Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Faux News Flash: Desperate for Inspiration, Bruce Springsteen Attempts to Burn Down Recently Revitalized Asbury Park When No One's Looking

(Asbury Park, New Jersey) Citing a depressing dearth of metaphor-inspiring abandoned buildings, as well as the staggering failure of his latest CD, "Sunrise over the Sand," rock mega-star Bruce Springsteen claimed he was driven to desperation this past weekend when he attempted to burn down the newly rejuvenated Asbury Park boardwalk and convention hall.

"Man, y'all don't understand. I need inspiration! I just can't sing about burgeoning businesses and artists making an economic comeback on their own terms," croaked Mr. Springsteen as he was taken into custody near the Stone Pony Rock Club, where he was found brandishing a full can of gasoline and a Zippo brand lighter at 3:48 am Sunday morning. "I mean, first there was Obama giving us all hope for the future, and now we've got nice, clean storefronts on this formerly run-down and desolate strip of Ocean Avenue? Man, that's just freakin' depressing."

According to sources, Springsteen, who has made billions of dollars using Asbury Park's poverty-stricken streets as a creative springboard for writing hundreds of infectious, hummable, rock-and-roll tunes, had been recently overheard bemoaning the infusion of cash into the long-suffering shore town. In a recent interview published in Cigar Aficionado magazine, Springsteen stated, "I can write about the way Christine and Danny's once-promising relationship has decayed and faded like the walls of the [recently demolished] Palace Amusements. Or I can compare a down-on-her-luck stripper to an old, beat-up tilt-a-whirl.

"But Jesus, what am I supposed to say about that upscale sushi joint on the corner?" Springsteen continued. "I guess I could write about their inability to provide a decent wasabi paste, or their failure to bring the cocktails in a timely fashion… er, not that I would know about that, of course. Heh."

When pressed further, Springsteen, whose songs have propelled him to god-like icon status while arguably fomenting learned helplessness and a fatalistic mentality in the working class by romanticizing their plight, ennobling questionable life choices, and mythologizing shitty economic circumstances, went on to say, "I guess I could write about how garish everything is now and how it all lacks integrity… ah, let's face it, I'm gonna bitch no matter what this place looks like."

Adding to Springsteen's growing dismay in the last few months was the resounding flop of his latest single, "Yacht Town." Moreover, a close friend revealed that "The Boss" was angered when someone pointed out that "My Lucky Day" sounds a bit too much like the chorus to [80's rock band] The Cutting Crew's ill-fated second single, "One for the Mockingbird."

Springsteen was released on 5 million dollars bail early Tuesday afternoon. In a surprising turn of events, the songwriter was reportedly in good spirits, having quickly penned 53 songs for a planned triple-CD about the injustices of the Asbury Park penal system, which, for two nights straight, denied him access to his favorite brand of red wine and forced him to use a pillow with a thread count of less than 500.

No date has been set for Springsteen's trial. When questioned about his immediate plans, the Jersey rocker smiled and whispered in his trademark gruff voice, "I've got this new album of prison songs I need to record. And while Asbury Park is doing ok right now, I think we can all agree that the U.S. economy at large is still pretty much f---ed. People are out of work, down on their luck, and struggling just to get by. So things are definitely looking up."

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Death of Music, Part 7: "Nothing Songs"

As an amateur songwriter, I can honestly say I've written some bad tunes in my day. You know, the kind of song that's so ripe that fish wrapped in newspaper say, "WHOA, what the hell's that smell?" However, one thing I can honestly say I steadfastly resist at all costs is writing the "nothing song."

For those of you who don't know what I mean by the term "nothing song," I mean something that's even worse than bad: a nebulous ball of chords and notes with no compelling reason to exist, other than (usually) financial gain. The nothing song, as I define it, isn't bad OR good; it's just… THERE.

You've definitely heard nothing songs even if you think you haven't. Nothing songs can be competent, tuneful, pleasant, and even catchy. They often go down pretty easy. However, they also tend to be depressingly generic and nondescript. They tend to follow in the wake of hundreds (if not thousands) of songs with a similar sound before them. Simply stated, a nothing song is inoffensive enough, but you have to ask yourself while listening, "Did this REALLY need to be written? Is this adding anything important or significant to the already billions and billions of songs out there?"

And they don't have to be love ballads or soft rock songs, either. Even songs with loud, angry guitars or surly, wailing vocals can qualify for nothing-hood by virtue of their inconsequential nature.

I know what a lot of you are thinking: "You're talking about POP songs man! It's supposed to be disposable fun! Lighten up!" To which I reply, with a derisive snort, "PURE BUNK!" (Heh.) There are plenty of disposable "pop" (or "rock") songs which are fun and catchy as well as smart, unique and innovative. Just because something is classified as a "pop song" doesn't mean it gets a free pass to be non-inspiring, derivative dross.

And seriously folks, I honestly don't think my standards are THAT high. When I hear a song, all I want is some sort of sign - however muted - that the artists involved might have actually gotten worked up or cared about the notes they were laying down, and that they didn't bolt from the studio 5 seconds later and make a beeline for the bank deposit window.

This is why a nothing song can truly be worse, in a sense, than a flat-out BAD song. At least with (some) bad songs you get the distinct impression that someone really cared about what they were doing. At least with (some) bad songs you feel the passion and effort that went into making it, however atrocious the final result may be. And sometimes, amidst all the utter awfulness of a bad song, you can still catch glimmers of inspiration and creativity that nearly carry the tune and save it from outright suckiness.

Not so with a nothing song! Nothing songs are far, far more insidious than that. They usually have no personality, charm or vitality to speak of, because they tend to be homogenized within an inch of their commercialized lives. Any and all impurities are methodically distilled out of them, and they have no real spice or spark propelling them along. Hell, they have no real reason for being at all!!! And, more often than not, the producers of nothing songs try to hide the nothing status behind immaculate production, tried-and-true chord changes or a clear, powerful singing voice. But don't be fooled! These songs are sheer black holes of sound, sucking up precious vibrations in the air.

Basically, the goal of the nothing song is to be as innocuous and inoffensive as possible while simultaneously appealing to as many people as it can reach. The end result of this delicate balancing act is usually a reasonable, but ultimately unsatisfying, aural concoction which most people describe in terms like "not bad," "is what it is," "gets the job done," or "pleasant enough." Think about it. Do those sound like good reasons for any song to exist?

I personally respect my pop and rock music more than that, and so should you.