Imagine That January 4, 2012

Imagine That



By now, you are all probably familiar with Cee Lo Green‘s foolhardy attempt to gild the lily by changing the lyrics of “Imagine” during NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly. Some of the responses have been just as silly as the altered lyric itself. If Mr. Green deserves this much scrutiny for his trespass, then Weird Al Yankovic must be history’s greatest villain. I’m honestly more offended as a Beatles fan than as an atheist, but not very. At the end of the day, Cee Lo is the figurative walrus. An artist who can sing whatever he wants.

"The way republican politics are going these days, that means the winner is worse than ..."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."
"It would have been more convincing if he used then rather than than."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Anonymous

    I’ve never heard of the dude until he (insert what evah you feel here) to the song.


  • Anonymous

    I’m glad someone has finally called Weird Al out for being the monster that he is. His rampage of terror has gone on long enough.

  • Currie Jean

    “If Mr. Green deserves this much scrutiny for his trespass, then Weird Al must be history’s greatest villain.”

    Uh, no. This is just a stupid thing to say. Weird Al does parody. Green committed sabotage. Parody (which requires the audience to be aware of the changes, creating a new and separate piece) and sabotage (which does not require the audience to be aware of the changes, and attempts to alter an *existing* piece) are *not* the same thing.

    “I’m honestly more offended as a Beatles fan than as an atheist, but not very.”

    I honestly don’t understand why the two have been placed in competition, as especially in the case of Lennon, skepticism is integral to a lot of lyrics. What made me a Beatles fan (a generation after they broke up) was watching their maturing transitions through their lyrics, and what makes me a *bigger* Lennon fan is his risky, critical, even occasionally bitter but poignant lyrics, like those in ‘I Found Out,’  ‘Working Class Hero,’ and ‘God.’

    “At the end of the day, Cee Lo is the figurative walrus. An artist who can sing whatever he wants.”

    Sure, he *can.* That doesn’t mean it’s not a dick move to edit such a poignant and culturally relevant piece of music.

  • Matt Dillahunty

    Replied via Twitter, but needed space to clarify.

    Cee Lo can sing whatever he likes and change lyrics however he chooses – and people have every right to complain about it.

    That said, this wasn’t parody, this was editorializing. In this case it was a complete reversal of the intent of the song and it was done for rather stupid reasons.

    I’m not offended. I’m barely bothered by it. I’m not launching a protest (though the first words out of my mouth when I heard it where “Hey Cee Lo, Fuck You”…obviously referencing his song)…but I’m also not going to dismiss the complaints people are raising by comparing this to Weird Al.

    Al is a genius at parody, and I’m a huge fan. I’m actually more offended (not that it matters one bit) by the comparison of Cee Lo’s actions to Al’s work than I was by Cee Lo’s editorializing. 🙂

  • Still think we’re missing out on a win here. He sang, “Imagine all religions true”, which implies they’re currently false.

    I’d think religious leaders would be bleating out their displeasure right now.

  • Bengie

    My absurdity has been thoroughly rebuked.

  • Matt Dillahunty

    Nah, I thought the comic was great. 🙂

  • Weird Al asks for permission, I strongly doubt Cee Lo spoke to Yoko (or whomever controls Lennon’s estate) before altering the message of another song to suit his own ideas.

    A rather important difference I think.

  • Drew Bentley

    You don’t have to ask permission to perform cover songs live on stage. You can alter the lyrics, music, etc to your liking. The performer doesn’t even have to pay royalties for playing cover songs during concert, the venue that hired the musician holding the concert has already paid such dues the copyright holder will be paid with.

    There’s a difference when you’re recording an album to sell like Al does and when a musician plays a cover song during concert.
    You clearly don’t understand the music industry rules.  😉

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I’m honestly more offended as a Beatles fan than as an atheist, but not very.

    Imagine is not a Beatles song. It is a solo work by John Lennon.

    Insults to Lennon’s intent aside “and all religion’s true” is just dumb. Various religions contradict each other, so they cannot all be true. Some religions even contradict themselves.

  • Drew Bentley

    People do have the right to complain about it but I feel there are more pressing issues to get all bent up about than a silly musician (silly as in Cee Lo’s music sucks anyways) singing a song while changing up a few lyrics. It’s not really a big deal in my opinion. Be offended if you’re a Beatles fan but don’t act like the religious-right in how they respond to such things.  😉

  • Reginald Selkirk

    He’s much too white and nerdy.

  • Currie Jean

    It doesn’t imply that they’re currently false. Who said religions are “all true” or “all false”? The implication is, instead, that all religions are true as opposed to any particular listener’s religion being the only true one.

  • Anonymous

    Weird Al is doing it as parody.  I don’t think any reasonable person
    thought Cee Lo was doing it as parody.  He was just changing parts of
    the song he didn’t like.  That was kind of douchy of him any way you slice it.

