It is A.R. Rahman’s time to shine. He’s a well known name in India, but that generally doesn’t translate to any sort of status whatsoever in the English-speaking world. Yet he was – briefly! – in a band with Mick Jagger, and he gets Jagger to sing in Sanskrit. If hearing Mick Jagger go Bollywood is something you’ve fantasized about, this is your only chance to scratch that itch. Jagger fronts a glorified blues band most of the time, and fans don’t seem to like it when he goes off and gets weird, but doesn’t it seem like he hasn’t sounded this energized in years? He’s belting out that Sanskrit chorus like it’s the most fun he’s had in a decade, which may actually be true.
Now it’s time to revisit one of my favorite one-off supergroups. I haven’t listened to Superheavy in a while, but it’s a record I’m always happy to pull out. Yeah, I actually went and ordered the LP, I liked it so much. I know you’re thinking “she’ll just pay for anything Mick Jagger does, even when it’s crap” and that’s definitely true. I also think that Superheavy is probably the best think Jagger has done in years, and almost certainly the best thing he’s done outside of his day job. But also, this record fills a need besides the need to be a Rolling Stones completist. There really aren’t that many albums that incorporate so much musical diversity all in one place. This is really one supergroup where each member brought their best stuff to the forefront and you can hear and feel each of their contributions. It’s not just “The Mick Jagger and a bunch of other people Show.” It’s five very different musicians working together as equals.
Imagine Mick Jagger drunk and alone in a crappy motel in the middle of nowhere, just dwelling on past slights and trawling for a night’s company. Yeah, that’s a sexy fantasy right there. Of course Mick Jagger would never be drunk and alone in a crappy motel; Mick Jagger would only be drunk and alone in a five star luxury suite, and he wouldn’t be alone for long, because he is Mick Jagger and the world is his oyster. Also it’s doubtful that Damian Marley would ever be stranded without the cash for a taxi ride, because, you know, Marley family money. But if the song stretches credulity, it doesn’t matter; great songs don’t have to reflect real life.
Ok, let’s be honest; this is a pretty unsubtle Bob Dylan regurgitation, which is a thing that Mick Jagger is really too old and experienced to stoop to. And the send-up of the sad socialite is a topic Jagger has thoroughly explored. But fuck y’all, I still like it.
Well, it looks like SuperHeavy was a one-off. As supergroups too often are. But what a one-off it was! It was easily the best thing Dave Stewart has done since the 80’s. It’s the best thing Joss Stone and Damian Marley have yet achieved, though they are both still very young. I don’t have any way of knowing if it’s the best thing A.R. Rahman has ever done, but it’s his biggest claim to fame outside of India. Not to mention Mick Jagger hasn’t sounded so happy and engaged in years. Still, all of them do have day jobs to take care of, though I suspect everyone would probably drop what they were doing if only Mick Jagger could get any time off from doing that other thing that he does. Speaking of which, Superheavy happened at a time when Jagger’s relationship with his Glimmer Twin was particularly strained, and though both sides handled it with surprising grace, apparently Jagger couldn’t resist at least one sly barely-veiled dig; thus, the Miracle Worker video is a blatant echo of the Rolling Stones’ famous Waiting on a Friend. Just as the Stones did in 1981, Jagger and his crew meander and bullshit their way across town just to hobnob and hang out on a stoop. It seems like a pretty chill homage, but in context the message from Jagger is clear; “I’ve got other friends besides you, asshole.” Keith Richards made his apologies shortly after and the Stones kept rolling. So in that context, SuperHeavy is the musical equivalent of those short-lived rebound flings people have to make their ex jealous. Only, you know, healthier and more fun.
I love the music of Bollywood and wish I knew more about it. Despite its popularity and prolific output, the culture of Bollywood rarely filters into the American mainstream. It’s also rare for any of its stars to find careers in the West. So it’s always a pleasant surprise when something Bollywood pops up in an unlikely place. The film composer and producer A.R. Rahman is one of the busiest and most respected men in the industry, so it’s not as surprising as it would seem that he would make a record with Mick Jagger. While SuperHeavy is often described as a Jagger side-project, it’s not a vanity show but a real collaborative effort between an eclectic set of partners. “A convergence of different musical styles” was the goal, according to Jagger. Rahman was brought in by fellow-producer Dave Stewart. His influence is strongly felt throughout and he contributes two songs, one featuring Jagger’s vocals (sung in Sanskrit) and this one, which is the most purely Indian in style. The esoteric mix of styles turned out a success, without a bad egg in the bunch. Impressively, given the unequal distribution of star power (so to speak), the group truly lets each member shine and plays to everyone’s individual strengths. The most unexpected songs, such as this, turn out to be the most delightful.
What a pretty song, Superheavy. A quiet moment, perfect for a cool autumn day. Because when else is better for being wistful and romantic? Now, ‘wistful and romantic’ is far from my default setting, but neither do I have a heart of stone. Beautiful singing really gets me. If maybe Mick Jagger isn’t the first person who springs to mind when you think of pretty singing, plainly you don’t know Mick. He is one of the most versatile singers I know of, and when he’s being pretty, he’s very very pretty (and his singing is too). Let’s give a hand to Joss Stone, too. I never paid much attention to her before, but if Mick Jagger has picked her for a collaborator, she must be something, right? And she’s held her own. She sounds lovely. Maybe one day I’ll listen to one of her records. Damian Marley’s third verse doesn’t quite fit the mood, but he does offer a bit of humor, and shakes it up a little. All in all, a wonderful song, and again, I can’t recommend Superheavy enough times.
Oh and I guess it’s Skanksgiving, so happy that.