Some years ago I had this friend who fell in love with that Johnny Cash bio-pic (I think it was called Cash: the Story of Johnny Cash), and started downloading every song she could find that featured Joaquin Phoenix singing the Cash classics. When I pointed out that this was totally stupid and a major waste of money—especially since pretty much everything the Man in Black ever did was readily available—she fed me a bunch of malarkey about how she loved Johnny, but hearing the Joaquin Phoenix version was like hearing the songs for the first time.
The music was exactly the same, and Phoenix went out of his way to emulate Mr. Cash as closely as he could. In fact, other than the over-producedquality of the soundtrack's versions, there wasn't a whole lot of difference.
Anyway, I'm rambling.
I mention this story for two reasons. Firstly, because it earned this friend a permanent spot on my long-running list of idiots, and secondly because the soundtrack to new movie musical Rock of Ages (y'know the one...the glorified karaoke night of a movie that features celebs like Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta Jones and Julianne "Who the Fuck is Julianne Hough!?" Hough singing and dancing and generally making anyone with decent taste uncomfortable) has debuted at #1 on a couple Billboard charts. The new movie based on the hit Broadway show is one of those by-the-numbers tales of a girl moving to the city to make it big, falling in love, getting burnt, facing off with the religious nits who hate fun and then eventually winding up back with the dude. Lessons are learned, love is won and even though some people have to take a long hard look in the mirror, the good guys wind up changing the bad guys' minds and all is right with the world thanks to the power of arena anthems and squealing guitars. Blah blah blah. In case you're wondering, I haven't seen it—I just know its type. It's like some sort of neo-hip/retro-cool Footloose for weirdos who never got over the '80s and young hipsters who think it's somehow funny or interesting when they tell their friends and hipster colleagues how they have totally always loved Journey despite their inability to name a song besides "Don't Stop Believing" or "Lights."
Look, I get that fans of such '80s arena rock legends as Bon Jovi, Journey, Poison, Def Leppard and GnR might find it novel to hear some of today's hottest/weirdest/alien worshipin'-est celebs throw their own vocals on songs like "Wanted Dead or Alive'" or "Pour Some Sugar On Me," but you've really gotta wonder what the hell is going on when enough people are tossing down their hard-earned cash on this thing that it earns a spot on any sort of chart. I suppose you could make the argument that Rock of Ages has a few mashups, but it seems a little like pandering. And besides, could we not could simply cough up the four bucks for one of those Monsters of Rock compilation albums and hear the original artists? Could we not cough up the eight bucks for two of these comps and create our own mashups with to CD players? Yes we could, and this soundtrack's performance is all too typical of the current state of rock and/or roll. The sad truth is that this album will do well because it satisfies the bizarre consumer needs of familiarity and celebrity obsession. Sure, most of today's rock bands are either relegated to mid-level venues with mid-level pay or an endless string of festivals that result in little more than a forgotten performance thanks to heat stroke and/or drug abuse. But we don't need to concern ourselves with that, because we can now sing along with Paul Giamatti!
I'm begging you, world, instead of adding to the crap-ification of music by purchasing this overblown cover album, do your damnedest to skip Rock of Ages (the movie and the soundtrack) and get back to the original recordings. It's not like they're hard to find. Hell, you've probably heard these songs so many times you could play 'em in your head right this second if you wished. There's a reason that these bands and their songs are so beloved throughout the known universe, and it sure as shit has nothing to do with idiots like Tom Cruise or Russell Brand. Congratulations, Rock of Ages—most of us think you're a big fat joke.