Friday, September 2, 2016

Who Built This Song?

Over at GQ, Rob Tannenbaum has an "oral history" of Starship's "We Built This City," a 1985 hit that was nominated for a Grammy in its time but widely derided today.

Blender magazine may have erred in 2004 by labeling it the "worst rock and roll song of all time," at least in any universe in which John Lennon released "Imagine." Their dissection of it as corporatized synth pop masquerading as social commentary is mostly accurate, of course. And they are quite correct in saying that its lyrics are silly rhyming couplets masquerading as profound insight (although the person who has never felt "knee-deep in the hoopla" has never attended a committee meeting).

But the same things can be said about some of the best rock and roll songs of all time, too (Substitute "most favorite" and "least favorite" for "best" and "worst," if you prefer). If I had to pinpoint what I think is the reason "City" is so lousy, it's because it takes itself and its genre so seriously. Rock and roll didn't build San Francisco -- and you could make a good case that the popular culture of the '60s represented by Starship when it was still Jefferson Airplane didn't build much of anything.

It brought about some great music, yes, but the lasting achievements of the US in the 1960s -- the moon landing, civil rights legislation, increasing equality for women, and so on -- didn't come from anyone in a paisley caftan and pink sunglasses.

Anyway, the article at GQ is fun because it's interesting to see how many of the people involved with "City" don't want to be connected to it anymore. Sorry about the rant.

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