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Jeopardy’s Five Best Music Moments

Sure, selling almost 180 million records worldwide is pretty special. As is winning 17 Grammy Awards. But last week, Beyoncé’s legacy was bestowed with arguably the highest of all honors: She got her own category on Jeopardy. Personally, our favorite part was Alex Trebek’s delivery of the phrase “Jay-Z is featured on this Beyoncé song that mentions ‘that liquor get into me.’ ”

In case you missed this glorious moment, you can see it here:

See also: An Illustrated Guide to Beyoncé’s Insight and Empowerment

Jeopardy, of course, has a long and rich history of taking stuff that’s cool and sexy and For The Kids and making it sound extraordinarily awkward and sanitized and, rather ironically, really damn stupid. Here are some of our favorite musical moments from the show’s history.

1. We’re guessing a student intern was responsible for this.
In 2012, Jeopardy reduced much-lauded emotive indie quintet Fleet Foxes to “folk-rockin’ dudes” with this clue. To celebrate, Sub Pop Records tweeted a link to the incident and hashtagged “Trebek!” for good measure.

2. ‘The 1990s Rap Song’
In a particularly delightful episode of Jeopardy: The Battle of the Decades, there was, rather magically, a category titled “The 1990s Rap Song.” The questions — er, answers — included clues relating to Notorious B.I.G., Shock G, and MC Hammer, but it was Trebek’s enthusiastic renditions of Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Brain” and Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” that truly made this a special moment in TV game show history. This is possibly the most animated we’ve ever heard him.

3. Who Is Buddy Holly?
Sometimes, under pressure, contestants do crazy things on Jeopardy. One time, a guy actually ended up face-down, passed out, during Final Jeopardy, and another lady got laughed at super-hard by the audience for giving “Chris Farley” as a response to a Johnny Cash clue. However, it’s difficult to imagine how one woman, in response to the clue “His widow Maria Elena and actor Gary Busey were on hand when his star was dedicated outside Capitol Records in 2011,” came up with this:

We hope that when someone finally makes a movie about Ice-T, Gary Busey is allowed to at least audition. We would pay to see that.

4. Most Bizarre Clue Ever
We’re pretty sure you could put this in front of every single member of Mötley Crüe and even they wouldn’t answer it correctly. Who the hell came up with this?

5. ‘It’s a Rap’
Plucky contestant Mary holds her shit together really, really well until the very last moment of tackling the “It’s a Rap” category. What sends her over the edge? Trebek doing Public Enemy, that’s what. “I don’t know why that’s making you laugh so much!” the host declares. We think you do, Trebek. We think you do…


 

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ON THE SIXX

Nikki Sixx, the tatted-up bassist of Mötley Crüe who has inspired many a YouTube video on how to achieve his perfectly teased mop of hair, has a new book, This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography, and Life Through the Distorted Lens Of Nikki Sixx. Author of The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, Sixx has apparently turned to photography to help him heal from all of those drug-and-alcohol-fueled years of hard partying and Playboy Playmates. The book shifts from a photo journal to a personal journal (full of bits of advice he calls “Sixxisms”), featuring about 150 portraits, all taken by Sixx, of amputees, drug addicts, prostitutes, and the homeless, as a tribute to misfits and outcasts everywhere. Take your photo with him tonight at this signing.

Tue., May 3, 7 p.m., 2011

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New York Dolls

These CBGB veterans may be in their sixties, but they can still stomp out some of the most infectious glam-rock anthems in history. New full-length Dancing Backwards In High Heels is forthcoming, as is an opening slot for Motley Crue’s next tour, but the Dolls’ best tracks remain public transit lament “Subway Train” and the inner city kvetch “Personality Crisis.” Here’s proof that a band can get older while their fans stay the same age.

Wed., March 16, 8 p.m., 2011

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NERDS, NERDS, NERDS!

