The Onion, everyone’s second favorite satirical news organization, has branched into the music industry with its own record label.
I just can’t prove it.
Not long ago, I would’ve thought this diversification was preposterous. It seemed inevitable that all record labels were going the way of dinosaurs and dodos, and no one, not even The Onion, wanted any part of it. Now, however, it seems the music industry has finally realized just how drastically it must adapt in order to survive. This is where the good people at The Onion stepped in with all of their trademark, Puck-like mischief.
The first piece of evidence that led to this conclusion was the release of John Mayer’s latest album, Paradise Valley. The album’s artwork is classic Onion, showing Mayer wearing a 10-gallon hat and a long, flowing poncho, standing next to a dog in the middle of a field. The record could just as easily have been called, “Johnny and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I used to consider myself a John Mayer fan, but I haven’t been able to take him seriously for a number of years. Nevertheless, this image struck me as more ridiculous than usual. Then I heard the record’s single, “Who You Love,” a duet with Mayer’s former paramour Katy Perry, and I knew something else was afoot.
Besides outrageous sentimentality, the biggest influence on “Who You Love” is The Eagles, those paragons of soft rock so bland you have to physically exert yourself to like, dislike, or generate any strong feelings about it whatsoever. If The Eagles ever hear “Who You Love,” the entire band will likely succumb to grisly suicides, their notes all lamenting the fact they ever made “music” called soft rock, providing a template for “Who You Love,” one of the worst musical crimes of 2013.
John Mayer making boring soft rock is one thing. After all, that’s exactly what he did on his last record, the equally mundane titled Born and Raised. John Mayer making boring soft rock with pop star Katy Perry is something else entirely, and it stinks like an Onion. I love Katy Perry just as much as the next 24-year-old heterosexual male (and probably a lot more), but I’d be the first to admit she can’t sing. She’s a pop star, and as a rule, pop stars don’t have to have any singing ability unless they want to win Grammy’s instead of VMAs.
It would be one thing if John Mayer recorded a duet with Katy Perry that was destined to be blasted in dance clubs and sporting arenas across the country, a track loaded with Kanye-approved beats and auto-tuned vocals. But “Who You Love” is not that song. It begs to be taken more seriously. Mr. Mayer wrote it hoping it would be played at maudlin weddings for decades to come. In keeping with Mayer’s attempt to reinvent himself as a cowboy troubadour, “Who You Love” presents Katy Perry doing her best Emmylou Harris impression, and the results are spectacularly atrocious.
It’s important to remember that Perry is responsible for such songwriting gems as “I Kissed A Girl” and “Ur So Gay.” For his part, Mayer has given not one, but two of the most exceedingly immature interviews ever published in Rolling Stone magazine. I was devastated when I learned of their relationship’s demise. They are made for each other.
When I first heard “Who You Love,” I thought I was being Punk’d, and that Ashton Kutcher would leap out from behind my couch at any second. Then I remembered Punk’d no longer exists, and since I’m not a celebrity no one would want to watch me get Punk’d anyway. It was then I knew The Onion had infiltrated the music industry.
My suspicions were confirmed when I noticed that James Blunt, the most annoying singer to ever come out of the U.K., was releasing a new album this fall. The record, Moon Landing, is slated to be released in October, and there’s no doubt it will be filled with out-of-this-world song craft and musicianship. After further investigation, I also noticed that Blunt has continued releasing music since his debut album (the one with “You’re Beautiful,” the only song loved and hated in equal measure), a feat I previously thought impossible. Then again, Nickelback is wildly successful, so anything is possible. Perhaps The Onion created their record label earlier than I thought, giving the world a necessary dose of levity with each successive James Blunt record.
I considered writing to The Onion to request a confirmation of my theory, but ultimately decided against it. They would simply release a snarky and satirical statement claiming they have no involvement in the music industry, and that I’m a complete idiot.
To be perfectly clear, I think it’s wonderful The Onion has a record label. The record industry has taken itself far too seriously since its creation, and the healthy doses of humor The Onion provides could rejuvenate its achy-breaky heart. On the other hand, if The Onion doesn’t come clean about its musical activities, songs like “Who You Love” and artists like James Blunt will continue to be taken seriously with disastrous results. Most likely, people will resort to a bloody removal of both ears – an act of self-mutilation I like to call the ‘Van Gogh.’
Next on the agenda for The Onion is signing Miley Cyrus. They will encourage her to re-reinvent herself, this time as a retro-styled country singer à la Dolly Parton. When Miley releases her album of revamped Patsy Cline tunes (“Twerkin’ After Midnight” will be the leadoff single), you’ll know I’m right.
You’ve been warned.
–The Infinite Guest