Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sorry, Elvis. You too, The Beatles. Oh, and Bob...well, I never really "got" poetry.

 A little game Maya started playing last night got me thinking about what makes a good pop song.  After dinner she was running upstairs to downstairs - from me to Sarah - asking us for a song to sing to the other.  We started simple and really only gave her a chorus.  “Beat It”, “Who Let the Dogs Out”, “Mmm-Bop” – just a taste from the universally recognized collection of super cheese.  We came up with the cliches floating atop the brain pan, then passed them along for her to go sing.  All we gave her was one quick whisper of the chorus.  She grasped almost all of those songs immediately, and repeated them without worrying how accurate they sounded.  We laughed, she danced – total dorkfest family fun.

Then this morning, I listened to Slate’s “Culture Gabfest” while running as they touched on music criticism (thanks to a horrible article in the Boston Globe) and Alex Chilton’s passing.  In effect they were posing the eternal question of what makes a good pop song and if that really matters.  Or at least that's part of what I took away from the conversation.  I've always thought a good pop song requires a hook, a cleverish title, something to pass along that’s memorable.  It brought me back to last night, and how too often people that claim to be knowledgeable about their music are so often posing when they try to pick and choose stuff that’s unique.  When actually people, no matter how old they are, generally come back around to the stuff that’s universal when they’re pressed for a tune or a song at a moment’s notice.

I only bring this up because I then admitted to an answer I’ve been searching for going on just over a decade.  This is my blog so I’m allowed to be indulgently self-referential, mmm’kay?  I’m looking back to a typically way late night in New York City with a few of my best friends that both then lived here in Seattle.  I was living in Dallas, and we all had congregated to visit friends hosting a broadly random Passover seder.  On that particular night we were doing what people do in nameless, timeless bars in Greenwich Village from somewhere between 2am and the time you get motivated to finally spill back out onto the street.  Talking, too.  And the question was posed – what’s the best song ever?  Broad as hell, presumably asked by every human bean at some point in their life, usually in a similar deep-conversation hole.  To this very day I’ve always lamented the fact that I wouldn’t answer.  I wasn’t shy about looking uncool.  Plenty of things came to mind.  Many of them obscure, some of them dorky, a select few possibly inspired.  But the point is that I didn’t answer and just kept on blathering about other things.  I'm sure everyone else forgot about this conversation that same fuzzy morning.

Well, I’m ready to answer now.  The best song ever is “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.  Load my pizza up with cheese, people.  This is the one for me.  Thanks, Maya.  You got me to admit it, at long last.  Now if only I could teach you the chorus, whatever that may be.

Hope your own moments of delayed clarity mean a little something to someone other than yourself today.  Rock on.

No comments: