July 13, 2007

Worn out music

Can you wear out your love for a song? When I first heard Golden Brown by the Stranglers, I adored everything about it – the quirky time signature, the unusual instrumentation, the vocal, the harmonies. I’d include it on my (age revealing) compilation tapes, and every time it came on in the car or on my (age revealing) walkman, I’d enjoy it over again.

But walking home today, when my iPod shuffled it, I listened to the first few seconds, and it didn’t do it for me any more; I skipped over it. Are songs like oranges, I wonder? Sweet and juicy to start with, but eventually, after a few plays, or a few dozen, or a few hundred, all the goodness is eventually sucked out of them and somehow it doesn’t work any more. And if that’s true, are some songs more prone to this than others? Perhaps one measure of quality for a song is how many plays it takes to suck the juice out of it. And could there be some songs which are infinitely juicy?

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  1. Mathew Mannion

    I think for me, most songs are worn out within a couple of months – but that’s because if I really like a song, I’ll be playing it several times a day, and it’ll get worn out within a couple of weeks (same thing happens to albums for me, unfortunately).

    Perhaps the measure should take into account the density of how much it’s played. If, God forbid, I like a song that’s also being played to death by Radio 1, that can get it an extra 2 or three plays a day to me and that usually means too much. But if I listen to a song once a week, some songs last forever (see: Radiohead’s Paranoid Android)

    14 Jul 2007, 08:00

  2. John Dale

    Yeah, you’re right; it’s number of plays that must count, not days or weeks or months. Ironically, old media – cassettes, LPs – made it much harder to play the same track again and again, so the lifespan measured in time was much greater. Now, of course, if you want to, it’s easy to play the same song ten times in a day, so the de-juicing is achieved much quicker.

    15 Jul 2007, 12:08

  3. Jenny Delasalle

    Was it the Gordon Brown parody version that spoilt it for you?

    16 Jul 2007, 12:08

  4. Sara Lever

    Could be your musical tastes have just evolved, bet there are some other golden oldies you have and still like.

    I think also this particular song, never was such a fab offering. It was the most popular of the Stranglers music as a hit single, but then again the most commercial. The sing-song lilt to it, does make it a bit sickly and the musical beat is that of a Waltz on a harpsicord. Lyrically well the Stranglers had that great lyric ‘down in the sewer, or even on the end of a skewer’, didn’t they? So apart from the, coo the song could be about drugs, not a great deal of mystery.

    Two years early John Lennon released Imagine, which I’ve heard loads but never tire of.

    The Police’s, So Lonely/Sue Lawley, is another song spoilt by humour.

    16 Jul 2007, 14:28

  5. John Dale

    I haven’t heard the Gordon Brown parody, so I guess that can’t have been it, though I can easily imagine what it might be like.

    And I don’t have a strong view about whether the song was or is a great song; that’s a very subjective thing to take a view on. My point was only that I used to love it and now I don’t, and I’m at something of a loss to explain why.

    16 Jul 2007, 15:12

  6. Some people say that the difference between popular music and classical music is that the latter has so much depth and so many layers that one never really tires of it (ok hear a piece 50 times then tire of it for a few months, but then the tedium wears off).

    20 Jul 2007, 15:03

  7. Maybe it’s playing it on your iPod shuffle that’s spoilt the magic of music for ya?
    I agree with George in that if a song is really good you may get tired of it if you play it too much, but it’d be comfort music, the kinda music you’d listen to to make yourself feel comfortable and happy. I like discovering new music and I find that some pieces can be very “challenging” (for the lack of a better word), like, say that of Bjork, but you develop a liking for it the more you listen to it. With the music you like immediately, however, it’s more like love at first sight, so you run the risk of wearing out the romance and the excitement if you abuse it too much. And I can’t help but mention that one of my favourite albums of all times Californication still remains the album that I love from the first to the last bonus track, despite having listened to it over a thousand times since it’s been released in 1999.

    21 Jul 2007, 03:27

  8. I think it has much more to do with fad’s and fashion. The so called popular music that we listen to is only in fashion for a short time, therefore it has to be very simple to grab our attention and hence it only has a limited lifespan.
    If you listen to something that not so mainstream (Radioheads OK Computer is hated by so many people who don’t like Thom whinny voice or the layers upon layers of guitars) the music is much more complex and it takes longer to enjoy the album. Even more extreme is Kid A (where guitars were replaced by weirdness) which I didn’t like for ages after it came out. But I now think is one of the best Radiohead albums.
    On the other hand first time I heard Definitely Maybe, I loved it and I played it everyday for about a year. I now only listen to it occasionally and I find myself a bit bored with it by the time I get to the end. Its all so samey which was fine when that was in fashion by now its just a bit dull. The other Oasis albums I listen even less.

    01 Aug 2007, 10:32

  9. Oh, and to George. I thought that the difference with Classical music is that it much more about the performance of the piece and different peoples interpretations of the meanings behind the piece that set it a part from popular music (when the meaning is usually blatantly obvious or the music is meaningless)!

    01 Aug 2007, 10:36

  10. Aren’t depth and layers necessary to both allow performers to produce different interpretations and to effect each listener in a different way?

    01 Aug 2007, 11:50

  11. I think the ability to play songs over and over does contribute to the dejuicing of songs that are overplayed, but there’s a flipside to the musical revolution- ever since transferring the 9700-odd songs I have on CDs onto itunes and leaving it on shuffle, I’ve discovered so much music that had been slowly gathering dust on my shelves, music I got bored of years ago but, heard unexpectedly, suddenly sounds fresh and exciting again. I think the important thing is to keep it mixed up, and have some time off an artist if they’re starting to sound old. I used to be a sucker for the I-love-this-song-so-much-I’m-going-to-loop-it-all-week excitement, but I think shuffling’s a far better way of keeping your musical palate broad. That said, I’ve been avoiding U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ for three years now waiting for it to become fresh again, and it still hasn’t. Damn football….

    06 Aug 2007, 23:08

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