EDMONTON RADIO: Is the Bounce bad for children? Short answer: yes
Important disclaimer: This article is about top-40 radio. Therefore, in a year or less, the names and song titles will appear hopelessly quaint and out of date. If you’re reading this in the future (hello, people of the future!), go ahead and laugh. If the Rapture hasn’t come by then, we will laugh with you. It’s pretty funny already.
I have Katy Perry’s Firework stuck in my head and can’t figure out why. I fear I may have to get a lobotomy.
Then I remember: oh, yeah, my two adorable little girls demand to have the Bounce 91.7 on the car radio at all times. I’m hooked. I can’t get enough of those sweet, sweet, candy-coated melodies, those joyful expressions of pure hedonism. And I love my beats fast and the bass down low.
I tried to steer the kids towards CKUA. Ha! Like, no way, man. As soon as Andy Donnelly comes on with one of his “wee things,” it’s off the dial. I give up easily. The Bounce rules! We love these contemporary hit radio (CHR) songs like McDonald’s on a chocolate hangover. Hipsters may scoff, but these expertly-crafted modern dance tunes represent some of the greatest works of art being made in the history of popular music.
Either that or it’s because I’ve heard these same fucking songs 100 times in the last two weeks – and my brain’s pleasure centres have been tickled so much I am now addicted like a drooling crackhead. That goes double for the kids.
There’s a great article in Slate magazine by Jonah Weiner about this matter: Make It Stop, which compares the art of writing catchy songs to torture. Of course. If something is “stuck” in your head and you don’t want it there, that would certainly qualify as torture. A spear would be preferable to some of these songs. And remember how the US Army tormented deposed Panamanian president Manuel Noriega in 1989 by blaring Van Halen’s Panama at him? Of course you don’t.
That brings us back to the Bounce. Since the station is so popular among kids, it behoves us to pay attention to what they might be learning from top-40 radio. Really, it’s basically the same thing all over North America. No need to blame the Bounce 91.7 specifically. It’s Ryan Seacrest’s fault.
First of all, there is no such word as “firework.” It’s fireworks. Plural only. Like you can’t have just one dice. Whatever. The heart of the song is what concerns me. Katy’s Perry’s massive hit is a lovely coming-of-age affirmation of empowerment on the surface: baby you’re a firework, show them what you’re worth (ignore the bad rhyme), and so on and so forth, but disaster strikes in the chorus. “Make them go ‘oh, oh, oh’ as you shoot across the sky.” To certain destruction! Like Charlie Sheen. A few seconds of bright light and smoke and poof, all that’s left is a blackened cinder. Now what kind of message is that? Live fast, die hard?
Actually, yes. The Bounce plays many songs that sing the praises of partying. Hey, no problem here. Parents used to party, too. To Iron Maiden as I recall. Nowadays, I happen to like a monotonic house track called Like a G6 from the Far East Movement. The aloof autotuned female voice, the robotic groove and the exotic lyrics I don’t quite understand get me every time. It makes me want to be there: popping bottles in the ice like a blizzard, being determined “do it right” when it comes to drinking, being able to use a new term for getting wasted – “slizzard” – along with dropping little esoteric references like rhyming Three 6 (the rap group?) with G6, an expensive jet plane, as in “fly like a …,” fly being slang for “good.” Man, this song works on so many levels!
Once slizzard, it’s time for sex. Cue Britney Spears’ hot new song Hold It Against Me, as in “if I said I want your body now, would you hold it against me?” She’s in legal trouble for allegedly ripping off the 1979 song by the country group the Bellamy Brothers which is called If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me – which sucks, frankly, and doesn’t sound anything like the Britney Spears tune, so I don’t think she has anything to worry about. If you forced copyright law on stupid jokes, the country music industry would go broke.
Even hotter is Rihanna’s new song S&M (confirmed adults may see it here on YouTube) – banned in 11 countries. My favourite line is “sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me.” Could it be that Rihanna – or Rihanna’s people – are trying to milk attention from the well-known fact that her ex Chris Brown beat her up? It’s mind-boggling. Chris Brown’s got a big song on the top-40 charts now too, something moronically called Yeah 3X. Key lyric: “You like to drink. So do we. Get my bottles, bring them to me. Hold your glasses up, people everywhere. Now everybody put your hands in the air.” It’s a party song. Duh. So is Pink’s totally awesome new track in high rotation on the Bounce: Raise Your Glass, which is also about, well, raising your glass. Let’s say it’s filled with Cristal, the hip-hop champagne of choice. The song is dedicated to all the young people who are wrong in all the right ways – whatever that means – proudly underdogs who will never be anything but loud, nitty gritty, dirty little freaks.
Speaking of role models – or freaks – looking to the new Lady Gaga for titillation or rebellious behaviour is a bit disappointing. Even so, her overwhelming message is the most worthy that can be found on top-40 radio amongst the gangsta posing, Cristal drinking, rampant sexting and incongruous, wholesome appearances by Taylor Swift. (Do other CHR stations play Taylor Swift? That’s just weird.) Gaga’s Born That Way is yet another ode to pride and empowerment, supporting – if never actually stating directly – the gay life. Yawn. Gaga’s turning into a bit of one-note artist, don’t you think?
Do not fear the Gaga. It’s the male romantic crooners who should have parents of daughters worried. Particularly disturbing is Grenade by Bruno Mars, which is basically a list of horrible things he would subject himself to in the name of love: Catch a grenade, throw his hand on a blade, jump in front of a train, take a bullet through his brain, die on the plain mainly in Spain. Then he complains, “But you won’t do the same.” Well, of course not, you whiny little twerp. She’s got a brain. Or maybe it’s a metaphor. Substitute “God” for the unnamed woman and the song becomes an entirely different monster. But it can’t be. It’s just about some clingy guy she’d be better off without. Maybe I’m reading this wrong.
To dissect other modern top-40 songs afflicted with depictions of damaging co-dependent relationships, sexist stereotypes and decadent behaviour would fill a book. Suffice to say that the old argument will continue: Is pop music really a bad influence on children or is it just a reflection of normal human behaviour? Or are we making too much of what is supposed to be simple expressions of fun?
In any case, we’re not going to be able to get these hits out of our heads when radio stations like the Bounce play them a million times a week – especially when the kids start singing these songs when the radio’s not even on. Aieeee! Make it stop!
(Important disclaimer No. 2: ‘Firework’ is a real word, but one should never let facts spoil a joke. Now please stop playing this song. Seriously.)