Blurred Notes

The inevitable songs of summer.

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Every summer has a soundtrack. Once upon a time it was foisted upon us by radio station rotations—you had little choice but to suffer through Tony Orlando and Dawn while you waited for the latest from the Stones or Steely Dan. These days people with iPods and smart phones exercise far more control over their personal playlists than we did in the golden summers of my youth. Yet there is and no doubt always will be a random aspect to it—when the weather heats up the musical landscape is still defined by what’s hot, just as it always has been. This summer the airplay champion seemed to be “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, with the runner-up arguably Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (both songs featuring singer/rapper/producer Pharrell Williams).

It made for a rather raunchy season. It’s not the first time the airwaves have been filled with musical come-ons. Decades ago Frankie Goes to Hollywood was shocking the old-timers with “Relax”, Donna Summer was moaning her way through “Love to Love You Baby” even before that, and more recently the rise of hip-hop upped the ante on sexually explicit lyrics.

But can you really embrace a song when it creeps you out? I don’t really mean “Get Lucky” despite its emphasis on—how to put it?—getting lucky. It’s “Blurred Lines” that really brings the creep factor. To be fair, Thicke’s smash hit definitely displays a sense of humour with verses like: “I feel so lucky / You wanna hug me / What rhymes with hug me?” And it’s catchy as hell (a debt it perhaps owes to the Marvin Gaye classic “Got to Give It Up” which it resembles, allegedly by coincidence). But the musical celebration of a drunken bar pickup with its “I know you want it” chant is not exactly Glee material. And it didn’t help when a zebra-clad Thicke and a barely-clad Miley Cyrus were seen, shall we say, dueting on MTV’s Video Music Awards (not to mention that gang of lecherous dancing teddy bears).

The key is: How would you feel if someone caught you singing along to it?

My guess is that most people don’t much care. I have always been a lyrics guy—if I like a song I want to be able to sing it, badly, in the shower. The main reason I have never really embraced hip-hop is my distaste for narcissistic hymns of self-praise. I’m not singing along to that.

But perhaps I simply lack imagination. The other day while cycling along the Coal Harbour seawall I passed a father and daughter team on a tandem bike. The little girl looked to be about five years old, and she and Dad were both singing “Get Lucky”. But it wasn’t exactly like the one on the radio—their version had lyrics something like: With sweet and sour pork, you get lucky.

Obviously the key is to make the song your own. Then have all the summer singalongs you want.

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September 2, 2013