songs for the new depression

“Canada’s king of creep.”

That banner headline adorns the front page of the “Me” section of today’s paper. The accompanying story is, surprisingly, not about the former host (and co-creator, his lawyers will tell you) of a CBC Radio show. Rather, it’s a profile of an overrated Canadian film director.

Presumably, the page was laid out before mid-week. Few will deny that Canada has since acquired a new king of creep.

And just in time for Hallowe’en.

(Yes, I spell Hallowe’en with an apostrophe. Old school.)

It was already shaping up to be an especially creepy Hallowe’en, what with attacks on our democracy — from within and without — and stuff. And let’s not forget the Ebola; though, now that it seems truly unlikely to wipe out the population of North America, it is naturally being relegated to back-page status. People are dying by the thousands, the press will acknowledge, but at least it ain’t here — unlike, say, the threat of ISIS, or ISIL, or whatever it is.

(Some, like Maclean’s, have opted to go with the snappier acronym, IS, which cannot be sitting well with the International Socialists. But then, not much sits well with the International Socialists.)

About the only positive news these days seems to be coming out of Markham. Yes, Markham. It’s right here at the top of one of my opened pages as I write this: Markham man finds “an unlikely testosterone booster”; Markham woman discovers a “simple wrinkle trick that has angered doctors”; Markham Mom similarly angers dentists with her “teeth whitening secret.” I’m not sure if it’s been said before, but it seems Markham, Ont., is the gateway to the future.

So at least there’s that. Looking for job opportunities? Markham is the place to create your own. But good luck finding a congenial doctor or dentist.

Oh, for a bit of escapism during this dreadful time. And, with the battle outside a-ragin’, there’s only one place to find it.

To popular music!

(Okay, perhaps U2’s new album decries the state of society. But I can’t say I’ve heard it. You?)

Join me, won’t you, as we troll the Top 40 for a sampling of what is truly on the minds of the public. Why, here’s Sweden’s Tove Lo, who deals with the weight of the world by staying high “all the time.” Evidently, the singer who successfully rhymes munchies with twinkies needs to stay high, in order to forget us. Fair enough. A regular George Jones for the 21st Century, she is.

Let’s see, what’s Taylor Swift singing about on her new smash single? Taylor Swift, it seems. Again, fair enough. Narcissism has always had a place on the charts — except, of course, for that curious 1980s period of philanthropic acts and benefit concerts and stuff. Most unbecoming behaviour for rock stars. Thank Swift that’s over.

Going down the list, we also discover that Maroon 5 is still around. I know, I can’t believe it either. Fortunately, they’re still singing about nothing of value. Indeed, one can select any song from among the current Top 40 and be in no danger of escaping from escapism.

As it should be. And, for the record, Meghan Trainor’s chart-topping All About That Bass is about as close to pop perfection as you’re likely to hear. And you’ll hear it a lot.

That is, until the latest Charli XCX classic takes over. “The beat goes on and on and on and on and Boom! Clap!” the British song-stylist informs us. Not as profound as her previous gem, in which she insisted, “I don’t want to go to school / I just want to break the rules.” But then, that was a tough act to follow. After all, the 22-year-old’s refusal to attend school means someone‘s tuition money — Possibly her parents? — is going to waste. All the while, Charli XCX boasts of “getting high and getting wrecked” (now two different things, evidently) and stuff. Oh, and of heading to the discotheque.

(The discotheque? Would that be before or after hitting the malt shop, Ms. XCX?)

Disposable? Irrelevant? I’ll have you know Pitchfork (Remember Pitchfork?) has declared Charli to be one of a handful of new artists boldly erasing the line between indie and mainstream music. It says here, for instance, that a major influence on her art is Siouxsie Sioux. True, I can’t imagine 22-year-old Siouxsie adopting the musical persona of a dope-smoking schoolgirl. But then, I don’t see Charli XCX sporting a Nazi armband and railing in song that there are “too many Jews” for her liking. So it could be worse. Perhaps Pitchfork can explain the subtleties of Charli’s Siouxsie fandom. I can’t.

The important thing here is that Charli, like her chart-topping colleagues, is the young generation. And she’s got nothing to say.

Just like, oh I don’t know, Maroon 5. (OK, they’re not as young as they used to be.) Or anyone else whose music you’ll hear on your favourite hit-oriented radio station. They may not be philanthropists anymore, but artists are still here to help. That goes for high and wrecked people, alike.

Small wonder 2014 has already been proclaimed (by A$AP Yams, no less) “the worst year in rap history.” Rap, you see, was once an ideal medium for an artist  desperate to get a few things off his or her chest.

No need for that now. These days, it’s about breaking the rules. In a conformist, apolitical sort of way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must return to the hits of today.

And not to reality.

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