  • Lyvvie

    I was always under the impression C Lo Green was a considering agnostic. I know he was raised by two preachers in Georgia, but some of his song lyrics make me think he’s asked the big questions. I wasn’t bothered by his changing the lyrics, because if all the religions are true then the argument still exists about which god is the best and we’d be no better forward than we are now and in fact it would be completely worse. I think it’s more a disrespect to John Lennon’s intended message with that song. I also think C Lo didn’t mean to be disrespectful. I found the whole thing shrug worthy and have been watching the atheist community’s reaction with curiosity. 

    However – C Lo is no Weird Al. Al is a parody genius who goes to great lengths to get permissions from artists to do his songs. You should read what he went through with Lady GaGa to get his version of “Perform This Way” done.

  • Anonymous

    He is in fact the Nerdist of the Year

  • Nena

    Actually, Weird Al is not required to ask permission to parody songs. Parody is protected speech, even for profit. He does ask permission, but only out of personal courtesy. He’s really rather awesome.

  • Placibo Domingo

    This is weak, and I strongly disagree. To perform John’s song, in New York, and fundamentaly change what John was trying to say, is disrespectful at best. I think  C Lo was  just trying tobe “inclusive” and all warm and fuzzy to everybody, but if that’s the case, he should have chosen another song.

    Hemant,  I think you need to be a little more selective about who you have guest posting here. I really enjoy your writting on this blog, but this is not the first outside author who I have found to be unconvincing and not well thought out.

  • Azubko

    Changing that specific message in the lyrics the way he did was either poor form, a show of cowardice, or a little of both.

  • Drew M.

    The “Goo goo g’joob,” had me rolling on the floor!

  • Drew Bentley

    Well, sure permission to the artist isn’t totally necessary, but Weird Al still pays and has to pay royalty fees to the artists he parodies. If you plan to parody a song by using the tune of their lyrics and their music that happens to be owned by a copyright holder, you better ask for permission or you might have a suit handed to you before you can even hand over any royalty payments owed to the copyright holder.

    So yeah, if you’re an artist, let another artist like Weird Al parody you, it’s easy money in your pocket on work you’ve already done.

  • > If Mr. Green deserves this much scrutiny for his trespass,
    > then Weird Al Yankovic must be history’s greatest villain.

    Er, no. Copyright law gives exemption for parody, and Weird Al gets permission from the original artists anyway even though he’s not legally obligated to, because he’s a nice guy about his work.

    Green just perverted the song to say the opposite of what it was supposed to. That’s not parody, and I really doubt Yoko Ono gave him permission.

  • Anonymous

    I like the art

  • Blah blah blah, he can do whatever he wants and say whatever he wants… and he did, including his very Christ-like “Fuck You” on Twitter.

    I don’t understand why you would have a shred of sympathy for a guy who sings about “no possessions” as an ideal while wearing fur and a gold watch, but feels he has to take one of the few pro-atheist lines in all of pop music out and make it pro-religion.

    Everyone is free to say what they want, which includes those of us who think he’s a thoughtless prick.

  • You clearly didn’t understand my point. 

     The OP makes the comparison between what Cee Lo did and what Weird Al does, I was point out the Al shows respect for the original artist and their material, nothing to do with industry rules, which are irrelevant to both in initial post, and my comment.

  • LOL, I didn’t think about that.    Still, even imagining all of them being true is a bit of a strain.  

  • Er, it was nixed by her MANAGER before she even got word of it. When she heard about the song, she personally gave the go-ahead.

  • My main problem is that he turned a challenging lyric into a softball.  The song doesn’t say, “Imagine if countries and religion were nicer, and we shared our property better.” It dares you to imagine none of those institutions even exist.  That’s a lot harder than just imagining they are a little nicer.

    And with that, I present WHAT CEE LO SHOULD HAVE SANG if he was going to neuter the song:

    Imagine dogs go to heaven
    And kitties too, why not?
    Hell is only for Hitler
    And maybe for Pol Pot

    Imagine all the people not thinking much today

    Imagine we helped some countries
    Marginally improve
    Nothing too hard or controversial
    (Don’t knock their religion, dude!)

    Imagine all the people with UN troops keeping the peace

    You, you may say I’m a coward
    But I’m just an average joe
    I hope some day you’ll just give up
    And we’ll preserve the status quo

    Imagine more possessions
    For those of us who lack
    We’ll keep the greed, just not the hunger
    And a progressive income tax

    Imagine all the people with slightly less income inequality

    You, you may say I’m a coward
    But I’m just like Cee Lo
    I hope some day you’ll just give up
    And we’ll preserve the status quo

  • And by the way, I think this is perfectly illustrative of why Weird Al is an irrelevant example to point out at this point:  I bet you there is not a SINGLE PERSON who was offended by Cee Lo’s lyric but who would be offended by my little parody above.  It’s because, even though I wrote altered lyrics for Imagine, I didn’t pretend it was true to the original.  Duh.

  • Anonymous

    If he sung the whole song, he kind of screwed it anyway. The first verse asks you to imagine no heaven or hell, (No hell below us, Above us only sky) then his re-write says “all religions true”… What, you means just the ones without heaven and hell…

    Sorry, am I missing something?

  • Jeff

    Is it just me, or is the atheist community becoming just as big a bunch of knee-jerk reactionaries as the fundies these days?

