I have a love-hate relationship with KNHC, Seattle’s local “dance music” radio station. Well, honestly, it’s more love-love (though that fact alone induces in me no small amount of self-loathing). The music these guys play is to street cred what plaque is to tooth enamel, and yet I can’t help but tune in from time to time. C89 was, after all, voted “Coolest Radio Station” by my graduating class in high school (narrow edging out K-Plus FM), and is one of the first frequencies I recall listening to on a regular basis, as I alternated between 89.5 on the FM dial and 1600 on the AM (RIP, KJET*). Given that C89 adopted the “dance music” format in 1983, it’s fair to say that I’ve been listening to them for a quarter century now. Ugh. In retrospect I really wish I hadn’t done the math on that one.
The nice thing about C89, though, is that they only have 15 songs in the rotation at any given time, so you can keep up-to-date with their playlist just by listening for a few commutes every other month or so. I did so yesterday, and was treated to a new ditty by Madonna & Justin Timberlake:
Apparently–and this will no doubt surprise you as much as it did me–Madonna and Justin only got 4 minutes to save the world, only got 4 minutes, wika wika, 4 minutes. And I hear this song and think, “wow, that’s a powerful and socially-relevant message they got there, as they are no doubt referencing the Doomsday Clock and are rallying their young listeners to the cause of greenhouse gas reduction, reminding them that climate change is at pressing and urgent issue that threaten catastrophic destruction if left unchecked.”
Honest to god, I thought all that.
To confirm my hypothesis, I checked songmeanings.com when I got home, to see how others interpreted these lyrics pregnant with symbolism. Here is a smattering of the speculation I found:
Does anyone know what this song is about? It makes absolutely no sense.
I think its pretty meaningless, just about dancing in a club ("Grab a boy, Grab a girl").
There is simply no meaning to this song. Justin Timberlake wrote some of it, so that's no surprise.
Simply just about lust or some crap like everyone sings about nowadays.
isn't it "we only got four minutes to SAY THE WORD?" i have no idea why the would say save the world.. that doenst make sense.
How is old is Madonna already? Like 70? And JT is still only in his teens? Hello! With all the female 40-something teachers having sex underage boys, you'd think Madonna and JT would be more responsible!
well if they only had 4 minutes to save the world, i guess we should all be dead right now, cuz this song sucks -_-
Oh. Uhh, okay. Perhaps I overanalyzed.
See, but here’s the thing: back when I was your age, every third song on C89 was on the theme of IMMINENT APOCALYPSE, typically of the nuclear variety. If a song entitled “4 Minutes to Save the World” had been released back then, you can bet that the subtext would have been, “LOL there’s no way to save the world sike.”
And it wasn’t just top 40 radio, either. In the 80’s, the idea that we were one flock of geese away from Fiery Death From Above permeated pop culture, from television to literature to video games to comic books to movies and movies and movies.
But you have to sit down and watch a television program, read a book, travel to the theater to catch a film. Pop music was everywhere, and served as our perpetual Harbinger of Doom back in the 80’s. One minute Bobby McFerrin was urging you to not worry and be happy, the next Sting was musing aloud as to whether the Russians loved their children too. (Confidential to Gordon: Apparently they did–more so than Americans it seems, as they at least did not subject their youth to your terrible song).
And so, a muxtape for you. Relive those halcyon day when we all thought we’d die. Or, if you are a younger reader, experience them for the first time–they were a blast!