Major Fun With Minor Keys
Also, YouTube comments can be good, and let Anthony Rizzo stay in Chicago forever
STICK TO CURSED MUSIC
Jordan Peele’s 2019 thriller Us had a lot — a lot — going for it, and one of the best little details was the soundtrack’s slowed-down, haunting version of the party classic “I Got Five On It.” The song was never cheerful, per se, but with its dissonance ratcheted up, the tempo rattled and a flood of strings being plucked by skeletons’ fingers, it’s a proper horror song — and the familiarity of the melody lurking in the background serves to remind you that something has gone very, very wrong.
Now, that’s a brilliantly remixed song, a project that doubtlessly took untold amounts of work-hours and expertise. And clearly, clearly, it was worth the effort; Us is a stone-cold classic.
That all said, there is a simpler way to drag fun songs straight to hell: shift them to a minor key.
YouTube mad scientist Oleg Berg has been playing with key shifts for nearly a decade by now, switching hundreds of songs from minor to major and vice versa. The shifts to major are fine, I suppose; a bit unsettling, but only because they land in that uncanny valley that’s reserved for prescription commercials.
The shifts to minor keys, though, dear lord. Even the peppiest of songs sound like they’re from movie scenes where the main character is at a party but they’re losing it and everything’s about to go terribly wrong. They’re so good, they inspire good YouTube comments, which is about as rare as a toddler dunking a basketball on a regulation rim.
In fact, here’s a few selected songs and my favorite comments from them.
“When she realizes he lured her into his sketch animation world and she can never escape.”
“If 2020 had a soundtrack, this’d be it.”
“This is basically a Cure song.”
“Sounds like a girl breaking out of an abusive relationship and killing her boyfriend and realizing she should do this to all who wronged her.”
“In which Katy Perry decides to kill Batman”
“Why does this sound like a Disney’s villain song?”
“This is what those mall employees hear when they play this song on repeat for 31 days straight in stores.”
“Original: A girl in love who just wants to see her SO during the holidays
This: A crazy holiday stalker who wants to wrap her gifts in your skin”
“Moments like this make you remember that Santa is an anagram for Satan”
“‘Bodies in the sand’ really has a new meaning.”
“This must be what the inside of Brian Wilson's head sounds like all the time.”
“It's not called abduction. It's called surprise vacation.”
“Oh...so it's that kind of Jump.”
“When you're having a panic attack at a party.”
“This should be called ‘Push.’”
One last one, which isn’t from Olag Berg but might be my favorite key shift of them all — and the cover art appropriately reflects what’s been done to this once-lovely tune — is this “Country Roads” horror show:
Now that we’ve shared the ruination of several great songs together, you might as well subscribe if you haven’t already. We’re in this for the long haul.
STICK TO SPORTS
The Cubs are terrible this season. Much worse than the 10-14 record indicates, and that record’s already good enough for last place in perhaps the most mediocre division in MLB this year. They are BAD.
There’s plenty to point at for why: player development has stalled out, offseason moves weren’t made to be competitive this year, and Kyle Hendricks has gone from The Professor to The Batting Practice Tosser. There’s no clear fix other than throwing money at talent, and the front office clearly has little desire to do so, so here we are.
An article at The Athletic (paywalled but the site is worth it, IMO) laid out an even bleaker future in 2022, where the Cubs will have had to make difficult decisions about their future with superstars Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
Bryant, I fear, is as good as gone; he’s been hampered since his MVP season, he’s going to command a premium that the Cubs have shown no indication they want to pay, and his big-league career got off to an unnecessarily rough start when the Cubs messed with his call-up date to engineer another season of contract control — for this year. No real plan, clearly, just keeping him from free agency for another year on principle. That hasn’t been wise.
Baez and Rizzo, though, are as iconic to the Cubs as anyone who’s put on the uniform since Ryne Sandberg. Baez is far from perfect at the plate, obviously, but when he gets a hold of a pitch, amazing things happen. He’s a wizard in the field as well, and his personality bursts out on a daily basis.
