Music Muttering

I have come to a conclusion, after having been forced to listen to a radio station that exclusively plays hit songs, that if America as an entity were to have to beg forgiveness from God, one of the things it would have to request forgiveness for was its musical taste.

Here’s what I mean:

On this radio station, nearly every song is one of the following: unbridled hedonism, particularly of a sexual kind; a description of the fantasies of a woman scorned; shameless self-aggrandizement; or, at best, sappy love songs.

When I’m saying, “at best, sappy love songs,” something’s wrong.

Let me unpack that a little further. When I say “unbridled hedonism,” I mean unbridled very literally. Nothing is to get in the way of one’s pleasure, including the unwillingness of the other party (see, “Animals,” which is basically a rapist taunting his soon-to-be victim) or basic sanity (“Bang Bang”). Furthermore, there is nothing better than sex, which I’ll take some time with. The prime example of this is Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” which is, frankly, the anthem of the current generation: traditional morality and religion is bad, sex is the bestest thing evar.

I was originally angry at the would-be bard for his denigration of and theft from the language of my colleagues, but the more I heard the song (the station plays most of these songs multiple times a day), the more I pitied the viewpoint character. Here’s a fellow who only feels human and free when he has sex with this woman, who apparently is the only person in his life who cares for him, to which he responds by literally worshiping her. There are so many psychological traumas, neuroses, and complexes wrapped up in there that I can’t even imagine how awful it is to live in the narrator;s head. And, by the way, the thoughts on sex and its value expressed in the song are very much those of the artist, who seems to think that sex is worth worshiping because of its humanness and tangibleness and realness.

I won’t spend long here, save to point out that to worship the act of preparing and eating of food makes more sense than worshiping sex, since the sharing of food is much more tangible, necessary, and universal than sex is, and that even the Greeks, of all people, knew that sex could burn as well as warm.

Moving on, the woman scorned fantasies (Black Widow, Blank Space) are just that, and I find it moderately worrisome that people find these empowering, given that there are some very clear hints or statements that the viewpoint character is completely and criminally insane. Never trust anyone who calls themselves a nightmare.

The shameless self-aggrandizement is also worrisome: on the one hand, it can be blatant, as in, “I’m awesome because I have all this money and can do whatever I want with it” or “I can do whatever I want and I don’t have to listen to anyone who say otherwise, ’cause they’re haters who hate” (“Fancy,” “Shake it Off”). On the other hand, it can be less obviously bad but still troublesome, such as in “Secrets” and “All About that Bass”, as the former misses the fact that there are some things one should be ashamed of, and that not revealing things to everyone can be for their sake, while the latter’s call to realize that no, swimsuit models are not what every girl should aspire to is undercut by the fact that the entire song is about how sexually desirable the singer is.

The sappy love songs (and their unfortunate cousin, post-break-up songs) are also worrying due to their view of romantic love (if one wishes to use that honorable word to describe the feelings involved) as being this all-consuming thing that, if possessed, make everything sunshine and happiness, and, if not possessed, is cause for utter despondency and self-destructive behavior. Neither one of these is an accurate reflection of how life actually works, and can inspire unrealistic expectations that can cause people to rush into relationships, then do everything they possibly can to avoid losing them (bad idea).

I realize there was something of a “you kids get off my lawn” tone to this, but I wanted to expand on some of the thoughts from last week’s post. To put it bluntly, the music scene has problems, and I don’t know if they can be fixed.

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness


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