Not ‘Jack and Diane’
Mellencamp Releases Political TripeBy Eric Chemi
John Mellencamp’s latest album, Cutting Heads, really pushes the boundary on his work. It’s just too bad that it pushes the boundary lower. Probably a sign that Mellencamp really needs to rethink his career, this uninspiring album provides the listener with nothing to enjoy. All songs lacked any quality, and they all sounded similarly bad; no track stood out as being especially worthwhile. One unique aspect of this album is that Mellencamp used this CD as a means to propagate his anti-racism campaign. This is probably the main reason that the album was so poor: he spent all his time thinking about politics and forgot to include some good music.
Although we should all applaud him for his efforts, the use of songs to spread a political message was a bad idea in this case. He would have been better served by going on television and making speeches about his ideas to get the attention of the whole world. This is one of the main perks about being a famous musician; you can go to the airwaves and say whatever you want about any subject and have people believe you and say that you are an expert in that field; all because you can sing. But for Mellencamp to actually propagate his message through the music is just flat out wrong, not because one shouldn’t use music for such purposes (as historically many singers have used their music to spread a message) but one should not produce mediocre garbage to spread that message (Note: the old singers of the past were able to convey their message because their music did not suck.)
Mellencamp’s attempt to surprise listeners with politically charged low quality music rather than the mindless good-sounding music they were expecting to hear should probably serve as a wake-up call to his fans, record company, and himself alike that maybe he should have really thought through what he was trying to accomplish with this thing. If this is really the best Mellencamp can do, then his musical career as we know it is finished. Anyone paying fifteen dollars for this album is paying fifteen dollars too much. In fact, even if the CD were free, it would still cost listeners the time it would take to listen to it, not to mention the accompanying pain and agony.
A surprise is found on the title track, which includes the rapper Chuck D mixing it up with a solo freestyle act in the middle of the song. This abrupt change of pace is a sudden unexpected jolt that seems to take away from the rest of the song, which actually is not that bad in that it sounds pretty much like Mellencamp’s more traditional sound.
One song for example, “Crazy Island,” is pretty much a speech about what Mellencamp thinks America is all about, set to music. While he must have spent a lot of time thinking about what he was going to say, he certainly could have put some more effort into developing the music. It sounds like he forgot how to do rock and roll altogether and so instead opted for some country. The song was bad enough to make one think maybe Mellencamp is actually trying to do a crossover into country, but there is still hope that Mellencamp can get his act together for the future, if he still has one after this devastation. In fact, throughout the entire album, his traditional rock and roll style is completely missing as he presents a style that involves slow-paced ballads. The way he copies his drumline and guitar chords from what he was doing in the eighties just adds lack of originality on top of the song’s lack of quality.
Sure, one may say that Mellencamp’s music before like “Ain't that America” and “Small Town” were also reflections of Mellencamp’s opinions on society, and of course that is correct. However, such earlier music was actually good and it really did not matter what the lyrics were discussing. Mellencamp just celebrated his fiftieth birthday a few weeks ago, and let’s hope that he does not take that to mean he has a right to produce old-people kind of music.
So in general, forgive good ol’ John Cougar for his heinous mistake of releasing this collection of B-sides, and do not purchase this one. In a long enough career, even the best have to slip up a few times, and this is certainly one of Mellencamp’s errors.