Plastic Surgery Disasters

There was an article in yesterday's New York Times about how the Strawberry Shortcake doll is getting a 21st Century makeover. The doll, popular in the 1980s, is being repackaged as a cell-phone-using, lip-gloss-wearing cutie, as opposed to the slightly frumpy, cat-carrying girl she used to be. As long as her hair still smells of strawberry and her friends Huckleberry Pie and Apple Dumplin' are updated too, I guess I don't really mind.

strawberry shortcake














Yet the repackaging and re-imagining of formerly popular toys in order for them to appeal to today's youth does remind me a great deal of one current trend out of Britain, which is to export a new batch of blue-eyed soul in the form of (thus far) Duffy, Adele, and Amy Winehouse. It's almost as if Sandie Shaw, Cilla Black, and Lulu (let alone Dusty Springfield) never existed. The 21st Century versions of these songstresses look and sound retro; in fact, the only update I can think of is that the U.S. is paying more attention to their music this time around (tattoos and a drug addiction hardly count as an improvement on the old.)

Listen to Cilla Black's "Love of the Loved"

Listen to Sandie Shaw's "Long Live Love"

I like new. I like influence drawn from various or, sometimes, obvious genres. I am not averse to updating or reconfiguring the old. But if an artist can't find a way of making the music feel like it's been reborn then what is the point? There are plenty of bands that make you feel like you are hearing a genre, a form of music, or a playing style for the first time. In my opinion, The White Stripes are a good example of a band who did more than merely copy the blues, whereas The Bravery exemplify the most benign and pointless regurgitation of new wave and post-punk. There are exceptions, of course, and moments in our lives when we just want someone to hit that nostalgia button we have inside of us, the one that brings us back to a halcyon year or a bright day. But why do we always need something new to love or an updated model? Do I need a new version of the Beach Boys or The Clash? No. Will anyone make an album that sounds exactly like Let It Bleed but that is somehow better? Doubtful. I'd rather listen to artists like N.E.R.D or Joanna Newsom, Man Man or Gnarls Barkley, who blend influence with inspiration. Music doesn't need to be compartmentalized into old and new when it really just boils down to (our own idea of) good and bad.

Listen to Duffy's "Mercy"

So, I think what irks me about the new British "soul" singers is that they feel like a gimmick. Maybe enough time has passed so that few people know or remember the style in its earlier form. Maybe the oldies need a face lift. But does each generation need their own, updated and made-over version of the late greats? Shouldn't the late greats be met with the new greats? Personally, I'd argue for the latter.

Additionally, what bands or artists have made something old sound new again? And who has made you miss the earlier version by merely being imitative as opposed to inventive?

Pictured below: 20th Century singers and their 21st Century counterparts.

girl%20collage.jpg

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I definitely agree with a lot of your comments. In particular, I hate it when people release a cover of a song that does nothing except to reproduce the original with new people playing instruments and singing. The Foo Fighters "Boys are Back in Town" is a perfect example of this. Why not just play the original on the radio? There are some groups that have altered past groups and made their sound "modern" and even brought more attention to the original artists. I think that The Strokes (Nuggets-era garage rock), Polyphonic Spree (with their old-timey Up With People sound), and My Morning Jacket (Updated Allman Bros. sound) are among groups that re-worked and modernized old sounds and made them sound new again.
There is also a whole group of artists, such as Nirvana that brought sounds (The Pixies) to wider audiences that missed them the first time around.
As far as toys and kids shows as long as they don't mess with the Monchichies, The Electric Company, or the Kroft Superstars I am OK with it.

Sent by Eron | 10:41 AM | 6-12-2008

Certainly bands such has Old Crow Medicine Show and The Be Good Tanyas are providing a nice new twist to bluegrass/country/folk.

And I agree, don't compartmentalize. As Joe Strummer said, ''Whether it's jazz or punk or anything else, you have to fight against the purists who want to narrow the definition. That's what kills music because it stifles it to death.''

Sent by Dynamic Meter | 10:55 AM | 6-12-2008

I don't know enough about most of the musicians you mentioned to comment on them, though I found it so interesting how you compared the makeover of Strawberry Shortcake to the makeover of pop musicians. For the record, I think all that Strawberry Shortcake needed was a graphic artist to solidify a couple lines and perhaps adjust a color or two. There's nothing wrong with adjusting her to fit the times, but I'd like to think our generation doesn't require all girl-targeted dolls to look like BRATZ.

