The Music Box: Human Nature By America (1998)

America Human Nature

Picking one disc out of a box and giving it an uninformed listen!

I haven’t had the best luck with The Music Box selections. Schleprock was pretty mundane pop punk and Joseph Arthur’s And The Thieves Are Gone… wasn’t my thing, but I did really enjoy Gas Giants. This week’s selection, though, was straight-up awful. I don’t think I’ve ever cringed or wrinkled my nose so much while listening to a record ever. In fact, I probably would have just called it quits with this one, thrown the CD away and moved on, but I wanted to keep the column going for this week, so here we go.

As with all the other posts so far, I didn’t do any research before listening to this record which might be the most “adult contemporary” thing of all time. I knew the name America and after a song or two, realized it was probably the “A Horse With No Name,” band, but didn’t confirm that to be the case until I looked them up on Wikipedia. Even with that classic song in the past, I couldn’t enjoy this record in the present.

Maybe it’s because this is just not my kind of music, but I could not escape the idea that this record was one of two things: one, a bad attempt to copy some kind of new wave folk formula to get Baby Boomers grooving or, two, an incredibly sincere, yet clueless attempt. I kept thinking of David Brent from the original Office. He really thinks he’s doing great things, but it’s clear to the audience that he is not. There was just something about this collection of songs that felt a little too put-on and manufactured, but I can’t quite place why and I’m not listening again without a good reason (ie a paycheck).

Most of the slow burn, jangly nonsense could be written off as a once-prominent band growing old with their audience, but then you get to “Hidden Talent” and things get super creepy. Two lines into the song, one of my musical sins gets committed when an adult man refers to anyone but his daughter as “little girl.” It’s sung in that Michael McDonald-ish, easily mocked kind of voice that usually devolves into throaty “Bur bur bur bur-bur-bur-bur” any time you do an impression of it. So that tipped me off to some grossness, which made me look up the lyrics.

A basic listen might indicate that this is just a guy trying to tell a young lady that she’s got a lot of potential she just hasn’t tapped yet, but I’m thinking this song is about a creepy old dude who wants to tap a young lady, revealing her true sex potential in the sweaty process. It goes from “I’m just trying to make you understand/All the ways you can affect this man” in the first verse to “Hidden talent (hidden talent, yeah)/Affair without warning/Hidden talent, mmm (mmm).”

Seriously, there’s no other way to read this song’s intent. Had that “little girl” portion been excised from the proceedings — as it should have been — I would have gotten a less intense predatory vibe. If this song is just a guy singing to a lady his own age, it’s not so bad, but you’re primed for an age discrepancy right from the beginning and just when you think it might be more of a mentor-y song, then you get “affair without warning.”

Alright, I’m done thinking about this record for the rest of forever.

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