PARALLELS: THE BEATLES // OUTKAST0
A crucial aspect to being a great audio engineer is the ability to transcend genre and work as a translator for an immense multitude of styles, textures and genres. “Parallels,” explores how transcendent artists, projects and cultures from seemingly different genres resonate in similar, universal ways.
The greatest music groups possess a distinguished form of artistic interplay that elevates them beyond their contemporaries. From the beginning of their creative ascents, through the apex of their contributions as a collective, these illustrious artists are swept up in a cultural momentum that becomes bigger than the sum of each contributor. What results are iconic strands of pop culture that are publically shared, celebrated, and adored. These strands permanently stitch their creators into the fabric of legend, and leave an indelible mark on future generations of music makers.
The Beatles and Outkast are the pre-eminent groups of this caliber from their respective genres. When music is measured on a broad critical scale, it’s typically across three categories: sales and plays, critical reception and influence over time (the importance of each gets debated by music critics and consumers ad nauseam). By these standards, each group achieved what is the most remarkable balance of all three for any outfit in their respective genres.
But there is a fourth, less-tangible element that etches mere mortals into music’s history. A closer examination of the Fab Four and ‘Kast suggests that there is a shared method to their myth.
In studying each group’s similarities, we discover that even peerless musicians are indeed archetypal. Stars, albums and movements are merely models of culture, echoed at various volumes through generations until they are re-discovered, re-interpreted and given new depth in a fresh context. In analyzing the parallels between two seemingly-different musical entities, a clearer picture emerges of the complex intertwining of music’s DNA, which gives it its inimitable power to move masses, transcend social constructs and shift paradigms.
Perhaps the most evident similarity between The Beatles and Outkast is a shared willingness to take risks that reward the fan with a taste of the unexpected. Sitar solos on a rock record. A harmonica breakdown on a rap record. Public appearances in outlandish, otherworldly apparel (and in some instances, pointedly wearing little or no apparel). Both groups began to explore the outer limits of their genre’s restrictions when they learned to infuse the well-established roots of their respective types of music with speckles of the exotic, the intergalactic, the extraterrestrial. This unique creative balance is evident when juxtaposing the groups’ players and their albums.
John Lennon // Andre 3000: Undeniably each group’s artistic soul, Lennon and 3000 are the explorers, the dreamers, the boundary-pushers. As they matured, each man seemed to convey more philosophical concern with how large their influence was becoming. In turn, each ensured that as their platforms grew, they also created artistic statements worthy of their place in musical lore.
Key Parallel: Looping the guitar solo from “Taxman” backwards on “Tomorrow Never Knows,” John’s earliest “statement” composition // A 21-year old Andre imbuing the dense narrative of “Jazzy Belle” with a touch of Egyptian mythology.
Paul McCartney // Big Boi: There’s a rather snobbish opinion that exists in some circles positing that these men are artistically “lesser” than their counterparts. The narrow-mindedness and pretentiousness of such a viewpoint cannot be overstated. Without a keen sense of playability and popular appeal, each group would have been at risk of becoming too esoteric, too un-relatable to the common fan (see: “Revolution 9,” “Dracula’s Wedding”). McCartney and Big Boi are just as essential as Lennon/3000, because of their ability to keep each group grounded, while refracting progressively-more-grandiose artistic visions into songs that were still palatable and digestible to the everyday listener.
Key Parallel: Paul giving The White Album a sense of light-heartedness and fun with decadent pop compositions like “Martha My Dear” (written for his Sheepdog) // Big Boi’s focus on slippery lyrical dexterity on technically-extraordinary double time flows on Stankonia’s “B.O.B.” and “Explosion.”
Yoko Ono // Erykah Badu: Two iconic females with their own distinct sense of bold, radical and courageous artistic expression, Ono and Badu each played a vital dual role of muse and collaborator, arguably becoming the primary motivations behind the artistic strides that each group made during their creative peaks.
Organized Noize // George Martin: Groups with longevity tend to have producers that understand how to cull a signature sound from their style and fit it either within or separate from other sound paradigms of the era. The rare groups find producers that can do both simultaneously. Martin defined the groundbreaking, far-reaching fusion of pop and art that the Beatles perfected on Sgt. Pepper’s, while Organized Noize laid the sonic foundation for Outkast’s interstellar blend of Southern Hip-Hop vibes and futuristic funk.
