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Katy Perry changes Beatles lyrics, is Satan incarnate

Posted by Scott Kearnan  February 11, 2014 09:02 AM

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Evildoing pop tart Katy Perry appeared on CBS Sunday night for The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute To The Beatles, joining acts like Maroon 5 and Eurythmics to reinvent some classic Fab Four tunes for an audience of appreciative, imperceptibly nodding heads. (Including those of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.) But Perry, hot as hellfire on the heels of her recent Grammy performance, a black magic ceremony designed to summon Cthulhu, Devourer of Universes from his ten thousand-year slumber, added another notch of sacrilege to her wicked, wicked belt: She altered the gendered pronouns (!!) of the Beatles' song "Yesterday," chanting in tongues revised lyrics like "Why he had to go; I don't know he wouldn't say."" Then she lifted to her lips a golden chalice of viscous ruby life, sipped from it, and spat upon your personal copy of Help!

Heretic! Harlot! BURN THE WITCH!

Watch, if ye care not for ye soul:

Following Perry's performance, the Internet anger spiral went into hyper-drive, as music fans around the world clamored to be the most offended by the "I Kissed a Girl" singer's fairly adequate obscene butchering of a Song By Real Artists. (Each individually affronted victim of this hideous crime thus asserting himself or herself as possessing only the most unimpeachable taste in Le Rock et La Roll.) I'm surprised to find myself defending Katy Perry, but I actually thought she sounded relatively good. I say relatively, because: One, while I respect the Beatles' cultural import and musicianship, I have never particularly enjoyed their music and therefore hold no personal investment in who pays tribute to them, because I am an enemy of culture and have no taste and hate everything good and decent. (No, actually, I don't. But I've read enough comments sections to know that's what it means if you dare to say: Beatles, eh.) And two, I've usually found Katy Perry's live vocals to be downright atrocious, so her "Yesterday" really "surprised" me insofar as I didn't dislike it.

Besides, let's all take a deep breath. At least at one point, the fine folks at Guinness World Records listed "Yesterday" as the most covered song of all time, and at least one of those other people had to have been worse than Katy Perry. Up to five, even, at least.

But also, for the love of Beelzebub, the outcry that she changed "she" to "he"? I can certainly cop to the idea that it would have been better, lyrically, to just let it be. (SEE WHAT I DID THERE. #BEATLES) But artists alter musical arrangements and tweak lyrics for cover versions all the time - changing gender pronouns, in particular, is hardly without precedent. I know that it's-the-Beatles-come-on, but think of it this way: IF a male singer performed a tribute to a hugely influential female musician (which would probably never happen, since we generally pretend influential female musicians somehow only influence other females), and changed a love song originally written about a man to be about a "she," would he get flack for not staying true to the original lyrics?

Doubtful it would merit comment. People would likely be surprised if he did retain the original, man-loving lyrics.

If you find it blasphemous that Katy Perry changed "she" to "he," I suppose that's your prerogative. But are you also the type that would wrinkle your nose if, say, Billy Joel covered Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart," and dutifully bellowed, "Didn't I make you feel like you were the only man"? Because if so, you'd be a hypocrite - whether you're a he or a she.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About this blog

Scott Kearnan (@thewritestuffSK) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and communications consultant focusing on lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment. He's also a part-time smart aleck and buffalo wing connoisseur. "Media Remix" is where couch potatoes meet pop culture criticism. More »

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