It’s something that’s all around us. Everyone is caught up and defined by it. Yet it is almost never publicly acknowledged, let alone commented on. Let’s change that. We live in a world defined by class, organized economically and experienced socially. A properly functioning culture would reflect on that. So today’s post is all about melodic ruminations on class.
Songs about the poor? Sure, we got lots of them. But a few rungs up the social ladder is group we used to call the working class, the largest class by far in modern societies, and yet they rarely appear in the hit parade. A lot of it has to do with class bias – opinion leaders tend to look down on working people. This influences how people talk about themselves. For instance, compare Drew Neely and the Heroes “White Trash Girl” to The Ravines “Working Class Girl.” Both songs have great hooks but the former is embarrassed about a girl’s ‘white trash’ roots while the latter is searching for just the qualities that make his girl ‘working class.’ Needless to say, we could use a lot more positive songs about working class lives.
It is much more common to hear talk about the middle class. Apparently everyone from the Starbucks barista to a neurosurgeon belongs to this group, lodged between the rich and poor. Perhaps because it’s obviously such an ideological construct, we don’t hear a lot of people singing about them. When we do, they tend offer critical takes on the emptiness of middle class life. This is captured effectively in the manic poppiness of Indoor Pets’ “Middle Class.” Occasionally, artists focus on class privilege, like the withering critique of the double standard applied to white collar crime offered up on Fastball’s new single “White Collar.” When it comes to the middle class, it would appear the less said, the better. If people really started talking about it, it might become clear how inaccurate the term ‘middle class’ is as a description of most people and their situation vis-a-vis the broader class dynamics of western societies. Indoor Pets – Middle ClassFastball – White Collar
Which brings us to the rich. They too tend to fly under the radar. I mean, popular culture portrays everybody as sort of rich – big houses, fancy cars, kids going to Harvard or Yale. But the wealth differences between the upper middle classes and the uber rich are routinely obscured. For most people, it’s hard to fathom just how the rich the rich truly are and the influence they wield. I don’t think my song choices are going to help that much (even though they’re great!). Danish band Superheroes have an eccentric sound that never fails to be catchy and distinctive. On “Rich and Famous” an earwormy keyboard drives the song into your head like a melodic screwdriver while the lyrics recount the kind of class privilege that allows the wealthy to pine for love in extreme comfort. And then there’s Everclear’s more recent grungy yet hooky take on Hall and Oates’ classic statement of wealthy relationship indifference, “Rich Girl.”Everclear – Rich Girl
When it comes to class, it’s mostly class dismissed. But the few examples here show that you can have people humming about class distinctions, if you try. Click on the hyperlinks to show your classy side to today’s artists.