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music friday: schlock

Jody Rosen has a piece on Vulture that is getting a lot of attention, titled “In Defense of Schlock Music: Why Journey, Billy Joel, and Lionel Richie Are Better Than You Think.” I had an instant knee-jerk reaction, especially when Rosen spent the first four paragraphs talking about my bête noire, Journey. (Side note: I’m listening to a Spotify radio station of 1980s music while I write this, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” just came on. Do I give it a thumbs down?) But … it’s a great article, and as much as I’d like to, I can’t really argue with Rosen’s opinion that “there is no more flaming schlock purveyor than … Bruce Springsteen”.

Rosen adds a list of the 150 greatest schlock songs ever. Which leads to this week’s Music Friday: some of my favorites from Rosen’s list.

2. Prince and the Revolution, “Purple Rain”. Rosen reminds us of the importance of hot-shit geetar in power ballads.

11. Elvis Presley, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”. There are so many to choose from out of the King’s massive catalog.

18. Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive”. I never really thought of many of these songs as being “schlock”, but it’s possible I’m defining “schlock” as “I don’t like it”.

23. The Four Tops, “Reach Out I’ll Be There”. For me, this really helps make Rosen’s case. It’s one of my all-time favorite songs, but Levi Stubbs’ singing and the track’s production are schlock. I get that, now. Just look over your shoulder.

27. Bruce Springsteen, “Thunder Road”. “Jungleland” would be the more obvious choice. “Thunder Road” is the first song we saw Bruce perform in concert, back in 1975.

50. The Shangri-Las, “Leader of the Pack”. Again, I might have gone for a different choice (“I Can Never Go Home Anymore”), but Rosen’s chosen a good one.

51. Tammy Wynette, “Stand By Your Man”. “There’s no mistaking a singer as forceful as Wynette for a doormat.”

65. Johnny Cash, “Hurt”. Not sure how this fits here, even with Rosen’s comments.

74. Katy Perry, “Roar”. I know why this is here.

78. Foreigner, “I Want to Know What Love Is”. Started with a power ballad, ended with a power ballad.

And, ah, what the heck … when I finally gave in: