Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Rock Music's Hopes And Dreams

If there is pretty much one thing that is quite congruent about rock music through the ages, it is that rock music has never been directed to appeal to upper class or well-off people. In almost all genres of rock music from rock and roll, classic rock, pop rock, punk rock, heavy metal, emo rock to alternative rock, we can always expect recurring themes of cynicism, anti-establishment, revolution, aspirations, lower and middle class struggle, angst, emotional sadness, depression, alcoholism, drugs and sex. These are all themes that will not appeal to people who've already got it.

Here are some of the examples I've found across various rock genres with their correspondingly explored sentiments (these are my own opinions and interpretations, any disagreement is welcome):

Tommy used to work on the docks
Union's been on strike
He's down on his luck, it's tough
So tough

Gina works the diner all day
Working for her man
She brings home her pay for love
For love

Bon Jovi - Living on a Prayer (Class struggle)

I wanna be a Kennedy
I wanna be tall and handsome
I'd conquer the world
And you'd see me on television
If I could be a Kennedy
If I could be a big heartbreaker
I'd watch you crash into my arms
With the stars under the barrel of a gun
We'd die young

Kill Hannah - Kennedy (Aspiration)

I wanna be the minority
I don't need you, authority
Down with the moral majority
'Cause I wanna be the minority

I pledge allegiance to the underworld
One nation underdog there of which I stand alone
A face in the crowd unsung against the mold
Without a doubt, singled-out, the only way I know

Green Day - Minority (Anti-establishment)

Wicked with your charm
I am circled like prey
Back in the forest
Were whispers persuade
More sugar trails
More white lady laid
Than pillars of salt...

Cradle of Filth - Nymphetamine (Drugs and hints of sex)

I do it for the drugs
I do it just to feel alive
I do it for the love
That I get from the bottom of a bottle

Smile Empty Soul - Bottom of a Bottle (Drugs and alcohol)

If I am lost for a day
Try to find me,
But if I don't come back
Then I won't look behind me.
All of the things that I thought were so easy
Just got harder and harder each day


I dreamed I was dying as I so often do
And when I awoke I was sure it was true
I ran to the window; threw my head to the sky
And said whoever is up there
Please don't let me die

Stars - Calendar Girl (Depression and hope)

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin'
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto
And his mama cries
'Cause if there's one thing that she don't need
It's another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto

Elvis Presley - In the Ghetto (Class struggle)

It's going down tonight in this town
'Cause they stare and growl
They all stare and growl
I take a scar everytime I cry
'Cause it ain't my style
No it ain't my style
Going down to the gravel head to the barrel
Take this life and end this struggle
Los Angeles come scam me please
Emptiness never sleeps at Cliftons 6am
With your bag lady friend and your mind descending
Stripped of the right to be a human in control
It's warmer in hell so down we go

The Distillers - City of Angels (Urban cynicism)

Now, what do you own the world?
How do you own disorder, disorder?
Now, somewhere between the sacred silence
Sacred silence and sleep
Somewhere, between the sacred silence and sleep
Disorder, disorder, disorder

System of a Down - Toxicity (Cynicism of the social order)

In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he's had the pleasure to know
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say "Hello"
On the corner is a banker with a motorcar
The little children laugh at him behind his back
And the banker never wears a mac
In the pouring rain - very strange
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies

The Beatles - Penny Lane (Average class mundanity)

Fake tales of San Francisco
Echo through the room
More point to a wedding disco
Without a bride or groom
There's a super cool band yeah
With their trilbys and their glasses of white wine
And all the weekend rockstars are in the toilets
Practicing their lines

Arctic Monkeys - Fake Tales of San Francisco (Satire of the middle to lower class rockstar life)

Staring into the intersection
She thinks that she can fly and she might
Holding on in a new direction
She's gonna try it tonight
The closer I get to feeling
The further that I'm feeling from alright
The more I step into the sun
The more I step out of the light

Jessica is covered in a blanket on a Sunday porch
Thinking of the weekends she would party in the city
She doesn't have a flame
She'd prefer to burn out like a torch
If she gets nowhere in life
At least she know's she pretty

Something Corporate - Straw Dog (About suicide, escape and societal misfits)

So hum hallelujah
Just off the key of reason
I thought I loved you
It was just how you looked in the light

A teenage vow in a parking lot
"Til tonight do us part"
I sing the blues
And swallow them too

Fall Out Boy - Hum Hallelujah (Pre-marital sex)

I judge by what she's wearing
Just how many heads I'm tearing
Off of assholes coming on to her
Each night seems like it's getting worse

And I wish she'd take the night off
So I don't have to fight off
Every asshole coming on to her
It happens every night she works

Nickelback - Next Contestant (Bar room brawling)

After all this time
I never thought we'd be here
Never thought we'd be here
When my love for you was blind
But I couldn't make you see it
Couldn't make you see it
That I loved you more than you'll ever know
And part of me died when I let you go

Lifehouse - Blind (Flat out emo)

I'm definitely carried away but I think this demonstrates clearly where rock music is headed. The congruence can seem uncanny - it is as if rock music is a shining beacon for non-elites who are either forced into their circumstances or choose to be where they are.

Which is in some ways why I like it. If rock as a music genre was a person I would think him to be earnest, humble and at some times exceedingly self-aware and self-deprecating.

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