Sunday, August 10, 2014

I Am Miley Cyrus

A quick note: I offered to write about any subject whatsoever if someone could get my comments to show up again on other blogs. EcoCatLady came to the rescue with a tip on Akismet, which was great, but then she took me up on my offer to do an in-depth analysis of Miley Cyrus' cover of "Jolene", which was terrifying. I mean, it's cute to say you can write 800 words on an ironic subject. Then someone calls your bluff, and you have to stare into your computer monitor and face the hard the truth: you only have about 80 words in the hopper, and they are not even good words. But, a promise is a promise, so it's time to give it the old college try. Lord help us.

There is something gutsy about a cover. You are using someone else's thoughts and art as the foundation for your own. Let's be honest: it's copying. There's a repackage (hopefully), and you need to add a little something of your own, sure. But at the most basic level, you are borrowing someone's pride and joy. There's a line to walk.


While Cyrus has better pipes than I expected, and I think country is more in her wheelhouse than pop, the problem I have with this cover is that she does not walk that line. Its composition and cadence are almost identical to Dolly Parton's. And Cyrus lacks the depth and sadness of Dolly Parton's rendition. It's flat.


While a surprising number of artists have covered "Jolene" at one point or another, from Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling to The White Stripes, they at least had the good sense to take the song and made it their own. Cyrus doesn't, really. Hers is way too close to the original, leaving us to ask, "What did you add?"

And there's the added irony that, with her auburn hair and eyes of green, and Miley swinging around naked on a wrecking ball after covering a song about a home wrecker, that Miley Cyrus basically is Jolene. After you rub your crotch on Robin Thicke, it's hard for us to be all that worried about some other woman stealing your man. It's surprisingly easy for us to be worried about you stealing someone else's man.

But this criticism isn't entirely fair. After thinking about covers for the past couple weeks, I've realized that a lot of what I do on this blog is basically the same thing. Rarely any of the ideas on frugality or financial independence on the blog are truly original. Most are borrowed (liberally) from somewhere else. Roughly half of my posts are blatant covers of NPR stories, with a few more stolen from Behavioral Economics 101. Sure, I repackage them a bit, and add enough of my thoughts to at least claim the writing is my own. But it's not the same thing as coming up with truly original concepts.

And that's okay. I don't need to reject the idea of writing about early retirement just because I first heard about it from Mr. Money Mustache. And I can make peace with the fact that a lot of my writing is a take on someone else's. So long as you give credit, being first doesn't matter all that much, I figure, when it comes to ideas, or songs for that matter. Better to try to make the writing interesting, or at least honest. So if I can write about basic economics concepts just because the ideas are new to me, then I guess Miley can sing "Jolene". She at least made "Party in the USA". When you give that to the world, I figure you get a pass.

*Photo is from @boetter at Flickr Creative Commons.

41 comments:

  1. Holy Moly! You actually did it... and you even managed to make it relevant. I humbly bow before thee, oh master of the 800 word ironic blog post!

    I especially LOVE the observation that Miley IS Joleen. My, oh my! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! I'm so glad you liked it. I haven't written about music in a long time, and it feels weird to do so now. I have few words.

      And yeah, I could have written a lot more about Miley being Jolene, but my wife thought that I was bordering on being too harsh when I ran my thoughts by her. I may have started calling poor Miley names.

      Delete
  2. Personal finance isn't new, but if you add your own flavor it is, making it a little more personal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Even Steven! Yeah, the different perspectives are more valuable than ground-breaking ideas.

      Delete
  3. I always thought Miley was a pretty good singer…it's her personal behavior that makes me shake my head. I really also don't mind "covers" in the PF world, as long as people put their own spin and personality into it. I like to uncover the blogger's personality and follow along on their journey.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed on Miley. I really do like Party in the USA, too. I made sure that played at our wedding. That song is my jam.

      And yeah, so long as the blogger puts some of themselves into a cover, I figure that's completely fine.

      Delete
  4. That's awesome. I do love the Dolly Parton version of Jolene. It's not uncommon for people to retort that "there are no new ideas" as a defense for not creating their own blog/art/music, but how limiting a worldview that is! I'm glad you're writing your own spin on early retirement!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dolly's is really the best, isn't it? Nothing like the original.

      I'm going to try to come up with one original idea this month. My new goal!

      Delete
  5. On Miss Miley, I just can't even comment. Regarding the other stuff, I think you do an awesome job of taking others' thoughts and making them your own. I never tire of hearing your opinions on other people's stuff. I think that's what makes the blogging world so interesting. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, thanks, Laurie. And right back at you...I really enjoy reading your writing. I always tell people "I have this one homesteading friend..."

      Delete
  6. I think at some point though, for many artists, a cover isn't stealing. It's an honest tribute. It's a sign of respect, isn't it? It says, "Your original work moved me and spoke to me in such a way, that I want to recreate it myself". Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, no? Being a musician and artist myself, I can say that I would be floored if someone wanted to imitate something I've done. It would be a very happy moment for me. I can't say everyone would feel this way, sure, but I'd posit that most people do. Therefore, When you hear something awesome on NPR, that makes you think, and gets you excited enough to tell other people about it, I wouldn't call that ripping off NPR, it's the mark of a great story that inspires more work from its listeners. Original ideas are few and far between in the PF/FI/RE world. All we can hope to do is hone and debate those that have already been put out there. You're not a thief, just a prophet, spreading the good news.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those are good thoughts on covers. I don't mean to say it's really stealing, just that people are using someone else's music or art or writing as the foundation for their own performance, so they need to be careful. It can be a tribute, if done thoughtfully...it can be outright theft if it's done clumsily.

      I agree that genuine ideas are rare in PF, so I figure that allows more room for covers here than you might want to see in popular music.

