... / by laurel

To preface this, don't even get me started on the myriad of things wrong with KROQ. I'm just going to say it, because in what follows I must do my best and restrain myself from following that rabbit trail, which would undoubtedly lead to me sobbing uncontrollably while pounding my fists on the floor, so DON'T EVEN LET ME GO THERE, okay?

And let me also preface my preface with this: I don't even know why the following subject should even be given the time of day. I think I'm just bored. So let that be known.


In a string of events that may or may not begin with my aforementioned fear and loathing of a certain radio station (that may or may not rhyme with K-ROQ. Or, in fact, may or may not actually just be K-ROQ), and are also directly linked to the fact that I spend at least 2 hours of every day of my life in my car (that's 728 hours, not counting traffic accidents where the average time is exponentially longer, or random road trips where, by virtue of being mostly pleasurable experiences, don't really count as time spent in a car)...

Where was I?

Oh, yes. So in a string of events that I can blame directly on A) traffic and B) K-ROQ, I spend way too much time scanning the radio for tunes to feed my insatiable hunger for the perfect life soundtrack.* For some reason, as I chase those elusive gems all over the radio (the Beatles, the occasional Floyd, anything that reeks of indie-rock arrogance, and, okay, occasionally Kelly Clarkson), I keep running smack into That Kid. That Kid, of course, is the kid in the pool, on the playground, in the street, who--for whatever reason be it unfortunate genetics in the reflexes department, or an over abundance of happy meals, or what have you--is just in your way. You're running, hellbent for Tag! You're It! or Goose! or MarcoPolo! or whatever, and this kid is just clumsily in the way. You collide with a shockingly dense THUD and where you were once flying across the asphalt on your way to playground Victory, you are now a tangled pretzel of skinned knees and bruised egos on the pavement with That Kid.

And okay, I may have been That Kid from time to time, so I can empathize. But still.

In this case, That Kid is the song that you just can't escape. Every station seems to be playing it with irritating frequency, as if the zombie-like radio-listening public morbidly feeds on its sonic waves for survival. And to its credit (and it's a credit of + .00001 on the scale of negative 3,000, mind you), K-ROQ has never played this song. All the same, I'd likely suspect The Rapture as the culprit if I went through an entire day without hearing this song at least three times.

So transport yourself with me, if you're willing (and you've made it this far, haven't you? So you really might as well), to my car. You're in traffic. The cars are inching forward with grating precision (we can't accept defeat and just stop, no, we must press on, even if we are going at a rate of four miles per hour), and you're methodically beating your head against the headrest of your forgiving (and ridiculously hip) Volvo. Sadly, this is real life--the minutiae, the nanoseconds, the overwhelmingly banal everydayness of it all. And over the radio you're aware of the plaintive British whine of James Blunt as he opines, "You're beautiful. You're beautiful, it's true."

If you're anything like me, you roll your eyes and flip the station because, honestly, who pines away like that? It bears about as much resemblance to reality as JLo (circa 2001) reminding us all that she's still Jenny from the Block, but we can't see her because we are momentarily blinded by the colossal glare from her giant diamond bling. (Yeah, I just said 'bling,' I know. I know).

But, what's this? I flip the station and again, there he is! "And I don't know what to doooo, I will never be with youuuu!" Part of me really just wants to buy this guy a drink and pat him on the back.

But here's the thing. James Blunt represents not an entire subculture of Lovelorn Guys Who Just Can't Catch a Break, nor is he the spokesperson for Poetic British White Guys who Spin Perfect Romantic Lyrics Like They Were Grandma's Afghans. No, James Blunt occupies none of these specialized spheres. James Blunt isn't your Everyman. He's not your John Cusak. Or even a poor man's Chris Martin.

And yet, females everywhere (and, I suspect, a few males as well), are clearly lovedrunk on Mr. Blunt's particular brand of lyrical drivel. The reasons behind this are, quite frankly, beyond me, but I can probably trace it back to our culture's insatiable hunger for the never ending orgy of fake love songs currently running wild on the billboard charts. What is it about "My life is brilliant, my love is pure. I saw an angel, Of that I'm sure," that convinces anyone anywhere that this bears even the faintest reflection of reality?

I should note, of course, that I'm not cynical. Because when I blast Mr. Blunt for bearing no resemblance to reality, the reality I'm speaking of isn't a bleak, arid landscape of hopelessness. However, it's not Angels and True Love on (predictably) a Subway, either. And yet I feel the pulse of the public's wounded heart beating fervently in this amorphous, irrelevant fantasyland where lonely British guys are strumming their guitars and writing shallow love songs just for them. My problem with this song (and this could be the whole point of this post, who knows) is that it completely polarizes and simplifies how infinitely nuanced and complicated love (or even like) actually is. When I choke down another tasty morsel of Bluntism in the form of "You're beautiful. You're beautiful. You're beautiful. It's true," I can scarcely handle the overprocessed artlessness of it. On the other hand, attempting to understand the ever-present relevence when E.E. Cummings speaks of 'such small hands,' I am reminded of the delicate distinctions, the layers and layers upon layers of implications that good writing lends to the all-too-real reality of Love. Capital L.

But far be it from me to criticize the public for its deferential acceptance and hopeless embrace of pop-culture Love. My point is this: blast it in your lonely apartments with the vanilla-scented candles burning. Smear the salty tears across your cheek as you weep along in your cars. But don't, for one second, expect that this sort of sentimental fiction is going to be galloping your way any time soon. And if you need (as we all do) to feel the sting of someone else's pain and frustration, at least experience it through the filter of a song whose lyrics are honest. (And if you think I'm stupid enough to offer up my own biased, sentimental and hypocrisy-tinged picks, you've got another thing coming...I may be venting here, but I know when to keep my mouth shut).

But if you're really wondering, I'm listening to Casimir Pulaski Day by Sufjan Stevens.

*I could just burn a whole bunch of CD's and never, ever have to listen to the radio ever again, but this is not a perfect world. Because I could also be superfit and running a 3 hour time in the LA Marathon on saturday, but again...I'm not. This world is not perfect.