Two pieces in this week's Blogcritics got me thinking about a trend that tends to push one of my critical buttons. It goes something like this:
hey, that new Sleater-Kinney album sure sounds great - has a lotta lefty political lyrics it, but, hey, that's not important: what matters is the beat!
who cares if Jaguar's co-opted the Clash’s "London Calling" for one of its ads - I never listened to the Clash for their lyrics, anyway!
Maybe it's because I’m a writer, but this diminution of words can't help but irk me. A great pop song works on both musical and lyrical levels, and downplaying either component is a critical cheat. My uncharitable guess is that some of the blogcrits may be attempting to get around an audience that they perceive as predominately neo-libertarian. (You know the type: their idea of individual freedom only extends to those who agree with 'em.) But perhaps it's just a variation of the ol' rock-is-for-dunderheads-so-why-bother? routine.
I know it's partially because my abiding love of rock 'n' roll was informed during the sixties, but I like good rock music when it gets political. To my ears, songs about 9-11 are just as valid as ones about the singer's dick size - maybe more valid, ultimately. Great pop music is implicitly or explicitly in dialog with the culture around it (one of the things that kept Madonna relevant past the lifetimes of a dozen Britneys is her ability to remain attuned to the world). Sometimes that dialog is a political one. You may not agree with all the sentiments expressed (I know I sure don't), but acting like they don't matter does no service to the song or its audience.
(Quick correcting afterthought: I should note that the line I paraphrased about the Clash's lyrics did not appear in Chris Daley's original piece on the commercial, but in the comments section beneath it.)