Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Some thoughts on The Black Eyed Peas

Dear Hannah,

Ever since the 1970's at the very earliest, popular culture has run in 20-year cycles.  I'm now old enough to have consciously experienced three of them. Nobody in the 1960's was interested in the 1940's, but in the 1980's everyone was excited about the 60's.  In in the 2000's, which is the cultural revival I experienced the most personally, everyone went wild for the 80's.  A period of twenty years gives a fad exactly enough time to be unpopular: just enough unpopularity to mean none of the kids will have heard it, and exactly enough time to remind 30 year-olds about the times they used to be interesting -- a perfect recipe for a band to go on an embarrassing reunion tour.  In ten years everyone will go wild for the 2000's, which means I should probably try to start explaining The Black Eyed Peas.  I can't do anything to explain emo.  Aside from a few isolated hits, the whole of it was garbage. 

When The Black Eyed Peas released their first single, I believe every well-adjusted man had the same reaction I did, which happens to be the same reaction every white man has when he first tries kimchi (which may very well be the same reaction every Asian man has when he first encounters blue cheese).  Something between wonder and disgustHe wonders whether it's safe for human consumption.  Then, after cautiously and intermittently shoveling a few bites into himself over a period of months, he suddenly begins to wonder whether he likes it.  He then proceeds on to the next stage where he begins singing its praises, primarily because he now actually enjoys it, but secondly because he knows his openly enjoying it makes his best friends uncomfortable. 

In a strange turn of events, I've now grown old enough to appreciate most pop music almost immediately.  I don't think this is how things are supposed to have worked out, and all things suggest I'm supposed to be clutching my ears and complaining.  But if I am growing backwards it's because I care more about how music makes me feel than about how other people think I think about music. As such I missed the 2000's by listening to bad bands.  I was trying too hard to be cool.  I could have been dancing to the Black Eyes Peas, and instead listened to music I couldn't dance to at all.

My advice is to remember you're only young once. Don't listen to what your friends say or whether or not you can maintain a certain reputation by enjoying certain kinds of music: it may be the last really great music that's ever produced.  Greece was famous for their plays right before Rome collapsed and we entered the Dark Ages, and almost nobody ever saw a good play until the Renaissance -- a period of a thousand God-forsaken years.

A man never knows when he's past the peak of genius until his mind begins to soften.  A woman never knows when she'll be her most beautiful until after she begins to look more homely and she can't do a single thing about it.  Benjamin Franklin once said that The Golden Age was never the present age, and I think he's right.  Not everyone realized the Age of Reason had arrived, and that we were in the midst of Ciceros until the 21st century came and we suddenly found ourselves getting speeches from the likes of George Bush.  Nobody imagines that maybe this period of musical invention is temporary, and that pretty soon we'll have explored nearly every sound imaginable, and then we'll be damned to recycling the same tired things our fathers went wild to hear for the very first time in human history.  In other words, our future may be comprised entirely of "artists" as shamelessly unoriginal as Bruno Mars -- or worse, something approaching the garbage they play on Eurovision.  Whatever the future holds, it's possible that The Black Eyed Peas really are horrible, and we all have horrible taste.  Or maybe they and LMFAO and Maroon 5 made some of the most danceable and original music of the past century, and now that they're done making it, we'll never hear anything really new again.

Your father,
-J

UPDATE, Thursday, August 2nd, 2018: Upon reading this article a few years later, I realize it has a major flaw.  This flaw is that nothing, however badly recycled, is old to a toddler.  It may be true that everything we'll ever sing will have been sung before, and maybe better.  But if it's new to the listener it might as well be the first time Elvis ever sang; and if America gets old to the old, maybe disco will make a "comeback" -- in 2160 in China.  Our oldness is ended in death.  Mankind is never old because we are always being born.  We are always in the stages of infancy.  We can only be old to our professional historians.  You can only think New Wave is ancient if you went back and tried to study the ancients. 




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