Lyrics and Life
By Caitlin Ward
It may be that some music is just for the young folk
Can’t believe I’m running into
Now you’re looking at me funny, baby I ain’t
I know this might seem crazy, leaving you
babe when there’s so
much more to say
I can’t believe it (repeating)
When I find you again I’ll never let you go
A few weeks ago, I was having this moment of nostalgia, and it was a little weird. The fact of the nostalgia was not the strange part, as I’m prone to nostalgia at the best of times. This particular bit of nostalgia was a bit odd, though — I had suddenly got it into my head that I had to hear a minor Canadian pop hit that came out when I was a teenager.
The song had little mass appeal, no longevity and I had to think very hard before I could remember the name of the artist (Nasri) or the song (Go). I’m not sure how I even recalled the song existed. But I really had to listen to it.
The Internet was not up on the song, either. Go wasn’t on YouTube, or iTunes, or Rdio. Internet searches produced few results — as it turns out, there’s a French soccer player named Samir Nasri who is far more well-known than the Canadian singer, so I got side-tracked into a history of Manchester City Football Club.
I found other Nasri songs after I worked out that I had to specify he was a singer in my varied searches. He had other songs I’d never heard of that were evidently more popular than the one I wanted. I didn’t like those songs. They weren’t the one I was looking for. Finding this song — it became a mission.
Through my searches, I eventually alighted on Nasri’s Wikipedia page, and learned that he’s become a successful producer and songwriter in Los Angeles. I have to say, though, this fact caused me quite a bit of stress. Wikipedia lists his writing and production credits, and Nasri seems to be responsible for some of the most irritating pop songs of the past decade. His writing credits include working with Michael Bolton, JoJo, the New Kids on the Block reunion album and, my personal favourite, no fewer than a dozen Justin Bieber songs. This was a travesty! I liked a musician who writes for Justin Bieber! How was I going to live this down?
Of course, after I got over the initial snobbish horror of all this, I got to thinking. It’s hardly a secret that the music industry has always been somewhat image-based, and that’s only gotten worse since the advent of — well, the advent of everything: music television, the Internet, a tabloid culture gone mad.
So I started to think of musicians I like. Ryan Adams, for example, is an alt-country singer/songwriter from North Carolina. I’m pretty sure that a substantial chunk of his songs could easily play on a mainstream country music station if Adams had started wearing cowboy hats early in his career. For example, Tim McGraw’s cover of Adams’ song When the Stars Go Blue reached No. 4 on the country music charts. His music’s got more than a little appeal to a mainstream country audience. Adams always belonged to a very different group of music fans, though his variety of country music isn’t necessarily so different from some of the better mainstream country music. I think it has far more to do with the fact that he’s a chain-smoking, mussy-haired, heavily tattooed fellow who talks openly about his former drug use and battles with mental illness.
I’m guessing mainstream country music publicists figured that wouldn’t play well in the mid-West.
So this was my thought about Nasri and Justin Bieber: though
doubt Justin Bieber’s writers and producers tailor the songs they
write for him to his teenage girl fan base, could it be that the songs
aren’t actually as terrible as I think they are? Could they actually
be fun pop songs that I wouldn’t dislike if they had come out of
a different mouth? After all, at one point I was a big fan of this Go
song. If Nasri had written it for Bieber, would I have simply hated it
Of course, at that point it was all theoretical. I hadn’t actually found the song. But finally, after several deep and futile searches of the Internet, I found the Go single on a digital download site and bought it for two dollars. I had a very tangible sense of triumph as I waited for Go to download. I had been looking for the song on and off for about two days. This was going to be brilliant.
I think you can tell where this is going, especially if you read the lyrics on the side before you read this article.
It wasn’t brilliant. It wasn’t brilliant at all. It was cheesy and overblown and there were synthesized horns and frankly, I’m resenting having to listen to it now so that I can write the lyrics down properly. I don’t hate it. It’s just . . . meh.
But I can see why it appealed to my younger self. It’s cheesy and overblown, but it’s also kind of cute and romantic in a conventional sort of way. It’s not a terrible song. But I’m no longer having an existential crisis about not liking Justin Bieber’s music. Yes, image politics do play a huge part in how we feel about music. It turns out, though, that some music really is just for young’uns.
Ward is a freelance writer and aspiring documentary filmmaker based in Saskatoon. You can find her short bursts of insight and frustration at http://www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings