iTunes Diaries, entry #20: “Hell-Bent” by Kenna

I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes.  I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale.  Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not.  In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey.  I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site.  With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment. 

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Sometimes my interest in a piece of music has more to do with its delivery than with the song itself. A perfect example of this is “Hell-Bent” by Kenna from his album New Sacred Cow (2003). A couple years prior to its release, I read a story about this little stop-motion video that was taking the world by storm! Only, not so much. In fact, it was barely making waves, and I’m pretty sure I only heard about it because of my tenuous theatre connections. The short was called “More” by Mark Osborne.

Turned out that the reason the video was in the news was because it was up for a couple awards, namely an Academy Award (which it won). I saw the video on Sci-Fi (now “SyFy” and anything but) on a program (the name of which is escaping me at the moment, though I could probably look for it because Internet but I won’t) that showed science-fictiony short films. “More” presented a very heartfelt and sad depiction of one characters’ search for meaning, and visions from it became forever infused in my memory banks.

Time passed and one day I caught wind of an artist named Kenna. He was…how did the critics put it?…indescribable and unable to be categorized. Or something like that. Basically Kenna was (and still is) a musician who created to the beat of his own drum. He was therefore labeled “alternative,” which then meant that he ended up on the local “alternative” radio station. For me, listening to Kenna for the first time was kind of like listening to TV on The Radio with “I like this…maybe? I can’t tell” running through my mind. “Hell-Bent,” which was released to buzzworthy acclaim in 2001, wasn’t my normal fare at the time. It wasn’t loud, loose, hard, electric, or even poppy. It was sweeping and calling, yet almost formulaic in its approach. Like every note had to meet its premeditated destiny or else. Despite my questioning of its musicality, the lyrics spoke to me with plenty of feeling. When the song came on the radio, I listened. And I eventually came to accept the notes that went along with the words.

What was it that elevated the song from mere tolerance to a must-have? This:

Hell-Bent (video) by Kenna

(Sorry for posting just the link. My attempts at embedding the video have proved unsuccessful. But the link does work and will get you to my point. Pinky swear.)

You caught that i’ss the same video as “More,” right? When I first saw it on MTV, I was like “Hey, it’s the gray guys!” I was a bit floored to see the video again overlain with Kenna’s sound and music. But it work, and it worked so well. Seeing this really great and memorable short film with “Hell-Bent” struck a chord that forever placed Kenna close to my musical heart.

A few years later, with iPod in hand, It made complete sense for me to memorialize this relationship by purchasing this song. I now can’t help but visualize the gray world of “Happy” and “Bliss” whenever I hear the song. The two have, in my mind, become inextricably linked.

Kenna - New Sacred Cow (2003)
Kenna – New Sacred Cow (2003)

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