Music died long ago

Originally posted on Spontaneous Verbal Diarrhoea, September 2006.

I discovered a while back that there’s no point whatsoever in listening to the radio if you feel like some music. Every station plays the same set of songs on heavy rotation, and they’re all entries for the country’s “Top 40”, which, supposedly, is determined by how many people decide to make Sony or Apple that little bit richer. This is the part I don’t understand more than anything.

Now some may argue that my musical taste may be only just above that of a heavily sedated kipper, when you take in to consideration that I’m quite willing to sit and listen to my phone play Earthworm Jim’s rendition of Night on Bald Mountain, but I look at this so called “Top 40” and I honestly can’t see a single song, or “artist”, that I would want to listen to other than playing through a loudspeaker pointed directly at Osama and his cronies. That’d get them out of the cave, for sure.

It was only this morning, reflecting on work that the penny finally dropped. I contributed a radio to the office with a view of increasing morale (a practice considered taboo in those days), and when it was just me and Dan in the office listening to LBC (one of the London talk stations) was quite the entertaining pastime. However this would soon change whenever any engineer entered the office, and the request to change to Radio 1 came faster than a cabby’s klaxon when the light turns green. I would then mentally prepare myself for 6 hours of non-stop hits (and painful ones at that) and DJs with the personality of a meatball commenting on how much Cheryl Tweedy had to drink in the past two weeks.

But one positive side-effect to this torture was the fact that visits from the bigwigs decreased rapidly, and anything to avoid managerial intervention the in the day to day running of the office is probably to be considered a step forward (albeit it across a bed of nails). Not that the input from those individuals is entirely useless, for at times it can prove quite invaluable insight in to all manner of topics (like the reason hot tea will actually cool you down, or the release of an important bug-fix addressing the same problem as last month), but for the most part anyone with any office background will agree that when all is said and done we work better when left alone.

Which leads me neatly back to why the “Top 40” is so full of trash. Not every office has a radio, but all of them have an internet connection, and there’s always someone on the team who spends a large portion of their day downloading the latest chart hits and proceeds to share his findings, quite beyond the call of duty, with his or her co-workers (whether they damned well like it or not). So the more a song will cause general management to cringe and run in fear, the better it will do in the charts.

Maybe a song that has a techno vibe to it and lyrics that include such lines as “no-one fills out there TPS cover-notes any more”, “it’s my code and I’ll put flashy lights in if I want to” or “don’t let the server go down on me” would stay at the top longer than Gnarls Barkley. Still, it makes me feel better about my music, because it hasn’t made it into the charts yet, and by the looks of things that must be a good sign.

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