Category: music

hateful songs: “g-d bless the usa” (lee greenwood)

hateful songs: “g-d bless the usa” (lee greenwood)

oh, the wackadoodles are going to find me now.

happy july 4th! i love july 4th. it is truly the most american of holidays, as we gather to celebrate our independence. yes, we replace our phillies flag with old glory; and i put on red, white, and blue clothing, which i fortunately have. sometimes, i even get the kids in some patriotic clothing. i love the fireworks and the parades and the people joining together for one brief second as one people. i would even bake one of those yummy-looking strawberry-blueberry cake thingies, though i know jools hates fruit and won’t go near one.

so i’ll just enjoy it for the moment here.


okay. about this lee greenwood song. now, i know a lot of people love it and feel their hearts all warmed by it. and that’s great; and it’s a free country and all that. this is not about you. this is about me.

and i loathe this song.

in fact, there are very few songs that physically make me cringe. this is one of them.

(so is this.)

i’ve tried to think about what it is about the song that i dislike so much. yes, it’s sappy — but so are other songs i actually find charming.

it’s not necessarily that g-d is in the title. i mean, i love to stand up and sing g-d bless america. (admittedly, i often break out in the version i learned as a child, g-d bless my underwear. but still.)

part of what bothers me is how it was written. greenwood has said in interviews that he and his producer sort of calculated the city shout-outs:

I’m from California, and I don’t know anybody from Virginia or New York, so when I wrote it – and my producer and I had talked about it – [we] talked about the four cities I wanted to mention, the four corners of the United States. It could have been Seattle or Miami but we chose New York and L.A., and he suggested Detroit and Houston because they both were economically part of the basis of our economy – Motown and the oil industry, so I just poetically wrote that in the bridge.

first of all: economically part of the basis of our economy? what the WHAT? and so, let’s pander to the (at-the-time) money-making locations in the USA. you’ll get more radio airplay in those markets, which can only boost sales. now, certainly, lots of songs name-check places, but i don’t think they often do it in order to target the economic centers of the country. that’s just weird and disingenuous to me.

so there’s this calculated cheesefest that strikes at your heart.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

son, have you heard of the patriot act?

generally, the people i have met who are into this song often (not always, but often) are the sorts who are all about freedoms. their freedoms. everyone else’s? they can go to hell.  maybe their ancestors had the good luck to come to this country at a time when people melted in. mine weren’t so welcome (hence why my grandmother’s family came in through galveston, texas, even though their entire family was in tenements in NYC. there were too many jews, you see, immigrating (nevermind we were escaping being used as kindling in pogroms in russia poland), so there was an effort to bring immigrant jews in via alternate US ports. we were persona non grata, you know. still the age of no jews, no dogs signs.

now, of course, substitute mexicans for jews.

so yeah. maybe you are here for a generation or two. (or ten.) does that make you more american than people who are striving to be american? i know we can’t support the world; we can barely support ourselves. but the attitude i hear from so many people borders more on the bigoted and less on the factual. (which, i would add, a lot of people don’t truly get. here are some recent ones, for those who want to get info.) policy must be based on facts and not on your scapegoat-oriented ideas.

that would be unamerican.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA

i think i’ve got it. there’s an implication that criticism of the US = you don’t love this land. criticism of the US = you don’t appreciate your freedoms. in fact, those of us who criticize this nation love it just as much as those of you who jingoistically knee-jerk into america is perfect mode.  i’m quite sure, in fact, that there will be readers of this who will call me everything from communist (nope, sorry, not one) to a nation hater (nothing could be further from the truth.) in fact, they will also curse me as… wait for it… a liberal. like that would be a bad thing to be. (it’s not. neither is being conservative. it’s just different points of view.) but this song codifies the polarization of our nation in a few stanzas, a polarization which has led to legislative standstills and all sorts of negativity in the political arena, more than any i, a student of the political process, have witnessed in most of my life. to me, this song is rather insulting.

for if you don’t love g-d bless the usa, then surely it follows that you don’t love the usa, either.

in my view, there are many other, better patriotic songs for this day. i encourage you to seek them out. some are rah-rah-usa works. some are critical. but all encapsulate a vision of this nation as a place that welcomes and celebrates all of its citizens.

some of my humble suggestions from wreke’s jukebox:

this land is your land (woody guthrie)

millworker (james taylor)

american tune (paul simon)

4th of july, asbury park (bruce springsteen) (note: had to put that in for my BS and for one of my beloved SILs)

the house i live in (what is america to me) (frank sinatra)

the house i live in (what is america to me) (patti labelle. i love this song, and while i love the chairman of the board’s version, ms. labelle knocks it out of the park.)

america the beautiful (ray charles)

goodnight, saigon (billy joel)

the stars and stripes forever (john phillip sousa, played by the awesome us marine band)

the star spangled banner (f.s. key, performed by whitney houston)



you are welcome to take issue with my selections in the comments. (some people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe (and which i’ve not written about already), feel free to share.

