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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A dancing rant: change the music!

Published: November 17, 2006
Section: Opinions

I cant take this anymore with parties. No, I am not talking about drinking, or the lack of parties though as a note to the administrators who read this, cutting down parties is not going to stop drinking, it makes it worse because underground parties are formed, people still get drunk except this time, there isnt professional supervision to help. No, my main gripe is the music.

Four hours of the same rap drone. Four hours of blatant misogyny, four hours of the same gyrations and chains, four hours of heavy beats backed by Casio pre-recorded beats mixed with unbearable screeches. I ask us: why has our music become so monochromatic? Would it really kill the party to play at least one song by R.E.M. or the Smashing Pumpkins (1979 in particular)? Hell, you can even play techno that is danceable, as is disco. Would everyone run to the exits if Earth, Wind and Fire were being played as opposed to same mindless rap?

What has happened to music? As I grew up, the music of the dances always had variety. There was rap and hip hop but there was also pop, rock, Fatboy Slim was a staple when I was 14, techno was reliable and there were at least three slow songs for the night. I rather miss those because they provide a chance of intimacy not presented when one awkwardly navigates the seas of endless gyrations. There is no dancing. I shouldnt even complain because I know jack squat about dancing, but that is the case. It is all the same, girls grind the guys, the guys sway side to side, and that is it. No twirls, no footwork, no nothing.

Side point is this any fun for the girls who do this? I mean I know it is fun for guys, who does not want a young, nubile female rubbing up against them from all angles but is this any fun for them? Is this liberation? An assertion of personal sexuality and freedom of choice? Or is this a living incarnation of Under My Thumb (look up the lyrics)?

The main complaint of this article/rant is the music. The content of lyrics is usually not an issue for me I like the Smashing Pumpkins song Tonight, Tonight for the musical content alone (the lyrics are ratherblah) but I would assume that the campus Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance would take umbrage at the non-stop misogyny that is blared over the loud speakers from school functions to frat dances. There is Jay-Zs 99 Problems or the fact that every one repeatedly mentions booty, hos, and at some point, where do you say ENOUGH! How does one learn to respect a womens rights to space, privacy, and equality when they are rubbing their butts, sandwiched between two guys?

If you havent been able to tell already, I am not a fan of rap and hip hop. I was always rather behind on music tastes, my first love was 1960s Motown Temptations, Four Tops, Supremes, Spinners, Marvin Gaye, and I just loved it all. The silky harmonies, the awesome music provided by the Funk Brothers (see Standing in the Shadows of Motown). It was fun, it was creative, who doesnt want to dance around listening to Martha Reevess Heatwave. Then I jumped onto the NOW bandwagon, listened to NOWs 4-8 before I returned to Motown, then the Beatles and Stones, CCR and George Harrison. Right now, I am stuck in the period from 1980-1990s: Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Blind Melon, I have only just now gotten into the Smashing Pumpkins, the Cars, and the Flaming Lips.

Am I woefully out of step? Probably. Is my criticism of the music we dance to unfair and overgeneralistic? Yes. I am well aware of the socially conscious rappers like Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and the pioneers like Arrested Development, and Cyprus Hill were advocates for marijuana, not petty commercialism. I am also aware that rock music can be as monochromatic about the subject matter. Where rap and hip-hop have been beating women, guns, violence, and drugs, rock has been similar but the difference is that over the periods of time, rock has gone through many trends and changes, something rap and hip hop hasnt. Actually, it probably has and I havent noticed.

Just like how critics blame Nirvana for ruining rock music (I dont agree, though the imitators Nirvana did spawn were downers), I blame the downfall of rap and hip hop too, on N.W.A. and Notorious B.I.G. N.W.A. were the first to be successful riding the gangsta image, with misguided critics comparing their lyrics (b***** get into my pickup/suck my d*** up/until you hiccup) to Henry Miller. Where N.W.A. laid the blueprint, Biggie rode it to new levels. He may be gone but so many imitators have stepped up in his wake, most try to follow his example of not songwriting, singing and promote massive image over substance and this has as result, sapped out creativity. Keep in mind the 50 Cent once criticized Ja-Rule for being a singer and as of now, 50 is still a star while Rule sank. The lowest point of all dance tunes is probably do your chain hang low we dancing to a song about guy singing about his farking NECKLACE!

I cant say rock is any better though. Limp Bizkit and his ilk killed off modern rock radio, the Dave Matthews Band are merely pale imitators of the Grateful Dead and if nothing else, can claim to have lasted longer than the Spin Doctors. The rest is dominated by soft rock, schlock, and emo. There is nothing that truly rocks out there.

Rock was and is filled with misogynistic, materialistic idiots the 80s were all about that (Poison anyone?) but bands like R.E.M. were different, they wrote and sang that mattered and were innovative. The music videos were masterpieces. In Tonight, Tonight the Pumpkins had people fly to the moon on a blimp whereas the Ying Yang twins did a video of them cavorting in a mansion. Nelly used women like tools in Tip Drill while 80s hair bands had women playing with power tools.

In the end though, it is not the social message I care about, it is the music. I am writing to beg, plead, request for variety. Play the rap and hip hop but mix it up. Put on the Ramones, put on Sandstorm, put on Gorillaz, put on KC and Jo-Jo but please, play something else for a change. It would be nice to dance to something with strings, no pre-recorded casio beats, something that requires more than endless gyration. Something that if nothing else, we can say makes it fun and happy to dance.