Album: Rockin' The Suburbs
Artist: Ben Folds
Release Date:

Track List:

  1. Annie Waits
  2. Zak & Sara
  3. Still Fighting It
  4. Gone
  5. Fred Jones Pt. 2
  6. The Ascent of Stan
  7. Losing Lisa
  8. Carrying Cathy
  9. Not the Same
  10. Rockin' the Suburbs
  11. Fired
  12. The Luckiest

The Singles:

    Australian Single
  1. Rockin' The Suburbs
  2. One Down
  3. The Secret Life of Morgan Davis

    UK Single (Part 1)
  1. Rockin' The Suburbs (radio edit)
  2. Girl
  3. Make Me Mommy
  4. Rockin' The Suburbs (Enhanced CD music video "clean" version)

    UK Single (Part 2)
  1. Rockin' The Suburbs
  2. One Down
  3. The Secret Life of Morgan Davis
  4. Rockin' The Suburbs (Enhanced CD music video full version)

Music Videos:

  • Rockin' the Suburbs (July 2001)
  • Still Fighting It (November 2001)

Rockin' The Suburbs is Ben Folds's first released album since Ben Folds Five broke up last October. Since then, Ben Folds fans have been anxiously waiting for some fresh music from the Piano Master. Rockin' The Suburbs does not disappoint. Ben Folds has pumped out 12 new exciting tracks. The most impressive thing may be that Mr. Folds actually played most of the instruments himself and the majority of the album was recorded in an old church in Adelaide, Australia. Long-time fans may feel relieved that this is definitely not anything like Ben Folds previous solo "album", Fear of Pop. They may, however, be disappointed to hear that this album strays quite far away from the sounds of Ben Folds Five. (Although, you still can hear the elements of BFF sometimes. Actually, the track Carrying Cathy was first meant for TUBORM.) Ben Folds's piano poundings will once again swing you into a wide variety of strong emotions. Only about one track does not include what has made Folds famous for, piano. You're sure to enjoy this album no matter if you're a rookie or veteran to Ben Folds music.

Rockin' The Suburbs is also the name of one of the tracks on the album:
Lyrics: zipppt! gone. ;)

Ben Folds introduces the song on piano: Cold Live at the Chapel, December 23, 2001:
This song was written for guitar and drum machine and, uh, ProTools. ProTools is the computer that everyone uses to make records on now. And I've never really tried it on the piano. It sounds like a gospel song on the piano, but it's the current radio single, so I have to play it. But it's probably going to be really good. You can clap on two and four if you want to, that's the off beats. And one and three are the downbeats, you don't have to clap on those.

After the song:
Nice two and four. If I closed my eyes I would have never known; you're all white people.

Ben Folds introduces the song on piano: Roseland Ballroom, June 13, 2002:
Thank you. Thank you. This song was originally entitled "Korn Sucks". audience laughs The reason isn't because the band sucks, they're probably great. audience laughs We played a show with this band, Korn, somewhere in Japan. And apparently, they were heckling us. I don't actually remember hearing anybody, but this is what they said. And so, a couple of years ago, I saw Spin Magazine on the shelf at a grocery store, and it had "Korn" on the front and it said "Korn takes on the wusses." And I thought "Oh, cool," so I bought it. audience laughs And I open it up and there's this picture of Johnathan What-his-name and there's this big quote that says "Ben Folds Five are fucking pussies." audience laughs even harder I thought it was cool! It was good publicity. It's probably the last time you'll see my name in Spin Magazine, anyway. So I'll just take what I could get.

The Rockin' the Suburbs music video, which premiered on MTV2 in August, really augments the experience of the song. The video features a whole band of Bens, each playing an instrument of their own. It is very well put together with scenes featuring Ben dressed as Fred Durst and an angry white rapper (complete with doo-rag and sunglasses!) The music video is topped off with the Ben band playing on the set stright from KoRn's music video for Freak on a Leash. And in the last few seconds of the video there is a subliminal message: "KORN SUCKS!" (see erevapisces's writeup below.)

Folds originally wanted Fred Durst to direct the video. For money issues, that plan fell through. However this was not that much of a loss, as one of the best satire musicians, Weird Al, was finally selected to direct.

