Monday, January 28, 2013

What Am I Listening To?: Jonathan Coulton (not Glee)

The first time that I heard Jonathan Coulton (aka JoCo) was via a link that was going around the internet years ago to his song "Re: Your Brains." I loved the song so much that I immediately passed it along to everyone I knew. For a time, this was also my phone's ringtone reminder that it was time to get ready for work (though I've never worked in an office). This song was so popular that a fan, Jeremsoft, translated it into French and JoCo recorded it as "Re: Vos Cerveux." 

Another early Coulton hit is "Code Monkey," which I heard in the form of an AMV for Black Heaven. (AMV stands for "anime music video," the humorous practice of making one's own music video using clips of Japanese animated TV shows, or anime for short. AMVs can be funny or quite serious. Check out Anime Music Videos.org for a mother lode of links.)


Jonathan Coulton is my personal Nerd Hero of the Internet. His lyrics are nerdy ("Mandelbrot Set"), geeky ("Skullcrusher Mountain"), informative ("The Presidents"), and funny ("Ikea") while his music is well put together and damn catchy! This is probably why his songs are so popular in Rock Band

It was recently brought to my attention that one of my favorite shows (despite being a season and a half behind - there are a lot of holds on the DVDs at the library, okay?), Glee, pretty much totally ripped off JoCo's cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back." This really pisses me off. 

In case you don't watch Glee, the overarching theme is succeeding despite incessant oppression. The show does a surprisingly decent job of helping the general populace of America begin to understand the difficulties faced by minorities in our country. One character is bound to a wheelchair, another has Down Syndrome, and a number of others are gay or bisexual. There are also Asians, a latina, a young black woman (who is possibly my favorite singer on the show), and multiple Jewish characters. (Glee really likes to play the field.)

So why would a show that purports to support the underdog jack someone else's music without requesting permission or even offering a nod to the original creator? Yes, Sir Mix-a-:Lot did the original song, but this is JoCo's legitimate and legal cover. If you don't believe a television network would do such an underhanded, dastardly thing, listen to the two tracks side by side at JoCo V Glee. It's uncanny. And very uncool.

I honestly like Glee. It's cute, goofy, and has introduced me to a lot of new music. It also features my homeboy from U of M Darren Criss (that is one "Go Blue" I can get behind - me-yow!). But this stunt kind of makes me loathe to watch the show ever again. Way to go, Fox. 

It has rekindled my love affair with JoCo and his music. I listened to him on my iPod all the way back from Kalamazoo and sang along to every song. Even "W's Duty," which was really more me speaking along with some of the lines and snickering like a middle school student. 

If you want to hear, well, all of Jonathan Coulton's songs, check out his download page here. There are some freebies for the poor among us (I hear you, brothers and sisters), or you can pay $1 per track, or $10 per album, or, the best deal of all, $80 for everything listed on the page. If you buy "Baby Got Back (In the Style of Glee)" from iTunes, the money leftover after royalties are paid will be donated to the VH1 Save the Music Foundation and the It Gets Better Project, two very worthy organizations. Wouldn't it be nice if Fox donated their proceeds, too?

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