In all the excitement over the Senate going into turbo mode and the Wikileaks situation, this story may have passed many of you by---Billboard released stats on the year's top 100. The statistical information is rich and interesting, including the fact that Lukasz Gottwald had a hand in nearly 10% of the songs on the top 100. But one fact struck me as the sort of thing that is just waiting for someone to get all Kids These Days about: a full quarter of the songs in the top 100 were about partying. Twenty-six of the 100 mention club dancing, and 21 mentioned drinking. It's an interesting trend, and again, if you wanted to, you could rail against Kids These Days for being a bunch of drunk layabouts. Or, if you wanted, you could do a more sophisticated version, as I considered doing, that investigated if this trend was a result of some marketing push or a reaction to the economy.
Then I thought that before I made any judgments on Kids These Days, it might be wise to tend to my own house first. So, in the interest of fairness, I decided to do a little quick analysis of what at least one Kid In My Day---that would be me---listens to, and if you can really draw any conclusions about my character from the lyrical content of music I like. I decided to run two tests, looking at iTunes for most played songs and random songs I've given 5 stars to. And because this is generational warfare I'm analyzing, I determined that any song eligible had to be from between 1984 (when I was given my first record player and started to make my own musical choices) and last week. I can't borrow Kids In Those Days' music to make any points about myself, after all. And because I literally have no idea how most of the songs on the top 100 go, I thought I would refrain from identifying the songs here. I'm just going to describe what the songs are about. (If you can guess, bonus points.) After this, I feel I'll be in a better place to determine if I can judge Kids These Days for their songs about partying.
I encourage you to play along at home!
From The Most Played List
1) This is an indie rock song about how superstitious behaviors to bring good luck in to your own life don't work. I had to look the lyrics up, because it's from a Swedish band, I do believe, and the singer's accent is thick. I had no idea what she was saying.
2) This is a rap song from my late adolescence about partying.
3) This is an R&B song bragging about one's sexual magnetism.
4) This is a rock song about how massive a bummer it is when the woman you're dating never wants to fuck, like ever.
5) This is a rock song covered by a dance pop musician, and it appears to be about the importance of persistence when it comes to getting the fuck out of this stupid town.
6) This is a punk song about an all-consuming infatuation.
7) This is a punk song about how going out to shows can really suck because the band plays late, drunk dudes can be real assholes, and singer is a bit introverted anyway.
8) This is a dance song about falling out of love with someone because they've started to get on your nerves.
9) This is a bombastic rock song where the singer establishes how he'd prefer to be addressed.
10) This is a tender indie rock song about how being a musician can make you feel dehumanized and put on display.
More below the fold.
Random Songs With Five Stars
1) This is an indie rock song about not knowing where you stand with someone you're fucking.
2) This is a punk song shaming other punk bands for being weak sauce, a fair assessment that may also apply to the band who wrote the song but nonetheless won me over somehow.
3) This is an indie rock song lamenting something, probably with not a little sarcasm, but I have no idea what the fuck they're talking about.
4) This is an indie pop song that is also hard to decipher, but at least some of it seems to be about feeling helpless in the face of someone you love but who is mean to you.
5) This is a neo-60s song about how awesome it is to go dancing, presumably in the club.
6) This is a dance song that appears to be about someone who uses her bombastic personality to conceal her vulnerability, but I could be wrong on this one.
7) This is an electro rock song about being a drama queen.
8) This is an alt country song about being hostile to commitment and prone to party too much, in the grand tradition of "ramblin' man" songs.
9) This is an indie pop song about being able to express yourself better dancing (presumably in the club) than by speaking.
10) This is a post-punk dance rock song about PCP fucking your brain up.
Okay, analyzing the data, I count seven songs that are about drinking, drug use, and/or spending time in clubs. That is actually 35% of this sample, meaning that if I'm going to bitch about Kids These Days, I suppose I should actually get on them for not keeping up with their hard-partying elders. (And by elders, I mean me.) Go figure.
Actually, all this reminds me of David Byrne's awesome TED Talk about how the aesthetic choices musicians make are largely dependent on the context in which the music will be played---in a punk club, dance club, on a record at home (for listening alone or at a party), in a concert hall, etc. I think his observations can be translated into talking about why subjects musicians choose to write their lyrics about.