Imani Coppola and Star F*cker (am I allowed to use that word on here?) are original and amazing, in my opinion. I don't know what genre they're 're-doing' but I'm sure there's something out there.

Sent by Natalie in PDX | 11:41 AM | 6-12-2008

I found this post to be very much in line with some thoughts that have been bothering me about music lately, the sentiments of which Carrie seems to be touching upon. Something has seemed bad to me about rock music lately, and it has taken me a while to figure out what it is, but I think I've got it.
First, it annoys me that for a musician to reach a wide audience today they have to be packaged, primped, and pressured into an easily-recognizable product. Second, the intense influence that capitalism has had on the music industry over the last 20-odd years has resulted in a situation where not a whole lot happens that is new and exciting.

To the first point, a good way to think about what I mean is to consider whether or not a musician like Meat Loaf could make it big today. Here is a fat, unattractive man with an incredible voice and an different artistic spin on rock music who came straight out of the underground rock culture of the 70's and made it big (his cameo in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" still cracks me up). I harbor strong doubts that someone like him could be that successful in today's music environment.

The second point is a bit more complicated. Thankfully, the philosopher Slavoj Zizek offers a fantastic insight that perhaps makes it a bit easier to understand; capitalism is not creative. In fact, once it is able to successfully sell a product, it literally begins re-selling the same product, with less of that original, wonderful thing that made that product appealing in the first place. Case in point: Caffeine free, sugar free, calorie free soft drinks. You're literally buying a can of nothing, marketed as something new and different and packaged to look like something that "once was" (Carrie's example of The Bravery* is exactly what I am talking about here.)

I am sure that this sounds overly pessimistic, and I do apologize. Believe me, I would prefer not to draw these conclusions, and I would certainly appreciate a more positive reflection on today's music environment.

*No offense intended to those die-hard The Bravery fans out there, to whom their music speaks volumes and with out which life would be utterly meaningless. ;-)

Sent by Ryan | 11:51 AM | 6-12-2008

Is your sentence about N.E.R.D. and Joanna Newsome making a comparison or is it levelling them out next to the Beach Boys and The Clash? Sorry, having trouble with the vague linguistics here. No offense intended.

No offense taken, I wrote this entry late at night. You're right, it was unclear. I meant that they are examples of people today actually making interesting music. I've changed the sentence to add clarity. Thank you for paying attention -CB

Sent by Tom Hoffman | 11:56 AM | 6-12-2008

Excellent commentary today. I wish you'd gone w/ the Black Keys vs. the White Stripes for your example of "who's doing it right," but what can you do?

i think another great example belonging in the "right way" category, specifically for soul/R&B today would have to be Gnarls Barkley. While i'm not loving the new album as much as the debut, those crazy cats still were able to put their finger on the pulse of an older genre and truly update it w/ today's touches.

i suppose the bigger issue, though, is how do the Care Bears feel about all this?

Sent by CD | 12:03 PM | 6-12-2008

Great post. Thank you for pointing out The Bravery. I don't listen to the radio very often, but when I do it's tuned into Portland's "alternative" station 94.7 FM. They seem to play The Bravery's single excessively. Every time I hear it I want to throw up. It is one of the most bland songs I've ever heard. OK enough knocking on The Bravery (bad name too).
I'm not sure this is in line with waht you were saying, but even the packaged sounds of yesteryear are better than the packaged sounds we have today. I was listening to The Walker Brothers today and I would take their boy band Righteous-Brothers-wannabes sound over all of the Nsyncs and Backstreet Boys. No offense to JT, but he's no Scott Walker. In case anyone mistakes me for an old fart, I wasn't even born when The Walker Brothers were a band. "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

Sent by Melvillain | 12:34 PM | 6-12-2008

I think the whole Sunderland sound of recent (The Futureheads, Field Music and its off shoots: School of Language and The Week That Was, etc) has made something new of an older sound without cookie cutting it. They certainly made me a lot more interested in their influences. Field Music got me into Wire for example. And I've never seen tighter bands play live in my life.

