Kids Special Music Edition
Strong, lusty women and the weak, neurotic men they love. Morning drinkers, recovering drug addicts, and troubled interracial couples. The latest daytime talk-show fodder? The stuff of the afternoon soaps? Sure — but these are also themes of current pop songs in the Top 40, perhaps the best clue parents have to discovering what their teenagers are thinking about behind closed doors.
Top Pop Songs
ALL I WANNA DO *Artist: Sheryl Crow *Who? Vaguely jazzy, Los Angeles-based pop singer-songwriter. *Musical Style: Rickie Lee Jones by way of Carole King. *What It’s About: A wonderfully detailed day and a long night in the life of some dissolute Angelenos. * Sexual Content/Language: Drinking in a bar at noon, Sheryl picks up a fellow drifter, determined to show him a good time. *Subversive Message: Girls still just want to have fun, but scarcely in the relatively innocent manner of Cyndi Lauper.
ANOTHER NIGHT *Artist: Real McCoy *Who? German coed (and interracial) dance duo. *Musical Style: Snappy, synth-based Europop. *What It’s About: Dreaming of the perfect man. *Sexual Content/Language: Nothing stated, everything implied. *Subversive Message: At night at the disco, fantasy rules; in the daylight, reality still bites.
BASKET CASE *Artist: Green Day *Who? Herky-jerky Bay Area punk-pop band. *Musical Style: Neurotic rock. *What It’s About: Complaints, complaints, complaints. *Sexual Content/Language: In a session with a psychiatrist, the main character bemoans his lack of sexual activity. (”Do you have the time to listen to me whine/ About everything and nothing all at once?”) A male prostitute tells him he’s a bore. *Subversive Message: The new male is repressed and depressed.
I’LL MAKE LOVE TO YOU *Artist: Boyz II Men *Who? Motown’s coolest crooners, whose 1992 single, ”End of the Road,” spent a then-record 13 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 Singles chart. *Musical Style: Soulful neo-doo-wop. *What It’s About: The politically correct approach to making out. *Sexual Content/ Language: These Boyz are planning an overnight romp, but only with their partners’ consent. *Subversive Message: Even good kids are having sex.
I’LL STAND BY YOU *Artist: The Pretenders *Who? Classic rockin’ combo led by Chrissie Hynde. *Musical Style: Smoldering, anthemic rock ballad, written by Hynde with song doctors Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. *What It’s About: A woman comforts her man in his time of need, in the form of a lullaby to a child. *Sexual Content/Language: In the video, at least, the man in need seems to be going through withdrawal from a drug habit. (Two former Pretenders died of drug-related causes.) *Subversive Message: It takes a strong woman to get a man to change his self-destructive ways.
I WANNA BE DOWN *Artist: Brandy *Who? 15-year-old R&B prodigy Brandy Norwood (former costar of the ABC sitcom Thea). *Musical Style: Bubblegum hip-hop. *What It’s About: Expressing her desire to be more than just a boy-toy: ”I wanna be down with what you’re going through.” *Sexual Content/Language: In this context, ”down” means becoming a confidante. ”Maybe all you need is a shoulder to cry on.” *Subversive Message: After getting down, the next step is becoming ”horizontal.”
NEVER LIE *Artist: Immature *Who? Twelve-year-old Boyz II Men. *Musical Style: Teeny pop. *What It’s About: Guilt, guilt, guilt: ”I will never lie to you again.” *Sexual Content/Language: None. *Subversive Message: None; this one just tries to teach a new generation of boys how to relate to girls.
100% PURE LOVE *Artist: Crystal Waters *Who? Disco belter/model whose last hit was the more sociological ”Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless).” *Musical Style: Swirling dance groove. *What It’s About: Unlike Toni Braxton, Waters needs no ring or commitment in order to give her pure love (”Just be aware you’ll have to share”). *Sexual Content/Language: Song espouses a return to the woman’s role as sex object, albeit a willing one: ”I’ll be your fantasy.” *Subversive Message: Not much of one: The Ford Supermodel of the World 1994 contest used this as its theme song.
SECRET *Artist: Madonna *Who? David Letterman’s pal. *Musical Style: Mid-tempo pop rock. *What It’s About: Unclear from the lyrics, although the video seems to have something or other to do with a mixed-race relationship. *Sexual Content/ Language: With Madonna’s salty reputation, a line like ”Happiness lies in your own hand” could have a double meaning. *Subversive Message: If not for the steamy video, this song would signal a relatively tame direction for Ms. Ciccone.
STROKE YOU UP *Artist: Changing Faces *Who? Pair of female New York City session singers who met at the High School of Performing Arts. *Musical Style: Your basic suggestive, seductive R. Kelly (”Bump N’ Grind,” ”Back . & Forth”) R&B production. *What It’s About: Getting a literal rise out of a male lover. *Sexual Content/Language: This whole thing is about one thing: sex. *Subversive Message: Some men still see women merely as sexual gratifiers, and some women are still willing to perpetuate that perception.
WHAT’S THE FREQUENCY, KENNETH? *Artist: R.E.M. *Who? The band that put Athens, Ga., as well as jangly alternative rock on the musical map way back in the early ’80s. *Musical Style: A powerized version of their brand of pop. *What It’s About: As they did with comedian Andy Kaufman in their recent ”Man in the Moon,” Michael Stipe and R.E.M. elevate a marginally kitschy figure (the man who uttered the title phrase while pummeling Dan Rather in 1986) to the level of pop-culture icon. *Sexual Content/Language: R.E.M.’s oblique approach has resulted in about as little sexual content as in any band’s body of work since Pink Floyd. *Subversive Message: Bombarded with too much terminology and technology, we are losing the ability to communicate simply.