      Delete
  7. Ah-mazing! This just made my day :) After reading through the first paragraph or so, I thought "is he going to bring this back to the PF community basically saying the same thing over and over again"... woo, I'm a fortune teller ;)

    Good on you for holding up your promise! I think we can all thank Eco Cat Lady!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You called it! I don't know if that means we're on the same wavelength, or if my writing is getting predictable. :)

      Thanks for the kind words, Alicia, and to EcoCatLady for making the post happen.

      Delete
  8. Heh, I had the same thought as Alicia =). It's true though, a lot of us do rehash topics, but as long as you infuse your personal thoughts and opinions in, it's still a tad different. Everyone has a different perspective on things, and I appreciate getting a new viewpoint every now and then. I think more than enough people find your take on things refreshing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right, so long as we add enough to say we're adding to the conversation, or taking it in a new direction, I think that's enough. So long as we contribute something, then I think that's fine. I worry that sometimes I basically just rehash and idea without putting enough of 'me' in it, you know?

      Delete
  9. The steps/writing may be all the same but it's in the personal application that we learn. That's what I enjoy reading from other bloggers. Hopefully I'm bringing some of that into my writing as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, you definitely are. There are too few Christian bloggers out there, Brian. Heck, I'm a Christian blogger but you would NEVER know it, from my writing.

      Delete
  10. Nice work DB40! Inspiring to see you write and publish something you were no doubt very uncomfortable to do!

    I think you highlight some great points in your review of Miley - in particular that it's so important to produce something that is uniquely yours. To me, the underlying concept is almost irrelevant, its the unique character that shows itself in whatever medium you choose that's most important. I love reading your posts because there's a real unique character and style you bring to your writing which I really enjoy, and I truly hope you recognise that and keep doing what you're doing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a really nice comment, Jason -- thank you!

      I'll definitely keep writing, but my pace is going to keep at a relatively slow rate as we're crazy busy these days, and blogging was just taking up too much of my time. I am aiming for once a week, and trying to just read others' blogs on the same pace...maybe one article of theirs a week.

      Delete
  11. Mindy Smith did a top notch cover of "Jolene". I agree with the "cover" designation to most ideas. You hope that a topic will hit the right reader at the right time. I would write a post even if nobody read it. (which sometimes happens). The process of gathering and galvanizing your thoughts is a solid reward. I do like Miley Cyrus. We have 3 girls who loved Hannah Montana. She has gone off the deep end, but I hope she'll mature and tone things down a bit. Unlikely, but she can do what she wants.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, she's going down a weird path but I did, too, in my twenties. If I had a camera on me in my twenties, it would have not been as pretty as what Miley is doing, so I can't judge too much.

      I'll go check out Mindy Smith now...thanks for the recommendation!

      Delete
  12. I'm not on the Mikey love train. Sorry! Her music isn't anything groundbreaking, and just because you're nude doesn't mean you're an artist. Also hated when she rants about how much she hates kids. They built your career. I get it that you're all into being "edgy" now. But why real against the demographic that made you?

    Because you're desperate for attention. Of any kind.

    Anyways, the PF community does do a lot of covers. I can't lie, sometimes I get bored. But never here. :) You keep doing what you're doing...it's great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dang it... *Miley. Phone. Sorry.

      Delete
    2. I didn't even know that she ranted about hating kids. What a jerk. Now I hope she gets accidentally pregnant and has, like, triplets. Really loud triplets.

      Delete
    3. And thank you so much for your sweet comment! That really made my day.

      Delete
  13. "Roughly half of my posts are blatant covers of NPR stories, with a few more stolen from Behavioral Economics 101." Well, I can say that you certainly add a bit to the pf blogosphere niche. I don't know anyone else who focuses that much on NPR and Behavioral Economics!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know. I'm dreading the day when Ira Glass sends me a letter demanding royalties.

      Thanks for the kind words, David!

      Delete
  14. Hey, I actually think she sounds awesome. I'm just glad she has hair on her head in the video!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is nice to see Miley with long hair. That pixie cut is offputting.

      Delete
  15. Loved your twist about coming back to personal finance! I'm not a Miley fan, but I do love the acapella version of one of her songs that she did with The Roots... but mostly because I love The Roots. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who doesn't love the Roots? I even like their version of Call Me, Maybe.

      Delete
  16. Ha ha... Brilliant stuff DB40!

    I had no idea any of your posts were from ideas from those other sources, and at the end of the day I come here because I like your style of writing, so even now I know where they originally came from, it really doesn't matter. There are very few truly original thoughts or ideas in the World at this point in time, even if you had one you thought was original, someone elsewhere probably already had it, so you could end up writing a post on it and someone could read it and think you'd copied it anyway. All about giving it your own personal spin and making it fun, readable, and interesting and informative, which you achieve easily with your post (case in point... this one!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, I steal just about everything.

      Thanks for the kind words!

      Delete
  17. I think you did a great job! I agree with you, that Miley didn't put her own take on it the way a good PF blogger would do. I can't get into Miley because her tongue is always in the way. I'm looking forward to you next Christian blog post. Are you feeling inspired?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think my next Christian post might be my first one. :)

      I need to work on that.

      Delete
  18. Wow! Being able to relate yourself and PF to Miley Cyrus, that is crazy and quite funny. Thanks for this interpretation. I do get where you are coming from about PF not really being able to be original topics anymore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's tough to come up with original ideas, that's for sure. I figure we just need to own it.

      Delete
  19. I think we all do 'covers' even without realising it. The thing is though that some people have never heard the original version so our 'cover' might actually be new to them or even help them. As you say, we add our thoughts and opinions to the topics and that's what counts!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I *absolutely* love that you did this, and--quite frankly--think that you should let us do more for you in exchange for giving you topics to write about ;-)

    ReplyDelete