You won’t often hear me say nice things about Europeans. I don’t actually have any real negative feelings towards them; I just feel particularly American when I pretend to. One thing I do love about the British, though, is the total lack of self-consciousness white British artists have when appropriating or performing black American music. There are smaller examples, like all the British acts that feel no shame about having some gawky, lanky white kid out front doing his version of rapping.
But the bigger examples, these are where the magic happens. Like the Stones aping, and in some cases even improving on, the blues songs that were their inspirations. Two of my most favorite pop artists, Annie Lennox and George Michael, both doing duets with Aretha Franklin. Now, I’m not talking about trading verses with Mariah Carey, I’m talking about Aretha Goddamn Franklin. Annie even did a duet with Al Green. Pardon my French, but that takes balls.
And it makes for some really good music. The British should come over as consultants and show American bands how much more fun these forms of music are when you’re unapologetic and confident instead of timid and tentative with your art. Now the only other thing that the British have to teach Americans is how white folks and black folks can stand each others’ presences in movie theaters. I swear I go to the movies just to watch you all get mad at each other.