Sometimes you just have to work a little harder to find it.
A few weeks ago I was pressing the channel buttons on the remote control, as part of my typical morning routine that had me checking out music videos on MTV, VH1 and Palladia. If all the videos were god-awful, and they often are, then I’d tune into the back-up plan, a Spongebob Squarepants episode. Hopefully, a Spongebob episode dating back at least nine years, when the Nickelodeon cartoon hell-bent on world domination was still cute, witty, entertaining and actually delivered a meaningful message every now and then.
This particular morning, the videos on MTV, MTV2 and VH1 each depicted hip-hop artists bent over in front of the camera, shoving their faces and their jewel-encrusted teeth, fingers and necks into my living room as they rapped about the money they had, the cars they owned, the mansions they lived in and the chicks they hooked up with. In one video, one of the hip-hop guys, someone known as “Childish Gambino,” was sharing a bag of Cheetos with a woman in a car, and I have to admit at least it was unique. And he had no apparent “grill” covering his teeth, or other assorted bling covering his enamel, because who wants to get Cheetos stuck in all that?
Next, I flipped to Palladia, which can usually be counted on to show music videos that MTV and VH1 might not. When I saw a strange, close-up shot of a leg and, as the camera moved up, a naked thigh that, judging by the hair, was obviously an appendage of a guy, I flipped to a Spongebob episode. It was a newer episode, in which Patrick Star is somehow crowned royalty. It was predictably terrible, so I shut off the TV and, while the boys ate bagels and juice for breakfast, we simply talked about our upcoming days and school and work.
Over the next couple weeks on various mornings, I saw the same naked leg, the same naked thigh numerous times on Palladia, and flipped to another channel as fast as possible. Then I heard a catchy little tune on the radio, by a guy named Gotye. A woman sang in it, too, and the song was as cool as all get-out.
I searched for “Gotye” on Google and was soon clicking on his “Somebody I used to Know” video, and, wouldn’t you know it, he was the naked guy in the video I was avoiding like a deer tick. In a relatively rare television treat, the video actually made the song seem that much better. The girl singing with the Belgium-born now Australian resident Gotye, someone known as Kimbra, is no slouch, either.
I was suddenly filled with a flicker of hope. Then, the next morning on Palladia, I saw the beginnings of a video that was all animated and cartoonish and, seemingly, corny. But the new, less jaded me liked the opening musical notes and decided to practice a little patience, and in the next three or so minutes, the Icelandic band “Of Monsters and Men” unfolded before me on my TV screen, singing their tune, “Little Talks.” There’s a decent chance you’ll hate it – my sister does, but we don’t have similar musical tastes.
But, no matter, I’ve learned that music, at least little tidbits of it here and there, will always be OK, it will always be changing, it will always be catchy and, most importantly, musical. There will always be enough artists writing songs with actual verses, playing actual instruments and singing into microphones that aren’t synchronized with computer programs capable of making Lil’ Wayne sound like Adele.
There are other reasons for hope beyond Gotye and Of Monsters and Men.?There are bands like The Head and the Heart, or Young the Giant, Sleigh Bells, or Florence + the Machine, or musicians like Ryan Adams, Bon Iver, or singer/songwriters like Lykke Li.?To further beat down your musical cynicism, watch documentaries like the White Stripes’ “Under the Great Northern Lights” or the guitar-worshipping “It Might Get Loud” featuring Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White.
In the bigger picture, I suppose, beyond the there’s-still-hope-for-music angle, I learned for the 1,000th or so time in my life to never be so hasty as to judge a book by its cover...even if the cover amounts to a close-up shot of a naked man’s hairy thigh.