I hadn’t heard Karen O’s “The Moon Song” until news broke that it’d been nominated for a best original song Oscar. I don’t usually get worked up about the Oscars’ music categories, aside from being a bit peeved about Jonny Greenwood getting screwed out of a best original score Oscar back in 2008, so I’m not sure why I was so eager to give “The Moon Song” a listen. But eager I was, and I wasn’t disappointed. What a wonderfully articulated song. It’s small, like a kind gesture or a moment of contentment, yet I don’t doubt that its emotional impact could be huge (can’t really judge that part until I see Her).
As much as I’m enjoying the song, though, I absolutely love this Rolling Stone article on Karen O’s reaction to her nomination. I’d like to take a quick moment to point out my two favorite parts:
- “And thanks Spike for making my very real phobia of ever having to be in a position to give an acceptance speech at a major award show a reality.”
RIGHT?!? This is all I can think about when I watch award shows. People who can stand up in those situations and deliver cogent, non-flailing, English-language sentences seem superhuman to me. It strikes me as impossible. How do you act normal in that situation? My voice trembles when I try to order at Jersey Mike’s. How, as an actor or pop star, do you not live in fear of having to give acceptance speeches? Wouldn’t you be sitting in the audience hoping they don’t call your name? I’ve never been the biggest Yeah Yeah Yeahs fan, but reading this quote has made me a Karen O fan for life.
- “I called Spike and my parents just so it could sink in a little bit and then I put on Nina Simone’s cover of ‘I Shall be Released’ and sang along, it’s such a soulful uplifting rendition and always makes me feel so good.”
This makes me happy on two levels. First, I love having an excuse to post this version of this song, because I listen to it at least once a week and love it to bits. Second, it shifts the context of the song’s lyrics just enough so that they feel more personal now. I always felt like I had to love the song from a distance. People all over the world suffer horribly under repressive governments, civil wars, discrimination, and my troubles seem so tiny in comparison. Who am I to identify with lyrics about being delivered from torment? This is more than a little reductive, but imagine there’s a continuum of human suffering that extetnds from a negative value of X (pure misery) to a positive value of X (pure bliss). Before I read that brief Rolling Stone article, I thought “I Shall Be Released” belonged to people who needed to work their way out of the darkest, most negative part of that continuum. I was totally wrong. Human suffering isn’t a competition. Everyone needs to “be released” from something, even if that release comes in the form of an award nomination that tells you that your artistic efforts are heading in the right direction. Why can’t it be a celebratory anthem? Who says I can’t blast this amazing version of this amazing song on a Friday just because the work week is done and I feel a sense of profound freedom?
Well guess what, folks? It’s Friday RIGHT NOW, and I invite you join me in adopting the Karen O doctrine by playing Nina’s cover of “I Shall Be Released” as loud as you can, as many times as you want. I’ve also posted “The Moon Song,” which I’ll definitely be rooting for when Oscar night rolls around.