Throughout history it seems that artists accurately recorded the mood of the time whilst also predicting what the future offered for the masses. Traditionally though, nobody ever listens to the crazy artist guy who has probably just been drinking too much Absinthe again and maybe much of this blame can be placed on the infamous Nostradamus who had the uncanny ability to predict events that only become crystal clear after the event has occurred.
The works of George Orwell are rightly debated by people in chunky sweaters in this world littered with CCTV and everybody knowing what you are doing in every minute of the day and who could forget the self-fulfilling prophecy of Buggles singing “Video Killed the Radio Star” for the MTV generation.
The zeitgeist of the modern digital world increasingly points to the fact that we have stopped talking to each other and we are all too busy staring at screens, the technology that was supposed to bring us all together is actually building a great divide as the increasingly hairy bohemians or hipsters will have us all believe. This in itself is somewhat ironic and makes me ponder at the thought of some sort of future split in society that consists of hairy cave dwellers and pristine digital natives dressed head to toe in Hollister.
However there seems to be a growing number of songs from our musical elders who seem more than a little annoyed that we are spending more time staring at screens than actually conversing with each other.
Word Starts Attack by Johnny Marr
Godlike genius and Johnny Marr whose guitar work in The Smiths, Modest Mouse & The Cribs to name but a few has seen a thing or two in his life and this song finds Johnny Marr stating how electronic media creates and kills relationships. He told NME: “I had this idea of how we get together and un-together in the digital age. People split up through text messages, meet up using pixels, fall out and confront each other with keyboards and touchpads. Screens are replacing faces and hearts. I’m not arguing for or against that, I’m just observing it.”
Wake Up the Nation by Paul Weller
The modfather does not suffer fools gladly and still has a little teen angst running through his veins despite his mature years and spits “Get your face off the Facebook and turn off your phone.” He also famously told the Independent April 24, 2010 “It’s strange that people my age spend all evening on Facebook talking to their ‘friends’. Why not go down the pub? A guy once came up to me at a gig and asked me if I had MySpace. I said, ‘This is my space, and you’re invading it.‘”
Deep Blue by Arcade Fire
Way back in 1986 a chess playing super-computer called Deep Blue developed by IBM defeated grandmaster Garry Kasparov. This song is about the triumph of technology over humans and maybe hey who knows, maybe this Skynet really already has become self-aware.
The lyrics to Deep blue offer a quite unsubtle warning to mobile obsessed users.
“Put the cellphone down for a while
In the night there is something wild
Can you hear it breathing?
Put the laptop down for a while
In the night there is something wild
I feel it, it’s leaving me”
Kasparov losing to an IBM called Depp Blue in 1986
Grasp and Still Connect by Paul Weller
Paul Weller really could be the “John Connor” of our time, of course you not be permitted to look at the modfather, speak to the modfather or speak to him unless addressed by the modfather but he has a few wise words to share through the medium of song.
Weller explained on his website: “It’s about how technology is meant to get us greater levels of communication, but I’m not convinced. Its silly things like not talking to a conductor when you get on the bus – you buy a ticket from a machine. We’re If forgetting how to talk to each other.”
I Want the Heartbeat by Johnny Marr
Paul Weller is going to be our very own “John Connor” then the deputy leader of the resistance against technology then Godlike genius Marr is happy to oblige but he will do it with a little humour.
Johnny Marr sings here about a Lottery winner who ditches his wife for an ECG machine.
He told the UK redtop/comic and purveyor of boobies The Sun: “I know, it’s mad isn’t it? I was thinking about how technology rules our lives. ‘Have you got the new iPhone 5? Which laptop must I get?’ And I was thinking, ‘What’s the ultimate technology you’d buy if you did win millions?’ So I thought of a guy who gets rid of his wife for sexual kicks with the heart-rate machine.“
Marr told NME: “As a musician, it’s hard to avoid technology. I don’t like that gadgets can be the boss of me for even one second, but they often drag me away for hours.”
Placebo by Too Many Friends
Brian Molko goes straight for the kill in the opening line of Too Many Friends singing “My computer thinks I’m gay. I threw that piece of junk away.” Although he openly admitted to Kerrang! Magazine, “What a ridiculous way to open a song, right. It’s such an ear-catching lyric, but it walks a fine line. I knew it was so out-there and ridiculous, people would love or hate it. That seemed to embody the spirit of Placebo really well, so it presented me with a conundrum: ‘Can I do this? Do I have the balls to do this?’ So I tried to be courageous and remain so.“
However the chorus perfectly illustrates the problems of modern life and the constant demands of social media in the chorus
“I got too many friends too
Many people that I’ll never
Meet and I’ll never be there
For I’ll never be there for
Cause I’ll never be there.”
Aracade Fire by Refelktor
People are now busy collecting thousands of friends on Facebook but how many of these can be classed as close friends is the burning question. Win and Regine are quick to point out through the medium of song that actually connections that are made through technology are impersonal and we end up seeing more of ourselves than of the other person.
You have connected, but in reality you’re just looking into a mirror and tuning into your own opinions and actually trapped in our screens (a “prism of light”)
Anyone that remembers the beauty of truly connecting with someone only to now found yourself sat close together but miles apart inside staring into screens will appreciate the lyrics.
“We’re still connected, but are we even friends?
We fell in love when I was nineteen
And now we’re staring at a screen”
Damon Albarn by Everyday Robots
Ever since Damon unleashed the song Country House on the UK to win the hearts of the UK from Oasis during the Britpop years, he has desperately been trying to payback for his former sins by bringing more cerebral material to our attention. To be fair all debts were wiped out after Under the Westway but Damon is a very considerate and generous lover of music and the song Everyday Robots perfectly sums up anyone that suffers a daily commute to the office.
“We are everyday robots on our phones,
In the process of getting home.
Looking like standing stones,
Out there on our own”
The elder statesmen of music have spoken and sent out a clear warning message which basically consists of “stop staring at a screen and pay more attention to your fellow humans” Will we all listen? Of course not, this is the way it’s been since the dawn of time, we all ignore the generation before so maybe making out with our operating system like Joaquin Phoenix in the movie Her is where we are heading after all, which just might be another prediction coming to a reality near you very soon.