Why am I such a snob? Because I'm better than you. And I've had it up to here with you imbeciles. But, like Rollins says,

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Hear No Evil

Why am I such a snob? Because I'm better than you. And I've had it up to here with you imbeciles. But, like Rollins says, acting pissed off shows folks you're unhappy with the status quo and want to improve matters. So I'd like to offer this tip to improve all our lives: Stop supporting evil music that drives ordinary citizens to commit unthinkable atrocities.

But I'm not talking about Marilyn Manson, or Rammstein, or Nine Inch Nails, or Rob Zombie. Those freaks do everybody a favor by provoking John and Suzy Q. Public to stir discontentedly within their cozy Home Depot cocoons. They achieve what artists should, inspiring emotions and ideas, positive or negative. And the attention they receive every time tragedy strikes (and the talk-show nation needs a scapegoat) forces the remaining Americans with common sense (I believe we're called The Cultural Elite) to see just how ignorant people are. It reminds us to fight harder to preserve our constitutional rights that don't involve firearms.

No, by evil I mean ditties so vacuous that with a single listen they're hot-wired into your hard drive for eternity. Crap like "Barbie Girl" and every version of "Macarena." This drivel doesn't inspire people; it just anesthetizes them, encouraging them to celebrate stupidity. It's like smoking pot: Occasionally, it's a harmless distraction from our rotten lives, but taken in large, repeated doses, it can whittle your IQ to double digits.

I am not a joyless bastard. Simplicity in songwriting often warrants applause. Look at Irving Berlin. Mindless fun is okay, too. I actually preferred Bananarama as disco bimbos over their neo-Motown origins, and Expos駳 Greatest Hits is one of my favorite CDs. The line between the merely banal and truly soul-destroying is so fine it's virtually indistinct. Evil music is only recognizable once you hear it. And by then, you're hooked.

But here are three warning signs to watch for. The next time you come across a catchy, unfamiliar tune, on C-89 or MTV, that meets one of these criteria, hit OFF immediately. You won't escape hearing the damned song forever, but by the time you do, exposure via other media—Entertainment Weekly sidebars, TV news spots like "Ricky Martin: How Will His Success Impact Seattle?"—will have boosted your immunity. And you'll realize this isn't harmless pop; it's pure evil.

RULE #1: Evil carries a European passport. This is not to imply that all Old World citizens wish Americans ill (the French excepted). But many artists perpetrating these crimes—Aqua, Ace of Bass, No Mercy, La Bouche—come from Europe. This explains the post-Berlitz syntax and minimalist vocabulary of the lyrics. We gave them McDonalds; this is their revenge. Keep ears open for bad accents.

RULE #2: Evil despises originality. Take "Tarzan & Jane" (Edel America Records), the new single by Danish (see Rule #1) duo Toy-Box, an obvious cash-in on Disney's forthcoming Tarzan. The track alone—a shoddy retread of subject matter one-hit wonder Baltimora treated better on "Tarzan Boy"—is bad enough. The video is worse. Even though it features some of my favorite things (dancing monkeys, a half-witted Euroboy in a loincloth who'll obviously do anything for money), the clip is so derivative of George of the Jungle—right down to the sarcastic voiceovers and bungled vine swinging—that I kept praying Brendan Fraser would appear to rescue me from this insanity (as I often do).

RULE #3: Sometimes evil has a kid's face. The Backstreet Boys, N'Sync . . . you get the point. I love teenage males, but people who have no life experiences to reflect upon don't need to share their feelings with audiences of millions. Trust me, the only reason their music touches you is because a) sinister adults shape their material, and b) most listeners' lives are very similar, which is to say mundane.

But all rules have exceptions. Occasionally, acts deliberately craft seemingly evil music to expose pop's facade. In 1988, Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond (alias the KLF) cobbled the Doctor Who theme and a Gary Glitter riff together and enjoyed a number one British hit with The Timelords' "Doctorin' the Tardis." Then they wrote a book about it, The Manual: How to Have a Number One the Easy Way. Austrian outfit Edelweiss followed this published outline verbatim and soon conquered Europe with a blatant ABBA rip-off, "Bring Me Edelweiss."

Which leads to another new release: "If You Buy This Record Your Life Will Be Better," by the Tamperer, featuring Maya Days (Jive Records). Singing over the hook from Madonna's "Material Girl," the narrator baldly confesses that her life was empty . . . until she discovered the tune now spinning, and suddenly her existence is "fabulous!" Surely a gesture so transparent is a prank. Or is this genuine evil, disguised as irony? I can't decide. But the verdict is inconsequential, since I've listened so many times that I can't refrain from hitting PLAY again. Hey, just because I'm better than you doesn't mean I'm perfect.

 
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