Posts Tagged ‘Thankfulness’

Pop Music: I Get It. Everyone Needs a Big Mac Once in a While

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
Radio, video
Boogie with a suitcase
Your livin’ in a disco
Forget about the rat race
Let’s do the milkshake, sellin’ like a hotcake
Try some buy some fee-fi-fo-fum
Talk about, pop musik
Talk about, pop musik
– M

(Oh, yes. Yep. I sure did.)

I read this article, Hit Charade, in The Atlantic this morning. (Oddly, it was written last year – not sure why it popped up today, or where I saw it.) It’s a fascinating and disturbing discussion of the songwriters behind huge pop hits. Interestingly, the majority of this crap is created, via a fairly precise money-making formulaic process, by a handful of men (who are primarily middle-aged, white, and Scandinavian.) Finally, an article that kind of sums up why my eyes involuntarily roll when I have to hear this shit.

As producer Louis Pearlman put it:

. . . the Backstreet Boys went from playing in front of Shamu’s tank at SeaWorld to selling out world tours. Millennium, released in 1999, is one of the best-selling albums in American history. Pearlman then decided to start an identical boy band, performing songs by the same songwriters. “My feeling was, where there’s McDonald’s, there’s Burger King.”

That’s it! It’s fast food. It’s not good for you. They’re feeding you Big Macs.

No one can live on Big Macs.

I have a group of neighbors (and beloved friends) that I hang out with a lot. We joke about our differing tastes in music pretty often. I am the self-proclaimed music snob. They will play a song, or the radio will be on in their car, or they’ll be discussing pop music or the Billboard awards show? (I don’t know, I muted that conversation, ladies) or mention a song (or sometimes an artist) and I will say that I don’t know that song or artist. Years ago, they were in complete disbelief that I might not know a Beyonce or Drake or Maroon 5 or Taylor Swift song, or whatever, but I think they actually get that I REALLY DO NOT KNOW THAT SONG. NEVER HEARD IT BEFORE. I REALLY DO NOT LISTEN TO THE RADIO. (Okay, occasionally NPR or 97.1 THE RIVER, but I’m not talking classic rock here.) Now, to be fair, we can usually find some middle ground in classic rock or some eighties stuff. And also, so as not to be painting them all with the same brush, some also like stuff that I consider good. (You know who you are. Get over it. I am not painting you with my sweeping brush.)

This is not at all limited to that group, either. My own children like this pop crap. Nicky Minaj, and Selena Gomez, and other “artists” that all sound the same to me. We have a rule in our car that the driver gets to pick the music. I took my son and his friend to a baseball game one time and played my music in the car and they proceeded to toss me such insults as, “Pop music rules” and “Rock and roll sucks.” (My heart broke. The saving grace is that he actually has come around on that, and while he still listens to crap, he also has a nice appreciation for the harder stuff.)

Sometimes I think, “Well, I guess this means I’m really old now.” Other times I think, “Was this how mom and dad felt when I bought that “Like a Virgin” 45, or when I turned over the Some Great Reward cassette again and again for hours on end? There is no doubt in my mind what they were thinking when they saw this album come in the house.

I still remember. Dad did what Lisa and I refer to as “Cat Face.” It’s akin to Grumpy Cat; Cecil was the original grumpy cat. Cat Face was derived from Cecil getting the look my cat, Scully, had while riding in the car.

Super-tangential side note: I picked this album cover for its’ memorable parental shock value. Shocking at the time, but later, even more ridiculously fun teenage shock value moments of memory include the following:

  • My dad’s disgust over a Lubricated Goat CD lying in my car
  • A particularly heated discussion over dinner about whether Jesus might have masturbated, somehow precipitated by my recounting tidbits of a My Life With the Thrill Kill Cult show I had seen at Masquerade the night before.

I also used that album because it is one of those albums that I remember studying over and over, sitting in my room, looking at all the pictures while listening. It’s right up there with being a really little kid in our Alpharetta playroom, looking at the people on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s, or a few years after that, sitting in a den in our NY house, playing Rumours, and looking at the cover, wishing I had an outfit like Stevie’s, and wondering what the deal was with Mick’s weird dangling balls belt thingie. [/end tangent]

By the end of The Song Machine, readers will have command of such terms of art as melodic math, comping, career record, and track-and-hook . . . One term remains evasive, however: artist. In the music industry, the performers are called artists, while the people who write the songs remain largely anonymous outside the pages of trade publications. But can a performer be said to have any artistry if, as in the case of Rihanna, her label convenes week-long “writer camps,” attended by dozens of producers and writers (but not necessarily Rihanna), to manufacture her next hit? Where is the artistry when a producer digitally stitches together a vocal track, syllable by syllable, from dozens of takes? Or modifies a bar and calls it a new song?