I would also say Sloan has a pretty retro sound in a lot of their songs, but are their own band.

I do think, however, that Adele is a bit of the square peg in the grouping of British "soul" singers. She either co-wrote or wrote all the songs on her album with the exception of the Dylan cover, and having heard all of the fore-mentioned albums, I would say hers is the most authentic.

Winehouse's and Duffy's respective albums have much a more packaged feel to them. There are moments on the Adele album where I think there is more Betty Carter jazz influence then pop soul singers of the 60's influence. ("Best For Last" with the stand up bass.) And I really lover her "Chasing Pavements" video. Although, they're different, it reminded me a lot of the Feist's "1234" video. It's probably the clever choreography in both.

And I think the fact that she is grouped with the rest can be blamed on a record label trying to cash in on the latest "thing" with the singer they currently have at hand.

Lastly, I hope the Beach Boys reference at the end wasn't a poke at The Explorers Club, because I'm not going to feel guilty about liking them. I almost did, but I'm not. The album was a great start to my summer. They didn't hide their love of the Beach Boys behind electronica or some kind of indie low-fi sound, they let it shine brightly. Good for them. They shouldn't make 10 albums like this, but one's alright.

And it was a fresh take on one of my favorite childhood sounds. For a few moments, I was 8 again sitting in the bed of a tan rusting Nissan pick-up riding through the salty smelling marshes on the way to Pine Point with my favorite band blaring from a boom box sitting on my lap. Maybe it will be only a summer aught eight favorite, but that would still be worth the price of purchase.

Sent by Mac Coldwell | 12:48 PM | 6-12-2008

I was throughly annoyed by the Kooks when I saw them at Sasquatch. Let it be known that I did not particularly want to see them in the first place, but they were right before the Jicks and I wanted to be as close to the front as possible. Anyways, the Kooks seemed more like a Rolling Stones circa 1965 cover band than an original. Not only were their songs unoriginal[but full of hooks and catchy guitar riffs!], but they dressed exactly the same as their "inspirations". I understand that they love Ray Davies, and recorded their latest album in his studio, but I ran into more than one person who accidentally called them the Kinks. Even better, some of the people in the crowd that I was chatting with before the show were convinced that the Kooks had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, and had been around for years.

Many of the people in the crowd looked and acted like the same sort of people who loved the Strokes back in 2003, but became far too cool for them.

As for artists who are doing something original, what about the New Pornographers? They're clearly influenced by Cheap Trick and Brian Wilson, but still have their own unique sound.

Sent by Kirie | 12:49 PM | 6-12-2008

There certainly are a number of bona fide fantastic acts out there. However, at least speaking for myself, what I was most referring to was not the inevitable influence that prior art has on new art; rather, I'm getting at the idea that there is simply too much "business" entrenched in the music industry today, to the detriment of all. The systematic practice of marketing photogenic people singing stuff that sounds original (but actually isn't) is, in my view, bad. As is playing the same songs over and over (part of the business model, to be sure) on the radio.

Also, I loves me some New Pornographers and Gnarls Barkley. And frankly, I think the Care Bears would simply stare.

Sent by Ryan | 1:05 PM | 6-12-2008

Absolutely fantastic post. I have friends who find Amy Winehouse to be a terrific talent, but they're unwilling to look back at the blue eyed soulsters of yesteryear.

The White Stripes, who you mentioned, are probably my favorite band as far as those who do original things while divining inspiration from the past. Their first and last albums are sludgy delta blues for the most part, and the middle ones have a definate AOR influence that is broken up by songs like "Little Ghost." I love them to pieces.

Sent by Paul Arrand Rodgers | 1:07 PM | 6-12-2008

What a timely post. I was sitting on my porch the other night listening to a mix someone had given my girlfriend, and it had tons of great Motown on it. I thought, "Why don't they make music like this anymore?" And then I thought, "If I still have this, do I really need a new version of it?"

Sometimes I think we just like the old music so much we wish there was more of it.

Sent by ljc | 1:36 PM | 6-12-2008

Wolfmother is guilty of regurgitating the old sound. I agree with Mike Patton. "Did they just get Led Zeppelin in Australia?" And they're not the only band that's guilty. When I first heard the Arctic Monkeys I thought to myself, "Someone wishes it were 1977 again." And maybe that's unfair, but after a point I feel like I've heard this before. I want something new. It's okay to have influences and be affected by them, but when you immitate your influences you just sound like you're performing karaoke. I'm not dropping 15 bucks on a CD of karaoke favorites.

