September 25, 2005

Music as a Record of Social History

Lately, I've been relistening to Whatever and Ever Amen. While I haven't done an exhaustive tour of Ben Folds's discography, it seems like it's easily the best thing he's done. Some songs on it, like "Kate," explain perfectly why pop music is essential. One thing that struck me about the album, though, is how rooted it is in mid- to late-90s apathy. While I prefer not having to acquiesce control of my emotional states to any collective consciousness, it's hard to deny that a lot of people feel similar things at the same time. Though high artists like to stick to the timeless and universal, popular culture happily reflects what's "in the air."*

While on the zero to Beethoven metric of artistic success, efforts like these can fall somewhat short, they seem rather valuable to social historians. I probably won't care very much about this album in 20 years, but if someone wants me to "explain the 90s," I'll pull it out and play "Battle of Who Could Care Less." It sums up quite economically the shared feelings of the time, how people related to one another, and how they spent their free time. I just hope I won't be asked what it means to be "dressed up all like The Cure."


*This is probably one reason why Folds's career has lagged as of late. His recent songs feel a little mired in the same old mix of nostalgia and apathy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See, this is why I miss you.

So! I saw Carmen at the ART, and the music will now not leave my head! They did it with dueling grand pianos! In addition to the other myriad deficiencies I frequently bemoan, I am now suicidal because I can't produce opera-noises with the loosely-strung bits of yellow meat I find dangling inefficiently inside my neck.

This has been Nick.