Did Britney Kill The Music or Should We Just Kill Britney?

Posted: November 1, 2009 in Culture
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I am a 1999.

If you’re over…let’s say 25, you know what I’m talking about. 1999 was the year I stopped caring about the NEW. Especially NEW music.

My fashion sense hasn’t changed much over the last decade; I still wear jeans that are a little too baggy*, and a hoody and t-shirt combo does nicely for my top. Occasionally, when I manage to strangle that strange metro streak** inhabiting all modern males into submission, I back carefully away from the twenty dollar tub of pomade on my bathroom counter and don my Superman ball cap instead. Bill facing front.

Whenever I go to the bookstore, my first stop is to check the “R” section of Fic/Lit, just in case Tom Robbins has snuck a new, deliciously subversive piece of non-linear, nonsensical literary suicide bomb onto the shelves. Furthermore, bookstores have replaced bars as my chosen stop on a Friday night; as titillated as I was for the first few months of the trend, the fact that every girl at a nightclub now dresses in a way that would make most self respecting hookers blush just fills me with a kind of ache for the days of the girl next door.

I can’t dance in public without feeling a little more than ridiculous; the days of the free-for-all mosh pit are long gone and, as I’ve never taken a stripparobics class, my rhythm –less, sub-epileptic quivering~ can no longer be disguised as anything but bad.

In short, I am no longer cool. I may as well hang a sign around my neck with an expiry date that reads December, 1999.

But where it’s the worst is the music.

Time was I was the guy you went to if you wanted to find out which new CD was worth buying. Genre didn’t matter; hip hop, rock, laughably and ironically named Alternative, R & B; I knew them all and could lecture at length on the merits of the rising stars and classics in each. It was overkill to the nth degree, most likely due to the fact that I grew up in the most musically backward house imagininable. With one parent a classical pianist and flautist who declared all music newer than 150 years old, “mindless, un-nuanced pap,” and the other a man who’d set the radio dial firmly to the AM oldies station before snapping it off and soldering the socket shut, entering high school I was decades behind the musical curve.

And then one day, while flipping through the overwhelmingly empty 29 channels available on standard cable; I happened across a sound I’d never heard before.

Nirvana dipped my brain in acid, kicked it through the shit filled and muddy trenches of teenage angst and showed me a world where rips, dirt and plaid were not just okay; they could get you laid.

Like Neo in the Matrix, I wanted more. Music videos replaced homework; Kurt Cobain was my gateway drug and, on the other side of Grunge, I found the fertile fields of Ska. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Smashmouth, The Toasters, Reel Big Fish, even early No Doubt; more fun than punk, less giddy than pop. I was East Coast and West Coast. I tried to land kick-flips to Blink 182, Rancid and Garbage. I had my first decent sex to Oasis.

And for awhile it seemed like it was going to get better forever. The late nineties brought a musical landscape where you could hear Moby, Whitey Ford, Elton John, Lou Bega and Lou Reed, all playing back to back on a Top Forty countdown announced by that guy from Scooby Doo. And then, there was a note of discord, my ears sealed shut and I barricaded myself behind the warm, lyrical walls of my musical comfort food.

Yesterday I watched Much Music for the first time in half a decade. I was horrified to discover that of the songs in the top 20 I only knew the artist responsible for the number 1 slot. And I am not a fan. I was shell shocked. How could this happen? I own an IPod, which must, surely, confer some immunity to uncool with its ownership. There are over 1100 songs on it for God’s sake. How can none of them be popular anymore? When did I become…shudder…retro?

1999.

I sat down this morning and Googled^ the music charts for the last 10 years. Doing so, I eventually found that note of discord that had sent me scurrying to the classic rock stations like a greying and arthritic cockroach. In 1999, along with all the music I loved, the seeds of musical cataclysm rose into the public consciousness like Cthullu crawling from the depths. Strange beings from the mystical lands of Louisiana, Disney, Australia and Sony etched their foreign sounding names upon the world; riding across the Earth like the Harbingers of Apocalypse that they were.

Britney. S Club. Backstreet. Big Willy Washout. Posh Spice.

These, and all of their empty headed siblings, retarded cousins and demented offspring were, song by song, pushing everything I loved about music into the sea. Sure there were a few stragglers left behind to defend us from the Boy Band and Faux Punk hordes but, like Arthur struggling to fight off the Saxon hordes, the brave knights left to preserve us were doomed to be mowed down and raped into submission. And, like the descendants of those same Saxon hordes who now inhabit the island Arthur fought to defend and who now believe that he will return to save them in their greatest hour of need, these new pretenders to musical royalty mine the stories of better artists they supplanted; remaking and mangling them in order to survive another day. Because, make no mistake, the bells are ringing for them too.

I had a hard time sitting down to write this one; I didn’t want to be that guy. You know, the guy sitting in the smoky corner of a dingy karaoke bar, muttering to himself about how much better the good old days were, anxiously waiting for his turn to get up and croon a soulful rendition of an Elvis Costello song. But maybe I’m right.

Maybe, even though every generation bitches about the one that follows it and, in doing so, devalues their own struggles and assertions of creativity, maybe this time it’s true. Is it possible that music really did die? Or do I just not get it anymore?

Nick Hornby, in “High Fidelity,” poses a great question. He asks, “Do I listen to pop music because I’m depressed or am I depressed because I listen to pop music?”

I have my own variation of that question.

Does this new musical audience seem vapid and deficient because of the music they listen to or is the music vapid and deficient because of its audience?

I leave it to you to decide; I’m going to phone my dad and ask to borrow some of his records.

My soundtrack to this piece was the following:
She Sells Sanctuary-The Cult
Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses-U2
Somewhere Out There-Our Lady Peace
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters-Elton John
Friday I’m in Love-The Cure
Round Here-Counting Crows
Nothing Man-Pearl Jam
If You Want Blood-ACDC
The Seeker-The Who
All My Loving-The Beatles
Red Flag-Billy Talent^^
Hallelujah-Rufus Wainright
Landslide-The Smashing Pumpkins
Wild Horses-The Rolling Stones
Pop Goes The World-Men Without Hats

*Although granted, I’ve mercifully outgrown the 40 inch raver pants that completely obscured my body during the mid nineties.
**You know, the one that identifies Dippity Do hair gel as the ultimate poison to all that is good in the universe.
~Seriously, the fact that I apparently have a black ancestor only 3 generations back has done nothing to change the fact that I have all the rhythm and co-ordination of a microwaved bowl of Jell-o.
^And how the hell did that become a verb my spell check recognizes?
^^HA! Post 1999! Post 1999!

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Comments
  1. ShadeofIcarus says:

    If it makes you feel better, i’d go for kill Britney.
    That Soundtrack of sounds a lot like my I-pod, and i’m not even 21 yet.
    (what does that say about me)
    Britney makes my ears bleed, always has since i was nine.
    I thank my cousin, hes the one that got me into music when i was young, it started with iron maiden and the beetles.
    You’re not uncool, everyone else is just tonedeaf and stupid, but then again whats new with the world.

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