Maybe that chick from 4 Non Blondes summed it up best when she wailed, "I wake in the morning and I step outside/And I take a deep breath and I get real high/And I scream from the top of my lungs/'What's going on?!'" Can the American hitmaking process be fairly called insignificant when it forces poetry like that into our consciousness? Which aristocracy ever imposed on commoners something so tyrannical as the regular broadcasting, inescapable, for years, of: "I would do anything for love/I would do anything for love/I would do anything for love/But I won't do that." (Meat Loaf appears Fri., 12/31, & Sat., 1/1, at the Beacon Theater, 2124 B'way at 74th St., 496-7070, $50-$250.)
If we're going to feign some sort of wizened longview this week, it should be of shit like that, because it's getting worse. I suppose all the magazine best-of lists are impressive enough as documents of our culture's collective tastelessness. But really, since all those lists are absurdly front-loaded with artifacts from the last 50 years anyway, it makes sense to consider the millennium superlative that was actually so clustered: the most incredibly annoying, fanatically overplayed pop songs. It gives another perspective on anti-American terrorism?so on the minds of presidential candidates?to take into account the global effects of "We Built This City on Rock 'n' Roll," "The Final Countdown" or the theme from Friends. As the U.S. pop creed replaces belief systems worldwide, those of us who grew up with it as the primary epistemic option would do well to send out a distant early warning. "Party over oops out of time" doesn't get the job done, no matter how many times you spin it.
One who's conveying the message by example is Eminem, who went further than any hiphop hero in '99 toward reasserting rap's classic relationship to wack songs, best articulated in the "Hey Jude" parody that introduces BDP's "Criminal Minded." White rappers are cornering the market on hiphop hostility these days, while black stars enact their institution-building phase (and you can bet Dr. Dre is screwing Eminem out of due royalties as bad as the old music mafias robbed r&b artists). This pale-skinned critic can't approach Friday's Big Shabbat, though, without a nod to the music that best brought to life visions of the righteous fight this decade, all of it as black as KRS-One's Jesus: Ghostface Killah's Ironman, Smif-n-Wessun's Dah Shinin, Mobb Deep's The Infamous, Gravediggaz Six Feet Deep and the long-awaited reissue of Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus' Rastafari Dub.
If any show this week can bring revelers anywhere near the most-high mind-state that fed those masterpieces, it's probably the Sun Ra Arkestra with special guest Marc Ribot at the Knitting Factory (1/1, 74 Leonard St., betw. Church St. & B'way, 219-3055, $16, $14/adv.), or possibly E-Man's house party in the most-high neighborhood of Fort Greene. (12/31, Frank's Lounge, 660 Fulton St. at S. Elliott, Brooklyn, 726-1322, $25.) Q-Unique of the Arsonists is hosting an MC battle and canned food drive Saturday night at Wetlands?that's got potential. (1/1, 161 Hudson St. at Laight St., 386-3600, $5, or $2 with a donation of canned food.) At the other extreme, the Roots have opted to shit on my respect for them by playing Funkmaster Flex's party at Life?the corniest club in town on a good night. (12/31, 158 Bleecker St. at Thompson St., 420-1999, $125-$350.) And patrons lining up for Eminem at the Tunnel (12/31, 220 12th Ave. at 27th St., 695-4682, $99-$175) should keep in mind that Billy Joel started out a profane rebel too, with that line about masturbating in "Captain Jack."
"All your life is Channel 13/Sesame Street/What does it mean?" It means B.J. was addressing New Yorkers, because elsewhere Grover & Co. were on some other number channel. Indeed, it's all party-by-numbers here this week, with every clique off in their corner trying to meet expectations. Continental denizens get the ultimate Continental lineup, featuring Candy Snatchers and Murphy's Law. (12/31, 25 3rd Ave. at St. Marks Pl., 529-6924, $30, $25/adv.) Michelle Shocked is "in the round" at the Bottom Line (12/31, 15 W. 4th St. at Mercer St., 228-7880, $50), Yo La Tengo's home at Maxwell's (12/31, 1039 Washington St. at 11th St., Hoboken, 201-798-0406, $30) and Patti Smith's at Bowery Ballroom. (12/31, 6 Delancey St. at Bowery, 533-2111, $50.) The people who throw the "Goddesses" party for large women are hosting a Big Butt Contest. (12/31, at China Cafe, 205 Pearl St. at Maiden Ln., 718-296-6283, $20.) It'd be cool if these events shuffled venues and didn't tell anybody, so everyone got a surprise show. But the point seems to be to avoid mystery. Why didn't anyone have the courage to get M.O.P., Harry Pussy and a gross of absinthe for a masquerade ball in an abandoned Brooklyn warehouse, or something like that? Prohibitive insurance premiums, I guess.
Then there's this, from Strausbaugh: "Our pal Chicklet, who writes funny pieces for the 'First Person' page, beams drag into the 21st century with his new weekly cable show Starship Chicklet. He promises music, comedy, 'twisted drag queens and intergalactic madness,' and he looks cute as all hell in his little Barbarella outfit. His premiere installment "Episode 1: The Faggot Menace," is on Manhattan cable channel 56, Tuesday, 1/4, at 11:30 p.m. Visit his website at starshipchicklet.com" Yes, he's always a woman to me.
You win this week if banality?mostly likely in the form of some unimaginative drunk, or sniveling futureshock, a cloying pop song, rote celebration or cheesy recapping editorial?doesn't overwhelm your sense of awe. Personally, I've had little trouble finding transcendence in consumer products and unholy rituals all of my life?until this staggeringly mundane month came along. Did you know that "After Dr. Strangelove's original camera negative was destroyed in a fire, Kubrick personally re-shot his own pristine print frame-by-frame with his Nikon to create a sharp new negative?"? That's from a Film Forum press release about a new print struck from that negative, opening Thursday. (12/30-1/6, 209 W. Houston St., betw. 6th Ave. & Varick St., 727-8110.) I'll be there for that in the year 2G, looking to Learn to Stop Worrying & Love the absence of anyone like Kubrick?probably with that goddamn Depeche Mode song about Strangelove in my head all the while.