Fall Out Boy released a new rendition of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire" today. Is this a tongue-in-cheek joke band ploy a la Weezer's cover of "Africa"? A cheap grab at social media watercooler chatter status that will backchannel some attention to the album they put out in March? I guess it doesn't matter what their intentions are, because here I am blogging about it...
hipster runoff, pitchfork / swan dress on Björk
Oh, it's not very good. The big mistake was not making the events (Iceland volcano, Monsanto GMOs, Stranger Things, Tiger King) chronological the way they mostly were in the original. If original "We Didn't Start the Fire" had any emotional effect at all, it came from spraying you in the face with a lyrical hose of incongruent yet inextricable history. Making the events random loses that "everything happens so much" vibe of the chronology.
horse_ebooks, @fart, @dril / take the morning after pill
But the Fall Out Boy version also seems way more obsessed with recent viral internet moments and pop culture than with world events. The original song was apparently inspired by a conversation between Billy Joel and a then-21-year-old Sean Lennon, who had said "nothing happened in the '50s" and prompted Joel to school the youth of the late 1980s on how crazy the 1950s actually were.
old Gawker / new Gawker / anthems for a party rocker
The FOB remake name-checks a lot of public figures and IP that have stood the test of time (Harry Potter, Pokemon, Tiger Woods, Lebron James), which I guess points out how narrow what's left of the monoculture has become, but you don't have to teach the youth of today what Stranger Things is, or even what Y2K is (all the clothing the youth of today buy is labeled "y2k clothing" on Depop). MAYBE you have to teach them about John Bobbitt...but why is he referred to as "Bobbitt, John" when the more interesting person in the Bobbitt saga is, in my humble opinion, Lorena??
OH MY GOD WHY AM I CLOSE-READING THE LYRICS TO THE FALL OUT BOY COVER OF "WE DIDN'T START THE FIRE"
I sent this text when I was stoned a while ago. If you look at what's "happening" and how that relates to "history", every day is the end of the world. The world is always ending, the apocalyse is now. The sooner you realize that, the less it is likely that you will become a doomer. And listening to the Billy Joel song again, I realized I was misreading the famous chorus, which of course states that we didn't start the fire, it was always burning since the world's been turning. I was listening to it as a representation of boomer responsibility-shirking. I think that's the popular way to listen to it now. Fuck you guys for passing the buck. Now I realize Billy Joel was just pointing out the essential apocalyptic nature of being a human being on planet Earth. It's not his fault, it's not any of our faults. The important part isn't that no one is taking responsibility for starting the fire, it's that you try to fight it.
I also texted my dad today to ask him if he remembered when the original Billy Joel song came out, and what he thought of it at the time. He said "Everyone was kind of wtf" and that he didn't like it at first, and it took a couple of decades to grow on him. So maybe I'll like the Fall Out Boy version someday! Maybe the response to a contemporary litany of recent historical events is always going to be "wtf" no matter who writes it. All I know is, the more recent "We Didn't Start The Fire" certainly made me appreciate the simple and direct poetry of "Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock." That line actually goes so hard. See? The world's ending but we can always change our minds about things.