Modern life brings swelling concerns about impending climate catastrophe and worsening air conditions as a result of automobile pollution.
2020 is an anxious time.
But 2020 is an outright bizarre time as well, where serious attempts to solve big issues take the form of rehashed punk icons and bad puns.
Billy Idol, 64, recently took a break from his 5-decades-long career as one of the leading anti-establishment voices of the 1970s English punk scene.
But Mr. Idol is working when he's not working.
The artist behind songs like "Rebel Yell" and "Eyes Without a Face" spent February 27 in front of New York's City Hall, shoulder to shoulder with Mayor Bill de Blasio and a few other automobile emissions experts. Idol was the crowd-pleasing—and aptly named—superstar NYC booked to add a little juice to its "War on Idling" Campaign, an initiative which aims to educate the public about the health and environmental impacts of idling one's vehicle.
NYC Environmental Protection
After some speechifying from de Blasio, where he gushed about Billy Idol's "bit of an EDGE" about 4 separate times, the punk rocker took the mic and advocated against letting the car run.
(Skip to 9:25 for the goods.)
Let's deconstruct that clip for a moment. Idol starts with some tenderness, outlining his partial upbringing in the United States, and his gratitude for the country's support of his music.
All is normal so far.
He then goes on to share his support of the campaign.
"I wanted to give back to the city and when I heard about this campaign it just made sense. It's amusing but at the same time it's very serious. If you can, shut off your engines."
Everything went completely off the rails at that point.
He finished the sobering bit and ran out of steam, so he suddenly blasted into his comfort zone: a punk rock scream and a massive grin, exposing even his back molars.
He yelled "SHUT IT OFF" and "BILLY NEVER IDLES" once and turned to walk away. It was almost chill.
But then, off screen, you can hear as de Blasio coerces him into leaning way more into the pun. You hear him murmur "We need a chant, we need a chant."
Idol then began the chant. And it grew and grew and GREW.
You can watch as the spirit overtakes Mr. Idol. His hands open up, his eyes become totally deranged looking and his arms begin to gyrate.
What just happened‽‽
Twitter was abuzz with silly responses to the pun-based activism.
@chakalaklavacca OMG! Who knew the 80s would ever seem like such an innocent time ;).— johannah rodgers (@johannah rodgers)1582827059.0
@chakalaklavacca https://t.co/PfickXo2Vv— zincink (@zincink)1582827839.0
@ABC7NY https://t.co/QUvsGGRuun— Todd Kraft (@Todd Kraft)1582822641.0
@ABC7NY End times.— BD (@BD)1582824407.0
Some brought puns of their own.
@chakalaklavacca I can't wait for his campaigns against people who are not dancing with themselves!— Tamara Desiree Magdalene (@Tamara Desiree Magdalene)1582827128.0
@chakalaklavacca In the Midnight Hour of climate change Billy Idol is doing a Rebel Yell to make sure it doesn't ge… https://t.co/pBpT8Z8IbE— JC Spradley (@JC Spradley)1582825269.0
The irony here is that Billy Idol's stage name originates with this very same pun. In a 1987 interview, Idol explained that his chosen surname was an adaptation of the common criticism from a former school teacher, who complained about how idle he was all the time.
It's hard to tell how successful a boost Idol's presence actually was. It'll take some time for NYC to collect data on whether the "War on Idling" is effective at reducing the amount of idol engine use and the subsequent pollution produced by it.
Perhaps Billy Idol will announce those findings with a new chant.
Everybody loves statistics puns.