Wednesday, June 05, 2013

30 Day Song Challenge (The Sequel), Day 5: Favorite Song For Driving Around Town With The Top Down

I don't own, and never have owned, a convertible.  (That's me and my bff Dana Gabrion in the picture here, on a truly epic trip I took to the Left Coast to hang with her in L.A. a couple of years ago.  Dana owns a convertible, of course.)  I drive what can only be called, on its very best days, a barely functional car.  However, I will not let that small detail stand in the way of my picking the very best selection for today's iteration of the 30 Day Song Challenge (The Sequel).

For what it's worth, I do have a sun-roof on my little P.O.S. car-- it's the small things, really-- and I am inclined on fair-weather days, with practically no coaxing whatsoever, to draw back that sun-roof and roll down all of my windows and BLAST THE EVER-LIVING BEJESUS out of the volume on my poor little grossly-inadequate, factory-issue, Toyota stereo-speakers.  And, yes, even and especially when the windows are down, I still sing along at the top of my lungs to whatever I might be playing inside when that happens. (Do I care that you're looking at me?  No. I. Do. Not.)  On my iPod, which I plug into my crapola car stereo, I even have a playlist called "Driving Music" for just this purpose.  I should really license the rights to that playlist, no lie, because it is really that awesome.

But let's not delay.  Time to get down to the nuts-and-bolts of today's selection.  Here are, in my self-appointed "expert" opinion, the key prerequisites for a great song to listen to while driving around town with the top down:

1.  First, it needs to be a song that's meant to be played LOUD.  Of course, you can play any song at any volume, but this has got to be one that sounds that much better for every increasing notch you crank up the volume.  You played it louder? Is it better?  Yes, okay, keep going.  Even louder?  Even Better?  Yes.  Okay, one more decibel.  Still louder?  Still better?  Good, then.  For god's sake, repeat til you blow those speakers out.  Here's a link to car speakers on Best Buy.  They'll even install the new ones for you.

2.  Second, it's got to be ANTHEMIC. (Yes, your intuitions are right, "anthemic" is a weird adjectival formulation of the noun "anthem.") But I'm not talking about amateur-level "anthemic" here.  I'm talking Queen-level anthemic, Styx-level anthemic, Journey-level anthemic, I mean, do-you-hear-the-drums-Fernando?-level anthemic.  Like, if hundreds of thousands of your comrades just died in a bloody battle to give birth to the nation-state where you can finally breathe free, where you can finally call yourself a patriot at home, where you can be all that your ancestors and God and Nature and the Universe intended you to be, this song is the song that you would sing when they raised your new flag.  That kind of anthem.

3.  Third, it's got to have a truly catchy, grabs-your-heart-by-the-balls, certifiably and unquestionably meaningful, HOOK TO DIE FOR.   This is a hook that you can shout/sing (no difference which) at the top of your lungs, even if there's a minivan full of suburbanites gawking cluelessly at the stoplight next to you with the full force of suburban judgment radiating like the Fire of Hades itself from their eyes.  I'm talking about a double-rock-horns-throwing, steering-wheel-drum-solo-inspiring, my-drivers-seat-might-as-well-be-a-pulpit-because-THIS-IS-SOMETHING-THE-PEOPLE-NEED-TO-HEAR kind of lyric. The kind of lyrical hook that makes you scrunch up your nose and look all kinds of deadly-serious, like if you mess with me right now YOU CAN ONLY FIND SOMETHING YOU DON'T WANT TO MESS WITH.  We're talking about the lyric to a hook that you'd not only shamelessly wear on a t-shirt or voluntarily register as a Facebook status update, but that you might even seriously consider getting as a tattoo.  One that could serve as your battle-cry.  See above about your stint in your imaginary revolution.

4.  Fourth, BONUS (but not required) element: It's all the more satisfying if the song also generates even the slightest possibility for a misunderstanding of why it's so great.  Why it might be easily misunderstood is obviously not a conversation to have when you're blaring it at full volume in your car, driving around town with the top down, but it's a small satisfaction if later you can say to your Doubting-Thomas friend: "are you serious, you didn't get that that song was about x?!"  (x = something sonically or lyrically awesome that your dimwitted, non-awesome friend could not deduce by virtue of his or her own diminished powers of aesthetic judgment.)

Those criteria in place, my pick for today is the song "Some Nights" by Fun. (not only my favorite band of the last two years, but also a band that has, in my view, the most perfect level of band-name to musical-sound symmetry ever).  This song hits on all cylinders listed above. And at the risk of sounding like an insufferable fangirl, I really have to say that if Nate Ruess ever led a revolution for anything, I'd probably sign up.   I don't know who produced the video for this song, and I'm not sure what to make of what looks like a totally bizarro Civil-War-reenactment in it (idk, maybe it's supposed to be an American Revolutionary War reference?), but, whatevs, clearly their video producer recognized in this song all the quasi-martial virtues I listed above.  Here it is:

What do I stand for?  What do I stand for? Most nights, I don't know... 

As someone who loves-- dearly and deeply loves-- the generation-defining music of the 60's and 70's, I nonetheless have to say that I'm not sure I ever heard a hook in the songs of those generations' music that measures up to this one. (I'm positive I'll get blow-back for that claim from, among others, my esteemed and expert colleague Charles Hughes.)  Maybe my judgment is a generational thing but, to be honest, the music of Fun. is not (technically speaking) the music of "my" generation.  As a music-lover precariously situated  in the liminal-space somewhere between the baby-boomers and the millennials, I can honestly say that the closest 60s/70s candidates for prime place in this contest that I can imagine are probably Marvin Gayes' "What's Going On?" or the Staples Singers "Respect Yourself" ... but neither of those are "driving around with the top down" songs, I think everyone would agree.

 Let's just ignore temporarily the unfortunately-situated subsequent line (...most nights, I don't know anymore) to the otherwise-brilliant "Some Nights" hook, and let's rather just focus for the moment on the relentlessly driving, viscerally intoxicating, straight-up populist moxie of its insistently questioning and repetitive "what do I stand for?" hook. That hook and this song, like so many by Fun., is an exemplar of nothing short of a bona fide, heart-on-one's-sleeve, wanderlust. That is to say, this is a desperately searching and, in so many ways, genuinely needy anthem.  It asks, LOUDLY, and in the kind of adolescently naive way that none of us dare to ask anymore:  What do I stand for? 

That's not really a naive question, in the end.  Not in my estimation, anyway.  Not in the least.  That's a question that all of us, not just the so-called millennials, need to answer every day, for ourselves and our posterity.  Not for nothing, but qua anthem, generational or otherwise, there's just isn't anything that even approximates Fun.'s interrogation on the radio today.  There hasn't been for too, too many years.  If I drove a convertible, I'd be the very first to roll my top down, stick my ridiculous head out and sing loud and proud that question, no question.

What do I stand for? What do I stand for?   I want to know.

Despite all the things (and there are many) that frustrate and sometimes even infuriate me about you, millennials, let me be the first to say that your generation has inspired the very best of what I would call a song that merits rolling your windows down, cranking the car volume up, driving around town with the top down, head thrown back and shouting at full-existential volume what do I stand for?! (with the full-throttle INTERROBANG) at full freakin' voice.  Well done Fun., and your whole injudicious generation, too,  for managing to generate for yourselves a band (and a song) that deserves nothing less than a resounding period to alert its name. 

Nostalgic?  Ready my Day Five entry from the 2011 version of the 30 Day Song Challenge. (For the record, Day 5 was one of my favorite entries from the 2011 list.)

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