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The Politics of (Painfully Bizarre) Dancing

As a white guy who shaves his head and occasionally breaks into embarrassing dance moves, there are a couple of guys who act as my inspirations. R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe is an obvious one (dig his spasms in the “Losing My Religion” video). Moby is another. Thom Yorke should really shave his head to join their ranks.

But the other balder and slightly more embarrassing frontman is Live’s Ed Kowalczyk. Though he used to have long, strange hair and even sported an extremely bizarre Krishna-esque braid, Kowalczyk is a member of the clean-shaven clan.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Kowalczyk and his band. They’ve always come across as underdogs, even when they were selling millions of records and writing pretentious songs about Tibetan birth rituals. As a frontman, Kowalczyk represents the spiritual bastard child of Eddie Vedder and Bono, somehow earnest and preachy all at the same time. The best year to be a member of Live was 1995, when their sophomore album Throwing Copper sold 8 million copies and spawned several hit singles, the most notable of which was a moody sorta-ballad called “Lightning Crashes,” which has got to be the only modern rock single in history to use the word “placenta” in a lyric.

But their first breakout single was a song called “I Alone,” and it featured one of the dumbest videos of the alt-rock era. The four band members stand around playing their instruments (save for the drummer — he just sort of wanders around the set, as there is no drum kit) while Kowalczyk mugs for the camera and busts out some of the strangest booty shakes this side of Beck. It’s absolutely transcendent in it’s low-budget stupidity, and yet was a huge hit that was in extremely heavy rotation on MTV.

I managed to catch Live’s new video for a song called “The River” (QUICKTIME HI) which comes from their new album Songs from Black Mountain (hence Kowalczyk’s seemingly random appearance on this past season’s American Idol premiere). While there are ample opportunities for him to get his shake on, Kowalczyk stays relatively still. I don’t have any science to back this up, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his spastic dancing led to a multi-platinum album. So for your sake, Ed, and the sakes of all dudes like you: Lose muscle control and embrace your opposite-of-funky self. Platinum status awaits.

Talk: Who wins in an episode of Pants Off Dance Off: Ed Kowalczyk, Moby, Michael Stipe, or Thom Yorke? COMMENT

Now Watch This:
Live – “The River” QUICKTIME HI

Live – “I Alone”