“Creep” by Scala & Kolacny Brothers (Amazon Advent Calendar day 20)

Album Art

Creep

Scala & Kolacny Brothers

Creep – Single

Genre: Alternative

You’d like to think that your musical tastes are fair, pure, and shrewd. You’d like to believe that you simply have an ear for good music and that if you applied a controlled, peer-reviewed scientific protocol for evaluating a song and deciding whether or not it’s worth ninety-nine cents to you, you’d find that the same input data would draw the same results every time. You’re not swayed by the fads of the day or by whatever mood you happen to be in at the time.

But of course, that’s rubbish. The tracks in your music library are the residue of that one specific moment in time when the song seemed to make sense to you. If you’re lucky, most of those tracks will continue to justify their places in your playlists and they’ll receive continued play. Inevitably, though, you’ll find yourself scrolling through the whole library and asking yourself “Why the hell did I buy this Celene Dion track?!?” and then the whole Incident will come rushing back to you.

(Lesson learned: if you agree to dog-sit your friend’s adorable terrier for a whole month, you should plan on a short period of emotional vulnerability after you give him back. It only lasts until you stop expecting little Corby to leap up at you and lick your face every time you come back home.)

(Shut up.)

And that’s just your personal life. You’re also being influenced by the culture at the time and by the trends that are controlling all of the popular music. For example, each generation’s youth-oriented anthems have had a slightly different response to a parent’s question “Why didn’t you go to school today?”

The 50’s: “I was way, waaaay too drunk.”

The 60’s: “Your generation went to school every day…and look how you screwed up the whole planet.”

The 70’s: “…Huh?”

The 80’s: “**** you and your ****ing corporate mother****ing manipulative bull****. I don’t have to ****ing go to school if I don’t ****ing want to. Did I say ‘**** you’ already? I feel like I haven’t said that. Well, my apologies if I’ve covered that ground already.”

The 90’s: “Because I’m stupid and I’m ugly and everybody hates me and I’m probably just going to kill myself next week anyway so what’s the point?”

When Radiohead released “Creep” in 1992, I was probably right in the middle of their target demographic. But I rejected it completely. Nirvana had proven that Self-Loathing Mopiness was extremely marketable. Dozens of labels noticed this. By the time “Creep” was all over the radio I’d had enough of that kind of music. Fortunately, music companies aren’t technically required to destroy all copies of every track that’s no longer a Top 100 hit. “Creep” resurfaced this year as the soundtrack of a brilliant teaser trailer for “The Social Network.”

The song is such a natural fit for Facebook and the rest of the social-networking experience that it seems incredible that nobody had ever used this song that way before. Just look at the lyrics:

I don’t care if it hurts,
I wanna have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul

I want you to notice
when I’m not around
You’re so very special
I wish I was special

But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doin’ here?
I don’t belong here

See what I mean? Facebook and Twitter and the rest aren’t inherently good or bad. I reckon that most of its users regard it as simply part of a balanced breakfast of social interactions. Facebook is the bowl of Choc-O-Berry Cookie Blasters in the middle of a tray of fruit, milk, juice, whole-grain toast, and a small plate of liver.

But too many people use it as a shabby, last-ditch outlet for the fundamental human need to say things and feel as though people are listening to you. Nobody knows your name at work and you’re certain that if you quit today, the new guy could sit through a training video and then do your job just as well. Or maybe you’re a kid, and your older sister with the drug problem and your younger brother with the good grades get all of your parents’ attention.

Whatever: Nobody ever interrupts you on Facebook. And at any given moment, no matter where you are, you can thumb a few buttons on your phone and see that there are 18, 32, 71, 139 people listening to everything you say.

That’s not really a good thing. “I want you to notice when I’m not around” is the line in the song that resonates so well with how social networking can be abused. Virtual communities are so attractive because they’re just so easy. You might even have 100,000 Followers on Twitter. That’s a thrillingly high number and isn’t it lovely that they sometimes say nice things to you?

