There you were, at age fifteen, in the department store shopping for that absurdly small pair of jeans that you could still zip with a pair of pliers. This pair had fake rhinestones. That pair had orange swirlies, making your backside look impossibly small. If only you could decide… in the end, (ha!) you would take neither. There was no possible way to make a decision with the ridiculously, ear-splittingly irritating sound they piped throughout the store.
At that time, it was a strange combination of familiar tunes and musical cottage cheese called, “muzak.” It was a sleepy, music-alternative meant to encourage you to concentrate more on shopping and less on lyrics. It was quick and painless, and by the time you got home, the discomfort of listening to non-music music was over.
Today, it is music embarrassingly plucked from the rock concerts and late-night rides of our youth. It is not uncommon to hear Def Leopard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” while perusing the sweetener alternatives. Wandering through Target, searching for feminine hygiene products is kind of the last place you need to hear, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” It’s gotten so unblinkingly common that you may even be humming along to “Highway to H@#” as you’re sitting on hold waiting to speak to your cable company.
We took seriously the sounds of our youth; only to be played during the endless drives down Main Street or while our parents were trying to sleep in the next bedroom. It didn’t matter if the lyrics made no sense: A park became a runny, melty cake when someone clearly mismeasured ingredients. Or it was caused by rain and suicidal thoughts – never clear. It didn’t matter that many of those lyrics were unintelligible when we belted them into a hairbrush, (Blind-ed by the light, left out something by yada yada) they meant something to us.
That misguided teen who felt a lasting sting from having to endure bland tunes while purchasing Pop Rocks and Orange Crush are today responsible for the downfall of our musical dignity. Listening to our music on the internet is fine. Humming along to the oldies station, while somewhat humiliating, is also fine. Elton John in the mammogram dressing room has crossed a line.