Chattanooga Now Mind Coffee: Too much sugar? Try some musical mental floss

Chattanooga Now Mind Coffee: Too much sugar? Try some musical mental floss

July 11th, 2018 by Staff Report in Chattnow Music

From April 4 through April 24, 1976, the No. 1 song in the country was Johnnie Taylor's "Disco Lady."

Never heard it? Go to iTunes. Listen to it. I did. Forgot how bad it was.

Shawn Ryan

Shawn Ryan

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

Pop music has never been a diamond mine of Mensa-level intelligence. Some seem to make a distinct effort to be brainless. Take "Work" by Rihanna and Drake, a No. 1 in 2016: "You see me I be work, work, work, work, work, work / You see me do me dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt." Makes you feel kind of feel dumb, dumb, dumb.

Or "MacArthur Park" from 1968, considered by some to be the worst lyrics of all time: "Someone left the cake out in the rain / I don't think I can take it 'cause it took so long to bake it." Who wants to eat soggy lyrics?

But you know what? There are artists out there with lyrics that don't suck the IQ points right out of your skull, and they're not stalwarts such as Bob Dylan, Carole King, Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams, Jackson Browne or Mary Chapin Carpenter.

» Turnpike Troubadours. While their songs are as catchy as all get out melodically, it's the lyrics that make you come back. On "1968," for instance: "And when the rounds were fired that April, you were on the balcony / When 10,000 tear drops hit the ground in Memphis, Tennessee / You were a prideful rebel yell among a million marching men / And you've been a long time gone / Good to see you my old friend."

» Del Amitri. Where to begin? Let's try "Kiss This Thing Goodbye": "All those times our lips were kissing, our tongues were telling lies." Pretty visual, huh?

» Blue Rodeo. Some of the Canadian band's lyrics float by in what appears (and probably is) a mushroom-induced haze, most of those written by vocalist Greg Keelor. But lyrics by vocalist Jim Cuddy tend to focus on adult themes. Take "Bulletproof": "But we're so scared of the silence and the tricks that we use / O, we're careful and we're cunning, but we're easily bruised / I don't want to lie about it, I'm not bulletproof."

» Paul Thorn. The son of a Pentecostal preacher expresses a universal truth that many of us should keep in mind in "You Might Be Wrong": "Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Jews / Got their own version of the truth / There's a line in the sand / There's a war goin' on / They forgot to remember / You might be wrong."

Now, there's nothing wrong with a bit of mindless musical sugar, but if that's all you get, it rots your teeth. Try a little mental floss to wash away the plaque.

Contact Shawn Ryan at mshawnryan@gmail.com.

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