If you’re from today’s generation, you’ve probably already heard of the sentence “Today’s songs are meaningless” and its multiple variations. You’ve probably also heard of your parents, or other Generation-X adults, say, “Music from the ‘80s was the best.” But notwithstanding the error in the supposition that you can objectively compare music from different eras, let’s examine if there’s any truth to the wild claim that ‘80s music is better than today’s music.
In this article, I’ll take a sample of three songs from the ‘80s and another set of three songs from the recent years, and compare their lyrics, to see if today’s music is really meaningless or less meaningful than music from the ‘80s.
The first ‘80s song I’m going to examine here is The Police’s De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da, of which chorus goes “De do do do de da da da / Is all I want to say to you / De do do do de da da da / Their innocence will pull me through / De do do do de da da da / Is all I want to say to you / De do do do de da da da / They're meaningless and all that's true.” Now, although the lyrics were partly written by The Police vocalist Sting’s little boy, and is supposed to emphasize how powerful simple, repetitive, gibberish lyrics can be (which supposition is difficult to argue with), this chorus is repeated three times throughout the song, which has only twelve other lines for its verses and refrain. That is the same number of de do do do, de da da da’s in the song. Now, The Police can justify these gibberish lyrics however they want, but at face value, De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da doesn’t really hold up to standard, considering it was released in 1980, in the era which allegedly produced the best music.
Another ‘80s song with gibberish lyrics is the King of Pop Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, which popularly ends with the lyrics “Mama-say, mama-sa, ma-ma-ko-ssa / Mama-say, mama-sa, ma-ma-ko-ssa.” This pair of lines is repeated three times in the song’s outro between one-liner adlibs, and the rest of the song is itself repetitive as well. The meaning of these particular lyrics is fairly disputed, with some saying it is a tribute to the music genre Makossa, while others say it was simply stolen from Manu Dibango’s 1972 song Soul Makossa, which has the lyrics “Mama ko mama sa maka makossa.” Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, the two sets of lyrics look suspiciously similar. According to Genius, however, etymologists say that the lyrics are intrinsically meaningless.
The third and final ‘80s song we’re going to discuss here is Modern Talking’s Brother Louie. While the 1986 song doesn’t really have repetitive, gibberish lyrics as our two previous examples do, it is just, in my opinion, not a very good song. The song’s lyrics sing of a typical love story, with words like “Deep love is a burnin’ fire,” “Don’t let him steal your heart,” and “Forever ever.” The song just doesn’t really contribute much to music as an art. Its lyrics are, at best, forgettable. And with the song topping the charts in the 1980s, the claim that the ‘80s is the era of the best music is just, to me, outrageous. It’s even more outrageous to say that today’s music is meaningless, which is just a wild generalization.
As part of our sample of today’s music, I will take three hip-hop songs, since many of the same people who claim ‘80s music is the best like to criticize hip-hop for supposedly being one-dimensional. Now, let’s take Joyner Lucas’ I’m Not Racist as our first example of modern songs with meaningful lyrics.