The details of An Evening With Chuck Klosterman are vague and kinda alarming, with a high probability of nudity . . . but then countless women know this already. (Oh, snap!) All we can decipher is that the affable music journalist, pinwheeling pop scribe of five books and columns for SPIN and Esquire, is presenting Girls Girls Girls, the debaucherous all-lady Mötley Crüe tribute band. This fits into his neurotic metal-fanboy persona perfectly—but what exactly is he gonna do: read new works? Perform interpretive dance? Tear up Billy Joel liner notes while walking on a tightrope? Whatever he chooses, it should be bizarre, erudite, and a bit confounding, but ultimately awesome—just like him.

Wed., March 18, 8 p.m., 2009

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Reissues Take the Piss Out of Slimy Jersey ’70s Band’s Catalog

Recommendation from Poison, Bon Jovi, and Mötley Crüe slobbers for Starz, mid-’70s Joisey metal act, as inspiration. It’s difficult to hear. Starz had a blaring bluntness, rarely duplicated by others, delivered in a handful of signature tunes—woman-hating set pieces for young, dumb, and full of cum “boys in action.” Conveying of the general themes: “So Young, So Bad” (couples “playing with dolls” to “playing with my balls”), “Subway Terror” (the singer likes to “dirty up” a victim’s “skirties” before he throws her onto the third rail), and “Pull the Plug,” the only endless blooz wail of amore and euthanasia for a loved one trapped in the iron lung. As end-stage care metal, its oxygen rebreather to the beat is second only to the ambulance siren in Bloodrock’s “DOA.”

The young Starz-men, who seemingly boasted on their first album of tasting like milk shakes when given head, are found in a four-CD reintroduction from Ryko. Plotting the curve, the records rate thus: Starz—A-grade stomps of large hook; Violation—more of same with 12-string-polished “Cherry Baby”; Attention Shoppers—the lead guitarist’s hair is gradually waving goodbye, leadership panics, and blue-movie power rock is forsaken for sap pop; Colosseum Rock—hammer-down riffing mostly minus the old juice.

The only thing missing is “Piss Party,” a publicity-getter aimed at shoving their semi-pretty boy, Michael Lee Smith, singing non-euphemistic filth over melodic hard rock, onto the airwaves. Most heard it as a radio broadcast concert committed to a promotional bootleg (or as Smith said, “you read about it” in cheesy rock mags). “PP” was a rap from a dirty paperback plus choruses: “Judy and Doris were casually sucking Bill when Bill decided to piss on both of them/The girls went wild licking the urine off each other. . . . They said, ‘Michael, if you come on over to our place/Michael, come on over and piss in my face!'” The national infrastructure for the networking of outrage and correction might have retrieved Starz’ career—but it was only 1977, and still under construction.

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Two Hours to Love

Most coverage of Mötley Crüe’s MSG freak show honed in on the spectacle, condescending for a moment of cheese while indulging itself in the fantasy that messed-up gender BS only happens on revival stages, amid pyrotechnics. Gee, Mötley Crüe sure are decadent. Did you watch their Behind the Music? Nikki was pronounced dead! Me, I thank the guy who played me Decade when I went punk in eighth grade, 1993. That guy is a huge loser now, lives in Ohio, works a real job, and I bet he and I like the band just the same—with Klosterman-style slack-jawed fawning. While I went to the Garden with my cool metal friend, I was really there with my swing-state skater boi.

The Crüe moved through two dozen songs—”some old shit,” relatively speaking, and their ’80s jukebox jams. Glam holdout Nikki Sixx pandered like a karaoke regular, rubbing against Vince Neil’s workingman tux and lining up for solos with Hot Mick Marrs. Marrs most recently shopped for a new hip and is the band’s human soul, so I grant him license to vibe Hot Topic. Tommy Lee had on some clothes, to avoid baby-arm rope burns while soaring between aerial drum kits in one of several regrettable instrumental interludes. And when time called for the Lee-palmed “tittie cam,” Vince baited Lee to balance it out by showing the junk. A small gesture, but enough to release me from the panic that I really should have been downtown at the Sleater-Kinney show.

