March 12, 2009 in Washington Voices

Today’s hit music makes mom long for ’80s lyrics

By The Spokesman-Review

I don’t know how it happened. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of turning 40, and I ignored the warning signs. But it’s too late now. I’ve become a radio-yeller.

The kind of woman you see driving alone, pounding the dash, gesturing wildly and yelling at the radio. It isn’t talk radio that has driven me to the edge. No, it’s the woeful degeneration of song lyrics that turned me into my mother-in-law.

Last week I was driving down Division, listening to a station that plays a mix of songs from the ’80s, ’90s and today. Then it happened. I heard Kelly Clarkson singing, “My Life Would Suck Without You.” That’s the name of the song. Seriously. Here’s a portion of the lyrics, “I know that I’ve got issues, but you’re pretty messed up too. … My life would suck without you, being with you is so dysfunctional.”

Is this what we descended to – using words like “issues” and “dysfunctional” in pop songs? Who is writing this stuff, Dr. Phil?

When I complained to my oldest son, he said, “Obviously, you haven’t heard ‘Low’ by Flo Rida.” Well of course I hadn’t, it’s rap. I’m not hip. I’m not cool. I don’t listen to rap – ever. But my son persuaded me to give the song a listen. It’s about someone named “Shawty” (is that even a name?) who apparently got “low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low” on the dance floor. Any lyric that features the word low eight times in a row, isn’t a lyric, it’s just – low. My dashboard may never be the same.

Just thinking about it makes me feel all crotchety. If I had a cane, I’d shake it. I perused the chart-toppers and discovered a song called, “I Love College.” That’s more like it, I thought. Wrong! The singer isn’t talking about his physics class. If you have a child attending university, please don’t listen to this song. Here’s part of the lyrics: “Man I love college and I love drinkin’. I love women. I love college.”

I was a teenager in the 1980s. We had real music. Songs with more content and depth than a one-syllable word repeated eight times. Life sucked then to, but we had better ways of expressing our angst. Who could forget U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For?” They sang, “I have spoke with the tongue of angels. I have held the hand of a devil. It was warm in the night, I was cold as a stone, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

Now those are lyrics! I mean, sure we had Michael Jackson and “Billie Jean.” Who knows whether he’s singing “the kid is not my son,” or “the chair is number one?” We could never tell. But for every “Billie Jean” we had “Thriller.”

My generation had “We Are the World,” for heaven’s sake, but my sons are stuck with “Kiss Me Through the Phone;” “I love ya complexion. I miss ya, I miss ya. I really wanna kiss ya.”

Ever since I started listening to the current hits, I’ve been having this recurring dream. It’s my oldest son’s wedding. He takes his bride onto the dance floor. The band begins to play. “Cuz we belong together now. Forever united here somehow. You got a piece of me. And honestly, my life would suck without you.” Thank you Kelly Clarkson.

I’d elaborate, but it’s time for me to go yell at my radio.

Contact Cindy Hval at Previous columns are available online at

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