But what have you done for them?

Aha: that’s the point. These people notice when you’re not around and they make you feel Special. But they’ll never phone you at midnight to ask if you could meet them at a parking lot 40 miles away and jump-start their car. They’ll never ask you to help them move. They’ll never come to you for support when someone they love is terribly sick and they’re scared. You’ll never be required to sit on the opposite side of a table at a restaurant and help them walk through a decision to end a relationship that isn’t working out.

When you’re in the middle of doing nothing at all, do you find yourself thinking about these people?

When you say or do something selfish via Facebook and you wind up hurting someone — and it doesn’t matter that you were simply careless and thoughtless — do you have to acknowledge your actions and deal with the consequences?

World Of Warcraft allows you to battle powerful people and creatures in close combat. But it’s all fake; there’s no chance of getting hurt. Facebook is a fantasy game of a different sort. It simulates social interaction, while removing all of the personal risk as well as most of the consequences of your behavior. That’s what makes it such a shabby substitute for the real thing. It’s not enough to want others to notice you and hear you. The goal is to give as good as you get.

The movie trailer brought “Creep” back to my attention at a time when that kind of song wasn’t part of a popular trend. I think my larger problem, though, was with the song’s original arrangement. It was laid out like a traditional rock song, which didn’t work for me. You can’t sing about how lonely and cut off from Society you are when you’re clearly surrounded by musicians and standing in front of 3,000 screaming fans, can you?

Further, it’s too aggressive. The lyrics are profoundly self-loathing and the anger should be all inward, not out.

I much prefer the solo, acoustic version, which came out on a reissue of “Pablo Honey” recently. This one comes across more like a problem that the singer thinks he’ll never solve, as opposed to the reason why he ordered all of those guns off of the Internet.

This third version in the “Social Network” trailer is haunting. Despite my earlier protestation that this song shouldn’t be performed by a whole band, “Creep” displays some powerful shading when it’s sung by a choir of young women. One person singing about loneliness is sad. A dozen or two people singing those lyrics at the same time can be profound. It illustrates the irony of the problem. Your feelings of being completely disconnected and cast out from society only underscore how human you really are. Everybody feels that way.

I’d like to believe that if any of these singers were able to shake themselves out of their self-loathing long enough to look around and see the other people in the room, maybe someone would say to another “OMG! You’re a creepy loser whom nobody would ever like? Me too!!! We should totally hang out!!!!”

(And then maybe the next tune would be something from “Mary Poppins.”)

Listen to “Creep” by Scala and Kolacny Brothers on Amazon MP3.

As always, the above link is embedded with my Amazon Associates ID. If you click it, any purchases you make during that Amazon session will result in my receiving a small kickback in the form of Amazon gift credits. I swear to God I won’t spend them on anything necessary or sensible.

12 thoughts on ““Creep” by Scala & Kolacny Brothers (Amazon Advent Calendar day 20)”

  1. I really liked this song (and it’s funny counterpart from the Twitter trailer parody), but I didn’t figure out it was Creep until a couple of weeks ago! I was pleasantly surprised.

    And, boringly, I must agree with your comments. :-)

  2. Stick with bad show tunes, trendy pop songs and poser Zappa picks Andy. In fact stick with writting about technology and keep music out of it. Unlike when you enthuse about the latest Apple product, when you write about certain other things your clear and clever prose make it obvious you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  3. @Rzeronr – Andy didn’t tell you what to like, he told you what he likes and why. If you don’t like the songs, then go post your criticisms to your group of Facebook ‘friends’.

    @Ihnatko – you hit the nail on the head re: why Facebook is a fail for those of us who have busy lives filled with real social interactions. In particular:

    “When you’re in the middle of doing nothing at all, do you find yourself thinking about these people?”

    I have read much of what you have written since the mid-90s, but you aren’t my friend (although if I happened to spot you on the freeway with a flat tire while you were on the way to the airport I would stop and give you a lift). Social networking takes the personal connections we have with people and turns it into a cheap simulacrum of the real thing.

