Monday, January 2, 2012

Back With a Vengeance (Or, At Least, With Some Villainy).

[ The Year, she has Newed—& the resolutions have thus, well, resoluted. While perched atop a barstool in the back corner of Church, there to man Sidewalk Driver's merch table, having recently been mind-blown by their smashing cover of "Major Tom"—AKA, "Völlig Losgelöst," the (far superior) German version—I scribbled out the following list come 11:58 PM:

In case you can't read my impeccable handwriting, that's: wear more sparkly things, get enough sleep, suck less @ guitar, write more, stop being crazy, exercise semi-regularly, stay resolute

Note that, in a lovely twist of the Universe being how it so often is, "resolute" is the only word that got smudged.

Now, on to—wait for it—my first post in 875,000 years. Get psyched. (I know I am.)

For those who have yet to experience the joys of a collegiate Finals Season—or, for those who have since repressed all memories thereof, whitewashing them into halcyon oblivion in an attempt to regain control & general sanity—the process is essentially akin to hefting a large boulder up a down escalator, wearing shoes made of quickly-drying superglue & balancing a stack of plates on your head, while Alex Trebek yells Final Jeopardy questions in your face & shoots at you with a bebe gun every time you hesitate—& all of this, mind you, on absolutely zero sleep. It could not be further from "exciting," "fun," or "productive"—a time to severely overcaffeinate, laugh despairingly at odd intervals, dream up some creative voodoo with which to torment those ever-smiling student-slash-models on the cover of you school's treasonously propagandistic brochure of lies—& yes, accordingly, to whip out some Villain Songs.

Indeed, by the end of that week & a half of hatefully constant verbiage production, I found myself listening almost exclusively to villain anthems from cartoon movies. I think the reasoning behind this is twofold. In the first place, of course, Villain Songs are unfailingly the best in the film, as they are 1) patently, delightfully sinister & 2) campy as a camping ground.

Moreover, when unjustly put-upon & facing Greek tragedy levels of distress, it's not enough to sing in blithely unthreatening major chords about happiness & sunshine & predictably vanquishing evil. No, in times like these, you are at war with the universe & the travails it dared to throw your way—a motherfuckin' monster, a dungeon dragon, a bad bitch who will kick ass, take names, then gladly go back for more. Yes, Nicki has filled this niche in Finals-times past—but this particular bout was beyond the pale, requiring exceedingly evident levels of menace.

Because when facing so daunting a fate, you don't want to save the world—couldn't possibly. You want to rend it from its very frame, to upset & overthrow, not just color outside the lines but burn the book & eat the crayons. & the best way to do this, as it turns out, is to sing about it in a self-aggrandizing, plan-explaining 2-3 minutes of sheer animated badassery—or, at the very least, to sing along.

With that, here is a list of my top 10 Villain Songs for your perusal—to aid in times of Sisyphean stress, or merely, as they were intended, to entertain.

1) In the Dark of the Night (Rasputin, Anastasia).

Line of note: "Terror's the least I can do!"

Combine a vengeful reanimated corpse with a jaunty new-age rock chorus & what you get is holiest of holies, the ultimate conceptual ideal: up-tempo, major-keyed evil. It's the same brain-tickled feeling you get when listening to Morrissey's boppy morbidity—except even better, as it's not merely tongue-in-cheek, it's epic. Plus, in work mode, as endless words flow haphazard from my clumsily puppeted fingertips, I can ride that key-change surge & smirk, Come, my minions, rise for your master...

2) Be Prepared (Scar, The Lion King).

Rhyme of Note: "prizes" / "emphasize is"

Ranking this second was, of course, an achingly close call—because, as explored here before, I have a capital-T Thing for Jeremy Irons, particularly as regards his voice, the brooding rasp of which is showcased perfectly in this, the Platonic Villain Anthem. I mean, "In the Dark of the Night" rightly takes the title—I'm no flip-flopper—but God is this song ideal. Everything from the stretched-drum-tight rhyme scheme (see above) to the ominous trill of bassoon after the casually spat, "No, fool, we're gonna kill 'im"—& that little waver he does on the word "lifetime," the ensuing gleeful voice crack on "sen-sa-tional"... Chills, my friends, for which I don't think I'll ever be adequately prepared.

3) Poor Unfortunate Souls (Ursula, The Little Mermaid).

Line of Note: "...& don't underestimate the importance of body language. Ha!"

This will forever be known, at least in the brain of me, as "the song that made me say non-bile-laced things about the Jonas Brothers"—which you might think would sour me on it somewhat, but which in fact proves the utter & unruinable appeal of one of the most patently fabulous lyrical outlets of villainy around. Of course, it almost couldn't not be, given that the character design for Ursula was based largely on my doppleganger/spirit animal, Divine. Still, the song itself is also brilliantly off-putting—jaunty, jazzily plodding, again making expert use of that bassoon—& the expressive range of Pat Carroll's vocals spells nothing if not Diva, in the most delightful way. Also, you've got to appreciate a movie that has the bad guy (re: the one you're supposed to disagree with) spouting super-sexism (re: the It's she who holds her tongue who gets a man verse)—thus continuing Disney's delightful trend of sneaking strikingly blatant life lessons into catchy tunes. (See also: We don't like what we don't understand—in fact, it scares us—& this monster is mysterious at least, c. "The Mob Song" in Beauty & the Beast.)

4) No More Mr. Nice Guy (Rothbart, The Swan Princess).

Rhyme of Note: "zinged 'em" / "kingdom"

From my all-time favorite kids movie, no contest, no questions asked: The Swan Princess. Truly ideal on every level sonically, as well—a jazz-infused set of couplets declaring, in many creative (& very creatively rhymed) ways, the joys of viletude.

