I don’t know if it’s a bigger commentary on the state of social networking, or the serious depravity of truly meaningful modern songs that the most talked-about country music composition in the last week has been a version of Dolly Parton’s legacy recording “Jolene” put on a record player at a slower speed setting than normal, making it sound like it is sung by a man, and striking a deep 70’s era half-time groove.
It’s not that the slowed down song isn’t cool. But hell, I remember at some point when I was a little kid, I figured out how I could make all those boring family Christmas albums sound like they were sung by the bad asses of Christmas music known as The Chipmunks by kicking the speed up to 45 RPM on a 33 platter. It changed the perspective of my entire little music world.
I later graduated to tinkering with Top 40 music, and when I put a 45 of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock n’ Roll” on the slower speed to sludge it out, I figured myself a damned genius. I was convinced I was the very first human to ever discover this wonderful vinyl speed-switching phenomenon, and since the internet didn’t exist, there was no proof I wasn’t (though later I’d learn on the internet that the The Chipmunks’ perfected their high pitched voices through speeding up the playback of normal-toned vocals).
But there’s something just a little alarming about a slowed-down song that first surfaced on YouTube over a year ago all of a sudden going viral. There’s actually an older version of slowed-down “Jolene” that was uploaded over 2 years ago too. Many songs sung by females and set in a mid-tempo work with this trick. It almost reminds me of the conundrum involving Caitlin Rose’s video for her song “Own Side Now.” Her well-produced, professionally-made video has half as many hits as does a little girl singing the song standing in front of the kitchen table. Why? Has our boredom or busyness and cultural depravity made us more susceptible to bits?
The reason that Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” became a timeless composition is because it told an original story from an original perspective that almost any human could relate to on a personal level. Feelings of vulnerability and fear about who we are and how we stack up when compared with other people is universal, and no other song encapsulates that like “Jolene.” There is nothing really original, or even novel about taking “Jolene” and slowing it down. But that doesn’t mean that just like The Chipmunks, it isn’t bad ass.
1 1/2 of 2 guns up.