July 10, 2007

Now you're on my turf, pal

pink-05.jpgHoly Huckapoo! As if it isn't bad enough when David Brooks writes about Iraq, now he's an expert on teen pop. In today's column (free copy) he riffs on three "pretty much unavoidable" summer pop songs: Carrie Underwood's Before He Cheats, Pink's U + Ur Hand and Avril Lavigne's Girlfriend.

If you put the songs together, you see they’re about the same sort of character: a character who would have been socially unacceptable in a megahit pop song 10, let alone 30 years ago.

This character is hard-boiled, foul-mouthed, fedup, emotionally self-sufficient and unforgiving. She’s like one of those battle-hardened combat vets, who’s had the sentimentality beaten out of her and who no longer has time for romance or etiquette. She’s disgusted by male idiots and contemptuous of the feminine flirts who cater to them. She’s also, at least in some of the songs, about 16.

Had we but world enough and time, there'd be no end of things we could say about this column, which goes on to draw grand conclusions about divorce, hookup culture and Charles Bronson. But let's stick to the basics. Would this character really have been unheard of 10, 20 or 30 years ago?

Hey, I can answer that off the top of my head! Last week, I put together a mix CD for my drive upstate (yeah, yeah —my iPod is dead) on which I just happened to pair Girlfriend with a certifiable megahit from 27 years ago sung by the same "character." Maybe you know it.

Well you're a real tough cookie with a long history/ Of breaking little hearts, like the one in me. / Before I put another notch in my lipstick case/ You better make sure you put me in my place.

Again, that's the example that just happened to be going through my head. Feel free to suggest your own. You only have to go back 10 years, but it's possible to go back 70 if you try.

Update: Vance points out that Brooks can't even get his ideas right when he steals them.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Oh, and for the record, these songs don't sound remotely the same. Please.

"...As humans we speak one language," Lavigne said in a letter posted on Friday on her Web site, (www.avrillavigne.com).

Wait, what?

You didn't know that Sk8ter Boi was originally in Esperanto?

I'd speak in tongues with HER!

I'm usually pretty sympathetic to charges of plagiarism, but, man, that Rubinoos songwriter is more than a wee bit desperate.

I'll see your 70 and raise - try 80.

This is just from a quick google. But note in the reviews: "this number is about a woman who makes her own rules and enjoys men strictly on her terms"; "Esther sings of a woman taking control of a romance," etc. Granted, they're not necessarily 16, which seems to worry Brooks above all, but then again we're sticking with "pop megahits" rather than the blues, which trafficked in the scorned, cynical, sexed-out woman genre well before Bessie Smith put her stamp on it. His "10, let alone 30" claim is as ludicrously groundless as his Plamegate 'analysis.'

I'm not sure how Brooks determined that the age of his "character" is (sometimes) 16. The singers behind her sure aren't. Avril is 22, Carrie is 24 and Pink is 27.

But he did specify megahit pop song, so I'm not sure your Flapper songs qualify. What makes a megahit. I counted Goody Goody because it became a certified Standard, so it must have been extremely popular. The songs you link to were at least recorded, which means they were more popular than plenty of others from their day, but were they megahits? I dunno.

But yeah, I guarantee you there was a 1920s David Brooks wringing his hands over these bitter/slutty flappers and what the modern world has come to.

Betty Davis, anyone?

But, then again, this is a pretty easy exercise, right? Making fun of Brooks is the short bus of journo criticism.

And we will all assume that, unlike your laptop, you backed up the iPod?

The big news here is that you were actually putting Pat Benatar on a mix CD.
Oh wait, you were heading to upstate New York and obviously trying to fit in.

Although you couldn't say Ida Cox scored a "megahit" with How Can I Miss You Daddy When I've Got Dead Aim, Brooks should take some comfort in the fact that, unlike 80 years ago, it is now socially unacceptable to refer to a black entertainer professionally as "The Sepia Mae West."

Wait a sec - instead of his lede, "If you’ve been driving around listening to pop radio stations this spring and summer," maybe Brooks should've said "If you read the Philadelphia Inquirer two days ago."

I just got around to reading Sunday's Inquirer, and lo and behold, the story fronting Arts & Entertainment is this: Take that, boys: Pop's vixens of vengeance are fed up to here. It's the summer of the you'll-be-sorry-mister song.

Now, it could certainly be coincidence that Brooks' column follows after this piece in exactly the amount of time it takes to read it, inject some hand-wrining, and file for Tuesday, but even so, there are some fun details. First, Dan DeLuca opens the whole thing with the two words "Pat Benatar." Second, he points out not only a huge slew of decades-old precedents, but certified pop megahit "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" from 40 years ago. And of course Bessie Smith makes a cameo appearance.

Anyway, I just thought that was worth noting. So I did.

Hey, DeLuca even mentions Taylor Swift!

Post a comment

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2