FFWDing to the Best Part: “In the Air Tonight,” Phil Collins (1981)

All right, let’s get this shit out of the way.

Best part? 3:16-3:20. Everyone knows this song has an 11-beat drum solo, the likes of which will never be duplicated. Everyone plays the air drums/beats the steering wheel/vocalizes the rhythm every damn time this song gets played on 80s on 8 (or your terrestrial radio station of choice).  But the thing is … (shhh!) … it’s kind of the only good part of the song.

 

What?  Think about it. The whole thing is about 15 beats-per-minute too slow, the melody is boring, and the lyrics lost all mystique once the whole true story of a guilt-ravaged SOB who spiraled off the mortal coil after being literally spotlighted by Phil Collins himself urban legend was proven to be just that — the stuff of legend (Eminem’s efforts to perpetuate said myth notwithstanding).

Wikipedia says this about the drum solo:

The mood is one of restrained anger until the final chorus when an explosive burst of drums releases the musical tension, and the instrumentation builds to a thundering final chorus.

I beg to differ. After the”explosive burst,” Phil kinda just returns to the same-old same-old of the chorus. No key change, no crescendo, no real change in mood, despite what the almighty Wikipedia thinks it hears.

But the drum solo remains unequivocally iconic. Even though it’s performed on a drum machine, for God’s sake.  Just when we all thought Phil Collins was cool.

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DJ Jazzy Beth (In Which I Effectively Spit Rhyme)

One thing I’m pretty good at — and I have no idea why or how — is karaoke rapping. Part of it is that I annunciate decently, learn lyrics quickly, and can talk in the necessarily rapid fashion needed (the too-fast Yankee speak my grandmother always complained about has its benefits).

Another part is the simple element of surprise. No one expects the 30-something white chick in the Gap outfit to bust out Kid Rock or Naughty By Nature. And so I only have to be 75% decent to earn 100% credit.

Natalie Portman rapping

My first experiment in the rap oeuvre was ‘Bust a Move‘ in about 1999, with my friend Kelly on chorus backup (‘You want it … you’ve got it’).  I tried ‘Funky Cold Medina’ at some point, but found it overly slow and ultimately boring.

With different partners — most prominently Kelly and Amy — I took Sir Mix-a-Lot’s ‘Baby Got Back’ to near-perfection, where words aren’t needed and charades accompany appropriate lyrics. This tradition started in 1988, just before the song came screaming back in ironic fashion. It is all-but retired these days due to over-saturation, but it got the job done on a weekly basis for years.

In the mid-2000s, I took on a new challenge – ‘O.P.P.’ My first public attempt was at a bar in Tampa with Molly. Right before I began, a table of about 15 African-American women walked in and sat right in front of me. And they supported my every syllable, complete with high-fives at its conclusion. The speed of this one is the biggest challenge, and I refuse to do it if I’ve had more than two drinks. Unless I attempt this at a country bar (I’ll never make that mistake again), it rarely fails to impress (unless I’ve had more than two drinks, in which case it is an embarrassing hot mess).

Fondness of O.P.P. chart, naughty by nature

At some point, I added Rob Base (and DJ Easy Rock’s) ‘It Takes Two” to the mix. Fun, but not as much a crowd pleaser as the others. No accounting for taste, or nostalgia.  I also (once) attempted ‘The Bad Touch’ by Bloodhound Gang. I stuck every last word, from Lyle Lovett to FedEx to Waffle-House-hash-browns, and the crowd ignored the whole effort. Does no one remember this song?

This year, I tried my pipes at a little Kid Rock’s ‘Cowboy.’ It’s a world of fun, slow paced, and one of my new go-tos. The biggest challenge is getting out the P-word (as Naughty By Nature would say, “It’s sorta like, uhhh, well, another way you call a cat a kitty”) without stammering or blushing. I am, after all, a 30-something white chick in a Gap outfit.

Kid Rock Cowboy

Note that I never add any new songs to my repertoire, by the way. I’m all about nostalgia. No Nicki Minaj for me – at least not for four years or so.

That said, it’s time to add something fresh-ish to the mix. Want to help me decide? The first choice has the challenge of a word I will not say and so will have to swallow; the second and third contain super-dated references (do people remember Tom Green? Chris Kirkpatrick?); the fourth requires a bit of singing and is perhaps far too iconic to eff with. The fifth? I just don’t like as well as the others.

Leave any other suggestions you might have in the comments. And ‘Rapper’s Delight’ is off the table because it is just too damn long and I won’t do that to an audience.