Ballad of Steven Slater

August 10, 2010 1:06 PM

Astro Zombie's words, my music, Steven Slater's epic flight-attendant flameout.

I feel deeply conflicted considering it's a news-of-the-weird story that I deleted the first post about. But if it's the news story that won't die, I might as well have some fun with it.

posted by cortex (122 comments total) 240 users marked this as a favorite

*tear*
posted by dhammond at 1:10 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Awesome awesome awesome.
posted by ColdChef at 1:12 PM on August 10, 2010


I love life.

(Grabs a beer, leaps down the escape slide of a jet plane.)
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:35 PM on August 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Who is going to make a video for this?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:36 PM on August 10, 2010


I really like the singing on this. Good voice!
posted by tunewell at 1:41 PM on August 10, 2010


I love this website so much. I truly do.
posted by penduluum at 1:42 PM on August 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


haha great stuff. like how it drops in at the start.

"The police they went after him
They caught him in his bed
He was supposed to finish work but he was
In flagrante delicto instead
A hero and a lover now, not a
Circumnavigater"

hahaha "in flagrente delicto instead." That's generally what i wish i was doing instead when i'm at work.

and +10 for using the word circumnavigator.
posted by marienbad at 1:54 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't take this the wrong way, but man that riff sounds familiar: I can't remember if it's a Coldplay song or what, but I've heard it before.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 1:54 PM on August 10, 2010


Yes, HP LaserJet P10006, the opening vocal melody reminded me of Chicago's Hard To Say I'm Sorry.
posted by jocelmeow at 2:05 PM on August 10, 2010


Yeah, I put this together so fast that I probably folded pieces of three or four pop songs into it without noticing. You'll note that, among other things, the main verse loop shamelessly employs Those Four Chords, which puts me into a-whole-lot-of-existing-pop-music territory by default.

Songwriting is a weird exercise, that way; my whole intent here was to do pop-rock stuff, and to do it as quick as possible, which means choosing from among a whole bunch of easy-reach musical lego blocks so to speak and quickly assembling them into a stable, reliable form. And those same legos are available to everybody else, too, and there's not a single one of them that I'm the first to have reached for. At a certain point you just have to stop worrying about the possibility that you're going to stumble into the same territory as someone before you and just hope that you haven't actually regurgitated a fully-formed piece of someone else's song by accident.
posted by cortex at 2:08 PM on August 10, 2010 [19 favorites]


Sounded like "From Great Heights" to me, which I assumed was intentional.
posted by GriffX at 2:11 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I used exactly the same structure, meter, and rhyme scheme on this as Young Devin Funk. We all have our tropes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:11 PM on August 10, 2010


Sounded like "From Great Heights" to me, which I assumed was intentional.

Actually, the Postal Service song that I find myself thinking about was Brand New Colony; the vocal line does a similar thing melodically at one point to what he sings in the bridge, at "I want to take you far / from the cynics in this town" etc. Slice up a pop melody into small enough pieces and everything's been done.

Which is actually on my rainy day projects list: literally identifying short 3- and 4-note phrases in a giant corpus of music and doing sort of auto-mashup constructions from that molecular source material. But I digress.
posted by cortex at 2:20 PM on August 10, 2010


good thing his last name wasn't Tomaszewski or Venkatesan or something
posted by desjardins at 2:28 PM on August 10, 2010


Oh, I could have done it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:30 PM on August 10, 2010 [21 favorites]


Makes me hope someone writes a folk ballad about me someday.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:02 PM on August 10, 2010


Here's a tale of grapefruitmoon
I'd have written more but she was gone too soon.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:06 PM on August 10, 2010 [17 favorites]


(waves cellphone over head, gets yelled at for not turning it off for taxi and takeoff)
posted by eriko at 3:07 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Throw in a bit about his college years and you have the next Ben Folds Monster Hit! (meant in a good way)
posted by alan at 3:35 PM on August 10, 2010


"Ballad of Steven Slater" was just featured on CNN with a link to MetaFilter. So cool.
posted by ColdChef at 4:04 PM on August 10, 2010 [11 favorites]


Ohhhh that's amazing.
posted by mammary16 at 4:04 PM on August 10, 2010


Dammit, I missed it. I hope they put that on YouTube.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:11 PM on August 10, 2010


To my (song-writing) mind, it doesn't remind me of either Postal Service tune at all. And I have heard those songs hundreds of times. The vocal melody does sound a little bit like "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" though, I agree. But in a sense that's what you get when you make a I-V-VIm-IV song, and thousands of bands write songs like this every day of the week and no-one calls them out on it. So I don't buy into the idea that this sounds "too much" like anything else.

