Home > blogging for Britain > Who are the mysterious dark forces in charge of the background music we hear?

Who are the mysterious dark forces in charge of the background music we hear?

elevator musicA couple of weekends ago I went to the cinema with my family. As we sat waiting for the trailers to begin, eating some reasonably priced and nutritious popcorn, it was impossible to ignore the soundtrack that accompanied the consumption of our vittels. Impossible for two reasons: first, the ear-splitting volume; secondly because of the absurd choice of music in question.

Now I have nothing against Belinda Carlisle (although back in 1987 I would have been tempted to make a crude double intendre here), but quite what the youth of 2012 have done to deserve having ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’ blasted at them while waiting to see Skyfall is a mystery. As I considered this, Belinda’s track was succeeded by the altogether more troubling sound of Huey Lewis and the News’ ‘Hip To Be Square’, the lyrics of which might as well be in Swedish for all they mean to anyone born after 1990.

I understand that some music – the oeuvre of the Beatles, Stones, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, Elvis etc. – is regardless as timeless and classic, and to quibble with hearing tracks by those artists in public places is redundant. But who in Cineworld’s head office has decided that “Bad Music From the 80s” is just the kind of thing that we want to hear in public places? What happened to the last 25 years?

I am genuinely puzzled. Someone, somewhere, is deciding that this soundtrack is either appropriate or desirable. It’s neither. You may be puzzled by my irritation, but do you know anyone who would hear the first few bars of ‘Hip To Be Square’ and think “Great! I love this song”? For your sake, I hope not.

The 80s seem to exert some weird stranglehold over our taste, as if this was some sort of golden age in pop culture. I was there: it wasn’t. Surely anything from pop culture that doesn’t stand the test of time should be relegated behind current music that won’t stand the test of time, at the very least. Or, alternatively, the choice should be made from songs that have aged well and artists whose credibility and status has grown since.

In short, I am now in my 40s. If I am in a public place, populated mainly by younger people, I want to be listening to something incomprehensible and current, so that I can say “What on earth is this racket? I feel sorry for kids these days if this is what they have to listen to”, and my children can roll their eyes at me. Instead, I found myself singing “Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey” by Modern Romance the other day. Now you can see why I need this to change.

There you are Cineworld, there’s your brief. Now get on with it.

Categories: blogging for Britain
  1. boingster
    December 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    It’s because it costs them virtually nothing to play the songs. This is because public space royalties are not based on frequency like radio royalties (as it’s too difficult to track), but instead are charged on a flat rate based on radio frequency. Essentially this means that a song getting no radio airtime will cost nothing to play out in a public space. So unfortunately you’ll be stuck with whatever is not popular whether you’re in the cinema, a swimming pool changing room, a lift, or a garden centre. I sympathise, but Huey still is a legend… just be thankful it wasn’t Dire Straits B-sides.

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