Song 329: Aerosmith, “Sweet Emotion” (1975)

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The 1993 film Dazed and Confused has one of the best first shots of any movie: An orange GTO moves in slow-motion around a high school parking lot, as if there’s never been anything more important or more heroic in the history of time. As the car turns the corner, slowly and triumphantly, “Sweet Emotion” plays. It works because the opening minute of “Sweet Emotion” contains what may be the most confident bassline in pop music, a thing so substantial and sure of itself that it sounds like it could power the GTO itself. By the time the song has kicked into high gear, you’ve been primed for the greatness to come (car puns, believe it or not, unintended).

Aerosmith is often written off as Led Zeppelin Lite, but that’s actually what I like most about them. They’re like Zeppelin without the Tolkein mysticism and blues fixations. “Sweet Emotion” was supposedly written about band discord (fueled by tension among the band members’ wives), which is another fun thing about Aerosmith: they’re all id. This isn’t to say their music is chaotic or uncontrolled, just that there’s something unhinged about Steven Tyler (especially these days), and that serves the music well. That’s what makes him one of the great rock frontmen, and what makes Aerosmith such a weird, fascinating band.

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