Hey, everyone! Remember grunge?
[Editorial note: there are two acceptable answers to this question. They are “yes” and “I stopped listening to popular music when 8-tracks went obsolete.” If your answer is something along the lines of “I was too young to have any notion of grunge as a musical genre” then hie thee hence to nursery school and refrain from making me feel old.]
Anyhow… grunge. Remember it?
The advent of grunge and the popularity of “alternative” rock music roughly overlapped with the period in my life when I was listening to music on the radio with the greatest regularity. I was in college/medical school (a smooshed-together experience, in my case) and did a lot of driving from place to place. And among the stations I listened to with greatest frequency were the college ones, which played the coolest music.
Part of why I listened to a lot of “alternative” rock [I have a hard time dropping the scare quotes, since once something goes totally mainstream it’s hard to take it seriously as an alternative to said mainstream any longer] was its tendency to be angsty and preoccupied with Feelings and Painful Life Experiences and such. And I was going through that period of my life when I, too, had a tendency to be angsty and preoccupied with Who I Was and What Was My Life About and blah blah blah all that noise. Thus a song about a mercurial heroin addict with a lousy boyfriend living in LA could somehow seem to speak to my own life. (I know it is fashionable to hate that song. I don’t care, I love it anyway.)
*takes a moment to be nostalgic for his salad days*
Alternative rock was supposed to be about something, ostensibly something more meaningful than the pop treacle to which it was an alternative in the first place.
Take Pearl Jam, for example. Its songs were obviously about stuff, be it a deranged, violent kid or a loveless marriage or long-lost love. (That last one still puts a lump in my throat when I hear it.) One need not be the world’s greatest Eddie Vedder fan to concede that a listener at least knows what the hell he’s singing about.
There are even songs that try and fail to be about something. Crash Test Dummies’ mega-hit “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” is a deeply stupid song. I don’t know if it’s trying and failing to be about something, or merely pretending. But at least it gestures in the direction of having some kind of meaning.
And then there is the song “Peaches” by Presidents of the United States of America. Back in the day, it got a fair amount of airplay. (Wikipedia tells me it was nominated for a Grammy Award, which goes a long way toward explaining why I don’t care about the Grammy Awards.) Every single time it played (and every time it happens to come on the 90s-era stations on my satellite radio) I find myself confronting the baffling question of what on earth it means. As God it my witness, I do not understand how it is a song.
Consider the lyrics “Movin’ to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches.” Those words are repeated several times. Then there’s “Nature’s candy in my hand or can or a pie.” Followed by “Millions of peaches, peaches for me. Millions of peaches, peaches for free.” Over and over.
What? Why? Why is someone singing about such things? Who thought such an inane topic merited a musical treatment? Why did it play on the radio? I am very confused by this.
So this week’s Question is two-fold:
1) Is there some meaning to that song that I seem to have missed? Or is it really a song about nothing but eating peaches? If the latter, why on earth did people want to listen to it? It got on my nerves every time it came on the radio, but perhaps there is some subtle meaning that makes its idiotic refrains and stultifying verses somehow worthwhile? Please help me understand.
2) What is the single dumbest thing you can think of to write a song about? Pitch the most idiotic song subject you can think of. Frankly, I think it’s hard to top “singing about eating a bunch of peaches,” but do try to prove me wrong.