I like terrible soft rock from the 80s. I like good music too, but I seriously love the horrific, absurd, contrived, ridiculous, pandering, embarrassing, not even well-written ballads in this particular genre. For awhile it was that age-old question of whether or not my affection was ironic and satirical while enjoying some dark roast with the other hipsters. Now it’s clear that I’m just lame, and I don’t even drink coffee. I own this about myself. If you don’t have any love for crap music yourself, well, I’m just going to put it right out there: I don’t trust you. You’re probably one of those people who said they knew all along that Bruce Willis was dead in The Sixth Sense. NO YOU DIDN’T, NOSTRADAMUS. Shut your filthy mouth.
Are you wondering how bad we’re talking here? Think of a bad song. A really bad one. No, what’s wrong with you? That was in The Karate Kid. If it’s a sentimental favorite from our childhoods, it’s automatically disqualified and can’t really be that bad. Got one? Okay. Well, I’ve got it on my phone. That one, too. I don’t want to leave you caught between the moon and New York City, so let me save you a little time: Got that one, too. If it was playing in the car in the 70s or 80s while your mom or dad dragged you around to stores that sold curtains and lighting fixtures on the weekend, all the while promising you the new Sleepover Friends book at the end of the journey, well, that’s what I’m talking about here.
In finding songs on my iTunes to make this example, I stumbled on All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You by Heart. How great is that song? She picks up a random hitchhiker and has sex with him, which, I know, you’re thinking, sounds about right, what’s the problem so far? Then the next morning she leaves him a note that says, and I quote, “I am the flower, you are the seed, we walked in the garden, we planted a tree. Don’t try to find me, please don’t you dare. Just live in my memory, you’ll always be there.” For serious, lady? What’s wrong with you? Your ridiculous note guarantees that no one would ever try to find you, even if there was a missing persons report and I was the FBI. And remember the twist ending? It turns out she just did it because her husband couldn’t get her pregnant and she wanted a baby. Who needs IVF when there are, apparently, ready and willing random drifters coursing with testosterone about? Hope your husband doesn’t think it’s weird that your kid grows up to be like, “I just wanna live on the road, man. Don’t fence me in. Hey, does anyone want this half a grilled cheese sandwich I found on the median?”
Anyway, one of my favorite 80s soft rock specimens has always been Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston. Like many women my age, fourth grade was utterly defined by Whitney tapes, and my friends and I spent endless Saturdays choreographing intricate dance routines to How Will I Know and I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
But Greatest Love of All was always different. First of all, she opens with a fact misstated as an opinion. Yeah, children are the future, girl. In fact, that’s exactly what they are. So whether or not you personally believe it, they are going to be running the nursing homes and bingo halls someday, so you’d better…oh. Right.
Rest in peace, Whitney. You were incredibly talented.
Another reason this song is awesome is the fact that it’s apparently the product of two completely different songs that were somehow recorded as one. We start out sweetly proclaiming that children are important and beautiful. Aww, they totally are. And then, without warning, she gets all ramped up and starts yelling about how you can’t take her dignity, no, you absolutely cannot, despite your best effort SHE WILL NOT LET YOU. At this point, you almost feel like you did something wrong and should maybe apologize, because you probably accidentally implied that you were going to take her dignity, and now things are kind of awkward between you. I liken this to having a nice conversation with a friend of a friend of a friend at a party or wedding reception or something, and then suddenly they want you to come to their church and see what they’re all about. Holy shit. Has this happened to you? I never have a clever exit strategy, either. It’s always something like, “Oh, THERE are the olives!” and an inexplicable sprint in the opposite direction.
But back to the song. We go from talking about children to getting pretty upset. And then? THEN?
She sings the song again. She straight up SINGS THE SAME SONG TWICE. Was anyone cooler than Whitney Houston? I don’t know of this sort of lyrical revolution happening before or since. And don’t you love how we all just accepted it? Oh yeah, this is the part where she sings the song again. You know, if I’m at work giving a report on a kid, and I run out of stuff to say and everyone’s still looking at me, do I just start over, verbatim, shushing everyone who tries to say, “Red, you just told us all of this two minutes ago?” No, I don’t. Because I am not even one iota as ballsy as Whitney Houston was.
Also, when I was younger, I used to quote the song to sketchy dudes in bars who asked me how I got into education. When I’d say, “I like to let children’s laughter remind us how we used to be,” and they’d say something like, “That is so true!” and buy me a Bud Light, that was just the best. For more about my 20s, read the archives.
So anyway, to sum up, I like terrible soft rock from the 80s. I like good music too, but I seriously love the horrific, absurd, contrived, ridiculous, pandering, embarrassing, not even well-written ballads in this particular genre. For awhile…
Suckas! Don’t you take my dignity!