At the same time, I hear a lot of the new sound regurgitated. I recently got a split 7-inch of Sea Wolf and Eulogies. If I hadn't known going in that it was a split 7-inch and these were two different bands, I would have thought it was the same band. The sounds were that similar, and it wasn't like they performed songs that were that symmetrical. It was the style, the voice, the composition. We have people regurgitating 1970, and at the same time others are regurgitating 2003.

Even within an artist's own repertoire I see this happening. I like the White Stripes, too. The only problem I have with the White Stripes is that when a new album comes out, you can ask, "What will this sound like?" The best answer will be, "What did the last one sound like?" I love the White Stripes through "Elephant." I really like parts of "Get Behind Me Satan." After that I'm over it. The same goes for Gnarls Barkley. I love "St. Elsewhere," and I like "The Odd Couple." I have a feeling that anything subsequent will continue sloping downward, not because it's bad by any means, but because I've heard it before. But what does this say about me? Do I expect too much from my favorite artists, or am I legitimately burnt out?

My Morning Jacket take the old and make it great, not because they imitate but because they have their own voice. You can hear their influences in classic rock, but they are definitely of this century (whoah, that sounds weird; I didn't mean for it to sound like that). Take an Allman Brothers-esque jam like "Laylow" and then place it next to "Gideon." They don't rely on influences to see them through. They have enough natural talent and creativity to make something original and spectacular.

It's a fine line between assimilating your influences and imitating them. Succeed, and you shake off the "Government Flu." Fail, and you're just a "Buzzbomb" cornered at the 7-11.

Sent by Nick L. | 1:54 PM | 6-12-2008

What probably bugs me the most on old vs. new is when artists assume, or worse, are seemingly told by their marketing team, that quirks or a fresh smoking jacket might be enough to create a musical identity, whether or not talent is included.

Don't get me wrong, I do understand that bands become better trained and more dynamic the more the play and release work even though their first offerings were good in their own right for their freshness. Yet, I am seeing bands not grow in their artisianship, but instead repackage their nichy and now annoying idiosyncracies into a a veritible market flood.

I can take the occasional retro approach like Winehouse's, which sounds uniquely hers, as well as I can take Newsome's new take on regionalism (I am still trying to work with "Ys"'s longer song cycles, especially since it seems to be one of the most sparkling longer song cycles in recent memory). I cannot do too much with whining vocals every time out, no matter how great the lyrics are, sorry, Connor. Perhaps a greater reliance on the "old masters" in this case would be helpful.

Sent by Tom | 2:05 PM | 6-12-2008

What are your thoughts on Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings? Or Daptone records for that matter? For me, when I discovered Ms. Sharon it led me to really dive into the originals of Soul/Motown/R&B.

I do think it's sad that the Dap-kings get looked over & Amy gets all of the attention.

I it's okay to have a more modernized version of a genre. It allows the new listeners to be exposed to it for the first time (especially the MTV watchers) and hopefully they will take some time & really explore where it came from.

Sent by Court | 3:48 PM | 6-12-2008

My goodness, New Jersey's "A Girl Called Eddy" (real name: Erin Moran) put out one of most outstanding blue eyed soul album in memory a couple years ago. The mainstream missed out. See: http://www.myspace.com/agirlcallededdy

Sent by Bernard | 3:59 PM | 6-12-2008

I think that Man... or Astroman? was successfull at reviving the Surf sound and campy asthetic while still sounding fresh and new vs. a band like Los Straightjackets (which I love by the way) which is more of a nostaligic rehash of Surf music......with wrestling masks. Since I have summer and the beach on my mind that was the first example I could think of.... Also, I'm not really annoyed at the Amy Winehouse/Duffy sound as it is more pleasent to listen to then alot of mainstream pop music (ie. Pink/Spears/Simpsonesque music). I think maybe some 90's St. Etienne songs were more sucessfull at adding something new to the genre though...

