I think I finally have the answer to the eternal question: “Oldies radio — threat or menace?”
I just watched the little kid on “American Idol” — the Poindexter teen rockin’ the eyebrows and glasses — and I feel like Simon. You can’t take a baby-faced teenager and have him sing “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” without having it come off like Bette Davis in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” the scene where she reprises her childhood act for the chubby pianist guy.
I mean, he’s 16 years old. He can’t sell a song about a cheating girlfriend. He hasn’t had one yet.
He had the same problem the girl last week did, the one who did “Because the Night” as though it were an anthem to her cuteness and not a rave-up about tragic young love. Did you listen to the words, hon? If Patti Smith had a grave, she’d be rolling in it. As it is, she probably gnawed her braid off.
That’s the problem with oldies radio. You’ve got kids who know every single note, who’ve heard it since they were in diapers, to whom the songs have become audio wallpaper, not cultural touchstones. It’s how great songs like “Respect” and “I Got You” got ruined. There’s a reason you don’t eat roast beef every night, you know?