The right to party

Recently I’ve been listening to some 80s hair metal songs and it’s amazing how many are about just partying. I mean, songs are always about partying, but take these songs:

“Nothing but a good time” by Poison

“Rock and Roll all Night” by KISS

We’re not gonna take it” by Twisted Sister

“Fight for your right (to party)” by the Beastie Boys

Come on Feel the Noise” by the Quiet Riot

Just notice how similar they are to each other, both musically and in their message. Specifically, focus on the last three which are all protest songs that are remarkably similar to each other. Even the music videos seem to be kind of related. All of them involve kids saying no to adult restrictions on fun. These three songs were a big deal, and Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister was even called to testify before Congress on the appropriateness of lyrics in rock songs and the message they were sending.

Let’s not be naive, the controversy about lyrics in songs has NOT changed from the 80s until now, but something else DID, which is the targets that anger and adolescent angst are vented towards.

In the last three songs I listed, rock was concerned with the right to party. Was that right somehow in jeopardy in the 80s when Reagan and cultural conservatism was on the rise? I’m not sure, but if music is any indication of the state of society, then we must have moved past that era in a big way because pop musicians today don’t really focus on rebellion at all, much less rebellion related to partying (the most superficial and hedonistic type of social outrage). Even rappers who today express the grittier underside of modern day life (at least for some people) often talk about MUCH more serious issues than partying, like pregnancy, violence, and discrimination, but yes, also trivial topics like getting extremely rich (“I wanna be a billionaire” anyone?)

The point though is that maybe between the 1980s and now, kids won the “right to party,” so that today’s adolescents and young people are living in a post-party world.  I think this might be a very relevant and important development. Has partying in the sense that I know it from my generation, i.e., going out till late Friday night, getting drunk, doing drugs, hooking up, and then sleeping until late Saturday afternoon and then doing it all again, become an acceptable and socially institutionalized activity. I’ll say it again: has there become a socially recognized right to party and did my generation accept that right uncritically?

I don’t have a good answer, but I do think these sorts of blips of pop cultural data can lead us to appreciate just how different even FUN is from decade to decade. What does it say about our generation that we didn’t have to fight to party?


2 Responses to “The right to party”

  1. 1 Weigahtz
    October 4, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I find myself utterly outraged by your suggestion that partying and moneymaking are “trivial” ambitions, and somehow less “serious” issues than pregnancy, violence & discrimination. Disciplined industriousness & creative play are foundations of the wealth & progress of our culture – nay, of humanity. We need to encourage our post-party generation to really push the envelope in regards to both moneymaking & partying. There is meaning there; so much meaning, there is trust. What come to mind, respectively, are corporate internationalism and ARG. Post-liberation layering. Also consider Germany: big strides in children’s right to party. Glaring local issue: 2am curfew. Re-legislation needed. Endless summer demands endless struggle. WEISHAUPT!

    • 2 questionbeggar
      October 4, 2010 at 5:46 pm

      Thanks for the comment. No need to be outraged. I take your point about the importance of play and even of moneymaking.
      Two things. 1. my point was that there was a transition in the themes of pop songs, and that point does not depend on which themes are more important than others. Simply noting that something changed and that something could be of sociological importance.
      2. Also, in a real sense, moneymaking and play are less serious issues than discrimination because of how natural they are. No one needs that much goading to have fun and in most cases to make money (everyone wants fun and money at least in the abstract), but discrimination and teenage pregnancy involve our relationships with others, which is harder to get people to respect. Because they are more challenging, I labeled them as more important.
      You’re of course right though that entertainment and money are very important for the growth of a health society.

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