Friday, November 27, 2015

Woefully Out of Touch With Modern Music

Recently, I was reminded of how woefully out of touch I am when it comes to current music. This realization happened as a result of my organization’s annual “No Talent Talent Show.” The show, which is perhaps the most anticipated event of the year among employees, showcases our staff’s utter lack of talent, often to hilarious effect. Proud of my own ineptitude, I enter the show every year and as such, always see the list of acts the day before, when we are informed of the order in which we’ll go on.

When I looked at the list of acts in this year’s show I noticed that one group was doing the song “Hello.” I immediately assumed it was the Lionel Richie song released in 1984 and was excited to see the performance, since I bought the album Can’t Slow Down when I was in junior high and listened to it incessantly at that time. I waited with bated breath to see their send up of Lionel’s iconic song, but when the music came on, it was quickly evident that this was a totally different song.

I looked around the room and it was clear that almost everyone there other than me was familiar with this song. It wasn’t a bad song, and the spoof of the video done by my coworkers was quite entertaining, but I couldn’t help but feel like an old, out of touch relic.

A couple of acts later it was my turn, so I got up and did my well-rehearsed finger dance to Soft Cell’s 1981 classic “Tainted Love.” People seemed to respond well (if you consider nervous laughter a good response) and afterwards our emcee made a comment that made me have an epiphany. She said, “So, half of you were born before that song came out, and half of you were born after.” Looking at the crowd, I realized she was more or less correct, and perhaps “Tainted Love” wasn’t as current of a song as I thought it was.

After the glow from the No Talent Talent Show faded (about 6.3 minutes after the show ended) I decided my next task would be to familiarize myself with current music. I didn’t want to be the old dinosaur I’d swore I’d never become as a teen, so I decided to listen to the top ten songs from The Billboard Top 100. (Part of me was amazed The Billboard Top 100 still existed, but apparently they have it on this thing called the internet.)

As it turns out, the number one song for the week of November 28, 2015 was the very song that sparked this journey—“Hello” by someone named Adele.  I’ve heard the name Adele in recent years, but had no idea if she was a singer, actress, or UFC fighter. Turns out she’s a singer and a decent one, too. Although it’s not generally the style of music I go for, I don’t mind the song “Hello.” I think this Adele has a pretty good voice and might be a star someday.

Number two on the charts was a song (and I use that term loosely here) called “Hotline Bling” by Drake. A “drake” is a male duck, and I’m pretty sure I would rather have heard that for four minutes and nineteen seconds than what I did hear. This song was about as tuneless as they come and poor Drake seems to have a hard time enunciating. But I guess that’s okay since lyrics like, “I know that when that hotline bling, that can only mean one thing,” aren’t really worth understanding anyway.

The number three and number six songs on the list were both by Justin Bieber—“Sorry” and “What Do You Mean?” I figure I don’t really need to write separate reviews of these songs since they are essentially the same sappy, uninspired tune. Of course I’ve heard of Justin Bieber. I may be out of touch, but I’m not quite at hermit-living-in-a-cave level. I’ve heard of him because of all of the ridicule and scorn that seems to be heaped upon him on social media, not because I’ve ever heard any of his songs before. Well, now that I’ve heard two of his songs, I can fully appreciate all of the ridicule and scorn being heaped upon him on social media. He basically sounds like a breathless baby goat.

The current fourth most popular song in popular music is a tune called “The Hills” by a band called “The Weekend.” Apparently this band is under the impression that there is a moratorium on using complete sentences. When the best line in your song is “Keep our business on the low-low” you might want to hire a new lyricist.

When the number five song started I heard a guitar and it made me realize that this was the first guitar I was hearing on this musical journey. Everything up until now was just keyboard and percussion. So I was ecstatic to hear a guitar. But about ten seconds after the song “Stitches” starts, its artist, Shawn Mendes, starts singing and the joy brought to me by the guitar is suddenly overshadowed by the 12-year-old boy sounding voice and impossibly corny lyrics. At the point at which he sang, “Now that I’m without your kisses, I’ll be needing stitches,” I frantically stopped the song so as to avoid vomiting.

The number seven song, called “679” by Fetty Wap featuring Remy Boyz is an intense hip hop song with lyrics I can’t print in a family friendly blog. I don’t know anything about Fetty Wap or Remy Boyz, but my hunch is that neither Justin Bieber nor Shawn Mendes would want to run into them in a dark alley.

Coming in at number eight is a song by Taylor Swift, yet another artist I’ve heard of but know nothing about. The song, called “Wildest Dreams” is actually not that bad, but as with the Adele song, simply not my cup of tea. In fact, I think Adele and Taylor Swift should team up and do a song entitled, “Not Andrew’s Cup of Tea.”

At this point on my journey I started to wonder if I would come across any song that I genuinely liked, and with number nine, it almost happened. The song “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” by Meghan Trainor featuring John Legend is a bluesy duet that didn’t make me want to rake my eyes out like most of the other songs in the top ten. It was also only the second song on the list that contained guitar. (Are Fender and Gibson going out of business?) The song was okay and I can almost perceive a scenario where I might willingly listen to it a second time.

With that glimmer of hope, I cued up the number ten song—“Ex’s and Oh’s” by Elle King. I thought the title suspect, so I didn’t go into this with much hope, but then the song started…wait a second here. Was this a full band? Like several instruments at once, including a guitar? What was I hearing here? Was this a good song? After listening to so much mediocrity I was starting to lose my understanding of good music, but I think this song was good. Like, really good. It was as though a torch song singer met a hard rocking band. And the lyrics were fun! How did this song sneak into The Billboard Top 100? Here was a song I would actually listen to a second time, and in fact, have.

So now that I’m familiar with ten popular songs from 2015, and even like one of them, does that mean I’m no longer out of touch? Hardly. There are still a good 20-plus years’ worth of songs that I’ve never heard and I haven’t the time nor inclination to backtrack and listen to them all. And based on the overall quality of the ten songs I did listen to, I’m not particularly inclined to start listening to new pop music on a regular basis moving forward.

Where does this leave me? Will I remain out of touch the rest of my life? No, no, no. I figure I’ll listen to the top ten songs again at some point. Probably in 2045 when I do my No Talent Talent Show finger dance to “Ex’s and Oh’s.”