In fact, it would be easy to say that nobody has more fun playing the game of baseball… if it weren’t for Rizzo. It’s different types of fun, though. Where Baez livens the game up for himself and for fans, Rizzo’s moments of bliss usually involve someone else on the field or in the dugout.
We’ll get to the Javy GIFs sometime later this season, trust.
This season, Rizzo has made the most of the Cubs’ two April series with the Braves, and in particular fellow slugging first baseman Freddie Freeman. Rizzo chased Freeman in a rundown a few weeks ago, yelling “FREDERICK!” at him as both laughed before making an easy toss for an out:
Flash to Wednesday night, with the Cubs getting characteristically monstered by Atlanta to the point that Rizzo was pitching in the seventh inning. Freeman came to the plate, holding a 4-for-4 batting line for the day, and if your regular pitchers can’t get him out, well, you bring in his archnemesis:
Take THAT, Frederick!
There’s an irrepressible purity and joy to Rizzo’s antics, like a golden retriever that can hit 25 homers a year (no offense to Air Bud, but the bat speed’s just not there). It would really, really bum me out if the Cubs decided either he or Baez wasn’t worth their market rate to stay in Chicago.
From a strictly statistical standpoint, both Baez and Rizzo would be difficult, but hardly impossible, to replace. Baez is more the unicorn of the two, with way more power than can be expected of a middle infielder, while Rizzo’s production seems like the baseline of what can be expected from a “franchise” first baseman, a line of demarcation for whether or not a team should be seeking to improve if they want to contend.
But pardon my blunt criticism here: to me, going by the numbers… sucks. It has sapped the fun and mystique out of the Hall of Fame discussion (well that and the steroid sanctimony), and it has especially taken a lot out of the fan experience. Winning is awesome, obviously. But baseball’s a zero-sum game on any given day, and there’s only one team a year that ends the season happy. And while personality on the field doesn’t win games by itself, it helps keep fans invested during those lean games, months and seasons (and lord knows we’re girding for that).
Rizzo and Baez are just plain fun. They make fans smile. They’d be in the highest echelon of fan favorites in whatever dugout they inhabit. Lord knows there’s no shortage of Rizzo 44 or Baez 8 jerseys any time the Cubs are at Wrigley, and plenty when they’re on the road too.
The easy mistake in any front office is to think of players as severable from the team’s brand, and in a way it’s true; nobody in any sport wears the jersey of the team they used to play for. But it’s more accurate to think of players as contributors to a brand, perhaps replaceable but in the way that tires are replaceable on a car — essential to the function of the entire operation.
With the massive renovations in and around Wrigley in the last few years, ownership has made it abundantly clear that the function of the gameday experience is to extract maximum cash from game-goers. That’s great thinking — as long as there’s something worth going to Wrigley to see other than the ivy. Getting rid of the most entertaining players without putting someone as compelling and endearing in their place, quickly, might look good on some spreadsheet, but it turns the Cubs into another lousy product with a bloated price tag, and if I wanted that I’d eat at Panera.
STICK TO AFFIRMATIONS
Thanks for joining me today. We’ll always end on a kind word.
We’re roaring through April, and today was a gorgeous spring day here in Iowa — low 70s, plenty of sunshine, leaves blooming, and Claritin coursing through my veins so as to enjoy said blooming.
Exactly one month ago, it was also 75 degrees here, also beautiful skies (if less green on the trees). Between then and now? Plenty of freezing, windy, rainy days — even a snow day or two. It’s annoying, yeah, but it’s Iowa.
And really, it’s life. Progress in anything big and important isn’t linear; there’s warm days and cold days, and just because you wake up to snow on your lawn one morning doesn’t mean summer’s canceled or the sun’s setting at 5 again. There’s good days and bad days, steps forward and back, warm breezes and cool. You’re plenty capable of taking those steps and making them count, and you don’t need to let a 40-degree day discourage you.
(Metaphors aside, do mind the sun and wear a hat. Sincerely, a bald man. That’s all.)