Let’s go over those in order.

There are so many memorable lyrics in the song. “The spotlight’s hitting something that’s been known to change the weather”. “Maybe they’re blinded but Bennie makes them ageless”. “While we fight our parents out in the streets to find who’s right and who’s wrong”. It’s a tremendously witty, uniquely British way of introducing a live show. As an American, I’m sad that instead of the Elton Johns of the world we’ve been saddled with pompous Michael Buffers.

And I haven’t even mentioned the lyric most dear to my heart: “They’re weird and they’re wonderful”. As someone who has been kicked out of many stores for looking “weird” even though I was quiet and non-disruptive, the first thing I can tell you is that “weirdness” is usually seen as something to shun people for. So Taupin juxtaposing “weird” with “wonderful” is an embrace of “weirdness” that is so desperately needed in our society. It doesn’t matter if you dress in platform boots like Elton does on the cover of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, you’re human and you shouldn’t be mocked for your appearance.

Let’s move on to the music. Elton John was never very complex with music theory, though he does include an Ab diminished chord in the verse of this song. But here he finds an ambiguous tonality that makes the song malleable. The verse unambiguously starts in G major, but by the end of the verse the chords and vocal harmony signal that the home key is actually E minor. The exact same thing happens during the chorus. The ever-shifting home key means that the song can be performed in a wide range of moods. The studio version is bright and lively, but the version Elton performed during his Vegas “Red Piano” concerts is a somber shuffling blues; the fact that he didn’t have to change the song much at all during those shows is a testament to the song’s brilliance.

Now for the editing. I think that “Bennie and the Jets” should be taught in music production lessons as a masterclass on how to edit a song. It’s just under five and a half minutes and doesn’t feel a second too long. The stray piano notes at the beginning are a perfect “teaser”. The hand claps come in so subtly during the line “We shall survive, let us take ourselves along” that they never feel like a distraction in the rest of the song. Gus Dudgeon mixes the audience up and down at exactly the right times. I love the fact that the first solo is played on a regular piano and the second is played on a Farfisa organ, both in radically different manners (the first is more like a regular instrumental solo while the second mostly repeats the vocal line), so they don’t feel like carbon copies of each other like in most songs with multiple solos.

Which brings us to Elton’s vocal performance, which, for all the wonderful things about the song, is the best thing about “Bennie and the Jets.” The performance, not the lyrics, makes the song’s true meaning known, no matter how much Taupin says it’s about robots. It’s not about a band, but about one man gradually showing his stereotypically “feminine” side to the world. The narrator reveals that he is Bennie, the man in the electric boots and mohair suit. And this self-outing is done so well. In the first chorus Elton has no falsetto. In the second chorus he barely reaches for a falsetto. Then half of the third chorus is performed in falsetto. By the end of the song, he sings entirely in falsetto, and he seems so happy with it judging by the way he increasingly repeatedly sings the word “Bennie.” It very much mirrors my own experience coming out; I only revealed my bisexuality to complete strangers before telling people I’ve known for a while and finally giddily wearing my bisexuality on my sleeve. And that’s where the song’s true power comes from, fulfilling Taupin’s association of “weird” with wonderful. In hindsight, was there literally any doubt that Elton was gay?

“Bennie and the Jets” is one of my favorite songs of all time. When I hear it once, I must repeat it constantly. (The proof? I listened to it constantly in the two hours it took to write this.) Of the 70s #1’s, I rate it as the second best behind a Bee Gees song that will come later. I am aware now that people will scoff that I think it’s better than any number of universally beloved #1’s like “Heart of Gold,” “Superstition,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “Let’s Get It On,” and, judging by yesterday’s comments, an ABBA song that will also come later. I think all of those are 10/10’s, but “Bennie and the Jets” has more emotional power and is better written to me than any of them. It’s too bad Elton plummeted in quality not too long after – I don’t like most of his stuff after Rock of the Westies – but when you’ve done a song this good it’s obvious that you’d only go down from there.

I love you Tom, but I think you’re completely wrong on this. To use your words, it goes so hard and it obviously fucking slaps.

Here’s hoping Taron Egerton sings “Bennie and the Jets” in the movie coming out in two weeks.

Posted in: The Number Ones: Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets”

THIS WEEK’S 5 LOWEST RATED COMMENTS

#5  jpc611
Score:-34 | May 14th

How is being anti Muslim racist? Muslims aren’t a race it’s a religion. It’s perfectly fine to be anti Christian. The other thing is Arabs are caucasians they aren’t a separate race they are the same race as white people. FYI

Posted in: Morrissey Supports Right-Wing Extremist Group While Performing On The Tonight Show
#4  Southern Shark
Score:-34 | May 12th

Sad to say this my dear minions, but just a bunch of kids dress like an H&M catalog singing in High School Musical. No substance, no attitude, no soul.

Posted in: Vampire Weekend’s Father Of The Bride Debuts At #1 With Biggest Week For A Rock Album This Year
#3  Iconoclast1
Score:-36 | May 14th

LOL, just trolled up a bunch of pillow-biting sheep!

Posted in: Morrissey Supports Right-Wing Extremist Group While Performing On The Tonight Show
#2  Southern Shark
Score:-46 | May 12th

Shitty band for shaved youngsters with posh haircuts. A millennial Apple band.

Posted in: Vampire Weekend’s Father Of The Bride Debuts At #1 With Biggest Week For A Rock Album This Year
#1  Iconoclast1
Score:-51 | May 14th

Sheep love the term “racist”. If you don’t agree with me you are a racist! Lemmings: don’t judge anyone unless you truely know them. Wake up!

Posted in: Morrissey Supports Right-Wing Extremist Group While Performing On The Tonight Show

THIS WEEK’S EDITOR-IN-CHIEF’S CHOICE

  padfoot24
Score:5 | May 15th

Can you even wash your legs while sitting in the shower?

Posted in: Taylor Swift Answers Burning Twitter Question “Do You Wash Your Legs In The Shower?”