I have reached the age when I no longer understand popular music. I have always been a huge music fan, and am still buying CDs and trawling the internet obsessively to find new artists, but I have finally reached the point of total disconnection from the charts I used to collect from the record shops each week as a teenager.
A quick trawl through this week’s list only confirms this. The #1 song is Sean Kingston’s ‘Beautiful Girls’. Not only have I never heard the track, but I’ve never even heard of Kingston. There’s a new Kanye West song at #4 that I know – not only because I like West, but also because Daft Punk, who he samples, is more from my era. Further down the list, there are artists I’ve heard of, like P!nk (whose spelling seems to be more pretentious these days), the Foo Fighters and Ben Lee, but I don’t know any of their new songs. I could hum the songs by Avril Lavigne (I can’t believe that awful ‘Girlfriend’ is still in the charts – or even that it ever was), Sneaky Sound System, Justin Timberlake and Silverchair, but honestly, that’s about it. For a 30-year-old, that’s a truly pathetic effort.
This all came to a head recently in a creative meeting for the tv show I work on (The Chaser). One of the team pitched a sketch based on parodying what he said was one of the year’s biggest dance songs, a little ditty called ‘Destination Calabria’ by Alex Gaudino which is currently at #14 on the ARIA chart. And it would be fair to say that of the other five members of the team, not a single one of us had heard of it.
Not only have we never heard of it, but our team – which is supposed to be an edgy comedy collective, with no barriers and all that kind of rubbish – has universally agreed that it is one of the worst songs we’ve ever heard, and that we’ll never understand kids these days, and other fogeyish statements. Not that we are completely ancient, mind you – we are in our early 30s, and by Triple J announcer standards, that makes us practically children.
And I’ll defend my negative position, frankly. It sound like 90s retro with what little was good about the dance music of that era stripped away from it. The producer has made millions, I assume, merely by splicing a dull Crystal Waters track, ‘Destination Unknown’, with a synthesised saxophone riff from a song called ‘Calabria’. It sounds like that Guru Josh song ‘Infinity’, only if he was demoted to Acolyte Josh.
The sketch was intended to parody the ridiculous explicitness of the video clip, which features raunchy close-ups of bikini-clad models and their saxophones. (At this point, I bet more than one reader is saying “Oh, that song” to themselves.) The close-ups go far beyond gratuitous, to the point where the viewers of FHM TV voted it the sexiest video clip ever. And hey, they’d know.
My ignorance of “what the kids are listening to” has plenty of upside, like my good fortune to have missed virtually all of the career of Akon. But it still concerns me. So I have vowed to make sure I watch the chart shows every month or so. Even though I genuinely fear that I’ll hate virtually everything on them. But it’ll be worth it. I need to know that when a 19-year-old says they really love what Fergie’s done lately, they’re not talking about another toe-sucking episode.
Of course, I won’t keep it up. My definition of “hot new music” will continue to be whatever the artists I liked when I was 20, like Beck, have done lately. I will make the odd, token effort to expand my horizons, like the peculiar day my father came home with an Usher CD. But for the most part, it’s already game over for my knowledge of new music. Or, as Alex Gaudino might put it by means of a shamelessly misappropriated sample, I’m on my way to ‘Destination Uninformed’.