The Dark Side of Tiddlywink

JoeM's picture
Submitted by JoeM on Wed, 2006-08-02 02:42

Tiddlywink music: "Rand used this term to refer to lighthearted popular music that she enjoyed. According to Leonard Peikoff's description of it, "Tiddlywink music was basically turn-of-the-century popular music of which there is no equivalent today. Completely joyful, but unserious, unheavy, light-hearted, fast rhythms ...".

Rand called this music lighthearted, but some may call it "wussy." There may be no stylistically exact equivalent, but according to a recent AOHELL list, there are at least 111 "wussiest songs ever." This is interesting in some ways. On one level, I can think of quite a few wussy songs, if wussy means wimpy. And I'd have to look at bands like Nirvana for starters, and songs of the slacker "whiner" emo-navel gazing genre. Nobody wants to hear a wussy. But what disturbs me about this list is that many of the songs are considered wussy because they are heartfelt, according to AOL, and are "completely joyful, but unserious, unheavy, lighthearted." In this list is also the implication that men who listen to such music are automatically wussy. (Though I wouldn't expect Arnold Schwartzenengger to flutter around the room with a baton.) What I suspect is really behind the list is what Rand discussed in "Bootleg Romanticism" from THE ROMANTIC MANIFESTO, positive values in our culture cannot be expressed without a wink of irony. For example, the song "Season in the Sun" by Terry Jacks is included for being "impossibly cloying and irony free. Ironically, it was also one of Kurt Cobain's favorite songs." Impossibly clying is a value judgement, and I share the sentiment about something like, say, Lawrence Welk. But Irony free? The song is given a special note because of Kurt Cobain, rock's biggest wuss, professed love of the song, Cobain's own lyrics being irony laden. This is exactly what Rand was talking about in THE ROMANTIC MANIFESTO, a Twilight Zone episode where beautiful sentiments are considered outcasts by pig-faced cynics. The same envy that condemns James Bond for not lauging at himself.

Thank you, AOL, but I'll take "Daydream Believer" and "Something Tells Me I'm Into Something Good" anyday over your fucking smarmy Jeanine Garafolo-Ben Stiller-irony laden sense of humor anyday.

