Ken Tucker ponders the fates of Garth, the Boss, and Alanis
The music-buying public has spoken, and they have said ?thank U? to Alanis Morissette… and ?good-bye.? The results are in from what the music industry had dubbed ?Super Tuesday? — Nov. 17, when a slew of top music acts released new product, and the immediate effect was to push Morissette?s “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie” down from its previously secure No. 1 position on the Billboard pop chart down to an ignominious No. 8. Lassoing the top spot is Garth Brooks? “Double Live,” which Brooks had promoted with an NBC live concert, the marketing gimmick of multiple CD covers, a slashed price, and, most insidiously, an unavoidable TV commercial featuring Garth as a wild-eyed, giggling Santa Claus — scarier than anything in “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.”
The guy in the big cowboy hat is shameless, but danged if it didn?t work. He beat out — in descending order on the new chart — rapper Method Man, the distinguished poet Jewel, the increasingly underdressed Mariah Carey, the unsinkable Celine Dion, punk knuckleheads Offspring, and hip-hop vet Ice Cube. (For the completists among you, rounding out the top 10: Morissette, ?N Sync, and Jay-Z.)
What?s it all mean? Well, for one thing, that the pop-music world at the moment is a gratifyingly diverse one, in which hardcore hip-hop can sell as plentifully as yee-haw country or polished singer-songwriterliness. Quick, though — pop quiz: What element is missing from the list? Right: mainstream rock.
In fact, that term mainstream is becoming downright contradictory, as old-fashioned rock & roll gets pushed to the fringe of What?s Happening. The perfect symbol of this occurred the same week as Super Tuesday, when Bruce Springsteen chose to promote his slow-selling new boxed set on PBS? “The Charlie Rose Show.” Mind you, I?m not putting down either the Boss or Charlie here: The interview was, as Garth might say, a good ‘un — thoughtful, articulate, occasionally moving. And the fact that it was also completely irrelevant to what?s going on in pop right now made Springsteen seem like a character from one of his own songs, lonely and heroic. Bruce, meet Alanis, you two truly former infatuation junkies.