Jay Gabler: While Slow Train Coming impressed many, those fans who were concerned that Bob Dylan’s enthusiastic embrace of evangelical Christianity would adversely affect his music must have dropped their heads to their turntables when Dylan came boogying out on Saved with the title track, an excruciating Elvis-in-Vegas big-band rave-up. The record only gets more difficult from there, for reasons that have nothing to do with its subject matter and everything to do with its poverty of imagination and thematic flatness. The songs are mediocre gospel, and Dylan sounds—ironically—lost.
Still, Dylan is Dylan, and other performers have made cases for this material. The 2003 album Gotta Serve Somebody—in which songs from Saved and Slow Train Coming are covered by artists such as the Sounds of Blackness, Shirley Caesar, and Aaron Neville—is revelatory, the aural equivalent of wrapping Linus’s blanket around Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. These songs weren’t so bad after all…they just needed a little love.
That love, unfortunately, is little in evidence on the plodding Saved. A common interpretation of “Like a Rolling Stone” has it that Dylan was essentially directing the angry, restless lyrics at himself. Listening to “Are You Ready,” the final song on Saved, I had a similar impression. At the end of a personally painful, artistically hot-and-cold decade, Dylan sure must have felt like he needed a savior. God, however, helps those who help themselves.
The world’s most infamous twerker, Miley Cyrus, is done with that allegedly appropriated dance move. Her new jam? The Atlanta-born “Nae Nae,” which involves putting a hand in the air, dropping the rest of your body low, and more or less freestyling from there. Here’s the move as performed by its inventors, We Are Toonz.
I’m sorry about that. I had this beautiful idea but we got carried away with ourselves. Artists are prone to that kind of thing. A drop of megalomania. A touch of generosity. A dash of self-promotion. And deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years mightn’t be heard. There’s a lot of noise out there. I guess we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it.Bono, apologizing to 500 million iTunes users for dropping U2’s new album Songs of Innocence into their music libraries without asking.
During the Basement Tapes sessions, Bob Dylan and the Band collectively healed from the public lashing they took out on the road in ’65 and ’66, ‘went to the woods to live deliberately,’ and found a sound that paved the way for records like the Grateful Dead’s ‘American Beauty,’ Wilco’s ‘Being There,’ and the entire Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver catalogs. You can argue about the purity of the process, but there’s not too much that can be said about the work. The true magnitude of the impact of this album cannot be overstated.David Campbell on how The Basement Tapes invented Americana as we know it.