111. 'Do I Make You Proud' - Taylor Hicks (2006)
110. 'Seasons in the Sun' - Terry Jacks (1974)
109. 'Kiss Me' - Sixpence None the Richer (1999)
108. 'Wonderful Tonight' - Eric Clapton (1977)
107. 'What Hurts the Most' - Rascal Flatts (2006)
106. 'Break Up to Make Up' - The Stylistics (1973)
105. 'First Day of My Life' - Bright Eyes (2005)
104. 'Dancing in the Dark' - Bruce Springsteen (1984)
103. 'Daydream Believer' - The Monkees (1968)
102. 'People Are People' - Depeche Mode (2006)
101. 'I'm Into Something Good' - Herman's Hermits (1964)
100. '(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight' - Cutting Crew (1986)
99. 'Don't Cry' - Guns N' Roses (1991)
98. 'Against All Odds' - Phil Collins (1984)
97. 'Butterfly' - Weezer (1996)
96. 'I'm Not in Love' - 10CC (1975)
95. 'Hero' - Enrique Iglesias (2001)
94. 'Silly Love Songs' - Paul McCartney (1976)
93. 'Skyway' - Replacements (1987)
92. 'Mandy' - Barry Manilow (1974)
91. 'Angel' - Shaggy (2000)
90. 'Oh L'Amour' - Erasure (1986)
89. 'I Honestly Love You' - Olivia Newton-John (1975)
88. 'I Knew I Loved You' - Savage Garden (1999)
87. 'Open Arms' - Journey (1982)
86. 'Don't Take the Girl' - Tim McGraw (1994)
85. 'Hey There Lonely Girl' - Eddie Holman (1970)
84. 'Crash' - Dave Matthews Band (1996)
83. 'You're the Inspiration' - Chicago (1984)
82. 'I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman' - Britney Spears (2001)
81. 'On and On' - Stephen Bishop (1977)
80. 'Friday I'm in Love' - The Cure (1992)
79. 'The River' - Garth Brooks (1991)
78. 'Lovin' You' - Minnie Ripperton (1975)
77. 'Scarborough Fair' - Simon & Garfunkel (1968)
76. 'To Be With You' - Mr. Big (1991)
75. 'I Need Love' - LL Cool J (1987)
74. 'I Want To Know What Love Is' - Foreigner (1984)
73. 'I Do (Cherish You)' - 98 Degrees (1998)
72. 'I'll Make Love To You' - Boyz II Men (1994)
71. 'Iris' - Goo Goo Dolls (1998)
70. 'Crying in the Chapel' - The Orioles (1953)
69. 'You Had Me From Hello' - Kenny Chesney (1999)
68. 'Let Me Hold You' - Bow Wow (2005)
67. 'Kites Are Fun' - The Free Design (1967)
66. 'Burn' - Usher (2004)
65. 'Our House' - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)
64. 'I Just Called To Say I Love You'- Stevie Wonder (1984)
63. 'Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want' - The Smiths (1984)
62. 'Time in a Bottle' - Jim Croce (1973)
61. 'Babe' - Styx (1979)
60. 'Too Shy' (1983)
59. 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight' (1975)
58. 'Bad Day' - Daniel Powter (2005)
57. 'She Believes In Me' - Kenny Rogers (1979)
56. 'Vindicated' - Dashboard Confessional (2004)
55. '(Everything I Do) I Do It for You' - Bryan Adams (1991)
54. 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' - Peter Paul and Mary (1969)
53. '2 Become 1' - Spice Girls (1996)
52. 'How Deep Is Your Love' - Bee Gees (1977)
51. 'Tutti Frutti' - Pat Boone (1956)
50. 'I'm in You' - Peter Frampton (1977)
49. 'Hero' - Mariah Carey (1993)
48. 'Just the Way You Are' - Billy Joel (1977)
47. 'Puppy Love' - Donny Osmond (1972)
46. 'Hip to Be Square' - Huey Lewis (1986)
45. 'Don't Give Up On Us' - David Soul (1976)
44. 'Invisible' - Clay Aiken (2003)
43. 'Annie's Song' - John Denver (1974)
42. 'When I'm 64' - The Beatles (1967)
41. 'You've Got a Friend' - James Taylor (1971)
40. 'God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You' - *NSYNC (1998)
39. 'With Arms Wide Open' - Creed (2000)
38. 'Alone Again (Naturally)' - Gilbert O' Sullivan (1972)
37. 'So Sick' - Ne-Yo (2006)
36. 'Beth' - Kiss (1976)
35. 'She's Like the Wind' - Patrick Swayze (1987)
34. 'I'll Be Missing You' - Puff Daddy and The Family (1997)
33. 'My Heart Will Go On' - Celine Dion (1997)
32. 'Think of Laura' - Christopher Cross (1982)
31. 'Let Her In' - John Travolta (1976)
30. 'Walking on Sunshine' - Katrina and the Waves (1983)
29. 'Muskrat Love' - America (1976)
28. 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' - Wham (1984)
27. 'More Than Words' - Extreme (1991)
26. 'Precious and Few' - Climax (1972)
25. 'Superman (It's Not Easy)' - Five for Fighting (2001)
24. 'All Outta Love' - Air Supply (1980)
23. 'Your Body Is a Wonderland' - John Mayer (2001)
22. 'You Light Up My Life' - Debbie Boone (1997)
21. 'True' - Spandau Ballet (1983)
20. 'Such Great Heights' - Iron and Wine (2003)
19. 'Right Here Waiting' - Richard Marx (1989)
18. 'I Believe I Can Fly' - R. Kelly (1996)
17. 'Close To You' - Carpenters (1970)
16. 'All By Myself' - Eric Carmen (1976)
15. 'Cry' - Johnny Ray (1951)
14. 'Dear Mama' - Tupac (1995)
13. 'You Don't Bring Me Flowers' - Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand (1978)
12. 'I Want It That Way' - Backstreet Boys (1999)
11. 'Hello' - Lionel Richie (1984)
10. 'Fix You' - Coldplay (2005)
9. 'If' - Bread (1971)
8. 'Do You Really Want to Hurt Me' - Culture Club (1983)
7. 'What's Left of Me' - Nick Lachey (2006)
6. 'Longer' - Dan Fogelberg (1979)
5. 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn' - Poison (1988)
4. 'You're Beautiful' - James Blunt (2005)
3. 'Ben' - Michael Jackson (1972)
2. 'Sometimes When We Touch' - Dan Hill (1977)
1. 'Shiny Happy People' - R.E.M. (1991)

( categories: )


Billy Beck's picture

It's curious that you should cite that NYT article, Scott.

I wonder if anyone here spotted the passage that reminded me of Rand's indictment of "political economy" from chapter 1 of "The Unknown Ideal".

I blogged it here.

Happy 80th, Anthony Benedetto

l's picture

Speaking of Irony v. Sincerity in pop music: from today's much-forwarded New York Times essay on Tony Bennett by Stephen Holden,

"A quintessential Tony Bennett moment comes at the end of 'It’s a Wonderful World,' the tender duet he recorded with K. D. Lang for their 2002 Louis Armstrong tribute album, 'A Wonderful World.' After they swap greeting-card doggerel celebrating 'trees of green,' 'skies of blue' and 'clouds of white,' Mr. Bennett remarks with a boyish enthusiasm, 'Don’t you think Satchmo was right?'

