Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #93: "Junior Dad" -- Lou Reed/Metallica

What the fuck can be said about this project that hasn't been said or written already? Seriously, I'm just going to be rehashing either my own opinions or opinions of others at this point.

Lulu was simply the most interesting record of 2011. Not the best, not the worst -- nothing to do with quality. Its mere existence was reason enough to pay attention, and the end result -- beginning with the release of "The View" in September -- was chock-full of things to talk and write about. If there was any album in 2011 about which someone could write an essay, or even a dissertation, it was this. And maybe Gaga's Born This Way.

It's always tough reviewing music, because if you take a given song, you're always bound to have mixed opinions. Plenty may not enjoy that song, but there's certain to be someone out there who finds it the best thing ever. Such was the case of this album. Despite being panned by a number of critics, there was always those select few voices who called it something much better, and you subsequently begin to question your own opinion. Maybe you're not looking deep enough into the music enough. Maybe there's a level to the songs that you haven't quite reached.

But you know what? Fuck it. I don't care. This album sucks.

Despite this, there were some bright spots, as one might expect. After all, this is still an album created by two of the most well-respected entities in rock history. You don't rise to prominence without having some sort of talent in your bones. This is most evident on Lulu's closing track, "Junior Dad."

Much of the album is at least in some part meditative, or at least it seems that way for Reed. But "Junior Dad" is the best such example, not only for Reed but for the listener as well. At nearly 20 minutes, "Junior Dad" is sprawling, but cohesive. Metallica doesn't go all out on this one, decreasing to their most reserved as they back Reed's meandering vocals.

Reed doesn't overpower Metallica, and Metallica doesn't upstage Reed. One vastly standing out over the other (bear in mind that 'standing out' in this case does not necessarily mean anything good) is an issue the rest of the album struggles with, and Reed and Metallica can scarcely melt together to form a cohesive group. You want collaborations to be seen and heard as one entity formed by two-or-more different, separate entities, not a hodge-podge of whoever can stand out the most.

What "Junior Dad" does is the opposite. In it, Reed and Metallica mesh together beautifully (and at long last -- the song is the last on the album), Metallica creating a solemn score to Reed's spoken-word.

Lulu is one of those albums you should actually listen to the entire way through in order to gain your own understanding of the piece, but if you're pressed for time and need just one song, it's this. It's a symbol of what the album could have been -- introspective, cohesive, and beautiful.

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