7 reasons why music videos possess tremendous power

music video meme sound of music

This is about why lectures never work, poetry is powerful, even instrumental music can make you cry and the humble, silly music video can be one of the most devastating weapons of persuasion and change on this little rock orbiting a ginormous burning ball of nuclear fusion and fire.

1) Lectures never work

If you have a toddler, or a teenager, or are married, you are well aware of this fact.

Lectures are basically journalism, writing or speaking to inform. If your purpose is to persuade, journalism and lectures won’t do the job.

It’s common to hear, “If I just had more TIME to explain the facts, they’d understand and agree with me.”

No. The longer you stretch out a lecture or bit of journalism, the more bored and hostile your audience will become. Because structurally, writing and speaking to inform is a horrible format for anything of length and not designed to persuade at all. (Related: Why the Inverted Pyramid must DIE) Continue reading “7 reasons why music videos possess tremendous power”

Top 9 reasons to write in first-person plural

old typewriter, typewriter, antique keyboard, the way people used to access Word and the Series of Tubes before they existed

old typewriter, typewriter, antique keyboard, the way people used to access Word and the Series of Tubes before they existed

Why nine? Because Top 10 lists are popular, and therefore Boring.

But listen closely, for the case is strong for writing in the first-person plural, which we thought at first was second-person plural, and if we thought about it, which we should, first is better than second.

Also, research via the google proved that languages other than English include other amazing options. Just think of a novel written in fifth person past participle without a single letter E in the text. Think of it. Then think of a book cover with black text on a black background with black accents.

That artist from the ’60s who merely painted a canvas black will get sick with jealousy, and does he even know what presumptive mood is? Unlikely. But he’d talk our ear off about acrylic versus watercolor.

And now the list: Top 9 reasons to write in first-person plural

No. 9 — We create an immediate bond with our audience. We hear our voice, and we like it.

The only way to bond more quickly is if we put instant coffee in the microwave, going back in time.

No. 8 — First person is for narcissistic nancypants, polluting each page of text with “I,” “I,” “I,” and, for variety, strings of “me” and “my.”

It’s not about you, first person singular. It’s about us, plural. Don’t we know that now?

No. 7 — The first-person plural has roots in the Greek chorus, a sturdy trunk from Ayn Rand’s Anthem and green, modern leaves with Joshua Ferris and his Then We Came to the End, which has to be doubly good because it also has “We” in the title.

No. 6 — It’s not “the royal he,” “the royal she” or “the royal I,” is it? No, no, no.

Take it from House Windsor: it’s the royal we. Accept no substitutes.

No. 5 — Third person is common, bourgeois and blasé. How many novels are written in third person, and do we ever read all of them?

There are too many, and the quality varies so much. That’s a sign and an omen, our astrology tells us.

No. 4 — First-person plural creates an emotional distance from the readers, which is sometimes necessary.

It’s like having wealthy relatives we don’t enjoy. We don’t have this problem, but if we did, we wouldn’t wish to spend time with them, but we wouldn’t want to get disinherited, either.

Plus, that exquisite distance creates a sense of foreboding and mystery. If they can never know us, and believe we have no feelings, then we are, indeed, unknowable and omnipresent, literary gods. Or half-Vulcans with Underwoods and a hankering for Jeffrey Eugenides. We’re not sure yet.

No. 3 — A singular narrator can be mistaken, unreliable, reliably unreliabe, obtuse, acute but not cute, scalene or perpendicular.

But we are many, irrefutable, infalliable, translucent, effervescent, a closed plane of certainty and confidence.

We are legion, and it is Good.

No. 2 — Great literature is truly poetry, and great poetry uses first-person plural, such as Emily Dickison and her wonderful, “We send the wave to find the wave,/ An errand so divine.”

Do we want to be great or pedestrian? We choose great.

No. 1 — While second-person point of view was employed by Albert Camus, giving it the sheen of respect, and Jay McInerney found success with Bright Lights, Big City, you cannot ignore the massive volume of pulp fiction detective novels cheapening this choice.

Every such novel began in this sort of crude fashion: “You walk into your office and she’s already sitting behind your desk, drinking your Jim Beam and playing with your .38 special. But she’s got ruby red lips, trouble with the mob and legs that just won’t quit, so you don’t do the smart thing and turn around to leave. No. You hang up your trenchcoat, take out your notebook and listen to her sweet, sweet lies.”

The six types of insane song lyrics

music video meme sound of music

If you love music, and music videos, you start seeing patterns.

Here’s what I’ve learned from dissecting lyrics and making fun of music videos: it’s easy to put them into categories, both amazingly awful and insanely great, and there are SIX KINDS, because I say so.

The six types are:

1) Boring Pop Songs

These are trite little pieces of drivel, sung by boy bands, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears, written at a fourth-grade level because they’re meant to be consumed by seventh-graders.

It’s the kind of thing that makes the average Madonna song look deep.

What’s the acid test for Boring Pop Songs? If you do a “find and replace” in word for “oh baby” and half the lyrics disappear.

