OK. We’re going to talk about a band I don’t like, and I want to be careful to start by saying that if you do like this band - or any other that I don’t like – that doesn’t make you wrong, or dumb, or uncultured, or whatever other hurtful things music snobs like to say. It just means we have different tastes, just like everyone else on the planet. I am going to talk about specific reasons I personally can’t stand Train, though, so if that’s not something you’re interested in, well, read at your own risk, I suppose.
So Train is terrible. I’ve never liked them. Not their old stuff, and certainly not the garbage they started putting out after they re-invented themselves to be more in line with current pop culture expectations.
First off, a complaint I have about lots of pop music – they don’t write their own songs. I don’t honestly know why this bothers me as much as it does, maybe because I’m a singer who does write his own songs, your guess is as good as mine. But it’s not just that they’re not writing their own songs, it’s that the same few people are writing ALL of pop music, which is why it all sounds exactly the same, and crappy.
Espen Lind wrote most of Train’s hits from their new album and the production team called Espionage (the aforementioned Lind and buddy Amund Bjørklund) produced them. So no one actually in the band decided what words to say, what chords to play, what notes to sing, or what instruments should go where, that was all handled (even the lyrics) by these two guys who also happened to write the majority of hits for Chris Brown, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyonce, the Jonas Brothers, everybody! So next time you complain that all music sounds the same, know that these guys (and Max Martin… damn him) are the ones to blame.
Next Point! Train’s lyrics make NO sense, just none at all, it’s insulting how little logic there is to their songs, it would almost be better if they just said “La la la la” over and over again… and now I’m terrified that their next hit single will be just that… *shudder*
Let’s take their biggest hit – “Hey Soul Sister”.
Hey Soul Sister, Ain’t that mister mister on the
Radio, stereo, the way you move ain’t fair y’know
OK, so who’s mister mister? No one, it just rhymes and is easy to remember, that’s all. Did he forget if the song is playing on a radio or a stereo? Why does he need to say both? Because it rhymes and fits the timing. Who could forget his brilliant line about his heart beating “right out of [his] un-trimmed chest”? Who wants to picture this guy’s hairy chest? I’m guessing no one. This song also contains the line :
“So gangster, I’m so thug
You’re the only one I’m dreaming of”
What does that mean? Well, gangster means exactly what it sounds like, and so does thug, so what is he saying, she wears her pants around her ankles and goes on drive-by shootings over territorial infractions? No, again, these words just happen to rhyme and fit the rhythm. It’s like someone said “What kinds of words are kids using nowadays? Gansgta? Thug? Sure, we’ll throw those in there.” Their songs are FULL of garbage like that, someone says “What’s hot in pop culture right now, American Idol? Pirates of the Carribean? Sure, we’ll mention all those things, and then kids will think we’re cool, right? Right, guys?…” But none of this will last, 15 years from now (when the Beatle’s entire catalog is still as relevant as ever) American Idol will be off the air Pirates will be getting re-booted sansJohnny Depp, and no one will get their insipid little references, it will just make them sound that much more out of date and out of touch with the cool kids of the day. They sacrifice artistic integrity and cultural relevancy for a short-term flash in the pan style of popularity that will burn off as quickly as it flares up. It’s exactly what happened the first time they hit it big and then suddenly the trends changed and Train had to suddenly become a completely different band to fit in again.
They write (“write”) one song about never getting married and the next second write one about wanting to propose to a total stranger in a coffee shop. There’s no meaning, no feeling, no sincerity, no heart or soul behind any of the music this band craps out. Their songs are so interchangeable (because they’re all written by the same person) that they could easily have been performed by Enrique Iglesias, Chris Brown, One Direction, or any one of the dozens of other disposable pop performers littering the musical landscape.
That’s my biggest problem with them and a lot of pop music. No one sat down and said “I feel like crap, and I’m going to write a song about how terrible my life is right now to help me sort it out”, and no one said “I’m in love and I can’t contain my feelings so I’m going to put it in a song to express my love!” Instead, a group of people sat down and said “What’s our target demographic? 12-19 year old girls with lots of disposable income? Ok, what are they interested in? Johnny Depp? Being flattered? The romanticised version of clubbing they see in movies? Some of them want to get married? Some of them don’t want to be tied down to one person? Ok, let’s write songs about all those things and sell them to whatever band wants it and will pay the most.” It’s all about money. And while all of capitalist America is about money to some extent, there can be a balance of art and profitability, and the leaders of the modern music scene have swung so far over to the cash side of things that they can’t even see art anymore. It’s a remembered dream from a time before the bottom line was all that mattered to them.
I could literally go on for at least another thousand words, but I won’t. I can’t stand Train, they, along with all the other hundreds of corporate designed performers with their outsourced songwriting and catchy but ultimately irrelevant and painfully temporary “music”, represent everything that’s wrong with music today.
I personally don’t believe that record companies or performers can sustain the current business model of hyper focusing their attention on a small number of big-selling artists and then discarding them as soon as they lose profitability and some young performer is the new best seller, and I hope that the end comes sooner rather than later.