i take requests.


hateful songs: “locked out of heaven” (bruno mars)

hateful songs: “locked out of heaven” (bruno mars)

your sex takes me to paradise?

if that weird eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh OOH doesn’t drive you insane through this song, the lyrics will.

singing about sex and getting lucky is nothing new in popular music. hell, in granddad’s era, cole porter and others were clever about it:

fast forward some decades. i’m the mom who drives through the carpool line, windows open, with this gem on:

in short, years and years of lyricists have talked about getting laid in clever and amusing ways. meanwhile, bruno mars, who actually is kind of adorbs as the kids might say, is clinical in his assessment: your sex takes me to paradise.

really? why not draw a diagram, too, while you’re at it.

in short, dude, you have a catchy song, albeit one with an irritating sound effect (what the hell IS that thing that goes eh, anyway?) but you lose me completely when you get all technical with me. it has all the charm and romance of 5th grade family life education class.

bruno, bruno, bruno. let me give you some advice. it might help you write better songs for the ladies. mike damone’s five point plan.

always remember, bruno. whenever possible, put on side one of led zeppelin IV.


you are welcome to take issue with my selections in the comments. (some people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe (and which i’ve not written about already), feel free to share.

i take requests.

hateful songs: “some nights” (fun.)

hateful songs: “some nights” (fun.)

c’mon, sing with me: ceeeeee-lia. you’re breaking my heart. you’re shaking my confidence daiiily.

lest it be said i am completely behind the times with my ’80s eyeshadow and occasional lapse into mom jean land (hey, high waists are coming back — i saw it in seventeen), i can honestly say that i have been keeping up to date with what passes for popular music, thanks to my teen-in-residence, BC. and i think i can honestly say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. sure, we didn’t have auto-tune when we were young, and it was much more difficult to sample stuff our outright steal something as music didn’t have the technology… but people consciously or subconsciously appropriated others’ songs. if he were still alive, i’m sure my beloved george harrison would have something to say on the topic, and he would not be alone.

so let’s talk exhibit a: some nights by the band fun. (forget not the period at the end. it adds to their aura.) fun. seems to be a likable bunch who has a penchant for releasing singles that all sound tailor-made for fist-pumping, concert anthems. one might be fine per album, but it seems like all of the songs i have heard from this album (i’m sorry, are they still called albums these days?) are supposed to be frought with deep, angsty meaning and bring us all together in the circle of life.

whoa. let me get a sip of my coffee and i’ll get hold of my senses there. was a little overwhelmed with emotion, doncha know.


anyway, what drives me battiest about this song is the fact that it makes me want to sing this song:

i hear this song only when the girl has flipped one of my stations over to her top hits stations in the car. so, as it is my car and my party, i burst into song.

jubilaaaaaation. she loves me again. i fall on the floor and i’m laughing.

and this, of course, makes BC want to slam my head into the dashboard. (which, of course, would severely harm our mother-daughter relationship.) while i adore simon and garfunkle (also known in my mother’s malaprop language as funk and gar), this is one of the two songs i would always skip on their greatest hits album years ago. (the other song skipped? do you have to ask?  that could be another entry for another day!)

so see? you are getting two hateful songs for the price of one today. thank you, fun. you are the gift that keeps on giving me headaches.


you are welcome to take issue with my selections in the comments. (some people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe (and which i’ve not written about already), feel free to share.

i take requests.

hateful songs: “hey there delilah” (plain white t’s)

hateful songs: “hey there delilah” (plain white t’s)

hello, and welcome to someone’s got a wild hair up her butt.

for a few years, i spent months at a time bemoaning songs i couldn’t stand from particularly decades. i shared my share of bad (and good!) ’70s music. i went through my egregious ’80s phase. and before you go on thinking i am statler and waldorf’s meaner younger sister, you should know that i have spent years sharing my guilty pleasure mondays, with songs you might find incredibly awful but songs which i just love lots.

anyway, in short, i am obsessed with music. i heart a great hook. i admire strong lyrics. and if you have a moving melody, i am yer gal.  a subscription to sirius/xm radio has magnified all of this for me. (it came with my car.) while i have developed some serious addictions to certain stations (little steven’s underground garage, i’m looking at YOU), i do try to wander around to most stations at some point. when BC gets hold of the dial, i end up listening to some stupid top 40 station that plays music that literally makes me want to scream hey you kids, get off my lawn! but she is a teen now, and it is her music, just as my music occasionally drove my parents to distraction. and like my parents, i try to listen to her music occasionally with open ears.

but every now and again, i stumble onto something that makes me want to close my ears for good behavior.  i thought i’d highlight (low light?) some of them over the coming weeks.