If I had to bitch, I'd make a bit more of a kick-snare-bass lock to give the track a little bit more focus. More importantly, I'd put the lead vocal a bit more front and centre.

But bottom line, this is really great. And: The. Internet. Needs. To. Hear. This.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:21 PM on August 10, 2010


Great job. Bravo!
posted by visual mechanic at 4:48 PM on August 10, 2010


"Ballad of Steven Slater" was just featured on CNN with a link to MetaFilter. So cool.

How do they have a link on TV, anyway?

So I don't buy into the idea that this sounds "too much" like anything else.

To be fair, I'm not sure anybody was trying to call it out in any serious way. Pop sounds like pop. We're pattern recognition machines.

I'd make a bit more of a kick-snare-bass lock to give the track a little bit more focus.

Man, so would I. I need to spend more time on both drums and bass.
posted by cortex at 4:49 PM on August 10, 2010


How do they have a link on TV, anyway?

Cause...you know...it said MetaFilter something something. Look, I don't know technical terms. The website address was there. And I barely noticed that because I was dancing around my living room like a little girl.
posted by ColdChef at 4:57 PM on August 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Yeah, no callout intended. And no disrespect to your vocal, cortex, but we really should get on bringing Johnny Cash back from the dead to do a version.
posted by jocelmeow at 4:59 PM on August 10, 2010


Whilst I somewhat disapprove of what Slater did, man, this song is cool.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:02 PM on August 10, 2010


Working on it, but my process really only works for solar-powered zombie astronauts.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:03 PM on August 10, 2010


Totally awesomesauce. I love it all the way around. Yay!
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:41 PM on August 10, 2010


I'm transfering a copy of today's Situation Room from my TiVo to my computer to cut and upload to Vimeo shortly. Hold on.
posted by mathowie at 5:52 PM on August 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


To be fair, I'm not sure anybody was trying to call it out in any serious way.

True that. Just felt I wanted to pre-empt it given the above sentiments. But speaking of focus: enormous kudos!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:07 PM on August 10, 2010


!!!!!!!!!!!! Ha, hell yea!!!!!!!!!!
posted by snsranch at 6:11 PM on August 10, 2010


Possible that there will be another appearance here sometime in the next 59 minutes.
posted by cortex at 7:00 PM on August 10, 2010


Awesome with awesomesauce. And a side of awesome.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:07 PM on August 10, 2010


Here is the clip from CNN, they play about 5 sec at the start, and about 2 seconds at the very end.
posted by mathowie at 7:08 PM on August 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


Vimeo is so bad on my Mac; are you going to also add it to TouTube (he asked hopefully)?
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:12 PM on August 10, 2010


Bravo! This redefines awesome.
posted by goshling at 7:18 PM on August 10, 2010


I'm confused about the link they provided - did you do a redirect to this page after you saw their link or did that somehow work before even though cortex (and not Astro Zombie) posted the song?
posted by desjardins at 7:24 PM on August 10, 2010


Woo! Just watched Matt's video, and just saw the local news play (and bleep!) the song.

I'm confused about the link they provided

Matt did a redirect. Who knows how CNN managed to get that on the chyron.
posted by cortex at 7:27 PM on August 10, 2010


Awesome. Viva Astro Zombie and Cortex.
posted by umbú at 7:28 PM on August 10, 2010


MeMu is getting all newsfiltery.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:28 PM on August 10, 2010


You guys are brilliant. I love this!!
posted by Dragonness at 7:31 PM on August 10, 2010


I think that ColdChef and Vidiot did a little CNN wrangling. Great song!
posted by tizzie at 7:35 PM on August 10, 2010


God, her voice is like nails on the chalkboard of my mind.
posted by cavalier at 7:58 PM on August 10, 2010


So, so good.
posted by felix betachat at 8:01 PM on August 10, 2010


It is as if this was made for TV-it plays well!
posted by waviolet at 8:06 PM on August 10, 2010


EPIC.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 8:31 PM on August 10, 2010


Heh. A mention by Moos is a definite indicator that one has created a genuine piece of pop culture detritus. Good fun.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:34 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't upload to YouTube because they swiftly take down tv clips. It should be up on CNN at some point too.
posted by mathowie at 8:42 PM on August 10, 2010


We still need this to have its own video! True pop culture ubiquity is impossible if this doesn't hit YouTube.

