There's a reason fairy tales aren't told about contemporary adults.
Song: “Home Again” by Elton John, ranked 19th on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart.
What it teaches us about being contemporary adults: They don't make fairy tales for contemporary adults because adult contemporary fairy tales would suck.
“Home Again,” the first single off Elton John’s Diving Board EP, is the longest five-minute song ever recorded. Here’s a fun experiment you can try: Turn off your lights, dim your computer screen, and press “play” on the YouTube embed above. Once it’s over, try to turn the lights on. Nothing, right? This is because the bulbs’ filaments have turned into dust inside their vacuum seals. Call your friends. They won’t pick up, as they have succumbed to old age. Don’t feel bad; they had long, fulfilling lives while you to listened to “Home Again.”
“Home Again” is downright maudlin. The piano just keeps lurching along and there’s even a sad trombone at 2:48—the part where he sings, “In the old part of Valencia off the coast of Spain,” a lyric that his otherwise enthusiastic YouTube fans agree is the sloppiest part of the song. Still, it’s Elton John, and he drags the whole, sorrowful thing along admirably and with enough punch and confidence that you start to believe there’s a shadow of profundity on the far side of this swollen, moon-sized tune.
What “Home Again” really sounds like is a lost Sir Elton-penned Disney song. It’s sweeping, dramatic, and the title concisely summarizes 95% of all Disney or Pixar plotlines. It seems overlong because there aren’t scenes of an anthropomorphic tricycle peddling over mountains and through streams accompanying it to distract us.
For now, it sits languishing on the adult contemporary chart, overshadowed by your Bruno Marses and your Maroon Fives. “Home Again” seems incomplete, like it needs its own adult-contemporary Disney fairy tale for it to achieve the erumpent success it probably doesn’t deserve.
What would this movie look like?
If it’s aimed at contemporary adults, it should be traditional cel animation, none of this new-fangled CGI crap. Everyone born after 1990 thinks animated motion pictures are assembled by computers and not drawn by a team of underpaid, arthritic animators. Sure, Pixar’s films are lush and full of life, but it’s hard to divorce CGI from its creepy, VHS beginnings of Beyond the Mind’s Eye and Lawnmower Man.
No, in order to do Sir Elton’s song justice, we need to keep it classic.
Who is the main character?
What all Disney main characters have in common is the fact that they are marginalized or ignored in some way. This makes it easy for young people to relate because, even though children are routinely coddled and the center of attention, they rarely are cognisant of this. Thus, when Cinderella is forced into what essentially amounts to slave labor, millions of little boys and girls solemnly nod their heads because they know the pain of having to occasionally clean their rooms.
Whenever you hear an adult say they “relate” to a character, there is usually a tinge of aspiration in there. They relate to the wildly successful comedian and television producer because he sometimes gets into arguments at parties or they relate to the wildly successful relationship columnist because she sometimes goes on bad dates. The little imperfections added to humanize these characters metastasize into what the adult viewer perceives as true reflections. We are dying to believe our bad habits are merely brushstrokes in a massive, vital, and fascinating portrait of an idealized self.
That’s why the lead in the “Home Again” fairy tale is a 90-foot-tall American president made out of diamond who sometimes misplaces her keys and eats potato chips in bed.
What is the plot?
If this were a fairy tale for children, naturally “Home Again” would play during the climax of an arduous journey. The imagination of a contemporary adult, however, has been dulled by hours of LinkedIn profile updating and Zappos.com browsing, so in our movie, the 90-foot-tall American president has to make it back from Ft. Lauderdale. Instead of battling dragons or sea creatures, she will have to talk a TSA agent into letting her carry on contact lens solution. Audiences of contemporary adults will bite their fingernails as she looks down to realize she didn’t wear slip-ons. She also has a middle seat that doesn’t recline. When she finally does make it home, she crawls into bed to eat potato chips and millions of men and women will elbow their neighbors and say, “That is so me!”
What’s the moral of the story?
Parents love when a Disney movie validates the 20 bucks they spent on tickets by teaching their child a grand, vague life lesson the kid already knew in the first place. A nine-year-old doesn’t need to watch Toy Story in order to know friends are important; they already valued and liked their friends far more than their own parents long before they stepped foot into the theater. Our adult contemporary fairy tale will have to follow suit; it must teach grown-ups something universal and stale.
While walking from the cab into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, our 90-foot-tall American president looks directly at the sun and hurts her eyes. She learns not to do this anymore. The audience goes bananas.
Hit it, Elton!
Nick Greene is really tall. He's on Twitter — @nickgreene