Monday, March 28, 2011

"Just Dance:" Words to Live By

Since I’m a pianist and a percussionist in the school orchestra, it only makes sense that I have an appreciation for classical music.  However, it’s safe to say that, over the years, I’ve cemented myself into the position of “world-class rock snob”.  Basically, I’ve spent most of my life avoiding Top-40 pop, R&B, and hip-hop like a vegan avoids a bacon-double cheeseburger.

But lately, I’ve been wondering: “Why? Just what is really so bad about the types of music that have been dominating the airwaves over the last ten years? I mean, if millions of people eat it up daily, what could be wrong with it?”

So I tuned my radio to a local Top-40 station, grabbed some paper and a pen, and started taking notes on what I liked and disliked.  And much to my surprise, after two hours of intense listening, I had nothing in the “Dislike” column.  I don’t want to bore you by going through the entire list of what I liked, so I’ll just focus on one specific song.

Way back when my only concerns were musical and lyrical quality, I had a problem with the fact that all of the music in Lady Gaga's hit "Just Dance" is basically computer-generated.  But listening to it again, I started to wonder what makes one piece of music "better" than another.  Just because there aren't any passionate solos, or even live instruments, doesn't mean that the music isn't high-quality.  So what if Mozart wrote an opera at age six? I painted a tree when I was six, but you don't see people tripping over themselves to hang it in a museum.  He was just in the right place at the right time, when people wanted to be entertained by a musical written by a first-grader.

Three years ago, I would’ve considered the song to be the epitome of everything I disliked about pop. I guess I was just in the right mood to hear it that night, because I loved every second of it, right from these opening lines:

In the past, I'd written the song off as another pointless, "get-drunk-and-dance-our-fannies-off" number with no soul or respectable musicianship.  But this time, I was able to relate what Gaga was saying to how I was feeling about my own life.  When she sang, "I've had a little bit too much/ All of these people start to rush, start to rush by", I didn't interpret it as being about the affects of alcohol; I mean, who hasn't had a week where everything just flies at you mercilessly? I'm a white, middle-class, private-schooled, eighteen-year-old American male; I'm entitled to feel that life sucks every once in a while!

As the song continues, Gaga goes on about how she can't remember anything, from where she left her keys and phone to the name of the club, but it doesn't really matter, because none of her problems exist on the dance floor.  I tell you what, that spoke to me.  Sometimes, I just need something to do to get my mind off of the job I'm lucky to have, the family that loves me, and the mild depression that comes and goes!  What better way to do that than to surround myself with strangers, singing about feelings that I've never genuinely had, and awkwardly gyrating the night away? Personally, I think my generation's found our voice.