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Why The Songs On The Radio Make Me Feel Old

There seem to be only two types of numbers on air and both leave me cold.

27/08/2017 10:12 AM IST | Updated 27/08/2017 10:12 AM IST
Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Random adults call me "uncle" nowadays and the offspring of several management school batchmates have started college. Also, my hair's begun greying, my lower back is occasionally troublesome, hangovers last longer, and Dr B recently warned of near-sightedness setting in. But it is not these usual intimations of age that have made me feel dated. For the dated feeling creeping in lately, I blame Hindi FM channels.

One sign of aging, the greying, I actually welcomed, hoping to be taken seriously by the world finally. Others, I have interpreted as consequences of an unhealthy amount of screen time (the eye and back issues), reflexive, possibly challenged vocabularies (the "uncle" mentions), and others' overly enthusiastic embrace of marital and parental bliss (the college-going kids). But how do I explain by inability to connect with what's commonly on air in the way younger folk around me do?

There is only one explanation that makes sense for my wariness of today's playlists. Their words and sounds tug at emotions that aren't familiar anymore.

It can't be a block about new things; I am comfortable with evolving slang and enjoy Netflix shows and the work of several of Bollywood's new breed. It can't be because I see preferences other than my own as evidence of fallen standards; I live under no illusion of being an arbiter of such things as standards and taste. There is, then, only one explanation that makes sense for my wariness of today's playlists. Their words and sounds tug at emotions that aren't familiar anymore.

Some (very) notable exceptions aside, there seem two major types of songs ruling the air waves:

1.The mopey romantic number: Let alone chronicles of betrayal or separation, even celebrations of love and the company of the beloved sound like languishments, carry the cadence of a whine. The likes of Arijit Singh and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan may have wider range, but the radio prefers them (presumably because listeners do) in dispirited mode.

2.The testosterone-loaded dance number. This category of song marries bhangra and rap beats, Hindi, English and Punjabi, speaks of virile gabrus and their soni objects, and is essentially a crude mating call. This, you would know unless you have been living under a rock, is the territory of Honey Singh and his clones.

What would explain the popularity of the whining and the boastfulness? Perhaps it's in the nature of the times where whines have emerged a signal of passion and ardour, where boasts pass off as creditable performances. For confirmation, look no further than social media, where love for the nation is asserted via cribs and dissing, where dubious information creates and polishes halos.

The mopey romantic number carries resonance with new mashooqs and ashiqs because it either ties into romanticised notions of the euphoric moments and monumental struggles that lie ahead, or responds to the need to self-flagellate to be convinced of their own sincerity.

But since time teaches that romance isn't be to fretted about but revelled in, that the true flavours of romance lie not in 'highlight' events but in their vast, everyday interstices, the mopey romantic number doesn't quite do it for me.

How does one connect to an unimaginative fantasy, however foot-tapping the beat it is set to, when one has known the joys of deploying one's own imagination?

The testosterone-loaded dance number, if anything, does less. The fantasies worth indulging in and the pleasures, sensual and carnal, worth pursuing, one has discovered in time, are lubricated by exercising what lies between the ears, not bragging about what lies below the waist. How does one connect to an unimaginative fantasy, however foot-tapping the beat it is set to, when one has known the joys of deploying one's own imagination?

At another level, one can look at things as part of a cycle. I suppose it was my enthusiastic embrace of R D Burman and Kishore Kumar and relative indifference to Shankar-Jaikishan and Mohammad Rafi that alerted family seniors to changing times. For others, it may have been the emergence of Rahman and the number of unconventional voices he introduced that marked the passing of the RD-Kishore era (the Nadeem-Shravan and Kumar Sanu years intervening briefly). The baton now seems to be moving again, suggesting yet another transition. I am an unwilling spectator this time.

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