don't you tell me how i feel.

Wasted youth by Steele

Full disclosure: I am about to sound old. But I’ve noticed a musical trend that intrigues me, and believe it or not, I don’t know how I feel! Normally the last thing I want is someone answering that question, but I need some help this time.

Over the last 3 years, the subject of hard drinking has crept into mainstream pop as a topic, as in the sole topic, as in “this is a song about getting blackout drunk and nothing else.”

Right now at least three such tunes are in regular radio rotation, one of which is entitled “Blackout” and whose chorus makes the dubious promise that “I’m only getting started/I won’t black out/Let’s go a little harder.” (Note: Don’t let your mouth write checks your ass can’t cash, kids.) That song, performed by something called Breathe Carolina (shudder), makes note of leaving a cell phone in a cab, a theme also explored in current hit “I Like It Like That” by…something called Hot Chelle Ray (is it me or are band names getting stupider?): “Bought out the bar/Just to feel like I’m a star/Now I’m thanking the Academy/Missed my ride home/Lost my iPhone/I wouldn’t have it any other way.” To which I say, really? You wouldn’t have it ANY other way. Like, if you could choose between losing your iPhone and not, you’d be all, “no regrets! screw you, iPhone”?

This leads me to Katy Perry‘s “Last Friday Night,” an incredibly crappy song bursting at the seams with regrettable events. It tells the story of an epic bender that starts out like a fun night with too many shots, dancing on tables, random makeout sessions and skinny-dipping! So far so good, right? You’re only young once! But there are also maxed-out credit cards, a warrant for someone’s arrest, pictures that ended up online, a boss who is owed an explanation, a towed car, a mark that may or may not be a hickey, a threesome and “a stranger in my bed.” Which…I just…DON’T YOU CARE WHO’S IN YOUR BED AND WHAT HAPPENED? What does Katy say? “Oh well!” That’s not all: She also says that “always say we’re gonna stop…this Friday night, do it all again.” So, basically your partying is affecting your day-to-day life, yet you find yourself unable to stop. Interesting!

Rihanna got on board with this trend last year, albeit in a more relatable way, with “Cheers,” about drinking to the “freakin’ weekend,” “letting the Jameson sink in” and “Put it all on my card tonight/I’ll be mad in the morning but you know we’re goin hard tonight.” Girl, I’ve been there. You’ve got the money, you work hard, you deserve it!

Ke$ha, of course, has built an entire career around getting wasted. In “Tik Tok,” she brushes her teeth with a bottle of Jack, and leaves for the night without coming back. “Take It Off” is probably my favorite, in which our heroine spends her evening in a nasty club where  “We’re gettin so smashed/Lifting over trash cans/Errbody breaking bottles, it’s a filthy hot mess.”

Anyway, after giving this some thought (yes, some thought. Don’t hate), I’m pretty sure this influence can be traced to none other than Lady Gaga, who, like it or not, has set the tone of pop music since 2008. In her first hit, “Just Dance,” Gaga took us to that turning point in the night, a moment that’s all too familiar to anyone who has ever awakened with a pounding headache, a dry mouth and an ominous sense of having to apologize for something. From opening salvo “I’ve had a little bit too much” to “Where are my keys? I’ve lost my phone” to “How’d I turn my shirt inside out?” Gaga nailed it in a way that felt honest and genuine, not like she was trying to show off or impress us with how wild and crazy she is (the trying-too-hard portion of her career would come later).

So, what to make of this? I can’t remember ever hearing this kind of candor in big radio hits. Sure, anyone who listened to grunge-era music could pick up on drug references, but it was never so blatant or celebratory. And there have always been getting-trashed songs now and then – Andrew W.K.’s “Party Hard” comes to mind, as does Chumbawamba’s ever-sublime “Tubthumping” – but unlike this new crop of songs, they never placed a gleeful, self-satisfied emphasis on the less-than-awesome mistakes binge drinking can lead to. Do we blame the economy? A political climate where we find ourselves more and more divided from each other? A government that wants us dumb and placated? A culture of narcissists? A society that turned the hard-drinking cast of Jersey Shore into celebrities?

In other words, is this one more thing to worry about now, the message being sent to youngsters, especially girls? Because…major buzz kill.

An oddly fresh-faced Gaga in her debut video.

Early adopter Ke$ha.

Andrew W.K., displaying his trademark subtlety.

Finally, one of my favorite songs of the 1990s. It’s not all about drinking, but it mostly is.


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this post is amazing

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