One of the great things about living in Japan and training in a dojo is that you can isolate yourself from whatever is the current fad in popular culture.
Today, I was going through my browser bookmarks and found this YouTube video for Crescent City Blues. While some people claim that music has gone downhill in the last few decades and that the age of Elvis and Johnny Cash, etc was a golden age in American music, the sad truth is that music is simply a reflection of the culture.
I hear the train a-comin, it’s rolling ’round the bend
And I ain’t been kissed lord since I don’t know when
The boys in Crescent City don’t seem to know I’m here
That lonesome whistle seems to tell me, Sue, disappear
When I was just a baby my mama told me, Sue,
When you’re grown up I want that you should go and see and do
But I’m stuck in Crescent City just watching life mosey by
When I hear that whistle blowin’, I hang my head and cry
I see the rich folks eatin’ in that fancy dining car
They’re probably having pheasant breast and eastern caviar
Now I ain’t crying envy and I ain’t crying me
It’s just that they get to see things that I’ve never seen
If I owned that lonesome whistle, if that railroad train was mine
I bet I’d find a man a little farther down the line
Far from Crescent City is where I’d like to stay
And I’d let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away
A song like Crescent City Blues, about a girl stuck in a small town unable to see the world is not a better, more evocative narrative, with an interesting backstory because the author was better. It is the way it is because this was the type of story that Americans could possibly relate to at the time the song was written. Likewise, Miley Cyrus’ recent song about a wrecking ball, which is adolescent and self-involved, is popular because it is the type of song that Americans can relate, or at least that they imagine they can relate to or think they ought to be able to relate to.
That American music has gone downhill is not a statement about the skills of composers or lyricists or screen writers. It is, in truth, a general statement about the state of the American society.