Saturday, October 16, 2010

Same Music: Different Age

The Friday Summer Concert Series that the Today show runs is always interesting. I’ve never been a music fan, listening to the Top 40 or favorites of friends and family.

I do know the importance of music in culture, the important role it can play in a person’s life and the effect it can have on individuals and crowds. The Today show offers a quick glimpse of what is currently popular and what the culture is thinking, or singing, about.

On the occasional Friday the lyrics from the #1 song of the highlighted artist filters through my preparations for the day. Generally, it is something in the lyrics that catches my attention and sends me into a myriad of thoughts on the psychology of music. It happened on a recent Friday and this is what I thought:

Katy Perry, “I Kissed the Girl”

I kissed a girl and I liked it/the taste of her cherry chap stick
I kissed a girl just to try it/I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it
It felt so wrong, it felt so right, don’t mean I’m in love tonight
I kissed a girl and I liked it, I liked it

I was initially surprised at such lyrics but a little thought and lyrics from the past flooded my memories.

1990, The Divinyls:
“I Touch Myself.”
The title suffices and it caused some controversy but made it to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Reaching back to 1972 there was plenty to raise an eyebrow about.
Billy Paul, “Me and Mrs. Jones”
Me and Mrs. Jones, we got a thing going on
We both know that it's wrong
But it's much too strong to let it cool down now

Later, I was driving and put in the soundtrack to “The Music Man,” 1962, and paid close attention to the lyrics of “The Sadder-But-Wiser Girl for Me”
I flinch, I shy, when the lass with the delicate air goes by
I smile, I grin, when the gal with a touch of sin walks in.
I hope, and I pray, for a Hester to win just one more "A"
The sadder-but-wiser girl's the girl for me.
The sadder-but-wiser girl for me

Which took me back to 1950’s Paul Brown and “Butcher Pete”
(This is featured in the 2008 Fallout 3 soundtrack, for those thinking, “Where have I heard that?”)
Butcher Pete's got a long sharp knife
He starts choppin' and don't know when to stop
All you fellows gotta watch your wife
'Cause Pete don't care who's meat he chops

Clearly, a central topic runs through our culture and spans the ages in music. Each generation has their own way of putting the idea into words and with different levels of shock value. The end assessment is that every generation has their songs on this topic and they can be shocking at any time to anyone.  The trend will continue with future generations adding their music to this mix, using their own vernacular and shocking past and present alike.


  1. Hi there! Just wanted to let you know you won the Solitary book from You can email your address to me at nicoleodell 6 <@> gmail . com.


  2. You made some really good points here! I never ever listen to the words of songs, cause I can't remember them, but when someone points it out, then I do. Generations don't change.

  3. Thanks Nicole, for the book.

    Terri, I found myself ready to be critical of Katy Perry then realized that critiquing music lyrics can span my lifetime.

  4. Isn't it a shame when I singer tries to gain popularity by using shock lyrics instead of making a career on their singing talent.

  5. It is also a shame shock lyrics fall into supply and demand economics.