Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It goes on and on and on and on...

Today marks the one year anniversary of the now famous cut to black that marked the ending to The Sopranos. The effect was immediate, and while the cultural ripples have faded some, the debate still roars on. David Chase's ambiguous and sudden end to the final Sopranos episode still hasn't escaped our collective psyche... and ultimately, that's the genius of the ending.

Several tv blogs and websites are revisiting the debate today, with nearly all pointing to this nearly 2200 word missive on the subject. It's a passionate argument for a 'Tony's dead' ending -- all I needed to say was 'passionate,' though, and you could surmise that he was in the 'death' camp. Since death is the ultimate final answer, there's a 'black and white' feeling to their interpretations, whereas those in the 'life goes on' camp seem more willing to see gray. I, for one, still believe that Chase left it up to the viewer, so we're all right (even the one's who say the ending is a cop-out). The only clues Chase has left us with are what was shown on screen and very few post-finale words on the subject. The most recent was his recollection of another famous ending, that of 1968's Planet of the Apes:
When the movie was over, I said, 'Wow, so they had a Statue of Liberty, too'. That's what you're up against.
You could take that to be just merely a joke, or that he's much more willing to look at the ending a different way than most (which is how I interpret it). But once again, he's putting the burden on the viewer to interpret.

One thing that seems cut and dried, though, is the effect that ending had on revitalizing the career of Journey. Downloads of "Don't Stop Believing'" skyrocketed the following days, sending the song to #1 on iTunes 26 years after it's original release. It's no coincidence that they released a new album last week (Revelation,) and it's expected to chart in the top 10, their first since Perry's last album with the group (1996's Trial by Fire,) peaked at #3.

Besides the Sopranos bump, though, Neil Schon and company took other alternative measures to get to this end. First, they needed a new singer, one that more closely sounded like Perry to take advantage of the opportunity at hand, and Schon found his prize via YouTube -- the lead singer of a Phillipino cover band called Zoo. Arnel Pineda, who's incredible back story requires it's own "Don't Stop Believing" song, leapt at the challenge, and the band went about recording an album in the style of Escape. They still didn't have a label, though, but decided to follow The Eagles lead and release the album exclusively through WalMart, using no record label at all. And now they're in the top 10 again. Wonder how record labels are interpreting that ending? Well... it's not actually an ending -- if there's anything we learned from The Sopranos, it's that it goes on and on and on and on.)

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