2) Pretentious Pop

Vivid imagery that’s poetic, yet confusing. That’s your basic recipe for pretentious pop, which is equally bad whether it’s (a) some boy band trying to get deep or (b) Sting trying to show everybody he went to college, and yes, I adore the Stinger, so that’s said out of love, because he usually hits the mark. Related: Sting nails it with WHY SHOULD I CRY FOR YOU?

Here’s some infamous nonsense from The Decemberists, who specialize in Pretentious Pop:

Fifteen lithesome maidens lay
Along in their bower
Fourteen occupations pay
To pass the idle hour

3) Cryptic Yet Meaningful Goodness

AMERICAN PIE is the best example of this. Are the lyrics deep and confusing? Absolutely. Yet if you dig deep into it, line-by-line, they make sense.

Continue reading “The six types of insane song lyrics”

The poetry of TEAM by Lorde

music video meme sound of music

We live in an age when “Boom! Crash!” passes as a good foundation for the lyrics of a hit song. So this young upstart from NZ, Lorde, is quite refreshing in how she treats lyrics as a chance for some poetry set to music.

Maybe she gets it from her mother, a famous poet. I don’t even care if her mom helps write the lyrics, since just about every band these days hires songwriters, choreographers and engineers at the mixboard. You can buy everything and simply show up, if you want.

Here’s the music video, which is interesting:

And below are the lyrics. I like how she flips things, saying a line once, then twisting it the next time. About the only thing to pick on are the “so there” lines, which felt out of place amidst all the imagery and goodness. But it’s a far, far cry from your typical pop song.

TEAM by Lorde

Wait ’til you’re announced
We’ve not yet lost all our graces
The hounds will stay in chains
Look upon Your Greatness and she’ll send the call out
(Send the call out) [15x]

Call all the ladies out
They’re in their finery
A hundred jewels on throats
A hundred jewels between teeth
Now bring my boys in
Their skin in craters like the moon
The moon we love like a brother, while he glows through the room

Dancing around the lies we tell
Dancing around big eyes as well
Even the comatose they don’t dance and tell

[Chorus:]
We live in cities you’ll never see on screen
Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things
Living in ruins of a palace within my dreams
And you know, we’re on each other’s team

I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air, so there
So all the cups got broke shards beneath our feet but it wasn’t my fault
And everyone’s competing for a love they won’t receive
‘Cause what this palace wants is release

[Chorus:]
We live in cities you’ll never see on screen
Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things
Living in ruins of a palace within my dreams
And you know, we’re on each other’s team

I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air
So there
I’m kinda older than I was when I revelled without a care
So there

[Chorus:]
We live in cities you’ll never see on screen
Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things
Living in ruins of a palace within my dreams
And you know, we’re on each other’s team
We’re on each other’s team
And you know, we’re on each other’s team
We’re on each other’s team
And you know, and you know, and you know

Deconstructing the classic ROUND HERE by Counting Crows

music video meme sound of music

Not because of the lead singer’s epic dreadlocks and facial hair, which I’d argue are less of an Epic Win and more of an Achy Breaky Big Mistakey.

There is no mistaking the genius of this song, though.

The music video may be nothing insanely special, but the actual song and lyrics are haunting and well-done.

Also, do not confuse Counting Crows with the Black Crows, a completely different band. The Black Crows singer dated or married that blonde actress from ALMOST FAMOUS, while the Counting Crows singer dated the blonde actress who was married to Brad Pitt.

Here’s the video in all of it’s ancient, low-res glory:

Now let’s dive into the words.

ROUND HERE

Step out the front door like a ghost
into the fog where no one notices
the contrast of white on white.
Oh, this is poetry, and light years beyond the juvenile lyrics of your typical pop song. What a great beginning.

And in between the moon and you
the angels get a better view
of the crumbling difference between wrong and right.
He’s not done! More poetry, with moral ambiguity and shades of gray that don’t involve bad TWILIGHT fanfic. Beautiful, and not a single “Oh baby oh baby” in sight.

I walk in the air between the rain
through myself and back again
Where? I don’t know
Translation: I am overcome with ennui and existential angst. Or I killed a bottle of Maker’s Mark and wandered outside at 2 a.m. during a thunderstorm. You pick.

Maria says she’s dying
through the door I hear her crying
Why? I don’t know
Translation: Women, they confuse me. There is no handbook, and I am not a medical doctor, though college professors who insist upon being addressed as “Doctor” are pretentious nancypants. You’re not a doctor unless you wear a stethoscope and wield a scalpel.

[Chorus:]
Round here we always stand up straight
Round here something radiates
Translation: This town has a special something, unlike other towns and all the faceless suburbs where if you dropped somebody in the middle of the strip malls and Applebee’s, they wouldn’t know whether it was the outskirts of Atlanta, Seattle or San Jose, with the same Home Depots and Staples and Taco Bells wherever you go. Our town is unique, in good and bad ways. There also could be radioactive waste coming from an old nuke plants. Not sure yet.

Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand
she said she’d like to meet a boy who looks like Elvis.
Hey, Elvis is still hot.

She walks along the edge of where the ocean meets the land
just like she’s walking on a wire in the circus.
Back to poetry! A great line.

