Ah, the mighty power of the crossover.
The Independent Film Channel is running a piece on crossover artists, dolls who sang about being the girl with the most cake but now have those bright Hollywood lights shinin' down on their new noses and bleached teeth. Perhaps the most endearingly bad crossover was that of John Travolta, whose stirring mid-'70s admission, "I'm gonna let her in, oh yeah," revealed both his tender vulnerability and total deficit of musical faculty. And one has to have a soft spot for Eddie Murphy's foray into pop music, with "My Girl Wants to Party All the Time." What song isn't improved by a wash of electronic handclaps?
Branching out is what creative people do, according to the documentary's interview with head-too-big-for-her-body Bette Midler. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that Fieldy, the bass player from "alternative rockers" Korn, is releasing a solo rap record this week. That's the common denominator, it seems, for most bad musical crossovers: stealing from the black man. Pat Boone did it to Little Richard when he stopped singin' 'bout the Lord full-time. Now Fieldy is attempting to trod the path of such greats as Kurtis Blow, Rakim, and Vanilla Ice. Apparently he's got more rhymes than Ashkenaz got bongos.
As a child, he had big chipmunk cheeks (still does, actually) so his nickname was "Gopher," or "Goph," which morphed into "Garf," then "Garfield," then, "Fieldy." He's a real rock 'n' roll gangsta who's got "bitches after all his riches." He's the stocky li'l fireplug member of Korn, looking out ominously over the crowd with bass low and knees bent, slapping away at his appendage. That's his style -- hitting his bass like it was a drum.
On his solo album, Rock 'n' Roll Gangster, Fieldy plays guitars, keyboards, drums, and bass, using live instrumentation instead of relying on samples. "It's so fun to listen to," he said in an interview from his LA home. "I have a good time listening to it. I've been listening to it for so long, it's gonna come out in a week and a half and I'm already sick of it." Unfortunately, most listeners will feel this way after one rotation. The dude cannot rap. He is, in the immortal words of some wise sage, "Wiggity wiggity wack." Sure, he's appeared on a Shaquille O'Neal record, but that alone doesn't mean he's "down." Nor is the cover, which sports a velvet painting-style illustration of Fieldy reclining in the back of a convertible with his ho's, some champagne, and piles o' money, meant to look Compton-style gangsta. "I'm not talkin' about gangbangin' or nothin,' " he said. "I'm just a rock and roll gangster." You know, the kind who does drive-by drum solos.
To his credit, Fieldy never claimed to expect much from this record, telling the press that if it was wack, it was wack. At least he had fun recording it. All in all, he's just a nice bozo who ended up a millionaire rock star in a band with a bazillion followers.
Musically, that band is worthy of admiration, since Korn really doesn't sound like any other. It is probably the ugliest band since Twisted Sister, yet -- unlike Dee Snider -- its members still manage to be sexually compelling. Jonathan Davis has prepubescent facial hair, Ichibod Crane legs, and a big tattoo on his arm that says "HIV," yet he still looks mighty bangable in that kilt he wears. Then there's the Bo Derek "kornrow" look they got goin' on. Munky, the guitarist, looks like a shaved Yeti in pigtails, but who among us wouldn't want that beast to throw us down and take us?
Korn's big appeal for dispossessed Columbine types stems from Davis' angst-ridden lyrics about being treated like crap as a teenager. Just check out Kornweb.com on the Internet, especially the section called "Fan Fiction." There is page after page of the same fantasy laid out by teenage girls: Singer Jonathan Davis sees them in the crowd, feels their pain, meets them later and wipes away their tears, takes them away from their abusive stepfather, falls in love with them. One girl outlines seducing him and then slitting her wrists while she is on top of him, as he "feeds on her blood."
Will this same audience go for Fieldy's solo hip-hop bit? Let's hope so for his sake, because true fans of the form sure won't. At least that's what Epic must be banking on. That's because nine-to-fifteen-year-olds will buy anything and everything associated with their chosen totems. Fieldy's album is but the latest in an increasing succession of attempts from the majors to cross-market their artists, either through collaborations or solo endeavors. Both ideas are not new, but are simply more prevalent these days. Why? Capitalism, baby. For kiddies, owning the new Fieldy CD will be like adding to a sticker collection or swapping Magic cards.
The ironic thing is that Korn fans define themselves by being the outsiders in a sea of marketed sugar pop; the anti-Britney Spears brigade. But in actuality Korn's freak status is way more marketable than a pretty face. The Us vs. Them angle is very lucrative. Just ask the Kiss Army.
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