I made this a few days ago:
When Tonje Langeteig’s “I Don’t Want to be a Crappy Housewife” became a viral video hit, the comparisons to Rebecca Black’s “Friday” were ubiquitous. Finally, our short attention spans had a new object of so-bad-it’s-good kitsch ridicule.
I thought this might be an interesting opportunity for a mashup. As it turned out, the songs work surprisingly well together. They’re in closely-related keys and have simple and largely compatible harmonic structures. They share common formal elements – a bridge with an unexpected male rapper.
Most strikingly, however, their lyrics create an interesting counterpoint – “Friday” is unabashedly about being young, while “Housewife” is about being old, and futile attempts to reclaim the innocence of youth. Friday’s heroine is a kid being a kid, while our crappy housewife is an adult, desperately trying to be a kid again.
I’m generally not a big pop music listener. This isn’t some kind of ivory tower stance – I don’t have any problem with the idea of music as a commodity. It’s just that I usually don’t find the music itself all that compelling.
But I have a huge amount of respect for contemporary pop music. From a production point of view, there’s so much to learn from chart radio – how to get a big sound, how to create “hooks,” etc.
With modern music production tools being so inexpensive and easy to use, I’m especially fascinated by the fact that certain songs win while others lose and still others become kitsch icons, when the surface level of all of them is often largely indistinguishable.
What is it – the essence of the thing – that makes these two songs the object of such ridicule? Sure, the lyrics are a little trite. But are they really that much more trite than many of the songs that sell millions of copies?
If I knew the answers to these questions, I’d be a millionaire instead of an armchair musicologist. But what’s clear is that inexpensive, easy tools have not evened out the playing field as much as we like to think. Yes, anyone can make music in their bedroom now, and it will sound 98% as good as anything else.
But there’s something in that other 2% that’s neither inexpensive nor easy.