Sent by Poster.... or Astroposter? | 4:21 PM | 6-12-2008

The difference with these new British soul singers is that the drums are louder. And they sprinkle their lyrics with profanity. What more do you want?

Seriously though, the Dap-Kings (Amy Winehouse's band) are awesome. Have you heard the (American) Sharon Jones album?

I do like Sharon Jones, yes. -CB

Sent by Jake | 4:39 PM | 6-12-2008

This post is so great. I think when music sounds derivative for the sake of commercialism, that's when it gets boring. Remember when Mariah Carrey did that spot-on cover of "I'll Be There"? There was no innovation, she wasn't taking it to the next level, she even found that back-up singer who sounded just like Tito... she was doing a strict homage (or rip-off, but let's be generous) to the great Jackson 5. And lots of people made lots of money by putting a fresh young face on a timeless song.
What's much more heartening though is appreciating the evolution of sound granted by new artistic vision. I feel this way about Nina Simone and Antony. Or the Kinks and Malkmus. When an artist is clearly standing on the shoulders of giants (it's impossible not to), but with reverence and ingenuity, then I just get to love everything from a new direction. Listening to "The Village Green" makes me love "Face the Truth" even more, and vice-versa.

Sent by Carolyn | 5:32 PM | 6-12-2008

Something very telling about Strawberry Shortcake's revision is that she has replaced her cat with a cell phone. I think that appropriately touches on what it is that we are to value in these new versions. It's not the soul, but the recognizability that we're to appreciate.
Strangely enough, some bands attempt to be imitative and are strikingly innovative. It seems bizarre that The Contortions or The Ramones tried so hard to sound like musicians that came before them, yet they carved their own niche so effectively. I believe that in being naive about music marketting, those sorts of bands managed to maitain a level of purity that we don't question. It's when we see the industry push and the selling of a band that we start to raise flags about imitative properties.
Robert Gordon vs. Shanana
Dale Watson vs. Billy Ray Cyrus
It's clear that the people on the left above tried their hardest to capture the music of people that have gone before them, just as those on the right only went so far as to be recognized as playing the part.

Sent by Nick | 5:34 PM | 6-12-2008

I just did my own post on how I wish bands would stop shamelessly copying the 60s and 70s. Obviously there's a well of wonderful source material from these decades, but I feel like enough is enough. Let's make our own sound. As far as Strawberry Shortcake - why couldn't we just have one frumpy doll??

Sent by Simone | 5:39 PM | 6-12-2008

I'm sick of personalities and marketing concepts. I just want people and songs.

And anyone who tries to rip off Miss Dusty Springfield is spoilin' for a knuckle sandwich.

Sent by margo | 5:48 PM | 6-12-2008

A 15 year old Lulu syncing like a pro on the premier 60s popular music show "Ready Steady Go!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0YV_cW1BWk&eurl=http://video.google.ca/videosearch?q=lulu%20boat%20that%20i%20row&ie=UTF-8&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:
(wee interview at the end)

They played the entire series of Ready Steady Go! again in the 80s on British TV and my dad taped every one. I watched them over and over - 4 tapes worth for a good chunk of my formative years. Well worth searching Youtube for gems like Paul McCartney judging a Brenda Lee miming contest, or the Beach Boys' first appearance on British TV. Dave Clark had bought the rights so I had to fast-forward through countless "Glad All Over"s, which he'd shamelessly spliced into the original show. Now *there* was a shockingly imitative band:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2UGUHnDwXU

God, I hated Dave Clark.

I see The Hives in that clip; another pretty pointless band, although there's a knowing, tongue-in-cheek aspect to their shtick, making it more openly entertainment rather than masquerading as art.

Sent by Claire | 9:33 PM | 6-12-2008

Yes! Lets cross the pond and talk about the birds for a moment, to quote Poly Styrene "It ain't hip if you are retro...". Seriously anyone who is going to stay behind these Duffy's, Adele's or whoever- for the long haul must be passing the pipe with Miss Winehouse. Remember The Pipettes? I believe our old pal Everett True had something to do with or latched on to them as the next thing. Going for the Girl Group look and sound but coming in very thin. Please England I'll take The Breakaways any day. REJECT!

