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- Posted on Mar 2nd 2010 12:00PM by James Sullivan
But Iris Records, which recently released Simon's latest album, 'Never Been Gone,' featuring newly recorded versions of the singer's best-known songs, is encouraging fans to fuel the speculation. Through April 15, the label -- in conjunction with Spinner -- is sponsoring a make-your-own 'You're So Vain' video contest. The winning entry, chosen by Simon herself, will be featured on Spinner and at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, where the filmmaker will meet the singer-songwriter. Spinner recently spoke with Simon, who talked about the idea behind the contest and floated a few unusual new candidates for her great pop riddle -- from Jesus Christ to Mozart.
Where did the idea come from to do this contest?
I have to take full credit for it. I realized there hadn't been an official video ever for 'You're So Vain,' and that it was high time there was. [When I recorded it], it was going to be another eight years before videos came out. I thought it would be wonderful to allow contestants to use the 1972 recording if they want to, as long as they use some of the 2009 version. There is a half-step between the two versions, and the tempo of the original is slightly faster. That can all be smoothed out on some kind of machine -- I don't have the learning curve to know what the name of it is.
Obviously, your fans have taken some ownership of this song by guessing about the subject's identity. This is another level of letting them take it where they want to.
That's right. It allows them to go to the next step. They can put together some great fantasy from their own lives and merge it with fantasies from my life, or whatever novelistic properties the song has. It can go anywhere. I mean, there have been fans who told me the song is about Jesus Christ. If it can be about Jesus Christ, it can be about Calvin Klein! It can go anywhere. It's going to be a lot of fun to see where people take it.
You must get accosted by people who run up to you and say, "I know who it is!"
You can't imagine how many people say to me, "I know who it's about -- it's about me," thinking it's funny. Or, "My wife says she knows you wrote it about me," and I attempt a little laugh.
Meet All the 'Vain' Attractions >>
Does the winner get to hear the answer from you?
That is a part of the project. However, it's not getting top billing.
What kind of video do you hope people submit?
The more original and out-there it can be without being lascivious or violent -- I don't want to see any S&M videos coming in. I want to see something creative, something that would make me say, "Wow, I never would have thought of that!" as opposed to, "Yes, he's right." I would be very interested in seeing, if somebody decides they think it's about somebody, how they'd develop it. If they decide it's Mozart, for example, to see what in the Jupiter Symphony corresponds to their decision, or what in 'The Marriage of Figaro' might point to the answer, just like you were writing a college thesis about it -- making your argument.
How are the versions of the songs on 'Never Been Gone' different from the originals?
Very often I switched instruments, so if I wrote something on guitar I went to piano, and vice versa, to see what would come out musically. I also changed a bunch of the words, especially on the outros.
How are your kids?
They're wonderful. Ben [Taylor] is going to be performing with me in England. He had a large part in the production of 'Never Been Gone.'
Did you find yourself watching a lot of MTV and the other video channels when they first became popular? Are there songs you liked specifically because of the videos?
For the first, maybe, five years of MTV and VH1, I really watched a lot. I stopped listening to radio. I loved that Sinéad O'Connor song ['Nothing Compares 2 U'] and Prince's 'Purple Rain' and, of course, Michael Jackson, 'Billie Jean' and 'Thriller.' Incidentally, not that I'm bragging, but one of my songs was one of the first videos on MTV, a song called 'Vengeance.'
'You're So Vain' lends itself well to a video interpretation, but I also think your first hit, 'That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be,' would also be very cinematic, if bleak.
Good point! And 'Anticipation' has never been a video.
That one would be fun, so you could set a string of moods.
Can I say I thought of that?