Music used to be the thing that made me feel hip. It was the one thing I knew more about than everybody I knew (okay, TV shows, too, but that’s another blog entry). But these days, things have changed. Today, music makes me feel old and out of touch (TV shows, too, but that’s another blog entry).
I had a huge scare today when I went over to Billboard.com and realized that I knew more songs on the Adult Contemporary chart than the Modern Rock chart. Yes, I’ve heard the new Phil Collins song. No, I don’t know “Bottom of a Bottle” by Smile Empty Soul. Checking the Hot 100 was even more terrifying. Jay-Z seems to perform on at least 75% of the songs, and I’ve never heard a single one of them except for that damn Beyonce song, which will be echoing uncontrollably in my head until the day I die. (There should be a law banning songs for being too catchy.) Is Jay-Z planning any collaborations with REM or Rufus Wainwright so that I might finally appreciate his ubiquitous handiwork?
The whole chart is full of names I don’t recognize. Chingy? Murphy Lee? The Ying Yang Twins? Who are these top ten hitmakers? What does “Damn!” by YoungBloodZ Featuring Lil Jon sound like? How did it become the #11 most popular tune in the country without me ever hearing it? I remember when “Tarzan Boy” by Baltimora was #11. I knew that song by heart!
Not only do I not recognize these artists, but some of them don’t seem to recognize each other. A song called “Into You” (currently #5) is credited to “Fabolous Featuring Tamia or Ashanti”. What do they mean Tamia OR Ashanti? Does even Fabolous himself have trouble telling today’s cookie cutter R&B divas apart?
I’m not trying to slam hip-hop, only hip-hop I don’t recognize. What happened to Ini Kamoze or Kriss Kross? Okay, their last hits were a while ago, and maybe they’ve gone their separate ways, but why aren’t they getting in on this collaboration bonanza? Why not Jay-Z Featuring Kriss, or P. Diddy Featuring Kross or Ashanti? Did I miss the dueling Kriss Kross solo albums? Talk about wiggity-whack!
The last time I felt like I had my finger on the pop pulse was when I bought Hanson’s debut album the day it came out. I was one of the first to get hooked on “MMM-Bop” and one of the first to uncover their true gender identity (they’re boys). But it would seem their days of harmonizing and home schooling are far behind them, and the Hanson boys have surrendered control of the pop charts to P. Diddy and his many, many, many friends. Come back, Hanson! We need your squeaky-voiced songs of adolescent glee. Oh, wait. They’re older, too. Their voices have changed, and they’ve cut their hair. Hanson have moved on; I haven’t.
When pop radio stopped playing music I liked, I moved over to alternative, but now that’s full of stuff I don’t like either: ponderous metal, shitty rap-rock hybrids and lame punk wannabes. Realizing that some of my favorite bands, like the Beautiful South, Danny Wilson, Pet Shop Boys, Blur and yes, even REM, were bigger in England than over here, I wondered if maybe I was more in line with British music tastes and had been born in the wrong country. But then I found this site, where you can look up the U.K. chart positions of any song. Sorry, but I can’t live in a country where “Lay Your Hands on Me” by the Thompson Twins didn’t even crack the top 10, and where the Go-Go’s and Corey Hart had no hits at all. (Well, technically, the Go-Go’s lame 1995 comeback attempt “The Whole World Lost its Head” went to number 29, which doesn’t help England’s case in my opinion.)
So I live in the past. Yes, I ran right out and bought the new Bangles album yesterday. (And yes, there’s a new Bangles album, for those of you who were unaware of that fact, i.e., everyone except me and the Bangles.) Early review: it’s pretty good. The girls are older, but the music sounds the same as when they were walking like Egyptians or walking down your street. They don’t get as much exercise these days, but they still like to fall in love. It’s good music, and it’s familiar.
And that’s very comforting to me in my old age.