Hard Sun

I hate Eddie Vedder.

But not as much as I hate Sean Penn.

Sean Penn is a phenomenal actor. Where he acquired his superior, holier-than-thou attitude, I’ll never know. He takes himself so seriously. Everything he does is so important. We’re supposed to feel privileged to be exposed to his art. But the movies he directs never wholly click. They’re serious, intriguing, but oftentimes overlong and so cerebral emotion is squeezed out. I won’t say I was offended by "Into The Wild", but his film was not the book I read. The book I read was about someone with more questions than answers. His film was about a smug adolescent who resembled no one as much as Mr. Penn himself.

Emile Hirsch was miscast. The whole bit with him not shtupping the girl was ridiculous. But Hal Holbrook shined, he deserves the Academy Award. I always thought he was a bit of a hack, with the Twain stuff, a journeyman, but he inhabits a real soul here, with honest emotions. Mr. Holbrook shows us someone three-dimensional, not the sappy American held up to us by the media but someone who’s been hurt, who wants to help, but is so inside himself he can barely get out. I hope he wins on Sunday night.

But Eddie Vedder won’t. Because his material for "Into The Wild" wasn’t nominated.

What turned me off of Eddie was that piece in "Rolling Stone". Wherein upon not being granted an interview, the magazine did an investigative piece, and found out Mr. Vedder was not the lonely gas station attendant he depicted. Rather, Eddie was one of the most popular kids in his school, starring in the plays, desirous of making it big in music from way back.

When Sean Penn lightens up, directs a comedy, or pokes fun at himself on camera, on YouTube even, I’ll cut him a break. But I’m ready to exonerate Eddie Vedder right now, because of "Hard Sun", from the "Into The Wild" soundtrack.

Normally I’d advise acts not to do movie soundtracks. Not of original material, not when it substitutes for a traditional album. Wang Chung did the music for "To Live And Die In L.A." and it snuffed out their career. They lost all their momentum. Because the movie stiffed. Do you know the title track? A killer, with all the bright sun loneliness of Los Angeles.

OutKast replicated Wang Chung’s feat with the soundtrack to "Idlewild". Sure, few songs from the album were contained in the flick, but the failure of the film tainted the album. Will OutKast even make another record?

"Into The Wild" was not a raging success either. Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack has been lost. Only fans have been exposed to it. I heard it in the movie, but I didn’t have a desire to own it. But now I’m hooked on "Hard Sun", which I heard on Sirius’ Spectrum just now. Absent the images, playing in all its acoustic heartfelt glory as the sun started to poke through the California cloud cover, I felt rejuvenated, reenergized, like I was twenty one, back in college, and still had hope.

"Hard Sun" was not made for the radio, not made for the marketplace. Its naked honesty resonates and inspires. This is the essence of Eddie Vedder, this is the man fifteen years on, when the spotlight is no longer on him, and all we’re left with is the human being himself. He’s no longer reacting to the listener, he’s just making music.

The "Into The Wild" MySpace site is down. So I’m going to point you to a YouTube video. Don’t watch the official take, with the images from the movie, they detract from the song. Watch the fan made take. Better yet, just listen.

You can dissect the words, you can exult in the electric guitar that eventually appears. But mostly feel your singularity, out there in the big cold world alone. A movie can’t keep you warm at night, nor a television show or video game. Only music can make you feel like you’re understood, that you’ve got a compatriot.

Fan video: Hard Sun by Eddie Vedder

Official video: Into The Wild O.S.T – Eddie Vedder – Hard Sun

Did Eddie Vedder make a mistake by hitching his wonderful composition to "Into The Wild"? Sales of the soundtrack might indicate he’s followed in the footsteps of Wang Chung and OutKast. But it’s a different era. Where was this song supposed to be played? Eddie doesn’t make MTV videos, and MTV wouldn’t play something like this anyway. Top Forty radio doesn’t want acoustic and edgy, the format isn’t about warts, imperfections are banished. Instead, Eddie is solely speaking to his core, rewarding them by going on tour. Check this out, you’ll be interested in seeing him. I am.

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