Monday, February 2, 2009

Re: Different Strokes

I think it's relevant that the artists you named as poetic wrote their own lyrics and Madonna likely at least had some help. The musicians you named created their work start to finish. Madonna may have started as a musician with authenticity in mind, but by the point this song came out, she was well-worked into a record company, out for making the money. I'm not saying that pop songs can't be really great or that they can't be poetic, but I think something churned out by a record company definitely has a strike against it.

I'm aware, too, of the thin ice I'm on by saying commercial endeavors aren't literature (Shakespeare's plays, Dickens novels, etc), but I think it's more possible to keep your soul out of a song produced for money versus a play or novel produced for money. One simply spends less time with it. A play, novel, or a complex piece of art will invariably receive the mark of its creator, but I'm pretty skeptical about pop music sometimes.

In the 20's and 30's, in the era of ragtime, there was a place called the Brill Building where composers, producers, and singers worked together to quickly churn out songs assembly-line style. We studied this process and the structure of said songs in my History of Rock class, but I never really felt the songs were even on the same level as musicians working to write everyone their own and with something clear to say. I was convinced in the last couple minutes of class to maybe put this song in my anthology, but I'm still not really impressed. I suppose I am on the fence on this particular song. It was uninspiredly written for money, but the "she's really hot but you should stay with me anyway because this is real" sentiment is pretty deep and worth noting. It reminds me of Shakespeare's Sonnet 130:

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