Friday, March 23, 2007

The Friday Rant: Waiting On the World To Change - The Cop Out

Have you ever heard a song a zillion times without really listening to it? I have. I was ultra-guilty of this in my youth and I am still guilty of it today. I'll never forget the moment of realization when it dawned on me that Extreme's "More Than Words" was not a mere achingly annoying love song but in fact an out-and-out plea for sex. I had a similar experience a few weeks ago with a much more recent tune, John Mayer's "Waiting On the World To Change".

This particular moment of clarity occurred for me while sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic with only the music from my MP3 player keeping me from leaping out of my car and beating multiple fellow motorists to death with my handy-dandy ice scraper. I was sitting there seething, listening to the song and then it hit me. Eureka! Or, closer to my true reaction: "waitaminutewhatthehellisthisguysaying?!?!?"

I do not for one second question John Mayer's talent as an artist. He is a gifted songwriter and a vastly underrated guitarist (though Rolling Stone has referred to him as one of the "New Guitar Gods." With all that being said, I am scratching my head at what might have possessed Mr. Mayer to write a song like this. The following is a quote as to what Mayer intended with the song (taken from Sony BMG's releases web site): "I don’t believe that inaction is disinterest, I think inaction is preservation. Nobody wants to get involved in a debate in which the rules and the facts will change so that they’ll lose".

So, here I was under the assumption that I had been listening to a song clamoring for social change and in reality it is the biggest pop music guilty-conscience-cop-out that I can ever remember hearing. Let's look at this a little more closely...

Me and all my friends We're all misunderstood They say we stand for nothing and There's no way we ever could...

Supposedly, John is writing as the voice of a disinterested youth. Forgive me if I am wrong, but it sounds to me like he is singing as the voice of couldn't-be-bothered do-nothing celebrities everywhere. A lot of your friends are probably misunderstood, John. Most people are in some way. But there is nothing to misinterpret when it comes to the inaction of those with a true voice and a means to get a message across. No one is saying that every artist needs to do a Leonardo DiCaprio and take a stand on global warming or devote an entire album to how f'd the country and world have gotten (a la Green Day). In fact, I don't blame young celebrities for partying and enjoying their money and fame. If I were young and rich I can guarantee you I'd be paying the paparazzi's bills in earnest. I can completely understand it if activism isn't your thing, so why not just shut up, make your music and keep your head in the sand? we see everything that's going wrong With the world and those who lead it We just feel like we don't have the means To rise above and beat it...

I find myself wondering how John Mayer came to be the mouthpiece for do-nothing pop and Hollywood stars alike. Did they draw straws to see who was going to tell the world's youth that its okay to expect positive evolution while everyone sits and hopes things change? Standing up to corrupt systems is hard. It hasn't been an easy thing to do ever in the whole of human existence! That is why people who DO stand up for what is right, who DO challenge the status quo and who speak and fight for those who can't for themselves are considered heroes. What would the world be like if the founding fathers of the United States such as your George Washingtons and Thomas Jeffersons - or the Frederick Douglasses, Dr. Martin Luther Kings, Ghandis, Nelson Mandelas, Steve Bikos, Che Guevaras and other freedom fighters from all around the world simply WAITED for the world to change?

...and when you trust your television What you get is what you got Cause when they own the information, oh They can bend it all they want

There is some truth to these lyrics but this might be the line that roils me the worst. This is either the lamest excuse in the song, or Mayer is insinuating something far more insidious. This is the information age. I have no doubt the current administration has leveraged media outlets to control content. But I am still not about to swallow this load of malarkey for even a millisecond. Celebrities have countless ways to get messages across. Web sites, live interviews, their art or what have you. Our country's media and our society in general are set up so we pay attention to celebrities and ignore what is going on in the world. Western civilization is quite simply celebrity-crazed, and the puppeteers (Big Business, government, etc.) that control us LOVE it. Information is power. Most powerful governments do a good job of controlling it. The only way this lyric holds any water is if the current administration threatened to put the kibosh on the careers of artists who speak out. I just don't see it.

It's not that we don't care, We just know that the fight ain't fair So we keep on waiting Waiting on the world to change

There is a huge difference between not doing something and making millions of dollars while making excuses for not doing something. No John, the fight ain't fair. It never is nor has it ever been. But we live in time where celebrities and regular people alike have more than enough means to take a stand and be a voice for change if they so choose. If you choose not to, then you are either afraid - or YOU DON'T CARE.

