A symphony of decyrption: Mind over Madonna

In a perfect world, nobody would feel guilty about listening to any sort of music. But we do. And it’s not just because the world we inhabit is, at best, a tragicomedy. Music isn’t an art form anymore. It is a business unit in the entertainment industry. Success has as much to do with talent as it does with marketing budgets and social media strategies.

I do more push-ups when I listen to Madonna’s Ray Of Light. When she sings “and I feel like I just got home”, I am inspired to work out a little extra. But I feel terrible after it. I want to cleanse myself in unicorn milk, button-up my shirt, backcomb my hair and be a good boy.

Greater Flameback

Whenever OMC’s idiotic anthem – How Bizarre creeps into my playlist, I can’t help but start dancing. It is only unfortunate that I look like I am suffering from arachnophobia. With rabid tarantulas on my shoulders. And then there is the nonsensical Yey Shabba Aey Shabba – a song in a goofy Tamil film called Karnaa. As a kid, I thought it had a really catchy melody. Despite its lumbering desperation for sensuality, I still, sort of, sing along.

I feel guilty about these visceral experiences I have. I think it’s because I still reel from having been a pretentious music lover. I used to assume I had better taste than most people. Just because the songs I liked weren’t popular. And they were obscure. Since the Internet wasn’t a factor in shaping my taste in music, I was proud about whatever I had acquired.

Lesser Flameback

At one point, I found that most of the bands I listened to had weird names. And they weren’t on the radio. In any of the mixtapes being passed around in my social circles. Or onstage at a concert in Africa to collect money for dying children or promote racial empathy. Dog Fashion Disco, Camel Of Doom, Atari Teenage Riot, Therapy?, People Under The Stairs, Del Tha Funky Homosapien and Corrosion of Conformity to name a few. While they created amazing music, I am unsure how I consistently discovered them. Maybe it was because nobody else I knew was listening to them. And I probably felt special.

It was a repercussion of consciously moving far from popular music as a listener. When contrariness became a hasty reflex action instead of organic appreciation. I even gave up on a cushy gig as an erstwhile music columnist for the Saturday magazine of a newspaper.

I had a full page column called Christy’s Music Box. I burned that bridge because I was disappointed that they, at times, published reviews about The Eagles’ remastered albums instead of carrying my 1,000 words of appreciation for subversive genres. It wasn’t enough that I got paid for publishing articles about Radiohead and Portishead.

Only later did I have an epiphany about it (felt silly and ignorant too). That my criticism of music or any popular perspective of it adds no value to anyone’s life, much less my own.

There is a brilliant dialogue from the film Ratatouille that says it a lot better.

I have been listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird everyday for the past week. It is their most popular song next to Sweet Home Alabama. It has one of the most recognizable solos in the history of American rock music. And I could care less about how loved and saturated it is. I play the air-guitar (and mouth-guitar)  like my life depends on it during the last 4 minutes.

It’s not like I am a purist now. I have not returned to the old-school. I don’t feel like saluting anyone about to rock and roll. I am just too old to listen to music for any other reason than to shake various parts of body until my soul catches up.

A few other guilty pleasures of mine:

Mark Morrison – Return Of The Mack

Sugar Ray – Sometimes 

Cliff Richard – Lucky Lips

Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You

Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All

Yuvan Shankar Raja – Thee Pidkka

Deva – Basha Paaru

Illaiyaraja – Pottu Vaitha

AR Rahman – Petta Rap

Karthik Raja – Kaasumela

(I didn’t want to force fit a dialogue about birds or write a vacuous poem in this post. But now is a good time, as any other, to remind ourselves that Flamebacks would be on percussion in the event that the birding kingdom decides to form a Led Zeppelin tribute band.

And that Kamala Das wrote beautiful poetry)

(Photographs – Chennai, Kodaikanal)

9 thoughts on “A symphony of decyrption: Mind over Madonna

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  1. Yes! And I love your last line about shaking until you catch up, etc. by the way, your woodpecker looks just like our Pileated Woodpecker except for the color of its back. God, I love those birds. They make jungle sounds right here in the city!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you jane!

      Jungle sounds sounds perfect. It’s as though Woodpeckers and Kingfishers misunderstood the expression “it’s a jungle out there” and have been singing accordingly since. Good for them, and us!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I listened to most of the music clips. Those Indian music videos are better than a Madonna concert! As for your taste in music, mine is equally eclectic. Right now, we continue to feast upon the Rush discography, with “Snakes and Arrows” being played over and over in the van whenever we’re out. It just ROCKS. Gotta love it when my kids have the same musical tastes as me.

    And you call our Pileated Woodpecker a hoss? What of that Flameback? He’s stunning. I’d love to see those two toe-to-toe working a dead tree, cousins from way back with similar hairdos, speaking a different language but with similar interests. I should go find the sound for the Flameback now.

    PS – The Ratatouille sound byte made me smile. It’s such a great movie message! We humans tend to box others in too much. We need to let go more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent! Of course your kids share your musical inclinations, it’s so fitting. Gardening, conservation, birding, Rush (sadly, xanadu and tom sawyer are the only ones I have gotten into), they are growing up with the best soil!

      Symphony of hosses, Shannon. What a blast that would be. Can we call them The Carpenters 2.0?


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