When I did a college radio show many moons ago, I always felt that the “theme show” was a bit cheesy, over-obvious, and often a cop-out. There were always a lot of bad and/or obvious theme shows, anyway. A set of songs all about colors… or girls’ names… or with goodbye or hello in the title. You get the idea.
But this morning I’ve been opening my mind to the potential of the Theme Show by listening to Meghan McKee’s WFMU show Underwater Theme Park, which I believe follows a different theme every week.
This week’s theme is Why? Songs about why, asking why, beginning with why. Some of the songs that I have been listening to while grading papers:
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra featuring Peggy Lee- Why Don’t You Do Right?
Jack Wyatt and the Bayou Boys- Why Did You Let Me Love You?
Johnny Cash- Why Is a Fire Engine Red?
Hank Williams- Why Should We Try Anymore?
Wayne Hancock- Why Don’t You Leave Me Alone?
Reverend Horton Heat- Generation Why
The Bartlebees- Why?
Weezer- Why Bother ?
The White Stripes- Why Can’t You Be Nicer To Me?
Slick Rick- Why, Why, Why
Blakroc -Why Can’t I Forget Him
Ladytron- The Reason Why
Bronski Beat- Why?
As the playlist develops, it poses a meta-question about the essential role of the question in the pop song. The pop song as question, questioning, “Questioningly” (like the Ramones song – “aren’t you someone that I used to know/ And weren’t we lovers a long time ago?”). The pop song addresses us, begs and pleads like James Brown, grabs our shirt and demands an answer. But we don’t need to answer or respond in any way, we can just listen.