Good work, Astro Zombie and cortex. There has to be something eponysterical in that combination.
posted by dhartung at 8:49 PM on August 10, 2010


Astro Zombie can flat out sing, way to go brother!
posted by mlis at 8:52 PM on August 10, 2010


Ha! That's Cortex singing.

However, just this week I learned how to Tuvan throat sing, so there's something I can annoy people with for the rest of my life.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:14 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


You'll note that, among other things, the main verse loop shamelessly employs Those Four Chords, which puts me into a-whole-lot-of-existing-pop-music territory by default.

That ain't no bug mon, that's a feature!
posted by the cydonian at 9:34 PM on August 10, 2010


This is too fantastic for words. Also, I would like to hear the Tuvan throat-singing version of the ballad.
posted by pemberkins at 9:58 PM on August 10, 2010


It's going viral.
posted by empath at 10:01 PM on August 10, 2010


Uh oh.
posted by empath at 10:02 PM on August 10, 2010


Looks like a popular subject.
posted by empath at 10:02 PM on August 10, 2010


Daring Fireball linked it, too. Okay, I'm done.
posted by empath at 10:04 PM on August 10, 2010


Okay, I lied, one more. Jimmy Fallon done ripped you off.
posted by empath at 10:05 PM on August 10, 2010


Yeah, it's been interesting keeping an eye out for other people running with the same idea. I saw the "popular subject" video around the time I was posting my recording, and the "uh oh" one later this afternoon/evening. It's a wonderful given with the idea of folk music that, well, these are public ideas and the collective property of anyone who is paying attention and willing to give it a go with their favorite instrument.

It's a good thing Astro Zombie is such a well-oiled lyricizing machine and I'm willing and able to crank songs out on short notice, as far as seizing the moment goes, but I'm interested to see what else comes along here since the "folk hero" meme was already in place yesterday.

Fallon's song is, regardless of what he calls it at the start of the bit, more like "The Ballad of Here's Something The Audience Can Sing Along With", but in his defense I was not able to get The Roots to play backup on my version.
posted by cortex at 10:19 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh man, I had Captain Kirk Douglas over by my way earlier! I wish I had known!
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:07 PM on August 10, 2010


this is the most awesome thing I've seen on mefi in a year. fuck damn.
posted by krautland at 1:00 AM on August 11, 2010


Here's that CNN video.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:15 AM on August 11, 2010


Nothing against the "Uh oh" linked above or the esteemed Mr. Fallon, but unless they also find a way to rhyme six-syllable words, they'll never reach the majesty of AstroZombie and cortex.
posted by ColdChef at 4:28 AM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


It makes me immeasurably happy to see the actual words ASTROZOMBIE on CNN.


(And have it nothing to do with undead astronauts come to destroy us all.)
posted by shiu mai baby at 6:36 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The song was covered by Minneapolis' City Pages -- not once, but twice.

Also mentioned on local LOL/OMG blog (where, in fairness, I appear often enough that they have a "Max Sparber" tag) and MinnPost, where I write a column three times a week.

How did this happen?

Um, I sent out a press release, of course. I'm my very own press agent, and I am due for a raise!
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:07 AM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Max Sparber writes ode to Steven Slater on Metafilter, some other guy puts music to it.

four mere hours later, some other random guy took Sparber's lyrics and transformed them into a Ben Folds Five-ish ballad.

Cortex: Some Other Random Guy.
posted by kingbenny at 7:36 AM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


As other guys go, I'd like to think I'm among the more random.

If I were scrappier I'd follow AZ's lead and try and poke the local newsweeklies about this, but I've never really had a head for PR. I'm glad Minnesotans are getting the good news.
posted by cortex at 7:58 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, it's time those of us in the Gopher State were exposed to the talents of Some Other Random Guy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:03 AM on August 11, 2010


Long live Sorg!
posted by umbú at 8:11 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to a youtube comment, it also appeared on Good Morning America.
posted by rtha at 9:06 AM on August 11, 2010


Yep. They quote the lyrics.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:49 AM on August 11, 2010


This is featured on this page of online tributes to Slater.
posted by hippybear at 9:55 AM on August 11, 2010


Here's my roundup of the whole weird deal. The Good Morning America thing came up while I was putting it together and I found their embed offerings really kind of weird to deal with. I'll see if I can find a better way to get at that.
posted by cortex at 10:19 AM on August 11, 2010


Awesome.