  4. Your writing is of the usual exemplary standard; thought provoking, beard ruffling and is pleasantly melodic for the inner voice as the eyes glide though the passage.

    But I do think that Creep is a song not best sung my any choir, regardless of gender, age or sensitivity. I have always felt it is anthemic of a loner, albeit grunge I would concede, hunched on the floor of a dank broken-tiled bathroom. I think it is a song that should be torn down to it’s elements, not layered up with elegant sophistication.

  5. @zen: Radiohead is without a doubt my favorite pop-music recording and performance act. I love both the song and I quite like the Scala version. In fact Andy spent more time explaining why he doesn’t like the original recording as a way of saying why he prefers the cover, so I’m not sure I’m following your point.

    @zen/ihnatko: What I found to be ‘subpar’ about this particular entry was firstly the self-serving aspect of it in that it seemed like the song was chosen more for it’s connection to “The Social Network” and by extension Facebook than for the particular qualities of the recording (I find Scala’s other Radiohead covers preferable but hey, they weren’t in a trailer for one of the most profitable films of the year). Secondly Andy exposes some basic misunderstandings regarding the song’s narrative/meaning by mischaracterizing it as a personal song when in fact it’s about an imaginary character/scenario that is making a comment on expressions of masculinity and is not at all about self-loathing, but instead about self-realization. Of course the song can be about whatever the listener wants it to be about, so I’m not saying Andy is “wrong,” just that his interpretation is somewhat basic/uninformed and that it is more likely an interpretation that gave him license to write certain jokes about early 90s pop-music in general.

    I have actually taken issue with a few things Andy has written about music in these Advent Calendar posts, and as a musician and music scholar (Arnie signed a paper from the University of California to prove it! *wink* lol) who has a particularly passionate opinion of Radiohead I was *forced* to post your typical “snarky-blog-comment.” “You do it to yourself, you do / And that’s why it really hurts” Andy. ;)

    I apologize for my irreverence as I enjoy the blog a lot when it’s about things that Andy clearly knows more than me about; it’s just these Advent Calendar posts that have irked me slightly. You can make it up to me Andy by spending some of your dump truck full of money that you are *surely* making from these Amazon affiliate links on a vinyl copy of Autechre’s Oversteps https://bleep.com/index.php?page=release_details&releaseid=23072

  6. @rzerone – Hey, no offense taken! I was just curious about what got you so worked up about my post.

    You’re wrong on a couple of different points, though:

    1) I choose a song for the Advent Calendar chiefly because I legitimately love the song. I sure won’t pick a song because I can use it as an excuse to write about X.

    The only slight nod towards that sort of thing is the fact that when I’m looking through the 100 songs on my “Advent Calendar 2010 Candidates” playlist, I tend to choose the ones that are going to inspire something interesting. If the best I can say about Tesla’s cover of “War Pigs” is that “It’s awesome. Good rocker. You ought to try it” I might lean towards something else.

    I couldn’t really write about Scala’s other Radiohead covers because…well, I haven’t heard them, you know?

    As to the validity of my musical commentary — when I write about music, or movies, or books, I’m just telling everyone what I think. And on that basis, everything I write is absolutely right. This is my opinion. It might not be everyone else’s. How could I write from a different perspective, and still say anything valid?

    For instance:

    Secondly Andy exposes some basic misunderstandings regarding the song’s narrative/meaning by mischaracterizing it as a personal song when in fact it’s about an imaginary character/scenario that is making a comment on expressions of masculinity and is not at all about self-loathing, but instead about self-realization.

