I spent the better part of today inside a shopping mall. That bastion of capitalism isn’t what it once was, let me tell you. When I was a kid, I used to love visiting Sam Goody, where I’d flip through the racks of CDs. I remember there were posters for new albums up by the register along with a big whiteboard that outlined the next four weeks worth of releases. In an age before the Internet, that whiteboard was sometimes the only way to know if a band you liked was about to put out a new record.
But I digress, this post is about music and not music stores. I went dress shopping with my kid sister and my mother. While they were in the dressing rooms of several large department stores (I won’t name-names, I don’t want to embarrass anyone) I sat in that sad corner of the store. You know what corner I’m talking about, the one with the plush but still uncomfortable chair. The corner tucked away behind the picked-over sales rack. Beyond the deep discounts, far from the front door, I sat and played with my iPhone.
After sitting there for a few minutes, I noticed the noxious music playing overhead. It was upbeat and pulsating, yet very non-threatening. Energetic but dead. There was also something vaguely familiar about it, but I couldn’t place any of the artists or the songs I was hearing. That’s pretty rare for me, usually I can at least tell the artist if not the actual song. Intrigued, I fired up my Shazam app. What I found was worse than I could have possibly imagined.
The first song that I tagged was by a band called The Dining Rooms. I did a little research and found out that The Dining Rooms are an Italian band who play a dull mix of electronic jazz. They derive their name from the fact that the music they create is meant to be something played quietly at a dinner party. This music is essentially white noise for elegant dinning. I can’t think of anything more offensive, artistically, than music designed to fill in the gaps between dinner pleasantries. How do the people in The Dining Rooms sleep at night knowing that, if they do their jobs correctly, people will pay their songs little to no heed?
This really disturbed me. The songs seemed to be a mix of this bland, meant-to-be-talked-over generic electric jazz and what I would call “wuss-rock.” While not made by women, Wuss-Rock is always meant for them. It has all the elements of normal rock music, but the handsome yet strangely effeminate singer usually over-emotes over a bed of pro-tools infused guitar and mechanically hollow drums.
I’d never heard of Josh Kelly or his song “20 Miles To Georgia” but I could have sworn I had. He sounded a bit like Josh Groban, Jason Mraz, or even a castrated John Mayer. The song wasn’t good or bad, it just sort was. I can’t remember anything about it other than the fact that it seemed overly earnest and packed with more emotion that the lyrics seemed to demand.
I guess this vague familiarity is what department stores want. I suppose most people don’t really pay any attention, so why spend the money for Josh Groban when you can get a sound-alike who’ll pass? As if going to the mall could be any more depressing, they have to barrage us with this soulless pap.
For full disclosure, it wasn’t all bad-I must admit that I did like “It’s Amazing” by a singer named Jem. Of course, I might have liked her so much because she was a palate cleanser of sorts for the dreadfully boring Dining Rooms.