October 2, 2007

John Mellencamp: "Jena"

I can't figure out how to mount John Mellencamp's new song about the case of the Jena 6 here, as I've done recently with stuff which people have posted on YouTube.

So you'll just have to take my word. You really want to click on this link and watch the video and listen to "Jena." In fact, you want to listen twice. It was just posted today, almost as soon as the video was finished (though the album it's on won't be released for a while yet). A lot of people will be trying to stream it and the second iteration should be smoother.

I go back and forth on John Mellencamp a lot, but alway wind up at the same conclusion. No matter how much the sentimental dishonesty of a "Small Town" or the flaccid bombast of, say, "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." may irritate me, sometimes he nails an idea or a feeling so hard that you think it'll never move again.

Though he's rightfully noted by lefties for his class consciousness and material support to striking workers and family farmers, I find his work most interesting when he tackles race in this country. And not just the obvious stuff. "Pink Houses" should be required listening in any study group session about why there's no mass revolutionary movement in the US. And sometime check out his arrangement of the Drifters' momentary escape from the city, "Under the Boardwalk" which he transports directly to the rural Midwest on mandolin strings and a loose chorale. Brilliant.

But enough on ol' John's strengths and weaknesses. Go listen to "Jena."

Oh, yeah, he has superb taste in album titles.

[h/t Rock 'n' Rap Confidential email list]

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