It’s times like these I wish I were in a band

The other day I was talking to a prospective woman, having a conversation that was potentially portentous.

As a single man, 95 percent of conversations are just conversations. You’re either talking to someone with a utilitarian purpose (“So vehicle 1 was a southbound Ford pickup?”) or with no purpose at all (“I really like the new ‘tails’ design on the penny. It’s classy.”)

But the other 5 percent, those are the ones where a single woman weighs whether you’re worth continuing to talk to, and potentially dating.

One must tread carefully in these conversations.

The verbal intercourse I was in had been going good to the point I was encouraged — until I got asked the question I dread most.

“So, what kind of music do you listen to?”

I did well I think not to grimace visibly, but my mind raced for what to say.

“Oh you know. A lot of things.”

But the truth is, music is not an important part of my life. I have no CDs in my car; I listen to Top 40 when the signal strength cuts out on AM talk stations.

So of course I bungled the next part of the conversation, and not for the last time wished I was a musician or understood music theory, if only for romantic reasons.

But, being an opinionated and loquacious person, my lack of knowledge doesn’t prevent me from talking. I just have to talk about the music rather than talk about the music.

I am not at all knowledgeable about pop in itself. But I am fascinated by it.

It’s amazing the way things become popular. Usually of course, it’s obvious. There’s an industry devoted to designing and producing a product to be palatable to the maximum amount of people in order to maximize money.

There’s a song now, “Wild Ones” by Flo Rida featuring Sia. It follows a formula of an extremely catchy hook sung by a woman followed by rapping. I suspect it’s an entirely intentional attempt to give women something to sing to and men something they can feel masculine rapping along with while in a club or otherwise group environment. “Hip pop” seems predicated entirely on this formula.

But no one really understands it. The most musically gifted cynic can’t craft a guaranteed hit.

Even more strangely, songs not intended to reach a mass audience sometimes get incredibly popular, seemingly overnight.

One of the biggest songs in the world is Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” featuring Kimbra. It was released in July 2011, and didn’t really get popular until the last few weeks. If you were to ask why it’s so successful, I’d say it’s because it’s about something universally familiar: a former relationship that went from perfect ecstasy to pain and finally estrangement.

Also a xylophone. The catchiness of the xylophone can’t be overlooked.

It’s good, but a lot of things are good. Most don’t also become popular. It’s that universal truism that’s fascinating.

I wish that I actually understood music because as dated as Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones” will sound in just a few years, as ridiculous as the lyric “If I took you home it’d be a homerun” sounds now, the “Oo-oo-oo-ooh” that immediately precedes it is a moment of transcendent beauty that makes me glad to be a human with ears capable of distinguishing sound waves. If I didn’t understand English, I might think the hook was one of the greatest things I’d ever heard.

But I can’t explain why this is, especially to women, and that really hurts my chances in the 5 percent of conversations that matter.

 

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