My kids have now reached the age at which we start having music fights in the car. Our travel playlist has become quite eclectic. For example, tonight we spent an hour in the car and our selections included:
- This summer’s VBS theme song (Stand Strong)
- Bon Jovi
- Billy Joel
- One Direction
- The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Theme Song
- Matt Maher
- Elton John
- Hakuna Matata
- Kenny Chesney
- Sidewalk Prophets, and
- What Does the Fox Say
One particular song that hit our playlist tonight was Billy Joel’s Summer, Highland Falls. The lyrics of this song are so moving and beautiful that when I was studying poetry in college, I wrote Billy Joel a letter thanking him for the way he was able to evoke such emotion by pairing beautiful imagery with haunting melodies.
“It was by music that the ancient kings gave elegant expression to their joy. By their armies and axes they gave the same to their anger.” – Confucius
Just to give you a brief example:
We are forced to recognize our inhumanity
Our reason co-exists with our insanity
And though we choose between reality and madness,
it’s either sadness or euphoria.
You can listen to the whole song here:
I suppose it’s no wonder that I started thinking about lyrics considering that tonight’s playlist moved us from Billy Joel’s poetic genius immediately into One Direction’s Best Song Ever.
The refrain to that song?
I think it went oh, oh, oh / I think it went yeah, yeah, yeah / I think it goes oh
To say that One Direction is no poetic genius is putting it mildly.
To be fair, I must admit that I sang the “oh, oh, oh” and “yeah, yeah, yeah” with just as much gusto as I did Summer, Highland Falls – and with significantly more dancing. By the time we got to What Does the Fox Say, I had hopped down from my mental soapbox and forgotten all about my concern for modern song lyrics. It could be that I was just too busy trying to make my kids laugh by imitating the CGI fox dance moves at the end of the song without sacrificing my driving.
“Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Then, I got home and found this gem on my Facebook feed:
I listened to these classic actors, with their rich voices, reciting such banal…well…crap… and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Hearing One Direction (and Miley, and that idiotic Chinese Food song) in that context brought the point slamming home again.
“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.” – Shinichi Suzuki
The songs whose lyrics are recited in that video (along with a thousand other modern pop and rock songs) make me want to laugh, dance, sing along, and bop my head. But while that makes those songs entertainment, I don’t know that it makes them music in the idealist sense.
“[Music is] the exaltation of the mind derived from things eternal bursting forth in sound.” -St. Thomas Aquinas
Truly good music has been a soundtrack of my life. From the heart swell that begins with the opening bars to “Over the Rainbow” to the short story revealed in Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” to the mind bending insanity of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the tears that well up each time I hear the “Ave Maria” – in its purest and most ideal form, music evokes emotion.
I can’t say I get much emotion out of
“You a stupid hoe / You a / You a stupid hoe / (stupid, stupid)”
unless you count dismissive condescension as an emotion? (That was Nicki Minaj, btw.)
Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents. – Ludwig van Beethoven
Maybe (probably) I’m over thinking it – and I’m still going to sing along with “What Does the Fox Say” – but every time I do, I’m going to imagine Morgan Freeman…
I’m also going to try to be a little more deliberate about including some truly great music in the car’s playlist.