The first decade of the new millennium left me sour on popular music, especially where love songs were concerned. I blame Britney Spears first, then the downward spiral of hip-hop from its glorious heights with A Tribe Called Quest down into thuggery and utter lovelessness:
Consider a recent Valentine’s Day song by popular R&B artist Chris Brown called “No Bull S**t,” in which he sings about inviting a woman over to his place at 3 in the morning because … “you already know what time it is” and orders her to “reach up in that dresser where them condoms is.”
Compare Brown’s lyrics to Pendergrass’ “Come Go With Me,” where he spends the song telling a woman, “You look so sweet … You look like you oughta be with me … We could sip a little wine, work things out.”
(Read the full CNN article here.)
That Chris Brown drivel was a Valentine’s Day song? Seriously? Not to bag on other couples’ cherished traditions, but…damn.
But there were exceptions, I was to find out. I discovered the soul-stylings of Alicia Keys, who for many people recalls that Pendergrass era of lovin’ like you mean it, and I was hooked with If I Ain’t Got You.
And this day, I’ve found new evidence for the enduring presence of love in pop music, and–God help me–if it isn’t turning me back on to the possibility of listening to contemporary pop on a regular basis again. And not just for the purpose of keeping up with what kids are listening to, which is important for any voice teacher, but for the shameless pleasure of it.
Most of my friends and readers are gonna say, “Who are these kids??” Oh, just a handful of punk-lovin’ rioters that actually have some musicianship to recommend them. Really.
And after hearing them, I figured there’s no saving my soul from the Top 40 anymore, especially after Adele’s triumphant comeback and the resurgence of love for Whitney Houston after her tragic death. There’s something special about letting your body rock to a good beat, whether in love or protest, salvation or despair–all those things that pop songs embrace. Especially love, because if there’s anything of value that rock and roll has shown us in the last few decades, it’s that.