Fuck You: Music’s Underlying Message

I had a discussion recently about the underlying message in music. What is all music really saying, ya know? I think it boils down to very few subjects. But we’re not going to discuss all of those subjects here, dear reader, oh no. We won’t discuss Lionel Richie and the longevity of the love song, nor will we discuss the triumphant and everlasting message behind Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” We’re here to discuss the most important message of all: Fuck You.

Who knows what “good” music is anymore. For someone such as myself who is in love with musical superlatives, I am aware that so much of this is subjective. So let me say, this will apply to “Powerful” music. Music that has an exclamation point. This transcends genre, era, performers, context, all of that. Music that if it came on first thing in the morning, your day would be constantly guarded by an iridescent mountain lion wearing a technicolor dream coat and Cosmo Kramer’s lobster shirt. A great song should be saying “Fuck You” to something.

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For all of the Gweneth Paltrow-izing that it has gone through, Cee Lo Green’s mega summer jam is a fantastic song. Do you remember before it was “officially” released, censored, and overplayed, and there was simply a video scrolling the lyrics in different whimsical fonts against a colored background? That may have been the greatest video I have ever seen. The song is so pure at its foundation. Let me summarize; “You, the dude over here, stole the girl I loved, and for that, you may sincerely go fuck yourself. You ma’am, over there, former object of my affection, who once held the keys to my heart, you’re a gold digga’…may also, on your voting registration, join the Fuck You Recipient Party. In this case, I’ll even include the censored version, because Cee Lo deserves to get paid, and the message remains.

But as we said earlier, the message does not need to be explicitly stated. In writing this, I tried to think of examples of amazing songs that do NOT say “Fuck You” in some way. And let me tell you, web user perusing this here blog, it was not easy! “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head?” That song is just one giant “Fuck You” to everything. Listen to the end of the chorus “Because I’m free….nothin’s worrying me!” Bacharach and David are basically giving the middle finger to everyone and everything in that statement. Politics, social issues, sports teams, they’re not worrying me, so take a fucking number.

Let’s continue on the theme of the not so obvious “Fuck You.” We skip the catalogs of John Lennon, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Punk Rock as a whole, The genius Harry Nillson…wait, let’s include that one for good measure:

Hall and Oates? “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” might as well have been parenthesized (is that a word?) “I Can’t Go For That (Fuck You)” The Bee-Gees “Stayin Alive”? Check out the lyrics, man! But even if that song were instrumental, you would get the message. Even Beyonce…”If you Like It Then You Shoulda Put A Ring On It….And By The Way Fuck You” was the working title before it was released.

We want our music, regardless of style, to have some conviction. That’s why these temporary Idol pop songs do not move us. (with the exception of “Since You Been Gone”) Its just generic dance floor propaganda. Yes, we can roll up to the club, say something to the DJ, and find some fly members of the opposite sex, but what then? We need some lyrical sparring, something we can get behind. And if we can’t get behind the underlying message of “Fuck You” then really, what hope do we have as a society? None, by blog browsing friend, none.

Turntable.fm

Lets talk about Turntable.fm, because that’s what everyone is talking about these days. It’s like:
“Hey man, wanna go shoot some hoops?”
“I can’t dude, I got a DJ set on turntable.fm’s ‘Ska-Pop-Ballads for Account Executives Room’ coming up in 10 min!”
“Understandable dilemma!”

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Turntable.fm is a site (do people say ‘site’ anymore?  Should I say it’s an ‘app’ ‘social network’ ‘architectural web integrated paradigm’?) that lets you act as DJ in a virtual club with others, each taking a turn playing some music from a vast library of tunes.  The music is streamed, you have some sort of option to buy, although I’m not sure anyone purchases tunes through Turntable.  There are several elements to discuss, so lets discuss them.

Music has always been a social experience.  There were in fact times, when listening to music was not at all a portable experience.  Think of the dark days when we had to carry a discman about town.  The weight! The related back problems!  But anyhoo, it’s how we relate to each other.  Generations were moved to political and social action by song (I’m thinking mostly about ‘The Right Stuff’ by New Kids On The Block) and this communal experience seemed to be on its way out.

Think about it for a bit, when is the last time you listened to something with a group of people that you do or do not know, at the same time, and discussed it.  We watch a clip on facebook, stream the sample clips on itunes, download the entire catalog of Burt Bacharach, all in our own little bubble.   The concert industry still exists, but how many live performances per year do you think the average American attends? So that element, I love.  Its a positive thing for musicians, because as we all know, radio is so dead right now.

I feel like I’m getting off track here a bit.  I seem to be stating loosely researched facts here, and while iblogwhatihear is your main source for factual information, lets take a sharp left and go straight into my opinion.

I’m intrigued, but slightly turned off by Turntable.   I wonder about the licensing related issues – like a few years back when there was all the talk of charging crazy rates for streaming based radio stations, and if this site can stream everything for free, why don’t we have a subscription based situation from itunes or some reputable carrier…..my brain just exploded.  But that’s not my real concern.  My real concern is the filter.

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Here’s a shock.  I’m incredibly particular about the music I listen to.  If a trusted source tells me something is awesome, I give it a listen.  There is not much musical trust going into a situation like this, so our attention spans are going to be fairly short.  When a classic Hall and Oates jam comes on in the “Retro music that is now cool again” room, I’m gonna rock the fuck out.  But when the next song up is “Don’t Stop Believin”, while it’s an amazing song as stated in the previous post, I’m gonna hit the mute button, and go do some other internetting.

Basically what I’m saying is….it’s kind of like the radio.  We want filters.  We want taste makers.  Otherwise, go on ‘The Myspace” now owned by Justin Timberlake, and see how many super awesome bands you come across.

I’m torn.  I want to delve headfirst in, and play some crazy songs and enjoy the experience…I just really don’t want to sit through shitty music in order to do it.  Chances are one of those people up in the little DJ booth has a musical taste that does not mesh with yours.  When I go into the “Dance Music For People Who Gyrate After Consuming Bud Lite Lime” I want to put on some James Brown, and maybe hear some awesome soul music in return.  The moment Girl Talk comes on, I’m out.  See what I’m saying here?  It’s hard to sit through the crappy songs when in your own home (or more likely killing time at work)

What if this guy is the next in line??
What if this guy is the next in line??

In conclusion, PROVE ME WRONG INTERNET!!!!  Invite me to an awesome room where everyone is playing amazing music at least 91% of the time, and I am all in.  But I’m telling you, the second I hear some Girl Talk…..