  • As in, we’re speaking out and not letting ourselves be silenced any longer? Then yeah, see it however you’d like, but I see it as more of us refusing to stay silent, even when the issue’s importance is arguable.

  • Demonhype

    False equivalency.

    The religious right gets infuriated at the fact that things they don’t like have the temerity to exist at all, or worse to exist openly without apology.  They get angry at things like the fact that atheists were allowed to march in a holiday parade and now they have to have a talk with their children about how not everyone is exactly like them–the horror!  They get angry at the fact that it’s called a “holiday” parade and not a “holy jesus is the only reason for the season and all non-christians can suck it” (aka,  Christmas, but with the accent on CHRIST), as if acknowledging other people exist is somehow the polar opposite of only acknowledging that they exist.  They get infuriated at the idea that maybe making someone’s life a living hell to the point they commit suicide just because they are same-sex attracted may be a bad thing.  They get mad at any depiction of LGBT people that doesn’t demonize them or dismiss them.

    We are getting irritated at someone selectively changing a single lyric in a famous song–the atheistic lyric–for the purpose of reversing the original artist’s intent.  It’s as if someone decided to get up and recite some poem the religious people love, but change the one or two lines about “God’s love” to something atheistic, thus flipping the intent of the poem to the polar opposite of the original poet’s intent.  They’d have a very good reason to be peeved at that.  If you don’t the original intent of the song with its original lyrics, don’t sing it.  Find something that can reflect your views without any selective editing to reverse the original intent of the song.  It’s dishonest and disrespectful, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on–but it only really ever happens to atheistic lyrics, as people bend over backward to pander to delicate religious sensibilities and are far too eager to toss all atheists, including Lennon, on the grenade to spare those sensibilities.

    When we’re upset because someone was Christian and chose to sing a song that references God in a positive way (and was originally written that way and intended that way by the original artist, and not being sabotaged) at a New Year’s Celebration (that is not sponsored or funded by the government), then that will be a legitimate point.  Unfortunately for that point, we encounter the fact that believers exist every day without losing our shit at that simple fact.

  • Demonhype

    For example, there is that song at the  beginning of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” that has an absolutely lovely tune, but the lyrics are obscene to me–an entire anti-childfree rant describing how empty and worthless the lives of non SAHM’s inevitably are.  I love that tune and would love to sing it, but since I find the lyrics and their message obscene I don’t.  I don’t take a couple of choice lyrics and change them to change the message to something pro-childfree, and I especially wouldn’t do that if I was performing it publicly.  I would find a song–or write one–that more closely reflected my views or even better, is a response to the ideas in the other song.

    If he liked the rest of the ideas in the song but thought religion should be given a special exemption, he should write or have one of his creative friends write something with similar sentiments that incorporates religion into his own utopian ideal.   We’d still be discussing it, but more along the lines of “here’s why I think his ideas are stupid/wrong/etc” instead of “what kind of entitled godbot thinks it’s okay to selectively shit only on atheistic ideas/sabotage the work of a dead unbeliever to make it sound like he supported what he was actually against?”

    Now if he changed the lyrics of the entire song and it was intended to be a parody, then that would be more along the lines of Weird Al.  And again, even if we didn’t agree with the overall message we would be discussing that message rather than discussing what a dishonest fuck Cee Lo is.

  • Demonhype

    You’d be amazed at how they can band together when they are beating back the Atheist Scourge.  We’re way worse because there are areas of debate that no religious person will talk about–those common areas of nonsense they all share.  Once they defeat those horrible people who ask uncomfortable questions no one else does, they can get back to destroying each other.

  • Demonhype

    Not just inclusive, but inclusive in the laziest and most poorly thought out way ever.  It keeps getting said, but yes, all religions could be false but all religions could never be true, given the massive contradictions.  But that’s the kind of lazy lack of thought I’ve come to expect from certain kinds of wishy-washy “everyone’s a winner!” wooists.

  • gsw

    Equivalent to painting over Mona Lisa’s smile!

  • Jett Perrobone

    “Sky of blue, and Cee-Lo Green, in our yellow submarine!”

    Changing lyrics is fun! 😛

  • It can be.

  • Jett Perrobone

    True.  But I only change a song’s lyrics just for fun, not to seriously portray a message contrary to that of the original song.

    P.S.  I love your icon.  “Anata wa kawaii neko desu!”

  • Well, yeah, there’s a difference between “I’m going to take this song and have fun with the lyrics” and “I’m going to change this specific word/line/whatever to change the meaning of the song.”

    Just… sometimes it’s fun to play.

  • Narvi

    It’s just you.

  • The Supreme Court has held up parody cases before. Al just has to pay for it, he doesn’t have to ask permission.

  • rupi capra

      John Lennon wasn’t above changing lyrics in other people’s songs. Have you heard his version of Dylan’s “You’ve Got To Serve Somebody”? Completely changes the meaning.

  • Laughed out loud.  Good one!

  • Art Vandelay

    “I’m honestly more offended as a Beatles fan”

    Seeing as this isn’t a beatles song, I’m going to guess you weren’t much of a Beatles fan to begin with.

error: Content is protected !!