[caption id=”attachment_1633” align=”alignright” width=”377” caption=”Promo Artwork for DJ Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album”][/caption]
I bet when DJ Danger Mouse was mixing down John Lennon’s ephemeral finger picking from “Julia” over Jay- Z’s evocative lyrical stylings on “Moment of Clarity”, he never thought a day would come when the two musical behemoths would actually duke it out on the music charts. Alas, that week has come (or gone, really).
A day apart from each other, Jay-Z released his 3rd Blueprint album (aptly titled The Blueprint 3) while The Beatles entire catalog was re-released in varying forms. Fully remastered over a four year period which you can read (a tiny bit) about here, all 13 studio albums plus the Past Masters Vols. were unleashed separately as well as in mono and stereo box sets. That’s a whole load of familiar albums to compete for listeners dollars. Still depending on how you count, Jay-Z hit the top of the charts by moving 476,000 units in the first week.
Back to that counting thing. If you include everything that Apple Corp. let loose last week, The Beatles moved a whopping 1.1 million units. More than twice as many discs for only 15 times as much content! Because the albums are re-releases, the only items eligible for the music charts were the box sets, which sport brand new SKU#s. Believe it or not, baby boomers and audiophiles shelled out en masse, bringing the stereo set to the 15 spot, selling 26,000 of the gigantic collection. Even the more obscure mono set made it number 40 with 12,000 collectors investing in aural purity.
So what does any of this mean? Well, the boys from Liverpool may be the greatest rock band of all time, but that doesn’t make the longevity of their relevance a given. Youngsters today are growing up with parents who think Bon Jovi is classic rock. An entire generation is growing up without the legend of The Beatles. In other words, the music doesn’t actually sell itself. It needs help from people like Julie Taymor and her “controversial” Across the Universe. Whichever side of the blasphemy aisle you may find yourself on, that film got tweenage girls singing “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” while hanging out by their lockers. Mix that with the prepubescents noodling on Beatles: Rock Band and you see that they can stay relevant as long as the music is allowed to grow with the times.
And then there’s DJ Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album, that genius bit of artistry that set off a flurry of Frankenstein tracks (aka “mashups”) a few years ago. Although the album was a copyright lawyer’s nightmare, so much so that it was never released officially, it proved not only the artistic legitimacy of Jay-Z to raps naysayers, but the resiliency of John, George, Paul, and Ringo’s music in an era when seemingly anyone can be a rock star. As time goes on, we can only imagine what artists will think of next to do with the amazing palette that is the music of The Beatles.
For now, Jay-Z is still the king.
All the data for this article comes from this Variety article.