I know I’ve said that before. And I’ll say it again, partly because it’s fun, but mostly because it’s true. Here’s why:
Longtime readers will note that we have somewhat of a code here at Popdose. It says that, if someone gives you a gift of music, the least you can do is listen to it once, regardless of quality. This code was created by, wait for it, Jeff “Fucking Asshole” Giles. And that’s the joy of Earmaggedon — torturing your close friends with the gift of music.
So after Jeff nearly caused me to rethink my position on capital punishment with Rappy McRapperson’s Live at Amway Arena, I sent him opera singer Cathy Berberian’s misguided attempt to turn Beatles songs into arias. That was in March 2012 and he still has not listened. Every time I’d bring it up, he’d gripe about being too busy with work or family commitments or home improvement projects and that he’d try to get to it when he can.
Berberian’s album is 35 minutes long.
I even recently sent him Gregg Allman and Cher’s unfortunate “Allman and Woman” album, Two the Hard Way, to remind him that he had an obligation. Still, nothing. Thankfully, he’s fully aware that he’s a miscreant, or else I’d have a copy of that new Barbra Streisand duets album in my download queue.
Meanwhile, immediately after sending him Berbarian’s album, I got an e-mail from Amazon saying that Dee Snider’s Dee Does Broadway was waiting for me. The nerve of Jeff Giles, who, may I remind you, is a fucking asshole. So now I’ve had this thing for two and a half goddamn years taking up valuable space on my iPod that could be reserved for half of yet another bootleg from Bruce Springsteen’s 1978 tour. I’m really left with no other choice but to sidestep the rules and review it in the hopes that it exposes Jeff for the prick that he is.
For the record, I really like Dee Snider. For starters, he’s a fellow Long Islander, which always goes a long way with me. I’ve heard a bunch of interviews with him over the years and he’s always been down-to-earth, smart and funny. And I love that he got the words “sick motherfucker” entered into the Congressional Record when he testified back in the days of the P.M.R.C.
His music, on the other hand? Well, that’s a different story. I mean, I liked “We’re Not Gonna Take It” as much as any white, middle-class suburban teenager who had no reason to rebel and didn’t know what “it” I wasn’t going to take, but otherwise Twisted Sister was never really my thing. Still, the rules are rules (see Jeff?) and I listened to him giving the heavy metal treatment to a record’s worth of Broadway classics.
Snider mostly sticks with songs that fit his persona. As a result, much of the lyrical matter leans towards decadence, camp and the macabre, so you get stuff like “Cabaret,” “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” and “Mack the Knife.” That works in his favor, because it wouldn’t have made sense for him to gently croon “Edelweiss” or do a jaunty romp through “Get Me to the Church on Time.” Strangely enough, Fats Waller’s “This Joint Is Jumpin’,” of the few tunes that doesn’t match that criteria, translates relatively smoothly to a hard rockin’ party anthem and works the best. “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame,” featuring a few Broadway veterans contributing background vocals, also has its moments.
Snider’s voice, it must be said, is in fantastic shape. You’d think 30 years of being a heavy metal screamer would have shredded his vocal chords by now, but he was still able to match belter extraordinaire Patti LuPone note-for-note on a medley of “Tonight” and “Somewhere” from West Side Story.
To his credit, you get the feeling throughout that he’s in on the joke. He’s not making some stab at credibility here with a sensitive reading of the Great American Songbook, nor is he trying to show his fans that there’s another world out there. It just seems like he recognized that there were some showtunes that fit in neatly with his image and decided to have a laugh by doing them up Dee-style.
That’s also the problem. Yes, he sounds great, but the sly wit found in these lyrics needs air to bring out their subtlety. Instead they’re bludgeoned within an inch of their lives. And he sings them in keys that often cause him to switch registers between lines. Most importantly, these songs simply don’t lend themselves to metal, and there are plenty of times where the arranger must have said, “These chords are too complex. Fuck it, play an A.”
Then there are the duets with the guest stars. LuPone, ever the pro, is up for the task, but Cyndi Lauper adds precisely no element of seduction to “Big Spender,” the vocal stylings of Bebe Neuwirth — who should know better — doesn’t mesh with the arrangement of “Whatever Lola Wants,” the sooner I can delete Snider’s and Clay Aiken’s assault on “Luck Be a Lady,” the better.
At its best, “Dee Does Broadway” barely rises to the level of failed vanity project. If you think of it that way, it’s kind of fun, even if you’ll never have a reason play it again. I’d like to think Giles sent me this because he felt bad after the McRapperson situation, but that would imply that he has a conscience.
Jeff? We’re waiting.