Although this blog is generally what I would describe as "aggressively UN-topical", I'm going to veer into the current for a second.
You may have heard that Miley Cyrus performed at the VMAs this Sunday. You may have heard this from pretty much every news outlet, mainstream and niche, feminist, socio-cultural, and otherwise.
I too have heard this.
One overarching theme I have noticed in coverage of this event is the complete dismissal of the song she was actually performing: her new single, "We Can't Stop". I've seen it described as "inoffensive", "fluffy", "the party anthem of the summer" (PSHHHHHHHHHHHH), etc. The bulk of analytical energy has been focused on Miley Cyrus' dancing, the staging of her performance, her use (or appropriation, depending who you ask) of working-class black culture, and so forth.
(I'd like to see a little more ink spilled on the subject of her teeth, though, like does she actually have more teeth than the average person or is that just an optical illusion?)
While I appreciate the importance of this cultural criticism, I can't dismiss this song.
BECAUSE I HATE IT.
So in this blog I try to showcase the songs that I really love and am attracted to, because that's just a nicer way of life than the alternative. I fear this -- and my general enthusiasm for artists like Meatloaf, Elton John, and the Backstreet Boys -- could potentially lead to the notion that I have no taste or discernment in matters of popular music. That I think everything "bad"* is good.
In fact this is not true; although I'm not sure what kind of taste or discernment I DO have, I can tell that it is definitely there.
(*Would like to clarify that I don't think Meatloaf, Elton John, OR the Backstreet Boys are "bad". I love all those guys!)
The way I can tell it is there is the sinking feeling of irritation and sadness produced by an actually bad pop song. By which I mean one that is cynical, and soulless, and produced for crass reasons like MAKING MONEY instead of for the SHEER JOY OF HUMAN EXPRESSION. (I never said I wasn't naive. I am.)
I think it's fair to say that an irritating pop song actually gets my goat more than it does the goat of an average person, because I love and think about pop music so much more than the average person (or so I am told). Great pop music gets to me in a way very little else does. And I believe so truly and passionately in the power of popular music to inspire, to connect, and to elucidate the most basic values of human existence that when I see this power perverted it makes me angry and depressed.
The song: Miley Cyrus, "We Can't Stop"; 2013
1. Deep-voiced spoken word intro just invites comparisons to Prince. Don't invite comparisons to Prince unless you're ready for it. (Miley Cyrus, in my opinion, is not.)
2. The self-referential shout-outs to people who are actually in the club dancing to "We Can't Stop" in the moment are clever, but done better by this song's contemporary, "Crazy Kids" by Ke$ha.
3. A positive: "Can't you see it's we who own the night" is good grammar AND it sounds good to boot. Credit where credit is due!
4. What is the deal with this trend of songs with the message that we should all dance until we die? Is anybody really asking the young kids to stop dancing and having fun, really? Why say "We can't stop, we won't stop"? This song is so insistent that "we" can do whatever we want, kiss whoever we want, dance however we want. Well, sure we can -- free will! Is that news?
5. Seems minor, is actually the crux of my issue with this song and with many things: "hands in the air like we don't care". First of all, it's meaningless and over-used. Secondly. . .
I guess what I am saying, in this and in everything, is that if I ruled the world all the pop songs would tell us to put our hands in the air like we care, A LOT. To me it seems a nicer way of life than the alternative.