So John, thank you for sharing that it's hard to take a stand. Thank you Captain Obvious. Hopefully when its time to choose someone else to make excuses for people of means who choose to bring nothing to the table politically while promoting a grin-and-bear-it laissez-faire attitude towards the world you won't draw the short straw. Stick to love songs, enjoy your money and your ultra-hot uber-ditz girlfriend. Hopefully your single has cleared your conscience. Standing idly by and watching something happen is almost as bad as committing the act. The majority of Germany and for that matter the European continent applied the WOTWTC philosophy to the Nazis in the late 1930's and early 1940's and look how that worked out. At what point does one take action, John?

OK, enough with Mayer. While I am still fired up, I want to talk about something else that burns me...

As most past readers of this column are aware, Carrie Underwood is one of my all time favorite artists (gag!). Did anyone catch her appearance on American Idol on March 8th? Wow. Carrie might be rich and vastly more talented at singing than I am at anything, but damn it if I didn't want to buy her a hoagie. She looked skeletal. That didn't take very long. Underwood performed her single "Wasted", and looks as though she was talking about her own body. I will never be one to make fun of eating disorders but I thought this fad was on its way out. Shame, really. I guess it shouldn't surprise me when you see what is happening with the young starlets in Hollywood. Oh well, until next week...



Blogger Steph said...

He didn't say that people SHOULD wait on the world to change...he said that's what they're doing...did it ever occur to you that he's pointing out what's wrong with our society? That we have an entire generation of people sitting around waiting on the world to change? And that he's admitting that he's part of the problem?

If the song said - kids are being abused and how it's wrong (which everyone knows) you wouldn't call him Captain would call him a hero for calling attention to a problem. Funny how having a gorgeous girlfriend makes you a target for jealousy and hatred. Nobody wrote crap like this before Jessica. I hate her too...don't get me wrong, but it doesn't make him an idiot.

Saturday, March 24, 2007  
Blogger jeffro said...

I just heard an acoustic version of Suzanne Vega's "Luka" recently. Though the song was big back in the day, I realized I never had really listened to the incredibly sad lyrics. Now I can truly appreciate the writing...

Saturday, March 24, 2007  
Blogger slinky said...

ok, i'm going to play devil's advocate here, because you mentioned the nazis in your rant. who are the nazis now? the u.s. government or the terrorists? in other words, who should we be more concerned with?

Monday, March 26, 2007  
Anonymous Dan said...

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANKYOU! I noticed this by the 3rd time I heard the song and it has been driving me batshit. Might as well write a song "Waiting for my Soup to Heat Up" for all the power the words carry.
steph - he's NOT pointing out what's wrong with our society and he's NOT admitting that he's part of the problem. He's complaining that the world isn't in good shape and he's rilly rilly tired of waiting for it to get better. Waaaah waaah.
And slinky, no one is making a comparison of EITHER the Bush administration or the rilly rilly scary terrorists to Nazis. He's comparing Mayer's simpering to people that were "bothered" by the Nazis, but not bothered enough to do anything.
Side note - stop being afraid of terrorists. I know it's hard, but seriously. 19 guys with box cutters and an incredible plan pulled off a really horrible act. 19 shitheads with boxcutters in a bar in NYC would get their asses handed to them. Did you ever see the film of the "training camps"? Bunch of idiots on monkey bars. These guys are not the Nazis.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007  
Blogger Vince said...

Dan, thanks for the very funny and on-point comment.

Steph, there is no admission in this song of being a part of the problem. I would invite you to check out the link to his interview on BMG's website and this quote in particular: "I don’t believe that inaction is disinterest, I think inaction is preservation". I will admit jealousy, but not hatred. I am jealous of his talent - but not his girlfriend. Mayer is not an idiot. He merely swung and missed with whatever message he was trying to convey with this song.

Jeffro, I hear you on "Luka" and scads of other songs. I never rarely paid attention to messages back then.

Slinky, we need to be concerned with both the government and terrorists. Who should we be more concerned with? That is a question that might a long time to answer properly...

Dan, I agree with everything you posted. The 19 s$#%heads with boxcutters in an NYC bar quip cut me up. Some pun intended.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007  
Blogger slinky said...

dan : hey, i agree with you.
except for your use of the word "rilly" :)
but i do think that people have a tendency to thoughtlessly equate bush with hitler, and to equate the u.s. government with the nazis.
and while i'm still playing devil's advocate : the war in iraq is not viet nam. people who make these kinds of comparisons are as bad as the people who think that the terrorists are coming to get them.

Saturday, March 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks all. I'm a little late in the game here - my irritation at this song is a couple years delayed, just cuz I imagined to mostly escape listening to it until the past year. Totally agree that it's the worst cop-out song I've ever heard. In a time when action is direly needed for the survival of so many species (including ours), this song is written for all those who are sitting out the fight. I'm sure it soothes the consciences of millions of those who are waiting on someone else to fix the problems, and this is probably why it's so irritatingly popular.

Monday, April 26, 2010  

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