5) Oh, Ratigan (Ratigan et. al., The Great Mouse Detective).

Line of Note: "An even grimmer plot has been simmering in my great criminal brain!" tied with "You're more evil than even you!"

So, my guess is, you haven't seen The Great Mouse Detective. I don't blame you: like The Swan Princess, it was one of those off-brand animations from the mid-nineties that got all but lost amid the shuffle of Disney hits. Still, I highly recommend it, if only because it remained a staple in my VCR, long after it's deemed appropriate for children to obsess over cartoons. Though much of this movie's charm can be found in the non-musical moments—the sly Holmes references, the oddly dark & often actually frightening sequences—this is, indeed, a top-notch Villain Song, wrought with alliteration & pink champagne. Moreover, Ratigan proudly continues my beloved trend of wonderfully fanciful (re: queer as every last folk) villains—a primly accented clotheshorse who fixes his coif before beginning his big number, plucks his own harp for the tragic monologue portion, & proudly keeps a bow-bedecked attack kitten.

6) Prince Ali (Reprise) (Jafar, Aladdin).

Line of Note: "Where were we? Ah, yes: abject humiliation!"

&, speaking of queeny villains... Really, though: in this category, Jafar can't not take the cake. I mean, that eyeliner? Diva, please. Moreover, here he pulls the ultimate in catty villainry: parroting back the hero's main theme with an evil twist—& no small amount of snark.

7) Gaston (Le Fou feat. Gaston, Beauty & the Beast).

Line of Note: "I'm especially good at expectorating!" tied with "I use antlers in all of my decorating!"

This is one of the more fabulously absurd Disney songs around—the "no one x like Gaston, no one y like Gaston" paradigm wearing thin after, say, one or two rounds & quickly devolving into a game of "what can we lyricists get away with" (hence, say, the above mentioned "expectorating" quip). Still good for a giggle after all these years.

8) Mine, Mine, Mine (Governor Ratcliffe, Pocahontas).

Line/Rhyme of Note: "With all you've got in ya boys / dig up Virginia boys!"

Okay, so this Villain Song does get briefly interrupted by Mel Gibson adventuring about, but before & after that unwelcome intrusion, there are dubious rhymes & delusions of grandeur aplenty. Also, I can't help but notice that Ratcliffe bears a striking resemblance to Ratigan—the prim demeanor, the portly frame, the obsession with piles of shiny riches—&, for that matter, even to Ursula, to Jafar... There is a paper to be written here—one that I am 100% sure some grad student somewhere has stashed in their sock drawer.

9) You're Only Second Rate (Jafar, The Return of Jafar).

Line of Note: "You look horrendous in your underwear."

Try, if you can, to ignore the infuriating Robin Williams impersonator & focus on the fact that this is essentially a song composed entirely of capital-S Shade—proving, once again, that Jafar is the most fabulous queen in Disney showbiz, which is why she earns two spots in our countdown. Really, though—everything about the punchy brass & syncopated syntax make this song the ultimate "Oh no she di'int" of cartoon evil.

10) We Hate the Sun (The Duke, Rock-a-Doodle).

Line of Note: A flashlight!

Of course, this song has already made an appearance hereabouts, in service of exemplifying my love of organs in music, but it also functions perfectly well as a somewhat off-brand Villain Song—definitely epic, excellently orchestrated, & capped off with a snooty British accent.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

When not taking in animated villainy, I was busy subjecting my ears to a series of other tunes—what I can safely say is, by far & away, the single weirdest "pump-up" playlist in the history of ever, running the irony-free gamut from Johannes Brahms to Demi Lovato & back again. So, without further ado:

12-17-11: Sisyphean.
[ As usual, click above for the expressly convenient YouTube playlist experience of a lifetime. ]

The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1—Neutral Milk Hotel.
Exquisite Corpse—Hedwig & the Angry Inch.
Everyday I Love You Less & Less—Kaiser Chiefs.
Leeds United—Amanda Palmer.
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)?—The Buzzcocks.
Commissioning a Symphony in C—Cake.
Y Control—The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Jet Boy, Jet Girl—Elton Motello.
Poem to a Horse—Shakira.
She Moves in Her Own Way—The Kooks.
Tranquilize—The Killers (feat. Lou Reed).
Infinity Guitars—Sleigh Bells.
Him Dancing—Throwing Muses.
Shock Horror—The View.
The Wind Blew All Around Us—The Bevis Frond.
Jique—Brazilian Girls.
Girl Inform Me—The Shins.
Drinking Gasoline—Ben Godwin.
Gigantic—The Pixies.
Violin Concerto in D, III—Johannes Brahms.
Take the Skinheads Bowling—Camper van Beethoven.
Superheroes—Ruth's Hat (Rocky Horror cover).
212—Azealia Banks.
The Problem With Saints—Neil Gaiman.
Unbroken—Demi Lovato.

Okay, as to that last song: 1) not gonna lie, it makes for an excellent pump-up lip sync, & 2) when asked "why," followed by several interrobangs, on the ol' BookFace (Spotify, you traitorous snitch...), I provided this retort, which I believe still holds:
There are two possible explanations:
1) Stuck in the especial purgatory of an already-late 7-page analysis of Wagner & Barber as pertains to the Romantic Era, which my body seems to have developed some sort of physical aversion to finishing, I find her blithely despairing pseudo-sinister techno mundanity on mind-numbing repeat a welcome respite from tempo rubato & wheedling violins.
2) Demi Lovato is a genius.
Pick your poison.

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