The reason I can’t get into radio pop shit, but which i’ve never been able to put into words, is this: Where is the artistry? (Not lost on anyone is that the magical outpouring of Prince grief from every corner of the universe was due to his artistry, right?) This article, with its discussion of templates, and magic, proven formulas, and hooks, and emulation. . . gah. It almost made my head explode.

I fully admit that this is a rambling, quickly-penned-in-20-minutes-mess-of-a-post, devoid of it’s own artistry, but this article really struck a chord with me, based on a few recent discussions about my (supposed!) music snobbery. After reading this article, though, I think I am going to stop calling myself a music snob and just start saying that I like music that doesn’t come from a template cranked out by a machine. It seems I’m into Artistry. (Watch out, y’all. I’m now totally highbrow and fancy and stuff. Also, I like lyrics with ideas. Real ideas. And poetry. And imagery is nice, too.)

Small disclaimer:

  1. Some of this pop crap IS on my running list. Particularly, I’m thinking about that Kelley Clarkson song that is mentioned in the article as a Yeah Yeah Yeahs ripoff. But running is different – I like that dissociative feel of the repetition of a beat and the rhythmic pattern of my feet pounding the pavement.
  2. I am not really judging people who listen to the radio stuff. We like what we like. I just don’t feel like there is much about pop music that feeds my soul. But I get it: Everyone needs to eat a Big Mac every once in a while. They taste good, even if it’s not worth it, because you end up in and out of the office bathroom the rest of the afternoon.
  3. There are songs that my kids latch on to, radio songs that make me cringe, but that they cannot help but love. And I get it, those songs are like candies, little gum drops fed right into their sweet little cherub mouths. And so, let it be stated, I am not above a dance party with R. to Taio Cruz’ “Dynamite”; I may have gotten down with the girl to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” And yes, she adored that GODAWFUL ABERRATION of a song by Florida Georgia Line song, “Cruise.” It has been played in my car with the windows down, and damn it, yes, I sang along. Because when your 8 year old wants you to sing it with her, damn it, you sing.
  4. I really like Ryan Adams. Like, I love him with pink and red hearts that cry and expand and fly into the air and stuff. I will not apologize.

The real point of this post? Gratitude. I’m glad there are people out there still making the authentic, true, whimsical, beautiful, and terrible sounds of the individual and the experimental collectives of people coming together and creating original things of amazement and shock, even if it means that I have to make some effort to find them. And I’m thankful that I still feel compelled to seek them out. Just put a bullet in my head when I don’t want to find them any more. I’d rather be dead than live on Big Macs.

The Most Powerful Thing I Read Last Year

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I read a pretty good amount, and watch some sappy movies, and listen to a lot of moving music. Nothing moved me like the day that I read this guy’s blog last year. I can’t remember how I came across it, but since then, his readership has spread like wildfire. He and his daughter were even in People magazine recently.

I have been meaning to mention it on Dogwood Girl, because I think about him, and his wife, and his daughter every single day. It reminds me that when i am having a crappy day, I should shut the fuck up. And on days like today’s post, it reminds me how very lucky I am.

He is really amazing, and at the same time, so very real. His favorite band is the Silver Jews. He loves his robot. He dresses his daughter in a shirt that reads, “Your Favorite Band Sucks.” He says “fuck” a lot. He could be me, or you. There, but for the grace of God, go all of us.

Actually, if you have never read it before, you should start here. But get the hankies ready. I haven’t seen anything so torturously beautiful and nightmarish in ages. I hope that i will never know his grief or the bittersweet feeling he must get every time he looks at his daughter. I hope that I never forget that it could be me.

Love, Love, Love

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

I heart Antenna seated properly now.


Also love Jason, the Belkin support guy in India, who made my mac address dealio go away.

Look at me go, with my four bars and all.

And I Think I Have it Rough Some Days

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

This is a letter written by my great-grandfather, John Lewis Palmer, to his sister, Lilly Palmer, on Jan 13, 1919. It was about a month after the death of his second wife, Ludie Knowles Palmer. John Lewis and Ludie were Pop‘s parents. At the time, they lived in Broxton, Ga. His sister Lilly lived in Goldston, NC, where John Lewis was from originally.