    I can’t really agree with this perspective. A song takes on a new meaning and a new life with every new listener. I’ve looked at the lyrics again and I don’t see any problem with my interpretation of the song. It’s written in the first person; who else is the speaker talking about? I’m not suggesting that the lead singer of Radiohead is describing himself, no more than Johnny Cash was suggesting that his birth name was “Sue” or that John Lennon was changing the name of his band to “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

    As for the interpretation as a song about self-loathing…here are the lyrics in full:

    When you were here before,
    Couldn’t look you in the eye
    You’re just like an angel,
    Your skin makes me cry

    You float like a feather
    In a beautiful world
    I wish I was special
    You’re so very special

    But I’m a creep,
    I’m a weirdo
    What the hell am I doin’ here?
    I don’t belong here

    I don’t care if it hurts,
    I wanna have control
    I want a perfect body
    I want a perfect soul

    I want you to notice
    when I’m not around
    You’re so very special
    I wish I was special

    But I’m a creep
    I’m a weirdo
    What the hell am I doin’ here?
    I don’t belong here, ohhhh, ohhhh

    She’s running out again
    She’s running out
    She run run run run…
    run… run…

    Whatever makes you happy
    Whatever you want
    You’re so fuckin’ special
    I wish I was special

    But I’m a creep,
    I’m a weirdo
    What the hell am I doin’ here?
    I don’t belong here

    I see plenty of support for that interpretation. I don’t particularly see your interpretation reflected in the lyrics, but who cares?

  7. “Creep,” coincidentally enough, was also covered this week on NBC’s a capella contest show, “The Sing-Off.” I liked it.

    Of course, I also liked when it was covered on “Rock Band” a few years back, too. Maybe I’m not purist enough…

  8. Hey Andy, since you don’t like “band” versions of Creep, I was wondering if you’d ever heard the “homeless mustard” version?

    > I listen to the O&A show daily at work so I’ll give a little back story here. When they brought this guy on they had no idea he could sing. It was just going to be a radio bit promoting their upcoming “homeless shopping spree” During the interview it came up that he has written some songs and could play guitar. So they went and got the man a guitar (he did not own one himself)

    A homeless guy invited on a crappy radio show, and one of the best renditions of creep I’ve had the pleasure to hear. And definitely the most raw: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXlzci1rKNM (see http://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/adzje/homeless_guy_sings_radioheads_creep_because_this/ for a comment thread made on the subject when the video first “came out” back then)

  9. @zen: Radiohead is without a doubt my favorite pop-music recording and performance act. I love both the song and I quite like the Scala version. In fact Andy spent more time explaining why he doesn’t like the original recording as a way of saying why he prefers the cover, so I’m not sure I’m following your point. @zen/ihnatko: What I found to be ‘subpar’ about this particular entry was firstly the self-serving aspect of it in that it seemed like the song was chosen more for it’s connection to “The Social Network” and by extension Facebook than for the particular qualities of the recording (I find Scala’s other Radiohead covers preferable but hey, they weren’t in a trailer for one of the most profitable films of the year). Secondly Andy exposes some basic misunderstandings regarding the song’s narrative/meaning by mischaracterizing it as a personal song when in fact it’s about an imaginary character/scenario that is making a comment on expressions of masculinity and is not at all about self-loathing, but instead about self-realization. Of course the song can be about whatever the listener wants it to be about, so I’m not saying Andy is “wrong,” just that his interpretation is somewhat basic/uninformed and that it is more likely an interpretation that gave him license to write certain jokes about early 90s pop-music in general. I have actually taken issue with a few things Andy has written about music in these Advent Calendar posts, and as a musician and music scholar (Arnie signed a paper from the University of California to prove it! *wink* lol) who has a particularly passionate opinion of Radiohead I was *forced* to post your typical “snarky-blog-comment.” “You do it to yourself, you do / And that’s why it really hurts” Andy. ;) I apologize for my irreverence as I enjoy the blog a lot when it’s about things that Andy clearly knows more than me about; it’s just these Advent Calendar posts that have irked me slightly. You can make it up to me Andy by spending some of your dump truck full of money that you are *surely* making from these Amazon affiliate links on a vinyl copy of Autechre’s Oversteps https://bleep.com/index.php?page=release_details&releaseid=23072

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