Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon
sacredspud

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Shiny. Happy. Annoying.

I swear, all of my posts will not be about work, but can I just vent for a second here?

I'm putting in overtime at work -- which is absolutely the best way to spent a Saturday evening -- and the Muzak system is playing Shiny Happy People by R.E.M.

Now, I've never had any real enmity toward this song, but I've never particularly liked it, either. I must have discovered it when I was eleven or twelve years old, shortly after it came out, and right about the time I was discovering R.E.M. Even at that young and unsophisticated age, I considered it a pretty insipid sentiment, but it was fairly catchy. I have since come to understand that the lyrics come from a Chinese propaganda poster. I vaguely remember seeing the video on MTV, along with the vastly better video for the vastly better Losing My Religion. A couple of years later I found a used copy of the album Out of Time at the local head shop, and bought it. I listened to it a lot during high school, but I usually skipped Shiny Happy People because it's just not a great song.

Some years ago I had the occasion to listen to a music professor and his psychologist wife expound on the glories of R.E.M. for about 40 minutes. I'll spare you the details (mostly because I don't have the music theory background necessary to reiterate them), but the short explanation is that R.E.M. was naturally predisposed like to creating the kind of sounds that human beings like. They said it was inappropriate to compare R.E.M. to, say, the mathematical complexity of Bach, but R.E.M.'s chords and counter melodies and polyrhythms were worthy of study in a way that most popular music is not. This probably explains why R.E.M., while never a favorite of mine, seems to have more amazing songs than any other band that I don't really care about.

Uh, where was I? Oh, anyway, my attention has been wrenched back to Shiny Happy People recently because they play it over the Muzak system (it's probably not an actual Muzak-brand-Muzak-system, but whatever) at work. And the loop of songs they use seems to be pretty short. I hear it at least a couple of times a day. I had a similar problem with Santa Baby a few years ago. I have come to the conclusion that there's some interesting stuff going on in Shiny Happy People, but at this point I don't care if I never get a chance to analyze it again.
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