I don’t think Hank done it this way. And neither did Waylon. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that this Waylon doesn’t know what he’s doing. I just don’t know what we’re supposed to do. Are we to laugh, cry, get angry, be happy?
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While all of us fat and stupid Americans have been obsessively binge watching Superhero movies and constantly eating McDonald’s while we wait for missives on how to think from Donald Trump on Twitter, the rest of the developed world has been engaged in a battle royal of infinite musical proportions over the last couple of months called Eurovision.
What is Eurovision? Jeez I don’t know, just the biggest song contest in the world that includes 40 countries and has been going on for over 63 years. I’d never even heard of the thing myself until just recently, and in this case, ignorance was bliss after perusing some of the putrefying performances and finalists from this year’s competition.
It’s not far off to consider Eurovision like a musical tournament between tortuously-bad memes. Each country is represented by a particular performer, and as opposed to that performer singing different songs to judge their own talents as the field is whittled down, it’s the songs themselves that are competing with each other, represented by an artist from each individual country. Since it’s broadcast all over Europe and beyond, the competition draws hundreds of millions of viewers annually. It’s one of the most-watched non sporting events in the world. But don’t think of Eurovision as a multicultural exchange of musical heritage. Perhaps that’s how it started, and the spirit that some contestants still carry. But today it’s commonly viewed as a congregating point for the world’s most infectious musical refuse.
Now that you’re embarrassed about how much you know about Eurovision, wait until you get a load of “Waylon”—the contestant from The Netherlands for 2018. And you guessed it, the name is no coincidence, nor is it the name his mother gave him—that would be Willem Bijkerk. Claiming to be inspired by Waylon Jennings, “Waylon” tried to wow crowds with his song “Outlaw in ‘Em.” And it’s so deliciously bad, it’s worth seeing simply for the inadvertent comedy.
That said, the dude can sing, and this is actually the second time Waylon has participated in Eurovision for The Netherlands. In 2014, he was part of a country folk singing duo called The Common Linnets that wasn’t half bad. They finished 2nd in the whole competition. And yes, he was even going by “Waylon” then.
When the first preliminary video of Waylon singing “Outlaw In ‘Em” for this year’s Eurovision contest emerged, he was holding a resonator guitar as a prop and singing to a backing track that sounded like something inspired by Bro-Country. I almost felt more bad for him than offended. Okay so the dude is a Waylon fan trying to compete in a ridiculous pop world. I get it. It’s a bit.
Then when Waylon entered the semi-final round of Eurovision flanked by four guys holding the most ridiculous-looking prog rock guitars as props who then proceed to break out into interpretive dance and start doing somersaults and flips around the stage as “Waylon” sang his ode to Outlaws, I knew it was something I had to share (see below). You would be inclined to get super angry about this guy attempting to rip of Waylon’s persona if you didn’t get the sense he probably does care about country music in some misguided way. And it’s all so ridiculous, nobody could ever mistake the pupil for the master.
But that’s the other weird thing about Waylon. Digging into his past, he’s actually got more Waylon cred than some country artists in America. The 38-year-old started performing country music at an early age, and played drums in a band called West Virginian Railroad. He was signed by EMI in 1997, and has been a professional musician in some capacity ever since. They flew him out to Nashville to record a proper country album, but apparently the album was never completed.
Then in 2001, Waylon lived in the United States for a year, supposedly studying under and performing with Waylon Jennings himself, who according to some reports, called The Netherlands version of Waylon to personally invite him over. When Waylon (Jennings) died in 2002, The Netherlands version of Waylon returned to The Netherlands.
But country music isn’t the new Waylon’s only passion. He also has an entirely separate career as a soul singer, even though he still goes under the Waylon name. He was even signed to Motown Records at one point. That’s the extra layer of confusion with Waylon: country music isn’t his only passion. He’s also big into American pop, rock, and R&B especially. He’s like a one-man American music tribute show. A review from a 2010 club gig in Canada finds a critic quite spurious of the entire shtick.
This blue-eyed singer tried southern-fried R&B, tried CMT-worthy rock – even tried a little tenderness. But when he sang “papa’s got a brand new bag,” he lied. Waylon’s bag is made of carpet, it ain’t new and it holds not much more than a pair of gambling dice and a well-thumbed beginner’s guide to Real American Music.
By the way, this Waylon speaks accent-free English; if he’s a full-blooded Dutchman, then I’m Rutger Hauer.
The late Southerner Jim Dickinson – or maybe it was Ronnie Hawkins – used to warn young players to stay clear of Memphis, because that city had street-sweepers who would be stars anywhere else. With that in mind, I say this: Waylon, son, how are you with a broom?
Waylon is currently signed with Warner Music, and released an album he recorded in Nashville and Hollywood in 2014 called Heaven After Midnight. He finished 18th in the 2018 Eurovision contest that finished up last week, which is roughly where Lichtenstein placed in World War 2. In the midst of the contest, Waylon released a brand new full-length album called The World Can Wait, which of course includes “Outlaw In ‘Em.” It hit #1 on the albums charts in the Netherlands. And though it oscillates pretty hard between folky, poppy, and sometimes country-sounding stuff, the album is not half bad for what it is, which is country music from The Netherlands by a guy who calls himself “Waylon.”
I really want to hate on this guy because he’s so clearly and quite literally riding off of the actual name of Waylon Jennings. But I’m not comfortable calling this a case of some fresh-faced pop country douchebag trying to be an Outlaw, or even a bad tribute necessarily. I think this is a guy who has a powerful voice, a sincere passion for American music, and something got incredibly, incredibly lost in the translation, even though as others point out, Waylon speaks perfect English without an accent. Of course the real Waylon would never sign off on any of this. But the fake Waylon is just trying to do the best he can to express his passion for distinctly American music, even if he’s failing horribly beyond the European market.
And hey, with the millions upon millions of Europeans who watch this Eurovision thing perhaps wondering who the hell Waylon is, maybe this guy has just done a massive service to the Jennings estate, and country music by proxy.
Anyway enough babble, here’s “Waylon” ladies and gentlemen:
And something where he’s actually playing an instrument: