Suggestive song lyrics — yesterday and today

car stereo dialIt’s not easy being a GenX parent. So much has changed from the decades dominated by the free-range parenting style. I even had the idea to start a special feature about how much harder it is for parents these days, and I get ideas all the time. I’ve just been too lazy to put them into thoughtful posts.

Take for example song lyrics. Considering that music-oriented pop culture is introduced at younger ages these days, and that Miley Cyrus seems to have no limit to what she is willing to do onstage or say in interviews, one might suggest that this is another way in which GenX parents have been burdened with yet another hazard to circumvent.

I’m not sure this is true. As a kid, I heard an ample number of suggestive songs on the pop music stations of my ultra-conservative hometown. (I lived in one of the markets where George Michael’s late-80s hit was, “I Want Your Love.”)

Let’s take a look at yesterday and today through the lens of risqué lyrics.

Today: “Get Lucky” — Daft Punk
Yesterday: “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” — Rod Stewart

It’s a lot easier to tell your kids “Get Lucky” is about visiting casinos in Monte Carlo than trying to explain the concept of sexy and how Rod Stewart could be considered as such. Throw in a rumor about what was found when Rod’s stomach was pumped, and out through the school bus window goes your 10-year-old’s innocence.

Today: “Can’t Feel My Face” — The Weekend
Yesterday: “Cocaine” — Eric Clapton

I am ready with my explanation. If they ask, I will tell my kids that The Weekend is talking about vampires. My supporting evidence is the line, At least we’ll both be beautiful and stay forever young. This may not be the most comforting interpretation, but it beats telling my kids the real story. I’d like to see a parent concoct an alternate meaning for what Clapton sang about.


Today: “Teenage Dream” — Katy Perry
Yesterday: “Afternoon Delight” — Starland Vocal Band

Eventually your kid is going to understand, Let’s go all the way tonight. No regrets, just love. But you can pretty much ignore it until that time. “Afternoon Delight,” though; it’s just so forthright in its ickiness. This song still makes me uncomfortable and embarrassed and all those things you feel when you finally realize what those feminine protection commercials are about. I seriously wonder if this song put a damper on daytime “escapades,” rather than encouraged them. My kids hate it when I sing along to, “Can’t Feel My Face.” They have no idea what my generation suffered hearing our moms singing “Afternoon Delight.”

Today: “Cool for the Summer” — Demi Lovato
Yesterday: “Like a Virgin” — Madonna

“Cool for the Summer” is stuffed with more innuendo than it takes to make Paul Stanley blush. But until kids have already been introduced to these concepts otherwise, the lyrics are explainable. (Really you should turn the song off due to extremely low artistic merit.) “Like a Virgin” has no innuendo. Madonna just puts it all out there. And you can’t turn the station when Madge is on.


Today: “Animals” — Maroon 5
Yesterday: “Sexual Healing” — Marvin Gaye

So the same hometown stations that refused to play “I Want Your Sex,” had no problem putting “Sexual Healing” into heavy rotation. That aside, it’s hard to come up with an innocent twist on a line like, Let’s make love tonight. Wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up. ‘Cause you do it right. The most egregious of lines from “Animals” can’t compare.

Grammy Nominees Now & Then

Grammy LogoI checked out the list of Grammy nominees a little later than usual this year, which, I guess, is indicative of one’s world at midlife. When I was much younger, it mattered to me if my music was nominated, so I kept tabs on nominations and shared my opinion freely to anyone who would listen. Lately, I haven’t had as much to say — I’m not as thoroughly versed in the nominees as I once was, and I care less about what the Grammys have to say about the music I like.

This year, I am in luck, as some of my favorite artists/songs of the year are represented. There must be some strange ripple in the middle-age dimension to make this happen, because it seems less likely that a midlifer would be pleased with Grammy nominees in the year 2013 than in 80s, when Boomer tastes dominated. But it has happened, and I’m not talking about Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.

So I decided to look back at the year 1983 and see what was nominated in some of the most popular categories. Here’s what I found for Record of the Year:

Beat It — Michael Jackson
What a Feeling/Flashdance — Irene Cara
All Night Long — Lionel Richie
Maniac/Flashdance — Michael Sembello
Every Breath You Take — The Police

Not as bad as I expected, though Whitney Houston dominance was yet a few years away.

This year’s Record of the Year nominations seem a bit more exciting even in context of the current world of music.

Get Lucky — Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams
Radioactive — Imagine Dragons
Royals — Lorde
Locked Out of Heaven — Bruno Mars
Blurred Lines — Robin Thicke featuring TI & Pharrell

I am a midlifer, so I’m sure there’s a 16-year-old out there ready to school me on how inadequate this list is, but it seems more interesting than the one from 1983. Daft Punk managed to record one of the most omnipresent songs of the last who-knows-how-many years, which remains a thoroughly enjoyable listen after probably hundreds of plays on my iPod. I’m not so sure what’s going on in the minds of the Academy with “Blurred Lines”. It’s a great groove but gratuitously borrowed from Marvin Gaye, and the subject matter is dicey even by today’s standards.

But speaking of what wouldn’t have happened 30 years ago — a song like “Same Love”. This one by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis is nominated for Song of the Year. This essay to rhythm about gay rights and gay marriage is honest and soulful and deserves the nomination on its musical merits alone. And its nomination shows how far we’ve come.