Our Thoughts On That New Steven Tyler Single



When a Hollywood publicist emailed me an advance link to the new Steven Tyler solo single, she included a short note that said, "Sigh...It is what it is." Of course, she and I go back a few years and, thus, she knows what I like, what I don't like, and what I love to hate, perhaps even more than I do.

Having said that, I still have no idea what she meant. At best, I believe it to be the verbal equivalent of throwing up your arms in quiet resignation. Still, coming from a publicist, I have to laugh. Can you imagine if more publicists took such an approach to hyping their client's latest single?

I can only imagine the following note accompanying Lady Gaga's next single that reads only, "I know, right?"

Of course, Steven Tyler's addition to the American Idol judge's table was a head-scratcher from the start. In the light of his falling out with Aerosmith (again), it reeked of a "career move", a heated call to his agent to "get me work", and, in the weeks since this season of AI began, has done little to dissuade me from that initial opinion.

Judging by the tiresome "Just be you, babe!" schtick that he has doled out quite liberally on "American Idol" this season, Tyler is obviously phoning this one in and, while some may consider that a deviation from the norm for the Aerosmith singer, if you take the time to review the band's output since the original line-up reformed in the 80's, it becomes glaringly obvious that this band has been coasting on their 70's "cool factor" for four decades.

The same band that defined 70's hard rock with hits like "Walk This Way" and "Sweet Emotion", to name just a few, spent the late 80's churning out schlock meant to sound like a reasonable, albeit updated, facsimile of their 70's grandeur. The thing was they couldn't do it without a heaping helping of outside assistance from song doctors like Desmond Child (who has done much the same thing for Bon Jovi, Kiss, and others).

See, when the band reunited in '85, they wrote the material for their first new album, Done With Mirrors, without any outside assistance. The album, of course, debuted in the Top 40, as any new album by a reunited band of their status would be expected to do, but then it fell like a stone after that and was considered a commercial dud by the powers-that-be at Geffen Records, their new label.

For the next record, 1987's Permanent Vacation, the band enlisted Child as well as Holly Knight (writer of such hits as Animotion's "Obsession", Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield" and Rod Stewart's "Love Touch"), and Jim Vallance (co-writer of many of Bryan Adams biggest hits) to co-write most of the material. The result was an album that went multi-platinum, spawned the Top 20 hits "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)", "Rag Doll" and "Angel", and made Aerosmith a headline attraction to an entirely new generation of rock fans.

By 1993's Get A Grip, all but two songs of the album's 14 compositions were co-written by outside writers such as Child, Vallance, Mark Hudson, Lenny Kravitz, Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades, among others. By now, Aerosmith was more brand than band and the pressure to continue churning out hits was immense.

Tyler was now the band's focal point more than ever, as MTV had made him the proverbial clown prince of rock & roll. Critics hated the records, discerning rock fans rolled their eyes, but somebody was buying the music and the concert tickets because Aerosmith remained one of music's top acts.

In 1997, Aerosmith first joined forced with song doctors Marti Frederiksen and Glen Ballard, who together co-wrote five songs on "Nine Lives". While it was Ballard who co-wrote the album's two Top 40 hits, "Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees)" and "Pink", it was Frederiksen with whom the band has since forged the longest co-writing relationship.

In fact, it is Frederiksen who wrote, produced and performed much of Tyler's new single. Our hunch is that Tyler "co-wrote" the song in much the same way Avril Lavigne "co-wrote" Complicated" with The Matrix (she is rumored to have simply sat in the room reading a magazine while The Matrix wrote the song).

As if that weren't bad enough, whoever decided Steven Tyler needed to release a solo single to coincide with his work on "American Idol", they also deemed it necessary to have Pussycat Dolls "singer" Nicole Scherzinger sing backing vocals on the track. Call me crazy, but every time I see her pop up on a project, I can't help but feel she's sleeping with one of the execs responsible for the project.

One listen to the song itself and you instantly start trying to figure out which country artist Frederiksen originally wrote the song for, or how Tyler sounds like an outsider in his own song...not to mention the video. In a way, it reminds me a lot of that Glen Ballard song that Vince Neil recorded to capitalize on his appearance in a VH1 reality show that, itself, sounded like a song that Aerosmith had probably passed on years earlier.

Thing is, this new song sounds like Steven Tyler has gotten in bed right next to her. To quote an Aerosmith song, falling in love may be hard on the knees, but so must trying to remain relevant in what passes for the music biz these days.

"Sigh...it is what it is."

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