It’s on. The trash talking has started with a flourish and it’s time to brace yourself for a good, old-fashioned, bare-knuckled slap down. The creator of the TV program ‘Glee’, Ryan Murphy, has let rip at Kings of Leon, accusing them of more or less trying to destroy musical education and crushing the hopes and dreams of children everywhere. The term ‘traditional rivals’ is no more meaningful than when the combatants in question are a rock band and a teenage musical comedy show. Clearly, there is no love lost between them.
Music thrives on competition. Lennon and McCartney. The Captain and Tennille. Eminem and his mother – there are rivalries everywhere in music. That the protagonists operate in very different worlds may lead you to think this battle might be one-sided. All things being equal, a television musical has no business picking a fight with a rock band. That’s like the Cast of The Sound of Music challenging Cradle of Filth to a duel. Or the Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz saying to Metallica, ‘you, me, car park, now’, albeit in a very high voice.
Leaving aside the difference in genre, feuds between musical acts are a tradition stretching right back to Mozart and Salieri. In recent decades we’ve seen The Beatles verses The Stones, Duran Duran up against Spandau Ballet and Blur going at it with Oasis. Mostly it was good, clean, harmless fun. Rappers took it to another level in the 1990s by introducing firearms, but left it to the black metal bands of Norway to perfect with a combination of both homicide and church burning. This, however, is as nothing compared to the wrath currently being aimed at Kings of Leon.
First things first: exactly how did Kings of Leon manage to get themselves on the wrong side of Glee? Did they run over a cast member in the band bus? Refuse to participate in lamington drive? Sadly, no. Instead, they exhibited the temerity of those who think they have brass for bollocks by refusing permission to use one of their songs. The sheer nerve. The band were diplomatic in their refusal, citing concerns of ‘over-exposure’. They should have been more worried that their song would be ‘Glee-efied’, a process by which every sharp edge is shorn off and the hardiest of rock anthems is swiftly placed on the express train to Naffville. The band even went so far as to emphasise that it wasn’t personal and that they turn down heaps of licensing requests. It was to no avail. Ryan Murphy accused them of missing the ‘bigger picture’ which was that “a seven-year-old kid can see someone close to their age singing a Kings of Leon song, which will maybe make them want to join a glee club or pick up a musical instrument. It’s like, OK, hate on arts education.”
That’s right. A simple refusal was elevated to the status of hate crime. As the band themselves put it, the whole thing had gotten ‘out of hand.’ Whilst Kings of Leon avoided criticising the show, that doesn’t mean others can’t sink the boot in. If ever there was a television program that was cruisin’ for a bruisin’, it’s the toned pop moppets on Glee. Consider the numbers: more than five million in album sales. Terrifyingly, in 2009 the cast of Glee had 25 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Twenty five! That leaves them second only to The Beatles for most entries in any calendar year. In terms of all-time hits, they’re now second only to Elvis Presley. This is not so much disturbing as it is an affront to humanity. There’s just no way that the list of greatest musical acts should read The Beatles, followed by ‘the cast of Glee’.
Let me be honest: I can’t stand what Glee does to music. It is, in essence, a sober kind of karaoke and has the same air of artificiality that turns junior beauty pageants from cute to creepy. If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s like regular music, only placed on a severe regimen of anti-depressants. It’s a shiny, glossy, sugary confection that may well be fine in small doses but, like fairy floss, should not be considered a substitute for a proper meal. If Glee was a food, the list of ingredients on the back would include things like hydrolysed protein, flavour enhancer 621 and stacks of trans fats. It would have no nutritional value whatsoever.
They must be stopped. It’s my belief that this air-brushed approach to music is forcing more traditional acts to take extreme measures in a desperate attempt to get attention. Just the other week saw Jimmy Buffet’s disastrous attempt to crowd surf go horribly wrong. What could possibly be next? Will Crosby, Stills and Nash end their show by forming a human pyramid? Will hard rock bands other than AC/DC start dressing as schoolkids? It’s time for action. Glee’s creator can say all the nasty things he likes, he just better make sure he can cash the cheque his mouth is writing. If Glee wants to rumble, then so be it. The war begins here.
If Kings of Leon are reading this, it’s time to man up. The hour has come in which you must throw down the gauntlet and prepare for battle. The cast of Glee ought to be invited around to the back of the shelter shed where any differences of opinion can be sorted out. Normally, such invitations to violence would be abhorrent, but these are exceptional circumstances. The survival of music as we know and love it now depends on you. Who’d have thunk it?