Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The State of Music: Weep for Humanity’s Future

“Starships were meant to fly! Hands up and touch the sky!

Can’t stop, ‘cause we’re so high! Let’s do this one more time!”

-Nicki Minaj, being insightful and bothered

Above this opening paragraph lies a verse from Nicki Minaj’s hit single Starships, and it’s a hit single not because I said it was, but because it’s currently sitting at number two in the UK singles chart, and number five in the Billboard Top 100. People are buying this song. Let’s examine why.

Here’s my personal stance on what makes music good: it is there to entertain people or enrich something. That is to say, it should have a decent backing beat that you can enjoy, and if it has lyrics they should be there for a reason. Poetry, as we saw yesterday, is beautiful in its wordplay – why should that change when someone has music to help out?

I couldn’t find a non-provocative image of Nicki Minaj to break this article up, so here’s Invader Zim instead.

For example, the poem I showed you yesterday was written by W.B. Yeats. Yeats was, as far as I can work out, one person. He was troubled by a number of things, from a turbulent relationship with sweetheart Maud Gonne (he unsuccessfully proposed to her four times) to his involvement in the Home Rule for Ireland movement.

By contrast, examining the Wikipedia article for Starships reveals it was written by a team of no less than five writers, none of them Nicki Minaj. And, given the lyrics:

Jump in my hoopty hoopty hoop, I own that
And I ain't paying my rent this month, I owe that
But f*** who you want, and f*** who you like
Dance our life, there's no end in sight
Twinkle, twinkle, little star! (doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo)

This is plain not on. That “doo-doo-doo” in the last line is actually the sound of a nursery mobile playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Could your team of writers not come up with something that rhymed cleverly, or even at all, with “star”? You know, given how it already has a line that rhymes with it in the nursery rhyme you stole it from?

And what’s a “hoopty hoopty hoop”? And how do I “dance our life”?

However, Starships is catchy, and fun to listen to. It’s going to put on in a few clubs, remixed by a few people and put on in a few more clubs – and then it will be replaced by the next Nicki Minaj song or something else entirely. It will not be remembered.

What makes a song memorable, I think, is passion. Nicki Minaj presumably had the lyrics to this song given to her by a team of stony-faced executives (and even if she didn’t, it’s a pretty hilarious image), and then sang it for some cash – whereas some of my favourite songs, such as Ellie Goulding’s Every Time You Go, Carlos Santana’s Into the Night and Gorillaz’s 19-2000 (Soulchild Remix) all have a discernable love of music, passion for making listeners happy and just plain pride in the lyrics that you can just tell from a cursory listen.

And if the song doesn’t have lyrics? Well, take a song by Deadmau5, or Daft Punk, or Justice. You may not like that genre, but you can perhaps get a whiff of the same passion, a raw enthusiasm that the artist wished to translate into the song. And that enthusiasm makes a song enjoyable and – most importantly – memorable.

What do you think of my opinion? Am I totally right? Or totally wrong? Comment away, Fezpians!

-Kit

No comments: