Until now, music fans could hide their deepest, darkest secrets. The power to manipulate your public persona with music preferences was actually something that could be done in years past. Sure you were Indie Guy, Punk Rocker, Goth(lite) Cure Groupie, or raving Candy Kid to everyone who knew you. But, in private – in the quiet comforts of your home where no one was watching – and you sat watching tv or listening to music by yourself, you could shed the grunge flannels, the black eyeliner or the rave gear and listen to *that* song. You know the one. The latest bubble gum hook, the show tune that makes you cry, the anthemic love song that would melt icebergs, the musical equivalent of the latest celebrity gossip magazine – Remember those days? Musical Skeletons could remain hidden – locked inside that special place.
Those days are over.
Online music listening has changed all that, as playlists often populate personal Facebook timelines and expose carefully guarded musical secrets and fetishes. Life in the digital age has turned 15 minutes of fame into a lifetime of nakedness. Slacker not only understands this conundrum, we’ve decided to embrace it by calling on seasoned experts to take listeners on a journey through multiple decades and genres as they depict the top 50 songs deemed to be the most detrimental to the online personas of music fans.
Experts and pop culture mavens Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, authors of the best seller I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of Music Video Revolution, serve as our tour guides through Slacker’s “50 Most Embarrassing Songs on Facebook” station. And this isn’t just a station that ho hums through an ordinary list of your typical guilty pleasures and bubble gum favorites of yesteryear. Craig and Rob have used their expertise of music and pop culture to serve as masterful tour guides through a thought provoking countdown that embraces the fact that, while Facebook and social media provide an outstanding platform for music discovery and sharing, it is also the digital community that exposes us all.
We got a chance to talk with Craig and Rob about what this evolution of public personas means for music fans, how Facebook and social media have changed music, why they picked various songs and, after a lot of prying – what musical skeletons they keep tucked away in the closet.
Slacker: You guys are hosting the “Top 50 most Embarrassing Facebook Songs” station on Slacker Radio. This I am sure must come from some personal experience in the loss of your music street cred. So we must know – what are your most embarrassing music skeletons in your closet?
Rob: I am proud of the bad music I listen to as the good music I listen to. In fact, the bad music I listen to is pretty good and the good music I listen to is pretty bad. I am not hiding anything. I am completely naked.
Craig: One of the reasons I enjoyed curating this list is – I really don’t like the public display of EVERY song people listen to. There is music that I don’t like but nothing I would be embarrassed about. And, unless someone is displaying that they are listening to Neo Nazi music, I tend to think there is nothing to be embarrassed about…. No, I take that back. #1 on our list. If I saw someone was listening to our #1 Chris Brown – I would question things.
Slacker: I tend to think I would be most embarrassed by the fact that I secretly dance around my living room listening to showtunes may damage my street cred to my Facebook friends.
Rob: I just got an idea for a new ap. It would show that you are listening to Velvet Underground when you are actually listening to Hall and Oates.
Craig: Anyone of your friends who would look down on you for listening to showtunes is not worth being a friend.
Slacker: Your book delves into the golden age of music videos and how MTV shaped an entire generation. One of the things your list brings to light is the major differences between the MTV Generation and the Facebook Generation. What do you think are the major differences between the two in pop culture and music?
Craig: Rather than a major difference, I see the integration between online radio and Facebook is an attempt to recreate what happened in the early days of MTV. Back then, every time we interviewed someone they would say the same thing about its emergence. And that was “my friends would come over to my house every day and we would spend three hours together watching MTV.” So MTV was really a group viewing experience. It bonded you with your friends. You would collectively scream when your favorite video came on. You may have argued about other songs you did or didn’t like. But, it was something you all had in common. When MTV stopped playing music videos – people’s music experiences became more isolated. What Facebook has done is take over where that left off. Groups are larger now but the experience is still there.
Rob: The Internet and the way people listen to music now is, in my opinion, the opposite of what it was like with MTV. When MTV played music videos everyone just sat back and watched. Everyone was watching the same videos at the same time and that is why some of those artists from back then, such as Madonna and Bon Jovi, have the level of success they have now. Everyone was watching or listening to the same thing at the same time. Now, with Slacker and online radio, people can listen to whatever they want, whenever they want and on demand. No one ever has to listen to music that they don’t already like. It is a more active listening experience compared to the more passive one in the past.
Slacker: Ok since online radio really gives people the flexibility to only listen to what they want. And since the transparency of what we listen to is so public and what we listen to has such an effect on our online persona where one song can derail your hipster status- what sorts of songs do you present in “50 Most Embarrassing Facebook songs” do you think have the biggest effect?
Craig: Lets say you meet someone on OKCupid.com and think they are really cool. You dig a little deeper and go to their Facebook profile and see they just listened to “Crash Test Dummies’ Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” – that would be a deal breaker.
Rob: If all they listen to is emotional songs from the 90s, all I am going to picture is candles burning while they sit in a bubble bath and cry. I would imagine you read Nicholas Sparks and perhaps have too much of an investment in rom-coms.
Slacker: Any songs on the list you think would be surprises in the amount of embarrassment they provoke?
Rob: One of the things we really looked for was bad songs by great bands. For example, Craig and I really love REM. But, even the biggest REM fan in the world – especially the biggest REM fan in the world – knows that Shiney Happy People is a terrible song. The Michael Bolton’s and Celine Dions are too easy. We brought in some incredibly respected and revered acts, and make fun of them too.
Slacker: Clearly no one is safe from embarrassment. I have to ask again – music skeletons? You can’t be completely naked.
Craig: You first.
Slacker: I actually know the Shiny Happy People dance. Poison’s Unskinny Bop dance too.
Rob: I would be embarrassed about my adolescent fervor for Jackson Browne. His extreme sensitivity is a little embarrassing in retrospect. I was 14 though, so I had an excuse. But if you are a grown ass man listening to those weepy lyrics – you should be embarrassed.
Craig: I know the words to a lot of songs by Yes.
Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum understand the pitfalls in creating the carefully cultivated online images of the Facebook Generation. But, clearly they also understand, and are able to poke fun at, the evolution that has taken place from the humble beginnings of digital music during the MTV Generation to the scale it is today. This made the duo the perfect hosts for the station that celebrates our often embarrassing transparency and lack of separation between public and private personas.
Head over to the new station “50 Most Embarrassing Songs on Facebook” to hear what songs made the cut, what songs surprisingly didn’t, and what songs can tarnish your online reputation for good. Our digital footprints are naked. We may as well learn to live with it.
Make sure to also check out Craig and Rob’s smart and decadently entertaining journey through the golden age of music television: I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution.