• Is Van Halen's new song, Tattoo, RAWK or rock?

Van Halen - Tattoo from Van Halen on Vimeo.

I've been an avid subscriber of The Lefsetz Letter for awhile now and find most every post to be a treasure of wisdom, wit and utility. Bob Lefsetz is the outside insider, a man who deals with the very uppermost echelons of the music business but is not afraid to bite the hand that feeds (or, at least, that's how he protrays himself; personally, I believe his image). So when he recently wrote about Van Halen's newest single, Tattoo, I read the post with even more fervency than usual and then promptly clicked over to Spotify to hear it. Lefsetz described the song thusly:

"... it’s positively ALIVE! "

You can imagine how high my expectations were, especially when you add that fact that, in my opinion, without Roth Van Halen is not Van Halen and I am super stoked that he is back in his rightful place.

My first take on the track was that it was pretty good, much better than almost anything done with Hagar and in the video you can see the goofy fun of Roth in spades, his acknowledgement that this is all totally ridiculous and life at its best. Love that about Roth.

A few days later, Lefsetz posted again about the track, this time focusing on its sound quality and sound quality in general. He wrote: "... if you’re listening to "Tattoo" on fifty nine dollar speakers, or the ones that came free with your computer, YOUR OPINION DOESN’T COUNT!"

I had to write Bob a note (you can do that, very cool) about how I thought that great songs didn't need great playback quality, they stand on their own. I referenced Free, whose "Alright Now" snorted from AM radio with fire and abandon and positively screamed Hit. When I finally heard it on a good system, it was even better, but it didn't need thousands of dollars worth of gear to shine. No great song does.

Then I listened to the Halen's track again. This time I downloaded it (hi-rez AAC from iTunes, best available today for the song) and put on my studio quality AKG headphones and dropped the "needle". Ho hum, sure, the song sounded better but it's not better.

Don't get me wrong, I love the track now, really dig it, even though the chorus sounds like it was written by the likes of Kara Dioguardi (will have to wait until the record comes out to know for sure!), but it grew on me the way all songs have: it grew on me in my head via my own internal playback system, my fancy headphones had nothing to do with it.

And I believe that for all the best songs. They don't need thousands of dollars of gear, they just need two ears.

Oh, and to answer the headline of this post? It's rock. C'mon, compare it to Jaime's Crying... Okay, it's Rock.