Sent by david donahue | 10:06 PM | 6-12-2008

I'm more bothered by the opposite: why the incessant need for newness? I suppose the 20th century transition of music from a performance-event to a recording-object created that expectation, but I think it's fucked up. I want to hear music that sounds like the late greats (if it actually succeeds) for the same reason that I want to hear the late greats - because it's great. If you found out that Back to Black was a long lost Dusty Springfield record and Winehouse has just been lip syncing, would that change your opinion of it?

Sent by zebabrt | 12:00 AM | 6-13-2008

I always thought Annie Lennox--with both the Eurythmics and in her solo work--was a great example of reinventing blue eyed soul. I remember waking up out of a sound sleep at 3 AM to hear her cover of The Clash's "Train in Vain" on the BBC and not recognizing it initially--keys instead of guitars, that amazing angular horn arrangement and some soul shoutin' for sure.

Of course, in her previous band, The Tourists, she totally got it wrong with her cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want To Be With You." Nothing inventive there. Here's the evidence...it's worth watching for the bad 80's new wave clothing alone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cXOesI1Aw0

Sent by Vortex | 12:31 AM | 6-13-2008

Cilla is just hideous. Rotten voice, (apparently) rotten attitude. She sums up everything for me that's wrong about cheap entertainment here in the UK. And Dione Warwick can't stad her bceause she ripped off every song that Warwick ever did, without the class.

Sent by Jo | 2:40 AM | 6-13-2008

Perhaps its a generational mistrust of the present:
I only buy older artists on vinyl because I think it deserves the medium, and I'll want to hang on to it-
And usually buy new artists on cd, throw it in the case logic file, it'll probably only have one or two good songs on it.
All this, and yet, I still accept that the first omd record, organisation, sounds so much like eno! Yet, I love it, listen to it over and over.
What is that?
Somehow years add validity. I sound ancient, but I'm not, really.

Sent by 2hb | 3:02 AM | 6-13-2008

yeah I see what yr. saying... honestly I didnt see British soul singers become a gimmick until I saw "duffy's" video/ that's when I was like oh great here we go again- BAND WAGON! But up until then I always admired that Brits had a love for soul being that I come from a soulful musical background... When I very first heard of & seen Winehouse I was impressed up until she became this new it girl pop persona basically/ but I thought she has been the only one to bring about a very nostalgic yet eccentric look of her own/ I mean u see the Pipettes & bands like that doing it but Amy's was a lil more personified Nehoo its not like I have her music on my ipod or anything BUT honestly in real R&B music or the R&B that use to be/ that nostalgia has brought upon continuously & successfully all the time. Although again I dont have this artist's music on my pod or anything especially now/ but I think JOss STone has definitely brought forward Teena MArie's sound even though Im not sure whether she was inspired by her or whether she even knows who Teena Marie is.
I cant believe what they're doing to my Strawberry SHortcake! R-U serious?... ughhh that just aggros me ... honestly I dont like re-creation of something classic especially the way it keeps on getting exploited over & fuckin over like that's been the "trend" now for some time and its so lame obviously... I just wish ppl would be more original/ their sense of art is that they really have none these days for the most part & that's a really sad state of affairs...

BTW r u going to Capitol Hill's block party this year? ...u know it'll be way less nauseating than sxsw right?... lol

Sent by Marissa Dailey | 6:44 AM | 6-13-2008

For me, a good portion of Stereo Total's catalog fits into the category of making something old sound new. There are so many references in their music to 1960s French pop and 1950s American rock, but they've added so much that veers away from that to create a really original and modern sound.

Another example for this category would be The Exploding Hearts. Their music (and their aesthetic) was almost an exact carbon copy of countless 70s punk bands, and yet there was an indisputable quality of newness to their sound that just made them sound invigorating and exciting, rather than boring and cheap. I can't even put my finger on what this quality is, but it's there.

On the other hand, one band that comes to mind when I think of the word "regurgitation" is The Cramps. They did so many covers of weird 1950s songs, but they fall completely flat to me, because the original songs were so much weirder and interesting than the covers. I guess one could argue that they are a necessary link between that 50s freaky sound and bands like The White Stripes, but I don't get it. To me a band like the Gun Club would be a much more fitting link, as a band that took the same references further and with more irony and innovation than The Cramps.