LA Reid // Brian Epstein: Business-savvy men who found raw talent and knew how to develop it to maximum potential. Their influence not only affected how massive each group’s legend would become, it made these men legends themselves.
The Rolling Stones // Goodie Mob: The British invasion’s second-largest byproduct was more attuned to purist non-experimental rock fans, which provided a nice counter-balance to the cross-cultural, paradigm-shifting heft of the Beatles. Providing a similar, necessary counter-balance, Goodie Mob served as lower-profile, but arguably more representative artists of “real rap,” than their Dirty South associates.
When exploring the catalogues side-by-side, we also find that a fascinatingly-similar narrative cycle of artistic progression surfaces:
A Hard Day’s Night // Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik: Both albums displayed an energetic verve, undeniable talent, a slight hint of grander ambition and thorough consistency. They established each act as a dominant force within their respective genres, but weren’t otherwise largely indicative of the genre-bending that was to come.
Key Parallel: The clanging opening guitar chord that gives way to “A Hard Day’s Night” // The resounding gong smash that gives way to “Myintrotoletuknow”
Revolver // ATLiens: These two albums are where special, transcendent moments became commonplace on nearly every track. Both Revolver and ATLiens indulged in greater creative exploration: placing a decidedly-larger symbolic emphasis on more-complex themes, meaningful sequencing, conceptual framework and album packaging. They are both immensely exciting listens, offering precise snapshots of two groups brimming with mythical potential. These albums proved that each group was to be measured against the ages, not against their peers. More importantly, they served as the exact moment when words like “classic” and “timeless” stopped being the end goal, and became the expectation.
Key Parallel: The deliciously-British irony of booking a double string quartet to emphasize the unmistakable feeling of loneliness on “Eleanor Rigby” // The irony of Southern artists (where little early emphasis was placed on the DJ), working in an era where excessive scratching was considered passé, releasing a futuristic ode to the timelessness of the turntable… which happened to employ a 45-second scratch solo that never sounds dated or tired (“Wheelz of Steel”).
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band // Aquemini: The clandestine masterpiece. The objectively “best” album. The quintessential disc that defines the group if you were forced to pick only one. Sgt. Pepper’s and Aquemini both delivered, in miraculous fashion, on the immense promise of their predecessors. It’s perfection that is difficult to capture in words.
Key Parallel: The sheer ambition, gutsiness, execution and reception of “A Day in the Life” // The sheer ambition, gutsiness, execution and reception of “SpottieOttieDopaliscious”
Magical Mystery Tour // Stankonia: Darker and more pungent than the bright, melodious and familiar vibe of the albums prior, these two albums brought each group’s collective ambition and energy to an even higher level, while also establishing a chilly, manic quality in their sounds. Perhaps this quality comes from an underlying paranoia of existing in a realm without companion (or competition). Whatever the case, a feeling of uneasiness haunts many of the compositions on these albums (“Blue Jay Way,” “Gasoline Dreams”). Becoming a legend means losing touch with one’s everyday humanity, and that sound is captured on both discs: like an astronaut floating alone through the vast heavens, body shivering, wide eyes peering through his helmet at the surface of an adoring home that he’s never felt further distanced from.
Key Parallel: The apocalyptic sweep of “I Am the Walrus,” which perfectly captured the madness, hysteria and desperation of the late 60’s // The apocalyptic stutter of the organ on “B.O.B.,” which perfectly captured the madness, hysteria and desperation of the 2000’s.
The Beatles (White Album) // Speakerboxxx/The Love Below: The sound of creative tension exploding in big, blinding bursts of light and color. Both albums are dizzying in their scope: creative colossi with seemingly a million ideas trying to pull you in a million different directions at once. The tragedy of time’s constant march forward through a finite life span is the realization that we’ve been granted a godly amount of potential, skill, knowledge and imagination, but only a limited amount of resources and ticks of the clock to make sense of it. The haphazard brilliance of these two double LP’s are perhaps each group’s most accurate metaphor for that desperation of living. In both art and life, the general goal seems to be to express ourselves and communicate our interests in such a manner that we feel understood and respected for them. While we never quite reach the level of understanding and empathy that we constantly grasp at, what we leave behind is nothing short of a gorgeous, glorious mess.
