This reevaluation of music choice has led to a great expansion of my music when I'm sweating. First, I explored running to Frankie Valli, the Rolling Stones, and the Temptations, which was a success. I ventured further into the 70s and 80s, with equal enjoyment. And then I hit a playlist I call "Middle School to College." I created this particular playlist so that when I'm old and gray, I can reminisce about the good old days when I had all my teeth and danced the night away to such classy ditties as "The Cupid Shuffle", "Buy U a Drank", and "The Macarena."
On my first foray into this playlist, however, I was greeted primarily by songs of my early middle school days. As I listened to the pop songs that brought up my age group, I was struck by the messaging that we were formed by. Well, at least most of my peers. I was "that kid" when it came to this genre of bubble gummie goodness. Having been brought up on the likes of the Beatles, Sly & the Family Stone, and even those pop pioneers, Abba, I could hear the crassness of the music of the late 90s from a mile away. This ain't the kind of music that lasts. And I would smarmily inform my peers (yes, I'm looking at you, Michelle and Kayla) that in 5 years, they would be very embarassed about their obsession with the likes of BSB and NSync. Now, I was right that they were embarassed (or maybe not, I don't know- they can speak for themselves on that score). What I was wrong about, however, was the lasting impact of those groups. Not only on music, but on pop culture.
So I started listening more closely to the lyrics of all these songs of my generation and realized that there were some interesting thoughts underlying the snappy tunes. Here are some musings on a couple of these sugary confections:
- "As Long As You Love Me" - Backstreet Boys... This particular delight has all the beautiful melodies one would expect from the group who arguably got the ball rolling on the boy band movement. Underneath the smooth harmonization, however, I can't help but be rather disturbed by the words that are being so tenderly crooned. One assumes that the intended message is that you should focus on who a person is now rather than dwelling on the past. A debatable position, but at least an understandable one. Unfortunately, the way this message is conveyed is "I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you did, as long as you love me." If someone loving you is truly the only criteria for select amorous partners, we may quickly run into trouble. On this logic, stalkers make the ideal mate. Their all-consuming passion is to love you. My advice, gentle reader, is to focus on who a person is in the present... but if they have some kind of violent felony conviction in the past, maybe that needs to factor into your decision making process of whether or not to date them. Just a suggestion.
- "Bye Bye Bye" - N Sync... This is one I can pretty much get on board with. If someone's treating you badly in a dating relationship, probably time to move on. A good message for all the tweens out there today who are obsessed with Twilight ("We'll be together forever- you don't understand our love!"). I do wonder how this translates into our generation's overall view of marriage/the purpose of having relationships in general. He doesn't ever really seem to explain how she's been making him a "fool in this game for two." Cheating? Not paying him enough attention? Eating the last of the tortilla chips? More information would make this easier to judge. Anyways, this gets a passing grade.
- "Case of the Ex" - Mya... Again, I'll give this one a big pass. I was surprised because I think this was one of the only songs I heard all morning from this era that I thought was a genuinely empowering song. Basically, check yourself before you wreck yourself. The possible exception is the end of the bridge- not sure that threatening to reciprocate with your own round of infidelity is the best way to keep your man. Or maybe it is... I'll let the seriously committed gals of the world school me on the most effective threats to encourage fidelity.
- "Nookie" - Limp Bizkit... Well, there's not really a whole lot of ambiguity on this one. Or need to explain why it might be objectionable for tweens to listen to it. But what I find interesting is that in the midst of the declaration that he "did it all for the nookie," the bridge reveals the hopelessness that old Fred has from this kind of life style: "Leave me alone - it'll always be the same, ain't nothing going to change, it'll always be the same, I'm just gonna stay here." So actually, I have less of a problem with this song than with others on this list. It seems to be a pretty honest presentation of where the guy is in his valuation of sex over the simpler pleasures, like a woman who doesn't cheat on him. Though, I still would argue that this is not 12 year-old appropriate, TRL. That's right, I'm looking at you, Carson Daley.
- "Baby One More Time" - Britney Spears... Okay, yeah, so this may be one of the catchiest songs of all time. Even now, if it comes on, the windows are rolling up and I am belting this out at the top of my lungs. And how many tunes boast a mid-song pause for dramatic wind noises? But where to start with the problems it presents? First of all, this is a song about indecisiveness. You had a reason you broke up with him, sister. Stick to your guns! Basically, at the first sign of loneliness, she's ready to do whatever it takes to get an old relationship back. Not only that, he's evidently the "reason she breathes." Wow. This reeks of codependency. But finally, let's talk about the chorus. "Hit me baby one more time." I have no idea what this means. Domestic abuse? Get back together again? Dominatrix? He's a bartender and she's asking for another shot? Love her again? There's really no way to know. And if you don't know what something means, you shouldn't say it. I learned that with "Milkshake." Ick.
Ah, middle school.