Friday, December 11, 2009

...Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus

I lump songs like "Party in the USA" into what I call health club music. Because they play it at my health club and that is the only time I listen to it. (I need to start wearing an ipod, but the problem with ipods is that now everyone wears them - which is understandable because songs like "Party in the USA" are unbearable- so no one can hear you if you speak to them. So if you need help with something, like when you can't lift the weight u are lifting suddenly during a set, which happens to me a lot, you have two unappealing choices. You can either scream or wait for a while with the bar bearing down on your chest until someone looks up and sees you, I choose the latter because it is embarrassing enough to not be able to lift the bar) Anyway, among the odious songs that play at gym including that whiny "One step at a time! whether you are learning to fly or falling in love..." or "pieces of me" (which Ashlee Simpson pronounces "pheaces of me") "Party in the USA" is the most odious. And there is a simple reason why and that is because of the "milestone music" she chooses to reference in the song.
Here are the applicable excerpts of the music.

And I'm nervous
'Cause when the taximan turned on the radio

And a Jay Z song was on
And a Jay Z song was on
And a Jay Z song was on

And I'm nervous
And the DJ dropped my favorite tune

And a Britney song was on
And a Britney song was on
And a Britney song was on

I could critique several aspects of the simplistic song, including that ostensibly this song is about a girl who has just come to Hollywood to make it yet she lands at LAX. Is her stuff getting shipped to her and moved in later? But then again I moved to California after High School via airplane (but that was before luggage restrictions) so I cannot really critique....
Back to the issue at hand which is the songs Miley leans on for her emotional inspiration during her first moments in Hollywood. The fact that she mentions a Jay Z song and a Britney song are so appalling, for this means songs of such poor quality are what are coloring the moments of her life and giving her emotional strength.
There is such a rich canon of pop music to draw from....for me I had my Tori Amos phase, my Sinead O'Connor phase, Steely Dan phase, my Roxy Music phase, my Smiths phase, my Grace Jones phase, my David Bowie phase (approximately in that order I skipped some embarrassing phases). Others had their Beatles phase, their Springsteen phase, their Stones phase, their Bob Dylan phase, their Aretha Franklin phase, their Joni Mitchell phase. Songs by these artists were created with care and inspiration. The lyrics were informed by collectively understood life moments, imagery, raw emotion and used the recording technology of the time (particularly Roxy Music and Bowie, oh Bowie who combined disparate musical elements so brilliantly into pieces so rich....) to create pieces with resonance. Thus because songs by these artists came from a place of artistic passion, they were designed to assuage the fears and existential angst we feel at the moments of our lives. Clearly, the Miley in the song is rife with struggle over her ability to achieve in the face of the established power structure that is Los Angeles.

So hard with my girls all around me
It's definitley not a Nashville party
'Cause all I see are stilletos
I guess I never got the memo

Now as I mentioned before, most of us have songs we secretly love, "The Lover in Me" by Sheena Easton and "Too Shy" by Kajagoogoo are two I will confess right now, but that does not begin to cover my secret levels of bad taste. However I have the good sense not to mention them, to at least respect the serious artistic process of great rock artists (i.e. Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell) to mention great artists out loud when asked about my preferred music. If a Jay-Z song and a Britney song were truly the tunes that helped little Miley through this moment of uncertainty, she should have lied while composing "Party in the USA." Because not only does her song serve as a reflection of herself, but it is also a potential pedagogical opportunity that she shamelessly squandered. She could have turned her fans towards a great artist, imagine all the little girls and not so little gay boys who could have discovered Todd Rundgren or Joni Mitchell through Cyrus' composition.
Alas, this will not happen.
I realize that all of this is simple nostalgia for the "good old days" that never were. Now bad pop music has been present for as long as pop and rock have existed and bad songs have their place. But when an lack of exposure to the canon of music is so grave that bad songs are then referenced and celebrated for posterity in another song, well that just makes me shutter.

1 comment:

  1. Not that I'm excusing or defending Miley's music, but I saw an interview with her regarding "Party in the USA." The reporter asked her, "What Jay Z song was on?" Miley said, "I don't know. I didn't write the song; somebody wrote it for me." That statement of course brings on a whole other set of issues, but it does explain the pathetic choices in inspirational music.