To help stick my cred as a “cool” dad, I’ve decided to share the car radio with my daughter. I am AOK with dedicating a couple pre-sets for the “hit mix” and “party” stations, as long as I still get my Jazz, NPR and alternative tracks.
But having to listen to what Big Music is now releasing to the teen market, I have become painfully aware that the hallowed “Question Song” of yore has undergone a disturbing – and perhaps fatal – decline. Let me explain.
In my salad days, I loved Question Songs. The lyrics made you actually stop and think about what the songwriter was trying to say. The question indicated a genuine narrative, one that stuck too long in your mind, like peanut butter does to the roof of your mouth. The question might challenge authority (“What’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”), celebrate life (“Isn’t she lovely? isn’t she wonderful?”) or ponder death (“Where have all the flowers gone?”). Deep stuff.
A few more choice examples*:
- Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
- How can you mend a broken heart?
- Does anybody really know what time it is? (Does anybody really care…about time?)
- Why do fools fall in love?
- How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man?
- Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?
- If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?
- Where does that highway go to?
*Please notice that “Where are the clowns?” didn’t make the list. While I’ve never loved Judy Collins, even that mawkish ballad hews to a grander theme of unrequited love.
Now compare those questions to what currently rules the airwaves:
- What do you mean? (Justin Bieber)
- What’s wrong with being confident? (Demi Lovato)
- Is there somebody else on your mind? (One Direction)
- Tell me, is it true that these men are from Mars? (Britney Spears, Iggy Azalea)
Insipid, paltry fare as dissatisfying as eating a rice cake for lunch. Or celery. I rest my case.
Fare thee well, pop music Question Song. Your death has not gone unnoticed. RIP.