Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Contenders Series #40: FM Belfast - "Par Avion"

First, the song: 

I haven't posted a truly random internet discovery in quite a while, so here's one.  No Pitchfork love, no hype spiral, I have no idea where this song came from.  The band, it turns out, is from Iceland, which means:

(1)  They take their place in a long line of bands I like with totally nonsensical geographical references in their names (Air France, Architecture in Helsinki, I'm From Barcelona to name three quick ones, though I guess both Europe AND Asia would also qualify, so this phenomenon isn't totally isolated to good bands)

(2)  They are an excellent answer to the question, "Well, aside from Bjork, does anyone else live in Iceland?"

Other than that, though ... you know exactly as much about this song as I do.

Second, a random tangent:

In the car with Ilana, Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" comes on.  If you're not familiar with the song, it includes this lyric:

I'm in the room
It's a typical Tuesday night
I'm listening to the kind of music
She doesn't like

I'm not suggesting that Taylor has sketched out these characters to the extent that maybe a novelist would.  I'm not suggesting that pop music should necessarily stand up to this kind of a close reading, but ... what kind of music do you think Taylor is listening to right here?*

* My answer at the time:  "Norwegian black metal.  The kind of stuff where the band members burn down churches and have elaborate suicide pacts and get plastic surgery so they look more like gnomes."

The "cheerleader" stock character is a useful stereotype, setting Taylor up as the opposite of everything we hate about the popular set:  superficial, vapid, concerned only with appearances.  It's great pop culture shorthand:  you say "cheer captain" and we instantly already know ten other things about her.  She doesn't care about music.  She doesn't care about art.  She just listens to whatever's popular, whatever MTV and Top 40 radio tell her to listen to.

So ... the cheerleader almost definitely owns at least one Taylor Swift CD ... right?  Is anyone a more universally accepted pop star?*

* Chuck Klosterman wrote about this phenomenon a little bit, talking about the art and culture that necessasrily exists in a fictional world.  I forget what his exact example was, but it was something along the lines of "Has Harrison Ford's character in The Fugitive ever seen Raiders of the Lost Ark?"  The point is that, if you give characters in this song our identical pop culture, well ... the cheerleader probably sings along with this song when it comes on the radio, never even considering the possibility that it's about her.

From here, I guess you have to draw one of two conclusions:

(1)  The Taylor Swift character and her arch-nemesis cheerleader character actually listen to the exact same music, which means maybe they're not so different after all, which kind of destroys the premise of the song, or

(2)  Taylor Swift creates characters who don't necessarily like Taylor Swift's music.

Which ... deep.

Download:  FM Belfast - Par Avion

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Great post. I'll get back to you on the song... I hope.