“Play That Song” is What is Wrong with Music

29 Apr

Play_That_Song

Yes, you read the title correctly. I’m over-generalizing, of course, but Train’s “Play That Song” is representative of what is wrong with music in 2017. It serves as the quintessential example of my gripe with modern musical laziness. Before I begin this tirade, let’s go back in time for some basis.

I am completely aware that music is a product of its time. The 50s, for example, provided the world with Doo-Wop and thus repeated simple chord progressions over and over again to much success. The 60s merseybeat model produced some similar sounding tunes that many bands reproduced. The 70s followed suit with arena rock and disco, the 80s with synth and percussion, the 90s with grunge and boy bands, and so on. That said, in each era, there were bands that utilized the common trope of the time and created new, genre-bending sounds that propelled music of the time to new heights, and these bands for super success. Today, though, the list of these type of bands has dwindled, and the music world is crowded with bands that serve up common music motifs that are, for the most part, potboiler dreck that vomits into the mainstream and corrupts the ears of the populace, that, of course, eats this saccharine garbage up.

Enter “Play That Song” by Train, a band that hit it big with songs like “Drops of Jupiter” (which I love by the way), dropped off the face of the Earth, and have recently made a tremendous comeback. Good for them. I’m happy for Train. I like Train. They are a pop band that pairs simple chord progressions with dulcet melodies and summery lyrics. You need that every once in a while. Train’s 2016 release “Play That Song,” though is a musical humbug, a deceptive ditty that has now reached Gold in sales and has sat at several positions on several music charts. The song is melodically lazy and takes advantage of the easily impacted ear of most listeners

Why do I feel this way; well, listen to the song.


Sound familiar? The song co-credits “Heart and Soul” writers Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser. It is spun as a modern take on the old Jazz classic, although the song does not do much differentiation from the melody. “Heart and Soul,” follows the well-known I–vi–IV–V chord progression. It is the classic catchy tune, and Train played on it. So, what’s my issue? It is lazy. Just lazy.

Hey, I have an idea. Let’s re-do an old catchy song into a new catchy song and release it to the masses who will inevitably sap it up because it is abiding by the same classic catchy idea that has been a proven money maker. And, Train has the audacity to title the song “Play That Song,” as if they are just laughing at the listeners, insisting that they put the song on repeat and continue to “Play That Song,” just like people repeatedly play “Heart and Soul” on the piano.

This just represents the least amount of work that can possibly go into a pop song; if it took Train longer than an hour to write the song, that is embarrassing. Train just continues to earn the reputation as a pop sinecure. Perhaps my censure is spawned from jealousy. The band may be genius. They found out how easy it is to make simple music that will make money. That said, this particular song is rubbish. Come on, Train.

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