Editorially predisposed towards limited government intervention and the rights of the individual, the Wall Street Journal does not make a habit out of telling aging musical icons to retire. So why is the paper urging Bob Dylan to call it quits now after five decades of good music, bad music, and weird movies? It all has to do with the fact he no longer sounds like Bob Dylan. At first blush, this would not seem to be a terrible thing--the word "good" rarely comes up in discussions of Bob Dylan's voice. Unfortunately, his new voice is even worse, more befitting a blue muppet than the man who sang Shelter From The Storm. John Jurgensen explains:
Most alarming to listeners devoted to his seminal recordings: the state of Mr. Dylan's voice, decades on from its first signs of deterioration...though he never had a conventionally pretty voice—that was part of its power—lately he's been sounding like a scatting Cookie Monster. On stage, he strums an electric guitar and blows on a harmonica but spends more time at an upright organ, vamping.
Factor in Dylan's "ongoing habit of mutating his most familiar songs" into something barely recognizable, and a portrait begins to emerge of a performer whose act might be better suited for the North Country senior center than 10,000-seat arenas.
Not so, says Princeton professor and Dylan scholar Sean Wilentz. He tells the Journal the loopy concerts and unremarkable new albums are the musician's way of challenging his audiences to "'think again'". This also apparently explains why the singer dresses like "cross between a parson and a Mississippi riverboat gambler" for performance. "It's stagey," says Wilentz, "but it's certainly sedate."
Now that we think again, stagey and sedate is exactly how we like our pop music. Thanks, Bob Dylan!
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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