Culture

Everything’s Fine…Really!

Zeitgeisters,

Just like you get the politicians you deserve, it appears you get the protest songs you deserve.

I keep hearing John Mayer’s WAITING ON THE WORLD TO
CHANGE
(2006) and have been constantly annoyed by the blandness and absolute gutlessness of its content.

Musically it sounds good, it cribs effectively from the 1960s Soul/R&B songbook, but lyrically it’s bereft of anything approaching a message.

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

Now 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

So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

It’s hard to beat the system
When we’re standing at a distance
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

Now if we had the power
To bring our neighbors home from war
They would have never missed a Christmas
No more ribbons on their door
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

That’s why we’re waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

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

And we’re still waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting waiting on the world to change
One day our generation
Is gonna rule the population
So we keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

At best, you could argue for some kind of irony – “Its hard to beat the system when you’re standing at a distance” might be seen as a way of saying get involved and do something. But if so, it’s a bit oblique. “We just feel like we don’t have the means to rise above it and beat it?” Oh, come on!

This is not so much a protest song, as a whiny piece of middle-class nonsense, which apparently says: “things are terrible aren’t they? if only we could do something.” How about writing some bang-on lyrics, which involve a call to action?

Sorry John Mayer, you live in a democracy – one that prides itself on being the greatest in the world – so your self-imposed powerlessness is infantile and your abdication of responsibility is frustrating. “One day our generation is going to rule the population?” That’s a scary proposition.

So, once again, I naively look towards popular culture to provide some reflection of what is actually going on. No wonder I keep being disappointed. Yes, there are plenty of people who have sung anti-war protest songs in the last few years, but they’re not easy to find in the mainstream, which is where it counts. Edwin Starr’s 1970 anti-war song WAR was a Billboard charting hit.

So let’s do a quick compare and contrast:

Edwin Starr (1970) – “Life is much too short and precious, to spend fighting wars these days, War can’t give life, it can only take it away.”
John Mayer (2006) – “Now if we had the power to bring our neighbors home from war, they would have never missed a Christmas, no more ribbons on their door.”

Pathetic. Ribbons. A sad, poetic visual image. Also a fait accompli. John Mayer, if you aren’t being some kind of fifth-dan black-belt Sensei of Irony, then your song is deeply pointless. Waiting for stuff to get better doesn’t really cut it.

Nerina Pallot, a UK artist gave it a shake with her pop song EVERYBODY’S GONE TO WAR.

I’ve got a friend, he’s a pure-bred killing machine,
He says he’s waited his whole damn life for this,
I knew him well when he was seventeen,
Now he’s a man; he’ll be dead by Christmas.

And so…
Everybody’s going to war,
But we don’t know what we’re fighting for,
Don’t tell me it’s a worthy cause,
No cause could be so worthy.

If love is a drug, then I guess we’re all sober,
If hope is a song then I guess it’s all over,
How to have faith, when faith is a crime?
I don’t want to die…

If God’s on our side, then God is a joker,
Asleep on the job, his children fall over,
Running out through the door and straight to the sky,
I don’t want to die…

For every man who wants to rule the world,
There’ll be a man who just wants to be free,
What do we learn but what should not be learnt?
Too late to find a cure for this disease.

It charted in UK and in Australia, but apparently not in the US.

Better words, songwriters.

Say something.

Gah!

Mr Trivia

0 thoughts on “Everything’s Fine…Really!

  1. I always liked the line from Van Morrison:

    I’m a dweller on the threshold
    I have been another man
    Let me pierce this realm of glamour
    So that I can see just what I am

    or the other Morrison:

    People are strange when you’re a stranger.

  2. I’ve spoken to musicians and read stories about others and many of them say lyrics aren’t important to them – secondary at most.

    But because I’m so word-based, I love a good lyric. The music has to work first, but the lyrics have to say something that rings true.

    Van the Man is clearly a poet with or without the music.

  3. Well spotted. To me this is only slightly better than Sandi Thom’s “I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair”. Even as she sings the line so earnestly :

    “In ’77 and ’69, revolution was in the air
    I was born too late to a world that doesn’t care.”

    And my absolute favorite :

    “When music really mattered and when radio was king,
    When accountants didn’t have control
    And the media couldn’t buy your soul”

    Even as she keeps taking the checks from Sony/EMI records.

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