Saturday, December 8, 2012

Songs of the Years (No, Not "Call Me Maybe" and the Best of fun.!)

As the curtain starts to fall on another year, here's a question about years in general: Why don't more of them spawn great songs?

I'm not talking about years and the songs that belong to them. Despite pop's continued diminishing value and the still-inexplicable rise of "Call Me Maybe," 2012, like most years, did produce an abundance, if not quite an embarrassment, of riches, from pretty much everything on Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel to any given song on any given episode of Nashville to all the 2013 Song of the Year Grammy nominees not sung by Carly Rae Jepsen and fun. to The Lumineers' "Ho Hey," my personal pick for the year's best single -- this weekend.

Right now, though, I'm stuck on years and songs that use them in their titles, like, say, Eurythmics' "Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)," named for and released in the last truly spectacular year in pop. Considering that we're now well past 2,000 years (and that's just after Christ!), why aren't there more decent songs about them?

Think about it. We've got songs for every day of the week: Morrissey's "Every Day Is Like Sunday," the Mama's and the Papa's' "Monday Monday," The Moody Blues' "Tuesday Afternoon," Tori Amos's "Wednesday," David Bowie's "Thursday's Child," The Cure's "Friday I'm in Love" and Bay City Rollers' "Saturday Night." And let's not forget Cherelle and Alexander O'Neal's "Saturday Love," the classic-pop standard "A Sunday Kind of Love," "A Month of Sundays" (actually, three of them!) by Don Henley and Vern Gosdin and the Church, Bangles' "Manic Monday," video costars Katy Perry's and Rebecca Black's odes to Friday -- "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" and "Friday," respectively -- and so many other tunes named after days of the week, including Stone Temple Pilots' "Days of the Week."

Months, too, have gotten their due in song: Barbara Dickson's "January February," Prince's "Sometimes It Snows in April," Bee Gees' "First of May," June Carter Cash, Drake's "July," Eric Clapton's August, Earth, Wind & Fire's "September," Pet Shop Boys' "My October Symphony," October Project, Wyclef Jean's "Gone till November," Morrissey's "November Spawned a Monster," David Gray "December," Collective Soul's "December," Taylor Swift's "Back to December" and the Decemberists.

"December" David Gray

But what about years? Being the supposed doomsday year, 2012 already has inspired a number of unnecessary tunes, but as a general rule, years are more likely to get name dropped in album and movie titles (like 1492: Conquest of Paradise, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2012 and One Million Years B.C., to name just a few of the latter). I suppose being that there are so many of them, one shouldn't expect each one to get a song.

Also, although they last longer, we don't form attachments to years the way we do to months and days. We celebrate the end of them with the biggest blowout of the, um, year, and go around talking about resolutions and fresh starts as if the next year is the only one that matters. Everyone has a favorite and a least favorite day of the week and a favorite/least favorite month. But as the years go by, how many of us stop and consider which ones were best and worst?

Actually, I have, though I can't say that enough of them have enough distinguishing features for me to give the four-plus decades I've lived through the best/worst treatment. My year of birth, 1969, stands out for the obvious reason. As for the other memorable ones, 1987 was the year in which I graduated from high school; 1991 was the year in which I graduated from college and moved to New York City; 1995 was old-school NYC's last hurrah and the year in which I really overdid the party-like-a-rock-star bit; 2006 was the year in which I left the United States; and 1978 and 1984 were just awesome years for music. The rest of them sort of blend together.

But not 2012. Frankly, I won't be sad to see it go. If the other years of my life were all distinctive enough to rank from great to worst, the last 12 months probably would be hovering somewhere just above rock bottom. At least I got to spend them in Melbourne and Bangkok, two of my favorite cities in the world.

And if said world doesn't end on Wednesday (oddly enough, the last day of the week for which I came up with a song title), I'll spend the rest of 2012 looking forward to putting it behind me on New Year's Eve and ringing in 2013 with a blank page (and resolutions, a fresh start and all those other January 1 cliches). But if whoever is in charge of music wherever I happen to be around midnight plays "2012 (It Ain't the End)" by Jay Sean featuring Nicki Minaj, I'm so calling it an early night.

Nine Years, Nine Songs

"New York Mining Disaster 1941" The Bee Gees

"1959" John Anderson

"1963" New Order

"Summer of '69" Bryan Adams

"1973" James Blunt

"1979" The Smashing Pumpkins

"1984" Tina Turner (David Bowie cover)

"1999" Prince 

"Years" Barbara Mandrell 

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