Song Of The Day 9/5/2015: System of a Down vs. Elton John (Neil Cicierega) – “Crocodile Chop”

M*A*S*H*U*P Week '15 – Finally, here’s the tonal Shangri-La I’ve been dangling in front of you all week. If mashups were invented to reinterpret both solvents in dramatic fashion, then this is one of the most successful experiments this bastard sub-genre ever coughed up.

On the one hand you have System of a Down. They’re aggressive. They sprung up around the time that nu-metal was hitting its biggest stride, which isn’t even damning with faint praise, it’s hitting someone across the chops with a sturgeon. But I’m all right with SOAD. They don’t take the easy way out. If you’re going to stare down into the mushy, corpuscle-strewn abyss cursing the dueling corrosions of un-tattooed minions and inattentive father figures, you could do worse. “Chop Suey!” (exclamation point theirs) is their signature hit. Its verses are delivered in rapid fire and there’s an implied body count.

On the other you have “Crocodile Rock,” the ’50s pastiche that was inevitable for Elton John at the point in his career that it showed up. American Graffiti and Happy Days were right around the corner. Bernie Taupin’s lyric sheet practically wrote itself and Elton’s music was even more automatic. It’s a crass cut-out, its jokes are obvious, its sole funny line is “Suzie went and left me for some foreign guy,” and its falsetto vocal hook hung in the air of 1972 like the saltine stench of the first McDonald’s ever opened, which was in San Bernardino.

You could not find a more inappropriate pairing in the history of mashups. But you know what they say in fantasy football drafts: high risk, high reward. The level of Neil Cicierega's effort to make Serj Tankian’s voice match Elton’s original is just princely. The pitch-editing is fantastic. And the melting of Tankian’s outraged scream of the word “die” into the creamy soda-fountain chorus of “Crocodile Rock” is one of rock vocalizing’s finest micro-moments. It’s the mash-up equivalent of Roger Daltrey’s scream at the climax of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” I can never un-hear it. I might make it a ringtone if I can figure out how.

That concludes M*A*S*H*U*P Week. Submit your questions in triplicate and thanks for coming.

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