Monday, 18 October 2010

Where have all the lyrics gone?

There is nothing wrong with enjoying pointless music. However, popular songs that provide social commentary are a great way of preserving history.

This afternoon, as usual, I was singing (shouting) to myself in the ute on the way home. The wind in my hair, the sun in my eyes, the fumes in my face.

And a song, which I’ve heard a thousand times before, made me cry a little. There was no Bridget Jones reference, no funereal memories, no lost loves... just Midnight Oil, singing about the Wittenoom tragedy.

And if the blue sky mining company won't come to my rescue
If the sugar refining company won't save me
Who's gonna save me?

For those of you who haven’t spent your entire lives listening to Midnight Oil, the gist of the song is thus:

CSR (the sugar refining company) operated a blue asbestos mine in Western Australia up until 1966. They had definitive evidence about the dangers of asbestos to the miners, their families, and any visitors to the town (let alone the consumers) before 1961. The concentration of dust in the air was enough that one minute’s exposure could cause lung cancer or mesothelioma. More than 20,000 people lived in Wittenoom over the years that the mine operated.

It’s a powerful song, and typical of their style. Paul Kelly is another man who writes fabulous stories and then sings them. I went to the greatest gig of my life with my dad, a friend and her sister when I saw Paul Kelly way back in 2003.

I love a lot of the current music (Lady Gaga FTW!). But I can’t name a recent song that tells a meaningful story, and I think that is why so many current singles are totally forgettable.

Am I wrong? Have you heard any good songs recently that aren’t self-obsessed (e.g. not about love, genitals, drinking, etc)? Or even some other classics?


  1. Not from 2010, but both of Greenday's recent albums are up there for me - I find it interesting how they've gotten very political as they've entered their 30s!

    There's also Dear Mr President (?) by Pink, and whatever that song was that the Dixie Chicks sang in response to radio stations banning their music after they spoke out about the war in Iraq...

  2. (Having said that, Greenday are still quite self-obsessed!!)

  3. I always loved Green Day in high school. I'm pretty sure they just sang about drugs and stupid crap back then!

    Seems like G. W. Bush was an inspiration for some...

  4. I can't think of anoyne modern who puts political messages out there, besides those already mentioned. I wouldn't be surprised if Eminiem had, though. His songs aren't all about violent reactions to heartbreak! (Boy needs therapy)

    Paul Kelly remains a favourite, and I love the storyteller genre. Australia seems to produce quite a few of these. If you enjoy the genre and might like storytellers without quite as much of a political edge, who can write about nothing at all but also can be hopeless romantics, check out Darren Hanlon (my two favourite albums of his are Hello Stranger and Little Chills. He got a bit weird after that, and I don't yet have his newest album).

    Dazza write about love in a less traditional way (one favourite, "He Misses You Too, You Know" is about someone whose love has gone backpacking, and maybe it's because I've travelled a bit, but I understood) but it's put straight out there in simple language.

    He also writes about the completely random - "(There's Just Not Enough Songs About) Squash" which is about exactly what you think it is, as is "The Kickstand Song"!

    Lyric example "Oh no, it's raining/ We'll have to cancel tennis training/ But look here, never fear, throw down your macintosh/ I know a game under a roof/ It's just four walls and the truth/ It's fun, rain, hail or sun, it's squash"

    Love it :) And I suspect that one day he will mature into producing occasional political songs, but at present appears to be content being a boy from Gympie, Qld, who spends a fair bit of time travelling and, by the sounds of it, falling in love, and who sings about the little things in life.

    ~* Ness


Other posts you might like:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...