Dear Soundtrack of My Life,
I’m writing this letter to discuss something that’s been on my mind lately but was pushed to the forefront last Friday while driving home from work. You know what I’m referring to. It was the moment I stopped the scan on the radio and turned up Cyndi Lauper’s “Time after Time.”
While at first glance it seems this was purely my own decision, I feel the responsibility for this incident lies squarely with you, Soundtrack of My Life, because we both know it was that quintessential ‘80s pop sound I remember from my childhood that made me stop in the first place. There was little to no irony involved, and that’s what troubles me.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that my birth falls exactly on the line dividing Generation X with the Millennials, which turns my memories of the 80s into something resembling a Polaroid picture—fuzzy, a bit underexposed, but you can definitely see I was there. I can understand this poses problems for you concerning how much weight to give music from that time period. I’m old enough to legitimately remember Ms. Lauper’s song coming from a radio station playing “today’s” hits. And I know I’m the one that played air guitar to “Abracadabra” and told my parents I was going to start a band called Milkweed. I’m the one who perfected the on-stage pole vault using a broom as a microphone while singing to Huey Lewis and the News. And I know that when “Time After Time” came on last Friday, this former small-town boy was driving on a rural two-lane road buffered on both sides by corn fields, returning from a high school football game where my job is to capture in photos that most ritualistic marker of small-town life.
But I’m just gonna come out and say it—80s pop music sucks. It sucks so bad and so hard compared to the wealth and variety of music that has come out of the past 19 years, it’s hard for me to even comprehend. Sure, not all of it is bad. Talking Heads were cool, as were The Cure. But what the hell happened that made everyone think the synthesizer was the pinnacle of human invention? Why did that horrible, empty, tinny synth sound have to be in every single song? Why did everyone suddenly dislike the bass guitar? And speaking of “Time After Time,” is that a synthesized cymbal in the background or is Ms. Lauper taking sandpaper to her leg warmer rack?
So in closing, Soundtrack of My Life, while I know that 80s pop music must ultimately be a part of the playlist, I’d like to see most music from that decade relegated back to ironic kitsch or have us at least agree on a few sentimental favorites (“Money For Nothing” springs to mind) and call it good. I’m still kind of pissed about “Mambo No. 5” (you know exactly what I’m talking about) and I’d hate for this to be our unraveling.