Key Parallel: The dichotomy of McCartney at his most meditative (“Blackbird”): offering the most polished, most delightful and most focused pop of his career … despite Lennon’s frantic (and successful) attempt to paint the surrounding room using every color in the spectrum // The dichotomy of Big Boi at his most meditative (“Reset”), offering the most solid, most recognizable and most focused rapping of his career … despite Andre 3000’s frantic (and successful) attempt to paint the surrounding room using every color in the spectrum.
Let It Be // Idlewild: The sound of creative tension imploding. When creative bursts like The Beatles and Speakerboxxx/Love Below happen, it’s like the reproduction of a cell: the mysterious burst of dynamic excitement and the rush of life’s creation when the cell splits … two distinct life forms with non-permeable borders afterwards. While they may share the same biological information, they can never go back to being the same singular organism.
Key Parallel: The final, triumphant vestige of the vintage Lennon & McCartney duet “I’ve Got a Feeling,” // The final, triumphant vestige of Dre’s glorious wordplay and Big’s astonishing control of cadence on “Mighty O.”
Archetypes and mythology are great for decoding the present and the past, but they are not always indicators of the future. When the unpredictable nature of cultural momentum ceases or shifts, legendary collectives remain a biological composite of flesh-and-blood individuals, and human beings tend to walk a path of their own reasoning, despite the eternal sense of timelessness their previous collaborations may have given fans. The Beatles’ final recording ended up being perhaps their greatest masterpiece, Abbey Road (although it was released ahead of Let It Be). It was their final exclamation point and it made the group’s disintegration easier to understand, accept and appreciate. Nothing felt unfinished.
Outkast fans have long been salivating for another double diamond in the storied ‘Kast discography, and there have been recent reports from both members that such an album could be happening soon. Of course, speculation, marketing gimmicks, and gossip are never the types of things that truly move or progress a culture, they merely reshuffle the non-face cards. That rare, mythical Royal Flush that can change everything, feels familiar and joyful when it hits us, but it typically unfolds in ways we cannot yet imagine.
-words, concept: Jesse Hagen
-original graphics: Kenny Keil
TWITTER PRINT GIVEAWAY:
Our talented guest artist, Kenny Keil has kindly offered to give away a limited amount of prints for the graphics featured on this edition of “Parallels.” Read on to discover how you can win:
- Tweet the article link and the hashtag #parallels to @SAEUS and @kennykeil to enter your name ONCE in our randomly-selected drawing.
- Tweet the article link, the hashtag #parallels, and an original turn of phrase that humorously combines the Beatles and Outkast to enter your name TWICE in our raffle. For example: “Maxwell’s Silver Hammers & Vogues #parallels @SAEUS @KennyKeil,” or “Let It Skew On the Bar-Be #parallels @SAEUS @KennyKeil,” “I’m Sorry Ms. Lady Madonna…” or “Abbey Underground Smellroad…” (you get the picture, it’s addicting). You will not be credited with two entries if you rehash one of the examples.
- Do all of the above and RSVP for our Feb. 16 Open House to be entered THRICE in our giveaway.
There will be seven winners selected in our drawing, one for each SAE U.S. location. All entrants must have a verifiable U.S. address to ship the prints to. We will contact the winners via Twitter on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
*1. LA Reid
2. Rosa Parks
3. Ryan Phillipe
4. John Pemberton
7. Bruce Bruce
8. Lil Jon
11. Bryan Barber
12. Big Rube
13. Witch Doctor
14. Fonzworth Bentley
15. Evander Holyfield
16. Bubba Sparxxx
18. Killer Mike
20. Supa Nate
21. Erykah Badu
23. Sean P
24. Slick Rick
25. George Clinton
26. Slim Calhoun
27. Cool Breeze
28. Polar Bear aka “Toenail”
29. James Brown
31. Big Gipp
34. Andre’s Getaway Driver from the “B.O.B.” video
35. Rico Wade
36. Ray Murray
37. Mr. DJ
39. Girl from the “So Fresh So Clean” video
40. Andre 3000
41. Big Boi
42. Sleepy Brown
43. Andre 3000 puppet, from the “Art of Storytelling” video
44. Big Boi puppet, from the “Art of Storytelling” video
45. Pit Bull
46. Stankonia Road Sign
48. Fish & Grits