When I was in elementary school I was cast as a featured extra in a music video for the band Cutting Crew. It was for the song, “I’ve Been In Love Before,” a painfully underrated slow song from the 80’s that I can still rock if a shuffle brings it onto my iPhone. Now you know Cutting Crew for a totally different song: the mega-smash “I Just Died (In Your Arms Tonight).” It was the band’s first US release, and it hit #1 almost immediately. The song in which I was participating in the video for was to be their follow-up. The truth is, it never made a splash, and stateside we never really heard from the band again.
At the video shoot I remember talking to the lead singer, Nick, about their success and he seemed anything but excited. He explained that the outright explosion that was their first song is a “kiss of death.” He said that “I Just Died (In Your Arms Tonight)” was something they came up with in 10 minutes, and were terrified because of that. He warned me, and predicted his own downfall, but saying “Watch what you make for fun, it may just be the thing people remember.”
I recorded “Dear Natalie Portman” while drunk at Matty’s house. We had just made a deal with the clothing company FiveFour (then run out of a USC dorm room, now a million dollar company) to print up mix CDs of my Interscope music illegally to distribute amongst fans who had been waiting patiently for new songs. I figured I needed some intermissions/skits, so I went to Matt’s house to just record us talking on a 4-track he had. An hour later, and a bunch of beers in, we convinced Amir, his roommate and extremely talented guitar player, to just come in a play a riff. Matty then hit buttons on a drum machine he had no idea how to operate. With that “beat,” I wrote a weird, graphic love song to actress Natalie Portman, way before she became a humor rap muse on SNL. It took maybe 3 minutes to write, which isn’t very shocking once you hear it. We put it on the CD as an interlude, and assumed people would just skip it. Instead, they gravitated towards it.
I think I get more people reminding of this interlude than any other song I ever wrote (with the NBA Live song maybe in a dead heat). It’s just so dumb and I am so intoxicated. Recently, rapper, and all-around good guy, OnCue admitted to being a Hot Karl fan in the past. He asked our mutual friend Shelby Fero to request a copy of “Dear Natalie Portman” from me, since he couldn’t find his file. Although I never hit #1 (or even #6001) with it, it’s begun to feel like my “I Just Died (In Your Arms Tonight)”, and I’ve grown to be OK with it. Again, I only have shitty audio of this, because I just can’t find a fresh copy, so that’s what OnCue got. Maybe if I went digging in storage I could do better, but for now this is what we will live with.
I was once told Natalie Portman heard this while in college. I guess an HK fan played it for her at a party. Although I could never confirm that, I’m happy to pretend it’s true. Don’t judge me on this, but let’s still celebrate it. It’s #HotKarlWednesday. See you again next week.