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Thursday, August 28, 2014

100 Songs I Hate: Grief Turns to Radio; Radio Turns to Anger; Anger Turns to Hatred (44-45)

First, I want to welcome myself back to the internet.  I have been M.I.A. from the blog game for the past few weeks, and I'd like to explain.  I also want to thank all of you regular readers who didn’t clog my inbox with concerned e-mails or litter the Facebook page with encouraging messages.  Your commitment to keeping Giant Electric Penguin uncluttered by love and support is astounding.  Sincerely, I was touched.

Roughly two weeks ago, my father-in-law passed away.  He was an amazing man who I kind of wish you guys all could’ve known.  He raised a compassionate, intelligent and ruthlessly sarcastic daughter I am proud to call my wife, and he was a top-notch Pop Pop to my own daughter, helping build pillow forts and reading the same books over and over even when he wasn’t feeling particularly well.  I’ll always have fond memories of driving with Earl to pick up dinner from Gus’s or Pat’s or The Orient, discussing the weather, what television shows we were watching and his hatred of white rice.  And I know any time I step into a Wawa, punch in my hoagie order on the touchscreen and pour myself a large cup of coffee while I wait for the best sandwich in the world to be assembled, I’ll be thinking of Earl, a man who I am proud to have known and called family.

With grief, comes eating, and we’ve been doing a lot of it.  We’re still doing it, even now that we’re all under the same roof again.  And snacking!  Oh, the snacking!  I’m not too terribly concerned at the moment though; "grief eating" is a real thing, proven by science and accepted by scholars as fact.  What surprised me during my recent trek to New Jersey for the funeral and all things attached to it, was how much "grief Top 40 radio listening" we did.  Have you seen this?  Have you heard about this?  Did you read the preceding two sentences in a Jay Leno voice?  You should have.

Look, what I’m trying to say, as I make my triumphant return to pop culture blogging, is this: I listened to a whole lot of crappy music lately, and that means it’s time for GEP’s latest edition of 100 Songs I Hate.

44. "Rude" (MAGIC!)

Why do things like this happen?  No, I'm not talking about Robin Williams' suicide--that was a gut-wrenching bummer I haven't had time to process yet; stay tuned--I'm talking about the popularity of "Rude" by the band MAGIC!.  I first became aware of this song's existence while preparing my critically lauded article about 2014's Songs of Summer.  The song was mentioned in passing on the exactly one Web site I used for research, but I chose not to listen to it at the time because a) I'd never heard even a snippet of it before, and, admittedly, I already kind of had some comments ready for the songs of which I was already aware; and b) MAGIC! is the worst band name since fun., and since fun.'s music sucks, I, perhaps unfairly, surmised that MAGIC!'s must suck as well.  So, I wrote something dumb about "Fancy" or whatever.

"Rude" was inescapable once I crossed the Delaware line.  We heard it twice on the Saturday following my father-in-law's funeral: once on the way to Dutch Wonderland, a family amusement park tucked into the heart of Amish country (all three of us were in dire need of amusement), and once on the way back.  To be fair, on the way up, "Rude" acted as a kind-of soundtrack to a war of wills being waged between parents and child (our 3-year-old, loudly and repeatedly, insisted that we stop talking to her and each other, and me and the wife disagreed with this), so maybe I was judging it unfairly.  The cheesy vibe of white-guy reggae, however, had no trouble breaking through the din of a whiny child.  On the way back, we were given a second chance to embrace "Rude," our daughter being conked out after an exhausting, but ultimately Dutch Wonderful (they say it, man, I didn't make it up!) time.  Sadly, I was once again unimpressed.  But I was also kind of angry.  Why is this such a hit, I thought to myself.  Am I that out of step with the rest of America?  When did it become OK to make a song like this?  Who thought it should be on the radio?  Who were the people making this song popular enough to be considered a frontrunner for Song of Summer status???  Keep in mind, I hadn't even truly listened to the lyrics yet.  I got two more chances to do this before leaving New Jersey, but I opted out.

It wasn't until I started putting this piece together that I paid any attention to the "Rude"'s lyrics.  Up to this point, the vibe was enough to get me cheesed.  Now I knew the lyrics, understood what the song was about, decided my hatred was justified.

"Rude" tells the fairly simple story of a white-guy reggae crooning dirtbag seeking a father's permission to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage.  The father correctly answers "no way," the dirtbag doesn't like this utterly justifiable answer and inquires of said father, "Why you gotta be so rude?"  That's what "Rude" is about, guys.  Your favorite song of the summer is a dimwit whining about his girlfriend's dad not liking him.  First of all, who asks for permission to marry someone any more?  Even if you think it's a cute little custom for some reason, it isn't a prerequisite for holy matrimony.  Second, if your beloved's parents don't like you for some reason, maybe you're the problem.  You're the one joining the family, so maybe you should be the bigger person and do whatever you need to do to win your in-laws over, instead of banging on the front door and crying about perceived rudeness.  I actually think it's a little rude to keep showing up at someone's front door, with your goofy white-guy reggae friends in tow, especially at dinner time.  Why you gotta be so rude, Nasri?

45. "Saving All My Love For You" (Whitney Houston)

After the funeral, post-funeral pizza gorge and temporary respite from tragedy at Dutch Wonderland, it was time for me and the kid to return to North Carolina, my wife staying behind to wrap some things up in Jersey.  For a good three hours, I was subjected to the same 18 Disney songs on a continuous loop.  This wasn't all bad, as I had curated the Disney CD myself, and had packed it with songs I knew both myself and my daughter enjoyed (she calls them "our songs," and we both have parts, and God forbid you miss your part), but three hours of Disney music is a lot for one man to stomach.  Somewhere in Virginia--before I ran over a large rock in the road and we were forced to make a 20-minute pit stop to attach the spare--my daughter fell asleep, and I found myself at a crossroads (not literally).  I could turn off the Disney music and enjoy the soothing hum of the open road, the breezy drone of the air conditioning; I could find the local NPR station and act like an adult for once in my life; I could find a Top 40 station and pray to God that it'd reached its "Rude" quota for the afternoon; or I could listen to one of the late-period Beck or REM albums I had brought along for the drive.  Spoiler alert: I did none of these things.  Instead, I started reading billboards.  

I don't know how much traveling you do in this great country of ours, but there sure are a lot of billboards, many of which are used to promote radio stations.  I decided that the next billboard I saw advertising a radio station would dictate what I would listen to before my daughter awoke and inevitably asked where her Frozen songs had gone.  And it wasn't long before I peeped a billboard for an easy listening station.  There were no fancy graphics, no dopey morning zoo crew radio personalities leering down at me, just the words "easy listening" and the call letters.  I tuned in and was whisked away on a soothing sea of adult contemporary crap.  I couldn't tell you what songs I heard, they all sounded pretty samey, disappeared into the hum and bump of the open road.  But about five songs in, Ms. Whitney Houston's voice cut through the monotony like a hot spoon through congealed bacon fat.  Unfortunately, it was "Saving All My Love For You," a song about a woman in a relationship with a married man.

Look, I don't care who the narrator of this song is, man or woman, an easy listening ballad about cheating spouses and secret lovers is terrible!  I know these things happen, but why is Whitney Houston singing a song about it?  And she sings the shit out of it, man!  I mean, Whitney Houston was a supremely talented singer, and she sells "Saving All My Love For You" expertly.  But why was someone compelled to write a song about such an ugly facet of human existence?  Awful!

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