because i can.

you are welcome to take issue with my selections in the comments. (some people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe (and which i’ve not written about already), feel free to share.

i take requests.


first up: a little ditty from 2005. hey there delilah was a grammy-nominated song for the plain white t’s, a band out of chicago which apparently had two other singles which i have forgotten at this point.  would that i could forget this one.

the whole premise is an old one in rock and roll: the singer singing to the girl (or guy? it’s almost always the ladies who are left behind. so. not. fair.) waiting back home while he’s on the road. there are better examples out there, stemming from the whole i’m a rock star on the road trope;  faithfully (journey) , 2000 miles (the pretenders) and  postcard (the who) come to my mind, though there are others. and so here, frontman tom higgenson pines away for real-life delilah decrescenzo.  he tells her that new york doesn’t shine as brightly as she does, and that the distance is nothing — love will keep them together. oh, and one day, the guitar is going to pay all the bills. (i sincerely hope he didn’t quit his day job.)

hence, he is out on the road, shaking his moneymaker and singing.

now, anyone who knows anything about the history of rock knows that touring is a tough place for the faithful. so whenever i hear these sorts of songs, i shake my head and think, oh, one bored night. that’s what happened to this guy. one bored night + no available women +/- no booze or drugs = song fodder. i’m sure the next night was a luckier evening, if you catch my drift.

something about higgenson’s voice reminds me of the whiney guy you couldn’t shake in college, try as you might. he probably wrote you bad poetry. oh, and he always asked you to pay for the date. something about being short that week.

amusingly, the relationship he describes in the song was all in his head. there was no relationship. it all happened because when he met her, he was trying to be suave. his pickup line had to do with something about a song he had written for her, according to the interview.

thus, hey there delilah is essentially an orchestrated pickup line.

yeah, i know:  i’m supposed to bow before the idea that this work received some grammy nominations. (and no, i haven’t yet received any grammy nominations. i am aware of that.) honestly, though — the grammys tend to honor artists for efforts which are not their best or, for reasons i have never understood, bands that come and go quickly. (evanescence, anyone?) but honestly, it sounds more like the soundtrack to a morning at starbucks, a song people drink coffee to while they achieve consciousness, but by bit.  once you wake up, you forget it other than the mere buzzing in your head that makes you wonder about your meds.

anywho, i think my favorite part of the song involves the part where he tells his imaginary girlfriend delilah not to worry; after all, two years from now, she’ll be done with school. and he’ll be making history like he does. maybe you call this confidence. me? i call this obnoxious, cocky entitlement.

history? i don’t think he made history.

i think he is history.

guilty pleasure monday: wake me up before you go-go (wham)

guilty pleasure monday: wake me up before you go-go (wham)


does anyone know whatever happened to andrew ridgeley? does anyone know what andrew ridgeley contributed to wham or this song or anything in general? i often imagine he is the character hugh grant played in the movie music and lyrics, although in ridgeley’s case, as a guy who probably had talent but who was overshadowed and then overlooked. i imagine it’s hard to shine when george stay out of public loos michael is your singing partner.

(not this george michael, either.)

ah, but remember them in their fluffy-haired heydey? remember the choose life shirts that were so huge and were also made, at the time, in day-glo, neon colors? i had too much self-respect to wear one (and i, the queen of malaprops, did not want to be confused with an anti-abortion activist by wearing that message, not that i choose death, but still.) oh, they were doe-eyed and adorable. and those teeny-tiny shorts? these guys were too sweet to be real.

and this song. admit it — you hear it start, and you want to dance. you don’t want anyone to know that you want to dance, but it is absolutely infectious, and maybe not in a good way, but there it is. it has a bouncy horn section to go along with it’s bouncy beat, and george’s smooth vocals carry you away into some sort of confectionary moment.

but poor andrew. after racing cars and solo work that didn’t go anywhere, you wonder not whether he has any dart boards with george michael’s face on them, but just how many.

guilty pleasure monday: if you love somebody set them free (sting)

guilty pleasure monday: if you love somebody set them free (sting)

if you love something, set it free.

if it comes back to you, it is yours.

if it doesn’t, it never was.

yeah, yeah. you can start laughing at me now. but when this song came out in 1985, i was completely hooked. it’s rock, it’s jazzy, there’s a marsalis in it. how can you not start tapping your toes when it comes on?

lots of my friends felt betrayed when der stingleheimer started on a different musical path post-police. stingerino seemed to start down a path away from the reggae/ska/punk-lite path and explore new stuff, ultimately destined for lite rock stations everywhere. and yet i love this stuff, at least up through the mid-1990s.

and if you’ve ever carefully watched the video for this song, you’ll notice some cool things happening. one person is slowed down. one is speeded up. one is filmed in black and white.  and beloved branford? he’s a transparent ghost of himself.  i just love it.