She parks her car outside of my house
takes her clothes off
says she’s close to understanding Jesus.
She knows she’s just a little misunderstood.
She has trouble acting normal when she’s nervous
Translation: Girl be crazy.

[Chorus:]
Round here we’re carving out our names.
Round here we all look the same.
Round here we talk just like lions
but we sacrifice like lambs.
Round here she’s slipping through my hands
Translation: This town is rather homogeneous, with big talkers who cave under pressure, and yes, that’s how you spell homogeneous. It has that many “e’s” for some stupid reason. Also, despite the low bar for normal behavior and courage around here, I’m losing the Crazy Hot Girl, emphasis on crazy.

Sleeping children better run like the wind
out of the lightning dream.
Mama’s little baby better get herself in
out of the lightning.
Translation: Maybe I should stop chugging this bottle of Maker’s Mark out in the rain.

She says, It’s only in my head.
She says, Shhh I know it’s only in my head.
But the girl in car in the parking lot
says, “Man you should try to take a shot
can’t you see my walls are crumbling?”
Then she looks up at the building
and says she’s thinking of jumping.
She says she’s tired of life.
She must be tired of something.
Translation: This town has worn the girl down so much, she may give me a shot at a relationship, even if it’s only physical. Or she might jump off a building. Flip a coin. Also, girl be CRAZY.

[Chorus:]
Round here she’s always on my mind.
Round here hey man got lots of time.
Round here we’re never sent to bed early
and nobody makes us wait.
Round here we stay up very, very, very, very late.
Translation: Though the Crazy Hot Girl is flawed and troubled, I’m haunted by her, so much so that I’m sleepless. Also, there’s no curfew. At all.

I can’t see nothin’, nothin’, round here.
Translation: Opportunities in this town are rare. 

No, you catch me when I’m falling.
You catch me if I’m falling.
You catch me if I’m falling down on you.
Translation: As the great philosopher Cher said, “I’ve got you, babe.”

Oh man I said, “I’m under the gun”
round here.
I have no idea what this means and whether this gun is literal or metaphorical. No clue.

Oh man I said, “I’m under the gun”
round here.
And I can’t see nothing, nothing,
round here.
Translation: I, too, see the merit in Crazy Hot Girl’s diagnosis of this town as being a hopeless place, and I may consider drowning myself in cases of Marker’s Mark or adopting her plan of swan-diving off a building. Or I’ll write sad songs about it, make bazillions and date hot actresses. Not sure yet.

Found art, literary garbage and spam

There are serious artists who get paid serious money by museums and galleries, with opening night of their shows featuring all sorts of wealthy moguls and supermodel types surrounding the Artist in his black turtleneck as he unveils his latest “installation,” which is an indictment of consumerism.

What is this art? A toilet glued to the wall above a pile of trash.

But it is ARTFULLY ARRANGED trash, you see.

If you think I’m kidding: A janitor in London got himself in serious trouble for seeing such a pile of trash on the floor of the gallery and sweeping it up. Because, you know, janitors sort of get paid to clean things up. And this horribly uncivilized and uneducated janitor ruined, just ruined, an Art Installation from a serious Artist paid far more than what the janitor makes, all to arrange trash on the floor.

Anybody can throw trash on the floor — or write pretentious gibberish like “Sacred Emily.” (See this post: Gertrude Stein is a literary TRAIN WRECK)

In the spirit of showing how silly this stuff is, I took a spam comment and went all Gertrude Stein on it, turning it into a high-brow (obtuse), dense (nonsensical) and difficult (incoherent) Poem. (Read it here: Is this high-brow poetry — or pretentious garbage?)

The funny thing is how little work it took. Maybe two minutes.

It would have been easier, and made for a far better Pretentious Poem, had I taken a full day to (a) ponder the pointlessness of life, (b) watch a marathon of Jason Statham films, (c) translate a book into Sanskrit, (d) kill half a bottle of bourbon and THEN (e) take two minutes to turn comment spam into poetry.

The spam comments are interesting. Is somebody writing this stuff? No. Can’t be. It has to be some kind of program that strings together random sentences or words. Or somebody in the Ukraine who knows English well enough that he can order a Big Mac without getting McNuggets, but not well enough to write a paragraph without sounding insane.

Here are two actual pieces of comment spam:

1) My spouse and i still cannot quite think that I could become one of those reading through the important ideas found on your blog. My family and I are seriously thankful for your generosity and for providing me the chance to pursue my chosen career path. Thank you for the important information I got from your web page.

2) I’m honored to obtain a call from a friend as soon as he discovered the important recommendations shared in your site. Examining your blog publication is a real excellent experience. Thanks again for thinking of readers just like me, and I wish you the best of achievements like a professional surface area.

They’re just a bit off, aren’t they?

I think it’s because if they did have a human write paragraphs that made sense, the spam filters would catch them even quicker, so they have to be somewhat random. Which makes them even less effective, like a bullet that misses the target by ten feet instead of ten inches.

But they’re interesting. Some idiots must be clicking on the links anyway.

And decades from now, after this post gets forwarded around the Series of Tubes and garbled a bit, some English literature PhD student will find fragments of THE CIRCLE and write a dissertation debating its true meaning.