Show support for music with good lyrics

Published 9:38 am Friday, May 22, 2015

“Have you heard that new song, ‘Honey, I’m Good’?” I asked my wife at the end of a long day of work. I had first heard it weeks ago listening to an online radio station while running and reheard it today on my way to pick Sera up from work. It’s a catchy little tune with an addicting, upbeat sound that will likely push it to the top of the charts, a first for artist Andy Grammer.

Who is Andy Grammer? I confess to not recognizing his name, but my wife did. She immediately started humming one of his tunes, “Fine by Me” that I recognized pretty quickly and a quick YouTube search revealed him as the singer of “Keep Your Head Up,” another fairly well-known track. Apparently this up-and-coming artist I thought I was about to reveal to my spouse was already well-known and I was just late to the party.

But why am I writing about him? His new song is doing something I haven’t heard done in a long time. He is singing about being faithful to the person he is committed to, and he is singing it to a fun, upbeat jam. As uncool as I may feel sometimes, this song definitely registered on the cool spectrum while maintaining a positive message for our culture. That’s pretty rare.

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I’m often disappointed in the lyrics being produced by the people in charge of manufacturing pop culture. We’re often stuck with highly sexual lyrics that exist to push the envelope just a bit further so you get attention. If we’re not hearing something blatantly sexual or referencing drug use, we’re getting lyrics that are ridiculous. The current No. 2 song on the Billboard charts is a song called “Trap Queen” (after reading the lyrics, I still don’t know what a trap queen is), and features the line, “I be in the kitchen cookin’ pies with my baby.” What? Perhaps I’ve aged-out of the demographic this appeals to because I literally have no clue what this innuendo means. I’m left to assume it is literally about him and his girl cooking pies. Why would any care about that?

My wife recently shared a news article with me revealing the lyrics topping the charts average at a third-grade reading level, and the general trend reveals we’re seeing the reading level lyrics are written at as going downward. We can do better.

With so many current hits popularizing behavior I personally disapprove of, Grammer’s single was a shock to hear. I doubt it requires a high reading level to understand, but the concept of the song was different than what I’ve currently been hearing. The premise is about a guy out on the town when a girl shows interest in him. His response: Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve got somebody back home that I’m going to stay true to.

It’s simple. It’s the logical response that I like to think most people would give in that situation, but it feels so rare for someone to embrace their commitment in musical form without it being in a ballad format that pulls at the heartstrings. After a few repeat listens, I stumbled upon the music video and grew to love it even more.

Featuring couples at various stages in their relationships, the viewer is treated to people proudly displaying their commitment to one another, showing off the amount of time the couples have been together while lip-syncing the lyrics. Ranging from a few months to 71 years, you see exactly what commitment can look like. I loved it.

What’s my takeaway? Good music with a good message can still exist and succeed in the music industry, and I’m going to support it. Our culture is shaped by what we purchase, and our purchases can lead to decision making. I think we need to support more music like this instead of filling our brains with art that leads us down a path we don’t want to go. Maybe Andy Grammer’s song isn’t your cup of tea, but I’m hoping you’ll at least value the concept he’s putting out there. It’s a worthy one.

I don’t think anyone really expects mainstream music to change its format. Sex and drugs have been selling quite well for a long time now, and if there’s a market, it will continue to succeed. It’s not worth our time to combat that trend, but it is worth our time to show that other music sells too. Grab a copy of the Billboard charts and find your favorite song that doesn’t have questionable morals based on your worldview. Share that song with someone. Take the time to spread positivity.


Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.