Also, I think it resembles Halo by Beyonce. Not a complaint or criticism - just noting the shared pop song DNA.
posted by O9scar at 12:28 PM on August 11, 2010


Interesting. I don't listen to enough contemporary pop, so that's a new one to me.

I went digging through my music collection this morning and managed to scratch another pop itch as well: there's a similarity in some of the verse melody to what Liz Phair does for bits of the verse on Why Can't I.

More and more I like the idea of a bluebook of pop melodies. Would be a fascinating analytical resource. Too computer got good enough to make midi files fall out of fashion—if every new pop song still got studiously rendered like that, it'd be a lot easier to do something like that. But maybe I'm underestimating existing resources. I should try and figure out to what extent people are doing work on this sort of thing academically.
posted by cortex at 12:48 PM on August 11, 2010


Here it is on Portland's KGW.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:59 PM on August 11, 2010


A few other songsters, such as MetaFilter, have come up with their own ballads, but they've chosen to use some of the more NSFW terminology in Slater's quitting speech. If you can take the cursing, and you need more Steven Slater, go check 'em out.

Aw fuck.
posted by cortex at 1:45 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cortext and AZ are the coolest guys on my virtual block. This rules.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:56 PM on August 11, 2010


Cortex, you want to check out Philip Tagg's work on musemes (riffing on phonemes). I think that's the closest work to what you're talking about.

His stuff drives me nuts, personally, but maybe that is just because I made the mistake of picking up his 350+ page treatise dismantling 30 seconds of the Kojak theme song when I was delirious with dengue fever.
posted by umbú at 2:01 PM on August 11, 2010


Interesting, umbú. I'll check it out.

Also, just now, a nice little plug from a sly mefi lurker over at Entertainment Weekly:
Last night, Jimmy Fallon sang “The Ballad of Steven Slater.” And it was pretty good. Except I’d already heard a different song called “The Ballad of Steven Slater,” and that one is mas macho. Or something. Take a listen (contains salty language)...

This one, with lyrics by Max Sparber and music by Josh Millard, packs a certain poetic punch I feel the Fallon version lacks...
Thanks, Margaret!
posted by cortex at 2:09 PM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


SCREW YOU JIMMY FALLON!
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:16 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah! Let's see Astro Zombie and Jimmy Fallon wrestle in hot pudding! Who's with me?! Right, guys?! We ALL want to see that. Right? Guys?
posted by ColdChef at 2:56 PM on August 11, 2010


I'd totally do it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:11 PM on August 11, 2010


I heard a snippet of this early this morning on the CBS Morning Roundup, which is locally broadcast on icky WTOP. That is all.
posted by ersatzkat at 3:58 PM on August 11, 2010


Honestly, with a little bit of work on the lyrics to smooth them out and some better production, this could be a radio hit.
posted by empath at 4:00 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the evening. I love you internet ♥
posted by bewilderbeast at 5:10 PM on August 11, 2010


This is great. Nice job AZ and cortex.
posted by fixedgear at 5:47 PM on August 11, 2010


I stop paying attention for one day. ONE GODDAMN DAY, and you turn viral. You magnificent bastards.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 7:31 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


As I was getting home from work tonight with a sore throat, mounting stress and too little sleep, I tripped coming off the train and took a sprawling header across the filthy platform. With bruised knees and damaged spirit I limped home to ice my wounds. To distract myself from the pain I popped open MeFi...and found this.

Thank you Astro Zombie and cortex for making me laugh and turning my bad day on its head.
posted by cali at 8:03 PM on August 11, 2010


Bravo!
posted by ms.codex at 8:51 PM on August 11, 2010


Yay AZ, cortex and matt! Awesome!
posted by effluvia at 9:16 PM on August 11, 2010


I just want to say I am honored to share MeFi with you artisty types.
posted by wierdo at 1:15 AM on August 12, 2010


I love in the lyrics how Slater gives a "Fuck you" to folks, but when it comes to the sexy sex, it's all "en flagrante delecto".
posted by frecklefaerie at 4:30 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm amazed at how good this is considering how fast you two whipped this up. Great job guys.
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:25 AM on August 12, 2010


Great song! It seemed a bit Jayhawks-ian at times, which is fine with me.

Jimmy Fallon should get you, the song-a-day guy and various others together for a Ballad Night, and get Slater there to sing along.
posted by mikepop at 6:49 AM on August 12, 2010


cortex, you are MY hero.
posted by radioamy at 7:18 AM on August 12, 2010


win win win win win.

way to go, guys.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:42 AM on August 12, 2010


Excellent!
posted by idest at 10:09 AM on August 12, 2010


In my corner of regional nowheresville Poland, I asked if my pre-intermediate student had heard the story of the flight attendant who...and before I could even finish my sentence, she said "Yes! I heard the song! Did you hear it? Like a...ballada? It was cool!"

