Saturday, April 12, 2008

"New Soul": Just What's Needed

One of the reasons I really like Yael Naim's "New Soul" is that it's not a love song. It's not about breaking up, it's not about a really hot guy in a club, it's not about finding or losing a guy. It's not about relationships at all. This is a very rare thing in music--very rare. I've always said 90% of songs are about sex and love, and that is so boring and depressing. Is there anything else in this world worthy of song? Graduations have their place; so do the “Taking Chances”/ “Breakaway”-type of “inspirational” ballads about taking leaps of faith. There are plenty of songs about dancing, but they often include a romantic interest (“Get Into the Groove” and “Please Don’t Stop the Music” come to mind immediately). There are "moving on" ones, but they're usually kiss-offs of bad relationships. There aren't many good songs about death, as Rob realized in High Fidelity. I can't think of any songs (except ones that are meant to be comic) that are about mundane things or getting a promotion or money (unless they're rap)...Songs about friendship always fall into romantic territory (minus "You've Got a Friend" and "You've Got a Friend in Me")...but when you think about all the hundreds of songs you've listened to in your life, and the hundreds more that you will listen to, they're all about that person, finding a person (or people) to be with, and everything that goes with it. This is what kids listen to for years before dating ever crosses their minds, and this obsessive, omnipresent focus is one reason we cannot ever move past it. Singers must be sexy; they must coo and cajole and profess their heartbreak over and over. We’re surrounded, and there’s no escaping. No wonder I love this quote so much:

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

The eternal question.

But Yael Naim is the rare soul who lucked out with a midtempo ditty about finding yourself. “New Soul” isn’t particularly inspirational, but I can see it becoming a sort of mantra:

I'm a new soul
I came to this strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit bout how to give and take
But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear
Finding myself making every possible mistake

That’s real.

The video smartly plays off this, with her moving into a new house, hanging out with her slightly strange friends and being happy. It's light, low-key, and different (exactly the reason it was picked to advertise the MacBook Air). Essentially "New Soul" is about life, coping with the mistakes you inevitably make and trying to muddle your way through. Exactly the kind of message that's needed.

1 comment:

John said...

If you hadn't used that fantastic quote from High Fidelity, I would have put it in this comment.

The songs I listen to are about a few other topics as well: Drugs, violence, politics, music itself, prejudice, neighborhoods and communities, celebrities and/or fictional characters... I could go on and on. Song variety: One more reason to support independent (or at least not Billboard Hot 100) music, people!