I always have to stop myself when I say I like “all kinds of music”. Because, honestly, that just isn’t true, there is really only one kind of music I like. No, not [just] Black Metal, I’m talking about music in a minor key. I mean, I’m a pretty happy guy, but there is something about sad, sad songs that just does it for me. I don’t dislike Vivaldi’s “Spring” and “Fall”, but I far prefer “Summer” and “Winter” (guess which seasons he writes in a minor key). “Satisfaction” is a fine song, but I’d rather listen to “Paint it Black” any day…you get the idea. Basically, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t go that sting [of soul crushing sorrow and sadness].
This month on minor key monday I’ll take a look at one of my all time favorite eurotrash songs, Kraftwerk’s Radioactivity:
Sure, I use “eurotrash” to describe everything from Rammstein to Madonna, but I basically just use the term to describe heavily synth based, “bad-pop” (yet sorrowful) music that sounds like it was a reject from the Bladerunner soundtrack. And I think it’s pretty safe to say that Kraftwerk fits that bill.
The song I’m looking at today is from Kraftwerk’s fifth album, 1975s Radio-Activity. I can take or leave the rest of the album (major key–meh), but the “title track” Radioactivity is just pure eurotrash awesomeness. Like last month’s Minor Key Monday feature, this is also a minimalist song with the melody alternately played on two chords (with a brief foray into third later in the song). Out of these three chords, only one is in a minor chord. This is an interesting thing about using the minor third, over half of the song is in a major key, but it is still completely infused with a melancholic sadness throughout because of that opening minor chord that the song continues to come back to (the high note is the minor third). After all, it obviously isn’t the lyrics that make the song sound sad (aside from the post apocalyptic overtones…and the implicit morbid irony of Marie Curie’s death):
Is in the air for you and me
Discovered by Madame Curie
Tune in to the melody
I’ll probably keep including lyrics for future Minor Key Mondays, but you can see why I could give a shit what a band sings about. After all, having a song be “about” a specific something is a relatively recent inclusion into the world of music and I personally think they are the least important factor in a song “feels”. And Radioactivity “feels” frickin epic (in a melancholy way) from the opening repeated Minimoog synth notes to the final fade out. It feels so far ahead of its time (beyond the 10 years or so it actually was) it is almost futuristic. It looks forward to a future where instead of mist-covered forests, the horizon is filled with (mist-covered) dystopian cities. A future where instead of hope there is only a bittersweet, melancholic longing for what once was. Kind of a bummer, sure, but pretty frickin epic too.