Ms. Lang responds by crooning a final, dreamy 'what a wonderful world,' whereupon her partner, speaking in the quiet, choked-up voice of a man visiting the grave of a beloved father figure, declares, 'You were right, Pops.'

This gentle burst of affirmation melts your heart and reminds you that sincerity, a mode of expression that has been twisted, trampled, co-opted and corrupted in countless ways by the false intimacy of television, still exists in American popular culture. It can even salvage 'trees of green,' 'skies of blue' and 'clouds of white' from the junk heap of pop inanity.

Mr. Bennett, who turns 80 tomorrow, has steadfastly remained the embodiment of heart in popular music. He pours it into every note he sings and every phrase he swings with a sophistication that deepens his unguarded emotional directness. In the polluted sea of irony, bad faith and grotesque attitudinizing that pop music has become, he is a rock of integrity...

Although he came out of the same tradition of Mediterranean balladry as Sinatra, he retained the innocence and joie de vivre of his youth. Disappointment is not in his vocabulary. We don’t go to him for psychological complexity, but for refreshment and reassurance that life is good.

Believing in the power of art to ennoble ordinary lives, he sings what he feels with a rare mixture of humility and pride: humility in the face of the daunting popular-song tradition he treasures and pride that he is recognized as its custodian. Gratitude and joy, gruffness and beauty balance each other perfectly in singing that has grown more rhythmically acute with each passing year.

To attend a Tony Bennett concert is to find yourself in the presence of a performer who exudes a rough-hewn natural elegance, devoid of airs. Singing a song like 'Mood Indigo,' he transmutes its sadness into the exuberance of a man who acknowledges having the blues but embraces resilience. He can still end a song like 'Fly Me to the Moon' or 'How Do You Keep the Music Playing?' with an old-fashioned, quasi-operatic crescendo, but he makes these corny triumphal endings stick in your heart...

Mr. Bennett’s resurgence under the management of his son Danny has been a...triumph...of artistry in the deluge of lovingly conceived and executed tribute albums he has put out over the last decade and a half...

...These albums honor the performers as well as the music they recorded. Listen to any or all of them, and you may find yourself nodding your head and agreeing with Mr. Bennett: 'You were right, Pops.'"


Marnee's picture

No Partridge Family?

I'm serious!

(love them)

Silly love songs

JoeM's picture

Ashby, you're not far from the truth. "Shiny Happy People" by R.E.M. was included, and that was a song originally intended to be about Tiannemen Square, and it's overly happy sugar was intended as irony, but it didn't come out that way. The band has since disowned the song, despite being a hit. (A little understandable in the context of the backstory.) But yeah, when there's irony, it's ok.

Seems to be primarily a list

Ashby's picture

Seems to be primarily a list of love songs. Ironically, if the songs had more impotent adolescent angst, they probably wouldn't be considered as wussy.


JoeM's picture

Yeah, well, where am I gonna go, Detroit? Eye

"Well you can excommunicate me on my way to Sunday school and have all the bishops harmonize these line..."

Yeah ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Gads, man! Joe, your knowledge of contemporary music is encyclopedic -- and frightening!

I think it's grounds for excommunication. Smiling

What's Scary Is...

James S. Valliant's picture

Gads, man! Joe, your knowledge of contemporary music is encyclopedic -- and frightening!

Interesting comment, Landon

JoeM's picture

Interesting comment, Landon (though I hate that song, sorry!) about THE FOUNTAINHEAD, in relation to this list. It's funny because Roark didn't go out of his way to dress different, Rand created a visual that even though Roark "wore the same clothes," he wore them differently, i.e., in his attitude. When Keating is exasperated with Roark for being so "tense" when Roark is relaxing, and Keating is physically tenses, suggests that Roark achieved a sense of ease that slackers only dream of...

Saw this list

Landon Erp's picture

I think you might be on to something there.

If you've ever REALLY been in love the expression which matches that feeling can be found in many songs on this list, not in some irony-laden career-long suicide note like the music of Nirvana.

Though one song on the list has very special meaning to me for different reasons, 'Hip to Be Square' - Huey Lewis. Around the time I was getting out of punk rock and heavy metal for the first time THAT song contained all the rebellion I had never been able to muster from such "rebellious" genres of music.

The idea of dressing normal, having a decent job, a normal haircut and not relying on the crutch of any sort of "pseudo-individualist" tricks and having to actually be an individual from the inside out is a very revolutionary idea indeed. This song and the line from the Fountainhead which would disarm any rock "individualist" ("I wear the same clothes as everyone else but it stops there") are the two things which taught me most about being an individual.

"don't tell me that I'm crazy
Don't tell me I'm nowhere
There is no denying that
It's hip to be square"


Inking is sexy.

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