Citizen Cope is one of those artists you look at and wonder “why isn’t he more famous?” Granted, there are tons of artists you could apply that question to, but, I don’t know, the guy’s got the respect of his peers (Sheryl Crow’s covered him, Dido’s worked with him), and he sells out spots all over the country (the date I went to in Boston about a year and a half ago was sold out-in a decent sized room, too).
Part of the reason Cope’s not as big as he should be might be due to the fact that his music is completely impossible to categorize. The music industry likes to fit it’s artists into easily identifiable holes and Cope is equal amounts rock, soul and whatever category you’d put someone like a John Mayer in.
I first heard about the guy via an MTV Handpicked sampler that was released in 2002. I immediately picked up his self-titled debut (also released that year) and fell in love. His eagerly anticipated (by me, at least) sophomore effort, The Clarence Greenwood Recordings, was released two years later, and has become his biggest hit to date, gradually accumulating sales of 300,000 units. It includes his most familiar song, “Son’s Gonna Rise”, which you probably know because of it’s use in a Pontiac car commercial. Another key track on the album was “Bullet & A Target”. This hard-hitting social commentary made great use of Cope’s skill for metaphor, and was aided by a somewhat mysterious video.
Why this song wasn’t all over the radio is completely beyond me. Rapper Rhymefest certainly recognized the power of the song when he applied the chorus and music (freshly redone with Cope’s assistance) on his debut album Blue Collar. Embedding was disabled, but you can view it here.