If you'd like you can download the video in either AVI format (3 MB) or MPEG format (41 MB very high quality) from Kyle's FTP server (which is open to all fans):

Host Address:
Port:          21
User ID:       benfolds
Password:      Piano
(Perhaps defunct?)

Complete piano transcriptions: (Shut down by Hal Leonard, rights owner to Ben Folds transcriptions.)

Trivia note: "Rockin' the Suburbs" (the title track of the album) is apparently a satirical jab at the career and person of Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, ostensibly from the perspective of Durst himself.

The song is a musical departure for Ben Folds, a pure pop-rock confection with actual GUITAR tracks. But lyrically and conceptually, Rockin' the Suburbs is classic Folds. And by saying that, I mean, it is bloody hilarious and timely.

As with "Underground" on the Ben Folds Five debut album, the song is a tongue-in-cheek run-time commentary on a prevailing musical movement of the day. Whereas "Underground"(1995) skewered the traits of the suddenly-huge alternative music audience -- the self-pitying silliness of loser-chic, the ironic conformity of rebels -- "Rockin' the Suburbs" particularizes this mentality in the person of Durst, shifting the camera from audience to artist in doing so.

Not surprisingly, Folds sees little difference between the producers and consumers of angry, non-conformist, self-pitying rock music. The delusions remain the same, only the clothing has changed.

This time around, Folds addresses not only the sociological but also the socioeconomical. He depicts Durst as being another artist growing rich mostly off the coin of suburban, middle-class white kids, the next in a long succession that included Michael Jackson, Quiet Riot, and Bon Jovi before him. Folds makes a comic distinction between Durst and his forbears, however, with Durst saying of himself, "I'm rocking the suburbs just like Quiet Riot did... except that they were talented". His enrichment regardless of a talent deficit is explained later in the chorus, "I take the checks and face the facts, that some producer with computers fixes all my sh*tty tracks."

If I had a criticism of the lyrics, it would be that Folds could've replaced Michael Jackson and Bon Jovi with other provocateurs from the past, and thereby shown the direct evolutionary line of "Music for Surburban Youth to Rebel By" that spans generations, certainly included Quiet Riot and is, as of 8/16/01, personified in Durst. This would have been structural perfection. The song is superlative, regardless.

One could argue that there are quantitative differences between the genres of today's rap-core, early 90's alternative music, mid-80's heavy metal, 70's punk, etc. But do you think that the executives at the record labels, or those at Mtv, who have grown fat and happy selling rebellion for decades see any difference? With enough altitude, it all looks the same. A mass of emotionally-scarred conformists, whipped into a frenzy by an emotionally scarred artist. Songs about beating the system, the beautiful people, rage against the machine... A flurry of money changing hands, most of it being siphoned off quietly by the invisible machine that controls the means-of-production and channels-of-distribution of commodified dissent.

An addendum to the trivia note above from the Rockin' the Suburbs tour:

Last night I saw Ben Folds (and a piano) at a club in Westport in Kansas City. It was my first time seeing him and it was excellent. The crowd was pretty dedicated and was heartily singing along to the extent that I've not witnessed before at a show... So much so that halfway through the gig he was assigning singing parts to various portions of the audience. He mentioned that he had decided against playing Not the Same (one of my favorites from RTS) on the tour because of the lack of backup, but he was gonna play it because the crowd was so *musically inclined*. He treated us to a crashing Narcolepsy and a fine rendition of Army and assigned the bridge brass licks to either side of the room. While ranting 'but my redneck past is nipping at my heels' the crowd lamented together in a particularly poignant moment - this is Missouri, kids. The encore ended with an exceptional Song for the Dumped, starting out in the normal crashing way and ending up with the 'more subdued version' where he completely changed the melody and actually sang bridge lyrics that Darren had originally wanted, but which he initially *refused* to sing... you fucking whore.

It was kickass...

Before playing Rockin' the Suburbs, Ben explained his inspiration. In a 1998 issue of Spin magazine, KoRn had affirmed that 'Ben Folds Five sucks. It's Cheers music.' Ben had picked up the magazine in an airport and was pissed. 'Whatever, they can't even spell corn right,' says Ben. heh heh...

So Ben devised a song lambasting KoRn, but realized that it probably 'wouldn't have a very long shelf-life' if released in the heat of the moment. What was delivered three years later, and 'more fleshed out' was Rockin' the Suburbs...

So now you have it, straight from Mr. Ben.

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