I've been thinking about this long before I read a review in yesterday's Plain Dealer about a book called "33 Revolutions." The author Dorian Lynskey wrote, " I began this book intending to write a history of a still vital form of music. I finished it wondering if I had instead compsed a eulogy."
I am word person, a lyric listener. The sole reason I love certain songs are for their meaningful lyrics. My daughter gave me satellite radio for Christmas. I figured I would hear all kinds of new music and new brilliant lyrics - but, not so much. I started wondering why twentysomething artists are not commenting on the state of our country or the world anymore. Certainly there are enough reasons to protest!
I grew up in the 60's and 70's when, yes, we had our share of bubble-gum pop, but also evocative, mind-changing lyrics that impacted who I became in some ways. We had Neil Young singing four dead in Ohio, songs like "He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother", Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call. Don't stand in the doorway, Don't block the hall. For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled. There's a battle outside and it's ragin'. It'll soon shake your walls for the times, they are a-changin."
Other songs like "Eve of Destruction" and "For What It's Worth." I could go on and on.
Now I hear one of the recent top songs is "Just the Way You Are." Didn't Billy Joel write that a few decades ago?
When I see your face there's not a thing that I would change, 'cause you're amazing just the way you are." Brilliant, huh?
Another popular one says, "You're so delicious, you're so soft, sweet on the tip of my tongue. You taste like sunlight and strawberry bubble gum."
Even the music is boring. I call them silly little ditties. There's even one called "The Giant Turd Song" but I'll let you imagine the lyrics.
The "Just the Way You Are" rip-off is an artist named Bruno Mars. In the PD review a critic from The New Yorker named Sasha Jones said in her critique of Bruno, that most current pop stars seem oblivious to the times in which they live.
So I did a web search for more recent protest songs. Guess who was doing them in the 2000's? Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Tom Waits... sound familiar?
I looked for some younger artists and there were a few: Pink and her "Dear Mr. President" - What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street? Who do you pray for at night before you sleep? What do you feel when you look in the mirror?
Greenday's "American Idiot" - Don't want to be an American idiot, one nation controlled by the media, information age of hysteria.
John Mayer's "Waiting for the World to Change" apparently his protest against the apathy of his contemporaries in song writing. Now if we had the power to bring neighbors home from war, they would have never missed a Christmas, no more ribbons on the door."
There were a few more - Pearl Jam, Lenny Kravitz, Eminem, Arcade Fire, but can you think of a current song that is going to stand the test of time like the ones written in the passionate time of the 60's and 70's? We are in two on-going wars, we have lived through a disastrous economy, we have poverty and hunger, celebrity worship and disease - doesn't anyone have anything to say? I am around a considerable amount of twentysomethings and I don't hear anything.
Where have all the protest songs gone?