“Now is not the time to be mindless”: Why Mick Jagger’s new song is “drivel

Having read this righteous piece, I’ve changed my mind about that song, which I was too quick to celebrate (desperate, as I am, for just a bit more sane protest out there).

From Bob Lefsetz:

(Jagger’s video of “Easy Sleazy”:

Somewhere Keith Richards is smiling, if not outright laughing. Without him, Mick Jagger appears completely out of touch with no soul. Mick may be the front man, but who is behind him turns out to be the essence of his success.

This is not the first time Mick has tried to go solo. And he always fails, even with the biggest push behind him. His Columbia albums of yore were too slick, anything but down and dirty, as if made by a posh guy who went to the London School of Economics… Whew, that’s what he did, right? Is that who he is? Has he been hanging with the rich and famous so long that he has lost his perspective?

Even worse is Dave Grohl. This track reveals the flaws of Mr. Rock Music up front and center… Dynamics? THERE ARE NONE! So, it’s loud and in your face, but it’s easy to reject, easy not to pay attention, furthermore, it’s all so SAFE! Rock and roll used to be dangerous, but Dave Grohl is the guy you want to bring home to mom, explain that to me please.

Of course this track has no traction, not even a million plays on YouTube as I write this, the fact that he’s a Stone is irrelevant in a marketplace where status and hype are secondary, if relevant at all, to the music itself. The penumbra has never meant less, can you deliver the goods?

Where has Mick been camping all these days? We’re looking for something gritty, insightful, that captures our feelings. Instead we’ve got a rich guy playing the guitar expressing emotions…not at all. Yes, the lyrics say something, but the delivery is all one note.

As for the lyrics… He almost appears to be pulling a Van Morrison, anti-lockdown. But upon further reflection it appears… Well, it’s not exactly clear what he is saying, other than lockdown is ending. But I’d rather dance in the streets to Martha and the Vandellas than this crap.

And it’s not the 1960s anymore, where I’m forced to listen to what I don’t like until maybe I do, like it that is. It’s painful to make it all the way through “Easy Sleazy,” I only did because I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something, so that I could write this screed with full authority, but you aren’t missing anything if you check out early.

And “sleazy”? That’s not a word I think of when I contemplate the covid lockdown, nor emergence from it. Sleazy is late night in the dark high on drugs, it’s never sleazy with the bright lights on, and this track is nothing if not bright.

Come on, listen to the intro to “Gimmie Shelter”… “Easy Sleazy” is just the opposite, but one can argue today is darker than yesterday, now is not the time to be mindless.

As for singing about what is happening now… It works with gravitas, just ask Neil Young, with “Ohio,” never mind Marvin Gaye with “What’s Going On.” As for more recent numbers capturing the zeitgeist…it’s hard to find them, at least successful ones. We’re told by the successful to write a song with a score of people and dress well so you can tell the audience what they’re missing out on, so they can envy you, when the truth is they should run in the opposite direction. There’s no truth-telling like there was with N.W.A. and Ice-T and the seers of yore. I mean the cops just killed somebody in Minnesota, shouldn’t the song be about that instead of partying?

Once upon a time Mick Jagger captured the zeitgeist, now it’s nowhere to be found in his life or his lexicon, he’s lost touch. Now is when you make a statement, this track no different from George Bush telling everybody after 9/11 to go out and shop, to keep the economy humming, the real issues? Oh, of course “Easy Sleazy” goes deeper than that, but its message is so confusing, there’s so much irony, that it goes straight over the heads of those who do listen, and it’s not like the focus is on the lyrics anyway, they’re overwhelmed by the buzzing guitar sound.

A sound Keith Richards never employed.

Keith Richard was the anti-gunslinger, the anti-guitar hero. Forget playing a lot of notes in a small period of time, he frequently played no notes at all! It was about chords, sound, closer to the Edge than Yngwie Malmsteen.

You see most of creativity, most of excellence, happens between the ears. That’s the essence of rock and roll, that’s the essence of the Ramones, you don’t need to be highly skilled to get your message down, to make a great record, but you certainly have to think about it. It’s about channeling God, capturing lightning in a bottle, if you do it right the zeitgeist is right there in the grooves. If you find the zeitgeist in “Easy Sleazy” you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones.

Come on, compare Nirvana with Foo Fighters, Cobain with Grohl. And this is less of a put-down of Grohl than an exaltation of Cobain. Anybody can go through the motions, but to ascend to the pantheon you need a certain vision, a certain attitude, a willingness to push buttons and test limits…can you say “John Lennon”?

You can also say “Keith Richards.”

Keith has led anything but a perfect life. Better to watch the movie than live it. But he’s never wavered from his focus on creating the best music, with the essence of life, attitude and truth involved. Has he always succeeded? No, but he’s never failed on the level of Mick Jagger.

Mick needs Keith’s pull to keep him in line, to focus him, to bring him down to earth. Just like Bono needs the Edge. It’s Edge’s guitarwork that anchors U2, not Bono’s lyrics, they’re just the cherry on top. Bono goes out and tries to save the world, but he’d have no voice if it weren’t for the Edge, who’s got almost no voice at all.

Mick thinks being a rock star is being famous. Riding the crest of the wave, being held up by the people. But if he did a solo show he wouldn’t be able to crowdsurf, no one would hold him up! Especially the ancient who are only going on name value.

“Easy Sleazy” is drivel. And the best thing about today is drivel can be completely ignored, can fall out of sight nearly instantly. Which this will do.

Mick… Check with Keith, check with someone with their feet truly on the ground before you take action, make another misstep.

As for Mr. Grohl… So you played with a Stone, who cares? At this point we’ve all had brushes with greatness, this song is barely better than a selfie. Now it’s about the work.

And you’ve got to work harder.

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