Saturday, October 17, 2009

What say you, 80's music fans?

So, for some reason, I was sitting down, reviewing a list of mid 80's Billboard hits, and I decided to start compiling my own list of "best pop/synth pop hits" of the period. Not that I was primarily a pop music fan at the time, but I like to spend my weekends on these kinds of important tasks.

So I come across one of my favorite 80's songs (one that I even liked at the time even though the artist didn't have a double-bass drum set on stage), Howard Jones' "No One Is To Blame". I start listening closely to the lyrics, and I had one of those "reassement" moments.

Jones looks like an alternative new-wavish type guy (not that I know him personally), so I figured he was a liberal/moral equivocator. And in the past, I always had the impression that the song was preaching about the primacy of fate, and the evil of "judgmentalism". But listening to it today, I decided to pay close attention to the lyrics. And read the printed lyrics.

"No one. No one. No one ever is to blame."

Ever? Never? Never ever?

It sounds more like something I might say satirizing liberals than what a real liberal would admit to. So I started reevaluating the context of the song.

I always thought it was about two star-crossed would-be lovers who liked each other but couldn't get together for whatever reason. But I started to think of the song as being about two people who were attracted to each other, but were already committed in other relationships, and it made more sense to me.

That's why "you can read the menu but you just can't eat," and "You can dip your foot in the pool, but you can't have a swim."

But for the person who would go for it anyway and break their commitments, he offers the second verse.

Jones: "Some break the rules,"

But why would they do it? Because they're fixated on what they're not getting, and feel like they could, or maybe even deserve, to have (Jones: "...and live to count the cost").

That's the seductive allure of breaking the rules--if you do it, and hey, it will only just be this once--it seems like happiness could be yours. Alas, that is rarely, if ever the case. Usually it's just the beginning of the slippery slope to more malfeansance and, eventually, self-hatred.

Jones: "The insecurity is the thing that won't get lost."

I don't know if any of you care about this song or have ever thought about it, but is it possible that, rather than excusing all decisions as fate, Jones is lampooning people for being self-indulgent?

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Always sniffing for the truth

Always sniffing for the truth

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