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Music for the end of the world

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, May 23, 2014 11:23 EDT
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I’ve definitely fallen off doing Friday music posts, but I thought I would revive it here because I’m happy about this mix I made of songs that are either about the apocalypse or were apocalypse-appropriate.

I made this mix for a friend’s party, and the theme was his idea. But I thought I’d share it with you because world catastrophe is one of those things that has been in the news lately, mostly because so many conservatives are betting they will die before they have to admit it’s happening. Listening to this mix yesterday, one thing that struck me is that the lyrics to David Bowie’s “Five Years” completely misread human nature. I mean, I  love the song and I am still moved by how beautifully he evokes people’s despair at learning that the world as they know it is ending and there’s nothing to be done about it. But it turns out that’s not actually how people react to news of impending doom, as we’ve learned in the decades since he wrote it.

For instance, the song lyrics:

News guy wept and told us 
Earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet
Then I knew he was not lying

While Earth itself isn’t dying, of course, we are facing down global warming that will definitely cause some serious doom and gloom. It should make us cry. But instead, we take a poll showing that a big chunk of us just straight up deny that it’s happening and the news media treats the issue like it’s a “controversy” instead of a matter of fact.

I will, however, say that while Bowie didn’t get that people tend to face down doom with denial instead of despair, he did get another thing absolutely right: How easily distracted people are. The entire story, which is kind of half told and more inferred than directly explained, of the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, is one of redemption thwarted. Ziggy is an alien who comes to earth, it’s implied, to save us all from this certain doom. But he ends up becoming a rock star instead, and is to interested in being famous and chasing women to remember that he’s supposed to save us all. So, presumably, the disaster does come and everyone dies. We don’t deserve to survive, it seems.

And that’s how it is in real life. Even the people who accept that global warming is real are basically not doing enough about it. Partially, they’re impeded by powerful forces who are backing denialism. Partially it’s because other issues keep distracting them. And so this is going to happen and we’re not going to do anything about it and that’s that.

I don’t have any solutions to this problem. I don’t think anyone does, which ends up being one more reason we just shrug and move onto other issues, where our voices might actually have an impact. It’s all very sad, but all the more reason I’m happy with this playlist. Most of the songs I found about apocalyptic themes are pretty damn happy. I think Prince keys into the reason why: “But life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant 2 last.”

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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