Substack Pop Xulture Newsletter # 15
1982 vs. 2022 Music - Charlene, MJ, and Questlove: Contentment in Regularity. 7/8/23
Hola, amigos! Welcome to July 2023’s newsletter where we’ll cover my current work, upcoming ideas, and, as always, an exclusive portion of writing.
Back in May, Christ and Pop Culture (CAPC) gave me the opportunity to write about a new band called World Gone Cold. As I mentioned in the article “World Gone Cold Shines a Bit of Light: Self-Titled EP Review”:
“Most articles I write are on a subject I find and pitch. But in this case, a promoter for World Gone Cold reached out to Christ and Pop Culture. When I heard members from Demon Hunter and P.O.D. (two bands that were favorites at different times in my life) had formed a group, I jumped at the chance. Then I had this moment of, Oh no, what if they’re really bad?
Fortunately, they’re pretty good.”
I took a different approach for the review by giving initial thoughts on a first listen and then additional ruminations once some time had gone by.
It’s been six weeks but my article on Schindler’s List for CAPC should be out in a few days. I also just whipped up a piece on the film Flamin’ Hot, which should be published in the next few weeks.
Additionally, specifically for you, my adoring fans, in June I published the article: “How Homage in 'Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves' Highlights the Easter Egg Hole in Our Soul.” If you haven’t read it, I wrote a different type of piece since there are already so many reviews for the film. This one focuses on the many pop culture references the film alludes to and how homage points to a deeper need in our souls.
Lastly, I’m working on part 3 of my Creativity series exclusively for you. As of right now, the theme is “relevancy in our creativity,” using the artifact of Cory Doctorow’s 2008 novel Little Brother. I’m also toying with the idea of recording some of these Substack articles so you can listen to them as a kind of podcast. Tell me if that sounds interesting.
As you may know, each December I write an article summarizing the current year and compare to its corresponding year 40 years ago. So around the mid-point of each year I like to revisit the previous year’s article and give you an exclusive piece that didn’t make it into the published article. This isn’t because it was bad (well, I guess you can be the judge of that!), but usually because those awful (but necessary) word count limits exist.
This piece is my original draft of the music section of my 1982 vs. 2022 article. You may want to check out the article “1982 vs. 2022: Greed vs. Giving” to see how the music section evolved. Enjoy!
Music: Charlene, MJ, and Questlove: Contentment in Regularity
Charlene’s “I've Never Been to Me” is a confession to a discontent homemaker that striving after all the riches and travel and fame in the world also leaves one dissatisfied. Charlene’s motivation to advise her friend to be satisfied is noble, albeit while talking about herself and her accomplishments a little too much. But the renouncement of greed and envy is clouded by lyrics like “Hey, you know what paradise is? It's a lie,” which make unhappiness seem more like bitterness.
That line is contrasted with Michael Jackson’s proclamation, “I don't need no dreams when I'm by your side; Every moment takes me to paradise” (“Baby Be Mine”). Could a combination of Charlene’s advice to find contentment in our regular lives and MJ’s promise that having the right person by our side truly produces paradise?
The song is off Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller, which changed the music industry forever (read my article here). But it almost didn’t have its signature sound because record executives tried to rush the release to capitalize on Christmas sales. Thankfully Jackson and Producer Quincy Jones stuck to their guns and remastered each song before their release. Thriller is the number one selling album of all time – even now, 40 years later! Confidence in convictions is key. This isn’t a shallow takeaway that if you push back against corporate greed you’ll receive untold riches. Instead, we can see that each of us needs to know where our line in the greed sand is drawn.
But, as Questlove said earlier this year, verbalizing our honesty around these emotions is equally important. “I think that before 2020, maybe 1969 was probably the banner year that people will remember most in history. But there's literally no way that you can't… I feel like this entire decade will be a paradigm shift and a redefining of what is expressed. Just the fact that [Maggie Rogers] feels free enough to be honest about her emotions. I know we've had the term emo or whatever in music or whatnot, but normally it's almost like a way to ridicule.” I’ll revisit Questlove’s decade prophecy in 2029, but for now, he’s not wrong about authenticity in artistry.
And I believe each of us are both creative and fed by artistry. There’s no doubt music merged with moving pictures evoke emotions. When I hear 1982 songs like “Mad World” (Tears for Fears) I think of Donnie Darko and when I hear “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” (The Clash) or “Pass the Dutchie” (Musical Youth), I think of Stranger Things. Jonathan Byers plays both songs and in 2022’s Stranger Things, Season 4, his peace-loving (albeit blazed) music-is-food-of-love [from “Pass the Dutchie”] mentality is antithetical to U.S. military aggression, violence in battling the Upside Down, and Russian experimentation at control via war.
[END EXCLUSIVE ARTICLE CONTENT]
Some good stuff to think about, huh?
Alright that’s about it for this one. As I mentioned above, I’m thinking about recording my articles. Aside from blessing you with the gift of hearing my angelic voice, you may have more time to listen then to read. If you want me to do this, leave a comment below or email me (Fogle.Christopher@gmail.com). And tell me which articles or newsletters or series (like Creativity) you’d like me to start with.
Thanks, in Him,
-Chris (the Bearded Wonder) Fogle