You can also read this post on the new site here.
Inspired by someone‘s suggestion (you know who you are, constant reader) and following something I did many years ago, I decided to start a new series about music. Here’s the plan: I look at the music charts to see what the most popular songs are actually telling us. Most people can sing along the lyrics without ever thinking about them. If you do that, sometimes you discover interesting, disturbing or surprising issues. Today I look at the top 10 of the German single charts but only pick the songs where I find something worth writing about. Whatever I write about the songs does not necessarily say anything about whether I like them, so no one should feel offended. I don’t know what will happen, but that’s part of the appeal!
German Charts on July 31, 2014
#2: Mark Forster feat. Sido – Au Revoir
The song starts by describing a life that, well, sucks. Life is monotonous and depressing. The answer is to say “Au revoir” and leave, to get away as far as possible and have adventures. It’s interesting because the premise of a life that doesn’t work makes sense but the answer to this is so deeply rooted in our culture. Do you deal with those problems? Do you try to solve them? Do you try to change the circumstances in a way you are happy again? No, all you do is to run away, to ignore the problems and seek “adventures” that involve all the stereotypes you can imagine. The last lines go (in my translation)
There is nothing to keep me here, au revoir
Forget who I am
Forget my name
It will never be like it was before
Of course you could argue that the song advocates change, but I still think it’s more escape than real change. Running away and doing things on your own will not change anything.
#3 OneRepublic – Love Runs Out
It’s something like a love song and I don’t want to get started on that in general, the idea of romance and “the right one” that many of those songs try to sell instead of reality. But the song has its own strange moments that are worth taking a look. I mean, it’s a strange love song, very determined, almost obsessive in its insurance not to leave the loved one alone, but at the same time counting down the time until there is no love anymore, as if this was inevitable. The metaphors are weird sometimes (“I’ll be your stadium.”) and I’m not sure what Mephistopheles is doing here. But this:
My momma raised me good, momma raised me right.
Momma said “Do what you want, say prayers at night”
And I’m saying them, cause I’m so devout.
Is this meant to be ironic? There is no hint to that. If it’s not, it’s pretty depressing. I mean, it doesn’t sound like the best education, so I would doubt that the singer was raised right. “I was told something by my mother and I’m still doing that, no matter what.” I don’t know, something seems wrong to me here.
Oh, we all want the same thing.
Oh, we all run for something.
Oh for God, for fate,
For love, for hate,
For gold, and rust,
For diamonds, and dust.
So, what exactly is “the same thing”? I can’t help but not like this kind of generalization. It is supposed to sound meaningful, but it actually says nothing at all. And definitely nothing about what we want, which is surely neither god nor God.
#4 Lilly Wood & The Prick: Prayer in C (Robin Schulz Version)
This is a weird song. All I could find was that people read it as a break-up song, but if you take away the break-up parts, you’re left with a song about the apocalypse. I don’t know how that fits together.
See our world is slowly dying
I’m no wasting no more time
You, our hands will get more wrinkled
And our hair it will be grey
And see the children are starving
and the houses were destroyed
Hey, when seas will cover lands
And when men will be no more
Oh when there’s just be silence
And when life will be over
Wow, this is dark stuff and very telling. How many people believe there is no future for our earth? I guess, a lot and if a break-up song can use that apocalyptic vision as a background, it must be very self-evident that our time is running out.
#5 Helene Fischer: Atemlos durch die Nacht
Wow, how did this end up in the charts? I’m really not up to date anymore but if this is popular now, I’m not missing anything. Anyway, if you look at the (ridiculous) lyrics, you see one thing coming through very much: an incredibly strong desire to be free, to break out, to not experience reality. This can be found very often in love songs, an extreme desire to isolate yourself from the rest of the world. But doesn’t that mean that the world is not really great? There is also a desire for perfection, relationships that have no problems, just lust and passion and nothing else. Look at the words repeated again and again: big freedom, immortal, eternal, perfect, breathless, addictive. It’s so extreme, probably resulting from more extreme despair.
#8 Cro: Traum
Completely different song, but the same desire for perfection. It’s a song about the dream girl that, as the song admits, probably doesn’t exist. The requirements, though, are not very specific: envied by others, beautiful and dangerously smart. So, the singer is really, really desperate (my bed is too big, I’m so alone, no matter how loud I shout), offers money (I’ve got money on the bank) and only wants the mixture of extreme beauty and intelligence. Again, how desperate does living in our culture make you, if such a desire is so strong and so illusory at the same time? Am I overthinking this by seeing some conflicting issues here?
That’s all I can think of for five out of ten songs. But I’m at 1.000 words again already. I think this is a good start and something I’ll continue soon (maybe with some indie music, too). Sure, you can call this overinterpreting, but I’m convinced that you can see certain memes being transported and repeated in popular songs that are worth noticing and reflecting about. Agree? Disagree? There’s a comment box for you to tell, so don’t wait to insult me. You can also sing it if you like, of course.