Girls figured prominently in the performance. They went away on “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away),” just like Neil’s voice, which got filled in by 20,000 fans. They were aerialists beyond the pole on “Girls Girls Girls,” and acted out their Eve on “Same Ol’ Situation.” There were songs about drugs too, but none of the Crüe’s other famous genre—odes to E. praecox—which may prove that while they certainly are old dogs, they’ve mastered one decent new trick. At 24 years old, they lasted nearly two hours. I wonder if the same is true of my little skater. ‘Cause if so, I’d be willing to blaze a flame to “Home Sweet Home” again on the Crüe’s summer sweep-up.

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How To Be Smug

I remember watching a thousand girls sing along with “Wrecking Ball” and chant “Girl don’t go away mad, girl just go away!” with gleeful gleams in their eyes as if the songs must be about the girl next to them, who was a bitch and deserved every bit of disdain and contempt that Mötley Crüe could spill. Fine, no law against it, Crüe rocks. But it’s a fine example of “false consciousness,” wherein you identify with the interests of someone who’s doing very well by treating you like shit.

If you feel an allegory coming on, good call. But first, a few words on the first-ever pop music critic for The New Yorker. I basically like Nick Hornby; he wrote that cute book with John Cusack in it. In his current essay for his bosses’ music issue, he spills his cute wit over the musical question “What does the new Top Ten list mean?” Said wit is too fatuous to quote here, but suffice to say that the brains behind it make Vince Neil’s critique of the feminine sound like Nietzsche.

Mr. Hornby places himself in the tradition of Gore Vidal’s 1973 literary slugfest with the Times bestseller list. Curiously, Vidal had an actual point about the cheek-by-jowl appearance of the arty (Solzhenitsyn) and the crap (Jonathan Livingston Seagull), and went after them both—for him, the list “meant” that hi/lo was a sketchy distinction in the marketplace. This may not be news anymore, nor the highest-minded insight in the world, but it passes safely over Mr. Hornby’s head, leaving his middlebrow undisturbed. He looks at his Top Ten list and sees only dismissable lo crap, as distinct from the canon fodder of his youth (Stones, Aretha) and arty stuff he favors now (Joe Henry, Olu Dara). You will notice that this is not, in fact, a thought.

Mr. Hornby’s datedness dates closer to 1961: an aesthete slowly waking up to the discovery that his paradise of elegant show tunes and jazz standards has been paved over by tasteless goons. Once upon a time, one wouldn’t have been surprised at a couple thousand words noting that kids lacked the subtle and discriminating taste of midlist novelists, and moreover that they were barbarians compared to the kids of yesteryear; such smug insights were common knowledge. But then it occurred to a few people—and then a lot of people—that both youth culture and popular culture might have some meaning beyond the the tragic debasing of traditional values.

Already far gone into boomer retreat and mortified into intellectual catatonia, Mr. Hornby seems to have shut all that out. Indeed, he deduces no meaning whatsoever, perhaps because his essential analytic move is simply to parse the lyric sheet. Why, after all, would a music critic suppose that some of music’s meaning might be located in the music? Just as well; when he does mention sonics, it’s only to note their success or failure at resembling music he liked back in the day. Another insightful fellow anxious to announce that the world was better when his body was younger.

In truth, music is incidental to what Mr. Hornby has to say. His main job is to flatter his employer’s readership: Don’t worry if you, too, should find yourself quite anxious about your age and concerned you’re out of it. Kids are just idiots and scum these days. Your values are still the real values. The failure of The New Yorker to employ a pop critic was for years a sign of retrograde snobbery. It turns out they mean not to remedy this position but consolidate it. The article does the same job as not having a critic, but more energetically: It insists that pop music is beneath discussion, if not quite beneath contempt.

If you like pop music yourself and pay money for The New Yorker, you are those girls at the Crüe show. Your pleasures are a source of loathing and anxiety for The New Yorker and for Mr. Hornby; they in turn are spilling disdain and contempt all over you. Their interests are not yours, though we can be confident they are interested in that dollar in your hand. Hmm, maybe they learned something from pop music after all. Perhaps we could learn something too: Girl don’t just go away, go away mad.

Click here to read a review of Nick Hornby’s novel How to Be Good.