100 podcasts
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100 podcasts

Got the afterlife

[I’m exploring 100 podcasts and writing what I learn. This is No. 38]

I haven’t thought about the 1990s nu-metal band KoRn in years. But Gimlet Media’s Undone podcast made me think of KoRn.

Undone is a podcast in the vein of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, which unearths and re-examines the past in a new, critical light. Both make you question what you think you know about history.

Gladwell’s tagline is “because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.” Undone’s tagline is “a show about how big stories we thought were over were actually the beginning of something else.”

The first Undone episode is about the infamous “Disco Demolition” night at Comiskey Park during a Chicago White Sox double header, which spiraled out of control and turned into a riot.

We all know this story, and it’s widely thought of as the end of disco. Or was it?

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but Undone narrates how disco went underground and the surprising ways it found its way into modern music — even the nu-metal of the late 1990s.

Which brings me to KoRn. Though never mentioned by name, Undone jogged my memory of one of my favorite songs in high school, “Got The Life.”

I loved that song. There was something different about it. But I couldn’t put my finger on what.

Then I remember reading an interview with the band somewhere — probably SPIN or Rolling Stone — where they talked about MTV had ignored their music until they added “disco backbeat.”

This was shocking to me. I was a teenager with long hair into punk, grunge and metal. Did I like disco?? This was a serious blow to my identity.

KoRn goes to the Disco

It turns out, the “Disco leanings” of “Got The Life” “were a serious concern” to KoRn as well, according to Song Facts.

“I remember when ‘Got the Life’ happened, he [drummer David Silveria] did that disco beat,” said guitarist Brian “Head” Welch. “All of us looked at each other. It’s a haunting guitar line and melody, but the drums were a little happier than metal. And so we were like, ‘Is this good or is this kind of cheesy?’ Because it’s kind of like a Disco beat.”

The risk paid off. The music video was requested more than any other video on MTV’s TRL, making it the first officially retired music video after a 4-month run.

From Total Request Live: The Ultimate Fan Guide

This was an unexpected afterlife for a style of music that supposedly died in 1979. And today, discos influence is better than ever — Undone has some Spotify playlists identifying where the roots show up in today’s dance music.

Of course, in any Gimlet show, you should expect the unexpected.

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