If you like Neil Diamond, are you hideously kitschy?
Interesting how we define ourselves by the music we listen to. And very narrowly. If you're a metal fan, you might not follow hard rock, and never somebody like Neil Diamond. Music listeners can be very non-electic. They find their genre, and that's it. Some find their artist, or a couple of them, and that's it. But musicians aren't non-eclectic. You'll find Metallica listening to classical music, and Neil Diamond working with a well-known rap producer on his next album.
Neil Diamond is one of those MOR figures who are so heartland-beloved even the rockist snot-nosed will dig him, but mainly under the guise of an ironic embrace of kitsch. Yet songs like "Sweet Caroline" (or the Village People's "YMCA") are so DNA-engrained in pop culture -- how many songs attain wedding band status? -- they transcend genre.
Our musical tastes can be ridiculously exclusive. We think of our taste in music as this pure part of ourselves. We might've become an accountant, but hey, when it comes to music, in our souls we're pure and fine and free: we're still a diehard Van Morrison fan. In music we don't make compromises with the world. Music is what we really are. An art that defines us, the way somebody reads only mysteries, or can't get over their original enchantment with French New Wave movies.
You'd think Neil Diamond would be the one seeking out the rap producer, in some pathetic quest to update his sound. No. The rap guy pursued him. He is Rick Rubin, a founder of Def Jam, and producer of Jay-Z, the Beastie boys, L.L. Cool J and Run-DMC. And they'll make an album that's neither kitsch nor updated. More stripped-down, back to the original singer/song-writer thing. (Full story here.) Says Diamond, who at first wasn't interested in working with the rap guy: "It all comes from the same source, whether it's rock 'n' roll or country or folk. I'm not afraid of these rock 'n' roll guys. I was there at the beginning. I'll be there at the end."
If you want to update yourself, the canny strategy is to go back: either sing standards like Rod Stewart, Carly Simon and countless others, or strip yourself down to the original demo Unplugged you, like the new Diamond album promises to be.