April 14, 2005

The Shuffle of Evil

I finally bought an i-Pod rip-off and have been experimenting with shuffle mode, in which the portable musical player decides which songs to play as if it were a DJ in the grip of demonic possession. After a few days of this, I no longer believe the ecclesiastical adage “there is nothing new under the sun;” some of these playlist combinations have definitely never been heard before, and if there is any justice in this world they never will be heard again.

My music collection includes an eclectic blend of rap, musical theater, classical music, classic rock, and what Windows Media Player hastily labels “world.” (As opposed to extra-terrestrial, I guess.) Based on that list of incompatible genres, you may already be anticipating a putrid stew of mismatched music, conjured up as if Macbeth’s weird sisters had been miniaturized, cloned, and imprisoned in brushed aluminum by a powerful South Korean electronics manufacturer, and told to get cracking.

But it’s not just the music that jars. The lyrics often succeed one another with an artistic sensibility that can only be described as appalling. For example, the little beast decided to juxtapose Poulenc’s “Four Little Prayers by St. Francis Asis” sung in French by the choral group Chanticleer, with “What’s My Age Again” by Blink 182. (I recommend following the hyperlinks to the song clips to get the full effect).

The fourth Little Prayer lilts:

Oh, my dearest brothers and my children,
Blessed for all eternity,
Listen to me: listen to the voice of your father.
We have promised great things;
We have been promised even more.
Let's keep our promises and long for the others.
Pleasure is short, pain is eternal.
Suffering is light, glory is infinite.
Many are called, few are chosen –
All will receive what they deserve.
And so may it be.
And so may it be.

This segued with nary a cross-fade into Blink’s slacker anthem:

I took her out, it was a Friday night.
I wore cologne, to get the feeling right.
We started making out
And she took off our pants
But then I turned on the TV.
And that’s about the time she walked away from me,
Nobody likes you when you’re 23
And are still more amused by TV shows.
What the hell is ADD?
My friends say I should act my age.
What’s my age again?
What’s my age again?

This was in turn followed by “Two Princes,” which would have been absolutely appropriate at that point if it had been the original Spin Doctors version rather than the a-cappella recording by the Beelzebubs of Tuft’s University.

With a similar lack of continuity, French protest-rap group NTM was cued up with their signature hit “Seine Saint-Denis Style.” I will not attempt a translation, but listen to this clip to hear a sample of this ode to ghetto living.

Keep that sound in mind – an exceptionally pissed-off Public Enemy backed by a Gallic Flavor Flav with a devastating case of laryngitis. The machine decided this should be followed, despite clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, by “It Must Be So” from Leonard Bernstein’s 1956 setting of Candide:

My world is dust now
And all I loved is dead.
Oh, let me trust now
In what my master said:
“There is a sweetness in every woe.”
It must be so,
It must be so.

As with the proverbial Shakespeare typing monkeys, occasional bouts of random genius do occur. For example, I would never have dared to follow Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman” with “Something in the Way She Moves by James Taylor. But it kind of works. In a similar vein, Parliament’s “Give up the Funk transitioned more or less gracefully into Billy Joel’s “She’s Got a Way.” Or more likely, I’ve already lost all sense of proportion.

I certainly must have a masochistic streak, because I continue to “shuffle” to see what fresh abominations the device will manufacture. Now playing: “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills and Nash.  I recoil in horror at the thought of what the cursed player might cue up next.

By Will Friedman in Humor/Satire | Permalink  | 


Well, duh, just don't fill it up randomly!

Posted by: John | May 14, 2005 4:17:21 PM


Posted by: Will | Jun 5, 2005 6:07:06 AM

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