Sent by nikki | 11:46 AM | 6-13-2008

I was glad to see some other posters mention Sharon Jones. Though I loved her album last year, I couldn't bring myself to put it on my "best of" list because it might as well have been one of the best albums of 1966. I've had several debates about Sharon and (maybe more definitively) the Dap-Kings because of their goal to re-create exactly a certain sound. They may be 100 times more "authentic" than Amy, but are they doing anything for soul music by looking solely to the past? I love throwing on their record, but in the same way that I throw on some James, Aretha or Solomon. I applaud producers like Mark Ronson for finding ways of turning these songs into modern expressions of soul that echo the past but sound like today. Curious to see if everybody else thinks I'm full of it!

Sent by Chris | 2:15 AM | 6-14-2008

Ya know, if we're talking about Strawberry Shortcake getting a makeover to reinsert herself into the times- wouldn't some Madonna indicts be appropriate here?

(And a quick response to Zizek: Sugar-free cola is vastly different from regular soda if you ask a diabetic.)

Sent by Nick | 3:08 AM | 6-14-2008

I saw a live snippet of Bon Jovi singing Duffy's Mercy and my ears and my eyes are still mad at me.

Sent by rockynotbullwinkle | 9:53 AM | 6-14-2008

Les Zeppelin. Riveting take on the original (live, at least).

Sent by paul merrill | 9:25 PM | 6-14-2008

Bands have become so boring they can't make anything sound new again. I like Post-Bands music.

Sent by Tom Hendricks | 10:21 PM | 6-14-2008

Was mulling this over at work today while looking through the ipod, and remembered that a snarky Amy Winehouse review turned me on to Shirly Ellis last year.

Sent by Claire Claire Claire Bo-blaire Banana-fanna fo-flair fi-fi-mo mlaire Claire | 11:20 PM | 6-14-2008

Of course those British girl singers were pretty much pre-packaged and hyped up back in the early-mid 60s too. Seems like the music industry has come full circle back to that - it's more & more light entertainment, just as it was in those early days, until Townshend & Moon put the boot in. Maybe Winehouse is an attempt to bridge the gap between Cilla Black's light entertainment & Keith Moon's druggy destruction?

Sent by me | 6:48 AM | 6-15-2008

Wow, no one is talking about hardcore? Hardcore is one of the few styles of music that the original people involved hate the new bands. Most people from the early 80's (minor treat, black flag, bad brains, koro, die kreuzen) dont listen to hardcore anymore. Yet, hardcore is alive and well. Its pretty hard not to rip off the old bands. Also, please dont compare anyone to the Allman Brothers Band. You cant f*ck with Duane.

Sent by nicolai | 10:35 AM | 6-15-2008

i don't agree that the old strawberry shortcake was frumpy.

Sent by ld | 10:55 AM | 6-15-2008

I haven't heard a lot of these new "soul" singers. I think I've heard an Amy Whinehouse song or two just by accident. But I can't say I was impressed enough to go out and buy the record. As far as making the "old" into something "new", that's a bit harsh to even suggest something like that. Every artist "should" want to make something completely and totally different that is deeply connected to themselves. To me, the only thing that I look for: "Is this artist being honest with me?" If you truly hear the music, you can tell who's lying (a record label's creation) and who's not (a true writer/artist). Also, how much effort is put into the music? Is there too much visual than audio? Those are typically the most guilty of ripping off the past and making it watered down. I don't know if any of this was coherent at all, but I'm really tired. Hope it makes sense, because it's my 2 cents.

Sent by Jack | 1:18 AM | 6-16-2008

Dusty was truly a great. One of my all time favourites. Still, when she hosted The Sound of Mowtown for Ready Steady Go! and when she covered songs like Doodlin' by Baby Washington -- she brought attention to artists who may have never been given a chance by the British public. In a way that's a bit what Amy Winehouse has done. It may be a fast passing trend.. but finally its possible to hear a good bit of pop-soul in unexpected places. I agree that Duffy is crap but I would hesitate to put Amy in the same category, Back to Black, came out in 2006 and essentially re-started the craze. Besides for those of us who really adore 60's girl groups it's a far better fad than all those horrible prefabricated indie boy bands. Maybe it just a question of predilection.