[On Palmer-Chambliss Hardware Co. Letterhead]

J. L. Palmer and C. F. Chambliss
Palmer-Chambliss Hardware Co.
Dealers in Hardware
Terms Cash – Interest Charged After 30 Days
Oliver Plows, Mowers, Rakes, Binders and American Wire Fencing
Also Exclusive Agents for Famous Roberson Cutlery

Broxton, Ga., Jan. 13, 1919

Dear Lilly,
We received your letter yesterday and was glad to hear from you. Yes, Ludie died Dec 19th. It was a great shock to us all and it leaves me in a bad fix. Six little children to look after besides Lee and Estelle. The baby has been real sick for a week. We thought Friday it wouldn’t live, but I am glad to say it is so much better this morning, and believe it will soon be well. It has a stomach trouble caused from feeding it. He was nursing and we had to go to feeding him. He vomited everything he ate for 4 days, then his eyes and face began to swell. The Dr. said it was a poison caused from eating.

Ludie died I suppose with acute indigestion caused from the condition the Influenza left her stomach in and then ate something that didn’t agree with her. She was first taken on Tuesday morning while cooking breakfast. We got the Dr. and she got easy in about 2 hours and Wednesday worked all day. Wednesday night she had an other spell but got over that about 10 o’clock that night. Thursday morning she did not get up. She said she was so sore, but not in any pain and about Dinner Thursday she was taken again and was nearly dead before we could get the Dr. She died about 4 o’clock Thursday evening.

Our baby liked 10 days of being a year old. Our two little ones names are Hugh and Walter and the baby is name Carl.

Estelle is with me now, but don’t know how long I can keep her as her husband has a job in Douglas, but I will get on some how. I can cook and attend to them my self. Mrs. Knowles is very feeble, not able to do much so she can’t help me; Lena Mae, J.L. and Margarette are in school. All except the baby are doing nice and are as fat as pigs.

I wish you could come to see us and stay a while. When is Charley coming? We have looked for him ever since Christmas. We gave Ludie a nice burial. A solid steel casket and a cement grave, and I hardly ever saw so many pretty flowers. Some came from other towns as far as 25 miles. Ludie was a good wife and mother and we miss her so much. No one but those who have experienced it can know anything about it. I will close. Love to you and Charley. Write again.

Your Bro,
J.L. Palmer

p.s. We had just about gotten well when Ludie died. We had nine sick at one time. Lee and I had Pneumonia. I am not real well yet, Can’t get to feeling good. Lee seems to be all right. We certainly had a time, 2 Drs. and a trained Nurse.

Lee and Estelle are John Lewis Palmer’s eldest children (by his first wife, Lena Cole). The sick baby he refers to is his youngest, Carl Jenkins Palmer. Hugh and Walter are Hugh Knowles Palmer, and Walter Woodrow Palmer (my grandfather). Mrs. Knowles is Ludie’s mother, John’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Sarah Patience Hood Knowles. Lena Mae, J.L, and “Margarette” are his children Lena Mae Palmer, John Lewis Palmer, Jr. and Mary Margaret Palmer. Charley is John Lewis’ brother, Charles Christian Palmer.

A few different things struck me about this letter: First, it is hard to imagine someone dying and me not finding that out until almost a month later, and by mail. It must have been difficult to receive a letter with such sad news and then not be able to pick up a phone and call someone to see how they are or have any questions you have about the death answered. Next, I find it interesting that he is so quick to point out that she died and left him in a bind. People seem so reserved in old letters that you don’t even sense how devastated they must have been; he seems more concerned about how he is going to keep the household running. I found the descriptions of their sicknesses kind of funny: “A poison caused from eating?” “Acute Indigestion?” I also love that he says the other kids are “as fat as pigs.” It is hard to imagine living a life so hand to mouth that you brag about your kids being fat.

Sadly, John Lewis Palmer died later in the same year the letter was written, in August of 1919. At that point, the children were orphaned and split up between family members in GA and NC. My grandfather (Walter), Hugh, and Carl all went to Ludie’s sister, Bettie Knowles Bird, and her family. They lived on a farm about eight miles from Hazelhurst, GA, I think, which is itself absolutely nowhere.