You must have seen them, all these smug ‘x versus y’ status updates, supposedly demonstrating that pop lyrics, and by extension youth culture, were better back in the day. Usually, ‘back in the day’ means 70s rock, but I’ve also seen the same format applied to Tupac Shakur, John Lennon and, er, 80s balladeer Richard Marx.
In each case the ‘classic’ artist in question is supposed to throw the modern day pop star into relief, revealing his/her lyrics to be shallow and lame. This is supremely irritating, not merely because it betrays an unpleasant, fogeyish sense of superiority to younger music fans. More importantly, it’s just dumb. Sure, Bieber and Minaj’s lyrics are simplistic and crass. But only in the sense that a proportion of pop lyrics have always been simplistic and crass.
Sure, Led Zeppelin wrote some sweetly crafted couplets. But they also wrote, “Squeeze my lemon til the juice runs down my leg.” More broadly, the 70s weren’t a golden age for high-flown lyrical brilliance. Naff pop acts existed then, too. The Bay City Rollers sold millions of albums. Iron Butterfly, the kind of ‘proper’ rock act Led Zeppelin fans would appreciate, wrote ‘In a Gadda Da Vida’, a song made up entirely of drunken gibberish.
The whole thing’s just so pointless. You could take any daft pop lyric from any era and compare it to a slightly more thoughtful one. It doesn’t prove anything. The only reason people keep sharing them is because, whenever they do, they get showered with Likes and shares from similarly slow-witted music snobs. Enough now!