Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Overexposed music, good and bad

PowerPop's list query this weekend was for "actually good" pop songs that, thanks to overexposure, you are so tired of, you never want to hear again. The poster's #1 choice was, oddly enough, the Beatles' "Hello Goodbye" which hardly seems overexposed to me (what about "Hey Jude" or "Strawberry Fields Forever" or "Yesterday"?). The more predicable #2 song was "Stairway to Heaven." I'm so out of the loop that the #7 song, "Disarm" by Smashing Pumpkins, is one I don't even know.

I thought it would be easy to come up with a top 10 list of such songs for myself, but the more I thought about it, the harder it became. The wonder I've discovered is that, if I think a song is truly great, I seem not to tire of it, no matter how much it's played on the radio, in movies, in ads, or in the aether of pop culture. By gum, I can still stand to hear "Stairway to Heaven" once in a while. Same with others I thought I'd gotten tired of but hadn't, like "American Pie," "Hey Jude," "Smoke on the Water," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Born to Run," "Layla," "Let's Get It On," "Free Bird," and any song on Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album. And as I write this, I'm cranking up the radio for my umpteenth hearing of "Tears of a Clown."

I can only think of a couple of songs that fit the bill for me, songs I like and think are "actually good" but which I have flipped away from when they've come on the radio: "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon & Garfunkel, Prince's "1999," and most of the songs from Michael Jackson's Thriller. I'm not sure why those don't work for me anymore. More often, I find that an album or artist from a given era no longer holds up for me: Cat Stevens' Catch Bull at Four was once one of my top 10 albums of all time, but now I can only listen to certain songs from it. The weaker songs are more obvious to me now, and rather grating (like the interminable "folk song" about the one night stand that results in a kid with a moon and star on his head). Same for the last two Beatles albums, Abbey Road and Let It Be--let's face it, you only listen to "Sun King" or "Octopus's Garden" or "For You Blue" because you're too lazy to move the needle..., oops, I mean skip the track.

Here are the songs I almost always turn away from, most of which I never thought were "actually good" songs to start with:

"Brandy" by Looking Glass
"Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone, which is in every 70's movie ever made since the 90's, and the otherwise fine summer series Swingtown... which leads me to...
"Fly Like an Eagle" by Steve Miller (though I can still listen to his "Swingtown")
"Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton (and about 75% of the stuff that soft-rock stations play during their "love song" evenings)
Anything by Mariah Carey, except her Christmas song

It's easy coming up with crappy songs I want to avoid for the rest of my life, but the good songs seem to be able to survive the overexposure.


yarmando said...

We have a radio?

Michael said...

Poetic license. I had heard "Tears of a Clown" in the car a couple hours earlier and didn't switch the channel. Just call me James Frey.