The beautiful thing about entirely out-aging cool is that I just don’t give a shit about the small things anymore. I don’t fear personal judgements based on the things I like or the choices I make. Especially when it comes to music. I’m an old fart. I have accepted this. My beard is white. My shoes are boring and my knees hurt. The first concert I saw was when I was 12 – Rush at Maple Leaf Gardens. I know, no one reading this knows what Rush or Maple Leaf Gardens is. Rush was a band from Toronto. Maple Leaf Gardens is now a grocery store.
I am and have always been a huge and likely too-serious fan of music. I love all sorts of genres ranging from pop to metal to indie rock to avant-garde neoclassical to classic country to reggae. I like listening to gamelan and Neo-prog. Just not at the same time. Note: start progamelan band. If you shuffle-play my bloated music library, you’re likely to hear Aimee Mann followed by Mastodon and alphabetically, Robert Wyatt is followed by Robyn. I will listen to anything once apart from modern country music (though I love the guitar playing of Vince Gill and Brad Paisley among other rippin’ chicken pickers). I’d rather wear headphones piping in the audio of my conception in one ear and the sounds of an abattoir’s high season in the other than listen to a single utterance of a millionaire hick’s love of tequila, trucks and tight shorts. That was half-rage commentary, don’t push me, Florida-Georgia Line.
As the years continue to lay on me, I hear the comment my father repeated throughout my childhood when he’d overhear music on the TV, radio or emerging from the family stereo speakers that he didn’t like. “They’ll be forgotten in a year” is what he’d say. My dad was right a lot of the time. And sadly, now, I hear that comment in my own voice. Lots of bands that were popular when I was growing up quickly faded from memory and in popularity. However, the same thing happened when my dad was a music-loving kid. It ain’t all cream that rises to the top. Sometimes it’s a floater of a different substance entirely.
So when I look at today’s music charts – and I never look at any such thing – I find myself asking, “Who are these people with strange names and no clothes on“. Okay, maybe I’m channeling a bit more of my father than I imagined. I have zero interest in hearing what they’re producing, meaning what a team of other people in the shadows are almost entirely producing. Then my 8-year-old daughter insists on playing something on Spotify (reminder: cancel Spotify account and purchase a Microsoft Zune off eBay for daughter) and I force myself to be a supportive, encouraging dad and have a listen. Then all my prejudices are entirely justified. Lucky for my daughter, her graying father loves synth pop and can counter Camila Cabello with Dear Rouge and Little Mix with ionnalee listen for listen. When Tay is played, we’re all content. As an oversized rock dad wearing oversized cargo shorts and holding a sweet collection of hoodies, my love and knowledge of pop music is likely more advanced than others of my ilk. I can hear a Backstreet Boys song and think “Damn, they nailed that hook” or begrudgingly listen to a Katy Perry tune and out loud, say “This chorus is AMAZING!” As a failed rock star, I have an appreciation for the craft, regardless of the inanity of the lyrics or the haircuts.
In an effort to not entirely become my father and just go buy some durable slacks and fall asleep watching Turner Classic Movies, I’m taking a deep dive into what kids like to listen to, or at least what Billboard seems to be telling people what’s ‘hot’. These quick and painful reviews were spawned by some editor email tennis between myself and Addicted Managing Editor, Nadia Elkharadly. She’ll often send me press releases for bands and in my droll sarcastic manner, I’ll send her back single line refusals, such as “Sounds like what would happen if Nickelback took mushrooms and woke up in their parents’ basement wearing eyeliner” or “I wouldn’t listen to this band with the ears of my worst enemy“.
Those are unused, you can have at them.
Okay, here it goes. I vow to listen to the entirety of each of these five tracks from the top 5 on the Hot 100 and stream-of-consciousness write what comes to mind. If I like it, I’ll be honest. I have NO guilty pleasures when it comes to music. Neither should you.
- This is America – Childish Gambino. I have a lot of time for Donald Glover, blah, blah, blah, genius and all that. The message of this song (accompanied with the video) is important. I’m not going to provide further analysis to the heaps of it out there. From a purely musical opinion, this is a really interesting song. Damn, my first try and I get an ‘important’ pop song.
- Nice For What – Drake. I have little interest in Drake’s mushily-delivered rap and think the production is generally overrated. But, in the parlance of the genre, this shit knocks. Damn again, no room for funnies. Keep it up, Aubrey. (Editor’s note: some of the credit is due to Ms. Lauryn, that sample is a 30+ music lover’s gateway drug to pure musical addiction to this track)
- God’s Plan – Drake. More Drake, fine. This is the Drake I can’t just can’t take. But it did make me dig deep for that whack rhyme. Thanks for handing out cash in the video, Aubrey.
- Psycho – Post Malone ft. Ty Dolla $ign. Finally! Something easy to hate! The only word I understood was ‘Michael’. I have no idea what this song is about. Except that Post Malone has a lot of money. Which is repeated a lot in pop rap like this and is the prime reason I can’t stomach it. This didn’t help me enjoy modern hip-hop more. I’ll go back to listening to Cannibal Ox.
- Meant To Be – Bebe Rexha feat. Florida Georgia Line. I’m crying, not from the message of this song (I actually don’t know if there is one) I’m crying because this is the worst thing I’ve ever heard. I want to drill out my eardrums but I’ll close the tab instead. If FGL are the featured artists on this, why do they comprise 75% of this audio turd? When I took a shot at Florida Georgia Line above, I had no idea I’d be forced to suffer through listening to them. Karma is tough. The chorus on this song will haunt me in its atrocity. Mostly because it’s repeated 88 times.
There it is, kids. I listened to five songs on the Hot 100. Life is good but that was awful. Maybe I’ll do this again, but I really don’t want to. Kid music is really bad, much worse than the kid music I listened to in my teens. Not that I hold dear a majority of what the 80s produced but I was gifted something to think about recently by learned scholar, John Mayer. I actually watched his Oxford Union Q & A for some reason and have to say that the man has given lots of things lots of thought and his missteps have produced a forced sort of wisdom that he likely overshares. One thing he said in a very general yet gracious way when comparing modern music to 80s music is that at least back in the 80s, artists were making complex music. That music then was well composed and beautifully performed.
I think I agree with Professor Mayer on this. What makes old pop music laughable is it’s over-production and being labored to brick density. But stripped down to piano and acoustic guitar, a good pop song from any era will sound great. Songs 2-5 listed above lack intricacy from a content standpoint. That This Is America is number one is astounding. And welcomed. If pop music is moving in this direction and away from songs with the complexity of a restaurant placemat word search, the kids may be alright after all.