The war over Journey is highly energized by the antagonistic stance that I have toward all bad music. The fact that there truly is nothing I can say to prove an opinion, makes doing so all the harder.
I don’t believe that it is my fault that I hate Journey. I blame it mostly on the fact that in my formative years, I was forced to like derivative pop music because it was the only music my parents would buy for me. I used to listen to this meaningless music while I mowed the lawn, singing at the top of my lungs for all of the neighborhood to hear. These songs had a melody that would get caught in your head all day, and because I sang them so loud, the whole neighborhood seemed to hum them along with me. Unfortunately, the melody was all that they had. They lacked potency, relevancy, and more than anything else, purpose.
When I started middle school, my friend Charlie started me on a heavy diet of punk rock and ska. Now, this is not to say that this music had more depth to it, but I believe that it started my process of listening for more than just vocal melody. I started listening to the purpose of the music. The music that I was being introduced to had political aims. Many of the punk songs were railing against the way that teenagers were being treated. This was so relevant to my budding teenage angst.
In high school I began exploring music for myself. I was not satisfied to listen to what other people were listening to. I wanted my own bands, my own ideas. It pained me to see so many of my classmates clamoring for one more pop song to climb up the charts. I wanted raw guitars. I wanted disconnected feelings. I wanted reality.
There is nothing so unreal as a pop song. The world should not be able to fit into one simple rhythm, one simple sentimental chorus, one emotion. Life isn’t like that. It is complex and important. Boiling it down into a four minute catchy masterpiece is preposterous.
Journey, although not the only band that capitalizes on the one emotion, simplicity over everything sentiment, that the masses seem to crave, they are the band that seems to embody it and use it to persuade unthinking youngsters to like their music and pop music in general. The following is an analysis of their most enduring song:
Just a small town girl, livin in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin anywhere
The way that this song opens is incredibly vague. Where is the specificity? Are we supposed to believe that small towns are better than big cities? Is she trying to get away from the lonliness of being away from a small town? The thing she is trying to get away from seems to be lonliness, yet she is going anywhere, alone.
Just a city boy, born and raised in south detroit
He took the midnight train goin anywhere
Now it seems as though, both big cities and small towns are no good. If this loneliness is everywhere, what is the emotion can we possibly feel other than it.
A singer in a smokey room
A smell of wine and cheap perfume
For a smile they can share the night
It goes on and on and on and on
The idea here seems to be that the only solution is to have singular moments of drunken happiness while someone sings their troubles away. Hooking up with someone based upon only trying to get away from your problem is the wrong message to send. It is not something to savor in an anthem. It is something to be written about in a trashy novel or talked about with disdain among friends.
Strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night
Streetlight people, living just to find emotion
Hiding, somewhere in the night
So now we are looking to prostitution. I don’t have any problem bringing the problems of the world into music, however, to do it is such a superficial way is terrifyingly inept. Find emotion? What emotion? How can you create any connection to the audience other than with melody when you have such trite lyrics.
Working hard to get my fill,
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin anything to roll the dice,
Just one more time
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on
Is there anything more cheesy than saying that everyone wants something and we are all looking for it. Some winning and some losing is not something that needs to be stated. It is an obvious part of life. It is a line that was picked to rhyme. Nothing in music is more despicable than that.
Don’t stop believin
Hold on to the feelin
Finally, my questions at the end of this torturous song can only be: what should I not stop believing, and why should I hold on to the feeling if the feeling is one with a prostitute or hook-up?
Now, it may not be fair to disect a song and put my own slant on it, but I believe that all the music that I listen to should matter to me. I believe that even if something is catchy, it must relate to me. Nothing about this song, other than the incredible melody and vocal quality, relates to my life, or provides me with edifying thought. I will not attempt to criticize the music of this song because, after all, I am tainted by all of my experiences with discordant music, just like some are tainted by much of the pop music that they have been exposed to.
The end to this debate can only come with another song analysis. Whatever some other students might believe, I do not think that all of the music I listen to is for everyone. I do, however, believe that everyone should be able to appreciate the lyrics of my emblematic band: Death Cab for Cutie.
There’s a saltwater film on the jar of your ashes; I threw them to the sea,
but a gust blew them backwards and the sting in my eyes
that you then inflicted was par for the course just as when you were living.
It’s no stretch to say you were not quite a father
but the donor of seeds to a poor, single mother that would raise us alone.
We never saw the money that went down your throat
through the hole in your belly.
Thirteen years old in the suburbs of Denver,
standing in line for Thanksgiving dinner at the Catholic church.
The servers wore crosses to shield from the sufferance plaguing the others.
Styrofoam plates, cafeteria tables,
charity reeks of cheap wine and pity and I’m thinking of you,
I do every year when we count all our blessings
and wonder what we’re doing here.
You’re a disgrace to the concept of family.
The priest won’t divulge that fact in his homily
and I’ll stand up and scream if the mourning remain quiet,
you can deck out a lie in a suit.
But I won’t buy it.
I won’t join the procession that’s speaking their piece,
using five dollar words while praising his integrity.
Just ’cause he’s gone, it doesn’t change that fact:
he was bastard in life, thus a bastard in death.
These are simple lyrics, yet they convey an image. They aren’t talking about the specifics of life, not skimming the surface in an attempt to reach the masses. Even though my father was not like this, I can relate to the power of this message. It is about something. It is powerful, potent, relevant, and beautiful. Journey may be catchy, but they can’t hold a candle to modern indie-rock music.