Tag Archives: pop music

Behold the ’80s

Sweet Jams shorts - not the ones we had in our family, but a fine example

Growing up in the ’80s was great, as I recall: the 49ers and Joe Montana were dominant; my pop music cassette collection ruled; and I was not at all embarrassed by the thought of wearing Jams shorts. (Admit it — you owned more than a pair or two yourself). I remembered the phone numbers of my parents and friends easily, too, and the only place I answered a phone was inside my house. Ah, memories.

Now that I live in the 21st century, though, I am still re-living the ’80s. Every single movie or show that is currently popular was once popular in the ’80s (though yes, I liked The Transformers trilogy, as over-the-top as they were)… they even had to revisit Tron with Tron: Legacy and remake Dallas for TV to boot. Seriously? As for fashion, there are parts of the updated ’80s styles that I can handle, and then there is the rebirth of odd crop tops and the whole jeggings trend, and I just can’t get behind either of those things. Because shirts cover stomachs in my world and I think one should have to choose to wear either jeans (skinny is fine) OR leggings instead of both at the same time. Call me old-fashioned that way.

So I don’t know what to make of this. On the one hand I get that fashion and what is popular goes through its natural cycles. I have noted the steadily rising popularity of true bell-bottom jeans (far beyond bootcut) and some serious platform, verging-on-disco-worthy sandals — welcome back, ’70s! On the other hand I worry about a dearth of new ideas and innovation in general. Does every single book that people like have to become a movie? Does every ’80s Saturday-morning cartoon have to become a movie? Or better yet — a movie trilogy? I guess one can argue that recycling these kinds of things makes them relevant for a new generation, and perhaps there is value in that. But there’s this selfish part of me that thinks, “Those things were part of my childhood. Get your own distinctive cultural material to remember.” No one person can own art and culture, I know, and probably the folks who are producing this material for the popular audience are my age+ and feeling nostalgic.

Maybe what I’m actually concerned about is what the implications may be for my own future children and the kids of my peers. Are they just going to remember being over-stimulated, over-digitized, and over-exposed? And in thirty years will we have retreated back to landlines and more thoughtful privacy rules because we finally tired of loving Big Brother? I adore my 2-year-old goddaughter — my brother’s youngest child — and she definitely said to me over Christmas, “You have an iPod.” One of my colleagues told me that her daughters — who are approximately 7 and 5, respectively — will take a picture and say, “Mommy, are you going to post this on Facebook?” Frightening, but a result of what we have created collectively.

I even read an NPR article yesterday that said our manners are declining! People statistically are growing less and less inclined to say “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” Wildness.

Again, this is all just further proof that I am turning into my parents and pining for “the good old days.” Or it just begs the question that we used to examine in 10th-grade Humanities Core when I was teaching high school English: To what extent does modernization create progress in a society? While our teaching team made sure to offer them a variety of texts, we also read — appropriately so — Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

[Side note: Did I also mention that I hate how Oprah Book Club books — even for classics — get brand new paperback covers emblazoned with her Oprah Book Club seal? As a lover of books and an English major, this bothers me to no end.]

Looking forward to re-reading this post when I’m 60-something.

Pop Music

The definitions of “pop music” are as varied as the music itself, so I think it’s easiest for me to think about “pop” being short for “popular” — as in, appealing to the average bear out there.

I would not say that I am a music snob, but I am particular about the music I want to listen to in certain contexts and to create certain moods. I’m one of those people who can hear a song and immediately connect it back to a year or a moment in my own life, or to a movie or commercial spot where it was used. I am also sensitive — both positively and negatively — to remakes of songs, which means that everything from the ’80s, apparently, is up for being remade now in 2012. But in terms of willingness to listen to music, I’ll listen to anything at least once. Since moving to AK, my music radio listening, however, has mostly declined because there’s not much out there currently that catches my ear. Adele is amazing, yes, but she’s getting overplayed on the radio, and Katy Perry is just… not appealing to me. So in my old age I have started to listen to NPR religiously in the morning on the drive to the box or to school and again in the afternoon on the way home. I kind of feel like I’m turning into my parents, who always got frustrated with me as a kid when I would immediately turn on the radio and blast music before we had even gotten halfway down the driveway. I realize that it’s not that they didn’t like music — both of my parents love music, actually, and my dad is still known to crank up the jams in the house — but that they really couldn’t deal with “my” music at the time.

As a kid, the first cassettes I owned (in no particular order) included: Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man, Whitney Houston, Wham! Make It Big, Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel, Janet’s Rhythm Nation 1814 and New Kids on the Block tapes. I know for a fact that there’s still a large amount of memory space in my brain allotted to remembering the lyrics to far too many of the songs on all of these albums. And it doesn’t get much more pop-py than that in terms of the late ’80s. I remember wandering into my older sibling’s rooms to admire their tape collections, too, because they had access to even more music.  Now I have thousands of songs on my iPod, but rarely do I listen to an entire album the way I used to when I was young. Now I just pick out the few tracks from an artist that I like and/or wouldn’t mind having come up randomly in a playlist. I don’t know if that’s better than before, but it is certainly different. The access I now have to music is close to unlimited and yet… that just seems to make it harder to discern what is actually worth listening to anymore. I find myself hunting more often for older albums to fill in the blanks left behind by my now useless cassette collection.

When I look back on the past 30 years of existence, I can close my eyes and listen to the soundtrack of my life. I’m hoping that in another 30 years, there will be music that is just as memorable for me as  there was in the first 10 years. Now that I have a stronger sense of how art imitates life imitates art, the lack of originality in a lot of what I hear today makes me a wee bit nervous. But I bet that’s what my parents said at my age and what their parents said before them. Regardless, my ears are open for the next song that will take its place on my soundtrack.