While I was hosting houseguests, attending family events, working hard, mourning over tsunamis, and generally freaking out over the past week, a mighty philosophical question reverberated through my skull. It was a question for the ages, a question that had the power to shake the core of the universe as if the core of the universe were a paint can and the question were a paint-can shaker, you know, one of those machines that shakes the paint to mix in whatever hideous color you’ve chosen for the guest bathroom.
David Hasselhoff is one of those terrible performers that everyone feels sorry for. “He’s big in Germany,” people say when his name is mentioned, as if they need to defend his bewildering fame by placing it in an alien context. If ability is any measure, he is neither an actor nor a singer, but he is famous (in Germany, if nowhere else) for being both.
I actually think this is fabulous. Here is someone going through life, doing his own mediocre thing, being his own ordinary self, occasionally succumbing to the mystical lure of the recording studio . . . and he becomes world famous for it (in Germany, if nowhere else). His initial success most likely had to do with good looks and good luck than any vestige of talent, but he ran with it. Although he now looks like a piece of wax fruit, he is already entrenched in Western culture.
Sound familiar? This is the exact career trajectory of William Shatner, who transformed three years as the swashbuckling Captain Kirk into a multimedia empire of schlock.
David Hasselhoff is a better singer, though, if only because Shatner’s intoned extravaganzas do not quite qualify as music here on the planet Earth. David Hasselhoff’s three albums are a recording-studio’s futile exercise to disguise his smarmy, off-key singing behind layers of synthesized bubble-gum pop and vacuous “backup” vocals. His genius is in the song selection. You haven’t lived until you’ve basked in the warm sparkle of “David Hasselhoff Sings America,” released this past year (a year that will go down in history the worst to come down the pike in centuries for reasons largely unrelated David Hasselhoff’s release of two albums within twelve months).
“Sings America” is a tragic love letter that caterwauls from sea to shining sea and features such classics as “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “California Girls,” “California Dreaming” (that these last two were not presented as a medley is one of the greatest recording blunders in history), “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” “La Isla Bonita,” “Love Me Tender,” “New York, New York,” and “Amazing Grace.”
It is a masterpiece.
If you want to hear thirty-second chunks, click here:
I believe you will need Apple’s iTunes software to listen. You can download it for free here.
Happy New Year, David Hasselhoff . . . wherever you are (my guess is Germany . . . you’re big there).
* Corollary: And if so, can the old William Shatner go away now, please?