No One Knows Summer (Oh, It Just Had To End)

September 8, 2013
By

I’m not sure I know what my “song of the Summer” was… Or what this Summer’s worth of music came to mean, in the end…

I can’t help coming back to a song that sounds so negative.

But it sounds so soothing. It sounds like giving up but it gives me confused relief, but relief just the same. Pessimist pop? It’s slow and downbeat but refreshing and stirring… To me, at least.

Here’s to Summer 2013. Time for all those summary essays where those-with-fingers-on-pulses tell you what mattered, what it all meant. What do they know?

Spoiler: Heavy pedal-steel twangin’ on this one…

Compelled as I am at this point in the year to look back at the music, so far… (why, because summer’s climax always feels so cinematically culminating that random closing credits could start streaming across my waking gaze and it would actually seem normal,) …but, I’m having difficulty attaining grasp of what it all meant:

the cyborgs syncing disco-throwbacks and the Canadian crooners blurring lines, the rap giants reaping meh reviews and the indie-pop darlings just kinda doing-their-thing…

A cavalcade of cacophonous party guests sashayed onto each other’s toes in a wild waltz across the ballroom of the internet, ingratiating themselves to you with increasingly indelible singles seeking to rule your shuffling playlist… Super star after super star, break out buzz phenoms and flash in the pans that might never get a second chance.

And lost amid it all, was a British anti-folky, Bragg^, flirting with 50, singing with a thick accent, a throwback troubador type who the kids could care less about, singing bout how no one knows nothing…

Man, is THAT a pressure release for me… Stop philosophizing, you hack, stop grooming out a thesis statement to sum up the whole summer. It was not all necessarily nonsense, no, there was something, I’m sure, to be mined from the year’s music, but then maybe there wasn’t. Who knows…

Because this editorial will amount to nothing within weeks if not days…And who’s going to care about the lyrical content of a pretty face on a polished pop record from a major label’s well equipped studio laboratories when…I hesitate to even type it out but…when World War III officially kicks off?

What does music mean to it’s listeners, anymore? Can we even know that yet? But then, what does it say when there are movements (with recognizable faces/voices like Thom Yorke and Trent Reznor) advocating to stop the exploitation of artists…  Their argument, essentially, is that we are accomplices in said exploitation (perpetrated by the likes of streaming services like Pandroa and Spotify,) which is as sobering as the first pop quiz of September back in a stuffy classroom. Do we need to be more responsible listeners?

Streaming culpability aside… Summer music’s spotlight grabbers can usually be as nebulous and ostentatious, all at once, as any big robot-exploding, face-smashing, scream-fest of a summer block buster at the multiplex.

It’s September now, and there are a slew of new albums being released that could potentially outshine the glitz of Summer’s showy smorgasbord… I’m ready, I think, to lose myself in Wondaland. It could be that this record, (Electric Lady) by a psychedelic-soul songstress named Janelle Monae, could encapsulate the zeitgeist we’re always musing-after… A blurring blend of genres. Song to song, stranger and stranger sandwiches spilling off the disc, all madness and meticulously mashed up. Everything all the time. All sonic colors at once – a collage, radiant, blinding almost…deafening?

But all of it, everything, could come down to meaning nothing, still, after all… Who knows?

 

I’m tired of Daft Punk and I’m tired of Vampire Weekend and…well, ya know, I could probably stand to return to some rap records that I only ran through a few times, if just once, but still… Summer’s done. We move on. We’re long past heeding the trusted word of culture-critics purporting to know what it means and assuredly assuage where it leads to… Why worry over where it all leads… if music just keeps on leading… Never looking back, anyway, for meaning…

Don’t look back: meaning can’t be found, not in music… Only if the meaning you seek is to hem n haw over how the heavyweights that got the whole thing started, back in 1962 or 1976 or 1981 or whenever it was back then, how they did it better and all the new bands are just reviving it… Music shouldn’t be about looking back or competing with ghosts, it should be about a melody that keeps leading you onto the  next chorus or the next bridge. The hope is that things, steadily, change.

The question is whether we nurture the patience, in Interent-music world, to wait for that change’s effects to be noticeable.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The fact is, I can’t get away from Bragg’s song^, here at the end of summer, a song that might sound like a curmudgeon’s ballad, a nihilist’s anthem; it doesn’t sound that way to me. I found my own meaning in it, despite what you heard.

Not to spite what you’ve heard, that is… Because your meaning is just as valid. I can’t give your summer (and your year, thus far,) anymore meaning by reviewing everything we’ve all collectively heard. That’s just too much to take in… Almost like Electric Lady is, so much, too much, all at once… How much can our ears handle?

It’s fun to find out.

Know what I mean?

Ah, fuck it…



Songs above:

Billy Bragg

Janelle Monae

Rebel Kind

George Morris