Friday, April 1, 2011

Tone Deaf: Bad Teenage Tunes From The Junk Cinema Song Book

These damn kids and their rock music! Will they ever learn?

If it's not Lady Gaga and her fanny exposing costumes, it's that munchkin Justin Bieber wailing "Baby, Baby, Baby". It makes me sick.

Now the hottest tune favored by the youngin's is a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard ditty called "Friday". It's sung by a gal named Rebecca Black, who made the accompanying music video herself and posted it on YouTube.

While I admire Rebecca's do-it-yourself ethos, after seeing both the video and hearing the song, I hope in the future Becky will limit her performances to karaoke competitions at slumber parties.

That said, is "Friday" the worst music video ever made, as some commentators have implied?

Believe it or not, no.

The honor of producing the worst music video clip ever still belongs to that putrid hairband of yesteryear Warrant and their heart-felt ode to cunnilingus "Cherry Pie."

Yes, little Rebecca Black chanting "Friday! Friday! Friday!" over and over again is indeed awful, but it just can't compete with lyrics like "She's my cherry pie/taste so good/makes a grown man cry" or the accompanying video, which featured bimbos in tight clothes, fire hoses and big gloppy pie slices dropping on crotches.

The only individuals who could possibly be offended by Miss Black chanting about how excited teenagers get about weekend partying are prune-faced Fundamentalists in obscure religious sects who forbid dancing and card playing and spend their free time picketing the funerals of fallen soldiers.

"Cherry Pie", meanwhile, is so heinous that even the lead singer of the hair band in question was embarrassed. He later insisted that he "respect(ed) women" and that Warrant did the song "just for fun."

Having settled that issue, we move on to the next controversy swirling around "Friday". To wit: that Miss Black's song is the worst teen anthem to ever hit the air waves.

Again, the answer is no.

In the universe of teen popdom, where the song styles of Leif Garret and Bobby Sherman jostle for position next to the DeFranco Family, Menudo and Tiffany, "Friday" is not that wretched. It's greatest sin is that's unimaginative, repetitive and annoying.

But so are Republican primaries, "Sweeps Week" and yeast infections. Believe it or not, there are far more corrosive teen tunes wafting around the air waves--and you don't have to look very hard to find them.

For starters, how about "It's My Party(And I'll Cry If I Want To)" by Leslie Gore? Yes, the tune is a certified classic, but that's beside the point. What makes this song so odious is that it celebrates the hissy fit of a spoiled brat.

See, the protagonist has invited the gang over for a twist party, which is fine, but then she hits the roof when Johnny (whoever he is) has the nerve to waltz in with Judy "like a king with his queen". What's more, Judy has the bad taste to flaunt Johnny's ring, which means, of course, that the twosome are going steady and maybe even branched out into holding hands and making out!

The songbird goes into hysterics and announces she has every right to pitch a fit because "it's my party/and I'll cry/if I want to." She adds defensively, "You'd cry too/if it happened/to you."

It seems to have escaped the singer of this song that Johnny is not her exclusive property and can date any girl he chooses. Furthermore, if Johnny promised to be hers, but is making time with another chick, perhaps he's not the dream boat she thinks he is and she's better off without him. So stop crying and refill that empty party platter!

An even worse teen tune is a noxious little brew called "Johnny Get Angry", warbled by Joanie Sommers.

It's simply beneath contempt.

It concerns another teen princess who nags and berates her boyfriend Johnny for being a wimp. Examples of his wimpdom? He lets other boys cut in on them when they dance. Later, when she breaks up with him just for fun, Miss Sommers is furious that Johnny merely "hangs his head" instead of, oh, punching her in the face.

"Johnny get angry/Johnny get mad," trills Joanie."Give me the biggest lecture/I've ever had!" Declaring, "I want a brave man! I want a caveman!" Joanie instructs, "Let me know you're the boss!"

Ok, the song was written in 1962, but the sexism is still pretty devastating regardless of the era. After all, who thinks it's acceptable to encourage young girls to believe violent and dominating male behavior equals love?

Even more disgusting, the song was written by a man (Gene Pittney, to be exact). Viewed in this light, "Friday" doesn't seem so bad, does it?

Still not convinced? Wait, there's more!

Consider for a moment the message of the 1962 anthem "He's a Rebel" by the girl group The Crystals. The lead singer admits that her new squeeze "shuffles his feet", "isn't part of the crowd" and the whole town believes he'll "never, ever be any good". Ignoring these tell-tale signs of doom, the singer insists on going out with him anyway, declaring, "Just because/ he doesn't do/what everybody else does/doesn't mean/ we can't share a love". Besides, she adds defensively, "He's always good to me."

In other words, yeah, he's an anti-social misfit without any marketable job skills, but so what? Social skills and decent career prospects aren't everything!

If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine Bristol Palin warbling this tune in defense of Levi Johnston--before he knocked her up, bad-mouthed her mom Sarah, exploited her for money, posed for Playgirl, neglected to pay child support for their name -cursed toddler Tripp and, worst of all, forced her into a career as an abstinence spokesperson and "Dancing With The Stars" contestant.

In the spirit of equal time, it must be noted that males are just as capable of warbling horrible teen pop as their female counterparts.

Case in point: Michael Jackson.

In 1972, the breakout star of the Jackson Five unleashed the turgid love ballad "Ben" on the unsuspecting public.

So we're all on the same page, "Ben" is not the name of a secret boy crush or of a fallen comrade, but the name of a pet RAT. This crucial piece of information makes the tune's lyrics sound even more creepy than they already are.

"Ben/you're always running/here and there/you feel you're not wanted/anywhere."

MJ must have missed the Animal Planet special where it was explained that rats are scavengers and thus do indeed "run here and there." The little pest is only doing what comes naturally to him--he's not suffering from commitment issues or has untreated ADD. Furthermore, because rats spread disease via fleas (remember The Black Death?), they are, indeed, NOT WANTED "anywhere"--especially by people with hygiene standards.

But MJ turns a blind eye to all this, vowing eternal love and devotion: "Ben/most people would turn away/I don't listen/to what they say./They don't see you/as I do."

I bet The Gloved One never spoke to a woman that way, not even LisaMarie.

I also wonder if MJ's celebrated chimp Bubbles ever felt miffed about this tune, since he also shared Michael's affections yet never saw himself celebrated in song.

But the worst part about "Ben"? It was nominated for "Best Song" honors at 1972's Oscar's!

I could go on, but I believe I have made my point. Like all adolescent traumas, "Friday" (and Rebecca Black) will eventually pass into nothingness. And that which does not kill us makes us stronger.