Here's all the news that's fit to sing

Web site features articles set to variety of musical styles

November 16, 2006|By Jessica Berthold | Jessica Berthold,The Morning Call

Josh Millard knows what it takes to be famous on the Internet: A gimmick. And that's pretty much what his singing newspaper blog, Aural Times (auraltimes.com), is: a funny little gambit that takes a lot of work and hasn't quite caught on. Yet.

The conceit, and the site's tagline, is this: "We sing the news so you don't have to." Every couple of days, Millard finds a pithy headline and writes a song to go with it, using the words of the headline as the lyrics. Topics range from gay marriage to sports to meteorites; musical styles range from rockabilly to country ballad to heavy metal thrash.

The musical compositions aren't half bad, and the overall effect can be pretty darn funny. Hey, anything to get the kids interested in current events.

Millard, 27, lives in Portland, Ore., and works at an insurance company. He says his musical influences range from Bob Dylan to Elliot Smith to Pink Floyd.

Which came first, the blog or the songs?

I had the idea before any songs were written. The blog came out of a discussion about Web comics at the bar with my wife a few months ago. ... It was a pragmatic, mercenary discussion about what I could do that I could sell T-shirts off of. We decided on singing news headlines.

Does your wife help with the blog?

Not really, aside from being polite enough to be quiet when I'm recording.

Where do you record your songs?

My studio is my kitchen table. I have a laptop, mixer and mikes. Sometimes I haul in my brother, who lives next door, and his girlfriend to do some singing or clapping.

What makes a headline good to use?

I'm usually going for something that seems like news I haven't done before. If it's a slow news day, I'll veer toward something weird. I don't want to do a bunch of songs about the same thing.

Are any subjects taboo?

I'm hesitant to do songs about things like casualty reports or mass killings. I try to avoid anything too dark. It's like, "Do I go with a dirge, a moody unlistenable song, or a cheery upbeat song about someone getting killed?" I don't want to aim for unrepentantly bad taste.

Do you avoid being too political?

I don't imagine the site is neutral or moderate; my leftiness does show through. But I don't want to be a "lefty singing newspaper" either.

How do you match music to headlines?

I try to avoid intentionally or ironically mismatching the music. I once did a country bluegrass thing about putting a wind farm in Texas, so some songs have been silly, but I avoid doing something that's mockingly mismatched. It's too obvious.

Are you a news junkie?

No. Normally I don't read the news, I don't watch the news or take the paper. I get my news secondhand from people who do. To me, the daily news is just a bunch of depressing things going on.

Who are these mysterious interns you talk about on the site?

They are wholly a fabrication. I wanted to paint a notion that this is an actual paper someone is running, and I have all these slacker kids sitting around and getting nothing done.

Your picture on the site is so funny. It's got that "serious editor" look to it.

I wanted that librarian/editor mystique, so I found my good collared shirt and tie from the closet, spent 10 minutes figuring out how to tie a tie, then went to the hallway and took the shot. I was surprised it came out so well.

If you were throwing a costume dance party and played only songs from the blog, what would people wear?

I think it would be a fair number of people in political outfits: Cheney and Bush, key figures from the FBI and [the National Security Agency], mixed with a motley crew of celebrities and people dressing up as weather patterns.

Jessica Berthold writes for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa.

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