As The Fresh Toast has previously noted, Oliver Stone’s Edward Snowden biopic, cleverly titled Snowden, is one of the most-anticipated films of this year’s Oscar season. There is much to be psyched about in the flick—secrets! lies! data!—and now you can add to the list: Peter Gabriel. Yes, the “Sledgehammer“-weilder, himself, has contributed a new track to the movie, and it’s … pretty epic. Well, as epic as any song clocking in at a brisk three-and-a-half minutes can be. There’s a lot to unpack here. Indeed, deconstructing this song, and the reaction to it, is like fishing for data at the bottom of the ocean. Confused? Let us help.
1. The opening line to the song is, “Underneath the sky, where the cold winds cross/ there is an ocean, where data flows.” As far as opening lyrical bids go, this is no, “Hello.” This is roll-up-your-sleeves songwriting and then using your newly unencumbered by sleeves hands to drop some major-league science on the eardrums of listeners the world over. And if that previous sentence doesn’t bring the poetic metaphors in a way you feel comfortable with, well, that’s just because we aren’t Peter Gabriel. Not many are. To be clear: only one person is Peter Gabriel. And that’s Peter Gabriel. He lives underneath cold winds!
2. Consider the length of other epic pop songs. G ‘n R’s “November Rain” chimes in at a few clicks past nine minutes. And Lupe Fiasco’s “Mural” is just south of nine. Peter Gabriel? His 1986 hit “Sledgehammer” ran past five minutes. But now he’s clearly into the whole brevity thing, and manages to pack an epic’s worth of stuff—oath taking samples, breathy buildups, dichotomies—into a mere two hundred and ten seconds. It’s like dude has other epic shit to get done and doesn’t have time for your over-bloated epic pop songs.
3. Some people believe “we need to have a national conversation” about Peter Gabriel’s new song. Those people aren’t wrong.
4. The video will save you about two hours and ten minutes. How’s that? The run time of Stone’s movie is two hours and fourteen minutes. The video shows—a lot. The video may be like watching a different movie, but it’s essentially a short movie about Snowden. So, like, math!
5. Peter Gabriel is 66. Whatever you think of his ‘Snowden’ song, the fact that he tried something so ambitious and creatively risky at the age most of us are just going for a prostate exam between bits of muesli is impressive. That said, Kim Gordon turned 63 in April, and her new track absolutely kills.
But who am I to judge? If you take a look at the YouTube comments on Gabriel’s clip, his *dedicated* fans are overwhelmingly into the new effort. And in this era of shortening attention spans and too much irony and not enough heart, perhaps the speedy, emo epic is just what we need.