Jamel v. Mid-Music Crisis

You’ve heard of a midlife crisis, but is there such a thing as a mid-music crisis?

A time when music has lost its shine and you’ve heard it all before? The new stuff sounds derivative and you’ve forgotten exactly why you took to your old favourites?

Well, an antidote may be at hand, in the shape of Jamel_AKA_Jamal (Jamel Griffin), a YouTuber and music fan from South Central Los Angeles. Born in 1980, he was brought up mainly on hip-hop but also a kind of shared American music heritage, so he’s familiar with ‘classic rock’ staples of the last 50 years without necessarily being able to identify bands or artists.

On his YouTube channel, he’s been seeking viewer recommendations for ‘reaction’ videos (put simply, he films his reactions to hearing a ‘new’ track, and responds in real time). As far as I can make out, thus far the tunes have mainly been of a rockist bent (Rush, ZZ Top, Mr Bungle, Living Colour, Doobie Brothers), but then I came across his take on Steely Dan.

His spontaneous reactions reveal a shrewd interpretation of the lyrics and a rare appreciation for the music. He also reminds me exactly why I loved the band in the first place, bringing the joy and soul of a true fan. With added humour. I’m now bingeing on his excellent Steely vids, but it all started here:

Huey Lewis & The News: Weather

It’s not easy to make happy music.

But there was a lot of it about in the 1980s, and Huey Lewis And The News were hugely successful purveyors of the uplifting single, particularly during their mid-decade peak when ‘The Power Of Love’, ‘Hip To Be Square’ and ‘Stuck With You’ were seldom off the airwaves.

Does anybody in the world actually dislike this band (Patrick Bateman is a particular fan, of course… Ed.)? Huey has a great set of pipes and they always deliver a reliable fusion of roots music: blues, R’n’B, rock’n’roll, doo-wop and country, with some pop and soul hooks thrown in too.

New album Weather is their first for ten years. Huey has had hearing problems due to a recent onset of Meniere’s Disease, about which he’s reliably sanguine, recently telling Classic Pop magazine: ‘Things could always be worse. After all, I’m deaf, not dead…’

Weather is only 26 minutes long. It’s intended as a followup of sorts to their most popular album Sports. Geddit? Sports and weather… These are simple songs, well played and well written, with decent melodies, bridges, middle-eights and nice guitar or sax solos. And this time ’80s mixmaster general Bob Clearmountain (Simple Minds, Bryan Adams, Hall & Oates) is on hand to deliver a rich, punchy sound, with everything in exactly its right place.

‘While We’re Young’ is a witty R’n’B song about ageing. You can almost imagine Donald Fagen doing it. ‘Her Love Is Killing Me’ is out of the Robert Cray school. The Blues Brothers would have done a great version.

‘Hurry Back’ features a classic Texas shuffle and some decidedly Stevie Ray-style lead guitar. It won’t win any #woke points for its one-night-stand theme – but who cares. The funky ‘Remind Me Why I Love You Again’ also scores highly on the un-PC scale to amusing effect, Huey complaining that his resolutely modern squeeze refuses to cook or clean.

There’s even a cover of Eugene Church’s 1958 doo-wop standard ‘Pretty Girls Everywhere’, complete with ‘boogalee-woogalee’ backing vox. And gentle C’n’W closer ‘One Of The Boys’ is touchingly faux-naive about Huey’s place in the world: ‘Yes I’m playing with my friends/Until the music ends‘.

Weather is not cool, certainly not hip, but effortlessly enjoyable. Somehow Huey Lewis And The News still sound like the best bar band you’ve ever heard in your life.