Ballada is ballad in Polish. WIN.
posted by mdonley at 11:42 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


gnfti reports via IM that he just heard about 30 seconds of this as the bumper into a radio bit about Slater on the Dutch equivalent of NPR. Heh.
posted by cortex at 12:37 PM on August 12, 2010


It wasn't the bumper, rather part of the segment. They should have it online in due time, I'll try to sort out an mp3 when I get home. (posting this from the bus!)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:49 PM on August 12, 2010


Ooh, Holland. That's pretty far from here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:38 PM on August 12, 2010


the jimmy fallon musical director is on twitter:
@brainofjoacohen
posted by micawber at 2:43 PM on August 12, 2010


Thanks to gnfti doing the footwork, here's that radio segment. All four known recordings featured!
posted by cortex at 2:47 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Now we are famous in Dutchilvania.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:52 PM on August 12, 2010


This is good.
posted by Elmore at 4:19 PM on August 12, 2010


Very reminiscent of A Song for Lucy Rokach, for some reason.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:28 AM on August 13, 2010


In gnfti's radio segment, English sounds like the craziest language *ever*. And why do they bleep the spoken f-bombs, but not the sung ones?
posted by mdonley at 4:08 PM on August 13, 2010


I have finished assembling a rough cut of a music video for the Ballad, but I've got some stuff to do tonight so I can't work on it any more for a few hours, and the main part of that stuff I've got to do is a scotch tasting so it'll in fact probably have to wait for tomorrow.

But if you ever wanted to see sleepy_pete perform an ad hoc re-enactment of an employee flameout pretty much whether he wanted to or not, you have something to look forward to.
posted by cortex at 5:01 PM on August 13, 2010


And why do they bleep the spoken f-bombs, but not the sung ones?

I imagine BNN didn't bleep them out, but rather American TV did. Because the source material is presented as available, that is to say a clip from U.S. television will be censored already, but a clip from Metafilter Music will of course not be. I really don't think BNN contacted whatever U.S. network Fallon is on (if that's what we're talking about) to use the audio material, and even if they were to I expect they would get pre-censored audio anyway. They probably just played the audio from some blog/news site roundup of the Slater ballad phenomenon somewhere.

Also, take into account that the swearing is not in the home language. I imagine that when I finally get on Letterman I can drop as many Dutch curses as I feel like and they won't be bleeped.

As to whether (Dutch-language) swearing normally gets censored in Dutch media, that's a different story and one beyond the scope of this particular beanplating session. But in short, the general answer would be no, not routinely like in America, but also not never, depending on context, broadcaster and/or time slot.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:11 PM on August 13, 2010


Also, the presenter refers to this just after the cortex/AZ clip when he says, "and we also have a variation without swear words" ("variant zonder scheldwoorden") when introducing the one with the girl singing over acoustic guitar. (I'm sorry, I don't know the name of the artist.)

As it's leading into the bottom of the hour, he ends by saying "I'm going to just grab two beers, jump down the slide, we'll hand over to [newsreader] Joop Boots, it's 9:30", and then the news bulletin starts.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:24 PM on August 13, 2010


Ahhhhhhhh, I was wondering why my question on the green about the four chords started getting faved again. LOL.
posted by Beardman at 7:09 PM on August 13, 2010


MUSIC VIDEO HELL YEAH
posted by cortex at 10:44 AM on August 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


I now want to marry Cortex and Astro Zombie. I read about that sort of thing around the 'filter all the time. IT COULD WORK.
posted by missmobtown at 12:03 PM on August 14, 2010


Just go into your preferences and mark us as spoused. I warn you, though, that I am already in a massive Maoist sex cult-style group marriage with a lot of people on this site already, so you may have to share.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:09 PM on August 14, 2010


Fight scene with cat macros!! I love it.
posted by bewilderbeast at 12:12 PM on August 14, 2010


This song is so full of win!Thanks guys!
posted by arcticseal at 2:55 AM on August 15, 2010


disapproving *mmph* at stupid YouTube channel's miscoverage
posted by WCityMike at 6:42 PM on August 21, 2010


Hell yes, Internet.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 2:26 PM on August 28, 2010


OMG I love this song. Metafilter rocks! *listens to it again*
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 1:39 AM on October 1, 2010


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