Friday, March 20, 2009

One Hit Wonder Or One Hit Blunder

Today's Subject: "Life Is A Highway" by Tom Cochrane

Ahh, the summer of '92. I remember it well. I discovered Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains. I was in love with Karyn Bryant and Duff on MTV. Guns N' Roses and Metallica toured together and Montreal was ripped to shreds. Most importantly, Life Is A Highway was on MTV almost every hour. Minus the Yo! MTV Raps and Headbangers Ball hours, it was one of those songs that was hard to escape. Sometimes, this isn't a good thing.

From the opening harmonica to the moment that the title comes into play, this is just one of those songs that serves as a key track to any soundtrack for buddies traveling on the road pondering their middle aged existence while crossing off things on their bucket list. On top of that, the song reeks of feel good, life is awesome sentimentality. If Paul Haggis wrote a song devoid of racism, the will to give up, or some other mixed message, this is what he'd write.

The song has managed to live for the last 17 years due to commercials and various covers, one of which became a hit for Rascal Flatts. The simplicity and message behind the song is part of the reason the song is and was popular but is that really a good thing. Simplicity in music can result in some awesome music, sometimes influential even. Tom Petty writes simple, catchy songs and they're great songs. This, however, is a case simplicity doesn't mean good, catchy or interesting. It's just there. It's like the antidote to Grunge that you didn't really need but were given anyway, something poppy enough to grab your ears but with enough guitar so that you'd have an excuse to like it.

Great for sing-a-longs on long car journeys with your buddy.
Memorable chorus.
Continues to have a shelf life through covers and TV ads.
Became a bigger hit when covered 14 years later.

Gives people an anthem to make them feel better about life.
Instead of soft-loud-soft vocals, it's mostly soft-loud-loud with the lyrics shouted more than sung.
It's a pretty annoying song sung by frat boys, country singers and road tripping friends.
The video is pretty lame.
A pretty dull song that really doesn't go anywhere and is only memorable because of the chorus.

I call it a blunder. In all my years, it's probably the only highway I'd rather not spend anymore time on if I can avoid it. In fact, I'm getting off this highway now.

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