Pearl Jam Sell Out To Verizon

So, apparently Pearl Jam are selling Verizon now, and I’m certain that sometime in the near future, the ghost of Jim Morrison will appear to Eddie Vedder in a dream and ask, “Do you know what you’re saying to millions of people?”

During the Super Bowl, Verizon aired a “feel-good” commercial touting the benefits of 5G while insisting it can never replace working-class people (firefighters and such). In the background was River Cross, a song off Pearl Jam’s upcoming new album, Gigaton.

Watch the clip below:

I can think of 4 arguments Pearl Jam might use to rationalize this:

  1. They could say, “Yes, it’s selling out, but the message was a good one and this is just the way the world works.” Otherwise known as the “Neoliberal argument.” If Barack Obama’s your guy taking massive speaking fees from corporations, this is the argument for you.
  2. They could pull out a Joker card, (and I have no idea if this is true) and say they didn’t receive any money for it. Ok, fair enough. But you’re still selling Verizon, so this really just diverts from the real issue. 
  3. They could say, “Hey, we’ve earned this.” This is actually the argument I’m most sensitive too. You know, in a lot of ways, they have earned the right to do this. Between the Jeremy music video, boycotting Ticketmaster, making some really challenging and creative albums after they became famous like Vitalogy, No Code, and Yield, Eddie Vedder’s Into the Wild (how much better can you get?), and just using their music to champion several good causes, it’s hard to say anything bad about them. But selling out is selling out. As Martin Luther King Jr would say, “I oppose using River Cross to sell Verizon because I love Pearl Jam.”
  4. They could do something huge that is really punk rock or good for the fans that make you fall in love with them all over again and forget they ever did this. If they’re smart, (and Pearl Jam are incredibly smart) this is what they will do. 

Only time will tell, but what I don’t understand is, why do this? Don’t you have enough money and recognition? You know, music videos are ok. Market the album that way. Lending your songs to movies is ok. Going on talk shows is ok. But this… this is not ok. It hasn’t been ok in the entire history of Rock N Roll.

Pearl Jam should be better than this.

Dance of the Clairvoyants shows Pearl Jam Moving Further Away From Grunge Roots

A human heart suspended on the backrest of a chair by electrodes. This is what I thought of as the opening drumbeat of Pearl Jam’s new song, Dance of the Clairvoyants, pulsated through my headphones. That’s because this time Matt Cameron’s drums sound like they were made using a drum machine ala Trent Reznor, only sped up and more complex, ala Orgy’s Blue Monday. But that’s where the comparison to these two stalwarts of 90s Alternative Rock ends, which leads me to the thing that really jumps out at (and troubles) me about this song: it definitely sounds like something familiar, but Pearl Jam isn’t it.

So… is it good? Yes, it’s damn good. Crisp. Catchy. With smart lyrics and excellent songwriting.

Do I like it? Well… that’s another story. I can see this song blasting through an upscale mall filled with strung-out, decadent-looking, wannabe Calvin Klein models. (Note to self: when writing new music, ask if strung-out, decadent-looking, wannabe Calvin Klein models would like it. If yes, write something else.) The opposite, of course, is true of every other Pearl Jam single through Riot Act. After that, it was sort of like Pearl Jam wanted to be famous again. I’m talking about the World Wide Suicide and Life Wasted music videos. (Wait, Pearl Jam are making creative, full-fledged music videos again?) I’m talking about the radio-friendly The Fixer. I’m talking about… ahem… Sirens, which came dangerously close to Bon Jovi level corporate friendliness.

And these aren’t the only disturbing moves being made by members of Seattle’s last surviving Grunge rock band. At the Global Citizen Festival 2015, Eddie Vedder did a duet of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song with Beyoncé of all people. At the I Am The Highway: A Tribute To Chris Cornell tribute show in Los Angeles, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament did a tribute of Say Hello To Heaven with Miley Cyrus of all people. Now, I’m not here to “come down on” people who like Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus. People gonna listen to what they want and haters gonna hate. But they (and apparently Pearl Jam) belong in a mall. Contrast this to what Grunge, especially the Smells Like Teen Spirit music video but really the Grunge movement as a whole, meant to millions of people who grew up in Reagan’s shallow, consumer-fueled culture of the 1980s.

Seven years ago, in an interview with Mark Richards, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder said, “I think that having been through this one,” this one referring to the album Lightning Bolt, “I feel like there’s another stage coming. There’s another hallway of doors I can see… and I think I’ve got the keys.”

After listening to Dance of the Clairvoyants, the first single off Pearl Jam’s upcoming new album Gigaton, I think we have a pretty good idea of what Vedder was looking at, namely, music that continues the band’s decades long transformation into a more safe, accessible, and, dare I say… corporate rock band.

Networking

A few years ago I applied for a job promotion at work.  One of the qualifiers was to pass an aptitude test for the position and my score was one of the highest on the test.

A fellow co-worker wanted the same job, took the test and failed.  Management wanted to fill the position with my co-worker and allowed him to take the test as many times needed to pass it.  Eventually he passed and gained the position.  This is one of the first times I realized it is not what you know, but who you know.

The core principle behind this is that you use relationships to gain an advantage or get ahead.  Modern day society calls this networking, but to me it sounds more like the old fashioned term called ‘bootlicking.’  Name calling was the primary resistance against those who would try this when I was a kid.  Terms like ‘teachers pet’ or ‘brown nose’ along with other crass remarks that would just might be better left in a sex therapy session were used against those who would try this.  But for now is has become an acceptable practice and is encouraged in the workplace as a way of getting things done as well as making people more innovative.

So why is networking bad?  For one it is not genuine.  How is one to have an honest conversation with someone who  is merely digging for information they can use against you so they can get ahead?  Networking has no honor.

Second, networking has no merit. They did not obtain their position because they earned it; they achieved their title because they are sycophants.  It is nothing more than the good old boys club patting each other on the back while the rest of us do their bidding and because we do our jobs, we do their job too.  By merely networking sycophants will mix incompetence with empowerment, the absurd will happen, countermeasures will be made, and the rest of us will learn to live with it while developing a good sense of humor watching the whole thing enfold.

Third networking produces a sense of apathy.  Networkers do not want to exasperate those they want to impress.  They sign the forms, follow the rules, obey the orders and they do not consider the sociopathic implications of their actions.

On a micro level this might be all right.  But when we consider the bigger picture with a six trillion dollar unnecessary war, predatory loans which nearly bankrupt the country, and a health care bill that is not a health care bill, but a tax write off for the rich, we cannot afford networking leadership.