Fuck Sexy. Bring Music Back.

The 90’s gave birth to some of the most epic songs and bands of all time. Soul Asylum’s hit 1993 song, “Runaway Train” with its hypnotic rhythm guitar and affecting lyrics was one of these epic songs. The tune won a grammy for best rock song in ’94 and is, in my opinion, one of the best songs ever written. I can spend hours lost in the guitar music, which I am unable to pay proper homage with flattery alone. (For a proper breakdown of the lyrics and music read this review by Song Mango.) Frontman, Dave Pirner cites personal experience as inspiration for those powerful, emotional lyrics.

The song’s video, directed by Tony Kaye, was a sort of PSA for missing children and aired in several countries, with each country showing images of their own missing children. There were three versions released in the US featuring a total of thirty-six missing children. According to the video’s director, twenty-six missing children from all over the world made it back home because of  “Runaway Train.” But not all of those missing had a happy ending and some have yet to be found. Among those listed as still missing are Thomas Dean Gibson (the last child shown in each of the US versions), Byron Page, Wilda Benoit, Christopher Kerze, and Martha Dunn.

The lyrics for “Runaway Train” were not actually about runaways but became the song’s legacy, and possibly the band’s, in the mind of many listeners and fans after the release of the video. The hit song gave the band mainstream success and visibility, which proved difficult to surpass from a marketing and branding perspective. I was fortunate enough to experience the song without having seen the video first and managed not to see the video until two years after its release, so the song and video are, for me, two vastly different but equally important works of art.

Now mainstream music is set to autotune and lyrics often lack depth and emotion. You have to dig deep in the industry’s treasure chest as the real musical gems lie beneath a layer of  costume jewelry-esque lyrics and hooks. The good stuff is rarely played but has the most value. I eagerly anticipate a revival of the industry where raw, imperfect talent and vocals are once again encouraged and autotune meets its demise. I want lyrics and videos, not advertisements for perfume, clothes, jewelry, cars, and swank digs set to a mix of moans and too many vocal runs. Fuck your diamonds, furs, purse puppies, vodka, party dancers, and vibrato. I don’t care if your cords could climb Mt. Everest, I don’t need to know how you sound during orgasm, Justin already brought back sexy, and no one, I repeat no one, can ever out pimp Prince. More art. Less fiddle fart.

That last ranty paragraph aside, I’m not a music snob. I do enjoy many of today’s commercial songs, mainly because my daughters play them over and over like psychological torture until one day I wake up a self-professed 1D fan (status is debatable, as the same thing occurred with Barney, and god help me, Teletubbies) and have memorized Tay’s life story. Still, there’s something about the music of yesterday that I miss, and one can hardly deny that the true artists of the industry are underrated and/or unknown.

Of course, some will argue that I’m just getting old.

Sources and further reading:

Spin. Wrong Way on a One-Way Track: The Oral History of Soul Asylum’s ‘Runaway Train’

Wiki: Runaway Train

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Fuck Sexy. Bring Music Back.”

  1. I don’t listen to a lot of music any more for this reason, and I too recognize that maybe I’m just getting old.

    Of course, I have to wonder if Milli Vanilli would have made it in this day and age. I suspect so, since the two guys could sing, just not like their replacements. Now, they’d just be auto-tuned into perfection.

    Thanks for the reminder. It’s been a while since I’ve heard “Runaway Train”. 🙂

    Like

  2. Kimberly,

    My first reaction to your post was “where the hell was I in the 90’s? That was because I was totally unfamiliar with the song, the group and the ultimate message it morphed into. In the 90’s I was Bat Mitzvah’ing my daughters, working long hours to afford them the affairs and then closing the decade out with the wedding of my oldest daughter. This old hippie weirdo was turning 50 in the 90’s, having heart attacks and turning pro for his family. I guess the good music of the time was lost on me, because I never got much of a chance to listen. And responding to Trick’s point, I do remember “Blame it on the Rain” and loved the song no matter who really sang it.

    “Runaway Train” is a great song on its own and the background you provided was great to read. Thank you for calling my attention to an era when I was just oblivious to music and now have to revisit since I have the time.

    Like

    1. I didn’t like Milli Vanilli. I tried, but ah, nope. In the 90s I was smoking pot, trying not to conform to reality, had my heart set on Columbia and journalism, planned to be a pro women’s basketball player, and was madly in love with an unsuspecting boy a year younger than me. Music has always been a big part of my life. Most of my family is musical, and my husband and I encourage and foster a love of music in our girls. We have nights where there’s no TV, no phones, no tablets, just music. It’s how we ground ourselves after hectic work days. One of my favorite teachers, Mr. Webb, a creative writing teacher, often played Guns N’ Roses in class. I can’t go more than a day without listening to music. It’s the perfect escape. You had your hands full, though. I’ve read some of these adventures. 😦 Yes, you must revisit the 90s! 😀

      Like

      1. Did you go to Columbia? That’s where I got my Masters in Social Work, in the early 80’s. My wife and two daughters have beautiful singing voices, but sadly I can’t carry a tune. My younger one wanted to be a performer and went to many classes, but at 16 decided it wasn’t her thing. We were lucky in that our kids grew up before the technology revolution so we could actually communicate in the evenings as a family, without worrying about distractions. That is, until they were old enough to go out on their own, after that there was no hanging out with the old farts.

        As for pot, that was always my high of choice. My first heart attack and having kids put an end to it. Now with a heart transplant I’m not allowed to indulge. I drink Tequila, but alcohol frankly never did it for me. It galls me that now with the changed attitude towards pot, I can’t do it. But then again because of the transplant I can’t eat sushi anymore either. You’ll find, or maybe you have already, that with aging comes having to to learn to give things up gracefully. Being alive is a small price for me to pay with giving up indulgence.

        Like

        1. I never made it to Columbia or the WNBA (which didn’t exist then), I gave up pot for prenatal vitamins, that boy never knew how I felt about him, and I conformed to my reality long before I knew what any of it really meant. Giving up was easy and something I had done from an early age. The hardest lesson has been learning how and when to hold on.

          Like

  3. To put things into context, Milli Vanilli was really late 80’s, early ’90’s and I would never classify them as alternative music of the ’90s. I was pretty indifferent to them as a band.

    I was merely pointing out that which was considered scandalous enough to strip them of their Grammy’s is somewhat close to what most pop stars currently practice.

    Like

    1. Trick,

      I didn’t say I liked “Milli Vanilli” per se, I just liked “Blame It On the Rain”. 🙂

      Kimberly,

      You didn’t miss much at Columbia, which is a highly overrated school, but I must admit that my career was helped by my going there. Which I think is the reality about many “Highly Rated” educational institutions. After all George W. Bush had degrees from both Harvard and Yale.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s