I don’t listen to popular radio much. I like to think I’m slightly more discerning than to listen to songs that are currently well-liked; I’d rather listen to songs that used to be well-liked but are now only remembered as Pandora fodder, thank you very much. But I also think it’s important to get in touch with what’s happening in the Top 40 (they still have that, apparently…and let me tell you, that Ryan Seacrest is no Casey Kasem) if only to remember why I like music that is largely off the grid.
It’s because, for the most part, the grid is ridiculous.
For instance, there’s some sort of hiccupping swoop-thing that far too many singers are suddenly finding irritating ways to work into their songs. I hear it in the new Maroon 5 songs “Maps,” which I actually find pretty damn catchy—except for the capital-S Swoop. I don’t like, even as I sing it over and over. And over. In that sense, and in so many others, I end up irritating myself. It’s like the sound you make when you swing a child (in a swing, I mean…not by their feet) and it has no place in pop music, no matter how many times Adam Levine bleaches his hair and marries supermodels.
Swing a kid if you want to Swoop, Adam.
I really tied all of that together nicely, didn’t I?
Also: everything either has a thoroughly-mechanized Singing to Karaoke Tapes sound, or a far-too-earnest campfire hootenanny stomp-clap-and-war cry feel. It’s like listening to the same three songs in an endless swirl—a song by a robot, followed with a song by a cowboy, followed with a song by someone swinging a kid. In a swing.
Not by their feet.
Beyond the Swoop and the karaoke and the hootenanny stuff, I was kind of surprised to hear so many songs featuring booties, either mentioned by name or sung about by subject. And I’m not talking about baby shoes…though those can be surprisingly helpful when swinging children by their feet (I’m done with that reference now…you’re welcome.) Just about every other song focused on booties in some manner. I couldn’t help but wonder how this become a prevalent theme in 21st century pop music. And the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous I realized that was…because booties were a prevalent theme in 20th century pop music, too.
Also: the word “booty” just makes me laugh, so I thought about it a lot.
I’m laughing as I write this, in fact.
I would like to say that long before Jason DeRulo – the man who invented Saying Your Name at the Beginning of a Song, much like the kindergarten tradition Writing Your Name at the Top of Your Coloring Sheet—so poetically sounded the call to “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle,” and long before a new sensation-on-the-bubble Meghan Trainor compared booties to bass lines with her “I’m all about the bass—no treble” quip, and long before Destiny’s Child invented the word “bootylicious” by cleverly fusing the words “booty” (meaning “booty”) and “licious” (I couldn’t find the definition for that one on the Google…I think it’s too new), Queen had set the tone with their classic and yet almost-entirely-insulting “Fat-Bottomed Girls.” Surely that was the root that grew the tree that sprouted limbs that blossomed with Sir Mix-A-Lot’s ubiquitous anthem “Baby Got Back,” and Black Eyed Peas’ Grammy-award winning “My Humps.” Yeah…I thought the Grammy thing had to be a lie. But no.
Nice to know the internet still has the power to disappoint.
Then I hit the Holy Google again, and I found the great-great-great granddaddy of all the booty songs – the one that I hope started it all, because I really don’t have time to go back and Google some more, and Bing sucks for looking stuff up. “(Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty” by KC and the Sunshine Band hit in 1976, which is right in the middle of the disco era, when booty-shaking went mainstream. I remember singing this song as a kid. Mostly just the chorus, though; I’m pretty sure the verses were KC reciting his grocery list or reading the label from a cereal box—just something to keep ALL the lyrics from being “shake shake shake…shake your booty.” I don’t know that I laughed as much at hearing the word “booty” then as I do now. I DO know that my kids laugh right along with me, which is really nice. I feel like it gives us something to bond over.
The fact that we’ve bonded by laughing at songs about butts is kind of less enchanting, but eh.
The 21st century is a puzzle like that.
After my foray into what music is all about in 2014, I’ve decided to keep on my far more selective path. If someone whoops, it’d better be because they’ve stepped in fire or bees; if there’s a war cry, I’ll expect to see Clint Eastwood ambling down the center of Burlap Gulch shortly thereafter, rockin’ a mad poncho and chewing on a cigarette like it was made out of Slim Jim.
But if there’s a booty being sung about, you can bet your ass I’ll be right there singing along.
The 21st century is a puzzle like that, too.