Sent by Kelly | 7:01 AM | 6-16-2008

Sometimes good is just good. The new wave of British throwback soul to me beats the hell out of embarrasing modern American soul music like Fergie.

Sent by NewmRadio | 12:19 PM | 6-17-2008

Oh yeah, and why is Sharon Jones exempt from the throwback backlash? She's not doing anything new but she's doin' it!

Sent by NewmRadio | 1:55 PM | 6-17-2008

I would have to say DeVotchKa's "Venus in Furs" originally by the Velvet Underground made it sound pretty new again, as well as (tho this was a while back) Orgy's "Blue Monday" originally by New Order.
And that band Nouvelle Vagues that does covers of all kinds of awesome punk songs sound new and latin-inspired.

Sent by Charlotte (Rose) Holden | 8:33 PM | 6-17-2008

I agree with a lot of what you had to say. But I will say that I actually like Adele a lot...I think she has a stronger voice than Winehouse, and dare I say that I also like her because she's tall and not a size 2.

While not female, I would also mention The Heavy as a band that has a sound that borrows from the old, but I think sounds decidedly new.

And lastly...I am sad about Strawberry Shortcake- every character redesign now is so heavily influenced by Anime. Now I am waiting for the new Holly Hobby. I bet they get rid of her bonnet!

Sent by girlwithglasses | 10:55 AM | 6-18-2008

With the way everything has become one long, ironic wink or a rehash of some part of our past (take every single hipster sporting hideous retro 80s fashion, for example) I am more than fine with someone like Duffy making the kind of records she's making because they at least seem fairly genuine to me. Maybe I am a sucker because I love the era of music she is so painstakingly invoking, but it somehow works for me.

Sent by chriso | 1:44 PM | 6-18-2008

just saw this and really appreciate the post. i find all of these 'new' brit soul artists to be way too gimmicky...I'm sure we'll see them again and, what's troubling to me, is that I don't think that people will be re-introduced to dusty springfield or lulu, they'll accept these as a new sound. Not too mention how consumable Amy Winehouse and Duffy are, in particular, because they are white women with soul...or enough of it to pass. Can we say Justin Timberlake (who I have gotten down to a few times)? The way we consume race (and gender) in music hasn't changed much...

Sent by Andreana Clay | 3:41 PM | 6-18-2008

I call it the Willy Wonka Effect. When they remade Willy Wonka with Johnny Depp, all my peers were like, "Why would they ever remake that movie? It's already a classic!"

Why? Because five- to thirteen-year-olds don't want to watch a grainy Gene Wilder flick from 1971 with funny special effects and a sentimental tone. They want a movie they can relate to in the style that they are accustomed to, even if it happens the same movie, it's theirs.

Once I tried the anti-covers argument with a musician, and she responded that Jimi's first single was a cover - "Hey Joe." Zeppelin and the Stones made careers from blues covers. Is anyone a true original?

And most every guitar player starts by playing someone else's tune. This is our folk music, and we regurgitate it anew with every generational cycle. So it goes. . . .

"Your Coca-Cola doesn't taste the same as it used to." - Deltron 3030

Sent by Pat | 3:59 AM | 6-19-2008

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are modern day classic.
These modern retro sounding artists are doing a huge favor to the music community in helping younger listeners discover more roots rock- and that's good news for the original artists as well. This is good for everybody. Music = Love

Sent by GladGirl | 3:02 AM | 6-20-2008

I'm sort of mad that I didn't think of this first, Carrie. It seems like every other week I hear of a new "British songbird" or "British soultress" on VH1 while eating my morning cereal. What is with this fad? I never really thought about it being a new version of something old. El Perro Del Mar, from Sweden, is in that vein as well. I'm not sure what it all means, but your observation helps.

Sent by Stacia | 11:10 PM | 6-22-2008

Not to be a world class suckup, but for me "The Woods" was one such positive example of what you're saying about taking an older style and rebirthing it in a new and interesting way. Additionally, unless I'm mistaken, this also seems to be the theme of the song "Entertain."

Sent by Scott Lindstrom | 2:37 AM | 7-7-2008

in this day of "perception is reality"... there is a certain don't ask, don't tell I see in music today.

Just as much as there are artist that want to get away with their false muse ... there are fans that want to believe it.

Sent by daniel | 4:07 PM | 7-7-2008

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