Coolness is an indispensable character trait for bands pursuing real success in today’s world, because if you don’t sound cool enough, the TV-viewing public won’t pay any attention to your crap. If you can’t rock a musically inoffensive yet still swaggerin’ jam that would work as a background track to a slow-mo Gossip Girl scene with attractive young adults strutting down the street in sunglasses or an iPod Touch commercial that features hyperactive thumbs, then you have no potential as a commercial vehicle and, thus, as an artist.
Let’s face it: Business savvy is just as important as a slick sound in the 2000s, and the two can complement each other nicely. Cage the Elephant is a good example of a group that’s in tune with today’s cutting-edge approach to popularity — the marketing-as-music-dissemination model — because these guys have picked through the trash compactor of “cool” sounds from the last 10 to 15 years of Pop Rock to come up with a nice, saleable commodity. In so doing, they’ve fully embraced the new school of thought by efficiently streamlining their product (formerly “music”) in order to build the Cage the Elephant brand (formerly “band”).
While the potential combinations are theoretically limitless, here’s their particular formula: Take The Hives down a couple notches, throw a little Beck and some Jet into the mix, and add just a pinch of perennially trendy sub-genres such as Indie Rock, Hip Hop, Screamo, Reggae and Jam Band here and there. This’ll give the overall sound that ever-profitable universal appeal. Play a bunch of agreeable, upbeat riffs no one hasn’t heard before and assume a dry, overly verbose white-boy vocal style with just the right amount of attitude. (Don’t be afraid to directly rip off Del the Funky Homosapien word-for-word on your opening track — yeah, take it there!) Make sure you swear a little bit on one or two songs so that the pesky yet gullible dinosaurs in the music press will think you’re for real.
When the time comes, sign one of those nifty new 360 deals where the major label pays you in one lump sum and retains the right to do whatever it wants with your music from then on. That way, you’ll be sure to make it into all the best ads, shows and maybe even movie soundtracks with your cool, modern sound. With a little luck and name recognition, the formula should bring you a long, stable career as a jingle writer (formerly “Rock & Roll musician”). Grade: D-