and as for the hackneyed cliché that graces the song’s title? it has probably seen it’s way onto many greeting cards and needlepoint samplers. there’s a load of jokes surrounding it including these. but me, i’m a purist. whoever said this said it best:

if you love something, set it free.

if it comes back to you, it is yours.

if it doesn’t, hunt it down and kill it.

guilty pleasure monday: henry the VIII, i am (herman’s hermits)

guilty pleasure monday: henry the VIII, i am (herman’s hermits)

second verse, same as the first.

henry the VIII is one of those random songs that gets stuck in your head once and then pops up at the darndest times. for me, it pops up during those blank and dreary moments where you need something to make people smile and get re-energized.  there have been countless times when i’ll start singing it and the kids join in.  (yes, we’re that family.)

the song was one of the hits for the band herman’s hermits (including, as BS would imitate from the TV, peter noone from my generation!), a british band that became huge in the heydey of the beatles. in fact, they apparently were the top selling pop act in the US in 1965, toppling the beatles from that post.  all this, in part, thanks to famed producer mickie most, who would select their songs and often wouldn’t let them play, using session musicians like john paul jones and jimmy page instead. they had hit after hit for several years, but of course one day, they broke up and tried their own stuff which was never quite successful. (peter noone had one minor hit covering what ultimately became a bowie classic oh! you pretty things.)

but i’ll keep it simple so that no one chops my head off. henry the VIII is bouncier and a lot more fun than it’s subject matter would imply. and it’s actually kid-safe, unlike plenty of my musical fodder.  but yeah, i would get laughed out of a lot of places for this one.



my sweet virginia…

last night, BS and i saw a concert. there was a time in our lives that this wasn’t so noteworthy — pre-kids — but since becoming parents, we don’t get to see concerts a whole lot. and now that we are picky fogies, we won’t go to big stadium shows anymore, either. the biggest we go it the verizon center in DC, which certainly isn’t insignificant in size, but it’s more manageable… and we have a place to park.

anyway, with BS’s birthday coming up, i was grateful and happy when BS did the presale for the Foo Fighters, even though the seats at the start of the presale were still up with G-d. BS loveloveloves the Foos, so while I like them, for him, I knew this was a big deal. And since he is the Hardest Man on Earth to Shop For (TM), it was almost like instant birthday present. (well, that plus last weekend, when he went to play in some poker tournament in PA. or was it DE? who knows.) i found a sitter, and we were set.

i won’t go into the dinner, which was forgettable, food-wise.  i won’t go into the opener for the opener, the joy formidable, who kept us on the edge of our seats waiting to see which rock cliché they were going to embrace (were they going to smash their instruments? set them on fire? no, they just created a ton of noise and feedback and just left the stage with the feedback still haranguing the audience.)

and i won’t even go into the opener, social distortion. yeah yeah, i know that social D is an institution. i get that. i just don’t like them, okay? mike ness’s voice always sounds to me like someone let monotone uncle marvin loose in a karaoke bar. it grates. but i have loads of friends who like them, and that’s cool. i’m sure they put on a sufficiently good show, making the crowd scream every time ness said motherf***er. yeah, that’s a thrill.  (you know what else would be a thrill? writing a song that uses more than three chords.)

but i digress.

anyway, the foos exploded onto the stage around 8:30. dave grohl, my secret boyfriend #3, ran all over the stage, down a runway past the soundboard, and then onto a mini-riser, which made it easier for people like us in the cheap seats to see him. i’m not sure what tiny dave eats besides wheaties, but that man, along with taylor hawkins, the drummer with 0% body fat, are unbelievably energetic. he was absolutely pumped because, he said, this was the first time he had sold out the big-ass arena in my hometown. he talked about growing up in springfield and the girl who broke his heart when he was 12.

the night she broke his heart, he had a dream, he said. he dreamt he was in a rock band, playing in a huge arena. and he looked out among the sea of faces, and there she was. and then, he shared that there she was, in the audience, tonight.

(talk about the one that got away.)

the Foos went through plenty of material from their current album as well as plenty of their hits. (they played for three and a half hours for the hometown crowd because he was so pumped to be there.) local bob mould came onstage during the encore to play dear rosemary with the band, which he does on the LP.  but my favorite moment was an unspoken one.

while singing arlandria, there was this glimmer i saw. arlandria, for those who don’t actually know, is a section of alexandria just below the arlington border. it’s along four mile run, above del ray. the song is loaded with double entendres (for example, Virginia is also grohl’s mom’s name.) anyway, it must have been a little trippy to sing arlandria in front of a crowd who knows exactly where and what arlandria is (at least, we folks in arlington and alexandria, anyway.) and when dave sang my sweet virginia, i could swear this genuine smile came over his face. it wasn’t his usual toothy, forced concert grin. it was absolutely warm.

dave has come home.

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