Thursday, March 11, 2010
Rock n Roll is not for Children
As I watched Michael Lynche belt out the song This Woman's Work on American Idol, it occured to me that the true meaning of the song would be lost on about 60% of the home audience and the entire tweeny-bop front row at the live show. When I say Rock n Roll is not for Children, I don't mean b/c of the content. You could make a strong case against the morality of many rock songs but even a casual listener knows that for every song that's overly sexual or violent, there are at least 5 more that offer well thought out questions and sometimes answers for life's many complexities - Is It Any Wonder by Keane and I'd Love to Change the World by Ten Years After are just two examples.
In many respects pop/rock and rap music lyrics are essentially modern poetry. The National's Mistaken for Strangers and Brainy are great examples. And it's at this point that it seems clear to me that the depths at which most artists are writing is well above the heads of most kids. OK, it's not too hard to figure out lyrics like "run this town tonight" or "I'm hot for teacher" but for every simplistic, meaningless rhyme I say there are 100 or more songs that no kid can truly understand.
Even the ostensibly low brow metal genre isn't immune - painting every metal band with a broad brush would miss real thinkers like System of a Down, OTEP, Fireflight and Look What I Did . Even Some Metallica lyrics are thoughtful. Or take a sort of forgotten band like Y&T - a big deal in the 80s. The song Mean Streak on the surface is about nothing more than a bitchy woman. However, lines like "big better best tell me where does it end, keeping up with the Joneses is tough" the song is obviously getting at the problems money brings to a marriage or (adult) relationship - even when you have it.
The popular British band The Beautiful South's song Big Coin is about the worries of taking on the Euro, a monetary system that seems as if it's been invented out of thin air - "it ain't gold, it ain't silver" and "the coin has no North or no South." Here are others pop/rock songs no high school kid could REALLY get: Easier than love by Switchfoot, Rubber Ring by The Smiths, Fame by Bowie, The Stroke by Billy Squier, Alive by Pearl Jam, Silver Springs by Fleetwood Mac, Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin, London Calling by The Clash and Born to Run by Springsteen.
There are many others - what do you think, did I miss some or am I just wrong wrong wrong?