“Rocket” (Smashing Pumpkins)

Limitlessness denied. Similar to ideas from both Nikolas Rose and Jean-Luc Nancy, freedom, which comes with the free disposal of rights, is presupposed by both a State and psy- discipline; the result for singer: he “couldn’t stay free.” The human body becomes a projectile, hurling into celestial emptiness (instead of into another) to be rid of “those voices in my head.” Ingesting love and consuming hate becomes the necessary fuel to attain escape velocity. The catch: “no more lies” assumes that once future being emerges, the true, sovereign subject will materialize. The irony not fully realized—here or there.

 

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“New World in the Morning” (Roger Whittaker)

Here, it’s preferable to speak of a “new world coming on” rather than a “new world in the morning,” and the difference seems to stop just short of an ideological edict. After all, it seems to be lexical and not conceptual. Things, as they do, get thorny. The narrator’s arrogance—why even sing a song about something so self-evident?—seconded by the testimony of an old man with a decades-old dream: we will banish the diurnal in the name of the cataclysmic. The latter “comes,” and you can sense it. Shed your dreams of change within your serial existence and enter the realm of “thought,” which is divorced from the quotidian and assumes immanence. A possible response could begin with a worry: if yesterday and tomorrow are banished, how could one be mindful of (and ethical toward) difference?

 

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“I, Will Wait” (Pere Ubu)

Sky and sun are our brutish limits. But training your gaze toward the ground may be more rewarding, if only for the lack of some pay(off). Imagine a city—any city—with both the apotheosis of civilization and its requisite nadir simultaneously on display for all to see. In its “cracks” and “in the seams of the world,” there are “secret scenes” or stagings that produce no “doubt.” Orient yourself toward “practicalities,” which are “possibilities” for those that live close to the earth. Commit to imagining perfectibility and “wait,” resisting the labor of literal realization. Set your “I” to “idle,” and will yourself to live downward. Transformative orientation.

 

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“With Arms Wide Open” (Creed)

Grammy-winning natal futurism. Hopeful father on birth day envisions the difference that will come, in time, alongside subjectivity unfettered by hate. Title’s prelude to a hug also foreshadows enclosure: education through smothering. The singer’s “one wish”: the son doesn’t turn out “like me.” In love with (tortured) creation.

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“Old Age Pension Check” (Roy Acuff)

The invention of social security “turned this country upside down.” All forms of needless striving dissolve: “drug stores will go bankrupt,” because people will feel well, and women will no longer need “cosmetics” to lure a husband. The attempt, today, to privatize the system is premised on our interest to “own” our own future; concerning this, Bush Redux says: “we’ve got to understand the power of compounding interest, the importance of savings, and the beauty of ownership in the American society” (3/1/02). But Acuff had hoped for a “second childhood” in which responsibility wasn’t premised on possession.  Otherwise, we’re all just going back to work (on our leisure).

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“Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” (Doris Day)

Corporate pop music’s 21st century message to young women is easy to parse: (1) you are great just the way you are (you are beautiful, no matter what they say!); and (2) you can achieve anything you desire (you are a firework!). You are an amazing being of unlimited potential–a perfect, undetermined sort capable of perfect choice. This is called “empowerment.” But only three score ago, in the mid-1950s, Doris Day was singing to her young daughter: I don’t know if you’ll be “pretty” or “rich.” Indeed, I know nothing about your future, which is absolutely sealed (both opaque and certain). You may wind up in the gutter, or you may die young. It’s possible that there won’t be a “rainbow” in the sky tomorrow, which tinges the trax with Cold War anxieties (the Soviets had tested their first H-bomb in 1953). The phrase, “que sera sera,” is polyglot, and finds first use in English as a sixteenth century heraldic motto, forecasting, at least, a certain shielded defensiveness.  In short, and “tenderly,” “what will be will be,” and you can’t fight the future. The (tauta)logic is unimpeachable: tomorrow, one can always claim that “what will be” was. At the joining of such faulty realism and our own fantasies of empowerment, however, there must remain fate and chance, entwined, each the condition of the other’s possibility.

 

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“Litany (Life Goes On)” (Guadalcanal Diary)

Life, for sure, goes on. And not necessarily in a set of repetitive devotions. In one way, think Whitman’s “uncut hair of graves” that eventually become “mother’s laps” for us all. And born into a life, it’s understandable to wish for an alternate, infinite identity projected into past and future. This claim to/of the past, small as it is here, voids itself as mortality serves to fertilize now and for the (unforeseeable) future. “Surprise” grows, “voices” contribute, we will be “all together,” and the song we sing is “ever-growing.” Pulsating and throbbing, the track still conserves its energy and maintains a managed growth investment strategy. Escape hatch: an “ever-changing song” with no particular place to go.

 

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“Verlier Nicht Den Kopf” (Deutsch Amerikanishe Freundschaft)

Literally “do not lose the head” and, in racier terms, don’t stay buried. Of course, “closeted” comes to mind, related to the inverse: the convincing conniving of staying “forever young” and unblemished. The figure behind/below this twink-ish character (who’s pocked by longings of ornateness produced amid a (arrested) futurism) demands a controlled willfulness. Stay young for this future’s/relationship’s burial and emerge willing (never ready).

 

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