What's That Noise?
© B. L. Bierley 2012
What Happened to the Radio?
I’ve discovered that it doesn’t really matter if you’re “in the loop” once you’re past a certain chronological age. I am still technically “in the loop”. Clearly the issue is that I’m in the wrong loop altogether. It’s a profound moment when you are no longer able to understand, at least not with complete certainty and accuracy, most things in the popular mainstream.
Take music for example. I’m not exactly sure when it happened. It could have been first hinted when the music on the radio began to give me indigestion. No, not so much indigestion, but rather a prolonged state of confusion about what exactly the songs were supposed to say to the listener. Nowadays when I tune in to any radio station playing current pop music I am bombarded with the number of songs I cannot analyze and bring to a mental understanding of terms. Sure, the music will be about topics I could understand. They’re all about human issues that plague everyone—bad break-ups, generational rage against the societal norm, unrequited love, etc., but the lyrics are way beyond what I understand. Or maybe I’m just blocking them out?
I might like the beat of the drums or the riff of the guitar, but the words may as well be whale-speak or some pygmy tribal incantation that doesn’t translate into the American English I was taught in school. I often have to corner my daughter DaVelma in the hallway of our home, the place where all subtle communicative barriers are broken down to the base level, and ask her what some lyrical mystery actually means. When my daughter isn’t available, I just flip my radio to a station that plays the classic 70’s and 80’s music of my youth, either of which is easier for me to dissect and more universally enjoyable to all … or so I thought.
No Love for the Classics
Recently I tuned in to one of my favorite satellite radio channels just in time to hear Olivia Newton John’s catchy ballad, “Have You Ever Been Mellow?” I turned up the volume and began singing along. Ziggy just so happened to be the unfortunate passenger in the car that day. Usually my son will at least try to get in the spirit with me. He’s often known to bob his head and attempt to join in during the second chorus. On this particular day, Ziggy ignored my every attempt to get him to sing with me, lowering his head and pretending to be engrossed in his Nintendo 3DS. Thinking that perhaps the ditty wasn’t in his wheelhouse, I asked him why he didn’t want to join in singing. Ziggy turned and with a straight face said, “No thanks, I’m in my happy place.” That was my wake-up call. Maybe music isn’t universally well liked no matter what year it’s born?
DaVelma hasn’t ever been one to suffer my musical choices lightly. Although, DaVelma loves to watch old eighties movies—especially now that the seventies and eighties styles are hinting back into the fashion culture. Just the other day she wanted me to show her how to do feathered bangs. I got a little choked up. Believe me when I say that I am waiting with my Aqua Net hairspray poised at the ready over my heated 3/8” curling iron and teasing comb for the moment high, wind-tunnel-tested bangs make their comeback! But I digress. Returning to my point, I think new songs exist on a subtext of irony or paradoxical parameter that doesn’t touch my peer group’s plane of existence. It’s almost fascist the way they keep their subject matter hidden like a password to a club where I wasn’t extended membership.
Deal With It!
There are many things still worth my appreciation. There still exist good and bad examples in mainstream musical entertainment. I don’t think I’ll totally give up yet. There are songwriters and singers making heart-rending ballads that pierce the soul, thus reminding us of our own more tender recollections and memories. You cannot listen to artists like Adele without being taken back to moments in your youth. Those days when you discovered you were no longer the love of someone’s life. Who doesn’t have a memory of that shocking revelation after a Christmas break from school when you find that your first “car-date” boyfriend wants his class ring back so he can give it to another girl to be his girlfriend? Just me then? Okay, but at least I can say I understood that one pretty well.
And don’t even get me started about the maudlin-yet-addictive qualities of country music songs that hearken back the soul-bleeding memories of people you lost or moments in your personal history when you weren’t sure what the world was coming to. Patriotic pride gets me every time, especially since September 11, 2001. And more than one recent ballad about bad-for-you choices has been known to be played on a repeating loop in my iPod in recent months. I think that’s why I’m coming back to my way earlier roots in country music these days. I listened to it all through my rural-route childhood in small town Alabama, folks. Heck the only reason I stopped listening to it in my teens was because there would always be one song out of five with the power to make me want to break into tears. Nowadays it might make me mess up my mascara, but I can at least understand what’s being sung, by goodness!
I think it’s just time for me to face the facts. I’m a creature of habit with my music. My current playlist spans decades and skips over genre lines. Okay, so I didn’t say it was a good habit. I mean, let’s face it, folks. If you take the trouble of identifying something as habitual, it usually means it’s bad or bad for you. If someone were to try and analyze me based on my music selections, they’d be busy for years trying to figure out what I’m about with my erratic tastes and song choices. The truth is that I love music. I’ve never been afraid to listen to new sounds or sample new styles. I was alive before “Hip-Hop” and “Pop” were household words, but I have some of each in my music library. The simpler truth is that music has always been and will always be a vast and wide-open venue for varying tastes in entertainment. So I guess I’ll just keep listening to the songs and quit worrying about understanding them. Just like Gloria Gaynor, “I will survive! Hey, hey!”