Cultural Commentator

The Year’s Best/Worst Song and the End of Sincerity

Cultural Commentator

The Year’s Best/Worst Song and the End of Sincerity

Typically when an utterly laughable song enters our browsing orbit, and they do so at an exponentially higher rate than ever, we shuffle rapidly through the stages of grief on the way to reestablishing equilibrium in our larger cultural organism. Viral joke songs are like a parasite that takes a few days to digest before we expel it back into the meme-y evolutionary muck whence it flippered-forth, and then we never think about it again.

Shorter: the internet.

And so it went with “Game On”, by First Love Band, the most adorable, probably-racist family of probably-insanely-Christian family bands to break out of that admittedly limited genre this year.  It is, without a doubt, the last example of sincerity I can remember experiencing on the internet.

The song was released, or unleashed from its dungeon for an hour of exercise, depending on how you look at it, all the way back in March, a more innocent time when we still believed all sorts of crazy things, like, say, that Rick Santorum might actually be considered a viable candidate for the Republican nomination. Well, we didn’t believe it, you and I, but these girls did, or at least they thought they did, and that breaks my heart in a way. In the best way, actually.

You’re familiar with the steps that one goes through in a situation like this, I’m sure.

Shock and denial: This can’t be real. Hahaha, look at these idiots. Quick everyone, let’s go to the internet to point at the rubes.

Pain and guilt: Oh my god, this is so bad, why am I watching this, why am I sharing this? Everything is awful, I used to enjoy good things, not revel in the horrible.

Anger and bargaining: Maybe if I dig deep and start working toward a culture where we can all appreciate and value the work that deserves to be celebrated then we won’t spend so much time on dreck?

Depression and loneliness: I’m never going to do that sort of thing am I? What’s the point?

The upward turn: Maybe this isn’t so bad after all. Maybe this is actually good? Is this good? Do you guys like this as much as I do? Maybe it’s just me, but this is kind of fun.

Acceptance and hope: This is good. I know it is good. There will be hope in our nation again.

And that’s the point where the contemporary irony overload sets in and we convince ourselves that we always did like something that we had no business liking in the first place. To put it in other words, Kreayshawn.

On its face, it’s a perfectly lovely bit of prettily-harmonized sundress-core country-pop. But, as I wrote when I first discovered it, it helps if you completely disregard the lyrics. It also helps if you block out every single other member of the family besides the two star daughters. Could just be me though, I’ve always had a bit of a thing for whackadoozle conservative chicks.

But strangely, I never forgot about the song, even long after its shelf-life as a meme expired, and my lady and I would find ourselves singing it to each other back and forth over the months, then going back to watch it again, never sure if we were laughing at them, or laughing at ourselves, or, and this is a little crazy, sincerely enjoying the song on its face. It’s competently played and written, and the girls, Camille and Haley, who have, wisely, broken off from dad and the rest of the gang on newer material like this banjo-and-harmonizing Taylor Swift-lite “Aint Your Fool”, have a genuine charisma that is literally devoid of pretense, (never mind that they look like an Aryan master race poster girls with the perfection standard toned down a few levels.) Playing at being a dork in order to grasp at some false sense of sincerity is tired and see-through at this point, but to not even know that you’re a dork in the first place, and just going ahead and doing what you want anyway? There isn’t much realer than that.

Sincerity is dead. Long live sincerity.

This is literally the opposite of the plague of believe in yourself self-affirmation dreck that shit-smears the cheeks of the nation’s children with false-aspirational messages like “that’s what makes you beautiful” and “you’re perfect.” When was the last time you saw a band, or anything on the internet, for that matter, where you could say that you actually believed that they believed in what they were doing? That it wasn’t cynical demographic-net-casting, or a meta-stunt, or a retro-baiting cover, or jerk-off swag posture, or third generation meme-chasing, or a click-bait hoax, or model-gaze, or twee-faux-double-meta irony, or celebrity stunt-casting, or an artfully designed nostalgia-cash-in, or rape-culture shitheadedness, or Kickstarter-performance art, or a retread of a retread, or Skrillex, or blog-hyped nothing, or stadium-rave apocalyptic wasteland blandness, or cool dad-jeans rock, or whatever it is we all conspired to do to Kitty Pryde.

If you need a reminder of how stark the contract is between a song like this and the rest of the cultural playing field, just listen to this mash-up of all of the hits at once from the year, which, of course such a thing exists. You were always already expecting it to arrive any day now, right?

In a year of Lana Del Rey, and Kreayshawn, and Rihanna, and Riff Raff, and Childish Gambino, and Grimes, and their multifold offspring, birthed, Zeus-like, from their titanic meme craniums, it seems impossible that such a thing as sincerity could exist anymore. To abuse Auden, we sit at our laptops, uncertain and afraid, as the clever hopes expire of a low dishonest year, waves of anger and fear circulate around the internet, and darken our cultural souls, obsessing our consumer habits, the unmentionable odor of death offends the December night. But here, this song comes, showing its affirming flame. When everything else around us is saying no, this song says yes, and that seems like a revelation.

 

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