Friday, July 1, 2011

July 1: Judas Priest, "You've Got Another Thing Comin'"

Artist: Judas Priest
Song: "You've Got Another Thing Comin'"
Album: Screaming For Vengeance
Year: 1982

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Though there are many reasons why a song may become a hit, in nearly every case, it is the balance of sounds and styles that can often make or break a group.  If a band deviates too far from the sound that garnered them their fanbase, they risk alienating that group, and yet one must accept the fact that as time progresses, a bands' sound is going to develop and change to some extent.  This balance is perhaps no more important than in the realm of heavy metal, as in many cases, the moment a group shows any alteration in their sound, they are deemed "sell-outs" and largely abandoned.  However, one of the few bands that displayed the ability to both push their sound forward, as well as keep themselves firmly rooted in their original musical approach is Judas Priest, and there are only a handful of bands that have been more vital to the development of heavy metal music.  From their crushing tone to their almost iconic image, Judas Priest have successfully crossover into the mainstream and shown just how irresistible great heavy metal can be to fans of any genre.  While it took them a number of times to find this perfect balance between punishing guitar riffs and pop appeal, once they found the formula, the band released s string of timeless anthems, nearly all of which are still very present within modern culture.  Yet while one can make the case of a number of songs being their finest, one can quickly understand just why Judas Priest are held in such high regard but studying their iconic 1982 single, "You've Got Another Thing Comin'."

From the very first notes of the song, the tone and mission of "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" are set into place.  Unlike any other guitar pairing in history, the dual sound of Glenn Tipton and KK Downing grab the listener and almost bully them from the onset.  There is a drive and aggression within their playing that has enough edge to keep "metalheads" happy, but at the same time, it is not so overdone that it will alienate those who lean more towards "hard rock."  The power of the guitars are emphasized by the pounding of drummer Dave Holland, and it is his performance that makes "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" jerk back and forth, making the ultimate rhythm for headbanging.  Bassist Ian Hill heightens the mood and gives the song its almost dangerous, certainly sinister tone, and he also keeps a strict, unique groove running throughout the entire track.  The combined sound is one of the more looming, if not intimidating musical arrangements in history, and yet there remains something absolutely appealing about the song, and it is this duality that sets "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" so far aside from other heavy metal tunes.  Even when the guitars veer off into speedy, sometimes chaotic solos, the sense of "arena stardom" is never lost, and it is understandable how and why the song is still able to instantly light up stadiums across the globe.

Yet while the dual guitar sound is certainly one of the trademarks of Judas Priest, there is no arguing that the soul and spirit of the band lives within the voice and personality of vocalist Rob Halford.  Moreso than any of his contemporaries, Halford easily works all over the vocal scale, and while his peers often had to go "falsetto" to hit higher notes, there is a power and ease within Halford's singing that clearly sets him apart.  There is also a drive and determination in the voice of Rob Halford that is nothing short of inspiring, and it is through his performances that the band is able to avoid almost every cliché pitfall that dooms most heavy metal bands to mediocrity.  It is this approach that helps to make the spirit behind "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" even more clear, as there are few songs form any point in history that so perfectly nail the "you'd better watch out" or revenge feeling.  The words to the song can be applied to almost every situation where one might face adversity, and Halford uses many examples in the song, one of the finest being when he sings, "...if you think I'll sit around while you chip away my brain, listen I ain't foolin' and you'd better think again, out there is a fortune waitin' to be had, you think I'll let it go you're mad..."  In both the tone of his voice, as well as the way in which he words so many different ways to emphasize his words, there has rarely been as absolutely perfect a vocal performance as Rob Halford gives on "You've Got Another Thing Comin'."

As the decades have passed since the initial release of "You've Got Another Thing Comin'," it is almost amazing to see how it has held up, still sounding just as fresh and relevant as it was when it was first unleashed onto the world.  In many ways, it is almost mind-boggling to consider that the song is approaching its thirtieth anniversary of being recorded, and it still knows no peers insofar as the "complete package" is concerned.  There has rarely been a song so clearly rooted in heavy metal that has been able to crossover into the mainstream so seamlessly, and there are even fewer songs that have been able to remain a part of that mainstream with such longevity.  Quite literally every aspect of the recording of "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" is perfect, as the guitars ring with an amazing level of power, yet never lose sight of the musicality which turned into one of the most unmistakable riffs in history.  The rhythm section keeps the more confrontational tone of the song intact, and this is largely where the "spirit" of heavy metal lives, and likely why the more hardcore metal fans were able to accept the songs' greatness even after it found world-wide appeal.  The final element, Rob Halford's stunning vocals, are simply flawless, as he delivers each line with deadly accuracy, resulting in one of the greatest and most imposing vocals in history.  As each of these unparalleled performances come together with one another, the resulting sound is somehow greater than the sum of its parts, and there has simply never been another recording that can hold its own with the power and presence of Judas Priest's tremendous 1982 single, "You've Got Another Thing Comin'."

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